I used to do this thing where at the end of the year, I’d post some of the foods, products, and random things I loved and enjoyed over the past year. I haven’t done it in years, and yes it is only August, but I decided to make another one of these posts because quarantine and social isolation has given me a lot of time to pay attention to the small comforts in life, and the random things that bring me joy.
Also, my blog has been pretty heavy lately as I shared some of the things I wrote to help me wade through my birth experience and process the trauma. It has helped tremendously, writing through it has been such a gift. That being said, I am looking forward to some lighter posts to come– things that reflect where I currently am, mentally and emotionally, as opposed to where I’ve been.
So, here we go. Things I’m diggin’ this year so far. It’s a random (and long) list ranging from recipes and books to phone apps and exercises.
INK APP + GIFT CARD OPTIONS
The Ink App allows you to quickly make greeting cards and ship them off to loved ones. They end up being, oftentimes, less expensive than store bought cards, and they are 100% of the time more adorable, personalized, and fun to send. They recently added a feature where you can add a gift card to the envelope, making this the perfect solution to sending cards for birthdays, anniversaries, sympathy, etc. There’s an Apple and Android version of the app.
Tinybeans is a phone app where you can save family photos, and you can choose to have them shared with family members/friends if you want to. Some cool things about the app:
-It organizes your photos into a calendar type view, and you can do batches of uploads, it will automatically put the photos into the right date on the calendar
-You can spam the people with baby/pet photos who WANT to be spammed– like your parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.
-It frees up more space on my phone because I’m not worried about saving every single photo I take of my child
-There is a flashback feature, much like Facebook Timehop. I love seeing the memories that come up.
-You can use Tinybeans even if you don’t have a human or dog that you obsessively take photos of. In fact, I think it would be cool to use Tinybeans as a running, photo diary of sorts. You can enter captions for photos, and it would just be fun to have a visual journal that way. You can set it so the app reminds you to post each day if you want.
I love me some Chatbooks photo books. Fun to make, quality printing. And the big bonus…if you’re using Tinybeans, you can import photos directly to chatbooks from Tinybeans! They make it really easy.
The Instant Pot pressure cooker has been one of the best kitchen gadgets to grace my kitchen. The first thing I ever cooked in it was homemade apple sauce. It only took a few minutes and it was so good I cried. It’s the little things, OK? I use it a lot to make soups, mac n cheese, meats, really anything you can think of can be converted to an instant pot recipe. Even cheesecake!
COLOR CODING APPS
This sounds scary, but take a deep breath and stay with me. A few months ago, a friend of mine told me that she went buckwild and organized all the apps on her phone into folders not based on their function, but by their color. I gasped…what?! But…how? Why? What if I can never find anything ever again? She sent me an article that discussed the benefits of doing this, and I was convinced enough to give it a try. After all, the 6 pages of apps on my phone weren’t aesthetically pleasing or efficient. What the article said made a lot of sense,
“An app icon’s visual elements are specifically designed to be easily identified and memorable. Your mind associates colors much quicker than black and white name labels, and colors can help you navigate your phone faster.”
So, I did it. And I have loved it since. I usually use the spotlight feature to find what I’m looking for anyway, but when I have needed to find the physical location of an app, I can find it in seconds because, as the article accurately stated, our brains remember what the apps look like easily.
TEXT SHORTCUTS ON IPHONE
This is more of a life hack than a “favorite thing.” I’m not sure if everyone else is already doing this, but sharing in case not. You can set up shortcuts in your iPhone (Android probably has this too?) so that if you type a certain word, it will automatically change into the text you have designated. So when someone asks me for my address (happens a lot more than I would have expected), I type “myadrs”, hit the space bar, and it automatically expands into my complete address. I have these shortcuts set up form my personal email address and work email address/physical address, too. Here’s an article with instructions for how to set this up.
If you know me even a little bit, you know about my pen collection. I have hundreds. Literally hundreds of pens, and I can’t stop buying them. SO, here are my favorites, my go-to babies, my boo thangs, my ride or dies.
Mr. Pen felt tip pens, $7.00. Surprisingly awesome. Very fine point.
Fineliners, $5.00. Another felt tip go to for me.
I’m not big into ballpoint pens, but when I use them, I like these Skilcraft pens. They are the same ones that have been produced forever, with U.S. Government printed on the side. They are made by employees of Industries for the Blind, so it’s great to support that as well!
Papermate Inkjoy, a solid gel pen. $12 for a big, multi-colored pack.
Pentel Energel, always reliable.
These Skilcraft felt tip pens will always, ALWAYS be my favorite. I discovered them at a fundraiser for Industries for the Blind and was forever changed.
DOT LINED NOTEBOOK
I do a lot of writing and notetaking for work, and dot lined notebooks have become a staple. It’s easier to organize my thoughts and ideas on them, and for some reason it just feels more fun writing on them as opposed to regular lined paper. This is my favorite one I’ve found so far— and was a whopping $3.00 from Walmart. The page are perforated and nicely tear out if needed, so that’s a huge bonus.
ABCD TO DO LIST/ORGANIZER
A few years ago, I was working a job that was really stressful. There was way too much work to do, a staff too small to do all the work, and I had trouble even figuring out my priorities because everything felt urgent and like a priority. I called my dad one night, figuring he would have some advice, as I know he’s held a lot of intense and stressful jobs. His have been quite literally life or death…mine just felt that way sometimes 🙂 My dad had a great tip that I still use to this day, even though my job is nowhere near as stressful and flooded with tasks.
Instead of organizing your tasks into a long, numbered to do list, he said to look at your entire week and break things up into categories: A, B, C, and D. The task items under A mean they absolutely have to get done, they are of utmost importance, negative consequences will take place if they don’t get done. B is a little less serious, it would be nice to get them done but aren’t crucial, and so on down the line.
The interesting thing that happened when I broke my to do list up into these categories was that I realized I was putting items on my list that were classified as “D” items, but when in a big numbered list, my brain looked at it and viewed it as an A or B item. Putting them into different lettered categories helped relieve a ton of pressure.
What is also helpful about this is if you have a lot of items under A, like so many that you know it’s physically and humanly impossible to get them done unless you work a 100-hour week, then you know you need to reevaluate. See what you can change, talk to your supervisor, ask for help from employees, delegate work out, etc. Week to week, some items that are in D may move to A as weeks go by, which makes sense. This is just a really helpful way to organize your tasks, and take stress off of you. It has helped me tremendously. Thanks, dad! I made a graphic here that I print out, a fresh one for each week.
FAVORITE RANDOM AMAZON PURCHASES LATELY
In this section, you’ll see just how exciting my life is these days. Here ya go.
No hardware required under the cabinet paper towel holder
Set of two glass tumblers with silicone straws— I cannot stress enough how much I love these. I drink way more water if I’m drinking out of one of these.
Candy Cane Chapstick– the only chapstick I ever use. Tingly, Christmasey. All the write thingsey.
Unscented soy candles– I have pretty severe allergies and asthma, so scented candles were banned from my house years ago. I have so missed having pretty, lit candles though. These unscented soy candles do the trick! It’s nearly impossible to find unscented glass jar candles in stores.
V-Neck Tshirt dress– essential work from home attire for that PJ feel but Zoom meeting appropriate attire.
Cord labels– Ya’ll. I HATE when I find a stack of miscellaneous cords and I don’t know what they go to so I can’t throw them away. This year I decided to start labeling all the cords. Even the cords that don’t need to be labeled because they are very obviously for one item. Doesn’t matter…if you’re a cord in my house your ass is getting stickered and labeled.
7-Inch Santoku Knife– I got this as a gift for my husband after seeing there are almost 15,000 5-star reviews, and many of the reviews were from professional chefs saying this is their go to knife. And it’s $18!! I love this knife and meal prep goes a lot quicker with it.
Brown kraft wrapping paper– Turned me from a present wrapping hater into a present wrapping lover. No need to get seasonal paper, this stuff works for all occasions.
Brave New Mama– A sweet, short poetry book that every new mother should have. I have read it so many times, and it speaks to my soul differently each time.
Double USB speed charger. It really does charge things super quickly. Is it doing longterm damage to my electronic devices and actually killing the battery each and every time I use it? Maybe. I don’t really understand electronics, but this seems like it has to come with some baggage, some red tape. Is it worth it so I can have a charged device at a rate of 5x faster? Yes.
Monopoly Deal– Our favorite game to play, really the only game we play. It’s addicting, way more fun than Monopoly the board game. And the plus side is that you don’t want to commit homicide after playing for 7 hours with the person you used to call a lover or friend.
SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS ON REPEAT
Most are pretty chill playlists I listen to when working
- Alexis Ffrench
- Baker– a playlist I made for the hospital when in labor with Baker. I still listen to it several times per week and sing the songs to my girl.
- Calming Instrumental Covers
- Lofi Hip Hop Music
- 90’s Smash Hits
- James Taylor
- George Winston
- Kissing Girls Radio
- I Loved You First Radio
OUR MOMENTS QUESTION CARDS
At my job, I run a psychoeducational program for parents and their kids, and I have to put together little kits of activities and goodies for them. I found these question cards online and decided they were probably pretty cheesy, but fun. One night when my husband and I were sitting around, I decided to crack a package open and see just how cheesy they were. To our surprise, we had some pretty funny and interesting story sharing, all prompted by the question cards. We’ve been together for 13 years, so there’s not much we haven’t talked about, but the very first card we drew had us sharing stories we never had before. There are different decks– couples, families, kids, generations, etc.
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd– The only podcast I religiously listen to every single episode. I laugh, I cry, I learn. I love.
Unlocking Us by Brene Brown – Everything Brene does is magic. This is no different.
Office Ladies– As a huge fan of The Office, this is a fun listen!
The Michelle Obama Podcast– OK full disclosure I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’m dying to. Her book, Becoming, was one of my all time favorites so I’m sure this podcast won’t disappoint.
My husband is the big youtube watcher, not me, but he has really turned me onto Sam the Cooking Guy. And Sam the Cooking Guy has really turned me on….to the food he makes. His recipes that we have made at home have all been winners so far. His Carne Asada marinade, LAWD it’s good. We have tried it with a few cuts of meat, but so far the filet mignon carne asada was my favorite.
Mkay yes, we all know about Audible. But, did you know they have a secret membership tier that they don’t advertise, and you have to specifically ask for it by talking to a customer service representative? It’s called Audible Silver and they bill you $14 every other month instead of every month. It’s perfect for slow listeners, or if you’re like me, you listen to lots of books, but are mostly there for the Daily Deal offer. Each day, Audible selects a Daily Deal– a book that they discount to anywhere between $2 and $5, where it would normally be between $20 and $35. I have found some of my absolute favorite books through the Daily Deal, I buy a lot of them. Like, I may or may not currently have 136 books in my Audible library, 100 of them of which are still waiting to be cracked open. Digitally speaking. In my ears. Every morning when I wake up, I can’t wait to check my email and find out the deal of the day.
Transitioning right from Audible to some of my favorite reads as of late, here are the books that I devoured, learned from, and have stuck with me. They are not in order of preference. I put this section last because it’s lengthy!
When You Finish Saving the World by Jesse Eisenberg- I love Jesse as an actor, and was really into this short audiobook. I kept thinking about it for days after finishing it.
When You Finish Saving the World tells the moving and evocative story of three individuals working to understand each other and themselves: Nathan, a father learning to connect with his newborn son; Rachel, a young college student seeking to find her place in a relationship and in life, before marriage to Nathan; and Ziggy, their son, a teenager hoping to figure out where he came from, and where he’s headed.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle– I don’t really know how to sum up this book in a few words. So instead, I’m going to share some quotes from the book that rocked me. This book….just…just read it. I am not a book rereading type of human, but this book I cannot wait to read (listen to) again, and take notes this time!
“This life is mine alone. So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.”
“Mothers have martyred themselves in their children’s names since the beginning of time. We have lived as if she who disappears the most, loves the most. We have been conditioned to prove our love by slowly ceasing to exist. What a terrible burden for children to bear—to know that they are the reason their mother stopped living. What a terrible burden for our daughters to bear—to know that if they choose to become mothers, this will be their fate, too. Because if we show them that being a martyr is the highest form of love, that is what they will become. They will feel obligated to love as well as their mothers loved, after all. They will believe they have permission to live only as fully as their mothers allowed themselves to live. If we keep passing down the legacy of martyrdom to our daughters, with whom does it end? Which woman ever gets to live? And when does the death sentence begin? At the wedding altar? In the delivery room? Whose delivery room—our children’s or our own? When we call martyrdom love we teach our children that when love begins, life ends. This is why Jung suggested: There is no greater burden on a child than the unlived life of a parent.”
“Privilege is being born on third base. Ignorant privilege is thinking you’re there because you hit a triple. Malicious privilege is complaining that those starving outside the ballpark aren’t waiting patiently enough.”
“Being human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, it’s hard because you’re doing it right. You will never change the fact that being human is hard, so you must change your idea that it was ever supposed to be easy.”
“It’s not the cruel criticism from folks who hate us that scares us away from our Knowing; it’s the quiet concern of those who love us.”
“Iam a sensitive, introverted woman, which means that I love humanity but actual human beings are tricky for me. I love people but not in person. For example, I would die for you but not, like…meet you for coffee.“
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone– It really did live up to the hype. I usually don’t want to read hype books, but there’s a reason for the hype for this one, in my opinion.
The Things We Cannot Say– Always a sucker for a good WWII era book. Really enjoyed this one.
The Man on the Mountaintop– This was another short, Audible original production and it was pretty moving for me. Definitely worth a listen/read. I cried, I laughed, I did that weird and creepy smile you do when nobody’s around and you’re enjoying the song or book blasting into your eardrums.
The Man on the Mountaintop tells the story of Holy Man Joe, an ageing and unassuming man who lives in a hermitage on top of a mountain. During the summer months, thousands of hopefuls line the single-file path leading to his door, seeking his wisdom. From bombastic, wealthy nobles intent on cheating their way to the top to drunkards who gradually build the physical and mental strength they need to quit their addiction, The Man on the Mountaintop is a rousing tale full of humour, wit and life lessons.
Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long – The only complaint I have about this book is the title. It is pretty lackluster. And truly, it should be “Your Brain In Life”– because this book was incredibly useful in teaching me how to function better not only at work, but in “real life” too. I still think of it often and utilize techniques taught in the book.
Becoming by Michelle Obama– Another one that had the Untamed/Glennon Doyle affect on me. This book left me pretty speechless afterwards, it was a powerful story and hit hard when listening to MO read it herself. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum (can we all agree that these days, both far ends = batshit crazy), this book is worth a read. Or two.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck– Again, a book that I almost skipped because of the title. Sounded lame, and like a book that would drop F-bombs into every other sentence to try to be “sUpEr KeWl.” It was actually full of some great insight and lessons.
Lily and The Octopus– Speaking of F*cks…this book F*cked me up. In a good way. And a heartwrenching way. And in a way that makes me think of it still at least two to three times per month and it has been years since I read it. Again, if you Audible, I highly recommend this one be read to you vs you reading it. Did I cry a little writing this, just remembering the impact this book had on me? Maybe. Definitely yes.
Her Name in the Sky– This book will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s a YA novel, and when done well, I really enjoy those. Also, I fell in love with one of the main character’s names…Baker. I read this book several months before getting pregnant, and when my husband and I were trying to choose a baby name, “Baker” came to my mind and I couldn’t shake how much I loved it. It wasn’t until I was about the have the baby that I realized where the idea of the name came from…a book I had read almost a year prior! So now, we have our Baker, and it fits her perfectly.
Juliet Takes a Breath– Another fantastic LGBTQ novel, written by a badass Latina woman. Really loved it, and Lillian Claire’s narration was awesome.
The Thing About Jellyfish– Middle grade novel that I heard some buzz around, and boy that buzz was right. This one hit me in the feels, in the guts, in the brains. Really important book for little ones, and big ones.
After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting–things don’t just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.