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.


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.


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.


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.


2019 November Goals – Accountability, Check in, and 2020 Budget


I have a lot of household items to gift and sell and I’m slowly working through that pile. I was very happy to gift out half my jar collection so they can live another life before eventually being recycled. I went through all my remaining junk mail from the past two months and tried to get onto the do not mail lists for all of them. We receive so much junk mailing at this rental address!


I’m ready to tackle another fitness challenge for the month of December after a very light November. I was thinking of adding in a daily focused workout that would be the same every Monday but different day-to-day. For instance I would do abs on Monday, squats on Tuesday, etc.

Here are my fitness stats for the month:

  1. Biking: 0 miles
  2. Pole classes: 3
  3. PSO volunteer: 1 shift as pole cleaner

Turkish language progress:

I now have 1,480 Anki cards. I’ve done 6,698 reviews. I have spent 6:49:08 reviewing with an average of 53 reviews per day. My grade is 71% C (same as last month).

I’m almost finished with Rosetta Stone! Unit 12 is much more difficult than the other units and I still have 6/39 left to complete. Then I’m moving on to my Memrise subscription.

My main goal for the year was to save as much money as possible! I’ve been tracking my spending and savings closely since November of 2018. I’m automating my money flow and prioritizing how I spend my money and where it goes. See this helpful post and chart from Reddit on how to prioritize spending your money:

I created my monthly and yearly budget for 2020 this month which I will probably share in my year-end financial breakdown. I also wrote down my financial goals:

Daily financial goals:

  •  To love what I buy and buy what I love

1-year financial goals:

  • Max out my Roth IRA, 401k, and HSA
  • Save and invest at least 50% of my income
  • Have 6-months living expenses worth of emergency savings

10-year financial goals:

  • Be a millionaire in combined assets, cash, retirement funds

I read a really good step-by-step finances book that I recommend:

I absolutely love making, saving, organizing, and talking about finances. How is your budgeting and money tracking going?


I spent time every day until I hit 50k words this month writing for National Novel Writing Month. I even hosted write-ins on Mondays. I still have several chapters left to write in this draft and then I’ll probably switch gears and work on another project.

Don’t forget to come visit me this December at the following events:

12/07 at the Si View Holiday Bazaar in xx from 12PM – 4PM.

12/14 at the Artisan’s Holiday Faire at the Monroe Fairgrounds from 12:30PM – 4PM.


I made pies this year!

A pumpkin (both GF and regular flour) and an apple (both GF and regular flour).

I have seen more and more mushrooms out during my dog walks…


What are your goals and how are you meeting them this month?

Here is my January goal check in blog post!

Here is my February goal check in blog post!

Here is my March goal check in blog post!

Here is my April goal check in blog post!

Here is my May goal check in blog post!

Here is my June goal check in blog post!

Here is my July goal check in blog post!

Here is my August goal check in blog post!

Here is my September goal check in blog post!

Here is my October goal check in blog post!

2019 October Goals – Accountability, Check in, and $$$


I’m going to table this goal for now as I haven’t made many changes in the last several months. I continue to reduce my waste and be more conscious of my purchases, my buying power, and footprint.


October has been a cold month. Every year I forget how cold I get during fall/winter season. I still walk dogs every Monday – Thursday for 30 minutes/day and get quite a few steps in during the week in addition.

Here are my fitness stats for the month:

  1. Biking: 5 miles
  2. Pole classes: 5
  3. Thriller dress rehearsal: 1

Turkish language progress:

I now have 1,437 Anki cards. I’ve done 6,647 reviews. I have spent 6:46:56 reviewing with an average of 53 reviews per day. My grade is 71% C (same as last month). I have definitely been slacking on my daily reviews and will have to figure out a way to review them at the same time every day so I can make it a habit again. The good news is that I finished Unit 11 in my Rosetta Stone on time! Woot woot! I now have one unit left in my Rosetta Stone before I switch to using Memrise. Potentially I had this idea that I could have my partner (who is from Turkey and fluent in Turkish) only use simple Turkish in January or to speak in Turklish to me. He may not agree to this or remember to do it though…

My main goal for the year was to save as much money as possible! I’ve been tracking my spending and savings closely since November of 2018. Recently I’ve tried out a couple of budgeting methods/trackers and have found one that is similar to my spreadsheet style – Tiller. It links your banks and credit cards that push data to your budget tracking spreadsheet. You can input categories of spending and delete what you don’t want and add what you do want. My categories for bills include the following:

  1. Rent
  2. Phone (including my actual phone bill and any ‘itunes’ money spent for apps). I recently purchased a $50 gift card for itunes from my credit card rewards points to put toward these expenses, especially my monthly cloud storage bill of $2.99/month)
  3. Car gas
  4. Car insurance
  5. Car maintenance and legal
  6. Car – transport – misc (such as parking, tolls, ride shares and anything transportation related -not including travel- that doesn’t fit into the other car categories)

I have deemed my other monthly ‘bills’ as living expenses

  1. Health (some of which can be reimbursed through HSA) and I made the decision to cancel my monthly massage membership at $69.99 + $15 tip each month as it wasn’t making me as happy as it used to and now I can save that money and occasionally get massages without the pressure to get them monthly.
  2. Food – eating out
  3. Food – groceries
  4. subscriptions/memberships not covered under other categories such as my Costco membership (but I may collapse this category as AAA membership falls into car misc. and my WordPress hosting falls under writing. Perhaps my Costco membership falls under food – groceries?

I have labeled all my other expenses as Discretionary (if I needed to cut spending this is the category I would go to first and then reduce my spending in the living categories)

  1. Travel
  2. Housing/consumables (this is where I put spending like toilet paper, laundry detergent, toothpaste, as well as clothing)
  3. Dance and fitness
  4. Writing
  5. Charity/art support
  6. Entertainment
  7. Education
  8. Gifts (giving money directly and buying useful and loved gifts for others makes me happy and I decided that I would put it into my budget)
  9. Misc. (there are always items that cannot be categorized adequately like raffle tickets)

I have several categories for work that are both income and expenses

  1. Primary income from my day job
  2. Mystery shopping reimbursement that usually has additional money as payment
  3. Work-related reimbursements
  4. Other income (from side hustles)
  5. Mystery shopping (expense)
  6. Work-related expenses (expense)

I’ve opened a high-yield savings account and placed my emergency funds as well as my short term savings goals (Travel, New Car, New Computer, and New Phone, stock options that expire within 3 years) into that account and plan to automatically transfer certain amounts into each goal every month. I’m still working on the automation part but I have all my goals (between Betterment and my new Savings account) configured and dumped my initial starting amounts in those goals.

I am going to open my own 401k and fund it fully as well as my Roth IRA for 2019 if I can manage it with all my savings for the year. The max contribution for a 401k is $16,000 and the max contribution for my Roth IRA is $6000.

For the month of October I had quite a few side jobs and earned a lot of extra income in addition to my monthly primary income paycheck. I spent 56% of my primary income and 36% of my overall income for the month.

I absolutely love making, saving, organizing, and talking about finances. How is your budgeting and money tracking going?


Happy NaNoWriMo aka National Novel Writing Month. I plan to participate, win, and eventually finish the first draft of the second novel in my Romance Writers Series. This second book features a pole dancer and I’m very excited to share my knowledge and love of this hobby/sport/profession/passion/creative outlet. Dancing makes me very, very happy and I’ve taking pole dancing classes since 2014. If you happen to be in the Seattle area this weekend and are at all interested, you can go to Pole Sport Organization’s Seattle competition!

I’ve been working September to craft a useful outline and I’ve done the most thorough job I’ve ever done with an outline. Though I haven’t really written in two years, I’m very excited to get back into the habit.

Don’t forget to come visit me at the end of November!

11/29 at the Holly Jolly Holiday Market at Thomas Family Farm in Snohomish in the morning.

Thrill the World! I’ve participated since 2015. Every year I’ve been Zombie Waldo – with various accessories and different makeup. See if you can spot me in this year’s video.

My partner and I did something new this month and had mixed feelings on the event. We went to a Harry Potter themed pub crawl!

What are your goals and how are you meeting them this month?

Here is my January goal check in blog post!

Here is my February goal check in blog post!

Here is my March goal check in blog post!

Here is my April goal check in blog post!

Here is my May goal check in blog post!

Here is my June goal check in blog post!

Here is my July goal check in blog post!

Here is my August goal check in blog post!

Here is my September goal check in blog post!