A Few Of My Favorite Things {November 2019}

posted by Andrea | 11/1/2019

my favorite things

I honestly can’t believe it’s November already — the holiday season is here (along with more of my favorite things)! 

I’m definitely a “minimalist” when it comes to holiday hoopla, so I’m excited to share one of my favorite SIMPLE gift ideas for teachers, coaches, instructors, directors, coworkers, neighbors, etc. etc.

Hopefully it will give you a little head start on your holiday planning — and who doesn’t love a head start on the holidays!

DISCLOSURE: None of these products are sponsored; however, some of the links below are affiliate links — which means that at no cost to you, I may get a small commission. Please know that I use these products daily in my own home and life. Read my full disclosure policy for more information.

Also, check out my Amazon Market for all my favorite things.

Chunkies Paint Sticks

chunkies paint sticks

Our kids LOOOOOOOVE to paint. 

I do not love it when they paint because it always makes a big mess (especially for Clara!) 

We use Paint Dobbers which are awesome for the older 3 kiddos, but since they still contain liquid paint, they can be messy for very little hands who don’t understand that they must keep the paint on the paper.

This summer, I requested Chunkies Paint Sticks for Clara’s birthday… and wow are they fantastic!  

chunkies paint sticks

Chunckies Paint Sticks are basically like big crayons with gel-like “solid paint” inside. There is nothing to spill or drip or smudge. Just roll up more color when they start getting low. 

The colors are SO bright and bold! We have metallic, neon, and “regular” colors — all of which are totally fantastic. 

Our kids love these paint sticks (and so do I). I actually colored a bunch of thank-you cards for people with these paint sticks — they just glide on like butter and are so user-friendly! 

Definitely something to add to a Christmas list for a young craft lover this year!! 

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Homemade Stovetop Popcorn

homemade popcorn

A few months ago, I tried popping my own corn in a pot on the stove… the kids went nuts and told me it was the best popcorn they ever had! Plus, it was SO fun for them to watch (I used a pot with a glass lid).  

I honestly had no idea how simple it was to make my own homemade popcorn, and I now feel fairly confident I will have no need to buy the microwave packs again! 

It took me less than 5 minutes to make a huge amount of freshly-popped corn (this is the brand we buy) — probably even faster than I could have microwaved 2 bags of the store-bought stuff! 

I’ve been experimenting with different flavor combinations — parmesan, garlic, cinnamon/sugar, caramel, etc. etc. The kids want me to try pickle juice, but I’m not ready for that yet! 

What are your favorite popcorn flavor combos?

popcorn movie snacks

kids watching a movie and eating snacks

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Grammarly Spell-Check Tool

grammarly writing assistant

Spelling has never been a strength of mine (as many of my long-time readers are well aware of!)

I struggled with it in school, and I still struggle with it today, even with all the reading and writing I do each day. 

Sometimes I wonder if I have a very mild form of dyslexia because I’ve also ALWAYS had issues with right and left. I literally have to consciously think about which way is left or right before following directions in the car — often using the age-old trick of making my left hand into the “L” shape to confirm I’m turning the correct way! 

I know — it’s crazy!

For the last several years, Dave has been my faithful proofreader — but since he usually reads my posts late at night or very early in the mornings, there are occasions where he misses some pretty glaring typos too. 

Over the summer, I stumbled upon Grammarly.com — a COMPLETELY FREE online spell-checker, grammar-checker, etc. etc. 

Grammarly does offer a paid version with lots of extra features, but the free version has been a wonderful asset to my writing. It’s so much more comprehensive than traditional spellchecks. 

I also love that they send out weekly emails with various stats on the words I typed that week — every email, every blog posts, every document, etc. etc. 

According to their statistics, I average about 100,000 words every month and am apparently “more productive than 99% of Grammarly users”. I have no idea how they figure this, but I’ll take it! 

I give Grammarly 5-stars and would highly recommend this FREE tool!

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Finish Dishwasher Cleaner

finish dishwasher cleaner

We had a few dishwasher “issues” last month — it was smelly when we ran it, the drain was continually full of “gunk”, and the whole inside just seemed dirty and gross to me. 

We had our plumber look at it when he was here doing a few other quick fixes, and he suggested to run a dishwasher cleaner through it (I didn’t know such things existed!) 

I’ve always dutifully cleaned the disgusting dishwasher drain on a regular basis — but I didn’t realize there was actually something I could buy from the store that would magically clean my dishwasher to the point of almost looking BRAND NEW! 

Well, for right around $3, I purchased a bottle of Finish Dishwasher Cleaner, and our dishwasher is “back to normal” again. 

NO smell, NO gunky buildup, and the insides look so clean!

clean dishwasher

I’m not sure how long it will last (it’s been just over a month now and it still looks great) but I will most certainly buy and use this dishwasher cleaner again whenever our dishwasher starts

NOTE: here’s a fun post with so many different things you can clean in your dishwasher

finish dishwasher cleaner

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Snack Mix Gift “Cones”

gift bags of snack mix

I love giving the gift of food, so I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a variety of cookies, bars, mini loaves of bread, and other snacks in the freezer all the time. That way, I can quickly pull together a little sweet treat for teachers, bus drivers, church volunteers, neighbors, etc. etc. 

However, over the last 2 years, I’ve gravitated more towards “Snack Mix Gift Cones” as I call them — they seem to be a BIG hit! 

NOTE: these are the cellophane cone bags I buy

candy corn snack mix

Some Of Our Favorite Snack Mix Gifts: 

These snack mix gift cones are excellent little gifts for teachers, bus drivers, Sunday School leaders, GEMS counselors, coaches, friends, neighbors, etc. etc. (Here are a few more of our favorite clutter-free teacher gifts.)

popcorn snack mix

simple teacher gift ideas

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That’s all for me this month.

Check out my previous months’ favorite things — and feel free to share some of YOUR favorite things in the comments below!

my favorite things

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25 comments

  1. Jen

    11/06/2019

    I used the dishwasher cleaner based on your recommendation and it worked so well. Thank you! I always like seeing your favorite things because I trust your recommendations. You frequently have great finds and tips!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay! Thanks so much for letting me know!

    [Reply]

  2. Kim

    11/02/2019

    Sunflower oil is another one to try for popping corn, that’s what the brand Skinny Pop uses, YUM! I’ve never seen the different colored kernels, do they taste different?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good to know — I always have Sunflower oil in the house too as that’s what I use to make my facial cleanser!

    [Reply]

  3. Kathy

    11/01/2019

    Love the typo in the grammarly ad…ironic.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know — I thought the same thing! Funny!

    [Reply]

  4. Julie

    11/01/2019

    I love these favorite things posts!! A little suggestion though — instead of home-made snacks and gifts, just give teachers and other friends gift cards or even Post-It notes. I have food intolerances and am careful about what I eat (no ingredients list can be tricky for me), but also anything that looked home-made…especially in cold and flu season, I always immediately would throw away. Home cooks are often not aware of how often they touch their faces etc. while cooking, especially little kid cooks. Just a thought; I am sure there are others who love home-made things. I just always appreciated help with the never-ending school supplies to buy or a small gift card! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I totally understand what you’re saying — but even if they throw it away, I figure it’s “the thought that counts”.

    I regularly make 20-30 snack cones at a time (I do not let the kids help with this)… and gift them to MANY people at school — principal, secretaries, bus drivers, “specials” teachers (art, pe, Spanish, music, etc.) classroom teachers, teacher aides, etc. etc. Even if I got them all a $5 gift card (which seems ridiculously small in my opinion) I would spend HUNDREDS of dollars on gift cards every school year.

    The snack mixes break down to less than $1 per cone and are way more “doable” for me.
    We do give our classroom teachers very nice gift card gifts for Christmas and for the end of the year — but there’s no way I’d spend that kind of money on every single teacher, helper, administrator, etc. in the school!

    [Reply]

  5. Heidi

    11/01/2019

    I just ran dishwasher cleaner in my dishwasher yesterday! We just moved into a new-to-us house which also has a water softening unit. I’ve been hand washing 100% of my dishes my entire life until Monday. Every place where we’ve had a dishwasher before, we also had hard water and sometimes a really old dishwasher. Consequently, the dishwasher never properly removed the food and left terrible residue on the dishes. So, I hand washed all my dishes, which was a daily bain since I now have a family of 6. I had a phone call with a friend who said it only took her 10 minutes to clean the kitchen (load the dishes into the dishwasher and wipe the counters). I was in complete and utter disbelief. I got off the phone with her, loaded my dishes into the dishwasher and for the first time in my life, they came out sparkling. I lifted each piece out beholding it with wonder. I’m still in shock and have been reading every article I can get my hands on about properly running and maintaining dishwashers. It has given me back an hour a day. That’s my simplification success story!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    this is awesome — I’m so glad you got a dishwasher you can actually use now!
    You’ll have to come back and comment on my post next week Monday (it’s all about ideas to give yourself an extra hour in the day!! LOL!)

    [Reply]

  6. Dorinda

    11/01/2019

    I always look forward to your favorite things list. I just ordered three items on Amazon. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks Dorinda!

    [Reply]

  7. Paulette

    11/01/2019

    I always look forward to the first of the month and your favorite things. I know I can depend on your recommendations. Thank you, Andrea!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome — glad to help!

    [Reply]

  8. Karen

    11/01/2019

    I’m going to check out the dishwasher cleaner–we don’t use the dishwasher in our rental, I just prefer to wash by hand–but it seems the sink sometimes drains smelly water into the dishwasher, and maybe this stuff would blast through whatever is lingering in there!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    it just might — I’ve been AMAZED by how much cleaner our dishwasher looks and smells!

    [Reply]

    Jenny Reply:

    Your sink should not be draining anything, ever, into your dishwasher! Let your landlord know!! That’s really gross!
    Andrea, I would like to know about how one could make a “homemade” dishwasher cleaner- you seem like the person who would know how to find out!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    you can clean your dishwasher more naturally by putting a cup of white vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher and then running it on the hottest setting (empty of any other dishes). This has worked fairly well for me over the years, BUT the store-bought cleaner worked significantly better!

    [Reply]

  9. O&A W

    11/01/2019

    We have started using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil and had everyone craving and raving before they even tasted it with the great smell through out the house
    For spice we use calde de tomate from knorr
    Bought at a local Mexican store
    We use it all though the year on everything , eggs , meat ,….

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yum — we’ll have to try coconut oil next time!!

    [Reply]

    Ashley Reply:

    I pop our popcorn in coconut oil. When it’s finished popping I drizzle a bit more melted coconut oil over and salt it. So yummy!

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  10. Casey

    11/01/2019

    We love making popcorn on the stovetop too! I started it a few years ago after I read an article about all the yucky chemicals in microwave popcorn (always something….sigh). I figured it was an easy switch to make, and I was right. Our favorite topping is a dill, nutritional yeast, and parmesan combo. Maybe the dill will satisfy their pickle popcorn craving! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good call with the dill flavoring — I’ll have to try that next time!

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    Anita Reply:

    I have seen Pickle seasoning for Popcorn as well!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    come to think of it — I’ve also seen pickle seasoning!

    [Reply]