Some of my loyal readers might be surprised to see that I’m doubling up on months for this “Things I’m Loving” post. Based on my reader survey and comments online, I know that a lot of you really look forward to these posts each month. However, I’ve decided to start doing them every other month instead of each one. But don’t worry; expect them to be double the fun and double the love since it will be two months packed into one post. This change will allow me to spend extra time focusing on my more “intense” posts, like a few that I’ve got brewing in the background here which I’m SO PUMPED to share with you. It will also hopefully allow me to just like, … you know … CHILL. I’m not always good at that, but I’m working on it. I’ve also got two of my besties getting married this year, so 2016 is about to fly by and I want to make sure I’m achieving some kind of balance in my life. So that’s the basic gist of why I’ve chosen to make this small change to my blogging schedule.
I’ve also decided to give my heart illustrations a break to try something new. (#NEWYEARNEWME) My plan is to illustrate basically whatever I feel like illustrating for these posts from now on. This month’s is actually something I made for an art swap with some “gillies,” aka huge fans of Gilmore Girls, and more specifically huge fans of the Gilmore Guys podcast. I made this digital painting of the Stars Hollow Gazebo for Paige, who is a wizard with hand-lettering. My prize from this swap is that cheeky cross stitch (seen above) I received from Kerissa. It’s one of my favorite quotes from Gilmore Girls where Miss Patty exclaims at the market, “Try a plum they’re better than sex!” Fun stuff. It goes without saying that I’m outrageously excited for the Gilmore Girls Netflix revival.
So, here’s what I’ve been loving over the past couple months:
Kitchens of the Great Midwest – In early January I spent a lovely weekend with my in-laws at a luxury cabin in Ohio. We were there for an 80th birthday celebration for Robert’s grandfather. Aside from the birthday festivities, we had nothing to do except enjoy each other’s company and relax. This kind of situation is where I love to plow through a novel, and I did so that weekend with this little gem I got for Christmas. It’s a fun read about a young female chef growing up, and each chapter focuses on a different little snippet of her life, but they’re all kind of woven together. There are a couple great recipes peppered throughout and it features some really interesting characters. I would highly recommend it if you enjoy foodie novels.
Roomba – We were gifted a Roomba for Christmas and it has made a real difference in our lives. As owners of a long-haired black dog, vacuuming is something that really should happen daily but totally wasn’t. Now when we’re home in the evening or on the weekends, we spend a few quick minutes roomba-proofing the apartment, and then Marvin (yes, we named our Roomba Marvin) vacuums every little corner of our place while we make dinner, get work done, etc. Now we encounter much fewer Gimour hair tumbleweeds in the hallway and our area rugs are looking much better. Also, it’s just really cool to know that a little robot is cleaning your house while you do other things.
Ninja Coffee Bar – When I attended the BlogHer Food Conference back in November, the only sponsor that REALLY excited me was the Ninja Coffee Bar. As they described the product to me I felt like it was truly the coffee machine of my dreams. I don’t drink coffee too often, but when I do I prefer it to be either an espresso beverage (like a latte, cappuccino, etc.) or an iced coffee. I will often make a big batch of cold brew to keep in my fridge but sometimes it goes bad before I can use it all. It would be nice to have a coffee machine of my own, to help with making a cold brew when I did it, I hear some people want a cuisinart coffee machine and other coffee machines are just as good. But for now with the Ninja Coffee Bar I can easily make myself an espresso beverage (with the help of their separate microwave milk frother which I LOVE so much), or I can decide last-minute to make an iced coffee with their “over ice” brew setting.
Thanks to their four size settings (full carafe, half carafe, cup or travel mug), you’ve got the convenience of a Keurig built into a coffee maker but without using those terrible pods. A little shelf flips down so you can brew straight into your favorite cup or travel mug. These are the settings I’ll be using most often, but I appreciate that this machine also gives me the option of brewing a full carafe of coffee for when we have company over. It fulfills all of my coffee needs with ONE machine. Do you understand how amazing this is?! I was thrilled when I got in touch with Ninja and they offered to send me one to play with, and I can honestly say that it’s the perfect coffee maker for me at this point in my life. IT’S SO COOL. It also comes with a recipe book for all different kinds of drinks to make with it using their various settings.
The Inspiralized “What I Ate Today” Videos – Ali from Inspiralized recently launched a YouTube channel and I’m obsessed with these “What I Ate Today” videos she’s been doing. Some people would probably find this soooo boring and maybe I’m just nosy or whatever, but knowing the ins and outs of someone’s daily routines fascinates me in some ways. I love Ali’s videos because you get to see how a real person (who, yes, happens to be a food blogger) actually eats from day to day. More importantly, you get to see a realistic healthy diet played out in real life. She shows you what she’s whipping up for breakfast, throwing together for lunch, and usually a slightly more involved meal that she makes for herself and her husband for dinner (often after hitting up the gym), plus some snacks in between. Sometimes I think it can be really helpful to physically SEE how a person throws together dinner. Her videos have given me fresh ideas for healthy lunches and snacks, and they’ve also inspired me to loosen up a little and keep things simple when it comes to cooking healthy food.
Jane the Virgin – I kept hearing good things about this show so I finally gave it a shot recently. I also joined our local YMCA back in January to give myself some other workout options and switch things up a little. This is related because I actually started watching this show via my phone while using the elliptical machine. If you want to motivate yourself to get your sweat on, find a good 40-minute show to binge while you’re on a workout machine. I would burn like 400 calories without even thinking about it, so in other words this is my new favorite way to work out. Anyway, I tried to limit myself to only watching on the elliptical, but I couldn’t help it and ended up binge-watching through the end while working on computer stuff. I was devastated when I realized there was only one season on Netflix (how did I watch the whole first season without knowing this?!), so I’m currently re-watching season one with Robert during our dinner TV sessions. This show is funny, heartwarming, well-written and clever. That’s all I’m going to say about it; you just need to watch it. I haven’t loved a show this much in a long time.
The Shepod – After my most recent list of podcast favs went up, Lynn from The Actor’s Diet recommended The Shepod to me and she couldn’t have hit closer to the mark. I’ve already binge-listened to all of their episodes – They became my favorite podcast for keeping me company while I was baking and cleaning in the kitchen. Gilmore Girls has been described as a “warm blanket show,” which is a perfect description for how I think of it, and The Shepod has become my “warm blanket podcast.” Rachael and Sara are close friends who sit around drinking $6 Prosecco from TJ’s while chatting about what they’re wearing, watching and eating, plus what’s grossing them out, etc. Expect a lot of chatter about wine, cheese, dog poop, Target, Trader Joe’s and television, and every episode ends with a segment about ’90s nostalgia. I can’t get enough.
Yes Please – I took a short break from podcasts to listen to a few audiobooks recently. (I use the Overdrive app to “borrow” audiobooks from a local library. It’s pretty awesome.) I particularly love memoir audiobooks read by the author, like Bossypants. After listening to Jim Gaffigan’s “Dad is Fat” (so funny), I listened to Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” and then Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind of Girl.” Of the three, “Yes Please” was my favorite. Amy is just so good in the way she reads it for the audiobook, but it’s also really well-written. Most of it is hilarious, but there’s a lot of raw and heartwarming moments in there too. Reading her book made me really thankful that I live in a time with female role models like her, aka badass women doin’ their thing and not apologizing for it. But more importantly, how have I not watched Parks and Rec yet?!
green tea smoothies – I’ve gotten back on the smoothie train pretty hard in the new year. In January I shared a cranberry pineapple smoothie from the Simple Green Smoothies cookbook, which is a great resource. But my new favorite thing is green tea smoothies. I’ve been doing a variation of this one – I get a big jug of the unsweetened green tea by Honest Tea at the grocery store to keep in the fridge, and then I make smoothies with that + fresh mint + spinach + frozen pineapple + either fresh pear or frozen peaches. It’s so refreshing and makes me feel like summer is a little closer than it is.
RECIPE BUCKET LIST:
• Anytime You Need ‘Em Slice-and-Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies from Hummingbird High
• No-Bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars and Peanut Butter “Cookie Dough” Bites from The Fauxmartha
• Thick, Chewy Granola Bars from Smitten Kitchen
• Crispy Toasted Quinoa Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles from Ambitious Kitchen
• Broccoli, Cheddar and Quinoa Gratin from Cookie and Kate
• Gingerbread Corgi Cookies (!!!) from I Am a Food Blog
• Coconut Mocha Vegan Protein Bars from The First Mess
• Warm Sweet Potato Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette from Heartbeet Kitchen
Illustration at top created with Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (plus other products) are available in my Society6 shop.