Monday, January 18, 2021

Renaissance Dad's Top Ten Products the Year

Let's start 2021 by getting a little philosophical. Think about the number of products that you come into contact with every day. From the time you wake up, to the time you go to bed, you encounter thousands of products. This morning, as I was making coffee, I thought about this. Just to make coffee, I made decisions about the type and brand of the coffee maker, the coffee, the filters, the r/o system that provides the water, the faucet, the container for compost for the old grounds, and the mug that I use. When I look around my house, my yard, and my office, the number of products is staggering. 

So imagine the glorious honor of making it onto Renaissance Dad's Top Ten Products of the Year list! Yes, here for the second year in a row, is my Top Ten list, with ten of my favorite products from last year. Note: These are glowing endorsements from me with no compensation or free product (unless noted). These are just products that I used and loved in 2020. In no particular order, here they are: 

1. Stealth Core Trainer - I really don't like to exercise, and I don't usually look at exercise equipment. But at my age, I need to start thinking about getting and staying healthy. The Stealth Core Trainer is a plank board, but with the fun of video games. The games all work off of your phone, and your planks control the object on the screen, whether it's a motor cycle, a rolling ball, a Pac-Man, or a runner. Since June 26, 2020, I have only missed one day, and have done more than 11 hours of planks. And while I don't have abs of steel yet, that's 11 hours of exercise that I otherwise would not have done. Boards start at $100, some games are free, and there is an amazing network of supportive people and trainers available to help you along. https://trystealthnow.com/ 

2. Fluidstance Balance Board - I've used a standing desk for years, and after a bit of time standing, my feet start to get fidgety. I came across this balance board last year and decided to try it out. It's fantastic! It gives my feet the ability to get the wiggles out while I'm feverishly typing away. I can pretend I'm Shaun White and twist and bounce, and it can easily store under my desk when my core needs a break. I also have a snap on challenge cap, raising the center of gravity and giving my legs and torso a great workout. Great for people who love their standing desk but also don't like standing still for very long. Prices start at $249, but they sometimes have scratch and dent sales (which is when I got mine), so you can stalk their website for deals. https://fluidstance.com/

3. Venom Steel Nitrile Gloves - For all you woodworkers and painters out there, you need these gloves. They are a little more expensive than regular disposable gloves, but they actually work. I can't tell you how many wood staining projects I have done where I take my gloves off only to find that at some point they tore on the wood and my hands were stained. Kind of a pointless glove. That has never happened with my Venom Steel gloves. These things are tough enough for all of my staining, painting, and epoxy projects. 100 packs sell for about $25, and you can get them at most home improvement stores. https://venomsteel.com/

4. Valspar Paint - It's kind of weird to have paint on this list, but remember that 2020 was a pandemic year and we were in lockdown. Since I didn't have after school events, and school ended earlier in the spring, I had a lot of time on my hands. I ended up painting more than 20 walls in my house, including the walls by our stairs and our really tall downstairs wall. I used 7+ gallons of paint or so, and I am so happy with how well the Valspar paint coats the wall. They have occasional rebates around holidays, so if your project can wait watch for a $5 rebate off of a gallon deal. Available at Lowe's and some independent retailers. https://www.lowes.com/search?searchTerm=valspar+paint

5. Purdy Paintbrushes - Remember when I said that I did a lot of interior painting this past year? I had to get a new paintbrush because I finally decided to replace my 15 year old paintbrush. Yes, my Purdy paintbrush lasted 15 years, through house painting, projects, and finishing furniture. True that cleaning a brush well helps it last (if you don't have one, get a good wire brush cleaner), but I've had brushes that after a couple of projects lose bristles as I clean them. Not so with my Purdy brush. I also love that because it is so well used, I can see the different colors on the handle and think about all of the projects that I have done in the past. It's like The Picture of Dorian Gray—the more trashed my paintbrush gets, the more beautiful my house looks. Pro Tip: A nice angle brush and some practice, and you can forget about using tape to cut between walls (I haven't used tape in years thanks to my Purdy brushes). Available at many home improvement stores. https://www.purdy.com/

6. Greenworks 60V Chainsaw - This is the one product on this list that I received for free for a review and testing. I now own three of them (two different sizes). Aside from my lawn tools, this is probably my most used tool. I use it to help neighbors trim their trees, to cut up large stumps to split, and to cut branches prior to chipping. I use it at school, at home, and at friends' and neighbors' houses. Phoenix heat this summer killed many trees and palm trees, and I have helped several people take down their dead trees. With a sharp chain, it cuts like butter. It is quiet, easy to use, and simple to carry around. This is one of the most underrated tools I have, as I have found so may more uses for it since I first got it. Starting at $250, but if you have the batteries you can get a bare tool for less. https://www.greenworkstools.com/

7. Allison Jr. Dollhouse Kit - We bought this for my middle daughter for her 9th birthday. She and I spent over a year working on it. It is a great kit that is somewhere in between completely fabricated and completely DIY. I was really impressed with the quality and detail of the kit. There are a lot of pieces and a lot of assembly (hence making it a "more-than-a-year" project), but the time spent with my daughter working on it was priceless. A stand-alone blog about this project is forthcoming, but nonetheless, this was one of my favorite purchases of the year. The kit runs about $250, but I bought mine at Hobby Lobby and used a 40% off coupon to get an amazing deal. https://www.realgoodtoys.com/products/alison-jr-dollhouse-kit-milled-mdf

8. Otterbox Phone Case - I have been using a smartphone for over 10 years,  I have only ever used an Otterbox phone case, and I have never had a cracked screen. NEVER. I currently use the Otterbox Defender, which costs around $40. A little pricy for a phone case, but pretty inexpensive considering the number of screen replacements most people go through in the life of a phone. Available everywhere, but you can check out what they have for your phone on their website. https://www.otterbox.com/

9. Levi's Jeans -An unexpected addition to the list, Levi's are on this list for two reasons. First, did you know that Levi's jeans have a two year warranty against material and manufacturing defects? I sure didn't. But when a newer pair of jeans tore out in the back side when I was picking something off the ground, I contacted Levi's and discovered that they have this warranty. Who knew? Second, when I contacted them about my jeans, my exchange with their customer service department was one of the best CS experiences I've had ever. They were extremely helpful, made me laugh, and reestablished my faith in humanity. I ended up with replacement jeans extremely quickly. What an amazing experience. Plus, they are very comfortable and are my go-to jeans. Available just about everywhere, but they have great sales on their direct website. https://www.levi.com/US/en_US/

10. Keen Shoes - I am on my feet most days, and I struggled through last school year to find shoes that were both comfortable and durable. Then I remembered how much I loved the Keen casual shoes I owned in the past and got another pair. These shoes are amazing. While they are not dressy (I'm still waiting for Keen dress shoes to be a thing), they work with a shirt and tie and pair of jeans/casual pants, which is my typical attire. I love the durability and comfort, and one of the great things about my Keen shoes is that once I'm ready to replace them they become great yard work shoes. Because of their great comfort and durability, these will continue to be my standard work shoe. https://www.keenfootwear.com/

There you have it. There are ten of the top products that I have used and loved in 2020. I am excited to see what products 2021 brings my way! If you have any favorite products that you would like for me to check out, please leave a note in the comments below, or use the Contact Form at the bottom of the page to get in touch with me. 

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