Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Current Faves: Am I The Last One To This Party? Edition

Hello, friends! I haven't done a Current Faves post in a while and it feels good to be back, although I'll warn you right now that most of these are not new things. Just things that I have recently discovered and fallen in love with, so I'm fully aware that my delayed enthusiasm might be met with a bunch "Yeah, duh''s, and I've made peace with that.
But on the off chance that you're like me, and don't keep up with every trending thing because you're busy rewatching old episodes of Monk living your best life, let me introduce you to some of my new delights and maybe they will become yours too.

1.) The Good Place

Alright, I'll admit that I didn't jump on The Good Place wagon until about a month ago, when the show was basically finishing up it's final season. Much like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, none of the previews I had seen for it really convinced me that it was anything to write home about. But when I finally did watch it, after my little brother assured me that I would love it, I was ALL IN, BABY.

First of all, I've never watched a show that takes so many twists and turns out of left field, and still maintains such superior quality. I mean, let's face it, typically when a show's writers decide to completely flip the plot upside down, it's usually out of desperation to stay on the air or just poor writing (looking at you, LOST. Or Rachel and Joey Dating!) and it usually bites the dust.
 But it seems like we are pretty much always safe in the hands of Michael Shur, who also created The Office and Parks and Recreation, and was obviously just put here on earth to make us all laugh.

Second of all, the cast is STELLAR. Ted Danson and Kristen Bell are already national treasures who must be protected and preserved at all costs, but then there's the other 4 main leads of the show, who were more up-and-comers when it started and who have proven to be absolutely phenomenal. Each lead character is so perfectly (and hilariously) written and well-acted, it immediately draws you in and keeps you wanting more of each of their flavor.

I really can't give you a decent enough synopsis of the show without spoiling any of the twists, but please just trust me, my darlings, and know I would never lead you astray.
It's pure magic from start to finish and I wish I could sit on the couch with each one of you and watch you laugh and gasp and laugh some more. 
(...That's not creepy right? I'm not only one who likes watching people watch things that I like? I never thought it was, but now that I write it out, I suddenly have Every Breath You Take by The Police ringing in my head and I'm wondering if I should maybe not emphasize my love for watching people so much..)

Seasons 1-3 are on Netflix and the 4th (last) season is available on YouTube TV (and probably a lot of other places because it's 2020 and Alexa runs the world.)

2.) Hot Ones on Youtube

And speaking of being very late to the party, I didn't actually know that my favorite YouTube child, Hot Ones, existed until this past fall (even though it began back in 2015!)

Sean Evans hosts this fantastic show, where in each episode he interviews a celebrity while they both eat a platter of increasingly spicy hot wings. So not only does the context of what they're doing (suffering through painfully spicy food) create this unique atmosphere of making the interviewee comically vulnerable, but the questions that Sean Evans asks are OUTSTANDING. The show obviously has an amazing research team, that dives into the subject's life/education background and career history so well that only the most interesting and off-the-wall questions are being asked and answered. But even while his guests are put a little off-kilter, what with the surprisingly thoughtful questions (which is probably more rare for them than not) and simultaneous physical pain they're experiencing, he also is so naturally gifted at putting people at ease and connecting well.

Some of my all time favorite episodes were Gordon Ramsey, Paul Rudd, Nick Offerman, Ashton Kutcher, Aubrey Plaza, Michael Cera, Dax Shepherd, Kristin Bell, Idris Elba and so many more that it's just silly to keep rattling them off. The likelihood that you've already seen or at least heard of this is pretty high, but if not, check out their page on YouTube and find one with someone you enjoy. I think you'll love it.

True Confession: I think this may be my dream job, you guys. 
So I need your advice, can you think of anyone who is looking to hire someone to cheerfully interrogate people about random aspects of their life while eating? If so, please tell them that I'm a team player, very punctual, and not above getting paid in food. 
Keep me posted.

3.) The Office Ladies Podcast

So technically I'm not too far behind when it comes to this one, because Office Ladies is fairly new and I started listening in once they had a couple episodes posted.
Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer started this adorable rewatch podcast, where they are chronologically doing a podcast episode for every episode of The Office and they talk about what it was like to film each episode. It's sooooo cute and fun.
First of all, Jenna and Angela are best friends in real life, which makes this even more amazing, not only because of the awkward tension their characters had on the show and the irony of that, but also because their banter in real life is just so down-to-earth and adorable. They encourage each other and tease each other and crack each other up and it just feels like such a gift to be apart of what they have and the perspective they give on what it was like on the set of such an iconic TV show.
For me, one of the most endearing aspects of their rapport is that they're such normal people. They frequently mention feeling dorky and out-of-place at big hollywood parties, or dealing with obnoxious actors who are "on" all the time, or the embarrassing learning curves of how to do red carpet situations. It's just all so charming, because they're so real about it.
They also have had a bunch of guest starts on to chat with them about whatever said episode they're on, like Rainn Wilson, Paul Feig, Creed Bratton, and Melora Hardin to name a few.

Anyway, as an Office enthusiast (who just rewatched all the seasons back in December), I've been so tickled by this podcast that gives so many behind-the-scenes views of what they went through to make each episode. Plus I am just a huge fan in general of a couple of women starting a successful endeavor, especially when they are still able to stay true to their authentic selves.
You go, girls.

I just dig this show, and I think you would too (if you haven't already gotten on board.)
Find it wherever podcasts are available, or on Earwolf for ad-free listening.

4.) Smitten Kitchen Every Day

To go back to my theme of This Is Not New, You're Just Late, I'd like to tell you about the Smitten Kitchen cookbook that came out over two years ago, but I just got as a gift this last Christmas.
To be fair, I have been a disciple of Deb Perelman for years and even just following her social media accounts, when she gets out some chicken and says "jump", I get out my trampoline and say "Yes, Chef!"

I've made a couple of the recipes out of this book so far, but my all-time favorite has been her Street Cart Style Chicken and Rice.
Fun Fact: my friend Johanna made this meal for us a year or two ago and brought it over when we had a foster baby, and I'm pretty sure I was solely responsible for shoveling 90% of it down, and I always wondered what kind of dark magic she had started playing around with to make such a simple dish SO delicious. And now it all makes sense (in a non-sorcery involved sencario.)

These chicken thighs, marinaded in a lemon juice/paprika/cumin/coriander sauce and then cooked in a skillet, alongside a flavorful turmeric rice, taste like SAVORY CANDY. I made this dish three times in one month, and my family was not only fine with it, they kept asking for it again. And all the friends I've made it for have asked for the recipe.
Let's face it, for food that doesn't have any illegal narcotics in it, that's SUSPICIOUSLY addicting.

There's a lot of quality food in this book, but it's honestly worth to buy just for this.
You can get it HERE on Amazon
(Or psst, you can just ask me for the recipe and I'll text you screenshots of the pages.)

Well there you go, I hope you've enjoyed thinking 'Been There, Done That, Elise' for the last couple minutes, but on the off chance some of this is new to you, I hope you check it out and it dazzles your whole world.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Goodbye Fall, Hello Winter

And suddenly, the year is almost over.

We've had a fun and busy fall and, just like life always is, a constant state of juggling. 
I overall enjoy the level of busy that our family lives in, because it's not too much and not too little, but with it still comes the common frustration that I'm not an actual superhero and can only juggle so many balls at once. So if there's a week or month that I'm able to keep up with all of the laundry, AND the kids are on track with their schoolwork, AND maybe I'm able to get through a book or two that I've been wanting to read... then that probably means that I haven't exercised, OR been able to write much, OR caught up with my closest friends in a while. And vice versa. 
Which leaves me with the continual decision to choose to be content in life with the things I am doing, even in spite of the things I'm not. Some balls get juggled while other balls don't. Then sometimes we need to put certain balls down so that others can get picked up again. There are some seasons when we have the energy and bandwidth to juggle more balls than usual, and some seasons where we can only do the bare minimum.
And THAT... is ok. 
And we just have to keep encouraging ourselves that it is.

And now that I've said the word BALLS enough, here's what we've been up to the past couple months: 

1.) Boaz and Vienna are a part of their christian scout clubs, Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls.

Luke has been taking Boaz to Trail Life since last January, but then Vienna just joined it's female counterpart, American Heritage Girls, this last September. It's been such a blessing for them to go to weekly meetings at our church, where they earn badges for community service and learning knowledge and skills about anything from outdoor/wilderness expertise to the arts to cooking to travel to history to botany, and so on and so forth. They totally love it and it's become a sweet community of familiar friends.
 But obviously one of the most exciting parts about it for them is: The Uniform.
Such class. Such distinction. 
Is there anything better than doing an activity that has it's own outfit?
Not to us, there's not!

Here's Luke with Boaz and one of his best buddies, Azriel, who totally love each other because they are two overly-energetic peas in a pod. His mom and I have shared many fond memories wandering around the church together, looking for our sons who are usually off somewhere letting their vivacious curiosity get the better of them.
Last month the dads and their sons did the pinewood derby car race, and Boaz's car won 3rd place for design. It was definitely a proud mom moment for me, and it made his heart happy to come home with a little trophy. 

2.) I signed the kids up for swim lessons, starting the first week of school, because I'm A CRAZY PERSON.

I mean, yes, swimming is one of those important life skills that I'd prefer my kids have a handle on for the sake of my own anxiety their survival, but WHO in their right mind decides that September, out of all the months, would be a good time to add ONE MORE THING to their calendar?
Well, I did and I don't understand what insane ambition to came over me while I typed and clicked away on their registration forms, but I am begging you.... please don't let me ever do this again.
Because putting your kids in swimsuits at 5pm every Thursday (you know, the time to be EATING DINNER), when you have something going on almost every other day of the week, is what lunatics do. 
But whatever, they're that much closer to never drowning, so we sucked it up for 8 weeks of extra-busyness and called it a win. 

Oh and hey, speaking of more lunacy..

3.) We also decided to pack up and go camping the first week of school!

Here's an approximate timeline of my thought process:

Me and Luke, in late July: Hey! We should totally go camping up north in early September because we homeschool and have the freedom to take random trips whenever we want!

Me, in August: Huh..our schedule is filling up a lot for that month, I wonder if we might have not thought this camping thing all the way through.. Ooh look, a discounted swim class available! *registers*

Me, after Labor Day, trying to juggle starting school at home and at co-op, swim lessons, sunday school, new volunteer positions, and now packing up to pretend to be homeless in a state park for 3 days: 

But even though the timing of getting ready for it was totally chaotic, the trip itself was actually really amazing. 

We drove our truck and pop-up camper a couple hours north to Savannah Portage State Park, and ended up being on one of the best lots of the whole campground.

I mean...THIS was the view from our camper.
That lake and dock was so quiet and beautifully peaceful, it was almost unreal. And being able to just soak in all of the fall colors made our time there that much more amazing.

We spent the weekend going on fun hikes and building bonfires and carving wood and making food together, and in spite of the initial stress of trying to get ready for it, it was exactly the trip our family needed.
Although, I will say this...my pancakes-made-on-a-cast-iron-griddle game needs some work. I'm way too perfectionistic about food to tolerate this burnt on the outside, uncooked on the inside nonsense that an overly-hot griddle ends up giving you.
 I mean, is it too much to ask for a place to hook up a quality electric griddle to make some decent pancakes in the wilderness? I don't think so! Because WE'RE NOT ACTUALLY HOMELESS, JUST PRETENDING.

Anyway, our initial fall pandemonium simmered down, we got into a groove, and I learned some hard lessons in not over-scheduling us in future Septembers. And then one day, fall was basically over.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with family and then immediately rearranged our house to bedazzle it for Christmas. 

My favorite decoration has become this collection of all of our family's Christmas cards that we've sent out since Vienna was a baby. I don't know how or why I had saved a copy from all of those early years, but my hoarding turned out to be a huge blessing when I decided to start doing this in 2017.

Anyway, that basically catches us up to now. We've been in the throws of holiday to-do's, which has thankfully just been good and not soul-sucking, because we say 'No' to a lot during the holidays, so that we can keep it enjoyably peaceful. 
(Note to myself: You know these good boundaries you have that helps you balance the holidays pretty well? HAVE THOSE IN AUGUST TOO.)

 Well, even though Fall has basically been declared over, I am a believer that pumpkin-themed foods transcend both fall AND winter, so I wanted to share a recipe of a Pumpkin Soup I made in October which was delicious and psst, is even more delicious if you add bourbon. And bacon. And goat cheese. And bread.
I guess you could technically just have bourbon, bacon, cheese, and bread for the entire meal and just skip the soup altogether!

But in case you wanted a dinner with more of the food pyramid involved than just booze and carbs, here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Sage Soup
courtesy of Aldi US

3 medium onions, peeled and diced 
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 
3 ribs of celery, halved and sliced 
4 cloves of garlic, peeled 
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced 
3 large Idaho russet potatoes, peeled and diced 
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced 
1/2 cup Brown Sugar 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
3 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper, divided 
3 teaspoons Iodized Salt, divided 
4 15-ounce cans  100% Pure Canned Pumpkin
2 32-ounce cartons Vegetable Stock
16 ounces Heavy Whipping Cream 
1 French Baguette, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices on an angle
 Gouda, sliced
 Fresh Parsley, chopped, as garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. 
  2. Combine onion, carrots, celery, garlic, apples, potatoes, sage and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add olive oil, 2 teaspoons black pepper and 2 teaspoons salt and mix thoroughly. Place in a roasting pan and roast in oven for 30 minutes until fork tender. Halfway through the cooking process, stir vegetables to ensure even cooking. 
  3. In a large pot, combine roasted vegetable mixture, pumpkin, vegetable stock, 
    1 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. 
  4. Transfer mixture, in batches, to blender and process until smooth. 
  5. Return soup to pot. {Elise's Advice: add 1/4 cup of bourbon right now and let simmer for 10 minutes.) Add cream, adjust seasoning, if needed. 
  6. Place slices of baguette on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, top each slice with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes until cheese is melted. 
  7. Divide soup into bowls, place two slices of baguette onto each bowl of soup and garnish with parsley. (Elise's Advice: Top with chopped bacon and goat cheese)

Monday, August 5, 2019

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies

This might be a pretty uncool thing to say, but cookies might be my all-time favorite breakfast dessert.

Yes-- I love cake, ice cream is good, cobblers and pies are fine, and you can never go wrong with a good hot fudge brownie-- but, I honestly just think that cookies are superior to them all.

And here's the interesting thing about cookies: even though they are probably the most casual of sweet things and have reputation for being the cool, fun person that you want at every party, they are actually probably one of the most touchy, least-forgiving of the common desserts, in my opinion.
(Oh my gosh, cookies are the Taylor Swift of baked goods!)
Not only do they have more of a drastic difference between store-bought and homemade than most other desserts, but you can mess them up pretty easily by over-baking them or leaving them on the pan for too long or just having a sup-par recipe.

Because of my love and respect for chocolate chip cookies in particular, I spent a couple of years trying out tons of different recipes in search for THE ONE. The perfect, cookie soulmate.
(This was also during the years I was chronically pregnant and nursing babies all day, so I had the time and motivation to commit to such a noble cause.)

And, you guys, I'm proud to say that my pathetic life priorities TOTALLY paid off because I found it.
The perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

They're thick and chewy and moist (sorry.. there's really no way to warn people when that word is going to pop up out of nowhere) and perfect.

It turns out that the secret all along was: corn starch! Who knew?
Also, I like to use milk chocolate chips, rather than semi-sweet, which can get a little too rich.

Say goodbye to thin, dry, crispy cookie imposters forever, because your heroes have arrived.
The only possible downside I can think of to making these would be that people might start only liking you for the cookies and then you won't know who your real friends are. 
(Which must be how Taylor feels all the time, poor thing.)

But, who cares! You'll have cookies to drown your sorrows in!

Enjoy :)

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies
(found somewhere on the internet with a link that no longer works)

3/4 cup (a stick and a half) softened butter
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons corn starch 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Cream butter and sugars together, mix in beaten egg and vanilla
-Add dry ingredients, then chocolate chips.
-Drop spoonfuls on ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes (edges should be golden)
-Transfer to a cooling rack and try not to devour all at once.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Marriage: 9 Years/9 Reminders

Photo by Kuenne Photography

This summer, Luke and I celebrated our 9 year anniversary and this fall, we will have been together for 10.
I love being married and I love the way that it's changed and grown me.
But it's hard.
And it takes a lot of fighting for our marriage for it to be good and healthy. Sometimes fighting each other, but mostly fighting ourselves.
Luke and I had both been hurt by marital dysfunction and divorce before we said our vows, which made those vows that much more important to us. We were going to make this work, or die trying. What we had seen was that marriages never suddenly break. They crumble. 
Grain by grain. Hurt by hurt.  Divorces are never sudden, they are always years in the making, no matter what the circumstances involved. 
We've also seen lots of God's grace and healing and redemption through those crappy circumstances. There are no ashes that He can't make beautiful again.

Even though 9 years is nothing in the grand scheme of things (if anything, the longer you are married, the more you realize how LITTLE you know), I feel like time and life have shown me what the important things are. The things I need to be constantly reminding myself of, to grow in or not get lazy about, that keep my marriage from crumbling and make it sweet and safe and lasting.

(None of these are fixes or bandaids for abusive or toxic relationships, please don't hear that. There is a lot of additional help, like counseling and law enforcement, that is absolutely necessary for those.)

This is not a How To list written by an expert, but a Reminder list written by a sinner.
If anything, this list is for myself. 
But I hope it encourages you and your marriage too.

1.) Be kind to each other.

We can check off all of the lists of best practices in marriage we want. But things like ‘Weekly Date Nights’ or ‘Never Going To Bed Angry’ won’t matter at all if we overlook this simplicity in its purest forms.

Being harsh and sarcastic and cutting each other down will cause more damage than we realize in the moment.
Being gentle and kind and patient and encouraging will always go farther than we could ever imagine.

 There are plenty of ways to joke or flirt or call each other out without taking low blows. Work hard to make genuine kindness the primary language of your home. The rewards of it will last long and leave a sweet legacy.

2.) Say “I’m sorry”, quickly and often.

Say it about the little things and the big things. 
Say it before we dig our heels in and fire back.
Say it without adding “but, if you hadn’t…” afterwards.
Say it in front of our kids so that they learn how to say it.

Say it because we value humility over arrogance.
Say it because we love our spouse more than we love our our own pride.

3.) Forgive, quickly and often.

Bottom line, we can forgive, because we’ve been forgiven. 
I can give Luke mercy over the little things and the big things, because he’s given me mercy over a million little things and plenty of big things. 
Even if he hadn’t, God has forgiven me of even more. Way more than I deserve.
When we know how desperately in need we are of forgiveness, it becomes easier to extend it.

Forgiveness doesn’t equal trust. But trust can be restored too. 

4.) Have good sex.

The world is constantly yelling in our ears all sorts of things about sex, and the Church has a sad history of barely whispering about it, if not being completely silent on the subject.

So let me turn up the volume a bit. Here’s what I mean by good sex: 

Hot, passionate sex. 
Clumsy, laughing sex. 
Half-clothed, quickie sex. 
Sick, tired sex. 
Crying sex. 
Grief sex. 

The sum of all of these parts is good sex. Not elevating one of them as the standard of success or failure, but having and appreciating it all. In different days, weeks, and seasons and frequencies.

Good sex changes with two people who are changing together. 
Good sex keeps other people out of the bedroom, whether they are real or a fantasy or behind a screen. 
Good sex is honest, and puts love and grace to where shame is. 
(Read that again. Until you believe it.)

Good sex has magical healing properties. Have it often and watch what happens.

5.)  Speak truth to the lies.

They don't love me. They don't see me. They don't care.

The list goes on and on and the lies get way more specific and way more ugly. 
But those things we believe when we're hurt or lonely are usually just that: lies.
Even when the busyness of life and both of our own selfishness makes a mess of things, there is usually always at least some evidence around us that contradicts the lies. Evidence of them loving us and seeing us and caring for us, even if it's not shown in the way we'd prefer.
There are also a million reasons why we married our spouse in the first place, and those are worth remembering when we start going down the dark hole.

See the lies for what they are, speak truth to them, and fight to believe the best of each other.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  
1 Corinthians 13:7

6.) Have each other's backs.

This covers a lot of different areas and looks different in each one.
It could mean picking up the slack when they're overwhelmed, or being the family cheerleader when they're down. (Or it could mean the opposite: not being Pollyanna for a few minutes and just being real and empathetic.)
It always means:
Being there for them to process hard things. Protecting their vulnerability. Not trashing them to our friends or family. Challenging them to be the best version of themselves. Being fiercely loyal.

Translation: Just be a good friend.

7.) Have good friends.

I’m a big believer in the importance of having deep, healthy friendships outside of marriage, for the sake of your marriage. In our closest friendships, we encourage each other, challenge each other, get REALLY vulnerable, have a lot of fun, never compete with each other, watch each other’s backs, and preach the Gospel to one another. 
 Luke and I regularly encourage each other to go out and spend time with our friends, because we know how important it is for our souls. (And we only get close with people who root for both of us and our marriage, and never against it.) The ways that both of our close friendships and our couple friends have grown us and been a safe haven have only helped our relationship.

Take the time to invest in close friendships and find couple friends. They keep your marriage stronger and make life more fun.

8.) Don’t expect them to be you.

Or you to be them. The differences of each team member are what makes them good. The differences are almost as important as our common ground.

Not everyone should be the quarterback on a team or the drummer of a band or the color red in a painting. It would be a boring, sad, dysfunctional unit if everyone was doing and acting the same. What makes anything beautiful is the combination of unique traits. 

It can sometimes drive us crazy to deal or work with people who aren't like us or who we can't understand. But there's so much good purpose in that.
Look at your marriage and see the beauty of the different qualities that you both bring to the table. Don't try to homogenize the colorful life out of it, welcome and appreciate it.
Because God will use your differences to make you both better.
And your team has way more to offer this way, than if it was just you.

9.) Don’t expect them to make you happy.

Let me explain. 
There will be, or should be, lots of happiness. 
Joking and laughing and fun and romance and intimacy are a must. Those things are gifts, and they create a deep and unique bond that fill our hearts with life and joy.

But there is a longing in every soul that’s deeper than that. It’s a desire to be known and loved and understood and satisfied. And no matter how often we ask other humans (particularly our spouse) to fulfill that sense of belonging and value, they won’t ever fully be able to. 
And often without realizing, we end up resenting it and punishing them for it.

Only God can fill that void, because He created us to have it. 
We were always meant to be satisfied by Him. 
And sin broke that. But when we put our trust in Him, and our restless souls are filled with His word and prayer and community with other believers, our void is filled. And our souls find rest.

I know I’ve used this meal analogy before (food is my thing, ok?), but it’s applicable here too:
Marriage isn’t dinner. It’s dessert. We need to stop asking it to fill us up. 
It’s meant to be enjoyed when we’re already full.

The person sleeping next to us can’t ultimately make us happy in life. 
Our kids can’t either. Neither can our jobs or our hobbies.

But Jesus can. And no matter how much we’ve run from or avoided Him, He welcomes us home with open arms every single time.

Experiencing God's love and grace doesn't just give rest to our restless souls, but it makes us able to love others for who they are, instead of who we want them to be. Especially the person we're married to. 

This is will always be the most important reminder to myself and Luke's to himself. And our constant prayer for our marriage. That God would bind our wandering hearts to himself, and keep us trusting and seeking Him together and fighting for each other.
 Until the end of our days.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Current Faves: Colorado or Bust Edition

Tonight we are heading out on a family road trip to Colorado, where Luke and I are from.  We have all sorts of fun things planned, like trips to the Zoo and Garden of the Gods, a spa day with just me and my mom, and some get togethers with friends and family. 
After the last couple months we've had, we've been really looking forward to the quality time together and the relaxation.

(You really can't help but relax in a place where the air is so thin. Also because everywhere you go there's at least a small whiff of pot.)
(Just kidding.)
(Sort of.)

Anyway! We like to do the majority of our road trip driving through the night, so that our kids sleep as much as possible (limiting bathroom stops and "Are we there yet?''s) and we have as much time with family as possible, even if we're completely loopy once we get there.

But before we head out, I wanted to share some of my current favorite things with you:

1.) As You Wish (The Audiobook)

I'm convinced that there are only two types of people in this world:
1.) People who LOVE The Princess Bride, and grew up watching and quoting it regularly.
2.) People who have never seen The Princess Bride.

If you're in the first category and you haven't read As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (the actor who plays Wesley) please stop reading this right now and go find a copy.
Specifically a copy of the audiobook, and here's why: not only does Cary read it himself, making it that much more endearing and personal, but his impression of Rob Reiner whenever he's quoting him is pure gold. It makes me smile or laugh EVERY TIME. Also there are excerpts from the other actors/filmmakers (like Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, etc.) who voice it themselves and it makes it that much more special to hear their experiences from them.
This book is such a gem because he lets you in on what it was like to make the movie that most of us consider to be a magical part of our childhood or adolescence. He shares what it was like to be cast as Wesley, the search for his counterpart which would be Robin Wright, mishaps and disasters that almost ruined the movie, the nerve-wrecking intensity of having to learn sword fighting from scratch, and so many incredible stories about the lovable Andre the Giant.
It's completely enchanting from start to finish, and will make you appreciate the movie in new ways.
Luke and I are planning on listening to it (again!) on our trip tonight.

It's available on Amazon, Audible, or at your local library.

2.) My New Hobby Lobby Earrings 

Yes, you read that right- they're from Hobby Lobby! I almost didn't get them because I have a problem with stripes (the problem is that I love them and half of my wardrobe is striped), but I decided to throw caution to the wind and I'm so glad I did.
In general I'm drawn to big, leathery earrings (which these are) and I've found that the black and white stripes stand out in an unusual but really cute way. I've gotten compliments on them every time I wear them, and YOU CAN TOO!

Go grab them for $6.99 (which is basically stealing), and some of their other cute earrings while you're at it (I've got my eye on those blue leafy ones too).
 You can find them up at the front towards the registers. 
(Right past the magnets, bibles, Joyce Meyer books, and those TY stuffed animals with the big, creepy eyes.)

3.) Seasoned Tuna Packets

Okay, I realize that packaged tuna can definitely be filed under 'bizarre things to get excited and or/write about', but you know how I get when I'm jazzed about something and there's no stopping that train. Plus, let's face it, I'm sure I've written about and recommended weirder things to you than this.

These have been my go-to summer lunch or snack, because they are so magnificently flavorful for something so easy and healthy. Both brands Bumble Bee and Starkist offer a ton of different flavors (found in the aisle with the canned fish), my personal favorites being the Lemon Sesame & Ginger and the Spicy Thai Chili (followed closely by the Siracha). You can eat them on their own (yes, they are that good) but I usually try to involve an avocado, maybe some hard boiled egg and cucumber.

They go for a buck a piece, people. They are so refreshing and delicious, you need them in your life.
So please.. move past the concerning fact that I just spent time out of my day writing about tuna, and trust me on this. You will not be disappointed. 

4.) My New-ish Boxing Gloves/Bag

Earlier this spring, I got myself some boxing gloves and a punching bag (which Luke hung in our basement for me) and it's been awesome.
I wanted a different exercise option at home other than workout videos or lifting small weights, and because I have hyper-mobility (douple-jointed!), a lot of standard exercises like push-ups are hard on me and my over-flexible limbs and joints. (I'm like Elastigirl! Except that she can use her powers to save the world whereas I'm borderline useless. Other than that, we are basically the same.)

But I've always enjoyed kickboxing, and am able to work muscles that I usually have a harder time getting to, like my shoulders and certain arm areas. Plus I've loved that depending on the intensity and pace, I can get a really good full-body workout in a pretty short amount of time.

Punching bags can be pretty easy to find on Craigslist or at sporting goods stores, and the Everlast gloves (make sure to buy hand wraps too) are pretty widely available. I got mine HERE.

If you have the space for it, and you're looking for a treadmill or workout video alternative, this might be a fun option for you.

Plus, lets face it, you guys.... it's just fun to punch stuff.
Enough said.

Well, thats all for now.
 I have to go finish packing and make sure the kids didn't smuggle anything weird into their stuff, like I don't know.. the cat.
OR a bunch of sauce packets from Taco Bell (this has happened before and ended horribly.)