November 29, 2023

Wednesday Weigh-In: Week 131

Since breaking my blogging streak recently (blogging daily starting Jan 1, 2020), I've been writing less and less frequently. I always said that's what would happen if I broke my streak! When I can't think of what to write, I just choose not to instead of stressing about it. So, that led to irregular posting. It's not necessarily a bad thing; I just prefer having a routine.

Speaking of routines, Jerry got confirmation that he's moving to day shift AND--something we never expected--he'll be working a regular Monday-Friday shift! We've been together for 24 years, and for the last 21 years, he's never had a straight shift. It was either swing shift (alternating days and midnights) or just night shift; all are 12 hour shifts; and usually anywhere from 3-6 days a week (most of the time it's 4-5 days).

He's always worked half of the weekends in a year--and since people usually do fun stuff on the weekends, he had to miss out on things through the years. Having a straight shift like this, with weekends off, is going to be a HUGE adjustment (in a good way). I'm excited to have a more routine schedule as well; usually I try to plan dinner (my day, really) around Jerry's work schedule. Another bonus about his new schedule is that his shifts will be shorter, although I'm not sure about the details for that yet.

All of this may not sound like a big deal, but we're super excited about it! I'd like to try to get into a regular sleep schedule, and this will be helpful. Ideally, I'll get up super early (4:00-ish) and go to bed super early (10:00-ish). But I've never been able to keep a sleep routine, so I don't know if it'll happen.

Anyway, I had a really great week as far as my eating goes! This is the best week I've had in probably a couple of months, actually. I just realized my last official Wednesday Weigh-In was November 1st--yikes. I know I skipped one and then last week I posted my "favorite things".

November was NOT a good month for me--I ate too much, started eating sweets again, and ate a lot of high-calorie foods (peanut butter, mostly). Anyway, a month ago I was at 137.8. As of a couple of weeks ago, I *knew* I had gained a few more pounds--I could feel it and see it--but I was avoiding the scale.

Since I've eaten really well this week, today I decided to finally just rip off the bandaid and see the damage. Honestly? It wasn't as bad as I was imagining.

I was at 141.0, so it's up 3 pounds from last time--but that was a month ago. And I'm positive it was higher a week ago.

Jerry really wanted a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, even though he said not to make one if it was going to tempt me to eat it. Well, the vegan pumpkin pie recipe I used actually isn't that bad for you--it doesn't even have refined sugar (it's sweetened with maple syrup). Even though I have been trying to avoid sweets, I went ahead and ate a piece. It was delicious! I had one more piece later that night.

That was on Thursday, and I haven't had any sweets since. I haven't gone this many days in a row without sweets in weeks. It takes about 4-5 days for the insane cravings to go away, so getting through those days is *super* hard. Since today is Day 6, I feel confident that I can get back to the point of not craving sweets at all. Now that I know just how hard it is to get back to that point, there is no dessert that is worth having crazy sugar cravings non-stop.

I've been listening to the audiobook 'Fiber Fueled', and it's got me psyched about eating more vegetables (for health, not weight loss). I've been focusing on fiber a lot this past week, too, so I think that has helped me to push through the cravings.

There is a good chance we'll be going to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina at the end of January (my parents go there every year, and this year Jeanie and Shawn are going as well). I'm not a "beach person" but since it'll be the off-season, I'll be able to wear my beloved uniform of jeans and hoodies. Other than driving up north to Jeanie and Shawn's, I haven't traveled since 2019(!) and I'm actually kind of nervous about it. We're going to rent a van and drive down there because the kids and their girlfriends will go with us. I think the road trip will be fun!

Anyway, the whole point of mentioning that is because it makes me feel like I'm working toward something right now--I want to look and feel my best when we go. That gives me 6-8 weeks to hopefully get my weight back in my "happy" range of 125-135. I can definitely do that!

November 27, 2023

My Favorite Apps!

After the super long "favorite things" posts last week, I needed a few days to recover my brain, haha. As simple as the posts seem, they take me forever to put together!

This will be short and sweet, I promise ;)  I debated whether to even do this post, because I don't have a LOT of apps to share, but there are a few apps that I love and/or find helpful, so I want to mention them. I apologize, but most of these are only on iPhone, unfortunately. I didn't know that until I started writing this post--although, I don't know anything about the Google Play store, so I might just be overlooking them.

I've included links to the apps in the Apple App store and for the couple that I could find in the Google Play store. Hopefully the others will include Android soon!

Happy Scale (premium is $2/month, or $12/year, or $40 for lifetime)

This is my favorite weight-tracking app. It's SO HELPFUL if you're tracking your weight loss or if you just want to keep a log of your weight for whatever reason. My weight history goes back to September of 2000(!)--I had it written here and there in notebooks, so I went through and entered them all into the app one day. It's kind of cool to see it all in one spot like that.

(Here is a whole post that I wrote about Happy Scale a couple of years ago--it's much more detailed.)

Anyway, I've tried a ton of weight trackers and this is by far the best one. You can view graphs of periods of a month, a year, all time, etc. You can see averages, highs, lows, predictions of weight trends, view your weight as an average over a week or two rather than a daily number, view all of your past entries, etc.

I don't like apps that do *everything*--for example, a food log + weight tracker + exercise tracker + period tracker, etc. I prefer to have an app that does one thing really well rather than an app that does multiple things in a mediocre way. This app is absolutely what I want out of a weight-tracking app.

I love that Happy Scale still offers a "lifetime" subscription (you pay a one-time cost and don't have recurring payments). It's hard to find apps that do that anymore! I want to mention as well that Russ, the developer, is fantastic. When the app was still new, he asked me to try it and give him some feedback, and I thought it was amazing! I've contacted him a few times over the years and he's always been great about getting back to me. I don't doubt that he treats questions/issues about the app with concern.

I honestly can't think of anything I don't like about the app!

Apple App Store: Happy Scale 

Habit Tracker (premium is $3.49/year or $6 lifetime)

I discovered this app recently when I started working on the "atomic habits" after reading the book 'Atomic Habits' by James Clear. I wanted an app that I could use to track habits, but I'd already downloaded probably a dozen of them in the past--they just weren't what I was looking for.

Once I tried this app, I was HOOKED. This is exactly what I was looking for! Clean-looking, not overwhelming (well, unless you want to add 50 new habits to your life--but that will be overwhelming regardless of how you track them), very helpful, and kind of fun to use. As a numbers person, seeing the statistics of how I've stuck to my habits is kind of cool.

The only downside here is that it took a while to set up. I included things that were already habits to begin with, but helpful to keep in a tracker. You can change the way it logs your habits--whether you want to measure this habit by minutes, days, weeks, or track things like drinking water by the glass, ounce, cup, or even just a simple yes/no if you reached your water goal. I have mine set up so it is mostly a yes/no deal--I either did it or I didn't that day.

It has several features that I don't use (maybe I will, I just haven't tried them yet) like building habits with someone else, different widgets and timers, etc. So far, I have only used it for tracking my daily habits.

After playing around with it, I checked out the price to upgrade and get to add more habits (I think it allowed five(?) for free), and discovered that they have a one-time "pro" option--for $5.99! I'm almost afraid to write this here because I don't want them to change it, haha. It is SO rare to find apps that do this anymore. It's not a subscription--just a one-time payment. I bought this tracker and I use it daily. It's a great habit tracker!

Apple App Store: Habit Tracker

Budget Spending Tracker (premium is $2/mo, $5/year, $9 lifetime)

I have always loved the idea of a budgeting app, but I could never find one that worked how I liked. I can't really describe what a perfect budgeting app would be for me, but all of the ones I'd tried just weren't it. I like to sort and organize things my own way. I like simplicity. And very importantly, I don't want to have a recurring cost. I was thrilled to see that this app has a (cheap) lifetime membership as well!

Like the Habit Tracker, it took a while to set this up. Longer, even, because I had to look up the cost of each of my bills and figure out how much we've been spending on things like food, gas, etc., in order to make an accurate budget. Once I got it set up, though, I was stunned at how organized and the app is and helpful for seeing what money went where.

So, if you've tried other budgeting apps to no avail, this one might be worth a try. I think preferences for apps like these are entirely personal, so what I like may be worthless to others and vice versa. But I wanted to mention this here because I really like it.

Apple App Store: Budget Spending Tracker

Cronometer (premium is $10/mo, or $55/year)

People frequently ask me what calorie tracker I use. I don't track calories anymore, and other than a few days here and there, I haven't for a long time. My go-to suggestion for the average person looking to track calories has always been Fat Secret (I wrote all about it on this post). However, Cronometer is my favorite. It's MUCH more in-depth about nutrition. Since becoming vegan, I was more interested in vitamins/micronutrients than I was calories, and Cronometer is the best for that.

It's expensive (well, I guess it's not bad compared to some others, but $55 a year is kind of pricey--especially if it's not the only app you have a subscription for). The free version is actually really great--the only reason I upgraded was because it let me share my created recipes with Jerry--so he could easily log his food without having to create his own recipes in the app.

Basically, this app is perfect for people who want to see the full spectrum of nutrients and vitamins they are getting. For someone who just wants to count calories, or even macros, there are cheaper and even free ones (I really do like Fat Secret best for that).

Apple App Store: Calorie Counter by Cronometer
Google Play Store: Calorie Counter by Cronometer

Duolingo (Premium is $10/mo or $84/year)

As much as I love this app, I still use the free version. I wanted to state that up front so you can see that you don't *need* premium to love this app. At the beginning of January, I made a goal to learn a new vocabulary word once a week throughout the year. I was really bad at remembering to do that. A friend mentioned that he was 500 days into a streak on Duolingo, a language-learning app, so I decided to use that instead--not to learn a new vocabulary word, but to learn Spanish!

I took four years of Spanish in high school, but was never anywhere-near fluent. And after having gone, oh, two DECADES after high school without needing it, I just forgot everything. But using Duolingo has helped me to refresh it all and I've learned MUCH more. I'm almost 200 days into a daily Duolingo streak--I do at least one lesson a day, but usually more. They only take a few minutes. The repetition and bringing back old vocabulary words from months ago is super helpful in being able to remember everything I've learned.

I don't know that I'll ever get to the point of having a real conversation in Spanish, but for only being 195 days in, I'm impressed with what I've learned.  :)

Apple App Store: Duolingo
Google Play Store: Duolingo

Okay, like I said--short(ish) and sweet... my favorite apps. If you have a favorite that you want to share, please do! (Either here or you can share it on the Facebook post I created for "favorite things". Here is the link to the post on Facebook.) 

November 22, 2023

My Favorite Things! (Part 2)

Continuing with part two of yesterday's post. Here is a link: My Favorite Things! Part 1: In the Kitchen.

I'll leave this intro as it is, in case you missed it.

I've been meaning to put this post together for months now. I like to do a "favorite things" post once a year--I usually think of it when I'm going about my day and think, "I love this thing". When I really love something, I want to tell everyone about it!

This list is long and varies wildly--from kitchen items to clothes to pet care--so some of it may or may not be relevant here. Regardless, it's fun to make a list of my favorite things. Some of these items have been on my list for years; others are new.

Before I get into the list, I want to note a "life lesson" that I've learned semi-recently and have been trying to teach my kids: quality matters. I've always been thrifty and over the years, I've learned what "real" quality is and isn't. This is why I buy a lot of things secondhand. I can get very high-quality solid furniture for cheaper than the brand new poor quality stuff.

A lot of the items on my list are on the relatively pricey side. This is after years of letting cost be the deciding factor for items we needed. I would buy what was cheapest; and eventually, have to replace it. Again, I'd get something cheap. Over the last few years, though, I've finally understood that it's actually cheaper in the long run to buy a good quality item up front, saving the buy-and-replace routine.

If it's something I use a lot, I'll even pay extra for the bells and whistles, if that's what I really want. I tell my kids to save up for the things they *really* want rather than settling on something that won't meet their expectations. The quality is worth it. I only mention this because a lot of these things were bought after years of trying cheap alternatives. Okay, here goes...

[Most of the links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means that I may get a small commission if you purchase through the link. I'm not affiliated with any other brands/companies. All of these items were purchased with my own money.]



I became kind of obsessed with these headbands in the summertime. To cover up grays or greasy or otherwise messy hair, I would throw one of these on instead of wearing a hat. They are super comfy, they stay on well, and they're not too hot. I like them for absorbing sweat when I'm working hard on something or just to wear when I'm having a bad hair day. There are a ton of different patterns and colors and they come in packs of four. (When we drove up north to visit Jeanie and Shawn, I thought it was funny to find both of them wearing headbands just like this!)

There are a lot of different brands, but these are the ones I have: Acenail Boho Headbands.

Cuddl Duds Softwear

I cannot even describe how much I love these leggings (and the matching long sleeve tops, not pictured). The fabric is SO SOFT. I have about four pairs of the leggings because I like to sleep in them (although, since I got the 365 Blanket I haven't been wearing pants to bed, haha).

The fabric is super thin and I actually like these because when I'm hot, I don't like my legs feeling like they're sticking together. The pants are thin enough that they don't really keep me warm, but they cover my legs. When I was freezing cold all the time, though, I would wear these as a base layer under my regular clothes. I'm kind of surprised at how much these cost because there isn't much to them; I loved the pair that I had so much that I bought three more pairs when I got a good deal on them one day. I wear a pair almost daily in the evenings; they are my go-to pajamas. 

I do want to mention, though, that they aren't very flattering, haha. They look okay in the picture, but because they are so thin, you can see lots of jiggling from my loose skin when I walk around. I wear them strictly for comfort. (Here is the link to the leggings; and here is a link to the tops.)

Spanx Bra

There is actually a funny story behind this. First, I've never owned a good-quality, nice bra. I just hated the thought of spending so much money on something like a BRA. Especially because I have very small boobs and don't need extra support; I just figured a cheap bra was fine. One day, I went to Salvation Army and had a cart full of clothes. I to the register and paid for everything and when I got home I started cutting off the tags and throwing everything into the washer.

I found a black bra. In with all the stuff I'd just bought. I had NO IDEA how it got in with my stuff! I was thinking it must have fallen in my cart or something and I didn't notice. Anyway, it was a Spanx bra in a size 32 C. Hahaha, I wear a 36 very small B or even an A when my weight is at around 130. The cups didn't look huge though, so I thought I'd try it on. And it fit! Pretty perfectly, actually. Maybe it was stretched out in the band or something, but I couldn't believe how comfortable it was.

I looked it up and it sells for $68 (both on the Spanx site and on Amazon). That is WAY more than I'd ever paid for a bra. But I loved the black one I accidentally acquired so much that I ended up buying one in a nude color. It has made a world of difference in not just comfort, but how clothes look as well. I usually like underwire in a bra, but the black one didn't have underwire--and honestly, I didn't realize that until I'd received the one I ordered (which had underwire). Comparing the two, I preferred the one without the underwire, so I returned the wired one and got the one without.

One of the things that I hate the most about excess skin after weight loss is that it's hard to tuck it in. The skin under my arms (like side-boob area) hangs over the band of my bras--even bras that were meant for "full-coverage" and back fat and all that. While this one isn't perfect, it definitely covers much better than any other bra I've tried. In the picture above, you can see that it doesn't bulge (when I put my arm down, it does a little; it's far less noticeable, though). Anyway, I wish I'd known how much a good bra would change my life! Totally worth spending a little more.

Here is the Spanx bra that I have: Spanx Bra-llelujah! Lightly Lined, Full-Coverage Bra.

Hey Dude shoes

I wrote about these a few years ago, before they became a well-known brand. My kids even laughed when I asked them if they wanted a pair, because they looked like "old people shoes". And now all their friends wear them, hahaha. I love these shoes! I still love my Converse, but I wear my Hey Dudes 90% of the time I leave the house. They are super easy to slip on, very comfortable, the lightest-weight shoe I've ever held, machine washable, and--very cute. I don't care if they look like "old people shoes"; I think they are great.

I have the Hey Dude Women's Wendy style; there are a ton of color options.

No-show socks

I never thought I'd be writing about no-show socks; I had tried so many different brands but not a single one of them would stay up on my heel. I don't know if it's because of my shoe size (9) or just the shape of my feet or what, but I always wanted to be able to wear no-show socks. (I refuse to wear shoes without socks. I like my feet to have socks on 24 hours a day!)

I have to say--I'm obsessed with socks. I like very cushy athletic-type low-cut socks; the thin socks that you can practically see through are not my thing. Most of the no-show socks are made of a thin knit fabric and I just never found them comfortable. I was ordering some socks for the boys when I came across these Saucony no-show ones. I really liked the colors and I was tempted to give them a try. I am so glad that I did!

They don't slide off my heel--that is amazing in and of itself. But they are also a good thickness (they aren't AS thick as my usual socks, but they are pretty close. There is a silicone heel grip that keeps the socks from slipping (I don't notice that it's there; you can't feel it when the socks are on. But it's about the size of a quarter on the back of your heel. I included a picture above.)

Here are the ones that I have: Saucony No-Show Cushioned Invisible Liner Socks.


Sewing Machine

I have a Singer Heavy Duty 4452 sewing machine. While I've been sewing my entire life, I still like having a simple, pretty basic machine. This one is perfect for people who are new to sewing but also for people like me, who have been sewing for a long time and don't need all the fancy bells and whistles. Right now, I just noticed that Amazon has an early Black Friday deal on this machine--you get the machine plus an extension table for cheaper than the machine itself! Use this link for that deal. I'm not sure how long it'll be available.


I didn't use a serger until a few years ago. Actually, it was around the time I started sewing masks for the pandemic. I never knew how helpful it would be until I got used to using it; now, I use it on just about every project. A serger is something that you can certainly get by without, but if you enjoy sewing and you have a little extra money, a serger is super nice to have. Again, mine is pretty basic. I would say perfect for a beginner, because I was a beginner with it and I figured it out pretty easily. I would watch some YouTube videos to learn all sorts of different things you can do with it!

Here is the one that I have: Brother 1034D serger. Is a basic model, but it does everything I need it to.

Kindle Paperwhite

This has been on my "Favorite Things" list for several years in a row now. The Paperwhite was one of the best investments I've ever made! Believe me when I say that I was a hardcore paperback person (when I read; I hardly ever read then). I tried reading on my iPad Mini, but it hurt my wrists, hands, and eyes. It was heavy and bright.

The Kindle Paperwhite is as simple of an e-reader as you can get--which is great, because it's not designed for playing games and typing emails and things you might do with your phone. It's meant for reading, and it's designed with that--and that alone--in mind.

I love that it's lightweight (seriously, lighter than most paperback books!), it stays "open"--so I can read hands-free. It's super thin so it doesn't hurt my hands. You can turn the backlight completely off if you want, which is how I leave mine (unless I'm reading in the dark). The screen literally looks like paperback pages when the backlight is off. There is no glare, so I can read it outside (something I couldn't do with my iPad or phone).

And the storage--holy cow. I couldn't get enough books in a whole lifetime to store on it! I have about 150 on there, I think, and it barely takes up any space at all. And the Paperwhite itself is pretty small--I can fit it in my purse. You can adjust the font size and look, if you want, though--so the size of the Paperwhite doesn't change the readability in that aspect. I even read it on the treadmill! I set the font size bigger and put it on a stand on the treadmill.

I love that I can get a library book within 30 seconds if I want. Just search the library site for the book I want, click "borrow", and then "get book" and it's delivered immediately to my Kindle. The books are automatically returned in two weeks. So simple! The charge lasts SO long on this, too. I am a super slow reader and I can usually finish a full book without having to charge it. Because it doesn't have all sorts of features like a phone or tablet, it doesn't need to be charged nearly as often.

I could go on and on about the Paperwhite, considering I read more books since buying it than I had in probably 15 years total before that. I have the 10th generation, but that's not available anymore. Here is the latest generation: Kindle Paperwhite

[Note: If you order one of these, you'll have an option for "ad supported" that is $20 cheaper. I bought one without ad support because I wasn't sure what to expect (ads spread through the book?) but I bought one for each of my kids and tried the one with ad support. I would definitely save the $20 and get the one with ad support! The only "ads" that we've seen are for newly released books. The ads aren't animated or videos or even in color. And they only appear on the lockscreen (like if you set the Paperwhite down for a while). They never appear while you're reading.]

Bedroom "Stoner" Lights

The top photo is of the star lights (they are projected from the "spotlight" you see in the bottom right photo). The space-theme LED lights are on the bottom left. And in the bottom right photo, the green/blue thing is the essential oil diffuser.

Jerry and I call this setup in our bedroom "stoner lights" because when everything is going at once, it's quite an experience to just lie in bed and stare at the lights all over the room. It's super relaxing! Despite the fact that our bedroom looks like a realtor's nightmare, we really love it. With black walls and ceiling, when we close the blackout curtains it is pitch black in there. You can't even see your hand in front of your face! (It's nice for Jerry when working on nights, too.)

Anyway, after hanging out with Luke in his room and feeling more relaxed than ever (his bed was SO cozy and then the lights on the ceiling and the essential oils diffuser going, man... I could have stayed like that forever. When I got home, I ordered the lights that he had. And a diffuser. Eventually, we added a couple of space-theme LED lights on the wall.

So, while it's not very grown-up, it's perfect for Jerry and me ;)  (You do not need a black ceiling or walls for these; they might even look better on lighter colors.)

We have two different "star" projectors, but I'll just share the original one that I love most. The other one is kind of complicated with a remote control and bluetooth and stuff like that. This one is simple--just a few buttons. I do wish you could change the colors, but you have to choose when you buy it--green or blue. Luke had green, so I went with blue. The stars rotate slowly, and the cloudy parts move a bit (or you can opt to keep it still). You can turn on one or the other (stars or clouds) or use both.

The stars projector would be a great gift for kids of any age, teenagers (Noah, Eli, and Noah's girlfriend loved the ones I got them for Christmas last year), and adults that act like children (e.g. Jerry and I). I'm going to buy one for Shelby and Hunter for Christmas (my niece and nephew; Jerry's sister's kids). 

Here is a link to the stars projector. (The one that I have is an older model that is now more than DOUBLE what I paid for it. So here is a different version--same brand--that looks very similar.)
Here is a link to the essential oil diffuser. (With the version I have, you can change the color of the lights by pushing a button to cycle through colors/brightnesses.)
Here is a link to the LED UFO light (there are different designs--we just went with a space theme that happened to be emerging, haha). 


This game is super fun and fast and easy to learn. It consists of only the game "board" and cards. The board is a plastic wheel that has letters surrounding it. In the center is a timer. To play, you draw a card (the cards have different categories on them, like "the great outdoors" or "desserts" or "in the kitchen", etc. Then you start the timer. The first person has 10 seconds to think of a word that fits the category. Even kids who are learning their alphabet could play this! Maybe without the timer, though--the noise of the timer is stressful, hahaha. My mind tends to go blank the second I'm being timed.

Let's say the category is "desserts"; the person might say "cake". So they would press the letter C (which just keeps it in a down position, meaning that it's been used and the letter C can't be used again this round). That person immediately presses the timer button, which passes the turn to the next person and starts the 10-second timer all over again. The the next person might say "apple pie" and press the letter A down, followed quickly by the timer button. Play goes on like this until someone can't come up with a word in their 10-second allotment.

This game is just as fun with two people as it is with several. I would say it would be best for 2-5 people, though. (And honestly, you could even play it solo by trying to finish all the letters without the timer running out.) Anyway, if you're looking for a fun, not-at-all-complicated-to-learn game, this is perfect: Tapple


This is a card game (using a special deck of cards, not the usual playing cards). You deal a grid of 12 cards (4 columns, 3 rows) and each turn, you can swap out cards (following certain rules) with the goal of having the lowest total score in the end. There are different ways to lower your score (including some cards that have negative numbers). It involves a little bit of math, so it's not completely mindless, and you eventually learn to use different strategies. We've played this with the kids (who liked it as well) but mostly Jerry and I play this together. It's a good game! Here is the link to Skyjo on Amazon.


This game is super unique and is perfect for people like Jerry and me who have been together for 24 years and we don't mind a quiet game. This definitely involves a lot of strategy and thinking--you really can't let your mind wander--so I wouldn't recommend it for a social game night. Jerry and I love it though!

There are different versions, but for the one that Jerry and I play most (the original), you lay out a grid of 25 cards--each card has a random word on it--and then set up a card key that matches the layout of the grid. Each card key has squares to correspond to the layout of the cards on the table; and on the card key, some of the squares are highlighted. Those are words that you want your partner to guess. (Your opponent cannot see your side of the key card, so they don't know which words you are hoping they'll guess.)

I'm sure I'm going to make this sound much more complicated than it is, but here goes... on your turn, you look for words that you can connect in some way. Let's say three of your words are: "diary" "dog" and "presents". You might link them via the word "snoop"--it's a long shot, because when you see those words, it looks impossible to connect them. (In this case, I was thinking that you might snoop through a diary, snoop to look for presents, and of course... Snoop Dogg.)

So, you would say just two words to your opponent: "Snoop. Three." And that means that you have three cards that you're linking with the word "snoop". They will then look over the words in the grid and try to guess them based on your clue "snoop". If you cannot come up with much at all based on the cards you have, you might say "Journal. One." And hope your opponent chooses "diary". There are also words that you DON'T want them to guess. So let's say one of those words is "secret". If there is a card that says "secret"--that could possibly fit into the "snoop" category as well--so you may not want to use the word "snoop" to describe the three words if it could lead to them guessing the wrong word ("secret"). There are a couple of words that end the game immediately if they guess them, so you have to be careful about the clues you pick.

You only have so many turns to get them to guess all of the cards, so you want to try to group (connect) the cards as much as possible without making your clues too obscure.

If you like the NY Times game Connections, then I think this is a great game for you! Jerry and I have three versions of Codenames, but this is the one we play the most: CodenamesCodenames Duet is another version; you work as a team of two rather than as opponents. Codenames Deep Undercover is an "adult" version (i.e. dirty words). There are others, too, like Disney and Marvel and Harry Potter. I wish I knew Marvel; Jerry would love that one!


I've never been a big headphones person. I rarely listen to music and if I do, it's in the car. Even while running, I honestly don't mind running without listening to something. I do like to wear headphones on walks and when Jerry is sleeping and I want to listen to a podcast or audiobook (I almost typed "book on tape"--groan) while I cook or do laundry or something.

Anyway, I've bought several pairs of cheap earbuds over the years, hoping to find some I liked, but I just didn't. I couldn't imagine spending so much on a pair of earbuds when I'm not even that into music, but I have a Bose speaker that I use to listen to podcasts when I work in the garage (it's super old, but I love it). The quality is amazing, so I decided to look for Bose earbuds.

I ended up getting this pair: Bose Quiet Comfort II. I LOVE THEM. The sound quality is superb and they are very comfortable. They don't go so far in my ear only to make my ears ache after a while, but they stay in without problem (I think I might have big earholes because I have always had a hard time with keeping earbuds in my ears.

I especially love the noise canceling part of these. I wasn't sure I'd use that feature but I do, very frequently. Even if I don't want to listen to anything, I'll put in the earbuds just to get some quiet in order to concentrate on a blog post. You can adjust the amount of noise canceling power, too--you can set it to "aware", where you can hear your surroundings without problem. On the other end is "quiet" mode, where you can't hear crap other than what comes through the speaker.

I never used to use bluetooth in order to talk on the phone, but since getting these earbuds, I use them for that purpose sometimes--when I have a Zoom appointment or for calling people while on a walk. The sound quality for the calls is fantastic. No complaints. The battery lasts a long time, but like I said--I don't use them a ton.

Anyway, I love these earbuds! They are on a Black Friday deal right now, and I haven't seen them cheaper than this since I got mine a couple years ago (I've been looking occasionally for my brother-in-law). You can find them here on Amazon: Bose QuietComfort II earbuds


The 365 Blanket

I saw this blanket via an ad a couple of years ago and really wanted to get one, but I couldn't bring myself to spend so much money on a blanket that I wasn't even sure I would like. It wasn't a *need*. Still, I would occasionally go to the site and contemplate buying one. After paying off our house, I decided I was finally going to just do it. Now I wish I'd bought it when I first learned of it! 

When I used to babysit Luke and Riley as babies, Becky had these very soft muslin blankets that she used for all sorts of things: a breast-feeding cover-up, a spit-up towel, a swaddle blanket, etc. I wanted one in an adult size so badly--they were so cozy and soft and breathable.

This is one of the baby blankets I loved so much!

The 365 Blanket is basically four layers of the soft muslin baby blankets. I didn't get it for the "365" feature--that it's supposedly the perfect blanket to use 365 days a year--because I didn't really buy into that. Living in Michigan, it's miserably hot and sticky in the summer and miserably cold in the winter. I haven't had this blanket for a full year in order to truly test it out, but it's the only blanket that I sleep with now.

Our furnace was broken all last week and the temp in the house got down to 55 F at night--and the blanket, while thin and breathable, kept me warm. It arrived at the very beginning of September, and it was still pretty hot then; the blanket kept me at the perfect temperature. I have no idea how this works! After Jerry and I fell in love with it, we also got one for each of the kids--they love them as well.

This link goes to the Muslin Comfort site, where I purchased mine. (Again, I don't get anything for a referral--I just love my blanket and wanted to share!) While expensive for "just a blanket", they have different sizes and I think a throw would make an awesome gift. Note: I wouldn't use a sheet underneath the blanket--it's not as comfy and the blanket can't "breathe" like it's supposed to. The blanket is machine washable, though!

Floor pillow

That's a terrible picture on the right, but that's how I like to sit on it.

This is something I got recently when I started working on daily habits. One of the habits I got into was sitting on a floor pillow while reading. [After researching my back issues, I decided I wanted to start sitting cross-legged on the floor at least for a few minutes each day, mainly to improve my posture.]

While I can certainly sit on the floor itself, I like using this cushion when I'm going to be sitting for a while. It's super comfortable and I'm kind of surprised at how well it keeps its shape. Jerry uses it, too, especially when playing his Xbox. It's made out of foam but it doesn't sink in low like a lot of memory foam. It stays pretty stiff, which is what I wanted.

This is the one that I have: Floor Pillow for Adults. I have the 22-inch one (it comes in 24 inches as well). Mine seems to be a good size for me, but if you're in doubt, I'd go with the 24 inches.

Japanese Shower Towel

I can't remember where I heard of this (my money would be on Reddit), but it had SUCH rave reviews and I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I've always used loofahs in the shower; I find washcloths to be kind of annoying because they are "drapey"--they get very heavy when wet and I just find them hard to wash with. So why I decided to try out this "shower towel" is beyond me! It's super long--the opposite of what I'd normally look for.

Basically, it's a long rectangular cloth that you use to wash yourself. I can't describe the fabric well--it's exfoliating but not to the point where you can practically feel it damaging your skin, haha. It feels SO GOOD. My skin feels super clean and soft afterward. It holds shower gel really well, despite its size, and a little gel goes a long way. After washing in the shower, I just wring it out (which dries it immediately) and hang the cloth from a hook in the shower (like I did with my loofah). 

I loved it so much that I got one for Jerry too--and he keeps telling people at work that they need to get one, hahaha. He said it was a total game changer, especially when washing your back. (The length is enough to spread out across your back.) I read reviews on several brands, and decided to go with this one: GOSHI Exfoliating Shower Towel. It was on the expensive side compared to others, but I think it is 100% worth it. Each of my kids will be getting one for Christmas--the joys of getting older and more "mature" Christmas blankets ;)

Speaking of showering, I finally found a vegan shower gel that I really like. I used to use Neutrogena Body Clear wash--it has salicylic acid, which is the only way I've been able to keep my back and chest from breaking out in acne. I used to have body acne until I started using the acne wash. Finding a vegan one was difficult, but this one has been perfect--I like it even more than Neutrogena because it smells nice. And it works well! Here is the current one I am loving: Pacifica Acne Warrior body wash. It's vegan and cruelty-free!

Laundry hampers

I'd only ever had one style of laundry basket/hamper my entire life: the hard plastic mesh ones. However, when building my bathroom closet, I didn't account for the width of them when deciding where to put the shelves. I made sure the height would be perfect! But totally didn't think of the width. I wasn't able to fit them both into the closet (we use one for lights/one for darks). I don't know what possessed me to try out these hamper bags, but they fit as if they were made for the closet.

If it's possible to really love a laundry hamper, then I will say loud and clear: I love these hampers. The "fabric" is extremely stiff and has a PEVA waterproof coating on the inside. I thought these wouldn't last long, being made of fabric, but they are SUPER durable and hold up now the same as they did when I got them in March.

These are ones that I have: HomeHacks Freestanding Hamper. Mine are the 100 L size (I also got each of the kids an 88 L one).

5-Year Journal

As you know, I *love* the entire concept of a 5-year journal. It's set up in a way that each page (366 pages, one for each day of the year) is labeled with the date but no year. There are five separate sections (just a few blank lines each) where you fill in the year. Then you write a couple of lines about your day in that section. The next day, you go to the next page and fill in the year again. Etc. For year two, you go back to January 1, and start writing in the SECOND section down the page. You fill in the new year's digits, then write your journal lines. For year three, you go back to January 1 and start again, with the THIRD section on the page.

There are a lot of different styles of five year journals, but here is the one I have. I really like it (the pages are thick and good quality).



That's Chick on the right; not a shadow. Hahaha!

Feeding the pets their "special food" (just canned wet food that we give them once a day; we call it their "special food", which gets them worked up for it) is kind of an ordeal in my house. Phoebe, at 15+ years old, weighs less than five pounds; I want her to get any sort of food/liquid, so I tend to cater to her tastes when it comes to cat food. Phoebe only likes the gravy, no chunks, so I add a tablespoon or so of water to the can and mix it up to make more gravy. Then I spoon just the gravy onto Phoebe's plate. Estelle likes mostly gravy with a few chunks, so I do hers next.

Chick and Duck go crazy for canned food, regardless of how it's served. They eat much faster than Phoebe or Estelle and I was having the problem where they would go after Phoebe and Estelle's food if I wasn't watching like a hawk. I read about these LickiMats on Amazon, and figured I'd give them a try--I was hoping they'd keep Chick and Duck busy long enough to let Phoebe and Estelle finish their food. I got one for Joey, too, because he eats faster than anyone.

I was shocked at how well they worked! I smeared Joey's pâté food all over the mat, and he licked at it for a long time. Phoebe and Estelle finished their food while Chick and Duck were still working on theirs. And they weren't phased in the slightest by a change in serving dish.

These LickiMats are basically just mats made of food grade rubber with different textures; by spreading the wet food around, the pets have to lick at it for a while in order to get all of the food out from each groove. My only complaint is that they aren't dishwasher safe--I have to clean them by hand after they eat. If you let the food dry on there, it's harder to get off, so just make sure to at least rinse it when the pets are done. (I don't have a picture of Joey's here, but it's essentially the same thing--just square and with different texture.)

Here is the link for the cats': LickiMat for cats
Here is the link for Joey's: LickiMat for dogs (Joey's came in a two-pack with different textures. If choosing between the two, I like the LickiMat Buddy one best. It seems to take longer for him to eat his wet food and none of the food gets left behind.

Cat scratcher

PetFusion cat scratcher

This is the two-level scratcher--when it was new.

The first time we bought this cat scratcher, I was sure it was going to be the biggest waste of money EVER. It's cardboard! Why so expensive? Well, we've now bought three (two different styles, which I'll explain). They are fantastic! They last so much longer than the cheap cardboard ones. The first one lasted three years before we bought another. A year after getting the kittens, we bought another--the "jumbo" version that has two levels--and it's just as great. 

However, I will mention that my cats don't use the center part of it (the "bottom" level). It cost more, and since my cats don't use that part, I recommend the smaller one (they are roughly the same size, but the jumbo one just has that lower level as well). The second one we bought is still going strong; the only reason we bought another is to have two for different locations (helpful when you have four cats!).

My cats love these things. It's their go-to for scratching [My usual PSA: Please please don't declaw cats. If you find a scratcher they like, put it in a main living area (they may not use it if it's in an isolated spot), and trim their nails occasionally, they won't scratch up your furniture.] They also like to sleep on top of it.

Here is a link to the one-level: PetFusion Cat Scratcher Lounge (if you want the two-level one, it's an option on the same listing).

Squirrel lunch box

This is when it was fairly new; I do clean it occasionally, but it's probably time to replace it.

Despite how adorable I think my squirrel picnic table was, it wasn't practical. If you set food out on it, the birds would come take it away immediately. It was also very small--which makes for adorable pictures of squirrels, but it's still impractical. As someone who treats our backyard squirrels like pets, I like to keep food out for them at all times.

When they come up to the door, I always give them a walnut or other nut in the shell. However, I keep this "squirrel lunch box" attached to a post on my back deck. I fill it with peanuts in the shell, which I get relatively cheaply at a farm animal feed store. (If you do feed them nuts, just be careful not to get salted nuts--I just buy raw unsalted nuts--because the sodium isn't good for the squirrels.)

The squirrels bring me so much joy! I love to bring some nuts out on the back deck and hand them out to the squirrels like trick-or-treat candy. They have different personalities, much like cats and dogs, and they're so fun to watch.

Anyway, here is the squirrel lunch box that I use: Zenport Squirrel Lunchbox. It's lasted about five(?) years now. My squirrels are fat and happy :)

Okay, I'm SURE I am leaving out probably two dozen things and they won't occur to me until after this post goes live, but I *think* this is where I'll end it. I have a few favorite apps that I want to share, but I'll do that on another post. I just wanted to get this one up while everything is on sale right now for Black Friday!

I always like hearing what others are loving and their favorite things, so please share yours! You can either post here or I started a Facebook post and you can share there (with a link). Here is the link for the post on Facebook: Favorite things

November 21, 2023

My Favorite Things: Part 1 (kitchen)

Okay, this post was taking way too long to write, so I'm going to group some things together into separate  posts. (This is the first; you can find PART 2 here.)

I've been meaning to post this about two months ago, and I kept postponing, knowing it was going to take forever. However, I like to do a "favorite things" post once a year--I usually think of it when I'm going about my day and think, "I love this thing". When I really love something, I want to tell everyone about it!

This list is long and varies wildly--from kitchen items to clothes to pet care--so some of it may or may not be relevant here. Regardless, it's fun to make a list of my favorite things. Some of these items have been on my list for years; others are new.

Before I get into the list, I want to note a "life lesson" that I've learned semi-recently and have been trying to teach my kids: quality is the most important factor when buying something that really matters to us. I've always been thrifty and over the years, I've learned what "real" quality is and isn't. This is why I buy a lot of things secondhand. I can get very solid, high-quality secondhand furniture for cheaper than the poor quality brand new stuff!

Some of the items on my list are on the relatively pricey side. This is after years of letting cost be the deciding factor for items we needed. I would buy what was cheapest; and eventually, have to replace it. Only to replace it with something just as cheap. Over the last few years, though, I've finally understood that it's actually less expensive in the long run to buy a good quality item up front, saving the buy-and-replace routine.

If it's something I use a lot, I'll even pay extra for the bells and whistles, if that's what I really want (although, I'm almost always a "give me the basic model" person). I tell my kids to save up for the things they *really* want rather than settling on something (just because it's cheaper) that won't meet their expectations. The quality is worth it. I only mention this because a lot of the things on my list were bought after years of trying cheap alternatives. Okay, here goes...

[Most of the links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means that I may get a small commission if you purchase through the link. I'm not affiliated with any other brands/companies. All of these items were purchased with my own money.]

Food storage containers - If you read the story of the pantry moths, then you know why these are a staple in my house now. (If you haven't read it, you can find it here.) These ones have been awesome! I put literally every single thing that goes into my pantry into an airtight container; I'm not going to deal with that disaster again, haha. Just for your information: the tall containers in my sets did not fit in my mom's cupboards; they fit on my pantry's tall shelves. Just make sure you measure the space you'll be using them before you order! There are several different sets to choose from. I bought a few different sets after the pantry moth incident.

These are the ones that I have: Chef's Path Airtight Food Storage Containers

airtight food storage containers

Reusable bags - I am seriously obsessed with these reusable bags! My mom had some when we went to Eastern Market and I immediately went on Amazon when I got home. They fold up into a tiny pouch (about the size of a cell phone, only more on the square side). They are EASY to fold back into the little pouch--something I wasn't really expecting. I carry six(!) of these in my purse for grocery shopping, although I usually only use 4-5 on a large grocery trip. They are VERY large--it's so nice to be able to bring everything into the house in one trip from the car. Since I carry them in my purse, I don't ever forget them in the car when I go shopping, either.

I used to be a grocery bagger (my first job). I always hated bagging things like cereal boxes because 1) they took up the entire bag, and 2) the corners of the box would tear right through the plastic grocery bags. Then we were told to "double bag" those--that's so much waste!

I really like these bags because I'm able to load a bunch of boxes in there without risk of tearing. I can't even describe how much can fit inside, especially if you really tetris it in there. (Yes, I use "tetris" as a verb.)  They are very thin and light material, but much sturdier than you'd expect. I love these bags!

You can find them here on Amazon: BeeGreen Reusable Bags. (there are a ton of different combinations of designs and quantity in the pack you order)

BeeGreen reusable folding bags
I promise that they are just as easy to fold back up!

Food Processor - I have a Cuisinart 14-cup food processor. Ever since becoming vegan in January of 2022, I have used some sort of blending appliance almost daily! I wish I'd known how much I would use them and what I'd be using them for, because it would have helped when choosing what to purchase for our needs. I make seitan several times a week (which involves making a dough), and a good food processor is crucial (at least, it saves my hands from the horrible carpal tunnel I deal with).

I had no idea how expensive a good quality food processor was. However, because I use it at least 4-5 times a week, I think it was totally worth it. I have made other things with it, but 90% of the time, it's for making seitan dough.

making seitan
making seitan, of course ;)

Cheesecloth - I make seitan very frequently, which I wrap in cheesecloth before cooking. I didn't like always having to buy cheesecloth (the gauzy stuff), and it finally occurred to me one day to see if there is reusable cheesecloth (of course there is). This is the cheesecloth I bought: New England Stories Reusable Cheesecloth. It looks very stiff and thick when you first open it, but after washing, it's much looser.

before and after washing

Parchment paper - Every time I use parchment paper, I comment out loud (even if it's just to Duck) about how it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. I never grew up with parchment paper in our house and I always thought that wax paper was the same thing. My mind was BLOWN when I tried actual parchment paper for the first time a couple of years ago. It makes *everything* non-stick on baking sheets and then it's soooo easy to clean the dishes. This is one of the biggest game changers in my life--I'm not even kidding. I'm sure parchment paper is one and the same, but here is the one that I use: If You Care Parchment Baking Paper.

Blender - I have a Vitamix E310 Explorian blender, which I believe is the least expensive in the line of Vitamix blenders. I didn't want any bells or whistles with this--just high powered blending. So, with this model, the quality is there but it's the most basic model. (I think mine was $220 on a Black Friday deal; it's not listed for a deal on Amazon right now, so I don't know if it'll be included in any sales.) 

Anyway, I use my blender very frequently. I blend cashews for various vegan recipes and before the Vitamix, the process took a long time. I had to soak the cashews in hot water for a while, then cool them because my blender couldn't handle hot liquids, then blend them a few times over in order to get them perfectly smooth. The Vitamix allows me to skip straight to the blending part of the cashews.

Because I also blend a lot of spice mixes, I eventually got the "dry container" for Vitamix as well--it's used for dry items like grains for making flour. One day, Jerry wanted cream of rice (something I used to make frequently) and we didn't have any in the pantry. I realized I could probably make it with the Vitamix, so I threw some dry rice in there and about 30 seconds later, I had perfectly blended cream of rice. I've also made chickpea flour, almond flour, oat flour, and lots of spice mixes. I'm not sure exactly how the dry container works differently from the regular one, but it does.

Vitamix E310 Experian blender

Water bottles - I have always been a water bottle hoarder, but I've gotten a lot better about it over the last couple of years. Still, I have to mention these because they are my FAVORITE water bottles. I had some of these ages ago but I have no idea what happened to them. When I came across them on Amazon, I was thrilled! They are the size of a standard disposable water bottle, but the plastic is much harder and very good quality. I don't like cheap plastic with rough edges; these are nothing like that.

They are so easy to clean, too! Not only can you take the cap off to drink, but the whole top of the bottle comes off for easy washing. (I always hand wash mine, but I think they are dishwasher safe, other than the cap.)

I like to keep these filled in the fridge so I can grab them whenever I want. After I quit drinking (alcohol), I was drinking a lot of La Croix sparkling water. While La Croix is cheaper than alcohol, I was still spending way too much on something as simple as WATER. It was just convenient to grab one from the fridge whenever I was thirsty.

With these water bottles, I fill them with water and then add a packet of True Grapefruit (which I'll mention below). Then I put them in the fridge and each time I empty one, I refill it. That way, I always have one in the fridge. Here is a link to the water bottles: Copco Hydra Reusable Water Bottles.

Copco reusable water bottles

True Grapefruit/Lemon/Lime/Orange - I first learned of True Lemon (it was only the lemon flavor at the time) when I worked at Curves about 20 years ago. A nutritionist that we worked with at Curves was recommending them. The packets aren't sweetened--they contain literally just crystalized citrus juice, the equivalent of the juice from one wedge of fruit. I like all of the flavors, but the Lime and Grapefruit are my favorite. I actually buy a 500-pack because it's much cheaper that way (per packet). And I go through them quickly (4-5 packets a day). Here is a link to a 100-pack, in case you don't want to invest fully in the 500-pack, haha: True Lemon.

True Lemon Lime Grapefruit Orange

Measuring cups - I never paid a lot of attention to what I like/dislike about measuring cups, but I use them so frequently that I found I have my favorites. These measuring cups are made of one solid piece--the handle isn't separate--and the handles are on the shorter side, so they fit more easily into smaller containers. The measurements are engraved on them, so they can't rub off. And each of them has an "odd" measurement in the middle of the cup--like the 1/4 cup has a line for 1/6 as well.

Here is a link to the measuring cups on Amazon.

Tofu press - Tofu is one of my most favorite foods. I LOVE IT. It's not unusual to have tofu pressing and/or marinating in my fridge pretty much at all times. When I first made tofu, I pressed it by using a popular suggestion of placing paper towels and a plate and heavy cans or books or something on top, changing out the paper towels... not only did I not like how wasteful it was with the paper towels, I just found it to be inconvenient to have taking up the counter space. I quickly invested in this tofu press; and then I ended up buying another because I frequently make two blocks of tofu at a time.

This press (by Tofuture) makes it SO easy to prep tofu for marinating or cooking. I always press the liquid out of tofu even if only to replace it with a marinade--then it adds a lot of flavor. For this tofu press, you just set the tofu inside of the green inner piece (with the holes on the bottom). Then put that piece inside the white container and top with the lid. I pull the silicone straps down to the lowest notch in order to squeeze out as much water as possible. If I'm in a hurry, I'll even press down hard on the top in order to squeeze out the liquid right away.

Tofuture Tofu Press

If you're new to tofu, I highly suggest trying this recipe linked below. You don't have to buy any special ingredients (you can just skip the nutritional yeast--no big deal). And you don't even have to press the tofu! You just combine a few everyday ingredients in a bowl, crumble in a block of tofu, spread out on a baking sheet (lined with parchment!), and bake for 40 minutes or so. It will look kind of like ground beef. Then you can add a jar of your favorite marinara sauce (or use homemade) and serve over pasta. Super easy and if you've never tried tofu before, this is a great way to give it a try. Recipe is at It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken.

Baking mats - Ever since I discovered the amazing parchment paper, I don't use baking mats in the oven. However, I love to use them when I need a "clean work surface" to knead dough (again, I make a ton of seitan). I just lay it out on the counter and whenever I need to set some dough aside, I can just set it on the mat. I can flour and knead on the mat, too. Very convenient. They are probably one and the same, but here is the ones I have: Kitzini Silicone Baking Mats.

Spice jars - One of my very favorite parts of my kitchen is my spice shelf. Since becoming vegan, I've used SO many spices that I'd never used before. In the past, I had about 10 spices that were routine. Now, I regularly use ALL of what you see in my pantry. I really love this jar set that I have--it makes everything look so nice and neat! Here is the set on Amazon: Glass Spice Jars with labels.

spice jars

...And that's what I've got for the kitchen. I have so many favorite things! I'll post more tomorrow... (edit: You can find Part 2 here.)

Also: I always like hearing what others are loving and their favorite things, so please share yours! You can either post here or I started a Facebook post and you can share there (with a link). Here is the link for the post on Facebook: Favorite things

November 20, 2023

Meme Monday: Cats!

I spent all day today working on my "Favorite Things" post and it *still* isn't ready. I haven't posted memes in a while, so I thought I'd share some in the meantime. While I was looking through the ones I've saved, I noticed a bunch of cat ones--which gave me the idea to do today's cat theme.

So, here are some fun cat memes. Enjoy!

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