2020 Best and Worst Purchases of the Year, Favorite Restaurants, Favorite Activities

Top Purchases for the year:

Getting my hair professionally cut and highlighted – I was starting to get a weird bowl cut looking vibe and as soon as it was highlighted, I feel like my look was completely transformed and I loved my hair again.

Amy Cohen’s masks bundles for myself, boyfriend, grandparents, and parents – Not only was I supporting someone I knew (mother of a friend), but these masks were adorable and after months of wear they still hold up!

Lush shampoo bar – I have loved every sample and bar that I’ve tried from Lush. They are super sudsy and very long-lasting. They travel very well – no leaking!

Native deodorant – I really like the natural scents and it’s one of the best natural deodorants that I’ve tried over the past few years.

ebike – I bought a secondhand Raleigh Sprite iE 45cm 2017 from someone who had used it as a commuter bike in Seattle (a gamble!) and I absolutely love this bike. I’m really happy that it works and I only spent $1000. I’ve already put over 300 miles on this bike and it makes biking where hills are involved pleasurable.

Low cost DIY pallet garden – I was able to build and plant my garden for just over $200 because I spent time and effort sourcing free materials and was gifted several tomato starts and the time and help of my friends and family.

Garage fridge – After cleaning out the mini fridge I got for free several years ago, I left it to defrost outside and it never turned back on so I invested in a $200 compact but full-sized fridge for the garage that we put all our hard cider and fridge overflow into. This was a great investment since there are three of us sharing our small full-sized kitchen fridge.

Orgain Keto chocolate (especially on sale at Costco) – I love this tuff! I can make a mousse when I mix it with milk. I can make hot chocolate when I mix it with hot milk. I put it into my granola bowls to make them taste like dessert.

Rock paint markers – I got really into rock painting as a new hobby in the summer and have been hiding and gifting the painted rocks all over town. This set works so well though I have accidentally squished down the top of the white too much. They don’t have a fine tip, which is mostly okay and I can make adequately detailed rocks.

Pecan pie from Grocery Outlet – Who knew my favorite pie was pecan? Thanks to my partner for picking pecan, now I know that it’s my favorite! Grocery Outlet’s $5 pecan pie was the best pie we’ve found this season.

Fiskars Micro-Tip Blades – I went all out for my DIY garden this year and love the clean and sharp pruning scissors I got to help me harvest my greens.

Soccer shoes – Though we only got to play one time with other people before lockdown, my boyfriend and I enjoyed multiple nights of practice play and these shoes made so much of a difference!

Top Gifts for the year:

Summer veggie box

The perfect sized cup in my Edible Arrangements birthday gift from my mother – I love this cup so much that I will wash it after each use so I can re-use it again. I eat my granola out of this cup because it also makes the perfect deep-bowl.

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Worst Purchases for the year:

$238.51 Indiegogo masks reusable N-99 silicone masks from ModPPE and $60 for additional filters – After backing this project in April of this year, I finally received my product in December. They have had a full production company since late summer, yet they didn’t cancel my order when asked and didn’t bother shipping from their US warehouse either. Worst customer service I’ve ever experienced from a company selling a product. And check out the sorry state the box arrived in! The product doesn’t fit either so I paid quite a bit of money for useless trash that took 9 months to arrive. You want one? I’ve still got most of them sitting in my closet.

Mixed seeds from Amazon – Never again. Not only did they just dump unidentifiable seeds in the packet, there weren’t 100 and they didn’t grow at all!

The AMC refillable bucket – Haha 2020. You got me!

The Lobster Shop – Most disappointing restaurant of the year. Overpriced. Too salty. Quality was meh.

AirBnB gift card – I thought I could use this gift card to pay for the second half of my reservation (should have read the fine print). Now I still have that gift card just sitting in my account when it could have gone to something more useful.

Pistachio oil and Pistachio extract – The pistachio oil didn’t have enough pistachio flavor and I didn’t really know what to put it in other than my salads. The extract was terrible and tasted very artificial!

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Favorite Restaurants:

Pagliacci – I really have taken a liking to their pizza. I like the crust. I like the cheese. I absolutely loved their fig seasonal pizza. I like how they have new seasonals every few weeks.

Where Ya Matt – Local food truck with phenomenal New Orleans soul food. Worth breaking your diet for those beignets…

The Slip – New favorite non-traditional burger place. The Slip has fun burgers that are delicious! My favorites were the Thai PB&J and the Burgadilla

Jeff’s Texas Style BBQ – we keep coming back for this BBQ.

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Favorite Activities:

Horseback riding at Mone Farms – what activities can you do that are naturally socially distanced? How long is a horse you ask?

Trusted Housesitters – I love looking for new listings weekly on Trusted Housesitters and though we were only able to fit one sit in before lockdown, I still peruse their site every few weeks. It was such fun sitting this little guy. You can use this link to get 25% off a membership at Trusted Housesitters: https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/refer/RAF286731/

UFC family watch nights – Good food and good company, though I didn’t care too much about the UFC…

Mexico Vacation prior to the pandemic – Best vacation all year… I truly took a vacation (no sneaking in emails like I do during staycations).

Surprising my grandparents – chalk message, hidden painted rocks, and traditional Christmas breakfast

Building raised garden beds and a railing bed with my housemate (especially using her power drill) – I loved building the pallet garden beds instead of buying them. Saving money and learning a new skill!

Staying the weekend in a Tiny House in Tacoma (staycation) – I have become mildly obsessed with tiny houses and it was such fun to try one out for the weekend.

Pokemon Go – Another steadfast quarantine hobby has become Pokemon Go. We played so much that I was able to level up this year after playing almost every day.

Beatsaber, Sock Boy, Heads Up, and other games with my partner – Though I almost always lost, I still had lots of fun playing games and laughing with my boyfriend.

2019 Best and Worst Purchases of the Year, Favorite Restaurants, Favorite Activities

Top Purchases for the year:

 

Ever since learning to make macarons, I have wanted a macaron template silicone baking mat. I use these mats for more than just macarons. They are great to use in place of tinfoil and to protect the cooking sheet. They are easier to wash when food gets caked to them than the pan. I just flip them over to the blank side when I’m not using the circular macaron templates for macarons.

I had heard about people making their own laundry soap, or using castille soap, but then I heard about soap nuts and was intrigued. They are compostable and last for quite some time. They are unscented and natural. I think they work great and will definitely buy them again in 5 years or so when I need more… You only need to use 4-6 of the nuts in each load and I replace them every month (after 3-5 uses). I have lost the little baggie amidst the wet clothes and accidentally let it go through the dryer once or twice and am not sure how that affects the soap nuts…

Upon a recommendation, I bought a high end shower filter, but the filter was supposed to be replaced every 6-12 months and I couldn’t replace just the filter I had to replace the entire unit and it was costly. This filter is much smaller and more cost effective to replace.

My sister gave me two pairs of Thinx last year for my birthday and I love them quite a lot, however; you’re not supposed to put them in the laundry. It’s tedious to wash so much fabric every day, so I invested in a set of reusable pads. Now I use a combination of my Thinx, these reusable pads, and my dwindling supply of panty liners when traveling or for convenience.

When I take my purse, this product is always inside. After chipping my tooth from accidentally biting down hard on a metal fork, this softer bamboo set made me feel better about my silverware choices. Many Zero Wasters say to just toss the silverware you already have into your to-go kit, but I really like having this softer non-metal set and I only own a small set of silverware anyways (we use our housemate’s set in the kitchen). The kid’s bamboo set is much more travel friendly and the utensils themselves are soft and blunt and work perfectly.

After getting the high end Berkey filter for my home (thanks Can!) I really didn’t want to go back to unfiltered water. I saw this product at the local Recology store and loved the concept! I tossed it into my 32oz water bottle and was able to fill up at the airport and while traveling with more peace of mind.

I upped my mouth health game this year and purchased a tongue scraper. Though mine I bought from the local Recology store, this version is very similar to what I have. The first thing I do when I wake up is use it.

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Worst Purchases for the year:

I really wanted to be able to put lids on all the glass jars I’ve been collecting but alas this purchase didn’t fit most of my jars. The only size that works is the smallest, which I’ve used now and then this year, but most of them are really large and don’t stretch that well. I should have bought the beeswax wrap instead but am loathe to throw out this product as waste. It also came with a set in white and a set in blue so I have many more than I need.

I read that sunscreen expires after 6 months so I figured I would need to buy new sunscreen every summer and decided to invest in a reef safe version. Alas, this sunscreen is so thick that it doesn’t rub into the skin and sits on top of it. I’m very texture/touch sensitive and very much dislike anything oily sitting on top of my skin. My partner agrees that this is no fun to use and gross all around for humans, even if it is safer for the environment. I will never again buy sunscreen that I’m not familiar with.

Katchka Restaurant in Portland. 

I love trying new foods and new experiences. When traveling to Portland, I looked up recommended destinations. Katchka was at the top of the list for unique dining experiences. I was intrigued. Authentic Russian foods. With 4.5/5 stars and 800+ reviews on Yelp, how could it not be a hit? We checked out the menu and being unfamiliar with Russian food the three of us were intrigued by the “Ruskie Zakuski Experience’ advertised on the menu. We arrived without a reservation and were told that it would be a couple of hours before a table opened up. Disappointed, we prepared to Uber away when the host was able to squeeze us somehow onto half of a tall and narrow table within 10 minutes. We were very grateful and sat down with excitement, ready for the experience.

“Sit back and let us fill your table with an array of cold zakuski to start your meal off right! $30 per person. Full table participation is required. Don’t forget to order the vodka!
How to eat like a Russian
step 1: cover every square inch of your table with zakuski
step 2: fill everyone’s glasses with their beverage of choice (like vodka, or maybe vodka)
step 3: search your soviet soul for a spirited toast. When in doubt, a toast to friends, life, or simply “boo-dyim”!
step 4: clink. drink. eat. repeat.”

Sounds amazing, right? We ordered a flight of vodka and waited expectantly for our table to be covered with these mysterious zakuski. The table was a bit narrow, so it wouldn’t have been that difficult to cover its entirety for the three of us. The server took our order of the Russian Zakuski Experience with a nod and not much more. The experience that follows was very surprising to me. I can only describe each small dish as cold and odd appetizers dim sum style that were brought one by one with enough food on each plate for each of us to take one bite. None of us much liked any of the 10 or so cold dishes that were brought and by the end we were confused, hungry, and $90+ poorer, wondering where we had gone wrong. Had the food actually tasted amazing, the $30/person for 10 small bites would have maybe been worth it. We paid our bill and left, not wanting to try anything else on the menu and a bit shocked that our server had not warned us what kind of experience we were in for and that it wasn’t going to be enough food for a meal or that we wouldn’t get any more than those 10 plates between us.

Hot Revolution Doughnuts at the Seattle Street Fair

Never have I ever been so mad at donuts. What a waste of good money. I took two bites and threw all of the donuts straight into the trash. My partner agrees that these donuts were not fresh and very stale. I can’t believe they would have the gall to serve old donuts. I paid a lot of money (around $20 for the variety) for these disappointments. Normally I would demand a refund if I were served sub-par food, but we weren’t in the mood and I was so shocked that they would serve old donuts in the first place. I will NEVER eat their donuts again and I will ALWAYS tell people in the area to steer clear. Shame. Wish I hadn’t bothered breaking my diet for them.

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Favorite Restaurants:

Din Tai Fung – My favorite restaurant. I never knew dumplings could taste so delicious!

Stone Lounge – Don’t go for the karaoke. Don’t go for the service. Go for the happy hour Wagyu burger and get it with sweet potato fries. My favorite burger of the year. I also quite enjoyed the Aloha burger.

Marysville Jeff’s Texas BBQ – Arguably one of the best BBQ places in the state. Make sure to try their brisket! Their sides are just okay, but their meat is sublime.

Palace Korean – One of my favorite buffet places!

Smoke and Shine – Never have I ever wanted to eat just the side dishes, but the Jalapeno Cheddar Hush Puppies served with a side of bourbon honey butter are that good! We liked everything that we tried there so far.

Sirena Gelato – I love ice cream and this gelato place has the creamiest gelato I’ve ever tasted. This place is better than Molly Moon’s for a local frozen dessert.

Gyu Kaku – Such a fun dining experience and the food was delicious!

Route 22 Taproom – We only tried two of their dishes, but I was blown away by their nachos. Best bar nachos ever!

Blue Bayou (Disneyland) – Worth every penny for our entrees. This restaurant is unique and the ambiance is fantastic. Forget proposing at the Wishing Well, I think the Blue Bayou is more romantic.

Oga’s Cantina (Disneyland) – Drinks may cost you an arm and a leg but they are definitely worth the price for the atmosphere you get to drink them in. I have never spent so much money at a bar before and I have never had as much fun. I would go back to Disneyland just to go to Oga’s Cantina.

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Favorite Activities:

BodySpec testing – It was very fascinating to get a full body scan and the breakdowns of body fat and muscle mass in each limb of the body.

Zero Waste Workshop at the library – I started getting into the zero-waste movement at the beginning of the year and by the time I went to this workshop, I knew most of what the workshop was about but it was still fascinating regardless. The presenter also brought her entire family’s zero-waste personal care products for everyone to see.

Ludovico Einaudi – It has been years since I saw a musician perform and I loved seeing the pianist’s performance at McCaw Hall.

Star Wars at Benaroya Hall – Everyone should see a movie with a live orchestra at least once in their life.

Seattle Food Festival – I was introduced to the form of corn that is both delicious and amazing. I call it Crack Corn. It is like elote off the cob. It was a bag of fritos with corn kernels, special cheese, hot sauce, and lime juice. We now make this recipe at home all the time.

Beginner’s Massage Workshop – A 7-hour class for just $50! What a bargain. I got a crash course in beginner’s massage and I loved it! We practiced on each other. Half the class were going to enroll at the school for the full course and the other half were just there for fun.

Divine Holiday Party – The yearly holiday party at one of my pole studios is so much fun. I love hanging out with my pole community and watching the demos.

Thrill the World – I’ve participated in the yearly Thrill the World event for years as both a dancer and a volunteer and I love how well-organized this local event is and how many participants they get every year.

Norwescon – Every year that I go to Norwescon I have fun. It’s like our own local Comic Con. I just wish that parking were free/easier and it was closer to me. I have always day tripped down to the event and haven’t stayed in the hotel like others, though. Maybe someday I will shell out for the full experience. This year my writer’s group had a booth and we sold our books.

Maple Valley Days volunteering – I’ve volunteered at this local event for 7 years now and it’s fascinating how much effort and organization goes into this multi-day community event. I learn so much about conflict, resolution, organization, etc. as I volunteer.

PSO volunteering – I love this yearly event and I volunteered as announcer, ticketing booth, and as a pole cleaner this year. I’ve never been an announcer before and it was fun but difficult.

Savi’s Workshop and Oga’s Cantina Disneyland – When my partner and I were planning our Disneyland trip this year, we had debated whether $200 was too expensive to build a lightsaber. The reviews said that it was worth the money, more so than building a droid and we made our reservation. Though we had just come from Oga’s Cantina after our two drinks, we had a blast at this ceremony.

Star Wars Marathon – Stay awake all night watching Star Wars? Free blanket and popcorn all night long? I was excited and trepidatious at the same time. I get cranky when I’m tired and I don’t do ‘all nighters.’ We drank coffee like fiends in the evening and settled into our large airplane-sized chairs with our beautiful blankets on our laps and settled in for the marathon. The lady next to me had brought more stuff than could fit in her space and spilled both her popcorn and her drinks throughout the night. The man next to Can only came for Force Awakens. We ate two large tubs of popcorn, two large sprites, and two large waters. I made it a habit of going to the bathroom and putting eye drops in before every movie. I only missed five minutes of the beginning of one movie while waiting in line for my free drink refill. It was neat seeing all the movies continuously and making new connections between them. I really enjoyed the last movie as well.

 

Contest Closed! Congrats to Sarah A. for reading and reviewing The Hunted (The Marian) (Volume 2) by Taylor Hohulin

Rafflecopter contest to win $50 Amazon gift card ended with 2015! 

Thanks to all you readers out there who bought/read/reviewed some great Indie books and I look forward to supporting more great Indie authors this year!

What was this contest about? See details here.

Rachel Barnard Publishes New Novel: At One’s Beast

Local Author Does it Again!

Atonesbeast

Seattle, Washington, July 14th – Rachel Barnard, a driven young author in the Seattle area released her newest young adult novel, At One’s Beast this month. The novel comes on the heels of the re-release of her debut novel, Ataxia and the Ravine of Lost Dreams (published March 25th, 2014).

Barnard began writing At One’s Beast last year during the Southern Cross Novel Challenge (SoCNoC – the Southern Hemisphere writing challenge mimicking the NaNoWriMo Challenge to write a 50k word novel in 30 days) in June. She began editing the novel the following winter, handed it to beta readers in the spring, re-edited in the summer and hit the publish button in July.

At One’s Beast is about a village that creates a monster… Every girl and boy in the village of Frey fears the beast who lives in the forest. Ten years ago, the beast was formed from the town’s rage — and the evil that lurks inside all people in moments of weakness. Every year since, the townspeople have sacrificed one of their own to appease his anger. This year the sacrifice does not go as planned. A young man saves the chosen girl from fate. She is torn between doing her duty and untangling the identity of her savior and captor. The young man grew up with thoughts of revenge on the town that turned their backs on him, but when he is close to the girl, he is reminded of who he used to be. From once upon a time to happily ever after, the people of Frey will have to rally together to rid the town of evil once and for all, but in the process will they destroy everything that is good in their world?

What did the beta readers have to say about the book? “Your action scenes are quite good!” and “I’m starting to get into the book and not wanting to put it down!” and “I loved the once upon a time opening – evokes storytelling, tells reader the type of story they are about to read.” (Bill Barnard)

Want to read more? Createspace Preview of Chapter one is available for your reading pleasure Here 

For more information on Rachel Barnard and her novels, you can visit her website at www.rachelauthorbarnard.com

Miscellaneous Mondays: Free Download on Kindle – Ataxia and the Ravine of Lost Dreams

Ataxia cover

 

My debut novel, Ataxia and the Ravine of Lost Dreams is free to download on Kindle today and tomorrow:

http://www.amazon.com/Ataxia-Ravine-Dreams-Rachel-Barnard-ebook/dp/B00J93S5TM/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1397486754&sr=8-1&keywords=ataxia+and+the+ravine+of+lost+dreams

 

As the U.S. government prepares to take over the world, MC infiltrates one of their elite academies that trains future leaders. MC must rise to the top in the Cube training grounds in order to be placed high up within the government so she can stop them in their takeover.

It is not until her fourth and final year at the academy that her top-student status is threatened by the sudden arrival of Li, the new transfer student. MC is completely focused on her self-created mission until she gets sidetracked by Li, who might be bad news in more ways than which she bargained.