Time for my annual Top Discoveries post! It is part of my end-of-the-year ritual to write a post at the end of the year highlighting ten new things that made my life better, more efficient, or more enjoyable. Often, these things are only new to me. I tend to be a little slow to catch on. Here’s my list for 2014:
10. It’s no secret that we love waffles. I used to make them almost every Saturday morning. Because this was my year to get in shape, the waffle making FREQUENCY went down, but when I do make them, I like to make a lot, so I was thrilled when I found this beauty at Costco.
My old waffle maker was dying, really it was. The latch on it had been broken for years. It was also starting to burn waffles towards the end of a batch of batter. AND, it was small. If I made waffles for a crowd, people had to eat in shifts. That’s no fun. I needed this double waffle maker. I’m sure I heard it calling my name. Besides, this one makes round waffles and Alton Brown says round waffles are the way to go. Who’s going to argue with Alton Brown? It is also fun to use. You pour in the batter on one side, close it down, flip it over, and fill the other side. Almost by the time you flip it back, the first side is done. It beeps AND lights up to let you know it’s ready. I love it!
9. For my birthday George bought me a TomTom GPS watch.
I am still learning to use it, but I like it a lot. It does not work very well on the treadmill, so I still rely on my fitbit there, but outside it’s great. It shows me a map of my route and gives me all the stats I need about my workout. I used it in Italy just as a watch because my phone didn’t work there. I love the display because the numbers are big and I am old. It also has a heart monitor, so I can track my heart rate as I run–make sure I’m still alive, etc. That’s a good thing.
8. I watched a couple of new television series this year. I wrote about Foyle’s War early in the year. George and I enjoyed watching that one together, but I also discovered another BBC show, Call the Midwife later in the year. I fell in love with the story, the setting and the characters. It’s set just after World War II and is adapted from a memoir written by one of the midwives who worked with the poor in London. I learned a lot and can’t wait for the new season to begin in 2015. Check the PBS website if you are interested. I also want to find and read the books. I’m adjusting to this whole new idea of watching television shows an entire season at a time. Watching a show on my iPad while walking on the treadmill was one of the secrets of my fitness success this year.
7. I’ve had my Keurig coffee maker for two years now and I love it more than ever. My all-time favorite coffee was a store brand from HEB in Texas. It’s called San Antonio Blend and it is AWESOME. However, my “source” moved from Texas to China, and I’m terrible at remembering to order things from Amazon, so I needed to find a new favorite. One Sunday we were going to Amy’s house for lunch after church. We stopped in at the grocery store for something I needed and I decided to get some coffee, too. Amy always makes yummy desserts and I like to enjoy anything baked with a cup of coffee. I was in a hurry and I grabbed the first thing that looked good. It was a fortuitous choice! I like all of the Folgers Gourmet flavors I’ve tried, but this one is especially great.
It’s a little difficult to find sometimes, but Walmart almost always has it.
6. Because I was so wrapped up in getting in shape, I did not read as widely as I usually do. I did, however, enjoy two new books by two of my favorite authors. Thomas Cahill came out with a new book on the Renaissance and Reformation titled, Heretics and Heroes. This is the latest in Cahill’s Hinges of History series which began with How the Irish Saved Civilization. His humanities approach to history speaks my language and I always come away inspired. Jan Karon, though VERY different, is another of my favorites. I’ve been anxiously awaiting a new Father Tim novel and was thrilled when the latest one came out just before my trip to Italy. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good is a winner. If you have not read the Mitford books, you need to. They are like a vacation in book form. They always renew my spirit and give me hope.
5. Beginning a running habit at the age of 56 has its pitfalls. No matter how careful I tried to be, there were pulled muscles and sore tendons along the way. I’ve become very friendly with ice, Ben Gay, and Ibuprofen, but I also discovered these.
I’m allergic to latex and regular Salonpas blister my skin, but these do not. They provide warm comfort to my aching back without irritating my skin and THEY WORK! Enough said.
4. If you are going to go to all the trouble to exercise, you eventually realize that something must also be done about diet. I was determined not to give in to fads. I wanted to create a life-style that worked for me and that was sustainable, so I went slowly. During the summer I decided to make a change in cooking oil.
My girls had been using coconut oil for a while, so I decided to give it a try. I like it a lot. I like it most for stir frying–especially okra–WHO KNEW THAT OKRA WAS GOOD ANY WAY BESIDES FRIED? You have to melt it before adding it in most baking recipes and sometimes it adds a bit of a coconut flavor, but that makes it kind of interesting. You also get used to it. George put it in the waffles he made last night and I couldn’t even tell. I want to try avocado oil next. Maybe that will show up in next year’s list. My girls use coconut oil topically as well. Apparently it’s great for minor skin irritations.
3. Two years ago our choir at school sold fruit as a fundraiser for their trip to New York. That’s when George and I fell in love with the idea of “morning grapefruit.” With adding running to my morning routine, however, fixing grapefruit became more difficult. Also, really good grapefruit is not available all year through. Wow, have we found the answer! I noticed that Costco had Red Grapefruit in individual cups in the refrigerator section and I wondered about it for a couple of months before we tried some.
It is AMAZING! The fruit is sectioned, peeled, and packed in light syrup which I pour off when I open it. It wakes up my mouth and makes me look forward to morning. I am always VERY SAD when we run out, so that does not happen often. Lots of times on the treadmill I find myself thinking, “one more mile and then I get the grapefruit.” Really. You should try it.
2. In January we acquired a second dog. While our son and family moved to China, their eleven year old greyhound stayed with us. Walking two dogs is kind of a pain. We split up the duty–George takes mornings, I take the long walks after school, and we each take one before we go to bed. Picking up after them and taking care of the bags is also a chore. It never seemed like I had the right number of bags along for the job. Then we found these:
A roll of bags fits inside and then dispenses one at a time. I liked the bags that came with it best because they were really deep and therefore easily tied into a knot after the job was done. I have not been able to find anymore of those bags, but the regular ones from Walmart fit just fine. Always having a roll of bags along is a huge convenience. They clip easily to the ring on a regular leash. I’m not so crazy about the way it fits onto Margie’s retractable leash, but it works okay.
1. Running clothes! The best part of getting into shape was kind of a surprise to me. For years I have hated shopping for clothes. There may have even been an event or two that I skipped because going would have required a new outfit. When I first started walking and then running, I wore what I had–t shirts, sweat shirts and yoga pants were the staples of my exercise wardrobe. As my 5K neared, I began to do some research into running clothes. I kept reading about “technical fabric” and article after article preached against wearing cotton. I was not convinced. Technical fabric looked shiny and felt synthetic. For anyone who lived through the 70’s “shiny” and “synthetic” used in close proximity to “fabric” conjures up just three words: polyester double knit, and those three words are enough to send us screaming from the room. Eventually I broke down and bought a top and a pair of matching capris at-(Where else?)-Costco. I found out that this fabric actually does keep a runner cool. I didn’t understand how something so thin could wick away the moisture. I still don’t understand, but I’ve been thoroughly converted. In fact, I am so much a convert that if I could get away with it I would wear running clothes 24/7. I’ve built my collection slowly. I have two pieces of Under Armor brand. I love them, but on two private-school teacher’s salaries, brand names are only affordable for the necessities. I’ve decided that Target’s running clothes are my over-all favorite. I have a pair of compression capris from Target that I know I have washed two hundred times and they still look and feel new. I’m in the process of trying to figure out winter gear. I can’t figure out why it is possible to get short sleeved technical tee’s for $15 but long sleeved ones cost at least $45. I have a couple of Puma long sleeved tops that I found at Costco. I like them, but they don’t have the fancy thumb holes and I would really like to try those.
So, there you have it, my list for 2014. What wonders did you discover this year?