Jan 1, 2024

Happy New Year! (and a plan)

Happy New Year! Thank you for (still) being here. I wish you and yours a healthy and happy 2024!

I haven't posted consistently the way I meant to, and I realized that years ago, when I posted a daily roundup, was one of my happiest blogging periods. So I thought I'd go back to that, although not on a daily basis, more like once a week. I'll share useful tips, recipes I've tried or pinned to try, and any other info I think you might find interesting. Please let me know if there's something you'd love to see in the roundup. And I'll send out a monthly newsletter via email, which you can sign up for. So for now, here goes (I've marked affiliate/referral links with an *, which means I may make a little bit of money if you make a purchase or sign up using that link - thank you!):

  • Starting with a life update: I'm officially a Certified College Counselor, having completed the certification program at UCLA Extension. Just so you know, the certification doesn't actually mean anything except that I completed the program. If you're in the market for an expert to help you/your child navigate the college admissions process, it's much more important to learn about the expert's philosophy, experience, and references. The certification is nice, but far from the most important factor if you're looking to hire someone.

  • FAFSA update: If you are or have a student in college/grad school or one who's about to be, know that the FAFSA is now available although they "may occasionally pause access to the form." I'd say give it at least a week, and try to fill it out in the second half of January. That will give the Department of Education time to work out the bugs in the system, but still leave plenty of time for the financial aid offices to process your information and provide a financial aid package around the time acceptances go out.

  • Need a new chicken recipe? Try RecipeTin Eats' Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken, which was so good. The technique to create the glaze was a new one to me, and the chicken did come out a bit overcooked, probably because I cut the pieces too small. But I liked them small, so next time I will just remove the chicken while the sauce is reducing, and then add it back later.

  • IKEA makes some nice pots and pans. This non-stick frying pan is a nice weight but it's 11 inches and I wish it were smaller. It doesn't seem to come in an 8-inch size, which would be perfect. Nevertheless, I use it almost every day. This 5.3-quart pot is my new favorite because it's a great intermediate size.

  • Book recommendations: I'm currently reading the Bibliophile Mystery series* by Kate Carlisle and the Her Royal Spyness* series by Rhys Bowen

  • More book recommendations: If romance is more your thing, I recommend pretty much all of the novels (especially the historical ones) by Grace Burrowes* (just keep in mind, some are a little more spicy than others).

  • This is going to sound sacrilegious to some, but I've come to prefer reading e-books to paper- and hardbacks. I think it's because my vision has been bad since I was eight years old, and now I have to wear progressive lenses, which means reading on a device is just easier. Being able to adjust the size of the text helps a lot.

    And wrapping up 2023:

  • My favorite restaurant meal of 2023 was at Michelin star restaurant Shin Sushi in Encino. Absolutely, stunningly delicious. But at over $250 per person after tax and tip, it's definitely a very occasional splurge.

  • My favorite way to earn free money in 2023 was Microsoft Rewards - I redeemed enough points for $115 in Starbucks gift cards, which helped fund my Pumpkin Spice Latte addiction.

  • My favorite in-store rebate app remains Ibotta.* I submitted fewer receipts than I did to Fetch Rewards, but got more money back. (Sign up for Fetch here and use referral code R4NDF for bonus points.)
It's good to be back! Thank you for sticking around, and let's "see" more of each other in 2024!

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