Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Current Faves: Mayday Edition

 Batten down the hatches, people. Because it's May.

If you're a student, teacher, parent, or a basically involved member of society- you know what's up:

May is cuckoo bananas.

Whatever stress or busyness we feel in September or even December is amateur hour compared to May. There is something about the perfect storm of the school year ending and the summer beginning (plus for any of us who have family birthdays or travel plans ) that turns us into crazed, disheveled raccoons limping to the finish line. 

Here is a recent picture of me catching up on some phone calls:

(Except I've lost even more hair since then.)

Anyway, after surviving even just the first full week of May (with Teacher Appreciation Week, my daughter's birthday, and Mother's Day), I thought I would take advantage of the 15 minute break I have (before the rest of the month continues) to post some of my current faves from this year.

And because its been so long since I've posted and because it might be my last (if this month actually kills me) I've got a longer list for you, similar to my 2020 Dump Edition. So here we go:

1.) The Chosen

Listen to me very carefully... if you have not watched The Chosen yet, I literally need you to stop reading this right now and go watch it.

Ok fine, finish reading my list because there are some other goodies in here, BUT THEN go watch it, mmk? Please? Promise?

Here's the deal, this series came out a couple years ago, and I had been hearing about how great it was from the get-go. The life of Jesus, through the lens of his disciples! Great concept and all, but the fact remains that I just don't get excited about christian filmmaking. Something about how the writing and acting and editing and theology and everything else is usually, um ...horrible? Is that the right word? Basically, christian entertainment has just typically been a cringey experience that I happily avoid. 

So I just kind of smiled and nodded during the first few recommendations, but then I started hearing about how great it was from some people who actually have excellent and trustworthy taste in television, and I decided that I needed to give it a shot. And oh how happy I am that I did.

I really cannot get over how special and beautiful this series is. 

Dallas Jenkins, the creator and director, has developed the first binge-worthy show about the people and events in the Gospels with the most incredible film craft, while also staying true to scripture. (It's like I just described a unicorn, I know. But this one is real!)

The entire production of each episode- the story writing, the cinematography, the music (ohhh you guys, the music), the sets and costume design- knits together into such a high-quality work of art and just an amazing viewing experience.

And not enough good things can be said about the acting. Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus, and the other actors who portray the disciples and the women following Jesus; give such unhurried, nuanced performances, they're absolutely mesmerizing to watch. And while most of them aren't necessarily very dark skinned, the cast is mostly of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent, and that obvious desire for historical accuracy makes me want to give someone a big high five.

There is just something so powerful about seeing all of these different, broken, lost, rejected, curious people meet and experience Jesus and then change forever. It truly does take your breath away. And watching the way Jesus keeps patiently giving such love and grace to His friends, who so often just DO NOT GET IT, is such an encouraging reminder all over again that He can love a mess like me.

You will love it. And thankfully, you can find out for yourself for FREE on their website or app, and also on Peacock TV.

2.) Complement by Aaron and Jamie Ivey

I have a very bold and truthful statement to make about this one:

This is THE BEST marriage book I have ever read. Ever.

And I've read a good handful in my life!

You know I'm a huge fan of Jamie Ivey (I listen to her podcast all the time and wrote about her book If You Only Knew.) and her husband Aaron Ivey has written some amazing worship songs (Jesus is Better, anyone?), so I was pumped when they announced the release of their marriage book.

It's a set of two books in one- she wrote half, he wrote half- and they both wrote chapters on the same topics: Love, Serve, Cheer, Lead, Follow, Fight, Forgive, Sex, Parent, and Mission.

I love that in their encouragement to do marriage together, that they wrote this book TOGETHER! Because having both of their voices and perspectives made it so authentic and real. One of my favorite things about them as a couple is that they both fiercely LOVE God and His word, but don't fall into the typical, cultural christian norms and boxes that marriage books tend to be littered with, that have wounded and handicapped a lot of people because they're not actually biblical.

But Aaron and Jamie are so positive and inspiring about the sweetness God intended for marriage and how it practically plays out in reality, without either of them being fake or sugar coating that it can also be super hard and challenging.

I loved it, Luke is loving it, and you will too, whether you're single or married.

Get it on Amazon HERE.

3.) Cangshan Knives

Feel free not to read into the fact that a set of knives is listed right under a marriage book, although that's a pretty hilarious coincidence.

I got this set of knives as a Christmas present from my in-laws and I want to MARRY THEM. (The knives, not my in-laws. Don't make it weird.)

They're balanced and beautiful and so dangerously sharp that I am low-key nervous about cutting a finger off every time I use them. (Which honestly speaks just as much to my clumsiness as it does to the knives, but that's beside the point. No pun intended.)

This set includes a chef's knife and paring knife, and the very cool block that they rest in.

They're amazing, and me and my crude knife skills are very undeserving of them. 

(Kind of like when a really homely looking guy somehow lands a really gorgeous woman and it just makes no sense. Basically I am that dumpy guy and these knives are my bombshell wife I don't deserve. Obviously, I couldn't be happier.)

So if you would also like to be in a disproportionate relationship with your kitchen tools, you can get these on Amazon HERE or at Williams Sonoma HERE.

4.) Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

At this point, Backman books have just become a Current Faves staple around here. I can't remember the last time a wrote a list WITHOUT one of his books on it, and I assume I'll just keep reading and recommending them until one of us eventually dies.

And as per usual- I have more high praise.

Anxious People was incredible. It's a unique story from his other books in a lot of ways, with some heavier themes than in the previous ones. But he handled it with such care and hopefulness, that one could argue that the extra depth made it one of his absolute best works.

The story centers around a failed bank robber bursting into an apartment open house and taking the potential buyers hostage. As you get to know the police officers, the hostages, and the failed bank robber; more and more is revealed about how all of their lives are intertwined and that most things aren't as they seem.

And if THAT doesn't peak your interest, I don't even know what will.

Either way, it's a masterpiece. It's funny and wise and shocking and endearing and brilliant. 

Such an enjoyable read.

Get it from your library or on Amazon HERE.

5.) IKEA Candle Sticks

These aren't necessarily a life changing addition to your home, but I picked them up at IKEA a few months ago and I think they are just lovely. So much, that they did really become a current fave.

(Ikea's fancy picture, not mine)

I've thrown them on my rustic, shabby table with a runner and a few stems of artificial eucalyptus leaves and it makes the whole room look so elegant. 

The set of 3 is $12.99 (for real) and they are so great to have around for holiday tables or just for a nice dinner. So next time you find yourself in our favorite Swedish labyrinth, treat yo' self to these.

6.) All Creatures Great and Small

This last January, PBS Masterpiece aired the first season of All Creatures Great and Small, based on the novels of James Herriot. 

Multiple friends had recommended the books to me (I still haven't read them, but they're high up on my list), saying that they were just the most precious, feel-good stories and that I would love them.  So then when I saw PBS had a made them into a series, I quickly nestled in to binge the episodes, like the TV-loving cheater I am.

It centers around a veterinary clinic in 1930's Yorkshire, the people who work there, and how they navigate life, careers, love and relationships with each other and the townspeople. It's incredibly charming and fun and wholesome and watching it feels like having a warm cup of tea.

I can't wait for the second season to come out, and in the mean time, I plan on finally diving into the books.

You can rent or buy the first season on Amazon Prime, or watch it on your mom and dad's PBS Masterpiece subscription like some of us did.

7.) Intermittent Fasting

After years of hearing different friends talk about intermittent fasting, I decided to actually try it out myself this last November, and I've sort of been doing it on and off since then. (Technically it's not meant to be done as inconsistently as I did it the beginning of this year, but if you think I was going to celebrate my birthday or go to Mexico and not say Heck Yes to any food whim I had- then you don't know me at all.)

But overall, I've really found it beneficial for resetting my body and feeling healthy again. The whole premise (in case you haven't heard the gospel of IF from another friend) is changing WHEN you eat, versus changing WHAT you eat. The fasting period gives your body a break so that it can lower your insulin levels, which burns fat and balances out hormones and blood sugar. And then during the eating window, you really can eat whatever you want (although common sense says it should probably be at least nutritious) and feel FULL, without feeling like you've broken a rigid set of rules or have fallen off the wagon. I've had friends and family who started living a basic fasting lifestyle with the goal to lose some weight, and know others who haven't needed to lose any weight, but wanted to enhance their hormonal function, reduce inflammation, and have more energy; and everyone I've talked to has seen great results in the direction they wanted.

Anyway, I swear this section is not going to end with me trying to get you to join a pyramid scheme (where you COULD BE YOUR OWN BO$$!!), it's just been something that's been helpful in my life so I thought I'd share. 

The book Delay, Don't Deny by Gin Stephens was what I read to get the lowdown on how it helps the body function, what the basic rules are, and what style of fasting would work best for me. It's a quick and easy read and would help you get started if this seems like the kind of structure and change that could give you success with your health goals.

Get it on Amazon HERE.

8.) Il Makiage Foundation

I started using this foundation earlier this year after I kept seeing sponsored posts on social media about how you can try different shades out for free and return if it doesn't work for you. I took the quiz on which shade would match my skin best, and the first one I got was way too light. I basically looked ready to make my acting debut as Female Corpse #1 on an episode of CSI.

But then I returned it, and did the match quiz again (since I am famously horrible at taking tests and probably messed up the first time around) and the next one I got was PERFECT. I mean, just a flawless match. It blends with my skin tone seamlessly, plus it's lightweight but with medium to full coverage, and gives my face a smooth and even finish, that almost kind of looks like a camera filter. 

I'm a big fan, and if you're having trouble finding a good foundation for your skin color and undertones, this is a great option to try. 

Take the quiz HERE and find out which of their 50 (!) shades would best match yours.

Alright folks, that's all I have for you right now. 

Here's hoping May doesn't completely suck out our souls, or at least that summer will promise lots of laid-back fun and recovery.

But until then, at least Ben gets us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Current Faves: Prince Charles Is The Worst Edition

 Hello, and Happy Almost New Year! Hopefully!

Obviously we're all looking forward to putting the lid back on Pandora's box (Did we ever find out who opened it up to begin with? Did we officially decide it was the creator of Baby Shark or was that just conjecture?) but let's not jinx it by getting too excited about 2021 being better, in case it decides to be all "Hold my beer" and it somehow all gets worse.

Not gonna tempt fate, no sirree. 

But while we're patiently waiting for our hopeful fresh starts, let me interest you in a variety of different entertainment, food, and hygiene products, which I believe are all categorized as 'Self Care' these days.

1.) This Breakfast Sandwich 
by Chrissy Teigen and John Legend.

If you don't own Chrissy Teigen's first cookbook Cravings, please do yourself a favor and rectify that asap. It is filled to the brim with mouth watering recipes, hilarious food introductions, and gorgeous photos (because when you're a supermodel, you're sadly burdened with the hardship of even looking sexy while eating a greasy cheeseburger and fries.)

One of the recipes in there is this divine breakfast sandwich that her husband makes, and it's become a regular weekend tradition this fall for me to make them for Luke and I on Saturday mornings.
Ok, but here's the thing: the first time I made it, I actually sort of messed up the recipe (I had bought regular pork sausage instead of ground pork, which is kind of, you know...a huge difference. whomp whomp.) so I just winged it after I realized my mistake...  BUT it turned out so good, that I've actually been making it the same way ever since! 
So here's what to do, mix :
1 lb breakfast sausage
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Form them into patties and cook them up in a pan on the stove. Then toast an english muffin and butter it on both sides. On the bottom half, add one of the sausage patties, top it with cheese (Chrissy unapologetically recommends American cheese slices in all of its trashy goodness and I happily submit to her authority), then a sunny side up egg. Drizzle Siracha all over the egg, then place the top half of the english muffin over it.

The runny egg yolk and siracha immediately join forces to make a crime-scene looking mess on your plate, but you won't even care because the sweet and spicy symphony is like a church choir of breakfast holiness in your mouth.
(On the messy note: This is NOT a first date breakfast sandwich. 
This is a 'We've been married for awhile and have lived through the stomach flu together' sandwich.)

(Unless you're Chrissy Teigen, who could probably still seduce someone while having the stomach flu.)

Anyway, whether you try my happy accident shortcut version or Chrissy's sausage recipe out of the book, pleeeeease make this sandwich sometime. It'll change your life. 

Possibly even end your life, if you eat them as often as we do, against your cardiologist's recommendations.

2.) My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Remember when I wrote about reading A Man Called Ove, and how it made me become a total Fredrik Backman fangirl because I enjoy his writing so much?
Well, let me tell you. He completely outdid himself with this one. 
And I'm so glad that my cousin gave me a copy for my birthday (Thanks, Olivia!) because I'm not quite sure that I would have picked up a book with that long of a title otherwise. (At least before I became a Fredrik B disciple. Now he could just publish user manuals for toaster ovens and I would line up to buy one.)
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry (I swear, I feel myself physically aging every time I say it out loud) is one of the most warmhearted and enchanting novels I've read in a while.
Backman just has this incredible gift for using the events of a story to turn antagonistic characters, who exceedingly bother you, into protagonists, who you end up loving and rooting for. We experienced that quite a bit in Ove, but even more so in this one, along with just a more complex, multi-faceted community of characters, whose mysterious backgrounds get revealed throughout the book.

Get it HERE, read it, gift it to everyone you know.

3.) Olaplex Hair System

Let me introduce you to some hair products so magical, they were obviously created at Hogwarts.
Back in January, my hair got super chemically damaged at a salon, and my beautiful hair became like straw. It was fried and brittle and just awful. It looked like a horse mane, and not in a good way. But THANKFULLY none of us were allowed to leave the house shortly after that! WHAT A RELIEF! 

My mom (who is also a hairstylist) sent me a few of the products from the Olaplex hair system, and the healing powers that went to work cannot be overstated. It didn't take long at all of using the Shampoo, Conditioner, Bond Smoother, and Bonding Oil for my hair to come back to life and become strong, shiny, and soft again. I honestly think my hair is probably nicer now than it ever has been.
The whole product line is not only incredibly good for your hair, but it's also all natural, environmentally friendly, and cruelty free. Basically if it was a person, it would 100% be marriage material.

So if you are in the process of trying to heal/grow out damaged or dry hair, this is a worthy investment. I say investment, because it's definitely not the cheapest products you'll ever buy, but I hope you know enough about me to trust that I wouldn't arbitrarily recommend expensive items unless I thought they were absolutely worth every penny. And this stuff is.

And it's actually a great last minute gift idea if you're shopping for someone who currently has hair turmoil. You can get it at Sephora or on the Olaplex website.

4.) The Queen's Gambit

Considering this show has already been out on Netflix for two full months, I assume a lot of you have already watched it. But I'm still going to rave about it, because it was just so great.
In this beautiful, coming-of-age miniseries, it follows the rise of a chess prodigy and orphan, Beth Harmon. I loved the way, as an audience, you felt like you were on this life journey with her, in her highs and in her lows. And the way they portrayed so many different hard issues, addiction being one of the primary ones, was masterfully done, I felt. They didn't glamorize the dysfunction, but really had you rooting for her sobriety and success, both in her professional and personal life, which I think was a really unique and wise choice from the creator's standpoint.
It was so enjoyable, brilliantly done, and the ending was so satisfying and wholesome.

Highly recommend! 

Honorable Mentions:

5.) The Crown

Confession: Luke and I hadn't ever watched The Crown until last month. 
But needless to say, once we started, we couldn't stop. As I'm sure you already know (because we are the last ones to show up to this party) it's just incredibly fascinating and beautifully done. The artistry of the settings, sound, editing, writing, and acting is just brilliant. All of it.

Although I will say this, no show has ever made me want to sign up for precautionary marriage counseling as much as this one does. Was there even one couple in the entire four seasons that had something resembling a healthy relationship? As much as I sometimes prefer starting a show when its been around for a few years so that I have plenty of episodes to watch, I think maybe watching 40 back-to-back episodes of a pretentious, emotionally vacant, adulterous family was kind of starting to stress me out towards the end there. I might need a deep tissue massage from all the Windsor-Mountbatten induced tension I'm carrying in my shoulders.
And let me tell you, as much as they set up younger Prince Charles' life predicament as very sympathetic in season 3, by the end of the whole thing, I had approximately ZERO PERCENT love and understanding in my soul for that man. 
The Lord is just going to have to a work on my heart about that, because until then I just wish misery on him and his narcissistic personality disorder. Please pray for me.

Anyway! I would also like to point out a personal observation about Princess Margaret:
 I truly believe that if I didn't have Jesus, and I had to try to live a life as a vivacious, free spirit in a hyper-controlled, suffocating prison like that... I, too, would ABSOLUTELY be a chain-smoking nut job, who spends her days getting toasted and being angry.
It honestly makes perfect sense, and my heart just aches for her :(
(Just her, not Charles.)

On the off chance we weren't actually the last people to jump on The Crown bandwagon, it's available on Netflix and in spite of my deep-seeded resentment towards A CERTAIN MALE HEIR, I highly recommend it.

6.) The West Wing

This fall, I rewatched what I consider to be one of the best television shows in history for the 3rd time, and every minute was enjoyable all over again.
Especially in light of this year's election and all of the political lunacy we've been surrounded by, it felt like the perfect timing to watch a show filled with characters who, whether you agree with their politics or not, genuinely have integrity and are always trying to do the right thing.  I adore this show, and I will always be uplifted and inspired by it in one way or another. And while I would happily write a doctoral dissertation on all things West Wing, here are some random and general observations I have about it:

-I think that Jed and Abby Bartlett have one of the sweetest and most realistic marriages portrayed on TV. Their flirty banter is so endearing, but they also really piss each other off at times and have it out in fights that get loud and passionate, but never abusive. They admit to their mistakes and regrets, and then move past them. And most of all, they are fiercely loyal to each other. I just think their relationship over the 7 seasons is just a beautiful example of a solid, loving partnership.
(Not to beat a dead horse, but maybe the British monarchy SHOULD TAKE SOME NOTES.)
(I'll stop now, I promise.)

- Josh and Donna's cute and witty rapport is everything. It's Aaron Sorkin's clever writing at it's finest.

- I find Toby's intense grumpiness positively charming. Whenever he loses his temper in escalating volume, I am almost always in a fit of giggles. I can't get enough of him.

-C.J. Cregg is my actual hero. She is just the epitome of a feminine class and strength in all of her intelligent, wise, fun, hard-working glory. I'm crazy about her. All Hail Claudia Jean!

-Even though Amy Gardner was a very inconsistent supporting character over the course of the show, I think that Mary Louise Parker is an absolute treasure. Her ability to come off as sharp and savvy, but somehow also kind, stonedat the same time, is adorable and hilarious to me.

-Speaking of supportive roles, I am an unapologetic Ainsley Hayes fan. How can you not love this perky little republican from the south who is as kind and constantly hungry as she is? I loved her role and the engaging dialogue they gave her character, I just wish there was more!

-I can't not mention Leo, Sam, Charlie, Will, and Debbie Fiderer, because if they were real people, I would beg them all to become my friends and/or adopt me.

The West Wing has been on Netflix for years, but I heard that it's leaving this month and going to be available on HBO Max instead, which is a bummer.
BUT another good option would be to get full seasons on DVD from your library.
Either way, it's something worth investing in, if you haven't already.

Alright you guys, I think we all agree that that was plenty of recommendations for now, and also that I get kind of weird when I'm shut in for too long. 

Let's just blame Charles.

Have a very Merry Christmas and an EXTRA celebratory New Year!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Guest Room Tour

 Well I should start out by saying that this room is located in the quasi-unfinished basement our house, so all of the framing, electrical, sheetrocking, mudding, taping, sanding, texturing, flooring, trim work, etc. was all done by us. 

And when I say "us", I obviously mean my husband.
(Although if some guys can get away with saying things like "we're pregnant", I should totally be able to take credit for contracting work that I watched someone else do, but whatever.)

There was a day though, that I stood on a chair, holding up ceiling board WITH MY HEAD while Luke drilled in all of the corners of sheetrock, and I take a lot of pride in that half hour of participation. 

Seriously, he did such a great job with the whole thing. I'm super proud of his work and thankful that God decided to make one of us incredibly detailed-oriented when it comes to measurements, so that the other one of us can be like "Eh, good enough" and focus on other important things like paint colors and thread counts. Once all the walls were up, I was free to paint and decorate, and I had a blast doing this whole room.

So I'll give a tour (as much as I can virtually), going clock-wise.

The floor is laminate-wood textured planks with beveled edges that we LOVE. Luke is usually a purist when it comes to building materials, but we needed a nice-looking, affordable flooring option for the guest room that was non-porous because basements often flood during the spring where we live. Thankfully we haven't had any water problems since we got these floors (and got new gutters. huh.) and they've held up beautifully for the past couple years.
They are incredibly easy to install, and we're planning on laying them down in the rest of the main basement area this spring, which I am oh so excited about it.

Next is my hope chest, which I inherited from my mom and finally gave a makeover to this last summer. 

It used to look like this, in all of its 1970's glory.
I had called my mom and said "Are you sure it's ok with you if I paint it? I mean.. it is cedar."

She was like "Um, I'll be upset if you DON'T paint it. That thing is hideous."
My mother, the sentimental fool. 
Same woman who sold her own wedding dress at a garage sale for $8.
At least I know where I get my attachment disorder from.

Anyway, I got the fabric and the pretty hardware for it from Hobby Lobby (the mothership), spray painted it white, and the whole thing turned out to be a Cinderella story for the ages.

This chair is the newest addition to this room and it still makes me swoon.
I got it from a discount store that sells overstock from places like Target, and the brand new stuff you can find there for cheap is amazing. 
(Minnesota friends, go to Cartfull in North Branch if you haven't already. It's where dreams come true.)

I found the cute pillow at Walmart.
Because home decor that casually greets you? Yes please!
But home decor that bosses you around? Umm... I'll Live, Laugh or Love whenever I dang well please, thank you very much. 

(This might not come as a surprise, but I was a very difficult child to parent.)

This is my travel-themed wall collage that I had been dreaming of putting in a guest room for yeeeeeaaars, so finally being able to do it was such a treat.

The vintage camera, street map of Rome, and mi Casa es su Casa were all free printables I found online that I framed.

The compass/arrow sign I made from a blank pallet sign from the craft section of Walmart, that I stained with Dark Walnut and then drew on with a white paint marker. So easy, its almost cheating.

That gorgeous canvas painting of the birch trees is actually from an artist in Wisconsin that my mom bought for me at a summer art fair.

The Adventure Awaits print and the wood arrow are both from Hobby Lobby.

We put two of the industrial shelves up (the ones I should be banned from because it's become an obsession and there are like 4-5 rooms in my house decorated with varying sizes of them. I can't stop.)
And on them are mostly just knick knacks from our life and travels- sand from Carmel Beach, books that were a really special gift to me, a matryoshka doll from my trip to Russia, some pictures from Ireland, etc.

Oh and then of course one of the really special fake plants I bought from when I travelled down to IKEA, by the Mall of America. 35 minutes from my house. 
 Those are the trips I'll always cherish most.

Speaking of Ikea, is a house even considered a home without at least 1-3 Hemnes bed frames in it?
Ours would definitely not be, because we have a Hemnes bed in every different size AND color, no joke. We love them.
They're surprisingly sturdy (anything from Ikea that doesn't wobble is always something I describe as "Surprisingly sturdy!") and they have wooden slats instead of requiring a box spring, which is the real selling point for us. 
The white duvet cover is also from Ikea, as are the pillows, as is my love for bizarre swedish things.

(The checkered throw pillow is from Walmart, and this one doesn't say anything to you.)

The wreath is from Hobby Lobby, and the empty window frame behind it is actually just some wooden dowels that we nailed together and spray painted, because I didn't have time to go dumpster diving for an actual window frame. Proving again, that cheaters always win.
(Joking. It's A JOKE.)

And then on this wall, I hung the pine boards that I stained (Dark Walnut again, because it's the Hemnes bed of stains.) and tacked bull clips onto, to hold some of my post card collection.

My vision for the room was for it to be more neutral toned (unlike the rest of my house, where I do abusive things with the color wheel), and that the travel theme would be just enough to give it a little panache, but still subtle and not overdone.

I'm really pleased with what a tranquil, pretty space it has become over the years we've worked on it.
Although some other selling points I forgot to mention are:

1.) There is no closet, so this whole room I've been showing you around is technically not even considered an actual room. We hope you prefer your clothes wrinkled.
2.) There isn't a bathroom in our basement yet, so you either have to go up a flight of steps or set up a chamber pot situation in the hallway down there. 
What can I say, we pride ourselves on our classy hospitality.
3.) I basically gave birth to three loud elephants, so our guests have the pleasure of receiving a 7am wake-up call through their ceiling, reminiscent of the stampede scene in Lion King, possibly accompanied with a voice yelling "CAN SOMEONE GET ME SOME MORE TOILET PAPER?"
We are nothing, if not considerate of each other's beauty sleep in this house.

The flip side of that coin, however, is that we always have good food and impeccable taste in television.
But I still understand if that doesn't entirely make up for the chamber pot thing.

If you're ever in the area and need a place to stay with zero peace and quiet, you're always welcome :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

 Once upon a time, 

I was a young, bright-eyed college student who worked as a server at The Olive Garden.

It sucked. 

The End.

I'm mostly kidding, of course. I think it's a great company, and I love going to The Olive Garden to this day whenever I'm in the mood to enjoy a 10,000 calorie meal surrounded by random Italian-esque architecture. (Both of which, I happen to always be in the mood for.)

I, however, am not kidding about how ridiculous it is to serve at any restaurant that has unlimited ANYTHING, let alone unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks. Seriously, don't do it. This is your conscience speaking and I'm telling you: Don't go in there and get seduced by that heavenly smell of buttery breadsticks or the idea of wearing a tie as part of your uniform, which you find kind of fun and sexy, in a 1920's gangster sort of way. Stop it. Turn around and go apply at Buffalo Wild Wings, so you can wear a fake football jersey to work like the dignified person you are. You're welcome.

Anyway! I happened to be working there when they first introduced their now iconic Chicken and Gnocchi Soup. I remember being at the staff meeting where we all got to taste it and get coached on how to say 'Gnocchi' correctly, so that we wouldn't make any embarrassing pronunciation blunders that would give the impression that this establishment wasn't 100% AUTHENTIC ITALIAN.

Even though I laughed while writing that just now, the good people at OG did actually do their homework and we were correctly taught that the true pronunciation is, in fact: 'Nyow-kee'.

I'll spare you the ugly details of an argument I got into with another student in Cosmetology school who absolutely insisted that it's pronounced 'NAW-CHEE' and that there was no way she was wrong because her "mOm iS iTaLiAn!" And this was before the days when cell phones held the almighty powers of Siri to have your back during these moments, so I eventually just gave up after realizing that I could be Clarence Darrow and still lose an argument to anyone who pulls out the Italian Mother card, because truth and accuracy become entirely relative after that. (See what I did there?)

That whole discussion still kind of haunts me, but it quickly became a favorite inside joke between me and my Dad, so we'll randomly say "Uhhh, it's called Naw-Chee. My Mom's Italian." in the middle of a conversation and that always makes me feel a little better.

Alright, I realize that was more of a complex tapestry of long-winded rants than you usually want to hear about soup, but I appreciate you letting me get it all off my chest.


Chicken and Gnocchi is delightful. It's creamy and flavorful and wonderfully satisfying on a cold day.

You can use homemade or store bought gnocchi. You can use cooked chicken breast or rotisserie chicken or even leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. You can chop carrots or use pre-shredded ones sold in a bag. You can add in the celery or leave it out if you think celery tastes like wet, crunchy soap. Basically, you can be a snobby purist or a convenience-driven cheater, because it doesn't matter. Just follow your heart. 

All that matters is how Gnocchi is pronounced. I don't care where your mom is from.


Chicken and Gnocchi Soup


3 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded

1 16oz. package of Gnocchi 

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 stalk of celery, chopped

3 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

4 cups chicken stock

1.5 cups half and half

3 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped

Salt and Pepper

Grated Parmesan


-Sauté butter, onion, garlic, carrots and celery for a couple minutes until soft.

-Add flour, cooking and whisking for a couple more minutes.

-Gradually add chicken broth, one cup at a time, whisking constantly.

-Gradually add half and half, heat to simmer.

-Add chicken and gnocchi (already cooked, according to package directions) Simmer on low for 10-20 minutes.

-Stir in the spinach and a handful of grated parmesan, and then salt and pepper to taste. 

-Ladle into bowls and add more parm, because it's the right thing to do. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Current Faves: A Big 2020 Dump Edition

Hi strangers! 

I decided to do a super-sized Current Faves post since I've barely blogged this year because I've become a lifeless, uncreative shell of a human being been super busy!

And by the way, the size of this post is what I was referring to by the word "dump" in it's title, and did not actually mean to insinuate that this entire year resembles the steamy, putrid content of a landfill or toilet.

(Although I'm also not going to deny that accusation, if I happened to hear it.
I'm here to enrich your lives with nice things, not sell you hurtful lies.)

Let's begin, shall we?

1.) On The Bright Side by Melanie Shankle

I've been a huge fan of Melanie's blog and books for yeeeeeeaars (I actually wrote about one of her memoirs in my very first Current Faves post) and her latest book On The Bright Side is not only an absolute delight to read but also divinely timed, considering how easy it is to only look on the not bright side these days, while we are constantly bombarded with horrible news.
Her writing voice is so witty and authentic, and it's my absolute favorite thing to get such a refreshing variety of topics in a book, anywhere from trusting God through rejection or in scary seasons of change, to the emotional, but beautiful, rollercoaster of raising teenagers; to the absolute most important clothing staples to have in your wardrobe. 
It's both poignantly deep and also a fun, breezy read. I love it all, and it's the book that this year needed. 
Get it on Amazon HERE.

2.) Ladder Toss

Ok, I realize that summer is basically over, but for those of you who still have plenty of bearable weather left in the year for your area- this lawn game is super fun. Some friends of ours brought it over in the spring and after having a blast playing it with them that evening, I ordered our own set the next day. 
I love having lawn games to enjoy with friends, whether it's just dinner with our closest buds or a big party. Similar to Cornhole, it's a 2-4 player game and it's components lend itself perfectly to making lots of mildly dirty jokes. 
(Not a joke, but I accidentally called the game "LADDER BALLS" for months on end before I could remember it's actual name. Awesome.)

Get it on Amazon HERE.

3.) The Mentalist

Let me just share something with you about myself, in case you didn't already know this:
Um.. essentially whenever a television network decides to create a procedural crime drama centered around a by-the-book cop who has to, for varying reasons, pair up with a talented, free-spirited consultant to solve murders and get into dangerous shenanigans with, while also navigating the tension of their romantic chemistry together.... I AM HERE FOR IT. Always!
I am literally their target audience.
I love them. I can't get enough.

Which is just one of the many reasons why I enjoyed The Mentalist, in addition to the fact that the main character is basically a hybrid of Sherlock Holmes and Jack Sparrow, which gives the show such a charming, whimsical feel to it, even in spite of its crime/mystery theme. And while it contained all of the aforementioned cute relational aspects that I love in a procedural crime drama, I did find it less cliche and predictable in a lot of ways.

The whole series is like Psych mixed with Castle mixed with NCIS.
(which all happen to be shows I love.)

All 7 seasons of The Mentalist are on Amazon Prime. Enjoy!

4.) This Pajama Set by Stars Above 

How do I even begin to describe a set of pajamas that not only look oh-so darling, but are also so luxuriously soft that they basically feel like you're wearing butter?

These beauties are from Target and I own 3 or 4 sets of them, in different prints and colors.
 And also the summer version, with shorts. Basically, I'm obsessed.

Fun Anecdote: I sported these pajamas at the front entrance of my kids' school this last Friday, for the whole local parent community to see!
Because of course the one day that I thought would be fine not getting dressed to drop them off in the carpool line, would actually turn out to be the day we would have a chaotic "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN'T FIND YOUR MASK?" crisis that would cause me to have to park and strip-search my car for an item that my kid wears the wrong way most of the time, and end up walking my kids across the street to the school doors in what were obviously the clothes I slept in.

The holy walk of shame. 
I feel like I've been officially baptized as a carpool parent.
And I've gotta say.. it wasn't as undignifying as it could have been.

Mainly because I was in these adorable, classy pajamas; and not an old In-N-Out t-shirt and boxer shorts.
Give yourself a gift, and get a set of this glorious sleepwear at your local Target or their website.

5.) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This was just the most charming, delightful read. 
It starts out introducing a grumpy, old man who hates everyone and has very little to live for. As the book progresses, you start seeing what experiences he had throughout his life that made him the way he is, while he also starts meeting new people who change his outlook on life and love and purpose.
It's captivating, enjoyable, and beautifully written. You'll love it.

Get it on Amazon HERE.

6.) Slip-on Canvas Sneakers

Meet my favorite shoe for the past 2 years.

I bought these cuties at Target a couple years ago, and instantly fell in love. 
Because they're an adorable, simple sneaker! 
With a small arch for those of us whose feet aren't shaped like skis! 
And memory foam and canvas that shape to the contour of our foot!
And they aren't too narrow and aren't too wide!
And you can slip them on easily and wear them without socks, even though some people find that gross! 
And they look great with jeans or leggings or your pajamas in your kid's school parking lot!
The possibilities and comfort levels are endless!

Get them at your local Target or their website.

7.) Get Organized with The Home Edit 

In case you didn't already jump on Netflix' newest bandwagon, I'm happy to introduce you to your next binge watch.
The Home Edit is a company created and run by Clea and Joanna, whose clients, whether average people or celebrities, hire them to come in and organize different spaces of their homes, offices, classrooms, etc. And let me tell you, as someone who basically gets an endorphin rush looking at cabinets and pantries and closets perfectly organized by size AND COLOR, this show had me drooling as much as watching Gordon Ramsey make a beef wellington.
Not only did I get a ton of organization inspiration and ideas from the episodes, but I also can't help but beam over these two amazing women running a company, who are brilliant and funny and totally supportive of each other. It's just the type of beautiful girl power that I totally gush over.
Their energy and positivity will make you smile non-stop, I highly recommend giving it a watch on Netflix.

8.) Snoop Dogg Wine 

Yes, you read that correctly.

I think at this point, we can't exactly say that this year has been aaaall garbage because first of all- it gave us Hamilton in our living rooms. 
I think God knew we needed that.
And now secondly- it gave us a decent wine with Snoop Dogg's face on the label.
I feel like we can all agree that this is the 2020 version of winning the lottery.

I've been a fan of 19 Crimes wine for years, so obviously trying this was a no brainer. Even though this one is a Cali Red, which tend to be fruity blends, and I usually prefer my red wines to be more dry and spicy (coincidentally also how I like my people), I still very much enjoyed this one.

Grab a bottle at your local liquor store and enjoy a glass while wearing your buttery pajamas and reading a book or watching peppy, adorable women organize Reese Witherspoon's closet. 
You'll thank me later.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Current Faves: Quarantine Edition

I'll be honest with you, it was a bit of a challenge to narrow down all of the possible titles for this Current Faves post, mostly because everything keeps changing so quickly! Some previous possible options were:

'Flights Are Super Cheap, Where Should We Go?' Edition

'Please Stop Yelling At Me, I JUST Washed My Hands' Edition

'My Hands Are Cracked And Bleeding, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?' Edition

'How Do I Refund This Unusable Airline Ticket?' Edition

'It's Time To Stop Making Out With Each Other, Please Take This Seriously' Edition

'A Great Substitute For Toilet Paper Is Kale' Edition

'Jesus Is Obviously Coming Back, Why Are We Still Doing Push-Ups?' Edition

The list goes on and on. In the end I decided to keep it simple, but I thought you'd appreciate knowing how difficult this process was.

I will admit that so far, other than my kids forcing me to sit through at least 87 musical reenactments of Frozen 2 (I must say, they're either really starting to get good or I'm losing my mind sooner than I expected) and me having to repeatedly tell my son that we are not going to rename our dog "Fart", we've been doing surprisingly well. I've felt a lot of God's grace the past 2 weeks in the forms of my kid's playing really well together (a miracle in itself), the weather being beautiful, and just a sense of peace and hope that has kept me going one day at a time. I've actually really appreciated doing life in the slow lane, especially because of how busy we all tend to be. 
Although we all know that too much of a good thing doesn't end well, so we'll see how long my sunny disposition will last before I go cuckoo for cocoa puffs and start buying dozens of feral cats online to be my new best friends..
Only time will tell I guess!

In the meantime, I'm happy to hunker down and let the amazing medical professionals do the hero work that they trained for at the Hogwarts School for Jedi Masters and Agents of SHIELD or wherever they graduated from, and pray that this thing goes away quickly.

Here's some of the things that have kept me enjoying this weirdly surreal season of life:

1.) My New Puppy

Any of you who keep up with me on social media know that we have a new addition to our household in the form of a Very Good Boy named Captain, and there could not have been a better time for him to join us! He's really settled in with us well, and we've had so much more opportunity to focus on house training and crate training him than if we were still the busy little bees that we were 3 weeks ago. He is such a sweetie and we absolutely love him.

Another reason this dog's presence in our life has been serendipitous timing, is that that it's forced me to go outside multiple times a day, and getting so much fresh air on all of these walks with him has been really good for my mental health.
(Also my physical health, because I've literally been baking almost every day, so unless I try to balance all of these delicious carbs out with some exercise, I'm going to look like Jabba the Hut when this is over.)

He's been surprisingly hard to take pictures of because he's fallen slightly in love with me, or at least that's what I assume the emotion is behind someone trying to constantly sit on your face, rendering photography attempts futile.
(But the feeling is entirely mutual, even though I express myself in much more dignified fashions. Like spending one of his first nights here sleeping on the cold, hard bathroom floor with him, in a puddle of his urine. You know.. that kind of dignity.)

2.) Knives Out 

Oh, you guys. This was a good one.

I remember Knives Out being in theaters this last winter, around the same time that we were all going to see the last Star Wars (where was the stimulus package to get all of our money back from THAT, huh? Whatever, I'm over it.) and I couldn't wait to see it.
It became digitally available last week and let me tell you, we enjoyed every minute of it.

After the death of a rich family patriarch (Christopher Plummer), which very obviously looks like a suicide, a detective (Daniel Craig) joins the police investigation to interview the deceased's family and staff to find out what really happened. Seeing different perspectives of the previous night's events from each person who is questioned, you try to put the pieces all together of what actually happened, right up until the middle of the movie, when it shows how Christopher Plummer's character actually died. BUT THEN it becomes all about certain characters trying to keep the truth hidden, keeping you on the edge of your seat with twists and turns and a surprising finale.
 The whole movie has the colorful excitement of a quintessential whodunnit, while still adding original intrigue and constant suspense throughout the story.
The cast of actors did amazing, and it was so refreshing for a modern movie to be made like a classic mystery, but with better writing and quality filmmaking, and still free of gore and smut.

You HAVE to see it. And may I respectfully point have no excuse not to.
 I mean, what else do you have going on right now? I say that in love.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon prime.

3.) Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

I had seen multiple people recommend this book over the past couple years, but it wasn't until my friend Karie grabbed my hand and with wide, crazy eyes pleaded with me to read it, that I jumped on the bandwagon. I recognized those very same crazy eyes, because I too wear them whenever I passionately try to talk someone into experiencing something that I just know they will love, so obviously I took her recommendation seriously.
And she was not wrong, you guys. This book is a gem.
Written from the point of view of an eccentric single woman, Eleanor Oliphant, it follows her thoughts and life happenings as her usually-consistent world starts changing for the better and she's slowly forced to confront the things in her past that have made her keep people at a distance for so long. The whole story is just charming and witty and weird and delightful, and you can't help but root for this odd, quirky heroine (who has some serious Dwight Schrute tendancies) and be overwhelmed with compassion for her as she stumbles through this sweet, hard journey of making a beautiful life for herself.

Get it on Amazon HERE either in actual book form, or audiobook (which a free trial is available for right now!)

 4.) DIY Card Display Boards

If there was ever a time in life to get our craft on... that time is now.

This particular project has been on my to-do list for over a year now, and I'm so tickled to finally have it done.
My guest room downstairs has a travel theme to it, and I really wanted a fun, pretty way to display a lot of the postcards that I've collected over the years from our different travels and the ones we've been sent by friends and family. I saw these boards on Pinterest and my search was over.

They're just stained 2x4's (but you could just as easily use pallets!) with bulldog clips tacked into them. So easy and fun and rustic. And I love that you could use them for displaying christmas cards or photos, I might even make more just for those purposes.
Here are links for the bulldog clips and tacks, and I have full faith in you to find the wood on your own. (So many jokes, so little time.)

Anyway, that's all for now.
 I really hope that the next time I post about my current faves, it will be something along the lines of 'We're Finally Free!' Edition.

And hopefully not 'I Take Back My Advice, Kale Does Not Work' Edition.