Is Age Just a Number?

POTENTIAL SPOILERS: PROCEED WITH CAUTION

Age difference in relationships will always be a polarizing topic. One of my favorite anime from the spring 2021 season is Koikimo. This anime features a relationship with a ten-year gap in age.

Ryou is a successful salaryman with a womanizing reputation. He has gone through life using women for pleasure and then not even bothering to remember their names. On the outside, he is good-looking and sought after, but has little room in his heart for meaningful relationships.

After a night of pleasure, Ryou finds himself irritated that the woman he slept with kept him up all night. Tired and dizzy, he made his way to the station. While distracted, another person bumps into him just as he was at the top of the stairs. Realizing that he is about to be seriously injured and/or possibly die, all he can do is say, “Oh shit.”

Enter our female protagonist, high-schooler Ichika. Ichika saves Ryou from certain injury, perhaps, even death, by using the handle of her umbrella to grab his coat collar and pull him back. As he gathers himself, she apologizes for strangling him in her attempt to save him. She notices he is pale and asks if he had breakfast. Replying that he had not, she rummages in her bag to see if she had anything to offer him. Glancing at her watch, she realizes that she is about to be late for school. In a swift action, she shoves her lunch in his hands and takes off running wishing him health.

At first, Ryou is annoyed. Why would this stranger give him her lunch? He was about to throw it away when he suddenly had a change of heart and opened the lunch, presumably, to eat it.

The day has ended and Ryou heads to his family home. There, we meet his younger sister, Rio. She announces that she has a friend over. That’s when Ichika and Ryou make eye contact. He then enters playboy mode when his sister leaves the room to take a call. Under the guise of “properly thanking her” for saving his life, he first offers her shoes or clothes, then a kiss, and then offers to go even further.

Ichika, with a disgusted look on her face, replies, “You’re creepy. You’re offering up yourself as thanks for saving you? What are you thinking? That’s not why I saved you.”

Ryou is taken aback by her honesty.

Almost immediately, Ichika apologizes for expressing her thoughts.

And, this. This is the moment Ryou feels something stir in his heart for the first time. Moved by her sincere gesture of giving him her lunch to her honesty to his shallow offer, he gets down on one knee and tells her, “I’m moved…I’ve never felt this way before.”

The balance of the show spends the bulk of its time building the relationship between Ryou and Ichika. There are so many memorable scenes of Ryou acting like a love-sick puppy and Ichicka being disgusted by him. It’s well done, and actually quite funny. What starts as a one-sided love eventually blossoms to mutual feelings. But, there is a glaring issue. Ryou is ten-years older than Ichika. At one point, a pursuer of Ryou brings up this fact in a moment of jealousy. Can Ryou and Ichika be happy together? Can they make it work? Will the age gap bring Ichika misery instead of happiness?

I don’t believe that age is a sole determinant on whether a relationship will be successful. I have friends that have successful marriages with much older spouses, and friends that could not make it work. I, personally, believe that there are other factors that determine whether age will affect a relationship such as personality, maturity, and willingness.

For example, I’m pretty young at heart. I wear youthful clothing; I dye my hair funky colors; I like stuffed animals; I watch anime and Asian dramas; I used to stream video games; and, for the most part, I am interested in things that people my age “gave up” or “moved on from”. When I went to college orientation with my now 21-year old son a few years ago, the students thought I was his older sister and/or a student myself. One student was pretty shook and told me he didn’t think I was a day over 25. At the time, I was 38.

At my son’s college orientation

Unless the person is also the same, someone older than me would most likely be a deal breaker. On the flip side, I am confident that I could maintain a relationship with someone quite younger than me. As long as they’re responsible and mature, or have the willingness to hear me out when I might have a bit more wisdom on the situation, we’d be fine. Do you hear me, Park Jimin or Kim Seok-jin?? I’d make it work!

Is age just a number? For the most part, I think so. In this particular show, I believe whole-heartedly that these two can make it work. She’s mature for her age and he’s willing to do what it takes to make it work. If they date for a few years to allow her to grow a bit more, they’re going to be fine.

So, there you have it. Large age gaps don’t bother me unless the situation is illegal, of course. Obviously, I don’t support predators that target young men/women. I’m talking about normal, healthy, good-intentioned relationships. It doesn’t bother me one bit that this show highlights such a large age gap between the protagonists. While I may not understand marriages with 20, 30, 40 year gaps, I don’t disapprove of them. Everyone’s situation is unique and it really is none of my business or my place to judge who people fall in love with.

Adventures into Video Content

Hello fellow bloggers and readers!

Before really delving into this blog, I started as a content creator. I use that term loosely. My husband and I streamed on Twitch, then Mixer, and then Facebook. We never really gained any steam, but admittedly, it was a hobby and not a side hustle. We didn’t invest the kind of time and resources it would take to get partnered. At our most popular stage, we averaged 10 viewers and had roughly 30 followers.

I liked streaming, but I didn’t LOVE streaming. I think the aspect that I didn’t like was the expectation to stick to a specific type of content to grow your channel. I guess that is true with content creating as well, but I feel like content creation is a lot more forgiving. I also enjoyed content creation more because I could use more creativity.

The one aspect of content creation that was holding me back was equipment. Equipment is expensive. The camera that I owned was old and outdated. I had a Canon T3i that my husband bought me almost 10 years ago. Picture quality was low compared to most cell phone cameras. I had held off for a long time, but I finally picked up a Canon EOS M50. It’s an entry-level mirrorless camera. I previously blogged that I mainly picked this camera up for it’s smaller size and popularity as a vlogging camera. I didn’t want to invest too much into a hobby, because at the end of the day, this is just a hobby. If I get a few followers and a few people to watch whatever content I put out, I’ll be happy.

In addition to the M50, I bought a gimbal. I have never used a gimbal in my life. I spent the weekend toying around with it and feeling way out of my element. For those of you who don’t know what a gimbal is, it is a piece of filming equipment that stabilizes your camera. There are many different types of gimbals. I purchased a 3-axis gimbal that has motors that makes sure your camera gets as smooth as a shot as possible. It adds more cinematic effect to your shots as well as helps you create shots that you couldn’t get with just holding the camera. It’s an essential piece of gear if you’re seriously into photography/cinematography.

To be honest, I had no idea what or how to use the gimbal when I bought it. Actually, I was just looking for a selfie stick and fell down the YouTube rabbit hole of essential gear you MUST have as a M50 owner. And, they sold me. They sold me hard.

This is what I picked up: Zhiyun M2 Crane

My husband and I have an overnight tripped planned in the last weekend of April. We’re going to San Antonio where we are staying at a resort for our 11th anniversary. We both enjoy playing disc golf, so we found a nice course near our resort. We plan on hitting up the course early in the day before arriving at the resort. Once we arrive at the resort, I really want to hit up the adult pool and hot tub. It will be nice to soak in a few hours of sun. The resort has a water park, so I may go lounge in the lazy river for a bit. We’ll go have a nice dinner to celebrate, too. The next day, we’re going to hit up a mini-golf course that looked pretty fun. Then, we’ll come back home. My plan is to test the waters and try to make a short video on our stay. This will give me a chance to employ some of the gimbal techniques I learned from watching YouTube.

The plan is to eventually be able to use these techniques freely without really having to think about it by the time I get to travel to Japan. What I don’t want to do is get second-rate footage because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’d really like to put together a really nice video to share with you all and to have as a keepsake.

I hope you all bare with me as I take another trek into a realm unknown. I am hoping to also produce some short videos regarding the lead-up to Japan. My luggage comes in tomorrow, so I might share with you guys a short clip of the luggage and my first impressions. I think doing this will also help me get more natural feel in front of the camera and be able to improve my video skills as well.

Anyhow, I hope you are all doing well. Take care of yourselves!

Life…Uh…Finds a Way

Hello, fellow readers!

Well, I did it again. I managed to get behind on my posts. I thought I’d share with you what has been clogging the wheels of progress.

First, I signed up for two 8-week courses and that was a bit more ambitious than I thought it would be. I took a business principles class and a technical writing class. Both of these classes will apply to my bachelor’s degree.

If you don’t know my background, I got married and had my son at a very young age. 19, in fact. That means that I did not follow the typical road of school, marriage, family. In true ChibiChonk fashion, I did whatever I felt like with the attitude of, “It will get done when it gets done.”

I did manage to get two associate’s degrees while raising my now 21-year old son. I have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies and I will be graduating with my general studies degree in May. I never walked at my first graduation, so I plan on doing that for my second. My goal is to finish my bachelor’s someday, but it isn’t something I want to rush through and get. My plan is to take a few classes here and there and I will eventually reach my goal. At the end of the journey, I plan to have a bachelor’s in liberal studies with a focus in fine arts, English, and business.

So, as it stands, I can blame school for now. I know some of you go to school full-time and manage to run your blogs perfectly and for that, I am truly jealous! I work full-time and taking two short classes really ate up any free time.

I am happy to report that one of the classes just finished, and I squeaked by with an A. I still have four weeks left of the technical writing class, but I have almost all of the assignments finished.

On top of school, I’ve taken up disc golf with my husband. It’s my husband’s hobby and I thought I would join in so it would be more fun for him. I enjoy it even though I am terrible at it. I had shoulder surgery a year ago and my arm is still not fully functional, so it’s rough. It doesn’t hurt, but it could take another year or two before I get full rotation back. If anything, disc golf is helping me to stretch things out.

I’ve also started planning our trip to Japan. I was originally planning to go to Japan this month, but COVID had other plans. I’m slowly trying to plan our trip for next year, but the fact that Japan hasn’t opened their borders is concerning. Regardless, flights don’t change very much and I can at least plan without purchasing. We still don’t have our passports. Again, delayed by COVID. We have a lot of little steps we need to take care of before we financially commit to the trip, but I hope Japan lifts its travel restrictions by next year. We’re both vaccinated as well so I hope that works in our favor, too.

So, things have been very busy in the land of ChibiChonk. I’m considering picking up a new mirrorless camera, so I might be playing with that this summer.

I’ll try my best to get back onto a more consistent posting schedule, even if it is just weekly. I will…uh. Find a way.

Bokksu: My Love of Japanese Snacks

At the end of the year, I often treat myself to something nice when I get my annual bonus. This year, I bought myself a three-month subscription to Bokksu.

I am a fan of subscription services. In fact, I would say that it is an addiction. Currently, I have a sticker subscription with Stickii and a makeup subscription with Ipsy. I would have SO MUCH more if they weren’t so expensive. With a discount code, my three-month subscription cost me roughly $130 USD.

I received my first Bokksu this week and I am totally impressed. It is one thing to watch your favorite YouTuber open their Bokksu. It is a whole other thing to get to open your own. My first impression: QUALITY.

Sometimes, you get a subscription box and it is obvious they found some leftover crap in a warehouse somewhere and threw it in a box. I used to get that a lot with Loot Crate. You might get one or two things that you liked, and the rest was just leftover fodder. That was not the feeling I got with Bokksu. Everything was carefully packaged and you even get a booklet about the snacks they chose. So impressive!

I did not feel like I was ripped off. I think that is the most important aspect for me. As I said, I’ve tried many subscription boxes before and often I was not completely happy with what I paid versus what I received. I feel I easily got what I paid for. I love that they doubled up on the snacks so that way you get a little more to share, or enjoy.

I do feel like this will be a hard subscription for me to turn away from. I love Japanese snacks! I adore mochi and mochi snacks. I’m also a big fan of anko.

Today, I tried the mocchan dango mochi made by Kyoushin Seika. Mochi is a rice dumpling/cake. This particular mochi is dusted in sugar. Maybe I am getting too old, but it was just a little too sweet. This would have been perfect without the extra sugar. Mochi is pretty sweet by itself. Many of these snacks are specifically made for Bokksu, so maybe they thought it needed the extra sweetness to appeal to our American palettes. Look how cute the packaging is! Japan is so great at making their products so kawaii. Would I recommend this snack? Heck yeah!

So far, I am pretty impressed with my Bokksu. Everything about it just screams quality and that makes me feel good about it.

**DISCLOSURE STATEMENT – This Bokksu was purchased with my own money. Opinions expressed are my own and not solicited by the makers/creators of Bokksu. I have not been compensated in any way for this review or this product.**

Snowmageddon 2021: Texas Edition

You may have noticed a screeching halt to content as of late. You may have heard that Snowmageddon 2021 hit Texas pretty hard. I live in central Texas where cooler temperatures are rare. In the winter, it is uncommon to get more than one or two “cold snaps” during the winter season that last 1-2 days each. However, we were hit with over a week of sub-freezing temperatures and winter weather that our great state is just not prepared for. If you live in the northern part of the country, or a country where cold weather is expected, your stores probably sell snow shovels and snow chains before the winter season hits. Walk into a central Texas store in the winter and you’ll still find bathing suits and MAYBE a small section with sweaters. It just doesn’t happen. Most of us don’t own cold-weather gear like snow boots, or heavy jackets.

The weather started turning sour on February 11th. It started with freezing rain thunderstorms. It was an awesome sight if I am being honest. In my hubris, I thought I could brave the 40-mile commute to work in my Ford Fiesta. I was wrong. I made it to the edge of town and a wreck I was not involved in forced the closing of the main bridge out of town. I had to turn around and head back home. While I was waiting in the traffic, I got to see lightning and hear thunder while freezing rain slammed my car. Mother Nature is awesome.

I began to panic regarding the state of our pantry. We had some food, but my instinct told me that the weather was eventually going to keep up homebound. My husband and I braved the weather on Friday the 12th and went grocery shopping. I can’t tell you how much this had saved us. We made it before the shelves were bare and the weather was too bad to venture out.

Then, the power outages started. We were blessed to have electricity all of Saturday as “rolling outages” began. However, the promise of “three-hour rotating outages” turned into eight hours or longer. Many of my neighbors went without power for stretches longer than 72 hours in sub-freezing temperatures. We all scrambled to keep heat in our homes and our pipes from bursting. Our power continued to go up and down, but we were blessed that our home stayed pretty warm throughout.

Then, the water outages started. Our water treatment facilities were freezing. Boil notices were issued. Not only did some homes lose power, they lost water pressure, and eventually ended up with frozen pipes.

The weather finally relented on Friday, the 19th. In pure Texas fashion, we were back in the 50s. We were all finally able to come out of our homes to survey the damage. Some still have no power. Some still have no water. Grocery stores are empty.

It never ceases to amaze me how Texans come together. Neighbors were offering their warm homes to complete strangers. A local BBQ food truck fired up their pits in the freezing temperatures and were offering free, hot meals to those who hadn’t had one. This guy was personally delivering hot plates in the ice/snow. There were so many stories of people taking packages of bottled water from outside closed convenience stores, but shoving money inside the door to pay for what they took. The owners often receiving more money than the supplies that were taken. Facebook became a place where people found supplies they needed from their neighbors. In one case, a diabetic was dangerously low on insulin due to the pharmacies being closed and was able to get in contact with someone who had extra to give. One of my community members ordered a hundred pizzas and was giving them out to families who needed a hot meal. Another one of my community members with a 4×4 Jeep was advertising free rides to first responders/medical staff to get safely to work. No looting. No rioting. Just neighbor helping neighbor.

If the decision ever comes, it will be hard for me to leave Texas. One of the main reasons is H-E-B grocery store. I don’t think there is a grocery store chain that does more for its customers. Despite the power outages, despite the weather, H-E-B employees braved the weather and opened up. I believe it was on Wednesday, we realized we needed more provisions. We had bought many groceries before the weather, but not a lot for meals that require no power. We braved the weather and there to greet us with smiles on their faces were H-E-B employees. They got us in the store in an organized fashion, checked us out quickly, and made sure all of us were navigating the ice safely. The young man that checked us out was not even from our store. He told us that he worked in the next town over and that it was the closest store he could get to. This young man couldn’t make it to his own H-E-B store, so he came to help ours out. I can’t stress how bad the roads were. We don’t have snow plows or even enough de-icing procedures for weather like this. What impressed me was H-E-B’s constant presence during this whole thing. I saw Facebook posts from their president constantly giving updates on the state of their warehouses and urging us not to worry, that groceries are coming. H-E-B will forever have my business. They always step up their game in these situations.

Today, it’s supposed to get close to 70 and I am thankful. My family came out of the other end with nothing more than a few fallen branches from one of our trees.

It was rough, though. It was a very stressful week and I am glad to get back to some version of normalcy for a while. I am thankful that I have so many positive people in my life. I’m glad to have friends that offer assistance instead of judgment. I’m glad to have friends that let you vent and not judge you for it. The world could use a lot less judgment and a lot more understanding and compassion.

Hopefully, I can get back to a normal posting schedule. I hope you are all doing well and safe!

Diabetic Burnout. It Really Is A Thing.

If you haven’t noticed, I have not been creating content or streaming. I’ve been battling some severe depression, and according to today’s therapy session, I am so much worse than I could have ever imagined. One of the major contributions to my depression is my diabetes.

I’ve been living with Type 2 diabetes for a third of my life. I’ve shared how much it costs to treat my diabetes and the toll it takes on my health. I’ve had to wear masks before they were commonplace. I’ve fought anemia and vitamin deficiencies. I have damage to my kidneys and liver. I’ve been unable to lose weight because the very medicine I need to stay healthy makes me gain weight and keep it on. Despite all of this, I’ve stayed very positive…until recently.

Maybe it is the result of the pandemic. Maybe it is the stress of certain changes in the workplace. Maybe it is the strong emergence of ignorant people crawling from underneath their rocks of uneducated drivel dismissing science and drinking hand sanitizer. It could be a lot of things, but I am exhausted.

I did a little Internet research and stumbled across the term “diabetic burnout” and the more I read, the more I accepted that I am definitely experiencing it. I don’t think any of my diabetic educators have ever mentioned burnout to me. I would gather that is because I’ve always done what they asked. I’ve never given my educators, or team of doctors, a reason to suspect that I am struggling. In fact, at my last endocrinology appointment, she happily exclaimed, “I wish I had a sheet of gold stars, because you’re doing great!”

But, that is the thing. Just because we try really hard, and keep things in check to the best of our abilities means that the disease is most undoubtedly taking over our lives.

The following is specific to TYPE 2 DIABETES and my experience living with Type 2. Please do not compare my struggles to someone who is living with Type 1 diabetes. If you do not know the difference, I implore you to take this opportunity to educate yourself.

EVERY DAY FEELS LIKE AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY

Let that statement sink in. Chronically ill people have a routine that MUST be followed to stay healthy. If you want to feel your best, if you want to stay healthy, if you want to lead as close to a normal life as possible, you must follow your routine with little to no deviation every day of your life. At some point, you wake up and realize how much time and work you invest just to make it through the day. What makes this feeling worse is the tone-deaf comments received from friends and family and even strangers. Below is a statement a “friend” told me:

“I don’t see how it is any different than me going to the gym every day. You just have to suck it up and do it. Don’t let it bother you.”

The biggest difference is, if you stop going to the gym, barring some huge medical reason on why you need to go to the gym every day, you won’t feel or have any immediate health repercussions. Sure, you might gain a few pounds, or your cholesterol might go up a bit, or you might feel out of shape, but you will continue to lead a productive life without it. Just because you engage in a task that is soul crushing and unpleasant to you in the name of health does not even remotely make it relatable to someone experiencing chronic illness. If I slack for even one day, there is a long list of side effects including worsened vision, migraines, and yes. Possibly even coma or death.

Whatever experience you THINK compares to a day in the life of someone coping with chronic illness, there is a good chance it does not. Do not compare your “choice” to engage and/or quit something uncomfortable to someone’s lack of choice of being chronically ill. They aren’t, and will never be, the same.

ROUTINE. ROUTINE. ROUTINE.

It is mentally exhausting to maintain the routine. Something as simple as eating isn’t simple for a diabetic. I can’t put one bite of food in my mouth without a routine. First, I have to check my blood sugar. Luckily, I have a very expensive sensor on my arm that allows me to scan it with my smartphone and get an instant reading. Without my sensor, I have to wash and dry my hands making sure to rinse any soaps or lotions present. After drying my hands, I have to set up my glucometer with a testing strip. Then, I have to prick my finger with a lancet device. Then, I have to apply the drop of blood to the testing strip on the glucometer. Once I get a reading, THEN I can decide the best course of action regarding how many carbs I get to eat, and how many units of insulin I have to take. No matter how hungry, or how tired, or how irritated I am, I MUST go through this 5-10 minute ritual every meal. I have to worry about needle disposal and medical waste. If I am out and about, I might have to take my insulin in a dirty bathroom. Most days, it is habit and I go through the motions without a second thought, and other days, it is such a heavy burden. After that routine is done, I have to remember to check my glucose levels 2 hours after I eat. This helps my endocrinologist determine whether I am taking the appropriate amount of fast-acting insulin.

BUT, WAIT!! THERE’S MORE!

I have to take TWO types of insulin. Yes, there are different types of insulin with varying degrees of onset and peak times. The insulin I take before meals is fast-acting meaning it starts working 15 minutes after injection, peaks at 1-2 hours, and only lasts about four hours total. It’s perfect for meal adjustments. Then, I take nightly “ultra-long acting” insulin. This insulin takes six hours to reach the bloodstream, does not peak, and lasts 36 hours. As you can see, there is a lot of math that goes on.

BUT, WAIT!! THERE’S MORE!

I also take a non-insulin injection. Wait, what? Yes. You read that right. A non-insulin injection. I take Trulicity which not only protects my heart, but it also works to help my body.

AND, MORE!

I take four different oral medications. With diabetes comes blood pressure, heart, and other issues that can be prevented with maintenance medication. I don’t necessarily need them, but the longer I keep those numbers normal, the better. This includes a blood pressure medication, a cholesterol medication, and two oral diabetic medications.

Routines are usually great when the consequences for not following your routines are minimal. However, routines turn into prisons when the consequence is shortening your life.

I CAN’T LOSE WEIGHT

There is a misconception out there that you only get Type 2 diabetes because you got fat first. While that may ring true for many, that doesn’t ring true for everyone. Any time my fast-acting insulin is adjusted, I gain a lot of weight. When I can reduce it, I lose weight. The medication meant to save my life, is also making me gain weight, which makes my diabetes worse.

Take a step back for a moment. How long can a person live like this? I went to the gym six months straight every morning. I lost 10 lbs. The only time I lost weight was reduction of my insulin. You have to live with people judging you all the time. They assume you are fat for an unhealthy lifestyle, or that you became diabetic because you’re fat. You try to not let it bother you, but every time you look in the mirror, there is a reminder that your fat face and body are out of your control. You can’t just cut calories, or walk more because the very medications meant to save you are making you fat. You suddenly aren’t doing those things to lose weight, but to stay as you are, and that is depressing.

SOMETIMES, YOU DEVELOP EATING DISORDERS

I was called out today. Today I was told, “You have an eating disorder.”

I have grown to hate food. Every bite I take is trying to kill me. I spend every waking moment counting carbs. Adjusting insulin. Every waking moment is consumed by survival. Now, you might think that is dramatic, but is it? It feels that way to me. I force myself to eat. I forget to eat. I avoid eating. My relationship with food has soured. I mean, how could it not? If you meet someone, and they try to suffocate you, you aren’t exactly their friend, right?

THE EXHAUSTION IS REAL

Every day, I don’t want to get out of bed. It takes roughly 30 minutes for me to motivate myself to do it. Diabetes makes me very, very tired. Emotionally. Physically. I hurt all the time. I stab myself four times a day. I wear stupid sensors that yell at me every two hours. No one can be perfect, but that is what this disease requires of you. Perfection. Otherwise, you are slowly killing yourself.

So, that is where I am at. I want to stop caring. I want to pretend that my life is more than this disease, but it makes it very, very hard. I get stressed because I miss so much work. I push myself when I really should stay home. Society doesn’t really want to understand chronically ill people. We’re usually just overweight people trying to find an excuse to be lazy, right?

So, that is where I am at. I’m exhausted and struggling to find the meaning of it all. I’ll get through it, but sometimes, you just have to let people know where you are at, and this is where I will be. For awhile. If I can educate just one of you to be more understanding of a fellow diabetic, that would be great.

Air Fryers: Just Another Gimmick?

For months, literally months, I have been agonizing over the decision to purchase an air fryer. Well…Let me back up and start from the beginning. Originally, I wanted to upgrade my toaster oven. I have an older model Hamilton Beach that still works, but I know more recent models have better insulation and/or are more energy efficient. You see, we live in Texas, and if you don’t know, Texas gets pretty damn hot. The last thing you want to do in the middle of a 30-day streak of 100+ degree days is fire up the oven. Toaster ovens DO help minimize the heat impact to your kitchen. I can attest to that.

As I researched toaster ovens, I couldn’t make up my mind. I wanted a toaster oven large enough to fit frozen pizzas, but the ones I could find didn’t get the greatest reviews for very legitimate reasons. So, I decided that I would keep an eye open for something down the line. While I was researching toaster ovens, I somehow started browsing air fryers.

When air fryers were gaining popularity, Rugjen and I laughed at them. Just another gimmicky small appliance that promises big results and fails at it. And, for the longest time, we laughed for good reason. People that bought those first generation air fryers were upset with their soggy fries and pitiful attempts at reheating chicken tendies.

It’s been years since the debut of the air fryer and major improvements to the technology have put them back in the small appliance game. I’ve had more and more friends swear by their air fryer, so for the past 2-3 months, I have been waffling back and forth between a toaster over/air fryer combo, or just picking up an air fryer. In the end, I decided to purchase an Instant Pot 6 quart Vortex Air Fryer. If I am being honest, I chose the Instant Pot version because it looked the coolest, and most modern. Overall, most of the on-the-shelf brands are rated pretty equally. I also liked the Instant Pot version because it has a built-in preheat cycle.

Do french fries really come out crispy?
YES. We purchase the Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Fast Food fries and have never been able to get them to crisp in the oven. I mean, you could broil them for a few minutes to try to brown them, but even doing that, I still did not really get satisfactory results without actually deep frying them. But, who likes to deep fry? We do own a deep fryer, and I hate the thing. Absolutely hate it. Dealing with the oil waste, the weird smells…I am not a fan of deep fryers. To our surprise, they were super crispy and lived up to the claims. This, alone, made the purchase worth it. My husband loves french fries and I avoided buying them because it was always disappointed to be met with soggy results.

What else have you tried?
So far, we have had success with everything we have tried. That being said, these have been all pre-cooked, frozen snacks. We recently tried frozen potstickers and they were amazing. They came out crispy AND lacking that lingering pan-fried oil taste. Mozzarella sticks? Amazing. Pizza rolls? Amazing. Cubed potatoes? Amazing. I plan on trying some cream cheese rangoons this week, but from my research, they should come out amazing. Hot wings is also on our list.

Let’s Address The Negative Reviews

Reviews can be super helpful if done correctly. Unfortunately, over the years, I have found that a majority of the complaints and/or bad reviews I read on a product is USER ERROR. So, when you run into a negative review, do a little research on the issue before taking someone’s word as gospel.

Chemical and/or Burning Plastic Smell

One of the top negative comments for ALL of the air fryers I was researching was “chemical”, “burning”, or “melting plastic” smell.

Make sure you have removed ALL of the packing materials and have pre-washed your appliance.
As my husband was unpacking our air fryer, he noticed that installed on the removable cooking grate were rubber feet to prevent the grate from damaging the inside of the basket during shipping. He mentioned he could see how someone could mistake these packing materials as part of the appliance. For this air fryer in particular, there were strong complaints about a “burning rubber” smell that never got better. We suspect that those individuals did not remove the shipping feet. That being said, the included reading materials do not mention specifically to remove them. So, make sure that you thoroughly inspect your air fryer upon unpacking and that you remove all packing materials. Also, pre-wash your appliance. I know a lot of you skip the first step of washing your new small appliances. There is a reason they instruct you to do this. It removes any traces of lubricants that contribute to that chemical smell, so wash your parts!

With that said, did we have a “smell” during the initial test run? OF COURSE WE DID. Any small appliance with a cooking/heating element and/or moving parts will have a “chemical” or “weird” smell the first few times you run it. It is ridiculous to expect it not to. The question is at what point is not normal. Per the instructions, we ran our air fryer through the recommended cycle. It smelled like it does when you turn your home’s heater on for the first time in the fall. It was not extremely offensive, but wasn’t so bad we felt like we needed to air out the house. After that initial cycle, we did not notice additional plastic/chemical/offensive smells.

Keep in mind other factors. If you have a very small apartment kitchen and/or poor ventilation in your home, these “chemical” smells may linger a lot longer in your home and be more concentrated than in my home. I think the point is to expect some “new appliance” smells for the first few uses. The smells should be decreasing in intensity, and if they are not, there may be an issue with your appliance.

My Food is Soggy!

Like any new appliance, you have to learn to speak its love language.

Don’t Skip the Preheat.
Whether it is a toaster oven, air fryer, or regular oven, DO NOT SKIP PREHEATING. Generally speaking, most baked items need to go into a hot oven to cook properly. Skipping the preheat cycle is setting yourself up for failure. My air fryer has a built-in preheat mode. If your air fryer does not, crank that baby up to 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes before you start. Even if your air fryer claims “no preheating needed”, it LIES. Preheat your air fryer.

For the Love of All Things Holy, Stop Overcrowding Your Air Fryer!
Take this as gospel, people. STOP. OVERCROWDING. YOUR. AIR. FRYER. The purpose of the air fryer is to use AIR to crisp up your food. If the air cannot penetrate or reach your food, it won’t crisp your food evenly. If your air fryer says it can handle 2 lbs. of frozen fries, read that as saying “If you want crispy AF fries, don’t put 2 lbs. in me.” Most of the pictures I have seen in reviews put too much food in their basket.

Size DOES matter.
If you find that the quantities you need to make results in consistently soggy food, you might need to buy a larger air fryer. Most standard 3 quart air fryers are for 1-2 servings. Most 6 quart air fryers claim to be able to handle 3-4 servings. I own a 6 quart air fryer and I have to say that cooking 4 servings of something is a stretch. Can it do it? Yes. Will it be crispy? No.

Toss Me Like a Salad.
My air fryer has built-in reminders to flip the food at certain points in the cycle. I have found that air fryers are NOT a set-and-forget appliance. While, yes, you can press the start button and walk away, you will not achieve the best results doing that. Again, this goes back to how an air fryer works. If you want all around crispy goodness, you have to flip and/or toss the food at some point in the cycle so the food’s exposure to the air is as equal as possible.

Your Food Might Need Oil.
I know. That sounds counter-intuitive. The whole reason you purchase an air fryer is so you don’t have to use oil, right? Right?! Well…not exactly. If you are cooking pre-made fried foods, you can typically get away with going oil free. The reason? It has been pre-fried. You’re just reheating the product to restore it to its former glory. However, if you are cooking something from scratch, your recipes may need the addition of a little oil to achieve the desired fried texture. There are a ton of resources out there, so I won’t go into too much detail. Just know that adding a little brush of oil, or mixing in a very small amount of oil during the prepping processing can help achieve the correct results.

How loud is it really?

Let’s talk sound. Air fryers are loud. Period.

That being said, how loud the air fryer sounds is going to be a matter of perspective. If you live in a 3,000 square foot home and your kitchen is pretty isolated from the other rooms in the house, it really may be “not that loud”. If you have a small studio apartment, or you have an open floor plan that allows your kitchen noise to bleed into your living areas, that same air fryer may sound like a jet engine to you. There are a lot of factors in determining how loud something is.

So, to make it simple. Air fryers are loud. They make noise. You will notice it is running. It will range from sounding like a microwave to sounding like a box fan. In other words, it is not silent. If you need silence and/or won’t be able to tolerate the noise level, you will be unhappy with an air fryer.

ChibiChonk Approved!

Overall, I am very pleased with our purchase. I think we will continue to use the air fryer in our meal preparation. Do I think air fryers are just another gimmick?

Yes and No.

Are they over-hyped? ABSOLUTELY. No, you do not NEED one to have a successful kitchen. Air fryer proponents praise the appliance so hard that you begin to believe that you will use it for everything. It will revolutionize how you approach cooking. You can cook full meals, oil-free, healthier, in one basket.

Let’s be real. Unless you, too, join the cult of making more work for yourself to justify how an air fryer is the next best thing right along side sliced bread, you won’t. You will most likely not use it every day and certainly won’t try to cook for a family using only the air fryer.

While it is true that it crisps food up in a way that you just can’t achieve in an oven, at the end of the day, even the largest air fryers simply do not have enough room to prepare for a larger-sized family. I do think that air fryers are absolutely great for the bachelor/bachelorette/young couple/roommates that is focusing on school or work and needs a simple appliance that will turn their frozen meals into something edible. I would not say it is a great appliance for families. You will find that it is just easier to cook larger amounts using your traditional oven, even if it is a bit unsavory compared to what an air fryer can do for you.

Does it live up to the hype? While I cannot say this true for every air fryer, I know the Instant Pot version we bought does. Every item we have put into it has come out crispy, delicious, and made my meal preparations just a little easier.

So, there you have it. If you have extra counter space and the extra cash, you won’t regret it. Even if it is solely to fry up some french fries on burger night, it is worth it. I have to caution you, though. No, you don’t need it. No, it won’t become your sole method of cooking. No, it won’t replace every other appliance in your house, but it will make whatever you put in taste crispy without that greasy, oil residue.

Shoulder Surgery Sucks

About a year ago, my shoulder started to freeze. It started off as stiffness, but over time, that stiffness turned into a complete inability to raise my arm without intense pain. After I received a diagnosis of “frozen shoulder”, I went through physical therapy to try to “thaw” my shoulder. When that didn’t work, I decided to get surgery.

Frozen shoulder is a very weird condition. In my case, I happen to be Type 2 diabetic, and it happens to be a condition that occurs more frequently among people with diabetes. Without going too much into detail, there is a capsule around your shoulder joint. For whatever reason, that capsule “freezes” causing pain and immobility. It can take up to three years to “thaw” on its own.

My case was so severe that I decided to undergo a shoulder arthroscopy and manipulation under anesthesia. Basically, they put me to sleep and forced my arm to move. My surgeon told me that “it sounds like popcorn” when he forces the arm to move to break up the scar tissue. After the surgeon forcibly moved my arm, he went in and performed an arthroscopy to remove the scar tissue.

It was the most painful thing I have ever had to recover from in my life, and I’ve given birth. People say that giving birth is the absolute pinnacle of pain, but I disagree.

The surgery itself is not very painful. With the nerve block and narcotics, the pain was tolerable. The shoulder, itself, did not really hurt.

What hurts is the physical therapy you are required to do after the surgery. They don’t tell you how bad the physical therapy is going to be. If they did, no one would get the surgery. It is a long and painful road. I am four months post-surgery. Every surgeon has a different post-op procedure, but I was scheduled for over 30 one-hour sessions. It is a race against the clock to ensure the surgery is a success. If you don’t do your physical therapy, the scar tissue returns and your surgery fails.

Unfortunately, surgery does not completely fix the frozen shoulder. You don’t wake up with 100% range of movement back. In fact, I had about the same range of movement I had before the surgery. In each physical therapy session, my therapist would have another therapist hold down my scapula and push my arm up as far as the pain would allow. My therapist always mentioned that my pain threshold was very high. I would let them push my arm until the point I was seeing stars and about to black out from pain. I went through this torture multiple times a week for the first month. Slowly, the range of motion started to come back, but very, very, slowly with A LOT of pain. I am almost four months out, and I still don’t have 100%, but I don’t have pain and there is slight improvement every day. I still do my at-home PT every day. The surgeon released me, but it can be up to another year before certain motions come back. They don’t tell you that.

I created a video to share my experience and give everyone an idea of how much the surgery costs and the time commitment you need to expect for recovery if you plan on getting surgery to fix your frozen shoulder.

Would I recommend getting surgery for your frozen shoulder? That depends. You MUST commit to the physical therapy. If you can’t, don’t waste your money and time. Expect pain. Expect it to not be immediate. If you can handle those aspects, get the surgery.

Consider watching my YouTube video that goes a bit more into detail about the costs associated with a shoulder surgery:

What I Have Learned About Working from Home

Working from home isn’t for everyone.

As workplaces had to adapt to shelter-in-place orders, so did its workforce. For some of us, the transition was seamless. For others, a nightmare.

While there are many factors to the failure or success of one working from home, there are two specific factors that I think contributed to my success.

First, I have no small children. I think out of all the factors, having small, or school-aged children, immediately makes working from home difficult or not productive. I am at a point in my life where my only child is in college. He doesn’t require, nor expects, my undivided attention. I don’t have to interrupt work to entertain him, or make him lunch. I think having to divide one’s attention between work and childcare will almost always result in inefficient work. It’s just inevitable. I think a lot of people struggled with trying to balance work and childcare. I was not in this category.

Second, I don’t like people. Maybe there is a better way to phrase that, but put bluntly. I don’t like people. Again, I think that puts me in the minority. Generally speaking, most people need human interaction. Because I was raised with so little of it (seriously can count on two hands how many times I recall being hugged by my parents), it is not something that rates high on my emotional needs. In fact, the further away people stay from me, the happier I am.

So, what did I learn from my time working from home?

I’ve been healthier.

I am a very sickly person. I am a Type 2 diabetic with a laundry list of other conditions that make me feel sick about half the work week. My main symptoms are exhaustion, mental fatigue, headaches, body aches, and fevers. In the two months I’ve been working from home, all of those things reduced significantly. I don’t have to fake feeling okay. I don’t have to try to make myself comfortable in an office. I waste so much energy putting up that facade.

Can I narrow it down to one thing? I believe the limited interaction with people has helped me. Not only that, but people being more courteous by wearing masks, and paying closer attention to personal hygiene.

Unfortunately, I know when things open back up, and the immediate threat is just a memory in the rear-view mirror, it will go back to “normal”, and that means I will, once again, get sick all the time.

I am happier.

I don’t want to make it sound like my office is a terrible place. That is not what I am trying to relay. I have a nice, spacious office that is very comfortable. What it doesn’t have is freedom.

What do I mean by freedom? At home, I have my pets. I could have never expected how much they impacted my happiness. Sure, all they do is lay next to my desk all day, but being able to pet them and let them outside a few times a day has really had some positive effects on my mental health.

My ideal working environment is with music or the television going. You can’t really do that in an office. I felt more focused with Aliens playing on the television, or my NSFW Twitch streams running. Being able to watch or listen without worrying about my co-workers was heavenly. I felt more focused, and happier.

My boss is already pretty lax and accommodating, but it isn’t the same as being on your own turf.

I was more productive.

I am talkative at work. If my office manager stops by, we can easily spend 15-20 minutes catching up every morning. That kind of interaction is necessary for a lot of people. It isn’t for me.

I found that I got my assignments done much quicker at home. Now, a lot of that has to do with my home computer being leagues above my work computer. It also has to do with my Internet connection being 10 times faster. My gaming computer is set up to my personal likes and habits. My work computer is as well, but it’s different. I feel more comfortable on my gaming computer.

Gained an hour and a half of my life back.

I commute 80 miles round trip every work day. It’s not a bad drive. I don’t typically run into traffic as the journey goes through a fairly remote portion of Texas. Gaining that hour and a half of my time has been life changing. The extra sleep has helped with my health, and I think that has contributed to my happiness. I’ve been able to cook more and just feel less stressed without the commute.

No people.

I like being left alone. That has a lot to do with my personality and mental issues, but I don’t like being around people. All of my co-workers are great people. Again, this isn’t to say my office environment is bad. I care for all of my co-workers and enjoy talking to them, but the office environment is bad for me. Human interaction makes me uncomfortable, so every minute I am in my work office, I am uncomfortable and nothing in the world can duplicate the comfort of my personal space. I think it mentally stresses me out. I have to watch how I speak, think about how I interact with my co-workers, and really think about the words that are about to come out of my mouth. It is such a drain on my mental capacity, because speaking to people does not come naturally to me.

I have really enjoyed my time working from home. I wish it was permanent, but I know that is a lot to ask. There are certain aspects of my job that really require me to be onsite.

Working from home has been a nice vacation for me, and for others, it has been a prison. What has it been like for you?