Time for my annual Top Ten Discoveries post! Every year I write about the ten things that made my life easier, tastier, safer, more efficient, or just plain better. This year it was difficult to choose because there are some very important candidates that came along right at the end of the year. I have decided to reserve those for next year because knowledge and experience will make me much better able to write about them next year. Here we go:
10. Midsomer Murders: We’ll begin in the area of entertainment. I am learning that sometimes I just need to relax. Netflix helps me to do that. I didn’t quite reach my goal of reading forty books this year, but I returned to knitting and crochet whilst watching some very good television. I think I am better off for the experience. My favorite is Midsomer Murders. It’s British, which I find delightful. I have been an Agatha Christie fan for almost as long as I can remember and while these mysteries are not necessarily Dame Agatha worthy, they are entertaining. I see this as a British version of our CSI. The are many, many seasons which is nice. George and I treat ourselves to three or so episodes a week. It’s a wonderful way to wind down–if, of course, violence in picturesque English villages is relaxing to you. The shows are a bit long, about 90 minutes per episode, but that gives the story plenty of time to unfold. We always try to figure out as early as possible who done it. Sometimes we are right, and most times we are wrong at least about our first guess. We’re getting better as we go along, though. I heard about the series from my parents who are big fans. It is pretty gory at times and not very family friendly, so don’t try it for Friday Family Movie Night! Yikes!
9. Duncan Hines “Perfect Size for 1”: You make these little desserts in a mug in the microwave. All you do is add water. The ingredients are real with no preservatives and they are yummy. I like them because they provide me with a warm, fresh treat with very little work, mess, or time invested and they don’t leave left overs. With the kids gone, left overs are a problem. Neither George nor I need the temptation, so I very rarely bake anymore. Every once in a while, though, everybody needs a little treat. These are perfect. The Decadent Brownie is my favorite.
8. Running Skorts: I actually bought one of these last year, but I didn’t wear it very much. This year my treadmill broke and so I had to run outside more than usual. Running outside in North Carolina summers requires proper clothing. This grandma is just not comfortable in shorts, so what to do? Running skorts work well for me. They have nice shorts under a cute little skirt and come in pretty patterns from Costco for under $20. Paired with a tank top, my skorts helped me to survive the high temperatures and horrible humidity of a southern summer while accomplishing my running goals–and they’re quite girly! I’m a big fan.
7. Rooibus Tea: (pronounced Roy-boss) One Saturday in September I met a friend at Vida pour Tea House on State Street. It’s a great little shop. I had been looking for a tea to enjoy in the evenings. I like a cup of something warm after dinner, but have gotten to the age where I cannot have caffeine after about 2:00pm and expect to sleep. I can’t do green tea. I drank way too much of it when I was on chemo and it repulses me. What to do? That Saturday I discovered Rooibus. It’s a dark tea with a pleasant flavor. It’s super good for you: high in antioxidants, cancer fighting, weight loss friendly, and lots more. Look it up. I got the organic apple pic flavor. It’s lovely. I also bought some fillable tea bags called t-sacs there. These are great. I find dealing with loose tea to be very difficult. These make it a lot easier.
6. Motts Medleys fruit snacks: I love gummies. I have always loved gummies, but I don’t eat them very often. I was at my parents’ house for Fathers Day and my dad got a little bag of treats at church which included a couple of bags of these yummy fruit snacks. I bought a big box of them at Costco when I got home and I’ve been using them for fuel on my long runs. The packs fit perfectly in the little pocket of my running tights. They were also great for grandchildren at the pool this summer. I keep them in my cookie jar and the kids know they are always there. I feel good about them because they are naturally flavored with fruit juice. They’re super soft and delicious.
5. Alexa: Matt was the first in our family to join the Alexa world. After David came home from China and spent a few days with him, both of our boys were Alexa lovers. I remained unconvinced…until we visited Matt and his wife ourselves in August and spent a fun evening asking Alexa to play all of the songs we could remember from our teenage years. It’s addicting. We came home and bought an Echo. Now there’s a Dot in the kitchen and another Echo upstairs in the study. It’s worth it for the music alone. The music made painting my living room a joy instead of a chore and, now that we have access all over the house, I use it when I do my regular cleaning. Alexa also plays radio stations, so we use her to listen to my Tar Heel boys play basketball. George enjoys playing jeopardy with her and you can even make phone calls to other people who have Alexa. She’s nice for a quick weather check and she’s usually better than Siri at finding important information, like when the next basketball game will be played. Alexa times my cooking and can tell me how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. She also has lots of recipes to share, but as a visual learner, this feature is hard for me to use. I know you can use Alexa to order things from Amazon, and I became quite fond of Amazon this Christmas season, but I have not ordered using Alexa yet. There’s always room for growth. If you have not seen the SNL skit about Alexa for the older generation, you should google “SNL Alexa skit.” I tried to put in a link, but it won’t work. You should watch it, really.
4. Organic Milk: My sister in law always uses organic milk. Whenever Matt would come home from long stays at her house, he would talk about how much he missed the milk in Michigan. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about until this summer when we visited and I had organic milk on my cereal. It’s so much yummier. I was commenting on this and Matt explained why. (He did the research because that’s what marketing people do.) Organic milk is not produced by as many local farmers as regular milk. Therefore, when it is processed the pasteurization process is longer. The milk is actually toasted as a result. This does two things. It gives it a lovely flavor and it means that the expiration date is MUCH further in the future. It was this last fact that drew me in. Another problem with not having kids around is that I do not use as much milk. I have had to throw milk out because I was not able to use it up by the date. That never happens with organic milk, so even though it is more expensive I actually save money in the long run. The Aldi brand is good and Walmart has several different less expensive brands as well. If you want the full impact of the flavor, you need to use at least 2%. You won’t notice it so much with skim.
3. LaCroix: I know, I know, I am really late getting on this train. I drink a lot of water. I like water, but there was something deep inside me that missed the fizziness of soda. I stopped drinking diet soda two years ago and almost never drink regular, but I just could never feel like the pizza experience was quite the same. I had tried LaCroix before, but not been very impressed. The only kind I really liked was the more expensive Cherry Lime in the fancy skinny can. Last summer, though, I bought a case at Costco and fell in love with lime. I mixed it with the cranberry black cherry juice from Aldi and, well, let’s just say you should try it. Anyway, now I like it all by itself and I like just about any flavor. It is absolutely guiltless and adds a little fizz to my life. Who doesn’t need a little fizz?
2. Nox Gear Tracer 360: I run a lot in the early morning when it is very dark. As I said before, my home treadmill finally gave up the ghost and our neighborhood workout room doesn’t open until 5:30 am, so I have to run outside. My Nox Gear Tracer 360 wraps me in glowing light without adding weight, heat, or layers. I love it. It will flash, change colors, or stay one color the whole run depending on what you choose. I like pink, but I would probably choose flashing if I ran in more high-traffic areas. There’s not a whole lot of traffic in my neighborhood at 4:30 am, but we do have a newspaper delivery man who drives like a crazy person. I feel safer in my vest. It does use a lot of batteries. I need to get some rechargeable ones, but for now the safety is worth the extra expenditure.
- Apple Watch: In June I bought an Apple Watch. It is the best thing I bought all year. I was sad to move on from my Fitbit. Fitbit taught me to run. It changed my life. I am and always will be grateful. However, I needed to move up from the Fitbit One that I had had for going on four years. The thing was indestructible. I washed it in the washing machine three times and it still worked. What it did not do was tell me when to stand, map my runs, or receive text messages. I did the research and decided on Apple Watch. I LOVE it! It is easy to use and I keep finding new things it will do. I love it most for exercise, but it is also really nice when paired with Siri for finding my way to new places. When it is time to turn, it taps me on the wrist and gives me a big directional arrow on the watch face to show me which was to go. It’s water proof, so I don’t have to take it off in the pool with the kids or when I do dishes or wash the dog and I don’t have to worry if it starts raining when I’m running. There are all kinds of fun incentives and achievement awards to work for. I am just the tiniest bit obsessive about closing my rings. Also, the band is very sturdy. I love and appreciate Fitbit, but almost everyone I know has had trouble with the bands breaking on models worn on the wrist. There are lots of different workouts available on Apple Watch. I use it for yoga, cycling, walking and I would use it if I absolutely had to get on the elliptical (shudder). There’s even a handy “other” setting if you find it necessary to jog in place or around the living room because your basketball team is driving you insane, not that I would know….