Back in 2011 I wrote a post about My Favorite Things. Over the years, it has actually been one of my most read posts–go figure. At any rate, I have stumbled across some new favorite things, so I thought I would share them in a list again. I know that I always like a personal review or suggestion from a real person about something I am about to spend money on. In no certain order, here are a few of the greatest things I have stumbled upon in the past year or so.
I am letting my hair grow out so that I can donate it. The longer it gets, the more unruly it becomes. The older I get, the wavier/curlier it gets and also drier. I have always had oily hair and had to shampoo daily. However, because of age and a non-humid climate, I can now shampoo every other day. I often have fly-aways and frizz, even on the second day and especially in the winter. I have never, ever had this problem before. I have tried argan oil, curly hair defrizzers, special shampoos, and styling creams. I read about this Coconut Milk on Jen Hatmaker's blog where she was raving about it. Since it was only a few dollars I thought it was worth the risk. Yes, indeed! I'm not crazy about the smell–it smells too beachy and suntan oil scented, but it dissipates quickly. However, it leaves my hair feeling so soft and silky with less frizz and it doesn't feel or look oily. I can't stop touching my own hair because it feels so good.
Just as age and moving north have changed my hair, my skin has undergone similar changes. My face used to be oily and prone to breakouts. Although I have occasional t-zone oiliness, I also have flaky, dry patches. In winter it seems like my whole face it peeling off and it can be itchy and even painful at times, especially during the past winter of extreme cold. I slather on face cream (lotion isn't enough) in the morning and night, but my face was still so dry all winter. I normally use mineral makeup powder, but that didn't cut it on my dry skin. Since my skin has cleared up now, I decided to see if I could get by with just a tinted moisturizer. It has just enough color to smooth my skin tone and good moisture for my dry skin, but it wasn't heavy like foundation. Since I was initially just trying it out AND I'm a cheapskate, I didn't want to spend much money. I hate the name Wet and Wild, but I do love their tinted moisturizer (and nail polish). It was just the think I needed and only cost $2-3.
$2 eye shadow–for real! Bought it because it was cheap and I liked the colors. Became a loyal fan because it was the first eye shadow I have EVER used in my entire life that lasted all day without ending up in the crease. I have used eyelid preps, crease prevention, expensive eye shadows, etc. and nothing worked until this shadow. I was so impressed that I actually wrote ELF to tell them how great this eye shadow is.
I came upon this recipe, fennel salad with pear and parmesan, in a book I read last year, The Homemade Life. I had never in my life purchased fennel, eaten fennel (except the seeds), and certainly had not cooked with fennel. I decided to experiment. It was a little intimidating since I didn't know how to choose or cut fennel. I made the recipe above and was enchanted. It was such a refreshing salad and full of subtle, yet complex flavors. I am now a fan of fennel and not scared of it anymore.
6. Camille Roskelly fabric
A quilting friend of mine shared Camille Roskelly's blog with me and there I saw and fell in love with her fabrics. Since I am planning on redoing our bedroom in aqua and red, I am particularly enamored with this fabrics.
7. Litle Bee
Frrom Wikipedia: “The Other Hand, also known as Little Bee, is a 2008 novel by British author Chris Cleave. It is a dual narrative story about a Nigerian asylum-seeker and a British magazine editor, who meet during the oil conflict in the Niger Delta, and are re-united in England several years later. Cleave, inspired as a university student by his temporary employment in an asylum detention centre, wrote the book in an attempt to humanise the plight of asylum-seekers in Britain. The novel examines the treatment of refugees by the asylum system, as well as issues of British colonialism, globalization, political violence and personal accountability.”
From me: Powerful, thought-provoking, cry-inducing, and impactful. This was a page turner, beautifully written, and gave me a lot of to think about.
8. A Place at the Table
I have a very soft spot for Southern literature and this book hit just that spot. Well-crafted characters who were very flawed and yet likeable meet in NYC across generations, stereotypes, and life experiences. I felt like I knew all of these people in real life and I was quickly drawn into the story of these diverse people and how their lives all just so happened to intersect. This was a fun read, but very challenging too.
9. Where is the Mango Princess
I just finished this book a couple of weeks ago. It was required reading for my counseling class. Studentss are required to read a novel or memoir about someone with a communication disorder. In this case, Cathy Crimmins, writes about her 40-something husband who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he was hit in the head by a boat. The book is funny, heart-breaking, shocking, and inspiring. It paints a very authentic picture of the erratic recovery of someone with a TBI and the reality of the family having to adjust to significant changes in ability and personality.
10. The Good Wife
Last year we watched all episodes of How I Met Your Mother in rapid succession since we were late to jump on the HIMYM train. This year, The Good Wife has been our HIMYM. Robert and I have enjoyed watching episode after episode together. However, we were so busy getting caught up that we missed the most recent season, so we are eagerly waiting for it to come out on Netflix. Part legal drama, part soap opera, it is an engaging show that has drawn us in to the complicated family life and love triangles of the good wife and her not-so-good husband.
11. Naked and Afraid
Robert and I stumbled across this show on The Discovery Channel and really enjoy watching it together too. The premise is that a man and woman who have never met are dropped naked into some remote and dangerous location with one object that they each have chosen (e.g., fire starter, knife) and a camera. They have to survive for 21 days…naked and afraid. Aside from the obvious awkwardness of meeting someone for the first time butt-naked and the multitude of “bad naked” (a la Seinfeld) moments that chopping down brush and climbing rocks provide, the survival part is very real. Mosquito bites, leeches in various orifices, cut/bruised feet, and sunburn from lack of clothing make the survival even more difficult. However, the pair still have to build shelter, find water and food, protect themselvess from various aggressive or poisonous animals and insects, while working together and maintaining their sanity in very unrelenting environments. I wouldn't do it in a million years, but I am fascinated by the people who do.
12. The Way Way Back
We happened upon this movie in Madison last summer. Neither one of us had heard of it, but there was nothing else on that we wanted to see. I can't believe that we didn't know anything about this movie and its all-star cast. What a gem! This was a tender, sweet, and powerful coming of age story–the kind that doesn't come along very often. Quirky and fun characters, a dysfunctional family, an awkward teenage romance, and an unlikely mentor make for a delightful sleeper movie.
13. Enough Said
Another movie I had never heard of, but happened to see on a flight this past winter. It was James Gandolfini's last movie. He and Julia Louis-Dreyfus engage in a sweet middle-aged romance which is complicated by teen daughters and a common connection that they don't know that they share. Watching this romance develop is quite charming.
14. My bike
The is the summer of the bike! I have discovered biking as a way to get places I need to go this summer and am quite captivated by the fact that I am getting exercise (and a bit of a tan!) while running errands. It's quite fun to watch the mileage computer on my bike and my MapMyRide app go up and up.
The Nozbe app has revolutionized my work life and allowed me to sleep better because I know that everything is in my app and not running through my mind. Nozbe is an app based on the GTD principles outlined in the book, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. I just have the free app and it is enough to cover my work needs. It is like a “to do” like on steroids, plus it automatically syncs to all of my devices including my PC, my iPad, and my phone. One thing I especially like is that, unlike other online listing services I have used, when you check something off it shows that it has been completed and doesn't just disappear. I need that reinforcement for a feeling of accomplishment.
16. Road ID app
I have a Road ID bracelet that I wear when doing outdoor activities. They have a free app too that makes the lock screen on my phone contain my name, any medical conditions and allergies, date of birth, and contact information for my family. That way if I'm in an accident of some sort, all someone has to do is look at my phone for crucial medical and contact information. I can also leave “ecrumbs” which will send a text to anyone I want that tells them when I left and they can track me while I'm gone. Then a text is sent when I arrive. This is great when going out for a run or bike ride alone. Highly recommend!
17. Dollar Shave Club
Buying razor blades kills me because they are so darn expensive!! Enter, Dollar Shave Club. Even though it is marketed toward men, there is no difference between male and female razors…except these don't come in pink. I get “The 4X” and am on the every other month plan. Robert uses “The Humble Twin.” They send 4 razor blades to me every other month and the $6 is just taken from my debit card. Great razors, I don't feel guilty about changing blades more often, and the price can't be beat. If you decide to give them a try, please go through this link and I'll get a little bonus :-)
Robert had turned me onto the Spotify app on my PC and iPad a couple of years ago. I love it because I can choose every song I listen to, make playlists, and listen to entire albums. It can be a lot more personalized than Pandora. Just last month I decided to upgrade from the free version to the $9.99/month premium account. Since I can download 3000 songs to listen to offline for this price, as well as listen to anything streaming online, I can't foresee any reason to every buy albums again. The music is very diverse. I haven't yet been unable to find anything I'm looking for from Broadway musicals, worship, indie acoustic, pop, jazz, etc.
19. Messenger bag
I figured out that a messenger bag fit my needs best for lugging stuff to and from work, as opposed to a briefcase or backpack. Robert ordered me this one off of Etsy. It's comfortable, the perfect size, had 3 pockets inside and two on the outside, has been durable so far, plus it's adorable!
Our washing machine died several months ago and I did extense online research trying to find the best buy. I had heard a lot of negative things from friends with front loaders, so I decided to go with a top loader. Then I had to research agitator or not. As I started reading review on Best Buy, Amazon, etc. I started seeing that the reviews were very erratic and largely negative regardless of the brand…until I saw reviews for Speed Queen. They were consistently rated 4-5 stars on each and every website. You can only buy a Speed Queen at a local mom and pop store. They do not sell in big box stores like Lowe's or Best Buy. They are American made and actually made in Ripon, WI about 75 miles away from us. They have no electronic components, which are one of the first things to go wrong on the current machines…and they tend to last 15-20 years versus 5-7 for LG, Maytag, Kenmore, etc. There are only 3 models of washers, there aren't many bells and whistles to pick from, and they are decidedly unsexy as far as washing machines go. However, our machine is very large capacity (even with the agitator), washes quickly, and does an excellent job. Our experience buying from a small local appliance store was also fabulous. I am now sold on Speed Queen and local applicance stores.
And thus concludes the 2014 edition of “My Favorite Things.” Maybe I'll get around to doing another one in three more years…
P.S., I wrote this while on a Lortab I had taken for back pain subsequent to gardening, so apologies in advance for any typos or other errors.