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.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

A Confession On International Women's Day

Well I’ve got a few things to get off my chest on International Women's Day.

First of which is...
I used to think that this day was really stupid. 

(Bear with me here.) 

I think that a lot of that apathy came from the fact that I was blessed to be raised in a home where the women (along with our thoughts/giftings/status) who lived in and came through it, were just as valuable as the men. Our loud family table, filled with food and wine and belly laughs and heated debates, was always surrounded by an organic diversity of gender and color and culture. And frankly, it kind of ruined me a little.
Only in the sense that for a while it made me a little naive about the reality of sexism(and racism) and fueled a confusion and lack of understanding when it came to modern feminism. 
I also noticed early on that a lot of behavior coming out of hollywood and political arenas done in the name of “equality” were (and often still are) actually just a fight for superiority. A fight for the tables to turn and to finally have the upper hand, the same hand that has been sadly wielded with abuse and neglect by men for so many generations before us. But I wasn’t angry at men, on the contrary, I’ve always treasured the male relationships in my life, and never wanted to be apart of furiously blaming them for misogyny they weren’t guilty of.

So it took a while for my heart to be softened enough to see past those wrongful responses of women to the brokenness and injustice done to them, and the pain that came with it. (Not that that excuses or justifies bad behavior.) Unfortunately I had to learn some of those lessons through my own experiences of being dismissed and undervalued, and watching the wonderful women next to me treated the same. But still, I can appreciate now how those painful mistreatments were used to shatter my sexism-free bubble and fuel a compassion and desire to walk in a healthy middle ground, without falling into the dysfunctional ditches of extremes.

So now on International Women’s Day, I no longer roll my eyes and grumble “if there was an International Men’s Day, everyone would lose their freaking minds...”. 
While there is still a lot about modern feminism that I will always speak out against (because it's often sexist itself or just plainly objectifying), I don't make the mistake any more of throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Today I feel the pure and wholesome and righteous celebration of womanhood and I’m here for it.

I’m thankful today to God for creating two genders, both different in design but equal in value. 
I’m thankful for how special God made women, in the ways we relate to men and in the ways we are unique from them.
I’m thankful that in spite of our world history and current climate of oppression and mistreatment, that redemption is coming. That someday we will all see each other rightly, as people who all needed a savior. And in heaven, as co-heirs to His kingdom. Which neither gender earned more of a right to, but that was freely given because of the cross.

I’m thankful today for the men in my life. 
For my dad and my husband, who continuously point out my giftings and cheer me on to ‘go for it’. To run, not walk, towards who I’m called to be, and put the insecurities and lies I believe in their rightful place. 
I’m thankful for my brothers, who were one of the reasons I was so ignorant to sexism for so long, because even when we wouldn’t agree on things, we always respected and valued each other’s opinions, and I didn't know any other way.
 I’m thankful for the male friends I have who love me like their sister. The ones who give me big bear hugs, without treating my personality or body as something ‘potentially problematic’ or something to be scared of.
I'm thankful for my pastors and my church, for honoring women and very visibly demonstrating that they believe what we bring to the table is important. For being intentional about making that belief a natural part of our community culture.

I’m thankful today for the women in my life. 
The family and friends who all bring beautiful and unique colors to the painting of my world.
I’m thankful for the women who are fierce and brilliant fighters for what’s right and true and good, even at great cost.
I’m thankful for the women who are gloriously strong, because they are openly and vulnerably weak, finding their strength and freedom in Jesus. 
I’m thankful for the women who encourage, uplift, and breathe life into every room they’re in, never stepping on other women to feel a little better about themselves. 
I’m thankful for women who are creative and poetic, and the ones who are faithful and organized, both of whom I learn so much from.
I’m thankful for the women who are devastatingly funny, while still remaining classy and kind.
I’m thankful for the women who serve and sacrifice with ferocious love and gentleness, never stepping on the men and children in their life to get ahead or find narcissistic purpose.
These women are my heroes, and I make a point to be around them as often as I can, because we become what we behold.

And I'm thankful today that God gave me a daughter.
I look at her at 8 years old, and I already want to be like her.
She is sweet and caring and joyful in a way that's like the sun coming out on a cloudy day.
I love that she loves to learn and that she comes alive when she gets to teach. 
I love that she loudly sings off-key with confidence and passion and is the first to volunteer to help out with just about anything. I love that she is typically found cheerfully playing with the quiet, awkward kids, but never seems to really notice that about them or that she has befriended the outcasts.
I'm inspired by how beautiful she is on the inside as much as she is on the outside, 
and I feel a serious weight of responsibility I have to her, that makes me get on my knees to pray for both of us.

I pray that God would exemplify womanhood at it's truest and loveliest, to both of us.
That we will not only be able to flourish in our femininity, but also be humble and teachable.
That when it comes to our fears and heartaches and all of the things that make us feel out of control,  that we wouldn't scramble to comfort ourselves in destructive ways or take matters into our own hands. But that we would find peace in trusting the One who is in control, and comfort in the fact that we are not.

I pray that we both see, in our minds and in our hearts, how God delights in His daughters. 
So that on days like today, we can delight in each other too and in the beauty of our maker.

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.