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IndieWire Staffers’ Favorite Pandemic Purchases: Digital Picture Frames, Massagers, and So Much Coffee

From fancy fruit bowls to Bluetooth shower speakers, IndieWire staffers recommend their best (and silliest) Amazon purchases during quarantine.

IndieWire Staffers' Favorite Pandemic Purchases

IndieWire Staffers’ Favorite Pandemic Purchases


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It’s been a year and we’re still stuck in our homes, which means we’ve done more online shopping than ever — for clothes, for DVDs, for practical desk accessories, but also for things that seem silly at first but have actually been almost life-changing, like a fruit bowl with a built-in banana hanger or a car buffer that is almost as good as the super-expensive massager you hear advertised on all your favorite podcasts.

We polled the IndieWire staff to find out what Amazon purchases have made our lives significantly easier or better or just a little bit more bearable, in case you too didn’t realize that you needed stairs for your elderly dog to more easily climb on your bed or a cat scratching post that is a little less hideous than the one you’ve had for a while. (Hey, if you have to look at the things you own all day every day, you might as well make sure they’re visually appealing to you.)

Check them out below, and let us know in the comments what your favorite pandemic purchases have been.


Mayorga Organics Café Cubano Roast

Strong coffee, cheap, and organic to boot. If you’re the kind of person who will use 5 pounds of beans in a month or two, you can’t go wrong with these. — Dana Harris

Gaviña Old Havana Espresso, Whole Bean, 100% Arabica Coffee

During the pandemic I have discovered a few new things I love, including a particular brand of yummy medium roast Cuban espresso that I initially ordered from my local LA restaurant Versailles, but now get from Amazon every month. — Anne Thompson

The Republic of Tea Orange Ginger Mint Tea

Another thing I get delivered now I tracked down from a swag gift to promote the “Downton Abbey” movie: the most delicious (though a bit pricey) British tea. — Anne Thompson


Rechargeable LED Desk Lamp

This is not the sexiest purchase, but I rearranged the furniture in my living room to improve my work area and now my desk isn’t really close to any outlets. I bought this USB-powered lamp that has saved me on several fronts: Not only does it plug right into my computer to provide three color temperatures of adjustable brightness — warm, cool, and…in the middle, I guess? — but if I twist the light towards me it also acts as a makeshift ring light for late-afternoon Zooms. (And its rechargeable battery means it’ll work sans power for a while as well.) — Jean Bentley

Nixplay Smart Digital Picture Frame

In the digital age, grandparents still want photos they can put in frames and out on display for everyone to see, and when there are grandkids involved, they want the newest and best photos of the family (and they want them NOW!). The problem with most digital frames is loading the photos onto the frame is a technically tricky — multiple awkward steps that I would end up having to do myself (and there’s far less family visits during this pandemic). We spent some extra money on a Nixplay frame for my mom, and it has been declared the best gift we ever gave her. The 10” frame looks great, screen is very digital photo friendly, but more importantly it has an intuitive iOS app that makes it super easy for my mom to load and curate the photos herself right from her iPad (after the initial setup, which is pretty basic). I haven’t tried it out yet, but I know there’s also a way from me to email photos directly to the frame that my friends have used (and recommend) with their parents. — Chris O’Falt

Large Fruit Basket with Banana Hanger

Did you know that some fruits give off gases that can increase the rate at which other fruits ripen? Well, I didn’t, though I was constantly puzzled about why all my bananas would go from green to brown over the course of two to three days. This fruit basket has definitely extended the life of most of our produce and looks pretty nifty on our kitchen counter. — Leonardo Adrian Garcia

Foldable Pet Steps/Stairs with CertiPUR-US Certified Foam for Dogs and Cats

Our pup’s breed is prone to hip issues associated with jumping up and down from things, and when combined with our relatively high mattress height, a set of a doggy stairs seemed like a no brainer. We were able to train him almost instantly to use them. My only additional recommendation would be supplanting the stairs with some grip for hardwood or tile floors. — Leonardo Adrian Garcia

PetFusion Cat Scratcher Lounge – Walnut Brown, 1 Level (PF-CL1)

This infinity-shaped cat-scratcher is attractive enough for living room display — and cats love it. — Anne Thompson

BLACK+DECKER 6-inch Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher

This inexpensive alternative to a back massager more than does the trick. (Check out this comparison between the Uber-pricey name brand and the car maintenance tool for more info.) — Anne Thompson

PERFECTDAY Solar String Lights

These outdoor patio lights charge during the day and automatically switch on when the sun goes down. They last for hours. — Anne Thompson

2PCS Hair Claw Banana Clips

Due to my newly long tresses, which I need to wear up, I acquired excellent sturdy clips. — Anne Thompson

MIGHTY BLISS Deep Tissue Back and Body Massager

Resigning to the pain of life doesn’t mean you have to accept back pain! Suggestive branding aside (“more power means more pleasure”), Mighty Bliss is great for attacking tight or achy muscles during, and after, a long workday. — Ryan Lattanzio


The Jackbox Party Pack 3

Chicago-based Jackbox Games has been cranking out these party packs for years now, and though they might be more fun when you can be in the same room with your friends, it’s almost like they were built for the pandemic. I’m partial to Party Pack 3, which includes two of my favorites, Quiplash 2 and Trivia Murder Party. — Leonardo Adrian Garcia

BassPal IPX7 Waterproof Portable Wireless Shower Speaker

A perfect marriage of the usual shower radio (emphasis on the radio) with some modern bells and whistles (read: Bluetooth!), offers a compact size and a powerful suction cup that will keep it affixed to any shower or bathtub wall you slap it on. While some consumers might be interested in its wackier elements, including multi-colored LEDs that can create a “light show” (sure?) during sudsy times, it’s a great buy because all those extra features play second fiddle to its major attraction: it sounds good! — Kate Erbland

Skullcandy Ink’d 2.0 Mic’d Ear Bud Headphone

No, not everyone likes AirPods and some of us still feel a (literal) attachment to headphone cords. These buds are comfortable, adjustable, and sound just right, with a well-placed microphone for on-the-go phone chats. — Kate Erbland

Ken Burns

PBS Documentaries Channel

The PBS Documentaries channel that you can get via Amazon is really good! You already need to have Prime Video, but if you do it’s $3.99 a month on top of that, and it has everything. I got it when I was watching the Ken Burns National Parks documentary and I just….kept it on purpose? (Instead of by accident like I do with most of these Amazon Prime channels.) But you get every Ken Burns thing ever, so it’s good if you want some Peter Coyote narration in your life on a regular basis. — Ann Donahue

Kindle Unlimited

During the pandemic this has been an excellent alternative to my usual practice of visiting the library. For just $10 per month you get access to a fairly robust selection of books, graphic novels, and magazines. Just over the course of the past week I’ve been able to read through both “Avengers: Disassembled” and “House of M” in preparation for the third act of “WandaVision.” — Leonardo Adrian Garcia

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