It’s that time of year again! Here are my top ten discoveries of the year, things I was introduced to this year that made life easier, tastier, more efficient, and/or just plain better. Here we go:
Number 10) Oreo Thins. I know…for many Oreo purists the very existence of these things is sacrilege. I tended to feel that way until I tried them. I am a long-time Oreo lover of the “dip-em-til-the-bubbles-stop” variety. However, my new healthy life style has not allowed me to indulge. Where Oreo cookies are concerned I have no self-control, so I just couldn’t buy them. One day in January, however, I decided to try the thin variety. I was hooked. They are dippable, which is NOT true of the low fat variety. Dipped until the bubbles stop, they sit on the tongue in a familiar manner. There’s just less of them. Now, truth be told, I am more a fan of the cookie than the filling. I do not like double-stuff. Because of this, the Thins, with their tiny layer of filling, work for me. AND…they come in mint!
Number 9) My new favorite author for 2016 is Erik Larson. I bought Dead Wake for my father because of a recommendation my husband saw in a magazine. A lovely benefit of buying books for my dad is that he always lets me read them when he is finished. Dead Wake is about the sinking of the Lusitania and it reads more like a novel that a history book. I love this about Larson. I have now read three of his books and they are all very well researched and excellent from a historical view point, but they are also written in such a way that they are hard to put down. I highly recommend his work!
Number 8) Honey Maid Dippers. Last year I discovered s’mores dip. This year I learned to make a personal size serving in an oversized coffee cup. This is a treat I often enjoy on Sunday evening after a long run. (I require myself to run at least seven miles to earn this treat.) I put a teaspoon of butter in the bottom of my cup, melt it, and swish it around. Then I put in a handful of chocolate chips and cover them with a handful of small marshmallows. I put the whole thing in the toaster oven on broil for about six minutes or until the marshmallows brown slightly. It’s lovely, but I found it very difficult to keep regular graham crackers from breaking as I dipped. Then I found them! Honey Maid makes these things called “Dippers.” They come in several flavors, but for this purpose I like the regular ones. They dip beautifully and do not break. Yay!
Number 7) Polar Fleece Sheets. This fall my youngest son got married. In September he came home to get a bunch of his things before moving into his apartment on the first of October. He took an inflatable mattress which they replaced with a real one after the wedding, but it gets cold in Michigan in October and I was concerned about my baby getting cold, so I gave him my good fuzzy blanket. I figured I would just buy a new one after the wedding when it starts getting cold in North Carolina. However, when we came down for the wedding my mother gave me several pairs of flannel sheets. These, in combination with my summer blanket worked just fine. Ah, but then my parents got some polar fleece sheets from QVC, and sent me a pair as well. They are a little bit of sleeping heaven. It’s like sleeping inside a fuzzy sock. AND they come with four pillow cases. Perfect.
Number 6) Madeleine L’Engle’s adult fiction and non-fiction. I loved A Wrinkle in Time when I was ten. A few years ago I picked up L’Engle’s Walking on Water, a book about Christianity and the arts. I loved it. I’ve read it twice and copied almost half of it into my commonplace book. Sometime in February I found copies of Two Part Invention and The Summer of the Great Grandmother in the memoir section of our local used book store and I fell in love with L’Engle all over again. I mentioned what I was reading on Facebook and a friend lent me A Severed Wasp, a novel for adults set by L’Engle in New York City. I LOVED IT. Her work is like a mini-vacation for me. I makes me happy all the way down to my toes. Just gorgeous!
Number 5) Chick-fil-a Frosted Coffee. Oh my! This summer while we were painting my youngest daughter’s new house, my middle daughter showed up with a treat for us. She brought Chick-fil-a’s new Frosted Coffee. I drank it and my eyes were lightened. I returned to my painting with renewed vigor and have been obsessed with the stuff ever since. It is surprisingly low in calories for such a yummy treat. I feel sorry for those of you who do not have Chick-fil-a.
Number 4) Pink Lady Apples. When Matt was home in September, he introduced me to a new variety of apples. I have been a huge Gala fan for a good number of years now. I cannot imagine that I ever enjoyed eating a boring old Red Delicious. I like Jazz, too, but nothing holds a candle to Pink Lady. They are not super easy to find, but are well worth the effort. Sweet and tart and crisp, they are perfect. They are also quite delicious with carmel dip. Need I say more?
Number 3) Aldi. I have been to Aldi before this year, but I was never converted to shopping there on a regular basis until recently. Having to save for a wedding can lead to trying all kinds of money-saving methods. This one stuck. Let’s get the bad out of the way first: I DETEST THE ENTRY AND FIRST AISLE. I always feel rushed as I enter the store. The entry opens into a rather narrow aisle full of snacks and breakfast items. Because everyone is entering at this point, taking the time to peruse the items in the aisle feels rude. As a result, I almost always end up having to go back to this aisle which is even worse because it has me fighting traffic. However, I have decided that the savings outweighs the inconvenience of the entry and the need to remember my bags and my quarter for the cart. Baking items, especially pecans, make it worth a trip, but the produce is also excellent, especially if you take the time to look it over carefully and choose wisely. All of the canned goods I have ever bought have been excellent, and they even occasionally have canned plums which I love but can rarely find. String cheese, milk, eggs, K-cups, and the Cranberry-Cherry Juice are also very good values and most things are organic. Really. You can’t go wrong.
Number 2) Yoga. I know. First I said “organic” and now I’m doing yoga. What can I say? I’m adjustable. I love and teach history but I live in the twenty-first century. A group of senior girls invited me to do yoga with them early one morning when we were in Rome. We met on the roof while the sun was coming up. It was lovely and afterward I felt relaxed and invigorated. The next day, however, I could not raise my arms. This got me to thinking…. There must be more to this yoga thing than just stretching and peacefulness. I had surgery on my neck for a blown disk when I was forty. This makes it very difficult for me to lift weights. Even the typical body weight exercises recommended for runners tend to make my back hurt. I knew I needed to something for my core and I wondered if yoga might be the answer. I’ve been doing it for three months now on an almost daily basis. I discovered an instructor named Adrienne on You Tube and I shift back and forth between two beginner routines that she has on her channel. I think I will start her “Thirty Days of Yoga” series in the new year. I am so much stronger than I was when I began. My nagging back pain is almost completely a thing of the past. I am running better and longer because yoga has taught me to breathe. My flexibility and balance have both improved and I find that yoga at the end of the day helps me to rid myself of negativity and focus on the good. I pray when I do yoga just like I do when I run. I own a mat and a yoga block. I am legit!
Number 1) Finn! One afternoon in early January my parents called to tell me that they had gotten me a car. It’s a white Kia Soul and I wrote about it back in January. He looks just like a Storm Trooper and so I named him Finn. Finn and I have had many great adventures this year. He has taken me to new places to run and proudly sports my 13.1 magnet on his back hatch. Having a car of my own has made my life much easier and Finn is very kind to us at the gas pump. My husband loves him. Finn actually has a surprising amount of cargo space. He carried lots of stuff to the wedding and back. I wash and vacuum him every other Saturday and that keeps him clean and shiny. People say Souls are for hipsters, but I think they’re great for grandmas, too. I can’t wait to see where we’ll go in 2017.