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.
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.
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. Like...wow. 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 of..um, stoned? at 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!