Favorite Things

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.

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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!

July Favorite Things

Every time they say “It’s nasty out there” I cringe. The world is falling apart. Look up the hashtag on Twitter #Americain3words and people are not full of hope. We’re depressed, and scared, full of fear and angry, and hurt and confused.

Some days I am these things too.

How can you not be?

I cringe because by focusing on all the ick we miss out on the good waiting there, like a puppy, hoping to lick the salt from your tear-stained cheeks. Yes, cry, wail, hurt, advocate! But also sit, savor, ingest the magic surrounding the cells that make up your fingernails. You are not an accident.

I’m listening to podcasts now at the gym (any recommendations? Or better yet, know anyone who wants podcast guests? I’ve got a goal to appear on one this year) and I heard mention of this poem tonight. It’s number one on my list of favorites for July.

We’ve got to find delight.

  1. A Brief for The Defense – by Jack Gilbert
A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants. Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick. There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay. If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation. We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. We must admit there will be music despite everything. We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning. To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come.

2. This Anne Boleyn Shirt

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My brilliant and creative friend Lynn Schwebach has crafted these funny, bold feminist t-shirts. Support a local artist, immerse yourself into the feminist narrative. I know this artist does not mean to downplay any harassment or trauma women have faced. Rather she stands in creative solidarity, pointing out just how absurd it is that women have dealt with these issues for the longest time. View her full Etsy shop here.

3. Grumpy Old Ove

I’m reading this book for book group and have been charmed by this grumpy old man. When we suffer it’s easier to want to be alone. In this book, the universe won’t let him. A poignant story on grief, joy, and showing up for others in the most unassuming of ways.

4. Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

I brought a bunch of these little treats to work and filled up a bowl on my desk. Every time my co-workers go by they curse me under their breath, then pop two or three into their mouth. I’m a treat provider – what can I say. These are yummy.

5. 4th of July Gear

Most of us have complicated connections to what it feels like to be an American these days. I’m mixed on patriotism and still feel so amazingly grateful to live here. We’ve got work to do, yes, but much to be thankful for. So on Wednesday I hope you spend the day with family or friends, in the sun, and have time to lay on some green grass under bursts of fireworks in the sky.

Wear this shirt. People will love you.

This one works is a stupendous option to consider.

Order now. With Prime it could get here by Wednesday!

June Favorite Things

I wrote down a list of things I want to do before I turn 30. I was supposed to complete one of them before June and I blinked and now it’s June. Still haven’t completed that project.

I have, however, learned how to roast a chicken, made homemade pasta, published in a magazine, pierced my ears, and learned a song on the ukulele. So, ya know, some progress. I’ve still got slots left on my list of things I need to do. Any ideas for what can fill the second half of the last year of my twenties?

Anyway…. (think how Ellen De Generes says it)

Here are some of my favorite things for the month ahead.

  1. Trader Joes Ice Cream Bon Bons (#2) on this list.

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It’s hot and it’s only June. I’ve been going to the gym so I’ve ALSO been eating these little treats from Trader Joes. Haven’t tried em? Trust me. I fill a bowl with three for Dylan and one for me and they are delightful post dinner treats. If you want to have three and leave one for your husband I approve of that too.

2. The Goat Fetching Soap

I met the folks of this lovely little Etsy shop on Twitter and they kindly sent me a bar of their soap. The smell is heavenly and the soap very creamy. Seems to provide great moisture for my hands. They also make other natural bath and body products without harmful or toxic ingredients. Certainly worth perusing their offerings.

3. Hiking Pants

Another thing on my goals list is to hike a 14ner. Not from Colorado? That means a mountain with an elevation of over 14,000 ft. I’ve lived in Colorado for most of my life and haven’t tried to conquer one of those mountains with my own two feet. So I’ve rallied a support crew and have started collecting necessary accessories for an adventure. Just purchased these hiking pants and I promise I’ll put them to use.

Never you mind that my stomach looks nothing like that models. No body shaming here.

4. Garden Gnome Home

I have a thing for gnomes. We have cute Christmas ones and they made an appearance on my wedding gift registry. So when my mom texted me this cute little photo of garden gnome homes for the trees in your backyard, I giggled with delight. This is so cute. I want! Bring on the garden gnomes.

5. Native Deodorant

Facebook ads got me again and I purchased some all natural deodorant made by Native. Never you mind it is quite a bit more expensive than your regular, nasty aluminum-filled deodorant. I love their quirky marketing and had to laugh when the instructions share that it can take up to 14 days for your body to adjust to the new chemical-free stink destroyer. I told everyone close to me if I was extra sweaty, there was a reason. Now you know too. I’m one week in and LOVING it. This stuff works. No more Ladies Speed Stick for me.

I hope you have a stellar, sweat-free summer!

 

May Favorite Things

“April showers bring May flowers,” they say.

Here in Colorado April  brought winds, downed fences and little rain. I’ve got my tomatoes growing in their little plastic cups on my counter and dreams of planting our garden. Never plant a garden until after Mother’s Day here in Colorado. It could snow on Thursday.

So while I wait to plant actual plants, and Dylan works with the neighbor to fix our fence, I read and write and dream of summer.

Here’s what’s making the list of favorite things this month:

  1. Friends who write books!

Congratulations to Joyce Dickens who just published her book titled The Exotic and the Mundane – One couple, a bold decision, and the life-changing adventure that followed about her year of travel around the world! I was honored with the gift of being a beta reader and I know this newly published account will delight and inspire you to get out there!

2. Compassion

The world aches for it. For kindness, empathy, understanding. For us to slow down and realize all of us are humans along a path towards something. I went to a presentation at Colorado State University and my heart pounded as I listened to Dr. Leah Weiss talk about compassion in the workplace. Her new book, How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind is now on my must read list. Inspired from her talk, I walked away thinking ‘Yes! Perhaps there is a place for sensitive folks like me in the daily grind.’ I’m thankful compassion is becoming part of our cultural narrative and thank Dr. Weiss for sharing this idea with students and communities across the country.

3. Joy

We just read The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World  for our book group. As someone who questions suffering and struggles to embrace joy, this book sparked opportunities for self-reflection and personal connection with broader humanity. I especially like the joy practices at the end of the book.

4. Pizza on the Grill

Step 1 – buy this cookbook. It will tell you everything you need to know.

Step 2. Buy some pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. I like the herbed flavor. Ain’t nobody got time to make pizza dough. Or maybe you do – in that case. Make your dough. Move on to step 3.

Step 3. Invite your friends over and have a make your own pizza night.

We tried pizza on the grill for the first time a few summers ago and it is one of my absolute favorite dinners. The crust gets bubbly, crispy and delicious. Everyone loves making personal pizzas.

5. Old School Polaroid Like Pics – Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera

I threw a good friend a baby shower and my planning partner in crime brought this instant camera like a genius! Nothing like pressing the shutter button and seeing your picture five minutes later. Trust me, this is cooler than the iPhone Portrait mode. Going retro while celebrating new babies – priceless.

Thank you to everyone who has sent me a haiku over the last month! There are still eleven days of the challenge left, so it’s not to late! Not sure what I’m talking about, click here.

April Favorite Things

He is risen! Happy Easter! Death has lost its sting!

I always love the meaning of Holy Week and hope you find today to be full of peace, hope, and restoration. If you’re more into chocolate than the Gospel, you’re still in a safe space.

Have a Cadbury Egg and think of me. Speaking of Cadbury Eggs…. my Favorite Things!

  1. Cadbury Mini Eggs

Not sure these really require an explanation. They bring chocolate with a candy coated shell to a whole new level. And I’ve been eating mini bags full since February. No shame. If you go to the grocery store tomorrow, they’ll probably be on sale. Or you can order them in bulk, here.

2. War on a Sunday Morning (Home-Front Heroes) by Teresa Funke

Over the years, Author Teresa Funke has become a friend and mentor. I have the privilege of working and learning with her. I am so excited about the release of her newest book that tells the story of Pearl Harbor through the eyes of a teenage girl. One of my favorite references she includes is to a 1940’s movie star who later became President. Can you guess who that may be? For more information on her series for middle-age readers and books for adults based on true stories from World War Two, view her website.

3. Earrings

Ha! Aren’t these funny?

I pierced my ears. At the age of 29. It’s ok, I’m just a little behind. This was part of my list of 29 Things to Do Before I Turn 30 list. So I checked one milestone off! I am exploring choices for jewelry that I previously ignored because I haven’t worn earrings since I was thirteen.   I’ve got six weeks more until I can change out the studs.

4. Ugh Mug

Yup. Some mornings feel like this. Some days feel like this. Coffee always helps. Laughing too. And mugs that you can wrap your hands around. Find warmth. Comfort. Sip. Sigh.

5. Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Some folks at work really value sustainability. We use all natural cleaning products and reusable mugs, and cloth napkins at our office. At first it was an adjustment. Now, as a result, my behaviors at home are starting to change. I’m starting to replace a lot of my toxic cleaning materials with Dr Bronners products and I love how versatile they are. Next thing to replace, toothpaste.

Check back next month to see if I’ve made my own cloth napkins.

Now, where are my mini eggs?