Happy Friday! I am so frazzled today. I had so many things I wanted to get done today and all I’ve managed is hanging out with a friend, booking Annie a boarding claim in a few months, and taking a nap. The weekdays just go by WAY too quickly. But I’m determined to get this post written this week!
On one of the many days the boys didn’t have school this month, I decided to try out this Crispy Chipotle Chicken Taco recipe. Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve ever made (or eaten) a taco with ground chicken. And they were really good! Shepard actually said it was the best taco recipe I’ve ever made. I normally have issues with the texture of ground meat, but even though this didn’t look the most appealing, it was still really tasty. I didn’t add the onion to the meat or the cilantro at the end, but added a bit of a cornstarch mixture to thicken it up a little bit more – it was still super juicy and messy, though. (The leftovers were much thicker.) The cilantro lime ranch was a great addition. I didn’t even need any extra hot sauce (which is kind of sad lol) because the meat itself was so spicy.
I’ve always wondered how restaurants or specialty places make such pretty looking granola, when my oats always seem to come out of the bag in a pile of dust. At Target last week I happened to see this tucked away bag of Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Oats and admired how beautifully perfect each oat was (lol). I used it to make granola the other day and it turned out so great! I’m not sure I’d use these thick ones in oatmeal, since I’m pretty picky about oatmeal to begin with. But I’ll definitely be using this style for granola from now on.
Okay, so I’ve never been an onion eater – unless it’s in the form of a thin and crispy onion ring or straw. But lately I’m kind of obsessed with a good oniony flavor in a lot of my foods. I’ve been using this Spice House Toasted Onion and it is AMAZING. The smell alone is practically intoxicating. In the last few years I’ve really focused on buying higher quality of the spices I use most often and it really pays off. This is a million times better than a generic cheap regular onion powder.
I bought this Milk Thistle Tea last fall when I was trying to change my liver values quickly and was just getting into drinking tea (now I drink it all the time!). I’ve since purchased MANY different flavors of tea, but this is one of my all time favorites. The flavor is sweet and delicate and I genuinely really like it.
My tea drinking adventure really started with trying to incorporate GREEN tea into my daily routine. But I was quickly sidetracked by so many other delicious flavors. One of my friends highly recommended this Tazo Zen Tea, though, so I picked it up last week and I actually love it! I’m not a fan of spearmint, so I had my doubts, but it’s really quite delicious. And comes with all the great green tea health benefits. I’m glad to have this in my daily arsenal of great tea choices.
So I had plans this month to reread The Hating Game on Valentine’s Day as an act of self care. I decided to go ahead and buy myself this accompanying Joshua Templeman candle to light while I read as kind of a joke. I’ve had it on my wish list for ages, but was a bit unsure of the scent combination. I’m so glad I bought it, though, because it smells delicious! Coffee is the strongest note coming through, but the others really round it out to a beautiful and non offensive scent.
So I haven’t technically finished this one yet – I’m about 1/3 of the way through. But I love it SO MUCH that I feel confident calling it a favorite. I’ve been trying to be super intentional about the nonfiction books I start my day out with this year, prioritizing a good chunk of time every morning to this bit of personal development. This particular book jumped out at me at the perfect time since I’m basically going through the same thing – trying to change my life for the better with as many tools as I can find. I would highly, highly recommend picking up your own copy of Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies by Tara Schuster. I don’t think you’ll regret it!
I love to live my life by the seasons in as many ways as possible. And whereas February is technically supposed to be the month of love, I always find myself really focusing on self love and care at this time of the year. This year, like most, I’m trying to get over the dreary gloom of January while also trying to remember spring is probably still three months away, so I need to start looking inward and finding ways to love myself to make the days a little brighter. So most of the items on my favorites list this week are featuring the ways I’ve found to love or treat myself right now.
True Self Care
Two weeks ago I signed up for online therapy services through BetterHelp. (I believe this is an affiliate link for one week of free therapy if you’re interested in testing it out.) It’s not something I plan on talking much about, but it’s also not something I want to keep a secret, so now you know! I’ve felt many, many times in the last year or so that I wish I had a counselor or somebody to talk to, but because we’ve had such rotten luck with finding a good fit for Caden over the years I didn’t have much hope of finding someone I could trust and like, while also being conveniently located (very hard in a small town!) for myself. But these last three months have been particularly hard and I knew I needed to do something to help myself. Lo and behold, ONLINE THERAPY. I didn’t even know this existed until recently. And honestly, it’s so perfect for me. I write so much more openly than I speak. I’m a thousand times more comfortable talking about hard things through a screen than face to face. The best part, for me, about BetterHelp specifically is that I can write to my therapist as often as I want and she responds every single day. I can also schedule actual sessions via chat, phone, or video once a week – if I want. I’ve had two live chat sessions so far, on top of the daily correspondence, and it really is an extra bonus. Anyway, it does feel expensive – $65 a week. But I think it’s completely worth it if you communicate the ways that I do. You couldn’t have daily in office therapy sessions for $65/week! Or even once a week! Plus I’ve finally come to the conclusion that nourishing my mental health is a worthwhile expense no matter what. I’m sure everyone’s experience with BetterHelp is mostly dependant on still actually having a good fit with their paired therapist, but I really like who they assigned me (you can change if you don’t like who you got) and it’s going well.
In addition to therapy, I’ve also started using the Calm app to meditate and start to teach myself mindfulness. Meditation doesn’t come easy to me, but I’ve been hearing so much about mindfulness all over the place lately that I really want to learn how to use it to help in all areas of my life. The app itself seems pretty amazing. You do have to pay for it, but I think if you’re serious about meditation it is worth the price. (I probably shouldn’t say this, but I didn’t go through with the purchase the first time I opened the app and they soon sent me a 40% off email code. I also have five 30 day free guest passes if anyone is interested in trying it. They also offer a 7 day free trial.) For the last week I’ve been doing a seven day series on mindfulness for anxiety, but I’m really excited to try out some of the many other features.
I go back and forth on how I feel about essential oils, but at the moment I’m back on the train, guys. I just found out about a brand called Saje Natural Wellness. I’ve been most interested in their oil blend roll-ons and recently ordered a couple to try out (if you buy 3 they’ll let you pick out a soft sided carrying case!). The whole point of essential oils is breathing them in and letting the oils soak into your skin/blood/brain is how they can treat a variety of symptoms or help you feel a certain way. But one of the main things I don’t like about essential oils is that none of them smell all that great to me and I don’t want other people to find me offensive. But I guess the good news is that I rarely have to interact with other people, so it doesn’t matter all that much (lol)! But of the two I’ve used so far (Peppermint Halo and Stress Release), I really have liked the scents. I truly believe that they do help – especially oils meant for easing colds and sleeping better. So I’m excited to start building these oils into my daily self care routine again.
Have you guys heard of Honey? I’m not sure how I ever learned about it in the first place, but it’s just a browser extension that will search through the internet and find coupon codes for any shopping site you’re on. It also can tell you the stats on when the best time to buy things on amazon might be. It’s really pretty awesome. It’s free, so you might as well get it! It’s saved me tons of money (I do a lot of online shopping lol) through discount codes that I never had to do a thing to find. I love it. Shepard noticed I was using it last night and he knew exactly what it was. Apparently they talk about it in his favorite youtube videos…
For some reason Walmart is the store that always carries the new and unique flavors of candy bars. And I very rarely shop at Walmart. But the last time I was there I grabbed one of these Mint Kit Kat Bars and I fell in love. Kit Kat Bars are my favorite candy bar and I also love mint, so they’re a perfect combination. I may have bought myself a 24 pack on amazon to have in case of chocolate emergencies, even though I’m really not supposed to be eating candy.
Speaking of chocolate, I recently checked out the podcast Inside Trader Joe’s because someone on facebook mentioned loving their chocolate episode. And this is such a fun podcast! I’ve listened to the three most recent episodes on chocolate, cheese, and holiday foods. I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s, maybe because I get there so rarely. But grocery shopping is like my favorite thing to do, so I go at least once every season to check out the new items. The podcast itself is informative, light, funny, and so very interesting.
If you DO go to Trader Joe’s, buy yourselves some flowers. Seriously. They’re crazy cheap and so beautiful.
This Kendra Scott Jack Bright Mix bracelet was my Valentine gift from Greg. Technically, I bought it for myself. But technically, he really wanted to get it for me for Christmas, but it was sold out for months, and he told me if it ever came back in stock he still wanted me to have it. So, I checked every single day when I woke up and finally it was there, so to my cart it went! I love it. 🙂 And actually, at this exact moment, it is once again available online. I had this bracelet on the Rainbow Christmas gift guide I did way back in November and was kicking myself for not just buying it because I wanted it so badly. I’m glad I was able to snag one before they’re gone for good.
In terms of bracelets in general, though, Kendra Scott has some really great ones. They’re such good quality too. I’m not as impressed by the necklaces – mostly because they’re super short and look stupid on me. But I love the bracelets. My favorite style is the Elaina. I have it in a couple of different colors and they’re so understated but beautiful. My favorite is a Kyocera opal that matches everything.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is one of my all time favorite romantic comedies of a book. It’s just so FUN. I’ve been dying to reread it, but I’ve been saving it up for today – a special Valentine’s Day treat to myself. You should read it too if you haven’t. Such a great read.
I have a slight addiction to personalized journals from Minted.com. It’s possible I’ve written about these before, but I’m too lazy to go back and look. I love a good notebook, though, and Minted seems to always be adding new styles. This is what I did for teacher Valentine gifts this year. And Shepard was so fascinated by them that I let him pick out and customize two last night as a birthday present for himself. He’s super excited about them. I of course also added on another rainbow notebook for myself since I was already placing an order!
I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Even if you don’t have a significant other (or if yours is sick and totally out of it like mine), do something to make the day a little more special for yourself. You deserve it.
You’d think after taking a few weeks off from this post I’d have a ton of things to share. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But I didn’t want to put it off another week, so here’s what I’m recommending to you this week!
CITRUS CANDLES. I’m obsessed with them right now. I’ve always tried to only light candles that are seasonally appropriate throughout the year because that brings me the greatest joy. Apple in September, pumpkin in October, cinnamon in November, a little bit of pine in December, lilac in spring, and ocean and fresh scents in summer (though most of my candle usage is September – December). Winter used to be all bakery scents, but this year I’m switching it up with citrus. I think it makes a huge difference in making this dreary time of year feel a lot brighter. My favorite place to find candles is HomeGoods/Marshall’s/TJMaxx. I think my all time favorite is the DW Home Grapefruit one pictured above, though they haven’t been as readily available as they’ve been in years past. I just picked up a Limoncello one the other day that also smells incredible. Here are some other favorites I’ve discovered: – Chesapeake Bay Love & Passion (Grapefruit and Mango) – Opalhouse Rio de Janeiro (Pink Pineapple and Sugar Cane)| – DW Home Grapefruit – Root Candles Sugared Grapefruit – Wisconsin Candle Company Lemongrass and Sage
I never thought I’d be a person who made VEGETARIAN TACO MEAT. But I saw this recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers a few weeks ago, happened to have all the ingredients, and decided to give it a shot. And I LOVED it. It was honestly SO delicious. I think I MAYBE even like it better than regular beef tacos – because beef tacos are the only form of beef I eat and as delicious as they are, they also kind of gross me out. Nothing gross about eating this. I originally made it just for myself, but Greg helped me eat the leftovers and really liked it too. I’m planning on making it again tonight and we’ll see how the boys react. I bet if I don’t say anything they won’t even notice that it’s not meat.
A few weeks ago I started seeing these yarn rainbows all over the internet. I have A LOT of yarn and you know I’m obsessed with rainbows, so I had to figure out how to make one for myself. It did require a little hunting around to find the nylon rope and floral wire (I ended up using jewelry wire because I couldn’t find floral) before I could start. But this tutorial made learning how to make the rainbow very clear! The most annoying part was just getting the rope and wire prepped. I did the whole thing start to finish in about two hours and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. If I ever make more (I hope to!) I think I’d like to find a more natural linen type rope to use instead of the bright white nylon, but this definitely worked pretty well.
So my friend gave me this Exfoliating Foot Mask for Christmas. I’ve done a foot mask one time in the past and it was just for moisturizing – and I don’t think it helped even the tiniest bit. I assumed this was the same idea and didn’t even really read the package, just wrapped up my feet and tried not to think about how tingly and cold they were for the next hour! I also skipped the direction about rinsing your feet off after you take them off and a few hours later my feet felt like they were on fire. But all that aside – I was in SHOCK a couple days later when my feet started peeling like crazy. It was both fascinating and horrifying. This thing REALLY WORKS, you guys. But I definitely would not use it if anyone else is going to be seeing your feet within two weeks of doing the mask. It probably took a good week to finish all the peeling, but it took off even the toughest layers of skin on my heels and toes. It’s worth a try!
Okay, I know it’s not Friday. In the future I’ll probably just skip to the next week if for some reason I couldn’t or forgot to write this weekly post – or if I didn’t have much to share. But I DID have a lot to share and I won’t be around next Friday, so I wanted to get this up!
I discovered amaranth porridge quite a few years ago, but kind of forgot about it until a random pinterest picture reminded me this week. I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal lately, mostly for the health benefits, not because I actually like it that much. Amaranth, though? I LOVE it. It has such a different taste and doesn’t gross me out in the ways that oatmeal does (I have food issues). This particular recipe made a very hearty two servings, and it doesn’t reheat that well, so I’d probably cut it in half next time. It’s a great winter breakfast if you have the time to spare.
I wanted some sort of baked treat for my coffee on Wednesday (when I expected more people to show up!). I had a lot of blueberries on hand, so I made regular lemon blueberry muffins. But at the last minute I decided I wanted to also make something I felt good about eating, so I tried this Gluten Free Dairy Free Banana Nut Muffin recipe. And oh my goodness, they are SO GOOD. I’ve realized in the last few months that I tend to like gluten free baked goods a lot more than I ever liked the regular ones. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing!! These feel hearty and delicious, they’re not very sweet (I always get headaches with sweet breakfasts and try really hard to avoid them), and they’re definitely on the healthier end of things, with very little maple syrup as a sweetener.
So this isn’t really a new idea, but I’ve still been craving chocolate pretty often and have been trying to find “healthier” ways to eat it. Earlier this week I made a bunch of chocolate covered walnuts, since walnuts are the best nuts for your liver, but also not my favorite to eat on their own. They were fantastic, but I was eating way too many. Yesterday I decided to make peanut butter cups with homemade peanut butter. Homemade nut butter is shockingly easy if you have a food processor – just put the nuts in and let them go until they’re nut butter! I just melted dark chocolate with a tiny bit of coconut oil, filled the bottom of muffin papers with it, scoop in a dollop of fresh peanut butter, and cover with more chocolate and sea salt. They’re more substantial than chocolate covered walnuts, but I’m also MUCH better at only eating one a day.
Greg gave me a Cosori Air Fryer for Christmas. I was determined to not let it sit around unused for two years the way I did my Instant Pot, so I made almost every meal with it this week. And it seems like a pretty foolproof method of making food! So fast too. The downside is that even though I got one of the larger ones, you still need to make most food in multiple batches if you’re cooking for a whole family. It’s kind of annoying. But it works!
I wasn’t sure where to start with using it, so I ordered The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook and it is a really great cookbook! Almost every recipe appealed to me. My favorite so far has been the everything bagels – they only take four ingredients (not including the egg and seasoning on top), about five minutes to put together, and fifteen minutes to cook.
My parents gave me a subscription to Sipsby for Christmas since I’ve been drinking a lot more tea lately. I got my first box yesterday and it’s so much fun! I believe it’s only $15/month and they send you four different kinds of tea, based off of a survey you fill out with what kinds of teas you like. I’m ALWAYS a fan of subscription boxes and getting that fun gift in the mail every month. This seems like a great option if you – or a gift recipient – loves tea.
Last Saturday I spent almost the entire day (minus when we went on a date) reading The Grace Year. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time and I highly recommend it.
Word of the Year Jewelry
And finally! This is the first year I picked a word for the year and wanted a very physical reminder of it that I’d see all the time. I’ve always been obsessed with meaningful jewelry, so I searched around online for a few days and finally went back to my old favorite – Lisa Leonard. This is the Very Fine Line Ring, though she has smaller/thinner bands – or necklaces or bracelets as well, all of which can be customized. I really, really love how this turned out. I’m glad I added the hearts!
Welcome back to Friday Favorites! I took a week off because it was too chaotic around Christmas to think about new recommendations. But I have a few fun things to share today!
Yesterday I mentioned that I’ve been working through a goal tracking planner called PowerSheets. I purchased this after watching a Hope Writers live video with the creator and deciding it sounded like exactly the thing I needed to get my year off on the right track. And it was surprisingly helpful! Though you should probably know going in (I didn’t do a ton of research before purchasing) that this isn’t a daily planner in the sense that you’re used to. It really is a workbook that guides you through the goals you’d like to make for the year and then helps you to break them up into tiny doable pieces, which you spread out and keep track of over the entire year. So this isn’t really a planner to organize your life, JUST your goals. I did just announce in my post yesterday that I’m not really focusing on goals so much this year, but the planner actually helped me come to that conclusion and did help me align my priorities in a very clear and concise manner.
I am a lip balm ADDICT. I am obsessed with finding the hot new brand and have probably 30 different kinds and flavors all over the house. I stumbled across a new to me brand called Crazy Rumors right before Christmas and purchased 12 different flavors that I split up between all our stockings. And I LOVE them. My favorite flavor is amaretto, but I’m really enjoying the pistachio as well.
Our New Year’s Eve plans year after year are to watch movies and eat snacks. The second movie we watched with the boys the other night, Abominable, was HILARIOUS and so heartfelt. I’ve never been much of a fan of animated movies, and my kids mostly went from toddler shows to Marvel movies, so we’ve missed out on a lot. But I was trying to find something we could all enjoy and this definitely fit the bill. I really, really liked it.
I don’t think I mentioned this last month, but I came across a new item that is PERFECT for a big cheese platter: Buzz and Bloom’s Spreadable Honey. I don’t know what they do to it to make it spreadable, but it is so incredibly delicious and pairs perfectly with any type of cheese. I’m not sure where to buy it online, but locally I first found it at Woodman’s and then purchased additional flavors at HyVee. My favorite is the plain honey spread.
You guys are really going to think I have a gouda obsession since I think this is my third time sharing a brand of gouda in just the first six installments of this weekly post. But – gouda is so good! Well, SOME gouda is so good. I’m not a fan of the kinds that feel more soft and processed, but adore the harder aged and smoked varieties. Anyway, I picked up this Stone Ridge Cave Aged Gouda at Woodman’s for our New Year’s platter and I think it’s my new favorite. If you want a REAL treat, layer a chunk of gouda with the spreadable honey on a dried apricot. It’s delightful.
You know I’ve been really into drinking tea lately. But most flavors are really a hit or miss. I don’t use any sweeteners since it kind of defeats the purpose of using tea to avoid snacking, so most of the tea I’m drinking is palatable, but not GREAT. Because Greg has been drinking so much Harney and Sons cinnamon tea this year, the boys have really gotten into it as well. So on a whim I picked up this Tazo Glazed Lemon Loaf Tea yesterday because all three of them really love citrus. I, however, can’t stand citrus, but I still wanted to try the tea. And guys. It is AMAZING. I’m not even joking, this is the best tea I have ever had. I mean, I love the cinnamon tea, but I really need to be in the right mood for such an intense cinnamon experience. This, however, I could drink any time and I don’t think I’d ever tire of it. GET IT. I bought it at Target, but you can also find it on amazon.
Okay, I never would have purchased this for myself, but my brother gave me an Ember mug for Christmas. I’ve heard of them before, but always dismissed the idea because it was so expensive and only comes in straight black or white – and I love my unique and colorful $4 mugs too much to give them up. But I decided to give it a shot and was immediately really impressed. When fully charged I believe it will keep your drink the perfect temperature – that you set – for an hour and a half. I’ve been using the mug for tea at night and it’s absolutely perfect because I’m such a slow tea drinker. Then I use my regular mugs for my afternoon coffee, which I drink much faster. Anyway, it’s a splurge, but I’m really excited about owning one.
This winter break made me realize real quick that I needed a good pair of wireless headphones. I kind of lose my mind when everyone is home because I’m so used to listening to music and podcasts and watching my own tv shows all day long, and I can’t do any of that when I’m not home alone. And because it’s winter, I’m almost always wearing leggings or pajama pants without pockets, so I can’t carry my phone connected to regular earbuds around with me without it being super obnoxious. I’ve tried other wireless earbuds in the past, but it drives me crazy how often they need to be charged and it was just too much of a hassle. But I was determined to find a way to solve this problem, so I ordered a Christmas present for myself – these Cowin E7 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones. They are super comfortable, they hold a THIRTY hour charge, and most importantly – they come in super fun colors! I got the green ones and I am IN LOVE.
Welcome to Friday Favorites! I don’t have much to share this week – mostly food. It seems like my entire life continues to revolve around food right now. I’m trying to eat really well, but I’m also trying to come up with healthIER treats that I can still have and make for my family, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost such a huge piece of who I am. This week has been a bit more difficult because the treats have been so dang good that’s all I want to eat. I’ve also eaten out almost every day this week. And Christmas is days away. I’m trying not to be too harsh on myself, but I worry these couple of weeks are really going to set me back. I don’t have willpower. But anyway! My favorites this week are most definitely worth sharing.
HuHot has been one of my all time favorite restaurants for many years. Maybe in part because I could only get there once or twice a year, so the experience was always so memorable. It probably would have never become my favorite restaurant, though, if it hadn’t been for finding a stack of “recipe cards” during my first trip there. I landed on THE MOST DELICIOUS combination of sauces and that’s all I’ll get every single time I go because it’s so good. If you adore spicy food, go to HuHot and try this out. You’re welcome. Technically, the real recipe is one ladle less of each of these sauces, but I like my food to be super saucy. The “Bomb Burner” recipe includes three ladles of Samurai Teriyaki, three ladles of Burn Your Village, two ladles of Kung Pao, and two ladles of Hot Chili Oil. It is SO GOOD.
I’m definitely noticing that as soon as I eat one type of food that I probably shouldn’t be (ahem, HuHot), I’m almost immediately craving another bad food. Saturday night I was DESPERATE for a cookie. Which is kind of weird because while I’ve made thousands of cookies in my life, I’m almost never that excited about the end result. But, I needed that mouthfeel, so I found this recipe for Life Changing Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies. And guys? These really might be life changing. Holy cow. I LOVED them. I made a different flourless peanut butter cookie recipe a few weeks ago and they just tasted so much like straight up peanut butter I had no interest in eating them. These, though. SO GOOD. I used 1/2 brown sugar and 1/2 coconut sugar. And regular chocolate chunks, because I don’t care about trying to be dairy free. Coconut sugar isn’t really any better for you – it only has a slightly lower glycemic index. But I’m kind of obsessed with the flavor of it now that I gave it a shot in a couple different recipes. It really enriched these cookies – I think – making them delectable, but not overly sweet. Even if you’re fine with eating flour, give this recipe a shot.
I recently read that your taste buds regenerate every 10-14 days so anyone is capable of changing the way foods taste to them. I’m wondering if this is why these slightly healthier goodie recipes have been tasting like THE BEST THINGS I’VE EVER EATEN. I’ve gone two months now eating very little processed foods, refined white carb filled foods, or fried foods. I’ve expected to be bored to tears with how bland everything would taste to me, but the opposite seems to be happening. Everything suddenly has so much flavor. Which is maybe why this recipe for Amazing Gluten Free Banana Pumpkin Bread is literally the best tasting sweet bread I’ve ever had. But it’s so good that I’ve eaten almost the entire loaf by myself in just two days. NOT good. I used 1/2 brown and 1/2 coconut sugar again, and only coconut sugar for the streusel. And I’m not sure how much difference it made, but I was too lazy to go to the basement to get a container of almond milk (one of my more recently weekly purchases), so I subbed in Califia Farms Toffee Tidings Almond Milk Creamer since I keep pushing it to the back of the fridge at coffee time (lol). I also found last week that I love the taste of oatmeal so much more with almond milk, so it’s definitely turning into a staple for me. I might have to use the creamer the next time, though! (The seasonal flavor isn’t on the website, but I found it at Target. I don’t think I’ve seen that brand anywhere else.)
Okay, I won’t claim these to be the best tasting thing ever, but I did really enjoy this recipe for Mint Brownie Energy Bites. It mostly satisfies that dessert craving, while actually being legitimately healthy. I didn’t get medjool dates because they were so much more expensive, but now that I know I like energy bites like this I’ll probably pick them up next time.
So if you don’t know already, Colleen Hoover is my favorite author. I believe she announced her upcoming book Regretting You way back in March when I immediately preordered a copy. But then at Book Bonanza in August she kept hiding ARCS of it around the hotel and I was insanely jealous of all the people that found them and have had the chance to read it early. I’m honestly so angry at one BB attendee from Columbus who I kind of know because she found one of the ARCS, but didn’t read it until THIS WEEK. I read it before her – after the release date. I would have never sat on it for five months!!!! Anyway, like always, Colleen did not disappoint. This book was really, really good. And it was definitely more on the tame end of things. You never know what you’re going to get with her!
It’s so cold in our house in winter. Mostly because SOMEONE refuses to let the thermostat be higher than 67 for our downstairs furnace and 63 upstairs. And when I wake up before 5, like every single morning, it’s on an overnight temp of 60 and doesn’t “warm up” for a few more hours. Anyway, I was on the lookout for some new slippers this year (and I needed to use some Kohl’s cash), so I gave these Dearfoams Fluffy Pile Bootie Slippers a shot. I got them in plum a size bigger than the instructions tolds me because I have such wide feet. They’re a little bit big, but not enough to bother me. I really like them! I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with slippers because I want them to feel cozy, but there’s nothing cozy about wearing shoes in the house. But I can never just wear the thick sock types because they’re too slippery on my wood floors. These have a hard sole, but the rest of the slipper is so soft and warm that they still feel cozy.
That’s about it! Our super long string of Christmas festivities already started last night and we’re about to head out again. Happy Friday!
I have some really fun things to share with you guys this week! I worry about the Friday that comes along when I have nothing new to rave about, so I’ve been paying extra close attention to everything I try out to see if it’s worthy of sharing or not. I found a lot of fun finds this week!
For St. Nick’s Day I was gifted a sampler pack of holiday coffee blends. Which has been AWESOME, trying out each new flavor of coffee. I believe each bag is meant to brew one pot of coffee, but I just use it in my small pourover so it’s enough to make two mug’s worth. While I’m definitely recommending the sampler itself, my favorite blend has been the Kuma Bear Clause Holiday Blend. It’s one of the tastiest coffees I’ve ever had. I’m currently drinking Fundamental Coffee Company’s Winter Solstice Blend and it’s also fantastic. I NEVER EVER would have purchased a large bag of coffee that is meant to taste like bell pepper, red basil, white pepper, cedar, and mint, but it’s really good!
While I’m trying to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods, it’s frustrating to not be able to grab something really quickly when necessary. At Costco last week they had a sample of That’s It Bars – and it was so good! Each bar only has two ingredients – like apple and mango, apple and blueberry, and apple and strawberry. Costco offers a bag of mini bars in those three flavors, but you could also buy from their website or amazon with a lot more options. I think these mini bars are SO good. And they’re the perfect little sweetness if you’re like me and really, really like having some kind of dessert to end a meal. And only two real food ingredients?! I don’t know how you can go wrong. One note, though, I would NOT recommend their chocolate treats. I purchased a truffle variety pack on amazon and while the strawberry one is okay, the fig and date ones are disgusting. Stick with the fruit only!
I really miss restaurant food. I’ve been avoiding it as much as possible because I don’t know how to make good decisions and most places don’t have many good options to begin with – other than salads. And guys, I just do not want to eat salads. Especially when other things sound SO much better. But I ended up at Mod Pizza the other day with Cindy and decided to try the gluten free crust. And it was great! I missed the real crust a TINY bit, but not enough that it bothered me. Mod Pizza is Shepard’s favorite restaurant, so I’m excited that I can still go there with him without the stress of giving in and eating what I’m supposed to be avoiding. Or getting a salad. 😛
I also received (from myself lol) a copy of Live in Grace Walk in Love by Bob Goff for St. Nick’s Day. I always love the idea of daily devotionals, but if each page doesn’t pack some sort of great emotional punch, I lose interest VERY quickly. But this one is really fantastic. I’ve been reading two every morning and find plenty of passages to highlight. I’m really excited to go through this whole book. The only other book that excited me in the same way is Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford. That one is particularly valuable to moms.
To go along with a great new devotional, I also picked up a package of these Zebra Midliner Highlighters. I’m such a sucker for a new writing instrument, especially when it comes in such pretty colors. I had this large set on my wish list for awhile, but once I started the devotional and knew I had a lot of highlighting in my future, I decided to buy the slightly smaller pack for myself at Target the other day. They lived up to all my highlighting hopes and dreams! The thicker end is great for highlighting and the fine point is perfect for writing or journaling. I’m really happy I made the splurge!
I have another great Christmas playlist to recommend! Bri McKoy’s Christmas with a Crisp. I LOVE this one. I’ve been listening to it every day.
So I randomly came across this quick youtube video the other day, showcasing a method Becky Higgins uses to organize all of her to do list items. I’m the kind of person that NEEDS to write something down when it pops into my head, otherwise I’ll never be able to focus on anything else. I’ve been trying every method of planner and journal, trying to prioritize three tasks a day, and any other list writing way I can think of. But this easy three step process is what I just might stick with forever. Basically, you get an empty notebook page and list in pen every single thing that you need to do in the coming days or week. Then you grab a highlighter (hello, Zebra Midliner!) and highlight the two or three things you need to focus on NEXT. As you finish them you use a sharpie (supposed to be black to really cross it out, but…I like color too much for that) to cross it out entirely. Maybe this whole thing sounds dumb to you, but I LOVE that it’s a way to totally brain dump everything that’s weighing on me so I can stop thinking about it. Then choose in a very visual way which things are most important for me to do next. Not even necessarily that day, but a higher priority than anything else. And only think about those highlighted items until I can cross them out and highlight something new. This system is awesome for me.
I have a few quick minutes while I’m waiting to get the final food set up for my Favorite Things Party, so I wanted to get my list out for the week!
If you’re looking for some great Spotify playlists this holiday season, check out Kendra Adachi’s (The Lazy Genius) curated Christmas lists! I haven’t had a chance to listen to all of them yet, but I really love the Happy Christmas list. It feels festive and fun, yet really fresh and different. A perfect playlist to have on in the background during a party. Kendra is always making new playlists – something I really enjoy!
You know how I said the other day that I’m still consuming a little bit of chocolate every day? One of the things I’ve been eating are Skinny Dipped Almonds. I’ve seen them at Target for months, but never bought any because if I’m going to eat a chocolate covered almond, I want it to be a good thick chocolate. But, that’s not really allowed anymore, so I gave these a shot with all their whole and limited ingredients. And they’re really good! My favorite is the peanut butter flavor. It seems really weird to coat an almond in peanut butter powder, but I love it. I also really like the raspberry and peppermint. I haven’t tried the rest.
So this is hardly an original idea, but I thought maybe I should throw it out there if you’re looking for a fun lunch or dinner idea with your kids. I do it almost every single weekend. I grab every kind of cheese, fruit, vegetable, meat, cracker, etc. that I can find and put it together on a single tray. Then everyone gathers around the tray and digs in. The boys think it’s so much fun to pick and choose what they’re going to eat. And it’s SO EASY.
I wear pajamas A LOT in winter. There’s a lot less chance of someone showing up at my house unannounced when it’s cold outside, so I tend to wear at least pajama pants basically any time I’m going to be home for more than a few hours at a time. So every year I’m also looking for new pairs because I get sick of wearing the same ones again and again. This year I tried these Lauren Conrad pajamas from Kohls and I LOVE THEM. They are so incredibly soft and warm, with the cinched fabric at the ankle so I’m not always tripping on them the way I do with regular pajama pants. They also have them in plus and petite sizes.
ORGANIZE and TRACK
I’m obsessed with tracking my reading. I’ve kept a regular spreadsheet with the book name, author, and my rating for about the last ten years. It’s such a valuable resource when I want to look back and remember which books were awesome and I could recommend or purchase for someone as a gift. Plus it’s nice to know if I’ve actually read something or not and can’t remember! I’ve been tracking on Goodreads religiously for the last couple of years as well. But last year I found out about an AWESOME tool – Book Riot’s reading log. If you’re curious about your reading statistics, this is such a cool way to keep track of everything. Plus it gathers all the data on the second page and you can see your results. I’ll be sharing all my stats with you for the year in a few weeks. I’m really excited the 2020 log has been released!
We went to see Knives Out the other night and really liked it! I hadn’t heard anything about it, but Greg kept saying he wanted to see it, so we made it happen. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I liked it even more.
I caught up on all my regular tv shows, so I started watching some Netflix movies this week. I really enjoyed Let it Snow and haven’t heard anyone else talking about it. It was sweet and festive without being overly cheesy.
And that’s it for today! Time to set up my giant cheese plate and make sure everything is ready for my party!
A whole week has flown by since my last Friday post without a single update. Life has been TOO CRAZY this fall. Right when I think I have a handle on my life, something comes up again and I’m flailing around once more. I’m hoping to claim a little bit of down time this weekend to catch up on my end of the month posts, as well as actually RELAX. But I’m not very good at that, so we’ll see.
Anyway! It’s been such a busy week that I haven’t discovered many NEW favorite things, but I’ll share with you what I’ve got!
For my dessert contribution, I made this Pecan Pie Cheesecake for Thanksgiving. I made it a few years ago and remember calling it the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. And at one point in my life I wanted to open a cheesecake restaurant, so I’ve eaten a lot of cheesecake! But cheesecake is usually something you only make for bigger fancy gatherings, so I haven’t made it since then. I looked back at my notes and saw that the first time I halved the entire recipe and baked it into a pie pan instead of a springform pan. This year I did the whole shebang and it was still delicious! I even forgot to add the heavy cream and I don’t think it made a difference. The only thing I wish I had done differently was actually follow the stovetop instructions for the pie layer. I think I cooked it a tad too long, making that layer extra gooey and very hard to cut and bite. But the combination of salty/sweet/creamy/crunchy is really great!
This summer I ordered a bunch of new hot sauces to try and 708 7 Pot Citrus by BigFat’s has definitely been my favorite. It took me awhile to come around to the citrus spicy flavor combination in so many hot sauces (I’m not a fan of citrus in any form), but now I can’t get enough of it. I think that kind of hot sauce is perfect for something loaded with cheese. My favorite form of comfort food I use it in is a bowl of (brown) rice with chihuahua cheese and chips. I’ve been eating this for months (especially once I ran out of one of my favorites – Dirty Dick’s Hot Sauce), but I seem to be eating it at almost every non-Thanksgivingy meal this week because it’s so dang tasty. I also really like it with beef tacos. For chicken tacos I prefer a more straight heat.
So I literally just came home from seeing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhoodwith my in-laws. It was so good! There are so many theater movies I’d love to see right now, but this is the one I was invited to, so I went! It did feel kind of slow…quiet, I suppose. Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate movies like that when we’re so used to action and comedy and nonstop drama. But I really enjoyed it. Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys were both excellent in it!
I’ve been watching A Million Little Things from the beginning and I definitely liked the first and second seasons. But this third season? Now that we’re finally past all the John’s death related plot points, it’s SO good. It’s moved up to one of my most anticipated weekly watches. This week the mid-season finale aired and it was absolute perfection.
I can’t think of anything else that struck me as being extra special this week – and we’re about to go watch the local Christmas parade, so I’ll end this now. Enjoy!
I’ve been learning a lot about the importance of an email list. I’ve started paying attention to the weekly and monthly newsletters that I most enjoy reading and they all have one thing in common – they’re lists of recommendations and favorite things. So with no real originality, I’ve decided to do my own version of the same thing because it makes me so happy to share the things I’m most excited about, especially when they’re new and unique. The exception – for now – is that this will appear as a new weekly blog post installment that’ll pop up on Fridays. I don’t have an email list yet, and quite honestly I don’t have the time at the moment to figure out how to make one. So in the meantime, I can’t let all these awesome favorite things be wasted, so I’m starting today with where I’m at! These might be short, they might be long, but I’ll try to stick to things that have really brought me a lot of joy in just the past seven days.
I am obsessed with THIS GRANOLA RECIPE. I’ve tried many granola recipes in the past few years, most of which had a peanut butter base and some chocolate thrown in to make it all a lot more dessert-like. But I needed something simpler for Caden’s birthday party a few months ago to top granola and fruit and gave this a shot. I LOVE it. Brown butter maple granola by Two Peas & Their Pod. It’s delish.
Trader Joe’s Uncured Black Forest Bacon. About six months ago Costco sold a three pack of thick sliced brown sugar bacon that was AMAZING. And like basically everything I fall in love with at Costco, I never found it there again. I’ve been on the hunt for something of similar taste and I finally found it at Trader Joe’s this week. I picked it up because the coloring was unique – it’s very brown. It must have some sort of sugar rubbed into it or something. But seriously, it is legit good. The only downside is that I believe it was around $6 and there are only 7 slices in the package. I’m not sharing it.
This week at Costco I picked up a giant wedge of Beemster Classic Aged Gouda. Gouda is one of my favorite types of cheese and I love nutty aged ones the most. My previous favorite has been Trader Joe’s 1000 Day Gouda, but this one is also REALLY tasty. The cashier confirmed it was a new item she’d never seen before, so chances are it won’t be around for long.
If you need any kind of encouragement that you are OKAY and you are ON THE RIGHT PATH, listen to this incredible spoken word album by Arielle Estoria. She was at the Hope*Writers conference I attended and blew me away. I listened to Symphony of a Lioness while I was at my sewing machine and it was truly so powerful. I highly, highly recommend it.
Is anyone else watching Succession?! Greg and I ran out of things to watch together, so we started this up after I kept hearing Knox and Jamie rave about it on The Popcast. And they were right – it is SO GOOD. I can’t believe how intense the show can be when barely anything is actually happening. It’s great acting.
TJMaxx, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods. I feel like I shouldn’t even let people in on this secret of mine because it’s where I find allll my greatest gift ideas and treasures. These stores are AMAZING if you’re willing to go to them often and visit different locations. I’ve always loved them, but my obsession has really gone up a level or two in the last few months. I finally had to make some gift sets for Heartstring Annie to justify buying some more great things. My absolute favorite thing to hunt around for is mugs. I’ve been finding so many great Christmas ones lately that I finally gave in and switched out my fall mugs this morning. They bring me so much joy!
Counter Culture Coffee. I recently spent DAYS going through Food and Wine’s extensively researched list of best coffee in every state. I created an amazon list of every single coffee I’d like to try from all of those roasters. (The LIST stops me from wanting to immediately buy them all for fear that I’ll forget and miss out on something amazing. Mind games, guys. Always.) Counter Culture Coffee was on the list and low and behold, they were the featured local coffee at all the grocery stores I stopped at on my trip to North Carolina. I purchased and brought back the Hologram and Big Trouble blends and have been drinking them this week. They’re creamy and delightful!
Speaking of green tea, I also just found out that Harney and Sons makes their famous hot cinnamon tea in a GREEN variety! Their black hot cinnamon tea used to be the only kind of tea I’d ever drink. And recently, Greg has become obsessed with it, drinking it all the time. The boys love it too. When he ran out a few weeks ago I was THRILLED to see that it also comes in a green variety for me! And honestly, I can’t even taste the difference between the two. It tastes just as good as the black – and it’s better for you. (It ALSO comes in herbal!)
I think that’s it for my first installment of Friday Favorites! See you back next Friday for more great finds!