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Posts Tagged ‘things I love lately’

I am about to recommend a product to you that I now find indispensable. But I want to include a couple of caveats before I do so.

The first is this post’s unfortunate proximity to Mother’s Day. I can (sigh) imagine some people (not you, but I bet you can think of the type of someone I mean) reading this post and leaping up and shrieking, “That’s it! That’s the perfect gift for A Mother!” And while yes, I love it because it is extremely useful, and while I do in fact use it during the execution of tasks that are often left exclusively to mothers, I would argue vehemently that products which make it easier/simpler/more efficient/better for a mother to execute her duties should NOT be given at Mother’s Day gifts, but instead should be considered legitimate business expenses, and items required to do the work of a household, and should be categorized with things like cleansers and mops rather than lumped into the gift category. Just as an office would not consider an ergonomic chair or a wireless mouse to be GIFTS for the person using them, an air fryer or a new washing machine or a new zooper should be considered tools that make it easier or more efficient for a homemaker to complete the work of running a household. Not. Gifts.

I know – I KNOW – that sometimes a big extravagant purchase like a washing machine can put a strain on a household budget. And yet I would still argue that it should not be re-categorized as a gift. Unless and only if the washing machine is also counted as a gift for Father’s Day as well. 

So I am not recommending this as a gift. Maybe – maybe – I could see it as a stocking stuffer, IF multiple people of multiple sexes and familial roles received it all at the same time.

Okay. So that is the main caveat. 

The second caveat is that this is a single-use item. At least in my household. I see that the product manufacturers/marketers have tried valiantly to come up with alternate uses, but please note my Raised Eyebrow of Skepticism and Uh-Huh, Sure. I don’t usually like single-use products, but I like this one. It is so effective at its one job (and so small and easy to slip into a drawer) that when I somehow lost mine, I immediately ordered ten more. (To be fair, I ordered ten more only because it comes in a pack of ten.) 

Anyway. All caveats aside: the product is a pan scraper. It is made of a stiff plastic and it is about the size of a credit card. I use it to scrape the egg off of a pan when I have made scrambled eggs.

(image from amazon.com) I don’t know that I ever really noticed the different shaped corners? But sure, whatever.

I do not particularly LIKE eggs, but I eat them a lot. And the egg never fails to form a thin veneer across the top of the supposedly non-stick coating of my pan. A veneer that is so adhesive, it’s a wonder that the folks at Elmer’s haven’t patented it. 

I use a stiff-bristled scrubber to clean my dishes. But my scrubber does not work well on the egg veneer. Sometimes, after several soakings and applying lots of elbow grease, it will come off. But then the egg transfers to the bristles of the scrub brush and refuses to come off. REFUSES. It pains me to admit that I have thrown away more than one scrubber due to stubborn egg scraps.

Even the miracle that is Dawn Powerwash has little effect on the egg veneer. 

But the scraper clears the egg in a few seconds! It is magic! You just… scrape the egg off, rinse the pan, and you’re done. No soaking necessary. Because I like to hand wash things as infrequently as possible, I drop the scraper itself into the dishwasher and I am done. MAGIC. 

As I said before, this scraper is small enough that I tuck it inside the front face of my kitchen tool drawer. It is very unobtrusive and waits patiently until the next time I make eggs. 

(image from amazon.com) The pan scraper marketing team is really scraping the bottom of the barrel here for alternate uses. See what I did there?

The scrapers come in a pack of ten, and they are ten for $9.99 right now. NINETY-NINE CENTS FOR A RELIABLE AND USEFUL TOOL IS SUCH A DEAL. I have already gotten far more than my money’s worth out of this little product, and I measure that by number of stiff-bristled scrubbers I have NOT had to throw away, which are apparently $7.99 apiece, and also in minutes of grumpy scrubbing.

The first scraper I got was from a friend. I went over to her house to pick up Carla from a playdate, and she said, “Here, I have a pan scraper for you.” I was skeptical, and yet it has been one of the most useful products in my kitchen. I use it way more than I use my Instant Pot, that’s for sure. If you bought a ten pack, think of how you could casually hand a few out to friends, and BLOW THEIR MINDS with this tiny unassuming powerhouse?!

Okay, and now I want to know if YOU have any little heroes in your house that I have been overlooking.

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When my husband and I did Keto in 2020, we went hog wild. We bought ALL the Keto-specific products. We bought cheese by the cartload. We bought packages and packages of crunchy cheese snacks. We bought almond flour and flaxseed meal and xanthan gum. We bought avocado oil and MCT oil. We bought Keto pancake mix and Keto maple syrup. We bought Keto powdered erythritol and liquid stevia. We had all these plans to make Keto recipes and made many of them. But we found that a lot of the things we tried were either unpalatable or palatable only once or twice. 

This time around, I have been trying to live without Keto recipes and Keto items as much as possible.

But I have found a few Keto-specific items that I really like. This is, perhaps, in part due to the passage of two years’ time. Keto still seems very popular, and I think more and more products have become available since 2020 – and the products that are coming out keep getting better and tastier. 

My primary care doctor recommended two of the first Keto-friendly foods I tried this go-round, and they turned out to be two products that I really like:

Two Good Yogurt: Each container of yogurt contains 3 net grams of carbs. I don’t love this yogurt (it has a slight aftertaste, which I associate with stevia, and it is a little on the tangy side for my taste), so I don’t eat it every day. But it definitely scratches the yogurt itch. And it comes in a lot of different flavors, which adds some nice variety to my life. My favorite is mango, followed by raspberry and vanilla.

Protein Bread: My doctor told me that this was ONLY at Aldi’s, and so far, that’s the only place I can find it. (Strangely enough, Aldi also sells bread that has “Keto friendly!” on the wrapper, but turns out to be… a lot of carbs.) This particular bread has 4 grams of net carbs per slice. That is a lot – more than 20% of my daily allotted carbs – but sometimes I just need some bread. And I find that this bread is VERY satisfying. It tastes fine – nutty and wholesome. But more important, it is BREAD. My husband made a loaf of “Keto bread” in 2020, and it was NOT bread. It was crumbly and bitter and did not count as bread in my mind. But this protein bread is definitely bread in taste and texture. It’s pretty hearty, too, and since I usually pair it with cheese or avocado, it makes for a very filling, satisfying meal. I don’t eat it every day, so I remove a few slices and then freeze the rest. I find that it takes longer than most breads to toast – I like a nice, crunchy piece of toast. Putting it in the oven helps. 

There are a ton of low-carb and “Keto” breads on the market lately… but I have only tried this one. Because of my experience in 2020, I am wary of spending money on foods I end up hating. But… I am curious about some things. The last time I went to Whole Foods, I found a low-carb bread that I want to try. It was out of stock, of course, but if I ever get my hands on it I will test it out and let you know. 

One of the things that I crave the most while on Keto is pizza. And many of the Keto-friendly pizza options I have tried are not great. Most so-called “low-carb” crusts are not actually low-carb. Like the cauliflower pizza crust at Trader Joe’s is 16 grams of net carbs for one-sixth of the crust. If I am going to blow 16 grams of carbs on one meal, it better be for an entire pizza. I have made “Fathead Dough,” which is a low carb pizza dough… and it is so hard for me to make. It never comes together correctly. I think the one time I got it to work, it was fine, but it wasn’t worth the work or the frustration. Plus, it’s still 2 grams of net carbs per one-eighth of the total crust, which… again, I want to eat more than one slice of pizza, you know? And I want to be very clear: I am not eating pizza crust made out of chicken. That sounds… highly unpleasant. (Although my husband has tried it and thought it was fine.)

To address my pizza craving, I turned to tortillas. And I was pleasantly surprised to find several low-carb tortilla options. Here are my two favorites:

Protein Plant Powered Tortillas:  Each of these tortillas has 3 grams of net carbs, and when you add sauce and cheese and pepperoni, it bakes up to be a very satisfying pizza. The tortilla is slightly sweet, and it’s very soft and thin. It crisps up decently in the oven, and I find it to be a really good option for a Keto pizza crust. I have not tried it for other purposes (yet), but I’m guessing it would be a perfectly adequate substitution for burritos or even tacos. 

Street Tacos Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas: These little tortillas are smaller than the above ones, but they are thicker and – I think – tastier. You get two of them for 3 grams of net carbs. Because they are a little thicker, they make a nice sturdy crust for a mini pizza. I always make at least two mini pizzas, sometimes three, and they definitely help curb the pizza cravings. Somehow I haven’t tried these with tacos yet either, but I think they would be delicious.

Keto Blueberry Cinnamon Nut Granola: I bought this on a whim at Costco, and I am very glad I did. (Apparently, you can also buy it on amazon. There are multiple flavors, too!) One of the things Keto lacks is an abundance of crunchy foods. (Outside of vegetables. And dehydrated cheese.) One-third of a cup of this granola has 3 net grams of carbs. (Hmmm. On the Nutrail website, it says 2 grams of net carbs… but on the bag it says 3… Either way, a decently low carb count for what you get.) Pair it with the Two Good yogurt and you have a very satisfying breakfast on your hands. Like the yogurt, it doesn’t taste exactly like regular granola. I feel like the monkfruit sweetener is noticeable, although it’s not bad. But it has a great texture and I love the addition of the dried blueberries. 

Keto Ice Cream: I don’t miss sweets a whole lot on Keto. I think I’m too busy missing black beans and soups and chips and pizza and garlic bread and pasta and beer. Ahem. Where was I? Oh right, sweets. I’m just not a big sweets eater. But once in awhile, I do miss ice cream. Fortunately, there is an abundant variety of frozen desserts available to us. What a time to be alive. Continuous outbreaks of war and ongoing gun violence, but grocery stores have frozen desserts as far as the eye can see. My two favorites are Halo Top Chocolate Cheesecake (from its Keto series; not sure if there is a chocolate cheesecake flavor in its other series) and Keto Mint Chip. If you have never tried these before: they take some getting used to. The texture is so very, very different from real ice cream. It’s… crumbly. But if you let it sit out for a very, very, very long time, or if you grow deeply impatient and microwave it for 15 seconds or so, it starts to melt and become creamy. At least around the edges. Texture aside, I like the flavor of both of these ice creams. The Halo Top is satisfyingly chocolatey, and has these weird (but tasty!) little cream cheese pellets that add a nice cheesecake essence. I am describing it accurately but not appealingly, I realize that. I do actually LIKE it. The Keto option is refreshingly minty and has a profusion of good-size chocolate chips. I have yet to try any other flavors, but there are LOTS.

Atkins Keto Caramel Almond Nut Clusters: I mentioned these before, but I am including them here as well because they are just really so good. At just 2 grams of net carbs per cluster, they are the perfect response to a candy bar craving or to the feeling of FOMO one gets when one’s entire family are eating chewy, delicious molasses cookies with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. And the crunch of the nuts and the chew of the caramel makes them extremely satisfying. They do have that slight aftertaste of erythritol, but it’s not bad. And sometimes you just want something that is as close as possible to candy without being candy. 

Okay, so those are all the things that are made low-carb on purpose. But there are also some products that exist free of Keto/low-carb boundaries that I nonetheless turn to frequently.

Milkadamia Unsweetened Macadamia Nut Milk: When I did Keto in 2020, I used almond milk for my tea, which is a great option that I still love. (The brand of unsweetened almond milk I bought was 1 gram of net carbs per eight-ounce serving. Some brands have a LOT more carbs though.) But when Nicole mentioned that she had switched to macadamia nut milk, I decided to give it a try. It strikes me as slightly thicker/creamier than almond milk, and the flavor is unobjectionable.  It also has less than 1 net gram of carbs per eight-ounce serving, and I use a full cup of it in my tea every day. 

Moo is moot. Apparently.

Low-Carb Sauces: One of the things I love most in life is sauces and sauces are tricky on Keto. A lot of sauces have sugar or other carb-heavy ingredients. That’s why ketchup is a no-no on Keto. I make do with copious amounts of sriracha and mustard… and then I try any no-carb sauce I come across. I picked up this delicious no-carb Lemon Herb Aioli at my grocery store and love it. It’s excellent with salmon. Rich and creamy and flavorful. It does not taste like a diet food and that’s because it is NOT a diet food. I bet it would be tasty with artichokes or asparagus. I loved it so much, I grabbed the Sriracha Aioli (which has 1 gram of net carbs per tablespoon, so I would use it more sparingly) (not that I use a TON of the lemon herb aioli; a tablespoon goes a long way) the next time I went to the store. I’m going to put it on shrimp and roasted cauliflower and see if it works as a marinade for grilled chicken or pork. Stonewall Kitchen has a bunch of flavors, and I want to try the Chipotle Aioli and the Habanero Mango Aioli. Perhaps that is too much aioli for one person to have in her refrigerator, I don’t know.

Bubly: For that dangerous hungry time between five o’clock and dinnertime (which, for me, is usually 8:00 or later, sigh), I find myself craving wine. What a delightful discovery when I learned that a can of Bubly sparkling water with a squeeze of cherry Koolaid liquid works just as well as a glass of chardonnay. Especially if I pair it with some slices of sharp cheddar cheese. The cherry Bubly is my favorite, but I also love the raspberry and the blackberry. The grapefruit is good (and pairs well with gin/tequila and lime juice!) and the passionfruit is decent. The only Bubly flavor I do not care for is blueberry.

The one thing I haven’t found yet is a good Keto tortilla chip. It seems like there are several options that contain only 3 to 4 net grams of carbs per bag, but I haven’t come across any in the wild… and don’t really want to spend $20-$30 to order a bunch of chips I may not end up liking. If I find a single bag at a grocery store somewhere, I will definitely try it and report back. 

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It is a blustery Friday. Carla is at school, my in-laws have all headed home. Teriyaki chicken breasts are cooking in the crockpot. My house is quiet, except for the wind bumping up against the windows. I have laundry to do and flyers to fold and a few groceries yet to put away, but I am in a Very Good Mood. 

Here are some of the things that are contributing to my pleasant mood today.

1. Spring Springing Up. Earlier this week, Carla and I saw the first popcorn tree of the season. (I think the trees we refer to as “popcorn tress” are really Bartlett pear trees.) Most of the other trees in our area are still skeletal, with only the tiniest buds appearing on their branches. So it was delightful to see the frothy blooms, bright and happy against the persistent gloom of our very rainy April. That was Saturday, maybe? Today, I noticed that that single blooming scout has been joined by an array of blossoms. Cherry trees! Magnolias! Forsythia! It is really and truly spring. Also, one of the houses in our neighborhood bought and installed one of those enormous house-sized skeletons last Halloween. They have kept the skeleton up since October, and simply decorate it for the season. It is currently wearing pink garland and bunny ears, which delights me to no end. 

I feel compelled to tell you that I did not take this photo, I pulled it off of Canva.

2. Spring Flowers. My regular grocery store had a disappointing array of flowers this week. The tulips were all already on the far side of blooming, and were $8.99 besides. But I went to Trader Joe’s this morning and found lots and lots of tulips (for $4.99 a bunch!) and a bouquet of calla lilies (also $4.99!) to buy. Yay!

3. Tiny Tomato Plant. Speaking of Trader Joe’s, the last time I was there, I bought this little tomato plant on a whim. It is bringing me so much joy! Firstly, it has SO MANY tomatoes already growing! Plus, it keeps blooming with more and more little yellow flowers that will grow into their own fruit someday soon. My niece was obsessed with the plant, checking it daily, asking if the tomatoes were ripe enough to pick and eat. I wish I had been able to capture her little earnest, hopeful voice saying, “Aunt Suz? I really think this one is ripe now.” She and Carla both LOVE finding and eating a ripe tomato. So fun! Each plant was $9.99 and I should have bought more than one. Like… five of them.

Do not worry – the tomato does not live on the piano. I simply set it there because that was the only spot in the house that was getting decent light. Please ignore how filthy the planter is. Sheesh.

4. Strawberries and Mascarpone. While I realize I am skating very close to turning this post into an ode to Trader Joe’s, I was enraptured by their produce section this morning. In particular, they had beautiful looking strawberries. I grabbed two packages along with some mascarpone cheese. One of my family’s favorite summer desserts is strawberries and mascarpone. You add some honey to the mascarpone cheese, whisk it up, and dollop it on top of cut fresh strawberries. I skip the honey these days and I find the whole thing just as satisfying and summery. 

5. Kirkland Brand Prosecco Rose. This is my current favorite fun drink. I buy it for the ridiculously inexpensive price of $6.99 a bottle at my local Costco. It’s tasty. (Please note I am not a wine connoisseur, so I’m not saying it’s GOOD, just that I like the taste, which is really what matters when a person is drinking a beverage.) And IT’S PINK. A pink drink is automatically fun. Well, unless it’s Pepto Bismol or some sort of antibiotic, but that doesn’t really count as a “drink,” even though you drink it. I am getting off track. This sparkly drink makes any random evening into something that feels cheerful and celebratory.

I realize this is not a champagne flute or coupe, but I have to wash those by hand and this glass goes in the dishwasher.

And we have reason to celebrate (with more than cheap bubbly): my mother-in-law is in remission! We are all so happy and relieved. I know the prospect of the cancer remaining or having spread was weighing heavily on my in-laws minds and this is just the BEST news. A big part of the reason they were visiting this time was to see her oncologist surgeon, and do a bunch of tests and scans. I am really glad we could be their home base while they underwent this ordeal. Her good news was the perfect note to end their visit on.

Hoping you have a wonderful weekend, and if you are celebrating Passover or Easter, that you enjoy your holiday, and that if you aren’t participating in any holiday that you find SOMETHING to celebrate and a pink drink to toast with.

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It’s been a long while since I’ve done one of these posts. Yes, I have done a lot of complaining, and honestly, I plan to continue complaining here in the future, but that doesn’t mean I need to complain AT ALL TIMES. Plus, there are many many blessings in my life, including of course my wonderful family. But there are also material things that bring me joy.

Fabric Resistance Bands: Yes, I know I know, I have recommended these before. But they are SO GOOD. Carla has been exercising with me lately (both super cute and VERY DEEPLY ANNOYING), and she brought up my old non-fabric resistance bands for us to use. Why can I not think of the word that should go where “non-fabric” is? Well. The mind is a mysterious junk heap in which sometimes you find Babysitter’s Club plot lines and Garth Brooks lyrics instead of the word you are looking for. I used them for several workouts, hating them all the while, before I remembered that I own FABRIC resistance bands! So now I am using the fabric ones again, and all is right with the world. They are just as resistant, but they are wider than the other ones AND made of a thicker material, so they don’t roll up into a tight wad that cuts into your leg flesh. Plus, they stay in place rather than traveling up and down your legs at their own whim. 

image from amazon.com

Caramel Almond Clusters: While one of the keys to my current “success” at remaining on keto is that I am sticking to real foods that I like rather than trying to find keto versions of everything, I do occasionally crave candy. And these caramel almond clusters really address that particular craving. They do not taste exactly like a candy bar, mainly because of the odd taste of whatever sweetener is used to make them (I just looked; it is erythritol), but they are so close. The caramel is nice and chewy. The almonds are REAL almonds, and give an excellent crunch. And the chocolate is real unsweetened chocolate. Best of all, each one contains 2 net grams of carbs, which is an amount that I can work into most days of eating. (It seems like a lot of other keto sweets are 5 or 6 or more net grams of carbs per serving, which I almost never have at the end of a day.) They are about the circumference of an Oreo, so they aren’t huge. But I find them extremely satisfying from an “I Need a Treat” perspective.

image from amazon.com

Treadmill DeskElisabeth mentioned that she has a desk that attaches to her treadmill, and I immediately wanted one. My husband got me one for my birthday and I LOVE IT. He chose this version because it has a nice, textured surface. My laptop seems very secure on it, and I don’t really worry at all about it falling. I have used it several times and the time flies – I will be writing emails or doing revisions to my manuscript and all of sudden ninety minutes will have flown by. So far, I walk at about 2 to 2.5 miles per hour – it takes a little while to get used to typing while your body is moving. My only complaint is that the keyboard is not at an ideal position in relation to my hands, so I do have a teeny bit of wrist strain. But I suspect I will get used to that. And I feel so much less sedentary when I can stroll along while doing my normal work. 

Hot New Thrillers: I have read two truly excellent thrillers this year (so far). The Night She Disappered by Lisa Jewell and The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor. Both were extremely well written with engaging plots and relatable female characters. Plus, even though both were predictable in some ways, they were told so well and crafted to be so satisfying that I loved them both anyway. They are thrillers, so there is disturbing stuff in each of them. But if you like really good murdery books, I highly recommend both.

Decorative Tile: Lauren has been writing fascinating accounts of how she and her husband are finding cool pieces at estate sales and reselling them. During one of these accounts, she showed a photo of a decorative tile featuring a skier, by a Montana artist. I fell in immediate love and had to have it. My husband and daughter do not understand it, but I know you will. Someday I will find some proper way to display it (maybe on the gallery wall of my imagination?), but for now it’s sitting on a shelf in my office, where I can admire it often. 

What are you loving lately?

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Meal planning, grocery store reports, and randomosity. Seems like that’s all I can dredge up for a blog post these days. Thank you for reading anyway.

(Perhaps you could use one of your over-long randomosity bullets as its own blog post! you might suggest. Ah. If only my brain were capable of processing posts in manageable bite sizes instead of epic book-length tomes.) 

  • I finally got my hair cut and colored this week. My original appointment was a month ago. But the day before I was scheduled to see her, my hair stylist canceled because she had Covid. And then the day before I was rescheduled to see her, I thought I had Covid. My hair was very, very grey and now it is very, very brown and I am deeply grateful to my hair stylist. This time, she also dyed my eyebrows. You will have to trust me when I say that I currently look exactly like Uncle Leo. (The dye has temporarily adhered to the skin beneath my brows, and my hair stylist promises it will wash out in a day or so. Until then, I say, “Hello!”)
The resemblance is uncanny.
  • (This is not a new bullet, but WordPress disagrees.) Aside from the absolutely ridiculous name, I love it. It has the base primer, which makes my lashes super long. And then it has the top layer. And it’s waterproof so it never runs or smudges. It is a little difficult to remove, but it stays on so well I don’t mind. Since we are all wearing masks for the next FOREVER, it is my new best friend. I wore it skiing the other day, when it was snowing so heavily that my family and I were human moguls by the time we reached the top of the chair lift. And I made the mistake of putting my goggles on top of my helmet, where they immediately became crusted with snow and ice, which rendered them completely unusable, so I had to spend the rest of the day with snow flying directly into my face. My mascara did not budge.
Yes, that is a sliver of my actual forehead. Titillating.
  • Who was it that recommended I watch Sex EducationMy husband and I just finished Season 2 and I love it. The first season was good. I wasn’t crazy about the premise: Otis, son of beautiful sex therapist Gillian Anderson, starts offering a sex advice clinic of his own at school, with the help of prickly bad girl Maeve. For the entirety of Season 1, I had to suspend a LOT of disbelief, and plus the advice that Otis charged for seemed really basic – like no one could simply google their issues and get the exact same solution? But the characters were interesting, and I became Very Invested in a couple of the side stories, so we went straight into Season 2. And it was GREAT. The cast of characters are so fun and interesting. Everyone is complex and has their own inner struggles. I love how diverse the cast is (although there could be a little more size diversity), and I love how plainly and non-judgmentally a wide variety of sexual preferences are portrayed, and I love the friendship between Otis and his best friend Eric, and I love Gillian Anderson even though her character can be kind of irritating. Anyway: it is a really different, interesting show and I am hoping my husband will be up for jumping right into Season 3. (This may sound like “no, duh” advice, but if you aren’t interested in seeing/hearing about pretty graphic sex acts, I would skip this show.)
  • Has it been cold in your neck of the woods? It’s been cold here, but nowhere near as cold as it COULD be. I grew up in the land of Minus Sixty Degrees, so I am pretty blasé about our current in-the-teens temps. We do have some pretty serious icicle action going on though. These guys are all come at me bro and I want to say, Whoa, whoa, whoa. Chill out, my dude. No need to get so defensive.
  • Where I was originally going with the previous bullet was that my office is quite frigid lately. I used to have a space heater, one that’s so old I can’t remember when or how or why I acquired it. It died last year. Is it still sitting forlornly in the corner of my office, mourning its inability to fulfill its life purpose? Yes. Despite my sympathy for the defunct space heater, I decided to buy a new space heater and I found this little guy. So far, I really like it. I park it in the middleish of my office and direct it toward my desk, and it definitely makes the space warmer. I think it would be perfect for a cubicle or a small office. It has a little handle, and it is very sensitive to being bumped, and I really like it. It’s little, too – about the height of a hard-bound book, and a very cute little fella. Because as we all know, cuteness is a key factor in which space heater to buy.
  • Not that I’ve been in my office a whole lot this week. Even though I am supposed to be doing revisions, I have instead been traipsing all over hither and thither for all sorts of stupid appointments. Annual gyn appointment. Annual mammogram. Routine physical to establish with a new PCP. Hair appointment. Financial advisor appointment. PTA meeting about something I volunteered for. And then I just had to make a bunch of phone calls (UGH) to set up more appointments. Eye appointments for me and Carla. Dental appointment. Car maintenance appointment. Ugh ugh ugh. I hate being on the phone and I feel like my schedule is BOOKED for the rest of the year. 
Actual text between me and my husband. He is very accommodating.
  • May I complain a moment about the central scheduling system my healthcare provider has? I spent a very long time on the phone with a scheduler, trying to set up eye appointments for myself and Carla. And while I am grateful that I could call one number and get appointments for us both, with different doctors, I am… a little concerned. I explained my time/date parameters, and she found a time and a date. So I plugged them into my calendar on my phone. And then she said, “Okay, I have you scheduled on DATE at TIME.” But… that was not the date she and I had agreed on! So I asked her to double check it, and she confirmed the original date and time, in a tone of voice that indicated I should have been paying closer attention. And then when I scheduled Carla’s appointment, she said, “Oh, I have an appointment on the same day as your appointment – DATE.” But the date she said was not the date we’d agreed on, so I had to ask her to double check it again. Also for Carla, I picked a specific location near our house, and a specific time of day (after school, because the doctor will need to dilate her eyes). The scheduler set it all up, and then said, “Oh, I scheduled it for DIFFERENT LOCATION. Is that okay?” I said no, could we please find a date at the nearby office. And she said sure, and then offered several early morning times… when we had just discussed that the appointment needed to be in the afternoon. FINALLY we got it scheduled, and then she told me the date and time, and they were different from what I had just plugged into my calendar! It was a very confusing call, and I really, really hope that Carla and I are scheduled correctly. 

  • In my never-ending quest to find ways to use the bananas that eventually soften into mush before anyone (ahem, CARLA) eats them, I attempted a new recipe. It was a MAGICAL recipe, let me tell you. Elisabeth posted it on her blog, and it sounded ideal for my particular child: it contains oats (which she will eat RAW by the bowl), bananas, and chocolate chips. It also used dates, which I had on hand from the sticky toffee pudding we never ate. No liquid though, which I felt was surely a mistake. But no! As soon as I turned on the blender, the banana liquified and the ingredients morphed into a beautiful, uniform batter. I was generous with the chocolate chips. The cupcakes were so easy and seemed so wholesome. And none of my family members liked them. HUGE WEARY SIGH. [CLARIFICATION: They are not dry. They are perfect. If they didn’t have a banana flavor, which I cannot stand, I would have eaten them myself.]
I think they LOOK beautiful, but apparently they are “too DRY, Mommy.”

  • I need some advice about my “mud room,” even though I am pretty sure that my situation is un-fixable. As I have complained about at great length in the past, my “mud room” is a teeny tiny square of space between my garage and kitchen, with a shoe closet on one side. We come in through the garage, remove our shoes, toss them in the general direction of the shoe closet, and then enter the kitchen. It’s not great normally, but currently, with the deep snow we find ourselves in, it’s reached a fever pitch of untenability. Our feet are wet and muddy, so the floor gets wet and muddy. And there’s no easy way to remove one’s shoes and then step into the kitchen, so mud and dirt inevitably get tracked into the kitchen and then all around the house. I am zooping things constantly. I am spraying and wiping the floor constantly. And then, multiple times a day, the floor is a filthy mess again. Plus, the shoe closet is FULL. There is NO ROOM for all the snow boots that have assembled. The other closet, where I store the snow boots in dry weather, is too far away for us to reasonably store the boots in between wearings. And because some people like to wear normal shoes when it’s not actively snowing, I can’t simply stow the regular footwear in the other closet. I guess I could move SOME of the shoes, so that we could put our boots INSIDE the closet, instead of outside. But that still doesn’t resolve the Mud and Dirt issue. I would love to get a boot tray… but the “mud room” is so small that a boot tray would make it impossible to open the door. I don’t think a boot tray would fit inside the shoe closet, either. It’s tiny, plus we already have a shoe shelf in there, taking up most of the real estate. You will have to believe me that there is no In the Garage Solution, either; our garage is tiny, and there is barely enough room to squeeze past our cars to get inside. We cannot remove our shoes outside before we come in. So. Is there some obvious solution I am overlooking? Or is this just a Grit Your Teeth and Keep Zooping situation?
  • This may be really silly question, but if you track your reading, and you also have children, do you track the books you read with/to your children? I track the books I read on Goodreads, and I never used to count the books I read to Carla. (Mostly because my husband is the primary bedtime reader in our household – his accents are MUCH higher quality.) But I have making an effort to read to her more often outside of bedtime, and we just finished Frindle and I tracked it. I mean, I read the entire thing. Out loud. So I want credit. Credit that matters literally only to me. 
  • By the way, have you read Frindle yet? It was seriously such a good book. It’s about a boy named Nick and his teacher Mrs. Granger. As part of an effort to distract Mrs. Granger from teaching/assigning homework, Nick decides to make up his own word for a pen (frindle), and then launches a campaign to make frindle the real word for an ink-filled writing implement. It was a fun book about how words come to be, and how students can make a difference, and how important good teachers are. My voice was wobbling all over the place as I read the last two chapters. It was really such a lovely, fun, moving book. Carla liked it too, but being a child and not a parent/former child, she didn’t fully understand the beauty of the Nick/Mrs. Granger relationship. 

That seems as good a note to end on as any. I need to go gear myself up to make yet another phone call and schedule yet another appointment. And then I have two meetings today. Blech. 

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I am sitting in a dark house, staring out at a brooding sky and wind-tossed trees. It is deliciously quiet right now. Thanks to your powerful not-Covid thoughts, Carla is Covid negative and back at school. Hooray!

We were very productive yesterday: in addition to going to the doctor, I did four loads of laundry – INCLUDING folding – and have a last load waiting for me to put it in the washer (I have been trying to see a load through from hamper to folding before I start a new load; reduces the pile up). We also cleaned out Carla’s desk, which had an entire trash bag’s worth of junk in it, and we listened to Project Hail Mary (which I listened to based on Jaida’s excellent recommendation and loved so much that I explained it to Carla, and my enthusiasm made her want to listen to it also), and we watched a very long video of someone who gives makeovers to OMG dolls. Carla subsequently added “liquid latex” and “heat gun” to her list of must-have crafting items. It was nice to have a little extra time with my kid, but she has another day off coming up and I am very glad she is back at school.

After I dropped Carla off, I went to the grocery store and spent all our savings on food. I have not been noticing a huge number of shortages… things seem to have leveled off, a bit. (Although at Costco this weekend, there was no Kirkland-brand toilet paper, and both toilet paper and paper towels were one-per-customer.) Plenty of staples – beans, pasta, flour, sugar, pepperoni. Even Lunchables are available again. A thing that I do find concerning is that Target now has “only X left” on pretty much anything I try to order online. This is true whether I choose “pick-up” or “shipping” as my delivery option. It could simply be marketers playing to the scarcity strategy, but whatever it is, it definitely cues my panic response.

You know a thing that I find unnecessarily anxiety-provoking? When someone can’t hear what you’re saying. The checker at the grocery store had a hard time hearing me, and was really frustrated-acting about it. Which I get! It must be frustrating, to not hear someone! And I am sure that she has to deal with this same situation multiple times per day, what with people wearing masks, and her being stuck behind a plexiglass shield and all. But she did that thing where she shook her head and closed her eyes in an “I am counting to ten” kind of way, and, her tone said “this is entirely YOUR fault” and I felt helpless and defensive and equally frustrated that I couldn’t make myself heard and ugh. I just hate that. Makes me feel shaky and tearful when it should be a simple exchange of, “Oh, sorry! I will speak up!” and “Thank you! That’s better!” instead of disgusted dismissive shrugging like I am purposefully being a jerk.

She also seemed mad at me that I asked her to re-scan my apples. I bought Jonagold apples because a) I can’t remember the last time I ate a Jonagold apple, and cannot remember how they taste and b) because they looked so beautiful and shiny and red. I purposely avoided the Honeycrisp apples because a) they were $0.50 per pound more expensive and b) also looked pale and bloated. So I pointed out that they had rung up as the wrong apple – which she had me repeat twice – and then she said in an angry way, “Well, they come up as Honeycrisp when I type in the number on the tag.” Which. Okay. Either some Honeycrisp apples migrated into the Jonagold section or the tag was incorrect or the computer was reading them incorrectly or she typed the number into the computer incorrectly or I blacked out in the apple section and got Honeycrisp instead of Jonagold… I don’t know, but it didn’t seem to me that I had been BLAMING her for doing something WRONG when that is clearly how it came across. She is never as friendly as some of the checkers, but she sure drank some curdled milk this morning or something.

A package of M&Ms classic mix (M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, and peanut butter M&Ms all in a single bag) caught my eye at the checkout, but I neglected to act on my impulse and buy it. I wavered because I don’t really like plain M&Ms. But I am regretting my inaction now.

We got the bill for the exterminator, and it was MUCH higher than indicated in our previous infuriating and elliptical conversation. And I can’t decide whether I need to simply pay it and find a new exterminator service or if I should email him back and request an explanation. And I KNOW that prices are rising and costs are increasing, so there could be a reasonable explanation for the discrepancy. But I want to KNOW. I don’t want to just pay whatever he says the price is, willy nilly. We got a nice letter from our snowplow service saying – in advance – that they had a lot of increased costs and so our bill would go up, and I really appreciate that kind of up-front transparency. We will gladly pay the increase. Part of me wants to email the exterminator, just to see what he says. Although I am afraid he will then call me.

My root canal takes place next week. My husband took the day off from work and will drive me to and from the appointment and presumably ensure I don’t die afterward. I am not looking forward to it. But it will be nice to no longer have severe pain in my jaw. (Although I have heard plenty of stories about root canals not “taking” and needing to be repeated. Arrrrggghhhhh.)

This past Sunday, because Carla wasn’t going to school the following day, the three of us watched Cruella, with Emmas Stone and Thompson. There were some men in it, too, but the Emmas were the real stars. It was a decent movie, although it made Cruella a little too sympathetic, and I still am not quite sure I can make the narrative jump to her wanting to skin and wear a bunch of a Dalmatians as a coat. Also, the whole nature-vs-nurture theme of the movie could have done with a little more thinking through, but I suppose what do you want from a children’s storybook villain origin story. Carla was quite taken with her and has resumed speaking with a semi-British accent.

This is a bit of a delicate topic, maybe. But… do you shave your face? I had not done any sort of facial hair removal until a couple of months ago, aside from an occasional plucking of a stray eyebrow hair, or pulling out the hair that insists on sprouting witchily from the mole on my chin. But now I am completely obsessed with these Tinkle razors. I think I have used these enough times now to be able to recommend them with confidence. A little back story: an acquaintance mentioned these to me over the summer, and said she’d gotten a couple extra and she would give them to me. Note that she did not ask if I wanted them. Then the next couple of times we ran into each other, she’d slap her thigh and say, “Oh darn, I forgot to bring them for you!” As you might imagine, after each of these exchanges, I would spend long minutes with my face pressed up against the mirror, trying to determine whether my peach fuzz had graduated into full on facial shrubbery. Surely, my furry outer layer was so evident that this person felt COMPELLED to get me to take action. So when she finally pressed a couple into my hands, I was ready to give them a try. I had never tried any sort of facial hair removal options before because my mother had always given me stern and strenuous warnings about how the hair would grow back thicker and darker than before. A mother’s admonitions are a hard thing to get past, even when one is in her fifth decade of life. So far, I have not noticed this to be the case with the Tinkle razors. There is a period during which the face feels a teeny bit rougher than normal, but then the hair goes back to its normal downy state, and I haven’t noticed any change in color whatsoever. Anyway, these are very easy to use and I LOVE THEM and I am not going back and if you are looking for a facial hair solution I recommend you give these a go.

What are we supposed to be watching on TV these days? My husband and I watched Midnight Mass (interesting and thoughtful concept; Hamish Linklater; too many long-winded monologues) and Squid Game (VERY stressful but impossible to stop once we started) and are of course watching the latest season of Great British Baking Show. But we need something new. I want to watch that murder comedy with Selena Gomez (Only Murders in the Building) and my husband wants to watch Succession and neither of us is particularly excited about the other’s choice. What have you watched recently and loved?

I looked up the person who does the OMG doll makeovers and she apparently makes somewhere around $14,000 a month.

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Nicole posted last week about her favorite life-changing purchases, and I have been inspired to copy her. Here are some of the LIFE-CHANGING purchases I have made in the past year. Some of them may be familiar, because I have recommended them to you here before. Because they are LIFE CHANGING. (For details on one of my most enduring life-changing purchases, click here.)

Hanging Detangling Comb for ShowerThese come in all different colors, but the little curling tail that allows you to hang it over the towel bar in your shower is essential. This has been a GAME CHANGER for me. I comb through my hair when I apply conditioner, and then again after I’ve rinsed and applied smoothing serum or curling serum or whatever other thing I want to put in my hair. Keeping my hair detangled seemed SO MUCH EASIER now that I have added this one little thing to my regimen.

Hair Towel: Technically, my sister-in-law purchased this for me, but still. It is a LIFE-CHANGING item. Again, I think you can find your one true hair towel; I don’t necessarily think that this specific one is the best. Just get you a hair towel, of any type. Well, as long as it has a button to hold it in place. Gone are the days of wrapping my hair in a bulky towel, only to have it collapse on me. Gone are the days of needing two towels, one for my hair and one for my body. I love this hair towel. LOVE. IT.

 

 

Blow Dryer Brush: This is a pricy one, and once again, I don’t know that this particular brand is The Exact One you should get; this is the exact one I have, and I like it plenty. (I got mine at Nordstrom.) But being in possession of a tool that allows me to brush and dry AND straighten my hair with one hand has been transformative. For one thing, I don’t have to deal with a hair dryer and then a straightener. But, even better and more life-changing, I can now read while I dry my hair! I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror while I brush my hair, I have a hand free to turn the pages or scroll or whatever. It’s amazing. I love it.

Tula Cooling Eye Balm: I have already recommended this to you, but I am here once again to say that you NEED this in your life. I have been especially grateful for it this summer, when its cooling effect is a breath of fresh air when I’ve been stuck in a hot and steamy bathroom trying to get ready. And it wakes up my expression without any makeup, which I am sure would either melt off or sink into my eye wrinkles or both. It is magical. 

 

Vince Camuto Underpants: I am pretty sure Linda at All & Sundry recommended these. And lo, they are wonderful. I only have the three pairs but I think I will buy more because I paw through my underwear drawer looking for these ones first every single day. They are so comfortable and yet cute and not a million dollars.

Running Belt: I love this stupid thing so much. I wear it under my shirt whenever I go out walking (not running as the name implies). It has little pockets where I can stow my keys and phone and, before I was vaccinated, a mask. It’s less bulky than a fanny pack. Nothing jiggles. And it’s totally hands free. Game. Changer.

Fabric Resistance Bands: When I first began my resistance band journey (LOL), I bought the elastic bands. They were inexpensive, which was good when I had no idea whether I’d even use them. Turns out I like the added resistance quite a lot, but the elastic is no bueno. It twists and bunches and slips and I spend more time adjusting the bands than I do resisting them. But the FABRIC bands do not bunch or slip! They stay in place and make my workouts much less stressful.

Ninja Blender: I know for sure I have talked up this blender before in this space. It was a pandemic purchase, made when my husband and I determined that our old wedding-gift blender was incapable of blending ice well enough to make daiquiris. While we are no longer making weekly mixed drinks, I make near-daily smoothies and this blender is AMAZING. Party because it is just All Business when it comes to blending things. And partly because it comes with a separate smoothie-making apparatus, with its own blade and its own cup, so you don’t have a whole huge blender to clean every day. (Or, when you are in the middle of a pandemic, you can make a blender full of daiquiris for yourself and your spouse and a smoothie size virgin daiquiri for your child without worrying about cross contamination!) The smoothie cups even come with their own lids, so you can remove the blade, pop on the lid, and drink from the blender cup without dirtying another glass! LIFE CHANGING. I use the smoothie maker, as I said, almost daily and I am grateful for it every time I use it.

 

Sparkling Watermelon Juice: This is a brand new life-changing item, as in I just learned about it last week! But this watermelon seltzer (Harry Styles voice) is SO DELICIOUS. And I cannot stand watermelon! I am guessing it would be excellent as part of a cocktail, but I have yet to experiment with it. Hie thee to your nearest Trader Joe’s and get some now. (Or apparently you can also order it via Amazon, but it is WAY less expensive in person at TJs.)

Phone Case with Card Holder: I have technically had this phone case since 2017, so it’s not a NEW purchase. But I did just order a new one (not the case’s fault; I am just a butteryfingered person who drops my phone constantly, and the case took one for the team. It did its job by protecting my phone, though.) so I feel like it counts. Anyway, this is A LIFE CHANGER TO END ALL LIFE CHANGERS. It completely ended my reliance on purses. I keep my ID and my credit card in the little sliding pocket, and then all I need to take anywhere is my phone! It fits snugly around the phone, so it’s not bulky at all. And it does keep the phone safe. If you tend to drop your phone a lot, the little sliding door will eventually give up, but who can fault it, really?

That’s a lot of life-changing for one year, no? What life-changing purchases have you made recently?

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My house looks like the scene of a collision between a LEGO truck, a dinosaur themed party supply warehouse, and a JoAnn Fabric. LEGO bricks and crafting supplies and dinosaur-themed things are strewn through pretty much every room. And our beloved housecleaner comes TOMORROW, along with the long-awaited plumber, so I need to de-toy-ify the floors at the very least. I am DREADING the act of finding a home for all these new things. WHERE will it all go? I’m sure it will lead to one of those things where you open the craft cupboard to put in new supplies and you decide the only way the new things will fit is if you reorganize the whole cupboard and I am not up for that.

Instead, I think I shall type up a blog post. 

New Nail Polish: I have been admiring some of Essie’s summer nail colors, but I have two problems with Essie nail polish. First, it is expensive. Second, it takes too long to dry and I am impatient, which means that any time I DO spend the $9 it costs to acquire an Essie nail varnish, I end up wasting a bunch of it because I smear my nails every time. Every. Time. I’m really a Sally Hansen Insta-Dri nail polish kind of girl, you know? Despite the absolute ridiculousness of spelling “dry” with an I, the Insta-Dri line has a wide variety of colors, dries in seconds, and costs under $5 per bottle. Done and done. But when I saw that Essie now has a quick-dry line of polish, I was very intrigued. The name of said polish – Essie Expressie – made me heave a deep, exasperated sigh, but what can we expect from those poor beleaguered nail polish marketing folk who have to continually pump out name after name for slightly different shades of pink? (In the Time Zone? Mall Crawler? Mic Drop-It-Low? How are these names? At least Get a Mauve On has an indication of the actual color.) This is all to say that I was intrigued enough to shell out $8.99 for a bottle of Crave the Chaos and I am very pleased indeed. The exact right shade of pink and it went on smoothly and with nary a smudge. Now all I need is a nail polish that sticks only to fingernail and repels instantly off skin. 

Mask-Friendly Mascara: While I don’t really wear makeup, I do have one true love and that is mascara. I almost ALWAYS wear mascara, because my eyelashes are pale and stubby and I feel like I look very odd when I go au naturel. The problem, though, is that mask wearing, especially mask wearing plus heat and humidity, make my mascara melt down my eyelashes and onto my cheeks. (And I am still wearing a mask indoors, in public, so this is a Real Issue.) I recall with horror one incident this past winter where I wore mascara skiing, and when I removed my goggles – but not my mask – to greet some friends I hadn’t seen in many months, I registered the Disturbed Looks on their faces but brushed them off. Only once I’d ambled into the restroom, much later that day, did I discover the Severe Raccoon Eye Situation I’d been sporting. Ever since that day, I have been doing something I SWORE I would never do: I wear waterproof mascara. If you know of a good waterproof mascara, please let me know because I do NOT. And every waterproof mascara I have ever tried is IMPOSSIBLE to remove. I have to practically rip each individual eyelash out of my lids to get that infernal substance off me. But I have found a solution! I got a sample size tube of Chanel mascara when I bought someone  fancy face cream from Nordstrom, and it came with a sample size tube of Chanel La Base mascara base. (A rather redundant name, but at least it isn’t “Taxi Hopping” or “Lose the Snooze” or “All Things Ooo” which a real, live person or persons came up with and slapped on the side of a nail polish bottle.) So what I have been doing is applying the base – which is white – and then putting the waterproof mascara on top of it. Voila! The waterproof mascara stays put, but comes off much more easily with the base than without. I am assuming you can use any base-coat mascara, to avoid paying THIRTY-TWO AMERICAN DOLLARS for the Chanel.

image from nordstrom.com

Good Clean Dino Fun: My mother-in-law brought Carla this soap-making kit, and, best of all, the soaps are shaped like dinosaurs. They did the project together and made little soaps for the favor bags we handed out at Carla’s dinosaur themed party. It was an excellent craft, very easy to clean up, and made very satisfying little soaps. If you have a child in your life who like both dinosaurs and crafting, this should be on your radar. 

image from amazon.com

Dinosaurs and LEGO Unite: While on the subject of the dino-loving child, she received this 3-in-1 dinosaur LEGO set from a friend. I think it will be PERFECT for when we visit my parents later this summer, because it’s small and yet you can make three separate creatures out of the LEGO bricks included. In fact, I have had this in my Amazon cart, waiting until we got a little closer to our trip to order it. (I find it’s nice to have a couple little surprises on hand, to help with the stress and potential boredom of traveling.)

image from amazon.com

Maxi Skirt: I have continued my search for a maxi skirt I like. And I think I found it in this Tie-Dye Striped Midi Skirt from Loft. The fabric is lightweight but sturdier than jersey, so it floats over my lumpy hips rather than rippling magnifyingly along every bump and bulge. I am pleased that it is also white and blue, which means I can wear it for the Fourth of July. 

image from loft.com

More Jean Shorts?!?!?!: Also from Loft, I am really enjoying these Fresh Cut High Waist Boyfriend Shorts. They fit my criteria: high rise, roomy leg openings, not too short, and free shipping.

image from loft.com

I find the name perplexing – fresh cut? like flowers? or a bundle of garden-grown herbs? And I really doubt anyone’s boyfriend would wear these, ever – but they are comfy and long enough that I can roll up the hems if I want to. Somehow I have transformed, in a single year, from a person who owned zero pairs of jean shorts to a person who now owns SIX PAIRS. (The shorts I ordered most recently have a button fly, which I dislike… but they are also very cute so I may keep them. And I also got a pair of these striped denim shorts from Loft that I am pretty sure I will keep as well.) Now that I have these bad boys and two more Madewell tanks, I am thinking my summer uniform is now complete. 

Fun Raisins: Well, this is a post of eating my words, I think. I never thought I would be a shorts-sporter, or a waterproof-mascara wearer, or a person who buys $9 nail polish, but I NEVER EVER thought I would be someone who eats raisins for non-life-and-death reasons. And yet here we are. My sister-in-law had a box of strawberry flavored raisins with her when she came to visit, and I tried some to be polite, and they were SUPER YUMMY. They tasted more like slightly-sour candy than a raisin, which, I cannot stress enough, was always right up there with eating someone’s surgically-removed mole in terms of appetizing. But I liked them so much I bought a box MYSELF, and a box of watermelon flavored raisins to have as a cupcake backup at Carla’s birthday party. They are very tasty and I highly recommend them. Even if you are a raisin hater. NEVER SAY NEVER.

What are you loving lately?

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Ten things I hate about summer:

  1. Sweating.
  2. Never knowing how to dress for the constant fluctuations between instant outdoor heatstroke and freeze-your-freckles-off air conditioning.
  3. Shaving my toes. Or, more accurately, forgetting to shave my toes.
  4. The smell of self-tanner. (I have been using this spray tanner from Neutrogena, excuse me micromist; it has a very mild, very fleeting scent but the scent is there. Also, I cannot tell if it is doing ANYTHING to “build my all-over flawless tan.”)
  5. Persistent debris – sticks, leaf bits, dirt, pebbles – all over my floor.
  6. Relatedly: stuff stuck to my feet.
  7. Sunblock, especially putting it on my child. WHEN will she learn to apply it herself, thoroughly and accurately and regularly? Please say eight, please say eight.
  8. Watermelon, and the abundance thereof.
  9. Wasps. 
  10. How fleeting it is. A friend summarized it yesterday: “We have four weeks of camp, then two weeks of vacation, then a week at home, and then it’s pretty much back to school.” Nothing like packing your entire, much-longed-for summer into three short clauses to make it feel like it’s NEARLY OVER already.

Ten things I love about summer:

  1. Walking in the sunshine, and, whilst walking, stepping into a sudden patch of scent that wraps you in a lovely fragrant cocoon: clover, honeysuckle, lilac.
  2. Freckles.
  3. The near-constant thrum of distant lawnmowers. (Not to be confused with the angry drone of lawnmowers in your own yard, always too early or during a Zoom call.)
  4. Fancy cocktails, fresh fruit, and their delicious intersection.
  5. The thrill of watching pea shoots and tomato plants stretch toward the sun.
  6. Reading outside in the sunshine.
  7. Grilling. I don’t care what it is. Throw it on the grill. 
  8. The opportunity to sleep an extra hour, if desirable/doable.
  9. NO SOCKS NEEDED. 
  10. How fleeting it is. It feels rare and precious, and I spend all summer reveling in its many joys, trying to tilt the bottle of the season to just the right angle so I can savor every last honeyed drop.

What are your favorite/least favorite things about summer?

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First of all, I love you, you are all so very much My People, and I am delighted to know that you are all just as Done With Meal Planning/Prep as I am. I find this meal-malaise to be distressing because I generally LIKE food and making food and thinking about food. But I assume this is A Phase and that someday soon I will get all hot and bothered about some sort of soup or new way to assemble ingredients into a taco.

Speaking of which, my husband and I recently had an argument over whether something counted as a taco. He spread a pita with hummus, added some sort of shredded meat, and topped it with vegetables. Then he pinched the sides of the pita together, so that the whole contraption made a semi-circular (or should I say taco-shellular) shape, and then ate it. LOOKED LIKE A TACO TO ME. 

The sun is shining and the temperature is supposedly dropping from a sweltering 90 to a much more endurable 67, and I had a lovely morning with Carla, and school is nearly done for the year, and Carla gets to attend CAMP this summer, so I am feeling cheery. Seems like a good day to share a few of my favorite things, no?

1. Plant protectors. This weekend, I finally planted the seedlings that Carla and I started from, well, seed. We had some fledgling cherry tomatoes, some broccoli sprouts, some little baby jalapenos, and, most exciting, some sugar snap pea shoots. The very next day, one of the sugar snap peas had been snapped in half because a very absent-minded or very optimistic chipmunk or squirrel had been digging in the newly planted pot. Arrrgh! Enough! I cannot fathom another summer of carefully painting my plants with cayenne pepper solution only to have half of them be eaten anyway. So I ordered these mesh plant protectors for my containers and so far I am Very Happy with them. I got the largest size and they are truly enormous. More than adequate for my containers. I could fit both snap pea pots inside one bag. They adjust with a drawstring, so they can really fit a wide variety of containers. My only quibble with them is that they don’t have adjustors/buckles to keep the drawstring tight; I had to secure the drawstrings with a knot, which is fine of course but there are better ways. I see that this brand of similar mesh bags does come with adjustors; if the current bags don’t last past this season, I may get the adjustor-included version next year.

2. New dress and pants. I finally found a dress that I like. It’s not QUITE as casual as I was hoping for; I don’t think I’d love sitting on the sidewalk and drawing with chalk whilst wearing this dress. But it’s summery and I like the fabric and I don’t hate how it looks on me. 

image from anntaylor.com

(I also tried this other dress, because I loved the pattern and I thought it also looked summery and casual. But the waistline is even more empire-ish than it looks in the photo, and to avoid the “maybe she’s pregnant” vibe, I need to be cinched in at my natural waistline. So I had to return it.) 

image from anntaylor.com

I also finally found a pair of summer-weight pants I don’t hate. I never in a million years thought I would buy or wear linen pants, but here we are. In fact, as I was looking up the link for these pants I made a snap decision to buy a second pair, so I will have grey and green. These pants are VERY casual. Like, maybe a step up from sweatpants. My husband and I had a discussion about suitable venues for wearing these pants, and he thinks they are fine for wearing to the grocery store or playdates but NOT for wearing to a barbecue in someone’s backyard. Just FYI, for those of you interested in fashion advice from my husband. I could kind of envision a person – probably a younger and/or hipper person – pairing them with heels and a dressy top, but I am guessing I will pair them with flip flops and a tank top. Anyway, these pants are very comfy and I don’t hate them. These are the barriers an item of clothing must clear to make it into my wardrobe, and, lo, so few can make the leap.

image from nordstrom.com

3. Mango smoothies. I have been making myself a mango smoothie on the regular. They are perfect when it is so very hot. They feel like a treat and they are SO easy. Half a cup of plain Greek yogurt. Half a cup of frozen mango. Quarter cup of orange juice. Quarter cup of milk. Squeeze of honey. Splash of vanilla, if I’m feeling fancy. Blend. Pour. Enjoy. 

4. Tula Cooling Eye Balm: I can’t remember where I got this cooling and brightening stick, but I LOVE it. It goes on very smoothly and leaves you with a refreshingly cool sensation and I do think it lifts and brightens my eyes. Now that we’re venturing out into the world more and more frequently, I find myself wearing makeup (mascara, eyebrow mascara, occasional sweep of blush) more often, and this balm is a regular part of the routine. 

image from amazon.com

5. Morning walks with Carla. This spring, much to the chagrin of parents, Carla’s school instituted a late start on Wednesdays. It took me/us a few weeks to adjust to the new schedule; I, for one, felt very off-kilter, always wondering what day it was and often feeling that jolt of forgot-to-study-for-a-test-dream-fear that comes with thinking “Oh no! We’re late for school!” or “Oh no! We overslept!” when really we were fine and on time and everything was okay. Once we got past that initial turbulence, the late starts have been lovely. Carla still wakes up at roughly the same time, which means we can have a leisurely breakfast and none of the frantic pace of normal school days. Best, though, is that we sometimes have time to go for a walk before school. Sometimes we go to a local nature preserve, but most often we walk around our neighborhood, searching for dogs to pet. Carla is a JOY during these morning walks. She’s happy and eager to find dogs. She’s well-rested and cheerful. She skips along next to me, sometimes holding my hand, and chats at me – it’s so different from after school, when she’s tired from a long day of playing and learning, and replies “I forget” or “stuff” to literally every question I ask her. (Although she has started saying “the usual” when I ask her what she had for lunch. Since previously her answer was “I forget” or “stuff,” I have “the usual” NO IDEA of what she actually ate.) But she is fresh and full of ideas in the mornings.

She and her classmates have been learning about birds, a subject she has approached with great enthusiasm, so she tells me all the names of the birds we pass and whistles at them, trying to get them to chirp back. This morning, she started singing the Twelve Days of Christmas, but she called it the Twelve Days of Summer, and for each day “mommy” gave to her an item we spotted on our walk: grackles, chipmunks, dogs, geese, five butterflies, and ending with a squirrel in an oak tree. I cannot fully express just how full I feel of love and affection and absolute delight.

Because I am not in a hurry, I can slow down and devote my entire attention to Carla. I can really see her, and enjoy her, and glimpse through all the shimmering morning sunshine just how precious our time together is. Of course I wish I could be a better and more patient person always. I wish all mornings could be like this. But I suspect it’s partially their infrequency that makes them so special. I know I will remember these mornings and their glimmering, unrushed intimacy as long as I live. I hope they mean as much to Carla, and that she remembers this time together as tenderly as I do, even after I’m gone. 

What are you loving lately?

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