New Year Presents

I’ve often said that my only New Year resolution is that I will never make a New Year resolution. That is still true, but that doesn’t mean I don’t constantly work to make things better. It also doesn’t mean I can’t pass along a few things at an appropriate time.

I’ve had some good success lately. Here’s what I’ve used.

Gentle Alarm

I only used this for a few nights, then the Spousal Unit was on vacation for two weeks, and I was pursuing other sleep solutions anyway. When I don’t wake up on my own, this is my backup.  It’s a bit complicated, but I’m recommending it for one feature, so if you can find that feature elsewhere, grab it. Gentle Alarm an option they call a “pre-alarm.” This is a very, very quiet alarm (it is adjustable) that goes off 30 minutes before your regular alarm. If you are in deep sleep, you won’t hear it. If you are in light sleep, you will.  Why do this?

The reason you wake up feeling hit by a truck is because you’ve been wrenched from deep sleep.  Deep sleep cycles vary greatly, but 30 minutes is usually enough time for you to be out of deep sleep, and back into light sleep. The idea of the pre-alarm is that you never wake from deep sleep.  If you’re in light sleep, and hear the pre-alarm, you can get up and not give your body a chance to go back into deep sleep. If you’re in deep sleep, you won’t hear the pre-alarm, but you’ll probably be in light sleep by the time your regular alarm goes off.

They have tons of other features handy for those who have trouble waking up, but the pre-alarm is their best idea.


(iOS here)

I’ve tried out several meditation apps. Calm is the first one I’ve stuck with.  They are very low on woo-factor. If they have something like “breathe healing light into your ass chakra,” I haven’t heard it so far. They do recommend improbable things with breathing (“breathe into your toes”…uh…), but nothing too ridiculous. I like Tamara Levitt’s voice, and she narrates the meditations nicely.

They have pretty home screen animations and sounds, music selections, meditations for many purposes, and specific stuff for sleep. They have Sleep Stories, which are bedtime stories for adults. No, not like that, you perv. They are narrated by different folks, including one by Stephen Fry.  Honestly, they don’t work for me. I try to stay awake to find out what happens next, even if nothing much is happening. The sleep meditations, however, do work for me very well. More on that later.

There’s plenty of free stuff on Calm, but since I was using several functions, a couple times a day, I decided to pony up.  I have been meditating at least once a day–to sleep–and usually twice a day, for more than a month now. That’s pretty darned good for someone who was convinced she couldn’t meditate.


Fabulous is a general self-improvement app that helps you reach specific goals. They are a less intuitive, and I still refuse to say affirmations in front of a damned mirror, but for the most part, they’ve been extremely helpful.  They work incrementally, slowly, to get you adding good habits and routines. It is specifically set up so you can’t jump in and do everything at once. With me, that’s a smart move. Probably because of this approach, I’ve been able to stick with Fabulous. I’ve followed their lead (the mirror thing was just a re-charge I didn’t need, not a regular habit, honest!), even when I had my doubts. I’ve done my absolute best to keep up the new habits. And yes, it’s working.

Again, I ponied up for the monthly subscription once I realized it was going to be useful to me. I am truly enjoying working through their “spheres.”  It’s a little adventure.  Just start small, look around, and don’t expect everything to be available right away.

Now, the “more on that later”

I have been plagued with insomnia all my life. I’m a low-spoon individual for a variety of reasons, and I wanted to make some progress on that. The first thing to tackle was sleep.

If you’ve ever tried to conquer your insomnia, you’ve probably heard “have a bedtime routine.”  Gosh, I thought, a routine. I like those. I’ll go to bed at the same time every night, and be sure to floss my teeth!  Yeah, no.  My routine is, of course, personal to me, but here are the key components:

  • The bedroom is clean and the bed is (usually) made.
  • I clean off my CPAP mask with a lens wipe. I just figured that out, and it’s made life so much better. I use these.
  • I take a quick, hot shower–just a rinse–without getting my hair wet.
  • I lay down and put on a sleep meditation from Calm.


I can’t just go to sleep then, because the speakers emit too much light, and the phone can’t be trusted to stay quiet, so I take a few seconds to shut things off. I don’t get up; everything is right by the bed. That doesn’t ruin the meditation. I’m able to snuggle right down, and I’m asleep in a few minutes.

There are other items that Fabulous has added on. The whole routine takes me about 20 minutes. The Spousal Unit sets a 30-minute timer, so I’m just about asleep by the time he comes in.

I have been more than a month without insomnia. I wake up early on my own, and feel pretty darned good. My only slips are when I’ve indulged in sugar–that messes everything up. But since I’ve been baking sugar-free treats, those instances have been rare.

There are other changes, like the afore-mentioned sugar-free treats. Pokemon Go has been helping me stick with daily walks. As well as daily sessions parked between two pokestops and a gym…ahem.  Having a mall that opens its doors early for walkers helps during the cold weather.

I leave you with a recipe. It isn’t as low-carb as I’d like, as I’m still experimenting with flours. The last batch I made with all almond flour was mealy, so I went back to all-purpose for the moment. A regular chocolate-chip cookie has about 140 calories and 19g carbs. Not so nice for diabetics. My cookies have 77 calories and 5g carbs. Not perfect, but a whole lot better.  They don’t make me feel icky, and they taste really good.

Kitty’s Lowish-Carb Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields about 4 dozen cookies



Line a baking pan with parchment paper, and pre-heat oven to 375°.

Cream together the first five ingredients, adding the egg last.

Put the flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl and whisk them together lightly. Add them slowly to the other ingredients. Use some elbow grease to add the chocolate chips by hand.

I use a small cookie scoop, which is 2 teaspoons. Drop cookies about 2″ apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes–more on the 8 side. They will be golden brown around the edges, but pale and puffy in the middle. Take them out and let them cool for about 15 minutes, and they’ll start to look more like the chocolate chip cookies you expect. They can be moved off the pan after 15 minutes (though I give them 20).

Favorite trick: I put a dozen in the oven, then I line another pan and scoop out two dozen–spacing doesn’t matter–and I stuff the pan in the freezer. That still leaves me another dozen to bake.  Once frozen, I put a dozen each into Ziplocs. It’s so very nice to just dump a Ziploc out on to a pan, quickly arrange the frozen lumps, and have cookies a few minutes later.

When I find a better flour solution, I’ll post it.

1 Responses to New Year Presents

  1. Savannah says:

    Thanks for these suggestions, kitty. I’ve been using Inspiration Timer to meditate (well, really to do yoga nidra; I’m still having trouble shutting my mind down enough to focus just on breathing), but am always interested in alternatives to deal with the chronic anxieties that follow on having cancer and having to deal with the treatment damages. I’m going to take a look at Fabulous on your rec, since my single major failing in terms of living by post-cancer guidelines is having to give up eating enough to get my weight down to “just above underweight.” Right now, I’m finding that denial of that comfort comes hard on everything else, you know? I’ve long been a practitioner of habit stacking, so this seems as though it might be useful for me. So thanks, and best of luck with it all!

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