This is my third annual top discoveries post. Through the year I try to take note of the things that come along to make life a bit easier, more efficient, and/or more enjoyable. Here we go:
10. InkJoy pens by Paper Mate. I have been searching for a smooth-writing pen that doesn’t smear for several years. One summer I went to a teaching conference and was given a simple stick-style pen by Bic that I loved, but I could never find another one. Being left-handed can be a problem in lots of ways, but writing presents special challenges. Pens that write smoothly with freely flowing ink often also smudge because they are still wet when a lefty’s pinky finger runs over it as it moves on down the line. This leaves our writing messy and the side of the left hand covered in ink. This is the problem with gel pens. I like the way the G2 writes, for instance, but I don’t like wearing the ink around all day. InkJoy pens don’t smudge. The ink is free-flowing and the colors are bright. Even the light green is easily readable. As a teacher, this is another thing I really appreciate. It is fun to grade papers in something other than red. I bought the pens at Wal-Mart before school began because they were cheap and I had kind of given up my search. I was so thrilled with them that I bought a big pack and put them in my children’s stockings this Christmas. GREAT WORK, Paper Mate!
9. Microfiber tights. I am a member of the pantyhose generation. I came of age about the time that L’eggs eggs started showing up in stores. My university required women students to wear “hose” to class even during the summer to classes without air-conditioning. That is my “in-my day-we-had-to walk-uphill-barefoot-in-the-snow” complaint. I have skinny ankles and long legs. If I got stockings that were long enough, they eventually wanted to sag around my ankles. If I got them to fit my ankles, they were not long enough and I was constantly worried about them falling down. I think this is part of the reason for my nervous issues. This is also why I love microfiber tights. They fit. They do not bag, sag or wrinkle. They are soft and warm, and they do NOT easily get runs in them! I can wash the same pair over and over IN THE WASHING MACHINE and dry them in the drier! No nylons hanging all over the bathroom! The colors are great, too. When I wear them my legs feel like they are being hugged all day long. I find myself once again happy to wear skirts. I like the ones from Target best, though I am sure there are more expensive brands that would be even better. My very favorite pair are gray heather.
8. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. One of my students told me about this one. Having spent ten years in Texas, most of our family adores Texas barbecue–that means beef. When we lived in Texas it was a Christmas Eve tradition to get barbecue to eat after our annual family Christmas service. After moving to North Carolina I had to find and cook a brisket myself. This is not always easy, and it can be very expensive as well as time-consuming with a full meal to make for Christmas Day as well. This year we had Dickey’s! Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is based out of Dallas. There are stores in Winston-Salem and High Point. It’s an eat-in restaurant, but they also sell meat by the pound. You can buy a whole brisket if you like, AND they also have chopped pork barbecue–so those members of our family who have “gone over to the dark side” can have a pork sandwich as long as they can deal with our disdain. Dickey’s serves drinks in big yellow plastic cups
7. Merle Norman. I’ve always been an Ivory soap and water kind of girl. I bought what little make up I used from Wal-Mart. This year, however, I had some pre-cancerous cells removed from my upper lip and my dermatologist told me it was time to start wearing makeup with sunblock. Boo! My parents gave me money for my birthday to venture into this unknown world and my daughter drove me to Friendly Center, took me into Merle Norman, told the lady behind the counter what I was looking for and went to get her nails done. I felt like a five-year-old. I was cool and calm on the outside, but inside I was a self-conscious wreck. My consultant was great. She made me comfortable, showed me all my options and seemed to understand my discomfort and confusion. In the end I got a moisturizer, sunscreen, PRIMER (who knew this even existed???), foundation, blush, and eyebrow wax. I left with my little bag of goodies feeling very girly. I have decided that I really like being girly. I think the moisturizer especially has made a difference in my skin. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
6. My new pots and pans. In September my mother, a lover of QVC, sent me a Facebook message asking if I was interested in having new cookware. We had been shopping around a good bit already looking especially for the perfect frying pan. We had settled on hard anodized aluminum, but hadn’t chosen a brand yet. The link she sent me was for an eleven piece set by Technique. It came in all kinds of colors for the non-stick interiors, but I chose platinum because I think it’s classic. We love it. Our favorite piece is the big saute pan with two handles. We had to get silicon utensils to go with the pans so they wouldn’t scratch. This is my favorite one:
I went for classic in the pans, but felt a little whimsy was appropriate for the whisk. They clean up SO easily and George put hooks on the sides of my kitchen island to hold them so they don’t have to nest and risk scratching.
This also makes them super accessible. My cooking life is much improved. Thanks, Mom!
5. Norwex Dish Towels. One of the reasons that it is so easy to keep my pots and pans clean is that my Norwex dish towels make it so easy to dry them. Katie and Seth gave George a car towel and a dish cloth for Father’s Day. I have never had a towel that dries so quickly and so thoroughly. I bought another one because I cannot stand to be without one in the kitchen and they do have to be washed sometimes. They are soft and amazingly thirsty. I wish the colors were a little better, but I would use them if they were neon orange.
4. Sherlock. When Downton Abbey ended in horror in February, I was ready to swear off British television. I’m glad I changed my mind. I LOVE this three-episode-per-season television adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic stories. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as Sherlock and Martin Freeman is an excellent Watson. I cannot wait for the new season to begin in January. My faith is restored in British television because even though they killed off the hero too, at least he’s not really dead. I may be just a tad over the top crazy about this show.
3. Matthew Pearl. This is my new author of the year. It all began with my summer Dante fixation. I read Dan Brown’s Inferno which was okay and then I read Purgatorio which was brilliant. I was talking to a colleague about how much I love Dante and she told me about The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. I found it at Barnes and Noble and fell in love with his idea. Pearl writes mysteries for people who love great literature. This book is about a series of murders modeled on Dante that take place in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts just after the Civil War. The mystery is solved by a literary group called The Dante Club including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes. The book is brilliantly researched and wonderfully presented. I am looking forward to reading a similar book he has written about Edgar Allan Poe.
2. My iPad mini. Last Christmas our children gave my husband and I an iPad mini. We loved it so much that we had a hard time managing who got to use it when. Eventually we bought a second one for me. I don’t have an iPhone, so I love it for taking pictures and checking Facebook. I have also become quite fond of reading books on it. This is not something I would have imagined myself liking in the past. The iPad allows me to upload pictures to the blog, Facebook and Instagram easily. It’s easy to carry with me so that I can keep up with things my family and friends are posting as well. I keep it close on my desk at work and I often use it during class discussions. It’s great for doing quick fact checks. I have a Bible on it and several educational apps that I use in the classroom. I’m looking forward to learning more about these in the future. I like the size of the mini. I’ve never had a full-size iPad, but I’m pretty sure I prefer the mini. It has become so much a part of my daily routine that it is hard to list all of the things I like about it. I’m not good at typing on it, so I don’t really like using it for email, though I do use it in a pinch. The iPad mini have definitely changed my life this year.
1. The Book of Common Prayer. For several years I have been wanting to explore this devotional tool of the Church of England. Being a lover of so many writers who were raised on it, I thought it would be an enlightening experience. It has been. I’ve been reading and blogging on it (http://thecranmerproject.wordpress.com) through the year and I have learned a lot. I especially enjoyed the blessing of going through Lent with the prayer-book. I am more aware of the church year now, and I am beginning to really appreciate the spiritual rhythm using the book produces. I still have a long way to go. I used it very faithfully early in the year, but fell off toward the end especially with the blogging part of the plan. I hope to continue in the New Year. There is so much to learn.
Another thing that has changed my life this year is joining Costco, but since I have so much to say about that, I think I’ll give it an end-of-the-year post of its own. What new discoveries did you make this year?