Favorite Things

February Favorite Things – 2019

It’s quite cold out there. If you are in the U.S. you know its way beyond freezing. Unless you live in Colorado and it’s a balmy 30 degrees. This month I’m sharing things that warm my heart and my bones. Stay warm out there.

  1. The Color of Life: A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice by Cara Meredith

I’ve had the pleasure of being on Cara Meredith’s launch team for her new book coming out on February 5th! Sharing stories from her own journey and interracial marriage, she reflects on big questions of race, religion, and accepting our own limitations when it comes to world view. I love how she mixes history, statistics, and grace to weave a beautiful narrative of her own experience. Pick up a copy – you won’t be disappointed.

2. Applesauce in the Crockpot

apples

Photo Credit – Jess Larson

Apparently my mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid. I was never a fan when I was little. However, last Sunday I used this recipe and a bunch of jazz apples to make delicious applesauce. I eat it hot with oatmeal. Dylan eats it cold, right out of the jar, standing in front of the fridge. You may eat it however you like. Need a crockpot? I like this one.

3. Twinings Sleep Tea

I bought this box of tea when we were in London and surprise, found it in the bottom of my duffel that I just ..erm.. finally put away this past week. A bonus souvenir! This delightful smelling tea calms my nerves at the end of the day at puts me right to sleep. Perfect for those Sleepytime loyalists who want to try something new.

4. Maldon Salt

Do you have foodie friends? I have one that always blows me away with her amazing gifts of hospitality. At dinner the other night, she sprinkled beautiful salt flakes over roasted vegetables and I was mesmerized with the texture of the granules. Needless to say, I’m now obsessed with this salt. Add to roasted vegetables, top a bruschetta, garnish a soup. The smoked salt flavor is good too!

5. Wine Colored Tights

I just bought a pair like this and I’m excited to add a little color to my winter work wardrobe. What do you think –  are bold colors fun to wear to work?

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January Favorite Things – 2019

 

It’s tradition in my family to watch The Rose Bowl Parade (#1 Favorite Thing) on New Year’s Day. My parents lived in Pasadena when they were first married and so we always had it on in the background when we woke groggily on the first day of the year. Nostalgia mixed with beautiful compilations of floral majesty – this parade is an amazing artistic effort.

The past few years I turned the live stream on with tears on my cheeks and we’d watched without Dad. Starting another year without loved ones is bittersweet. Sometimes, you still feel guilty for living.

Today, I turned on the parade and scooted our little leaf receiver, trying without success to get a clear stream via our janky attempt at living cable-free. I can’t find the ABC live stream and the ESPN account we share with a relative isn’t granting me access.

BUT – great news – the Spanish channel is coming in perfectly. So here I sit, watching the floats and the bands and the flowers and Dad is chuckling along with me because I can’t understand much.

‘Stop taking new starts without me so seriously,’ he whispers. I’m putting my head on his shoulder and trying to figure out the subtitles.

So, adding to the list, here are a few of my favorite things to start the year off right.

2. Electric Fondue Pot


I found an unopened wedding present in the cupboard this weekend and decided to continue another tradition of New Year’s fondue at our house. This little guy is so easy to use and dipping treats in chocolate is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I knew we registered for this for a reason.

3. Photo Books on Shutterfly

I love making albums for the year just finished in January. Take a few minutes, download the photos from your phone, and upload the images to Shutterfly. Don’t be intimidated by creative limitations – if you want, you can use their “Make My Book” feature and they will put all your photos in beautiful designs for you. They’re always having a sale and you get a great keepsake.

4. Pick Your Word

I was introduced to the idea of picking a word for your year ahead in college. My small group leader encouraged us to prayerfully pick a word to focus on in the next twelve months. We know we break resolutions, but having a word to return to, shaping your choices and your hopes is easier to return to as time goes on. This book explains the idea in more detail. My word for this year is REACH.  What’s yours?

5. Pick Your Tunes

Bring in the new year with some new anthems. Dylan was given Miles Davis on vinyl and we’ve been filling our house with jazz. Buy a new album, pick a new song, add some life into your home with music.

Happy New Year!

December 2018 – Favorite Things

I miss lettuce.

With the e coli invading romaine I’ve come to realize how much I enjoy greens with my meals. Funny how we take things for granted right? I just always assume lettuce will be available. Wrong.

While I dream of crunchy greens, I’m also thinking of these fun and fancy things. Have a wonderful December!

    1. Thieves

      My friend Courtney Maloney is a Young Living distributor and sent me a lovely bottle of thieves to use to clean my oven. She since has taught me all kinds of uses for this essential oil and bonus, it smells like Christmas. Courtney also knows all kinds of magical uses for essential oils and is a big believer in their ability to optimize wellness.

      She says,
      ” I love educating people about essential oils and wellness because in a world of disease, sickness, and brokenness, it gives people hope. It brings me so much joy when I have the opportunity to encourage and empower others in their lives and help them find freedom in their health, finances, faith, and every aspect of living.”

      If you’re interested in learning more, you can find her on Instagram.

    2. Stringing Popcorn and Cranberries
      Creating garlands with popped corn and whole cranberries is one of my favorite holiday decorating traditions. The last few years I’ve held back because I don’t want Olive to eat the strands off the tree. This year, I’ll string along and maybe decorate our pine tree outside. All you need is waxed thread, pop corn kernels, whole cranberries, and a way to pop the kernels. I am a big fan of Whirly Pops to use on the stove. If you don’t feel crafty, you can buy a faux garland right off of Amazon.
    3. Colorado Gives Day

      Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 9.44.23 PM
      Tuesday December 4th is Colorado Gives Day –  a state-wide campaign to support nonprofits in Colorado! Use this website to learn about the thousands of worthy causes to donate to this year. Because giving back doesn’t have to be hard. Some of my favorite causes? The Matthews House, Finally Home, and Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

      4. Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs For The Season

This is a fun album with a twist on classics and some new songs to delight. Also good, John Legend’s new Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas.

5. French Press Ornaments

For the coffee fanatic, these ornaments are too cute to pass up. Marketing works. Here’s a Starbucks version and I personally am partial to the smaller version created by World Market. I’m a sucker.

I’m hoping your days are merry and bright. And don’t forget about the Give Light Giveaway! Entries are now being accepted. Details on how to enter here.

November 2018 – Favorite Things

We’ve raked leaves the past few weekends and we have two feet of the little guys crunching down into our garden bed for winter. My hands have blisters, we’ve taken trips to Lowes, and our new leaf blower is getting a work out. I fear I will have to rake again this weekend. Halloween is over and Starbucks releases their infamous Red Cups tomorrow.  Notice how I mark the passing of time with Starbucks beverages? Apparently, I’m not the only one as I came across this countdown yesterday.

I feel ready to think about the holidays, perhaps earlier than my usual self, and am starting to dream of snow, hot cocoa, and seasonal things. I usually wait until Thanksgiving to indulge in festivities, but this year feels different.

As we wait for December, here are some favorite things that are taking up space in my heart and my closet.

  1. Jag Jeans

When I first saw these pull-on jeans I started laughing. On the rack, they look like maternity pants. However, after a friends recommendation, I tried some on and on me, a person, they became the most comfortable pants I now own. So take them off the hanger, or just take my word for it, and buy a pair of black, comfort jeans in your size.

2. Pink Lipstick

I bought some frosty pink lipstick for my Halloween costume – Samantha from Sixteen Candles – and I actually kinda like it. The 80’s are coming back right? Can I wear it to work?

3. Hot Apple Cider with Brandy in it.

As the nights get colder, it’s nice to sit and sip by the fire. If you want to get fancy you can add spices, like this recipe here, but honestly I just mix the two simple ingredients. Serve in mugs like this.

4.  We were GIFTED a dishwasher.

Sometimes God answers prayers in mysterious ways. I have been praying to see God’s provision in my life because most of the time I have a hard time trusting it’s going to come. And then, boooooom, we were gifted a brand new (ok, two year old, but still) dishwasher.

God is present, listening, comforting, active, joy.

I had a conversation with a friend who told me, “God always comes in joy and peace.” Not shame, not fear, not feelings of inadequacy. Joy. and. Peace.

And dishwashers.

5. This blurb someone posted on Facebook.

I always fall asleep during Lord of the Rings, but this metaphor makes sense to me. I dream of turning into Pippin and Merry.

“My mother once told me that trauma is like Lord of the Rings. You go through this crazy, life-altering thing that almost kills you (like say having to drop the one ring into Mount Doom), and that thing by definition cannot possibly be understood by someone who hasn’t gone through it. They can sympathize sure, but they’ll never really know, and more than likely they’ll expect you to move on from the thing fairly quickly. And they can’t be blamed, people are just like that, but that’s not how it works.

Some lucky people are like Sam. They can go straight home, get married, have a whole bunch of curly headed Hobbit babies and pick up their gardening right where they left off, content to forget the whole thing and live out their days in peace. Lots of people however, are like Frodo, and they don’t come home the same person they were when they left, and everything is more horrible and more hard then it ever was before. The old wounds sting and the ghost of the weight of the one ring still weighs heavy on their minds, and they don’t fit in at home anymore, so they get on boats go sailing away to the Undying West to look for the sort of peace that can only come from within. Frodos can’t cope, and most of us are Frodos when we start out.

But if we move past the urge to hide or lash out, my mother always told me, we can become Pippin and Merry. They never ignored what had happened to them, but they were malleable and receptive to change. They became civic leaders and great storytellers; they we able to turn all that fear and anger and grief into narratives that others could delight in and learn from, and they used the skills they had learned in battle to protect their homeland. They were fortified by what had happened to them, they wore it like armor and used it to their advantage.

It is our trauma that turns us into guardians, my mother told me, it is suffering that strengthens our skin and softens our hearts, and if we learn to live with the ghosts of what had been done to us, we just may be able to save others from the same fate.”

S.T. Gibson

In an effort to turn my grief into narrative, or at least take away the stigma, I’ve joined The Dinner Party to raise money for their end of year campaign. Can you help me reach my goal of $500 to support grief groups for 20-30 somethings who have experienced loss? People like me?

All funds raised go towards their goal of $75,000 to match hundreds of folks to tables across the country as well as awareness events and public campaigns.

Donate here and spread the word.

 

October Favorite Things

It’s come to my attention that I’m a little behind schedule. I didn’t have the energy to pull together a favorite things post to schedule for when I was traveling. Then we got home and I spent a week going to bed at 7:30 pm because of jet-lag. Then I … then I … then I … filled my time with other things.

Here we sit on October 21st and I’m just now posting my collection of favorites for this month. Thanks for eagerly anticipating what I’ve got to share. My thoughts and reflections on our trip are stewing and I’ll post soon. Until then, pick up one of these books, bake some pumpkin bread, or use these tools to plan an adventure. It’s a big world out there.

  1. The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom

I just started reading this book for our book club. Set in Denver, just an over an hour away from where I live, this journalist’s account of refugee students attending South High School is grabbing my heart. Humans live through amazingly horrific things. We need to be tender. We need to be kind. We need to be aware. I’m only 100 pages in and keep turning the pages.

2. The Shack

This book was incredibly popular when I was in college. The girls I lived with in our Christian dorm could not stop talking about the story line. I wasn’t ready to pick up the title then – my own faith wavering in big swirls of doubt. Years passed and for some reason, I was ready. I read the book on our long flight and murmured, ‘yes, yes, yes’ to the metaphors portrayed in these pages. God sees us in our suffering and gives us grace where we need it. For those doubting God, fearing faith, or feeling a bit hopeless, this story may be the spiritual hug you need.

3. Dandelion Travel adapter

Getting ready to travel abroad? After scouring the internet and starting at selections at travel stores, a friend generously lent me her travel adapter taking my stress away. This little adapter worked perfectly to charge our devices in both the UK and France. It’s size makes it easy to carry and easy to change between power sources. Note – this does not convert voltage which lead us on an interesting adventure to sketchy electronics stores in London.

4. Pumpkin bread

It’s baking in the oven right now. I like the recipe from Recipes from Minnesota with Love.

I wrote about it last year too. Cut the sugar down to two cups. With the chocolate chips, the bread comes out plenty sweet.

5. French Perfume

I’m not a big souvenir girl. Picking a special something feels overwhelming when I travel and I don’t need another glass, or keychain, or vase. After spending an afternoon at Fragonard and their interesting perfume museum, I did treat myself to a little bottle of French perfume. The little gold bottle, the spritz on the wrist, the memories a scent creates. Worth it. And yet, still odd because while I bought my bottle in France, I now know you and I can get the next set on Amazon. Ahh globalization.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed their lists of good things in your worlds. Keep searching.

September Favorite Things

Hold the phone.

Starbucks launched the Pumpkin Spice Latte three days ago! I’ve got a hard rule (self-imposed and regulated) that the famed PSL can not be consumed until October. By then it will have been out for like six weeks! Old news. The weather should be colder, leaves changing, sweaters bursting forth from wardrobes saying, ‘pick me, pick me.’

No! We are ahead of ourselves. None of those things happen in September!

Never you mind that the leaves are sorta, kinda, changing in my back yard. Or the fact that I wore short boots and long sleeves to work this week, even though the temperature reached 90 degrees.

Marketing is confusing me!

Stop, breathe. Be grounded in this new month and enjoy these new favorite things. Because before you know it, it will be time for candy corn (also self-imposed rule that only allows for consumption in October). Ooooo Candy Corn!

Staying in September. Here are this month’s favs.

  1. Stationary by Emily Howell 

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I’ve mentioned her before and I’ll mention her again. Emily creates beautiful things. I knew I wanted some personal stationary and she captured my vision so well! Now I have the perfect cards for snail mail that remind me just how beautiful it is to send people love through the mail. In the form of notes written with ballpoint pens.

2. Moon River by Carla Bruni

We’re heading to Paris soon and I keep swooning every single time I hear Carla sing this song. I’m going to be that drifting world traveler! I’ve got her voice on repeat. She also sings lovely songs in French and you can get her full album here.  Or wait months for me to successfully learn this song on the ukulele. I printed out these chords to give it a go.

3. Duolingo

Speaking of French … if you’re interested in learning a new language in a fun way download the Duolingo app. Each night, Dylan and I log in and have our ten minute French lesson. I’m doomed when I arrive in Paris because right now all I’ve got is Tu manges un orange.  And Je suis une femme. 

Hopefully my list of words and phrases will expand beyond croissant, pizza, cafe au lait si’l vous plait. If you’re not interested in French, you can try learning Klingon or High Valerian.

4. These SmartWool Running Socks

I’m kinda picky about socks for working out. My brother gave me a pair of these and I’m obsessed. They hit the ankle just right, don’t rub, and there are no seams inside that bother my toes. Lots of fun colors too.

5.  What Happened by Hillary Clinton

Say what you will about Hillary Clinton but I found her latest book pretty fascinating. I believe at her core she is trying to make the world a better place. Her call for radical empathy at the end of this book made me cry and truly appreciate the many shoulders of women I stand on today. The ones who show up, love, do the hard work, speak their truths. It’s a start to changing our world!

Now I have to go and assess how I feel about caramel apple cider before October. I don’t have a rule about that and it sounds lip-smackingly delicious. Like with this syrup.

Mmmmm…. the apples are calling!

August Favorite Things

There are hundreds of versions of this idea – what you put out into the universe is what you receive. I have a hard time with this concept. It feels too abstract for me. Then I think, ‘eesh, I don’t want to put abstract into the universe’ so I redirect. I want to radiate beauty, goodness, and kindness. I want to attract lifelong friends, lip smacking kisses and inspire viral blog posts into the universe.  I type those things here, and then I shrink. Hover over delete. It’s hard projecting what you want over the interwebs.

I’ve been reaching out to PR people and asking for money and contacting creators of podcasts and most of the time, I don’t hear back. That’s ok. I’ll keep trying. I believe when we share other’s brilliant work, they’ll lean in, give back, and be willing to share mine.

This month I’m sharing the work of some brave, creative people who are doing their thing. I’ve also got a tasty treat in the list, and a chance to give back to something bigger than you. Happy August.

August. Wow.

  1. Here for You Blog by Kellyn Shoecraft

I “met” Kellyn online when she bravely shared her work on the Modern Loss Facebook group board. She writes about her experience with loss, doodles brilliantly, and has found a way to channel her pain into helping others. I love her blog and her drawings which capture so perfectly the way I feel on my bad grief days. We’ve been emailing back and forth a bit about her post Angrief, which is so damn true. You can order Compassion Packages full of beautifully selected cards and gifts and a mix of practical things that are hard to buy for yourself when you are grieving. Think toilet paper, garbage bags, and gallon size freezer baggies for all of the breakfast burritos people send you when people die. A perfect gift for those of you who may be feeling “there are no words.”

2. Aaron Hill Photography

I met Aaron years ago when he was volunteering at the agency I worked for serving at-risk youth. His heart for the hurting led him to graduate school and he is now a social worker in the mental health field by day and takes photos by night. He has an eye for unique angles, golden-hour light, and magical moments in nature. We recently met up with him for a photo shoot and I can’t wait to see what he captured! If you are looking for an artist to work with to capture this stage of your life, he’s your guy. Why is he one of my favorites? He’s affordable, sensitive, sees people and believes we can change the world by how we treat one another. His work can be viewed here.

3. Dead Parent’s Society Podcast

You know what’s helpful? Knowing you are not alone! I came across this beautiful podcast on the Modern Loss Facebook Group post ( It’s helpful ok!) and I almost giggled in delight. One – there are enough people in this horrible club with me who have created a SOCIETY. Two- this group of WRITERS share their experience about loss in words, read their essays, and then talk about the work. I started listening to the episodes while I’m at the gym. Pounding my feet on treadmills and ellipticals I listen in to others words of loss, of hope, of recovery, of our the uncomfortable ache bubbling up when others speak of their dads freely. Pound. Pound. Pound. Yes. Yes. Yes. Grief is just as they describe. Listen in to this project out of Kelly Writers House and keep telling Jamie-Lee this project changes lives. It’s changed mine.
4. Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter

Remember Nutella? This stuff is better! We filled up our backpacks with hiking treats back when we hiked a 14ner a few weeks ago and now I bought a stash of these packets for afternoon snacks. Spread the stuff on toast, eat with an apple, or just squeeze right into your mouth.

5. My brave friend Jenny

My brave, childhood friend Jenny Stoecker is working in Bangladesh with refugees with Medical Teams International. She’s been back and forth several times over the year and I am floored by the work she is called to. Every time I feel overwhelmed I think of the people she is living with, working with, walking with, and I’m brought back down – perspective makes a world of difference. The issues facing Bangladesh are large in scope, complex, and full of political implications. Helping people on a global scale is complicated. What’s not complicated? Giving what you can of your life to those in pain. Consider donating to her organization Medical Teams International here. 

I continue to be amazed by her willingness to travel, advocate, and show up for those hurting around the globe. Follow her gorgeous pictures here.

I know not all of us are called to global work. Some of us hear whispers of creativity, build buildings, or tell powerful stories to delight people in the towns we grew up in. You don’t have to cross the ocean to influence a life.

What matters most to me? What are you putting out into the universe? And how are you giving back? How is the universe showing up beautifully in your world?


P.S. – I’m in the middle of planning a trip to England and Paris – if you know of quaint, affordable places to stay please let me know!