Favorite Faves 2021

January 02, 2022

What’s the opposite of buyer’s remorse?

As I was preparing my monthly budget for 2022, one of the tasks I completed was a total review of my spending in 2021. I downloaded .csv files for all my transaction histories and went through them line by line.

How did this purchase make me feel? Was it useful? Did I love it? Or, did I regret it?

At the end of this exercise, I happily found more loves than regrets.

Sure, there were a few tragedies along the way: the $17 shrimp cocktail, the bottle of retinol that seems to be doing diddly squat, the impulsively purchased over-sized coffee mugs that won’t even fit in our cabinets…

But, overall, I’m reasonably content with how I shopped in 2021. Heck. Some of these things I enjoyed so much, I’d actually recommend them to a friend.

In that spirit, here’s a short list of my personal favorite products from 2021:

What I bought and loved in 2021

Ghia Apértif — A beautifully bitter zero-proof apéritif that comes in a cheeky bottle. Mix it with a ginger beer, a floral tonic, or a Pamplemousse La Croix. My go-to for Dry January, this year and last.


Wray Puffer Scarf — The retro daisy pattern makes my heart happy, and the pull-through design is a fun novelty. I discovered Wray through Brea Box which I heard about on Elpha.

Wray Puffer Scarf in Midnight Daisy

Chunks Nimbus Hair Claw — Hand-drawn and thoughtfully manufactured in whimsical colorways, these chonky hair clips are how I single handedly kept my hair out of my face.

Chunks Nimbus Hair Claw in  Blueberry

Broadway Bag by Susan Alexandra — I’m not a “purse person.” This was a high-risk splurge purchased purely out of anxiety after receiving an invitation to a baby shower. But, I love this bag! It stands up on its own and is the perfect size to fit my phone and my wallet. I took it with me everywhere over the summer and felt like a minor celebrity because so many small children stopped and pointed at how shiny the beads looked in the sunshine. 10/10, no regrets.

Susan Alexandra Broadway Bag in Opening Night

The Scrub Daddy — 2021 was the year I finally surrendered to the TikTok, where this sponge has a cult-following. Its dead-eyed smile matches the unhinged mood of home cleaning.

Scrub Daddy Original, as seen on TikTok

Smoked Sweet Paprika from Spice House — My little brother said this was the best paprika he’s ever smelled.

Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika from Spice House

Brick + Mortar “Mountain” Candle — We received one of these in a care package from Mailchimp early after the pandemic shutdown. It has a cozy, woodsy scent. I’ve re-ordered it for myself twice and even bought a round as gifts.

Brick + Mortar Candle in Mountain scent

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford — This memoir left me stunned. It’s complex, honest, and full of grace in a way that challenges my current understanding of forgiveness.

Cover of Somebody's Daughter Book

YNAB Subscription — An old friend / co-worker from Rigor first extolled the virtues of this budgeting app to me back in 2016 but it took me five years to finally cave to the pressure. “Give every dollar a job!”

You Need a Budget App

#1 Most Memorable Purchase of 2021

Fried Apple Pie from Mountain Produce in Jasper, Georgia — There’s no link for this one, only a story.

Fried Apple Pie

In October, I joined some friends for a cabin weekend in the North Georgia Mountains. Granna, my grandmother, had just died suddenly and unexpectedly that Friday morning. At the cabin, I was in a daze—bearing the still space between the shock of the loss and the grief of the funeral.

On Saturday, some cabin mates decided we should venture out on a mini field trip for pickles. (My friend Jeremy has a thing for pickled delicacies like quail eggs and ham hocks. Personally, I was on a mission for local honey.)

At the produce stand, I filled my plastic basket so full of jams and jellies, pickled beets and field peas, that my bounty was starting to test the limits of the handles.

The silver-haired cashier said, “Oh honey, you can just keep the basket.”

That’s when I saw them, in a tiered case on the counter: fried pies.

Each one was wrapped flat in folded wax paper. The flavors were hand-written in red sharpie on pieces of tape. Pecan. Apple.

When I was a kid, my great-grandmother, Grandma Shields, used to bring us boxes of fried apple pies when she came down from Dalton to Marietta to visit us at Granna’s house. Her pies were always wrapped in foil, to keep them warm on the road.

My Grandma Shields, Ida Stinnett Shields, with her car
My great-grandmother, Ida Stinnett Shields, with her family car.

I asked the cashier, “Are these pies freshly made?”

“Fresh? Oh yes. They sell pretty quick when The Pie Lady brings them in.”

The Pie Lady.

Now, I have done my research and as far as I can tell, “The Pie Lady” has no active digital presence. No website. No Instagram. There’s a defunct Facebook page with a similar name, but I couldn’t be sure it belongs to the same baker.

My bet is there’s a “Pie Lady” operating in every town from here to Chattanooga, running on nothing but a phone number and word of mouth. Was this the Pie Lady from Talking Rock? Or, Ellijay? Who could say.

I have no idea what price I paid for that fried apple pie at Mountain Produce. Two dollars? Ten? In that moment, I would have traded back all the other goodies and my basket for a corner bite of that pastry.

Mercifully, the most meaningful things aren’t always the most expensive.