Sunday, October 16, 2022

Current Faves: Hunker Down for Fall Ya'll

 


Happy Fall, Ya'll! (How could you not be happy during the prettiest season?)

Luke took this picture in our backyard yesterday, and we're just gaga about the view. 

(Not pictured: the dead mums I like to keep around every fall out of prideful insistence that they *might* come back to life.)

I'm sure you're living your best apple orchard, pumpkin spice, sweater weather life; but I wrote about a few of my current favorite things to make this season even better:


1.) EveryDollar Premium 


EveryDollar is a budgeting system created by Ramsey Solutions to help people easily make a personal/household budget and manage their money. They have both a free version and a premium version that you pay for; and Luke and I have recently found a lot of renewed enthusiasm for budgeting using the premium version of the app.

Features we're loving:

1.) We can personalize our budget, by making or getting rid of or renaming any categories and items we want to, to organize it as specifically or generally as what works for our life and plans. And in addition to keeping or tweaking our set monthly budget, we can add those one-off's that come about, like a birthday or holiday or an annual membership renewal, stuff like that.

Source

2.) With premium, the app is synced to our bank account, so all of our transactions (purchases, payroll deposits, automatic bill pay, etc.) show up once they hit the bank, and we can see exactly where our money is going.


Source

3.) The user-friendly interface is fabulous, just the right amount of simple and straight forward, while still having all of our information right there. There is a drag-and-drop feature, so that when a transaction pops up, we can just drag it to it's category and boom, it's budgeted.

It's so quick and easy and, I'm not even that embarrassed to say, kind of fun.

4.) (one of my favorite features) You can split transactions. 

So when a purchase from Target or Costco inevitably pops up, I can go in and split it between what I spent on Groceries, Clothing, Household, a Birthday, School Needs, etc. in that one big purchase.


Luke and I are both really enjoying how easy it's made budgeting for us and kept us both in the loop about where we're at and on the same page with it all, taking that added stress factor out of the picture.

And if there is any time to change up or fine tune a household budget, its right now, while everything is SO DAGGUM EXPENSIVE and with Christmas right around the corner. The right kind of budgeting should be something that puts you [and your partner] at ease and feeling the freedom to save and give and spend where needed and wanted.

We are loving EveryDollar, and if it seems like something that could be a positive tool for you too, get more details about it HERE.



2.) A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

(The Countess of Harleigh Mystery Series) 


A librarian recommended this book to me this summer, and within two weeks, I had read the entire series. I loved them so much.

Set in Victorian-era London, this first book begins with the Countess of Harleigh (an American heiress and mother) coming out of her obligatory season of mourning, after her philandering husband died of a heart attack. He actually died in the bed of his mistress, but only the Countess and two other people (one of whom was the mistress) knew that, and together they had changed his location on the night of his death, to avoid scandal. Fast forward a year later, she is starting over in life and society with a new sense of freedom and independence. But when there is an anonymous tip to the police that she was involved in her husband's death, things become more complicated and obviously raise suspicions about who was really responsible for his death.

Dianne Freeman did such a fantastic job writing this book and their sequels. They have mystery (the right amount of keeping you interested without being dark or too cheesy), romance (the perfect balance of making you swoon, without getting smutty), and a very appreciated amount of female empowerment added (while still staying respectful and true to the culture of that era.) 

Basically, it's exactly my type of fiction.



The subsequent books are:

A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder

A Fiancee's Guide to First Wives and Murder

A Bride's Guide to Marriage and Murder

and (coming this summer!) A Newlywed's Guide to Fortune and Murder


It's a delightful hybrid of Jane Austen, grown-up Nancy Drew, and a splash of Hitchcock. I think you'll love it. 

Get the first book at your local library or on Amazon HERE.




3.) Obi-Wan Kenobi


This limited series was released on Disney+ this last May, and I've heard some mixed reviews about it.

But here's the thing, I absolutely loved it.

We had rewatched Star Wars: Episodes 1-3 as prep (because as traditional Star Wars fans, we hadn't bothered watching those ones in over 10 years), so I felt ready and primed to experience whatever journey Obi-Wan Kenobi was going to take us on. Here were some of my most favorite parts (*Spoiler warning*):

1.) The initial set-up they did for the audience of what life was like for the Jedi, and specially Obi-Wan, ten years after Order 66 and the events of the Episode 3. It's such a testament to the impressive art direction, cinematography, editing, music, and acting on any TV/film, when it conveys so much information and storytelling with little to none dialogue. Within just a few minutes of the first episode of Obi-Wan, you quickly come to learn what a much more battered and discouraged man he is now than he once was, but you've also been painted a very clear picture as to why. You understand the pain of the exile he's in and also why he has to be in it, and all the aspects of the writing and filmmaking responsible for that was just gold.

2.) Umm.. 10-year-old Princess Leia is the actual cutest person in the galaxy.

The adorably petite actress who played her, in all of Leia's enjoyable and infuriating sass, was absolutely spot on and you can't help but love her.

A fun, personal perspective about this was when I was watching young Leia in this, I kept thinking 'Oh my gosh, I was totally like this as a kid.' 

"Spicy, kind of obnoxious girl with a big heart and rebellious tendencies, because of her passion for justice and adventure. " 

UM, HI. NICE TO MEET YOU!

 As a diehard Star Wars fan from toddlerhood, Princess Leia was obviously a household hero growing up. So watching her as an adult portrayed as a little girl (after having, as a little girl, watched her portrayed as an adult) and relating to both of them so much, was a precious experience. And I'm sure many of us fans felt that.

Another aspect I loved was the bond that Obi-Wan and Leia forged during the series. I thought that one of the sweetest moments was when she asked him "Are you my real father?" and he says, with such earnestness, "I wish that I could say I was, but no, I'm not." 

You can see and feel how disappointed they both are by that, not only because Obi-Wan wishes that she didn't come from such a dark legacy, but also because they clearly have a love and devotion to each other, like family at this point, and wish it were biologically true.



3.) Moses Ingram is EVERYTHING.

This entire post could honestly be a love letter to Moses Ingram, that's how much fan girl energy I have when it comes to this woman. 

If you didn't already note her dazzling moxie in The Queen's Gambit, you will have noted it right away in Obi-Wan Kenobi because HOW COULD YOU NOT?


I honestly don't know when I last witnessed an actor so effortlessly FILL A ROOM with such quiet charisma. Truly.

Ingram's voice, alone, is like barrel-aged maple syrup being poured out and drizzled out onto POWERHOUSE PANCAKES. Her dynamic subtlety in her acting- the way she moves, speaks, and strategizes- is a work of art. I really don't think there's a better way of describing her: she just effortlessly, FILLS the room. In the most beautifully powerful way.

And this show would not have been the same without her playing the Jedi-hunting, protagonistic-antagonist 'Fifth Sister/ Reva.' She's got that magnetic strength of the perfect Star Wars villain, and she and her character's story arc were an impeccable fit for this.


4.) The chilling moment in Episode 2, realizing that Obi-Wan hadn't known that Anakin/Darth Vader was alive, and then seeing him find out. 


I thought that was such an excellent addition to the show, the way it took the audience on that ride with him. Because most of us probably didn't realize that after Obi-Wan had essentially left Anakin for dead after their battle in Episode 3, he went into isolation and wouldn't have heard much news of the Sith since.

I really appreciated that we got to see Obi-Wan haunted by Darth Vader's existence, and have to wrestle with that and their past together throughout the series, until he eventually gets some of his mojo back.

Overall, I thought it was a very well done series and I enjoyed it immensely.


And after having watched it, I saw this meme online, and it made my heart happy.



Source: Runner's World

4.) Superfood Soup


My friend Bridget gave me this recipe last year while I was stuck at home in quarantine, when Luke and Vienna had covid. I spent those two weeks making a lot of new recipes, some of them were like this one- soups and snacks that were healthy and immune supportive; and some of them were things like Mango Margaritas or 'How fattening can I make a cookie?', because I was super bored I believe in balance.

Anyway, we ended up really liking this soup (those of us who could taste and smell it, at least) and I still love to make it, especially when we are fighting off sickness. The recipe comes from the Runner's World Cookbook, so obviously it helps to have amazing friends like Bridget who ARE runners, otherwise I never would have been inclined to open a book with that title and make a recipe out of it. (Because when you're basically built like Jessica Rabbit, you come to terms with the fact that God clearly did not ergonomically build you for running, and some of us are more than ok with that.)

This Indian-inspired soup is chalk-full of superfoods with minerals and vitamins that boost energy and immunity, and have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties. It's also dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian. I've slightly changed it from the original recipe to make it creamier (more coconut milk!) and more flavorful (extra curry!), and with more kale (Who am I?!) but feel free to mess with all the ingredients yourself and follow your heart.


Superfoods Soup

slightly adapted from The Runner's World Cookbook


Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tsp fine sea salt

3-5 Tbsp curry powder

1 sweet potato, unpeeled, cut in 1/2 inch dice

2 cans coconut milk

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can chickpeas

1-2 cups chopped kale

Juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp)


Directions

    1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring continuously, for 30 seconds, being careful not to let the spices brown. 
    2. Add 4 cups water, sweet potato, coconut milk, tomatoes, and chickpeas to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 20-30 minutes (be careful not to overcook). 
    3. Stir in the kale and simmer just until wilted. Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Taste and add more lime juice and salt, if needed.  Enjoy with warm crusty bread or toasted naan.





Bonus Fave: Zinc Throat Spray 

And speaking of getting sick! Zinc spray has been one of my main go-to's for sore throats and coughs for years now, and it's amazing. Zinc is proven to be so good for your immune system, metabolism function, and your sense of taste and smell. Taking it in the form of throat spray helps soothe the pain and is a fast delivery system for that immune support. 

Get it on Amazon HERE to be extra prepared for cold and flu season.


Well, that's all for now, folks. I hope you're staying healthy(ish) enough to enjoy autumn being her most beautiful self for the next... well, Christmas stuff is already out at Walmart, so... maybe another 5-10 minutes?


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Current Faves: Humpday Edition


Hello strangers!

I almost named this one 'Current Faves: SUMMER IS HALFWAY OVER YOU GUYS Edition.' But I decided to try coming across way more calm and collected, and keep any panic I have about summer activity time management to myself, without bringing you all down with me. So since we're halfway through the week and also the summer (and also the year?)... Humpday Edition it is.

True Confessions: I was in high school when I first heard the term 'Humpday', and it never really made sense to me, but I just kind of casually assumed that all of these people thought that Wednesday was just a particularly great day to have sex. 
(I'm not making this up.)
"I mean, that's kinda random..." I thought, "but whatever floats your boat, I guess." 

And it would be YEARS before someone finally explained the important visual aid of a camel's hump figuratively compared with the days of a calendar week to me.
Truly eye-opening! 
(And in many ways, such a relief, considering how many teachers, pastors, and family members I had heard use this phrase before, in what felt uhh, out of context, at the time.)

Anyway! It's been over a year since I've posted on my blog, which is pretty lame, but it's also given me a lot of time to rack up a big list of new favorite things to gush about:




1.) Goddess Planter 

Meet Freya, my favorite indoor planter.
Luke got her for me for Christmas and I am just smitten. She is such a whimsical, elegant addition to any room, and I've already been known to move her around the house for exactly that reason.




She's mostly lived on my kitchen shelves, but sometimes I style her on other surfaces.



Even though I've just kept some generic foliage in her, there are a lot of great house plants that would look amazing, like string of pearls or even some succulents. 
The one time I switched out her plant and bought a new one, my kids were like "Are those Freya's new brains??"

(They love to throw shade at Freya because they think she's creepy and weird, but in general I don't take home decor advice from people who rarely shower and keep collections of dead bugs in their sock drawer. Back off, you dirty little haters.)

Anyway, if you love her as much as I do, you'll be thrilled to know that this gorgeous cement planter, which is made to look aged and antiqued, was not found in the depths of some vintage shop or estate sale, but is actually just from Amazon. Let me hear a woop woop for mass produced treasures!
Buy one for yourself HERE, and get ready to enjoy her regal beauty and stand your ground with any disapproving family members who have poor taste.





2.) Chacos

I probably broke some sort of hippie law for living in Colorado for over a decade, without ever owning an overpriced hiking sandal. What was even the point of living in a crunchy, outdoorsy subculture if I didn't take advantage of the opportunity to wander the trails looking borderline homeless, in clothing and footwear that I spent hundreds of dollars on at REI?

So many regrets.

Oh well, better late than never. My apologies, posh bohemians! I'm catching up now!


I invested in a pair of Chacos last year and they've been so great to have around. The straps are adjustable and dry easily; plus as someone with a high arch, I love the foot contour and support they offer.


I've worn versions with and without the toe loop, and I like them both. But comfort-wise, I personally prefer without the toe loop, although the loop can be helpful for rockier hikes. 
They are both fantastic shoes for hiking, fishing, camping, boating, and days at the zoo or the beach. 

They're not necessarily cheap, but they're so worth it and you'll have them around forever.

Find Chacos at your local outfitter or on Amazon HERE.




3.) Mango Margaritas 

I first fell in love with the heavenly beverage that is the mango margarita last year, when my husband and I went to Mexico together and had a friendly guy named Ricardo bringing us drinks on the beach all day.(For the record, Ricardo could have served us Broccoli Margaritas and probably talked us into joining a scented candle pyramid scheme, that's how much we loved him and everything he gave us.)

 But 6 months later, Luke and Vienna both got Covid (consecutively, of course. At the same time would have been too easy. *eyeroll*), which means that we were all quarantined for a little over 2 weeks. So in addition to sitting around doing puzzles, pouting about the fact that my travel plans were cancelled, and waiting to get Covid myself; I also played bartender and perfected my own favorite version of this fabulous cocktail.

It's simple, refreshing, and delicious. The chili salt rim gives it a zesty kick, and it's not too boozy. 
(I tend to like drinks with a lower ABV, so that I can have more than one without feeling the urge to grab the person next to me and go sing karaoke.)

Here's what you need to make it (makes approx. 2 drinks):

-4oz (1/2 cup) Tequila (I use silver)
-1 cup margarita mix or limeade 
(Trader Joe's has a JalapeƱo Limeade that is said to be awesome in margs.)
-1 cup Ice
-2 cups frozen mango chunks
- Fresh Limes or lime juice
-Tajin or any other Chili Lime seasoning 

Throw the tequila, marg mix, ice, and frozen mango in a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust thickness with more ice or mix, it should be easily pourable.

Run a lime wedge around the rim of your glass, then turn it upside down on a plate that has your chili lime seasoning on it, until it's been appropriately salted, then turn it upright and pour the drink in.



Enjoy one by yourself in quarantine, or make a big batch for friends and serve them with chips and salsa on the patio. Cheers!




4.) The Office BFF's 


If you're a fan of The Office Ladies podcast, well then.. you've probably already read this book.
BUT if you haven't yet, and have ever been a fan of The Office, you absolutely need to read this.

Jenna Fischer (who played Pam) and Angela Kinsey (who played Angela) are the cutest co-stars turned best friends the world has ever seen. 
In their joint memoir, they open up about their time on The Office - what they did before they got their big break, how they landed the role, what it was like working on set with such an amazing cast and crew, each of their on-screen love stories with Jim and Dwight, and how they navigated going from unknown to famous (and all the articles and parties and award shows that came with it.)
They also share about their friendship- some of the highs and lows they've been through together on and off the show, about becoming moms, and then starting a podcast together.

I'm already such a huge fan of them because of their podcast, but this book was extra sweetness. 
Jenna and Angela are such authentic and down-to-earth people, they feel like they could be your actual friends. And they make you feel like you were THERE when The Office was being filmed and changing the face of network television. It's such an exhilarating insight to the process.

Ok, but here is where the tough decision is- to get the hardcover OR the audiobook version?
The hardcover print has hundreds of never-before-seen photos from Jenna and Angela's personal hoarder stash, most of them taken during the making of the show.
But the audiobook version has a forward written and read by Rainn Wilson, which is, much like him, absurd, dramatic, and hilarious.

It's a tough one, but the choice is yours.
(I got the audiobook, Rainn is 100% worth it. )

Download it on Audible or get it HERE on Amazon.




5.) Chick-fil-A Sauce 

The Lord's chosen fast food restaurant made its miracle sauce available in grocery stores last year, and we've kept it in constant supply in our fridge ever since.

If you've never had this stuff before, it's almost like if BBQ sauce and honey mustard had a smoky, tangy sauce baby, born of a virgin, and meant to bring peace on earth and good will toward men.

It's ridiculously good. And I'm here to make disciples of it.

Source: Official Instagram of Chick-fil-A 

Buy it at Target or your local grocery store, and put it on burgers, brats, sandwiches, and/or use it as a dipping sauce for literally everything. And then thank God for giving us this nectar straight from Heaven.





6.) Ted Lasso 

Watching this show falls under the (very large) category of 'Things Most People Have Already Experienced Or Liked But That Took Elise Yeeeears To Finally Get Around To'. 
(examples: curry, skinny jeans, literally any new technology, the accurate definition of Humpday, the list goes on and on.)


And after hearing so many rave reviews about Ted Lasso from so many people whose opinion I trust, the second season was released so I decided it was time to join the party, and have been gushing about it ever since.

Anyone who has seen it will tell you right off the bat how uniquely heart-warming and inspiring this show is, compared to anything else on television lately. If you haven't seen it before, the main premise is that an American football coach is hired to coach a British football (soccer) team, without any real understanding of the sport. The titular character of Ted Lasso is such a one-of-a-kind individual, that between his folksy wholesomeness, genuine loyalty to the people in his life, and incredible leadership of his team- you cannot help but love and root for him from the get-go.

As a sort of sports-comedy, sure, it has some of the realities that come with that- foul language and some crude locker room talk and all that; but in juxtaposition to those more minimal aspects, I actually found it to be such a refreshing look at honorable masculinity in so many ways. Men rising to the occasion of needed leadership, men humbling themselves in the consequences of their own vanity, men willing to face their own mental health struggles with honesty, and men being there for each other in tight-knit, affectionate ways that any good friendship should mimic. 

The writing of this show, particularly all of the development within the other characters's lives and personalities, is nothing short of incredible. I could go on and on about how much I love the mysteriously charismatic Coach Beard, and adorable Keeley, and grumpy Roy, and Higgins! and Sam! and Rebecca!
But I just need you to go watch it yourself.

It's available on Apple TV, and c'mon you guys- just get the free 7-day trial and binge watch it. I know you can do it, you know you can do it. This is who we are, why try to deny it?
 You'll probably be finished watching it by the end of the weekend.
But if you're like me and you end up needing to rewatch it with other people to show them how good it is, an Apple TV subscription is only $5.99 a month. Totally worth it.
(The latte I bought at Starbucks last week that cost that same price? Not worth it.)

Happy bingeing!




7.) Half Gallon Water Bottle 

I got this adorable thing last year and it's helped me A TON with my daily water intake needs. 



I make it a goal for myself to drink 2 of these a day, that way I've had a full gallon and I know I'm well hydrated. (Lately I've been adding lemon juice+apple cider vinegar to my first bottle, and enjoying all those anti-inflammatory, detoxifying benefits.) 
(Pro-tip: Wear your hippie Chacos while drinking your extra healthy water.
Bonus points if you either 1.) Tell people about it without being asked, or 2.) Ride a bike instead of driving a car.) 

I often use the shoulder strap to basically make it a giant water purse and carry it around in public like someone whose favorite hobby is to go pee.

You can get this one HERE on Amazon.




8.) Fresh Pasta Maker 

This was one of my birthday presents that I got back in January. 

And when I say 'birthday presents', what I mean is 'the gift I ordered myself after I returned the items bought for me because they didn't fit and what I really wanted instead of a cute dress was a pasta maker.'
(Thankfully, Luke doesn't take offense to my unromantic hyper-practicality.)



After wanting to make homemade pasta or the past few years, finally having this has been oh so fun.
I've made homemade fettuccine and lasagna noodles a few times now and it elevates the dish in such scrumptious ways, without being anywhere near as time-consuming as you'd assume it would be (I love this easy dough recipe from Gimme Some Oven.)

I ended up choosing THIS machine on Amazon, but you'll probably find a million similar ones in that price range that, from my understanding, are all basically the same thing. It's not super expensive or fancy, but it gets the job done. You're *this close* to wow-ing yourself and others with homemade chicken alfredo or authentic lasagna. 


Well, that's all for now folks. Hopefully it won't be a year before I'm able to post again, but until whenever that is, have a fabulous rest of your summer :)