November 29, 2021

My Favorite Things! (2021)


(I am publishing this Monday's post early--I tried to get it done yesterday, because today is Cyber Monday!--but it took much longer than I thought to put this together. The prices listed below may be different today than they were yesterday or the day before as I wrote the post.)

This is going to be a SUPER long post. And as you know, I am ALWAYS wordy, so this will be extra long with a ton of pictures. Just a fair warning!

I always like to make a post of my favorite things around the holidays in case anyone is looking for gift ideas for someone. Some items on the list have been on past lists (simply because I love them so much) but there will be lots of new stuff, too!

I've organized this into categories (since my blog has really expanded out from just weight loss/running). So hopefully the categories will be helpful. Also, some of the items are very expensive (if you just have a lot of money and are looking to spend it, I guess! haha) but some of them are very reasonable. I tried to include a good variety!

[A lot of these are linked to Amazon. As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a small commission for linking to a product (unless it's a very expensive item, it's usually less than a dollar, honestly). I tell you this because I legally have to, but also I want to explain that I am NOT posting this for commissions. I may consider selling out if they were offering me hundreds in commission, but for the tiny percentage I get, it's not worth advertising things I don't actually love! Everything on this list is truly one of my favorite things, even if it's as silly as socks and underwear.]

Here we go... (in no particular order except for the first one--which I post about way too often)

Luxuries for Myself:

Kindle Paperwhite

I love the anti-glare screen so I can read outdoors!

I recently wrote all the reasons I love it, which you can find here. I'd linked to it because it was the cheapest price I'd seen ($85) but just two days later, it shot up to $160! So, they have a new 2021 model that is cheaper than the 2018 model I'd linked to. They have a Cyber Monday deal right now and it's $104.99 if you choose the 8 GB one. (Mine has 8 GB and it stores more books than I could read in a lifetime.)

The difference between the Paperwhite and the regular Kindle is that it's lighter, smaller, and has an anti-glare screen. That's why I love it! It's much easier on my hands than any paperback book.

I chose not to buy the Amazon suggested cover and instead, Jerry bought me a cute cover with cats on it. Just search for Kindle covers (based on the model you have) and you'll find tons of options.

Again, here is the link: Kindle Paperwhite 2021 (11th Edition)

Brooklinen Sheets

I'm no bed stylist. Even if I was, I have cats! (This is a percale duvet cover)

This item has been on my list for several years now. These sheets are AMAZING and their customer service is the best I've ever dealt with. (One of the buttons came off of my duvet cover in the washer, and I asked for a new button; they ended up sending me a whole new duvet cover! And I'd tried their linen sheets (which Jerry and I love love loved, but the kittens' nails were snagging them; they let me return them with no problem at all. I love this company and I love their sheets.

My favorite ones are the percale (which happen to be the cheapest as well). They are crisp and cool. (Make sure you wash them right out of the package--they will feel like sandpaper until they are washed.) I also have their luxe sateen sheets, which are very soft and "buttery". They are warmer and smoother.

My only complaint about Brooklinen sheets is that they don't have a huge variety of colors. They are very neutral.

Here is a discount code for Brooklinen. If you use this link, you get $25 off your first purchase of $100 or more. And I get 1,000 points (which can be used toward products if I save up points).


Electric Toothbrush

This picture was very difficult to take! haha

I cannot express enough how glad I am that we switched to an electric toothbrush! My dental assistant had suggested it for years, but I just didn't understand why would be much different than a regular toothbrush. 

But holy smokes--each time you brush your teeth, you feel like you just got back from the dentist! It has a timer that makes a beep every 30 seconds--so you divide your mouth into quadrants and make sure you brush each section for 30 seconds until it shuts off after 2 minutes. It's super powerful (I was a little shocked the first time I used it) but my hygienist told me to just hold it softly against my teeth and gently move it along. If you brush too hard, the toothbrush will alert you as well. I was always brushing too hard, according to my hygienist, and using this toothbrush has stopped that.

The exact one that I bought is discontinued, but here is a similar one: Philips Sonicare 4100. It's $75.90 right now on Amazon. There are lots of cheaper options for toothbrushes (mine was only like $50 when I bought it) but I just wanted to post the one that similar to the one I own.

Electric Blanket

Notice Jerry's creepy eyes in the background?

I am always FREEZING. I don't know why that is (maybe it's the gallon of ice I chew every day--whenever I complain of being cold, Jerry sarcastically says, "maybe you should eat warmer ice"--hahaha! Jerry bought me this electric blanket (probably because he's tired of me always complaining of being cold) and I love it. It's gets really hot (usually, I put my heating pad and blanket on the highest setting, but sometimes I have to turn this to the medium setting. Mine has hand and foot pockets, which just kind of tuck you in. I like that it keeps my feet from poking out.

Here is the one that I have: Sunbeam Heated Throw Blanket. It's $63.49 on Amazon.

Heating Pad

I can't imagine why I'm always so cold!

Similar to the electric blanket, I also use an electric heating pad that warms by back and shoulders (Jerry calls it my "titty warmer" because the shoulder pieces just happen to fall right over my boobs--*eyeroll*). Not only does this warm me up, it works wonders for my back pain! It's easier than the blanket for me to carry around from my bedroom to living room and back. Any time I am sitting, I have the heating pad on my back.

Here is the one that I have: Large Heating Pad for Back and Shoulder. It's $29.63 for Cyber Monday.

Gauzy Blankets


Ever since Luke (my nephew) was a baby, I have been obsessed with gauzy blankets. They are SO comfortable! Any time I am relaxing on the couch, I have to have a blanket on me--even in the summer. I bought this one in the summer because I didn't need something heavy and warm. I just wanted a light, airy blanket. Jerry and Noah loved it, so they each got one as well.

This is the one I have. They have all different sizes and lots of colors/patterns: Scientific Sleep Lemon 100% Cotton Muslin Blanket. The price depends on the size/color you choose. I bought a twin size to use as a throw and I think it's the perfect size for that. (I think throws are just too small!)

Muk Luks Slippers


I recently posted about these because Kohl's had them on sale for only $9.99 ($8.50 with their 15% off coupon online!). I bought a few pairs as gifts and a couple new pairs for me. I LOVE these slippers. They are perfect for wearing around the house, or even darting outside to the mailbox or to grab something from the car. When I am at home, I am almost always wearing my Muk Luks.

The Amira Slippers are the ones I use and love. Right now, they are on sale for $16 on the Kohl's website (still a great deal!) or you can find them on Amazon for $39.95.


Light Therapy Lamp


I was shocked that this thing actually worked for my depression last winter. I was extremely skeptical, but I was also desperate for some help, so I figured I'd give the light therapy lamp a try. From the very first time I used it, I felt happier and I had more energy. It was crazy to me! Lately, I've started using it again and it helps so much. If you have depression, or seasonal affective disorder, I would highly recommend trying it out!

I can't be sure if this is the exact one that I have, but it looks identical, so I think it is: LED Light Therapy Lamp, UV-Free 10000 Lux Bright White Therapy Light

It's currently $23.99 on Amazon.


Lumosity and/or Peak Apps


These are phone apps that I really love. They have a ton of brain games that supposedly "train your brain". I'm not sure about all that, but they really do make you think and work different parts of your brain. There is a free version for each app, but if you try that and like the games, I highly recommend getting the full version. You have access to more games and you are able to play them as much as you like.

Lumosity has a deal right now for a 1-year subscriptions for $35.97; and Peak is $34.99 for 1 year.

Tek Gear Hoodies

This is a mens' small. I like the way men's shirts fit.

Ohmygosh, I am in love with these hoodies from Kohl's! They were recently on sale for $8.49 and I bought a couple for each person in my family. We all love them. They are super cozy and great quality. They are sold out of a lot of them right now, unfortunately, but you can try for the size you want on the Kohl's site here: Mens Tek Gear Ultra Soft Fleece Hoodie.

Right now, they are on sale for $17.59 online. (These are mens shirts, so if you are a woman, you may want to order a size down. I wear a size small in these sweatshirts (and normally would wear a medium in women's clothes). 


Water Bottles/Tumblers


I have a small obsession with water bottles. It is so hard to resist buying more of them whenever I see cute ones! Since getting arthritis in my hands, I needed to find a water bottle that was skinnier than what I was used to so it wouldn't hurt my hands as much. I found this four-pack on Amazon and I love these ones! They are stainless steel (with a matte coating on the outside) and the inside is seamless (something I really like--I think it's better quality that way). The lids fit great and they have stainless steel straws.

My only complaint was the color options--all of the multi-packs had a pink one in them, and I hate pink. I ended up going with four blue ones that match my kitchen, but I wish I'd gotten a multi-pack just for the variety. They are $35.99 on Amazon for four tumblers. Here is the link: Koodee 20 oz Stainless Steel Skinny Tumblers (4 Pack)


Five-Year Journal

I absolutely love the concept of a five-year journal and this one is my favorite. They are so neat! You only write a few sentences per day. The journal has 366 pages, but each page contains a spot for the year. So, for instance, November 4 (above) has lines for 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024. When you're writing in 2023, then, you can easily see what you'd written on that date in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

There are several different ones, but this is the one that I have and I love it. It has the perfect amount of writing space and it's good quality. Here is the link: Leuchtturm 1917 Some Lines a Day. It's $29.50 on Amazon right now.


FOR PETS:

Feather Toy for Cats

I tried so hard to get a picture! Duck is so fast, this was the best I could do.

My cats are OBSESSED with this! I cannot stress that enough. Duck especially goes wild for it. It's basically like a mini fishing pole (with the clear fishing line) and you hook little toys to the end (he likes the feathers with a bell). You swoosh it around and the cats stalk it and jump to try to catch it. Duck has jumped a good five feet in the air to catch it!

This came with two wands/fishing pole things, five feather toys and four soft worm-like things to hook onto them. It was a great price and totally worth it. (Duck will drag the entire pole around with him when he wants to play with it, haha. He even dragged the toy up the Christmas tree, which I then had to untangle.)

Here is the link on Amazon: MeoHui Interactive Cat Feather Toys. The package is $12.58.


Cat Nail Scratcher


This is a bit of an investment, considering it's made of cardboard, but it lasts a LONG time and all four of my cats use it. I recently bought the one that is slightly more expensive, but it's a little larger and the cats can use the inside part as well as the outside (and they do use it). If all the cats liked each other, they could all four fit on it at the same time--and with the exception of Phoebe, my cats are big!

My cats use this as a bed and they scratch their nails on it (saving my leather couch). (I am VERY against declawing cats, and the best way to keep them from scratching furniture is to buy several different types of scratchers. My cats like the cardboard ones best. Also, get them used to having their nails trimmed from early on. I trim my cats' nails about once every two weeks. Other than Duck (who is SO DRAMATIC he sounds like's he's being slaughtered), the cats don't mind it at all. So please don't declaw your cats! 

This is the one that I bought (it's expensive, I know, but worth it): PetFusion Jumbo Cat Scratcher Lounge. It's $79.95 on Amazon. If you only have one or two cats, you can get the smaller version (which I've also had) for $49.95: PetFusion Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge.

Dog Bed


This is Joey's dog bed (or Chick's cat bed, whichever way you look at it!). When we first got him, he chewed up every bed we bought for him! Once he got over his separation anxiety, we splurged on a nice bed for him. We bought it in 2016, and it's still in great shape! The quality is fantastic and the bed is definitely a luxury for dogs (it's like a Tempurpedic mattress). It's expensive, but considering it's lasted five years and counting, it was a good investment! (I just realized that it's the same brand as the cat scratcher)

Here is the link on Amazon: PetFusion Ultimate Orthopedic Dog Bed. Right now, it's $119.95 for a large, which is what we got Joey. A small is $69.95. 

Amazon Boxes

Enough said, really. Buy anything from Amazon, set the box on the ground, and your cats will be entertained for days!


Joey's Favorite Toys


Most of Joey's favorite toys are actually by a brand called Tuffy. If we buy anything else, he chews it to pieces; this Tuffy brand is, well TOUGH. He hasn't destroyed any of them yet! There are several different models and sizes, so here is the link to them on Amazon: Tuffy Dog Toys. The price depends entirely on what you choose.


FOR KIDS

Since Luke and Riley come over sometimes to spend the night, I figured I'd put a "kids" category in here. When I asked Becky for the kids' favorite toys, she said "Well, dirt; rocks; mud; anything outside!" Hahaha. 

Squirrel Board Game


I just posted about this a few days ago. This is a great game for kids ages 3-6-ish. Luke and I played and he really liked it! It's similar to the old Hi-Ho Cherry-O game. Here is the link on Amazon: Educational Insights The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game. Right now, it's $15.96 on Amazon.


Popcorn Maker

Luke and Riley LOVE to make popcorn at my house! And when my kids were little, they loved it just as much. I don't know what is so special about it, but Luke and Riley always request to make popcorn. We have two different popcorn makers that they love. Here are the links on Amazon:

Orville Reddenbacher Hot Air Popper - This is $33.59 on Amazon. I like this one because it is SO easy to clean up. I don't even use the top cup to melt butter or anything, so there really is zero clean up on this. You just dump out any unpopped kernels (there usually aren't many--maybe five or so).

The first picture is my kids when they were little; bottom one is them showing Luke!

West Bend 82707B Stir Crazy Electric Hot Oil Popcorn Popper - This is $29.99 on Amazon. This one is more fun, in my opinion, but it's the biggest pain to clean when you're done. You have to clean all the oil out as well as clean the butter from the top. But the kids love it! I had the older version when I was growing up (with the yellow bowl). Here are some fun pictures!


Personalized Videos

I got these when my kids were little and I plan to get them for my nieces and nephew for Christmas this year. This company takes a picture of your child's face and cuts it out then inserts it into a video (Noah was super into Dora the Explorer at the time, so I chose a Dora video for his birthday. It's a full episode of Dora and it's hilarious. This clip is the best part! (I especially love hearing Noah get so excited in the background while he watches it.) The quality is not this bad--it's just because I was taking a video of my TV way back in 2005-ish. (Watch the whole clip, it's worth it when they start dancing at the end.) YouTube said the music may not play in some countries for copyright reasons, because it's Dora the Explorer music--so I hope it will play, but I'm not sure it will.


There are several videos to choose from. It's been a long time since I ordered Noah's and Eli's, which were on a DVD, so I can't attest to how the digital video works (they do still have DVDs as well). But here is the company's website: KDNovelties.com


FOR WEIGHT LOSS:

I don't have much to share here, because I keep everything so simple, but here are a few apps that I like:

Happy Scale App


This is the app that I use to track my weight. I LOVE all of the graphs on it and that you can see how your weight is trending compared to the previous year. It also shows you and average moving weight, so that you can focus on what your average weight is over a period of 10 days rather than each day (it helps if the scale discourages you on "bad" days). It predicts your weight on dates you specify based on your current weight trends. There are so many cool features! (Here is a post I wrote about a timeline of my weight, and it shows a lot of screenshots.)

It costs $11.99 for a year or $39.99 for a lifetime. I was lucky enough to try this out when it was pretty new, and the developer contacted me (he also allowed me to host a giveaway). He was super nice and helpful, which makes me like this app even more. Here is the link to the website, where you can find how to download it.

Cronometer App

I always recommend Fat Secret (the free version) to people who are looking to start counting calories. This Cronometer app was recommended to me by a reader and after trying the free version, I really liked it. I've switched back and forth between Fat Secret and Cronometer over the last few years. Cronometer is definitely more complicated and for a "numbers person"--there is a LOT of detail. So if that sounds like you, I recommend checking this one out!

Here is the website. You can use it there or download the app. There is a free version, but you can't create recipes with that, which was a dealbreaker for me. The "Gold" version is $39.99 for a year or $7.99 for a month.


Top of the Line Scale


This is definitely a huge splurge because of the cost, but it was totally worth it to me. I needed a new scale and I hated sorting through the features. I just wanted a simple but ACCURATE AND CONSISTENT scale.

I chose to go with a professional medical scale, which is as accurate and consistent as you can get. It comes with a wall mount for the display but I just use the little stand. It has a plug or you can use batteries--I've had it since 2017 and I don't think I've ever had to change the batteries! If you're looking for a new scale with no frills--just super accurate and consistent weight--and you have the money to splurge on one, I highly recommend this one.

Here is the link on Amazon: Health o Meter Professional 349KLX Digital Floor Medical Scale, 400 lb/180 kg Capacity. It's $236.00 right now.


FOR EXERCISE/RUNNING:

Black Stretchy Pants

Love the pocket for my phone! (there is one on each thigh)

This is pretty much the only thing I run in. If it's hot outside, I'll wear capris (I don't wear shorts because of my loose skin); but most of the time, I wear pants. These ones are my current favorite--they are high-waisted (for tummy control!) and they have pockets on the side of the legs which are perfect for holding my phone (the phone doesn't move around or fall out). They're a comfy material while still being moisture-wicking, and they are thick enough that they don't highlight my cellulite! Haha.

Here is the link on Amazon: Heathyoga Yoga Pants for Women. They are $15.25 right now (they have multiple colors; I just choose black).

Sports Bras


These are my favorite sports bras. They are inexpensive (you get a pack of five for $37.99) and very comfortable. Disclosure: I do not have big boobs! I wear a 36B. They offer great support for me, but for someone with larger breasts, I can't say whether they would be supportive or not. But for someone with an A or B cup, I'd say that they are great. I've had mine for over a year now and they are only just now starting to show some signs of wear with the elastic. I have worn and washed them dozens of times over the last year, so I think I've gotten my money's worth. I may need to buy new ones in about six months or so.

Here is the link to them on Amazon: MIRITY Women Racerback Sports Bras. They are currently $37.99 for a 5-pack.

Socks

For years, I have raved about Balega socks. I LOVE them! They last such a long time (mine finally got holes after wearing them frequently for 7 years). Several readers have mentioned that they tried them after I recommended them and they love them, too. After wearing those, it's hard to wear anything else! Balega socks are the only socks I'll wear when running.

This pair of Balega socks is five years old!

Here is a link to my favorite ones on Amazon: Balega Hidden Comfort No-Show Running Socks for Men and Women. They have lots of different colors to choose from. They are $11.25 per pair on Amazon.




If you don't want to spend so much on socks, I've found a brand that are actually pretty similar to the Balega ones. You can tell the quality isn't as good and they won't last as long, but they are super comfy and much less expensive. Here they are on Amazon: BERING Women's Performance Athletic Ankle Running Socks (6 Pairs). They are currently $17.99 for a 6-pack.


Garmin Forerunner Watch


Of course my list wouldn't be complete without a Garmin Forerunner! This is my favorite running watch. There are a lot of different models, and mine happens to be very old--it's the Forerunner 620 from 2013. I love it so much that I don't want to upgrade because I don't want all the bells and whistles of the new ones (seeing text messages and phone alerts and all that stuff).

The most basic one right now with all the same features as mine (plus a lot more) is this one: Garmin Forerunner 45S. It is actually pretty cheap for a Garmin! (About the same cost as a new pair of running shoes.) It's $129.99 on Amazon right now. (I'm kind of tempted to get it and try it out! It's a Cyber Monday deal--it's regularly $199.99). If you have this model, please let me know how you like it! 


FOR CRAFTING

This is a terrible picture, but it shows both my sewing machine and serger.

Sewing Machine

This is the sewing machine that I have and I love it! It's very basic, but it does what I need it to do. Jerry bought this for me after he accidentally dropped my old sewing machine and broke it!

Here is the link on Amazon: SINGER | 4411 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine. It's currently $189.99.

Today, for Cyber Monday, the price is $188.00 for the SINGER 4423--an upgraded model!

Serger

This is something I wanted for so long but I put off buying because it just seemed like it wasn't a necessity for sewing (it's a luxury). Also, I was totally intimidated by it. When I finally bought it, it sat in the box for a long time, unopened, because I just had no idea what I was doing. Once I finally got it out and started learning all the things you can do with it (thanks to YouTube!) I was so glad that I got it! I love using it and it has made sewing so much easier and more fun.

Here is the basic serger that I got: Brother Serger, 1034D, Heavy-Duty Metal Frame Overlock Machine. It is $249.99 on Amazon right now.


Quilting Cutting Supplies



These have been pretty invaluable when it comes to sewing (as well as other things). When cutting out fabric, using these makes it so easy to make straight lines and shapes that I would always mess up with scissors. There are a ton of different items you can get, but I just have a few basic pieces.

This is very similar to the set that I have (which is no longer sold): Fiskars Crafts 952301010 Rotary Sewing Cutting Set. This set is $19.97 on Amazon right now.


**I was going to make a whole category for woodworking, but I know that 99% of the people who visit my blog aren't here for woodworking stuff ;)  I would like to do a post or two about getting started in woodworking (I fell in love with it a few years ago) and the tools I love, but there is too much to explain on this post. So I'll save that for another day.


BOARD GAMES:

We love board games! As the kids are getting older, they don't like them as much, but Jerry and I like them more and more. Here are some of our more recent favorites.

Do You Really Know Your Family?


We only played this game for the first time recently, but it is an AWESOME family game! I suggest this for families with older kids--maybe 12 and older. It really gets conversation going, even with teens who usually answer with a one-word grunt when you ask how their day at school was ;)

Here it is on Amazon: Do You Really Know Your Family? It's $24.99 right now.


Ticket to Ride



This is a favorite game of Jerry and mine. The kids don't love it as much because it's more strategic, but Jerry and I have played over and over and we still really like it. It's usually our first choice of game when we are looking for something to play.

It's only $21.98 on Amazon right now, which is the cheapest I've ever seen it. It's usually about $50. Here is the link: Ticket to Ride.


Codenames and Codenames Duet

Much concentration!

This is a game that you definitely want to play when you're not looking for a lot of conversation. We don't play this with friends, because you really need to concentrate when it's your turn. Jerry and I like Codenames Duet, because you play with just two people working as a team to clear the board, but the game is played the same way as Codenames.

Basically, there are a bunch of cards face up on the table, each one with a random word on it. You have a key card that shows which words are "yours" and you can give a one-word clue to get others to guess your cards. You want to try to use one word in order to get them to guess as many cards as they can. For example, if three of your cards say "dog" "zoo" and "circus", you might give the word "animal" and hope that they can guess all three of those.

It involves a lot of concentration to come up with a clue word, which is why it's hard to have a conversation during this game. Jerry and I really like it, however! (Codenames is played in teams, where Codenames Duet is played together as a team.)

On Amazon: Codenames. This is currently $8.04.
On Amazon: Codenames Duet. This is currently $18.99



RANDOM STUFF:

Keyboard Shortcuts Sticker



This little sticker fits on the bottom left space of my Macbook--it contains all of the keyboard shortcuts that you can use on the Macbook! My mom and sister are always asking me to help them with things on the computer, so I bought a five-pack in order to https://amzn.to/319iHdH each of them one and Jerry as well. I wish I had known this existed a long time ago.



Favorite Panties



This is really random to put on here, but after buying these panties on Amazon, I loved them so much that this is pretty much all I wear now. They last a long time (I still have the first set I bought) and you can get a variety of colors in a 6-pack or 10-pack. I think they are pretty true-to-size. They aren't tight or restrictive, so if you're unsure about size, you might consider ordering down a size. 

Here they are on Amazon: Amazon Essentials Women's Cotton Stretch Bikini Panty. The 6-pack is $13.50 right now and 10-pack is $20.00.


Squirrel Lunch Box



As you know, I adore my squirrels! I've been feeding them and getting to know them for probably about six years now. They are like pets to me--they trust me and I've gotten to know their personalities. (Yes, they have separate personalities!)

I save the "good stuff" (a.k.a. walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans) for when I go outside to feed them by hand, but I always have this "squirrel lunch box" filled with peanuts (in the shell) so they can eat as they please. (And the more skittish squirrels who don't yet trust me will eat from that when I'm not outside.) I buy a big 50-pound bag of peanuts from a local farm supply store and I put a couple of scoops into this feeder every morning. If you like squirrels and want to see more of them, this is a great way to feed them! You can flip the plexiglass so that the bottom is covered and the birds can't get into the nuts. The squirrels just lift up the top and grab a nut. (Below is a funny video in action)

Here it is on Amazon: Zenport Squirrel Lunch Box Z38079. It is currently $30.39 on Amazon.




Gel Nails Kit



I finally found a nail polish that stays on for a long time, even with all of the woodworking and DIY stuff I do. I used to be very against gel polish because I feel like it destroys your nails; and that is a big drawback. When I remove the polish, my nails don't look great. However, I've learned to do it more gently and carefully--rather than pick at the polish, I take the time to soak them in acetone and gently scrape the polish off. It's not perfect, but for me it's worth it to be able to paint my nails and have the color last a long time without chipping. My mom liked it so much that she bought her own kit.

This is the kit I bought. It comes with everything you need. The polish cures with a UV light, so I put sunscreen on my hands before painting my nails. Then I do the following: one coat of the base polish and 90 seconds under the light; one coat of color, then 90 seconds under the light; if it needs a second coat of color, I'll do that, but even with my black polish, I usually just use one coat; finally, I put the top coat on and cure for 120 seconds. Then the nail polish lasts for at least a couple of weeks (unless I really start picking at it, so I don't do that).

Here is the kit I bought on Amazon (I had to buy my black polish separately): Beetles Gel Nail Polish Kit with U V Light 48W LED Nail Lamp 6 Colors Nude Grays Pink Gel Polish Starter Kit Manicure

It is currently $29.59 for Cyber Monday.



Okay! That was a LONG list, I know, but I wanted to put a good variety of stuff on there. Feel free to comment with your own favorite things--people can always use gift ideas! And if you have opinions of anything I've listed (good or bad), please share.

This post took FOREVER to put together, so I'm going to have a super relaxing, computer-free day ;)

November 28, 2021

Almost There!

I was so hoping to get my "My Favorite Things" post up today, but it's STILL not ready. In the past two days, I've worked 19 hours on it! There are some posts (such as that one) that seem to take forever--writing, linking, finding or taking photos, editing photos, and finally putting the whole thing together.

(ETA: I got up early this morning to get today's post done--so I just published that one! You can find it here: My Favorite Things! 2021. It will show up in tomorrow's feed, but I'm going to try to ping it now. This is relevant for "Cyber Monday".)

I'm at the point where I need to edit photos, and it's 8:00 PM, so I'm not going to be able to get that done tonight. SO, I will definitely get it posted tomorrow. It was a fun post to write (because it's all about my favorite things!) but definitely a lot of work.

So, I'm going to ask one more time... please, if you have an Etsy shop or you just sell handmade items some other way, I'd really love to include you in a post I'm putting together. I've done this in the past, where people who sell handmade items can basically advertise on my blog--they can show off their work and link to their shop. 

Here is a post from the past that shows it: Handmade With Love: Readers share their handmade crafts

I only have a few people that have sent me their info, so I'd love to get more before I post it! And I'd like to get it posted next week, if possible. So if you sell handmade items, please show us :)

Here are the details for how to submit the info for me to share.

It's a great opportunity to share your craft and maybe make a few sales!

Okay, I'm going to close my computer for the night so I can refresh before finishing up tomorrow's post. Good night!

Again, here is my Favorite Things post.

November 27, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Autumn Cheesecake


This recipe definitely tugs at my heartstrings a bit. I'd decided to make a recipe from my grandma's cookbook (we called my grandma Gobby, and she lived from 1914-1999). My Aunt Mickey had put together a cookbook for all of the women in the family where she'd photocopied my grandma's handwritten recipes (and typed them out because my grandma's handwriting was very difficult to read! haha).

I was flipping through the book when "Autumn Cheesecake" caught my eye. 'Tis the season, right?

I saw that I had all of the ingredients except for allspice. And I didn't have a springform pan. That's where my mom came to the rescue. So I was excited to make this cheesecake! It wasn't until I was halfway through mixing the ingredients that I noticed the recipe said, "From the Kitchen of: Kim Forster".

Kim is my Aunt Mickey's daughter (Gobby's granddaughter and my cousin). Tragically, Kim passed away from cancer in October of 2005, when she was only 42 years old.

It was heartbreaking in the worst way. I've written about my Aunt Mickey here before (remember the post about poached eggs?) and Kim was just as sweet and loving and caring as her mom. She had three daughters who were young pre-teens at the time she passed away. They have an amazing dad who managed to continue to raise them to be every bit as compassionate as their mom. I'm not exaggerating even the tiniest amount about how wonderful their family is!

A fun fact about Kim is that she was a contestant on the show "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?" hosted by Regis Philbin. (It was in Season 3, Episode 209.) She was on the show shortly after being diagnosed with adrenal cancer. You could tell just by watching her on the show how sweet she was!

Kim was quite a bit older than me (my mom was the youngest of six kids, and my Aunt Mickey was Gobby's third child). When I was growing up, I was very close with Kim's daughters. Here is a photo of my Aunt Mickey, Kim, me, and Kim's oldest daughter right after she was born.


I didn't learn this until after she passed away, but Kim was also an avid runner. At her funeral, people kept saying that they remember her running and always smiling while she was running. At the time, I knew nothing about running, but how cool would that have been to have that in common with one of my favorite cousins? Kim ran even through her cancer treatment; she ran until she was physically unable to run anymore. That's how much she loved it.


One thing about Kim that I will be forever grateful for happened shortly after I had Noah. I wanted to breastfeed and I had planned on it through my whole pregnancy. However, after he was born, my milk never came in. I was so upset and frustrated. The lactation consultant was not at all helpful and was actually really rude to me when I was crying on the phone asking for advice.

Kim was a labor and delivery nurse, so I called her to ask if she could help. She was so calm and reassuring that I was doing everything I could for my baby. It turned out that my milk never did come in (with either of my kids) but that conversation with Kim made me feel like I was still a good mom even though I couldn't breastfeed.

Two of Kim's daughters are now nurse practitioners and one of them is a talented runner, just like she was. My mom told me that Kim's oldest daughter loves to make cheesecakes; she didn't know if this was because of Kim, but I love that I chose to make this recipe today. I'm saddened that this recipe was not the typical heritage recipes I post--where the recipe is handed down through generations. But I love that it made me think of not only my grandma, as I saw her handwriting in this book, but my beloved cousin Kim as well.

So, here is a recipe for Autumn Cheesecake; handed from Kim to Gobby.


As always, I made this recipe without modifying or altering it in any way. I want to see why it was so special to Gobby to ask Kim for the recipe! Here is the recipe copied exactly from the one Gobby wrote above; the "printer-friendly" version is re-written with my notes/clarifications.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

3/4 C vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 C chopped walnuts
6 T. melted margarine
2# cream cheese
1-1/2 C sugar
1/3 C flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
6 eggs
1-1/2 C canned pumpkin

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 9" springform pan. Combine wafter crumbs, nuts and margarine. Press to sides and bottom of pan. Chill. Combine cream cheese, sugar, flour and spices. Add eggs. Add pumpkin and blend well. Bake 90 minutes, then turn off heat and let stand in oven 30 minutes longer with the door open. Cool on rack and chill.

My Notes:

First, I want to state the obvious: this is the ugliest cheesecake anyone has ever seen. But that is NOT the fault of the recipe! 


After I made it, I realized what I'd done wrong...

1) I forgot to set the damn timer when I put it in the oven! I tried to figure out how long it had been in the oven based on when I started writing this post (which was shortly after I put it in the oven) but I didn't know for sure. And cheesecake is finicky. It turns out that I most likely over baked it.

2) I think I also mixed the batter too long, which made it too airy. That could be a reason why the cake split in the middle (along with over-baking). I read later that you are supposed to add the eggs last (which I did) and mix minimally after that so that the batter doesn't get airy (which causes the cake to be unstable and crack). I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to mix it very long.

More notes:

I crushed the vanilla wafers and walnuts separately in order to get the correct amount. (Rather than put the wafers and walnuts (whole) in the food processor together.)

When I pressed the crust mixture into the pan, I was a little worried that there wasn't enough to cover even the bottom, let alone the sides. I know most cheesecake only has crust on the bottom and a tiny bit of the sides--so I just hoped that was the case here, because I certainly didn't have enough to put it up the sides.

I used a stand mixer with the whisk attachment to mix everything. The recipe is pretty straight-forward about the ingredients and directions.

The baking part was new to me--turning off the heat and then letting it sit with the door open. I found it interesting!

Jerry and I tasted the batter and we were blown away--it tasted exactly like the seasonal Ben & Jerry's Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream. We LOVE that ice cream. Seriously, we stalk the stores in the fall and hope we can find it and then we buy several of them, knowing that we won't get them again until next year!

I was a little worried about how much batter went into the pan. It was VERY tall and I wasn't sure if it was going to bake all the way through. When I checked on it later, I was shocked to see how much it rose in the oven!


I knew that when cheesecake cracks like the picture above, there is something wrong. So that was when I knew I'd over-baked it. I was super bummed! I wondered if I did something wrong, but I just trusted the recipe and if not for forgetting the timer, it would have turned out perfectly. 

As the cheesecake cooled it deflated a bit, which is what I imagine it's supposed to do. I put it in the fridge and hoped it would magically put itself back together and then be beautiful for a picture. No such luck.

BUT--it turned out to taste simply amazing! We had a few friends over tonight, and everyone agreed that it was really good. It looked better in slices than it did as a whole, haha. 

I will definitely be making this again. And I will definitely remember to set the oven timer. And of course, I will think of Kim.

November 26, 2021

Friday Night Photos

It's only 5:00 PM as I start this, but man, it feels like it's so much later! I don't like that it gets dark so early. I actually have a lot of photos from this past week, so I'll just get right to it...

When I bought those Muk Luks from Kohl's the other day, they were in a large bag. For some reason, the cats were all obsessed with this bag! Estelle hogged it for a while, and then when she finally got out, Chick went in there and leaped out to attack anything walking by. (Don't worry, they were supervised and not in danger of suffocating themselves.)

Oh! And the Kindle Paperwhite I mentioned was only $85 a few days ago? Well, two days later the price is now $160 for the same model with the same options! I had been planning to buy one to give away on the blog, but I was going to wait to see if they were even cheaper on Black Friday. Well, that definitely did not happen. If you got one for $85, that's awesome! I've never seen them cheaper than that.

These are just some more pictures from when Luke and Riley were over. In the morning, Luke and I played a squirrel game (for ages 3+) and it was so cute! If you're looking for a cute game for kids around that age (I'd say about ages 3-6 years) this one is super easy for them to learn. It reminds me of Hi-Ho Cherry Oh from when I was a kid. Here is the (affiliate) link on Amazon: The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game


The kids love to make popcorn at my house! We use various methods of making it, which is what they find most entertaining.


Luke and I went for a walk in the morning and he loved running up the dike and then sliding down. He happened to sit down right here and I thought it would make an awesome picture.


I thought this was cute--Jerry was outlining the kids in chalk on the chalkboard clock. I just wished there was more room so he could get a full outline!


We told the kids (Noah and Eli) that we were having a family night--pizza for dinner, a board game, and setting up the Christmas tree. I was surprised that the kids were actually into it! (Clearly, Joey was, too.) Jerry was making that face on purpose--no idea why. Notice the three water bottles--one holds my water, one holds my ice, and one holds my decaf coffee. I have an obsession with water bottles!


The game we played was SUPER fun and I highly recommend it for a family looking to reconnect (with older kids--I'd say at least 12 or 13 years old). It's called "Do You Know Your Family?" (Amazon affiliate link) and it's basically a box of questions that you take turn asking. Things like:
-What do I complain about the most?
-What do I wish we could do more of as a family?
-What is my favorite family memory?
-Who is my favorite singer?
... and things like that. Then everyone has to guess what that person's response is. Keeping score was kind of irrelevant for us; we just had some great conversation with the kids and we all learned a lot about each other! (There are "challenge" cards, too, where you are supposed to do some sort of challenge for points; we just discarded those and stuck with the questions.)

The only downside to the game, in my opinion, is that you wouldn't be able to play it over and over. We went through a lot of the questions in the first game. To me, though, it was totally worth the money to even play it one time. It was a heck of a lot cheaper than a night at the movies or something and we all truly enjoyed playing it. I felt like the kids talked more to us in 90 minutes or so than they have all year! (Not really, but as teenagers, trying to get real responses to questions is like pulling teeth.)

One of Noah's questions was one thing he finds to be a disadvantage about himself, and I was surprised that his answer was his height! I wanted to see how he measured up to Eli, who is the tallest in the family at 5'10". I think Noah is about 5'7"--he really hopes to grow taller, but he's 17, so I'm not sure he will. (Most boys reach their peak height at age 16.) I don't think Noah looks short, though--I wish he didn't feel insecure about it.



Then we started putting up the tree. Jerry took some pictures, and since I was wearing all black (a black hoodie and black yoga pants), along with my black hair, I asked him if I looked like a person or if I looked like a hole in the wall; he said you could totally see me, but I laughed when I saw the pictures, because I really do look like a black hole. Hahaha!



Duck was SO FUNNY the entire time. He immediately climbed the tree (as I showed in yesterday's post) and then he was trying to grab the lights, garland, and ornaments the entire time.




Look how focused he is on the garland Noah is holding!



My boys <3



And here is our final tree--just before Duck climbed up and knocked several things off, hahaha. 


Do you notice the squirrel skeletons in there? ;)

Speaking of squirrels, I nearly died when I saw this review on Amazon. A reader sent me a link to these squirrel finger puppets (because I'm obsessed with squirrels, of course):


I thought they were funny, but I wondered what people did with them, so I started reading the reviews. I was crying laughing when I saw this one...


I'm not at all a fan of taxidermy, but I love that this person bought this poor squirrel to save it from going in the trash. And that they dress it up now! I would have bought it, too. Poor thing.

This meme made me laugh. Remember when I posted about my kids not putting their laundry away? (You will only understand this if you've seen Squid Game on Netflix).

So, like I said I was going to, I used my winnings from my last DietBet game to buy a new tool--this is a plunge router! (Remember how I tried using my fixed base router to cut out a circle and I almost started a fire in my garage? Well, this will keep that from happening.) I ended up winning more than the previous games I did (I got a little over $120 on a $100 bet). This router was $135, so it was close enough! ;)



I used it today to FINALLY build the jig I need to cut perfect hexagons for the cat shelves I'm making. I need to be able to cut a perfect hexagon for the back of each shelf (the part that goes against the wall). So, this will help me do that:


I was excited when I saw that the angle was a perfect 120 degrees. It's adjustable for larger and smaller hexagon sizes, and also for different angles (in case I want to do octagons or something in the future). I haven't tried it out yet, so I'm just hoping that it works! It took me a long time to build it.

And finally... I was on my own for dinner last night, so I made a huge dill pickle sandwich. I stuffed as many tomatoes and pickles on there as I could. (There was only one slice of pickle left in the jar, so I just ate that. This was a delicious Thanksgiving dinner ;)


Have a great weekend! xo

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