July 23, 2016

These Are a Few Of My New Favorite Things

True story that does actually relate to this post:

The summer after my sophomore year in college, I worked as a hostess at a Bill Knapps restaurant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. For the uninitiated (which you'll remain...Bill closed his doors decades ago), Bill Knapps was a chain of family-friendly sit-down restaurants known for its au gratin potatoes, chocolate birthday cake, and servers who were trained to carry a ridiculous number of plates to a table by lining them up on their arms.

In the middle of one weekday afternoon--otherwise known as "the time when no one is supposed to come in so the staff can get ready for the dinner rush"--a tour bus pulled up. Our skeleton staff cursed (I mean, not me, but other people) and moaned (me) and grumbled (all of us) about the hassle during our down time and began running around to set up one of the back dining rooms. The bus people came in, and one aggressive-type man unceremoniously slid himself into a front booth.

"Sir," our manager-trainee told him with as much sternness as someone who looked about 12 and possibly had not yet started shaving could muster, "you have to wait to be seated." Mr. Seat-Himself replied snidely, "Oh, we have to wait to be seated." 

"Follow me," I told the group and led them back to the tables we'd hastily prepped. After they were seated, I returned to the front to finish some thrilling task like rolling silverware, when one of the waitresses (her arm permanently scarred from all those hot plates) whispered to me, "Wasn't that Julie Andrews?" 

Oh. My. Word. I, a lifelong choir geek and devotee of musical theater who knew every song from A Sound of Music and could even kind of do the yodeling bit from "The Lonely Goatherd," had unknowingly and haphazardly seated Fraulein Maria herself. And Mr. Seat-Himself was none other than Blake Edwards, Julie's big-time actor/director/producer husband.

I was too reticent to ask for an autograph, but I can tell you that Julie/Maria had the tuna melt. I guess that was one of her favorite things...no idea how she felt about raindrops on roses, et al.

Which brings me (you're welcome) to this list of ten of my new favorite things. If you need a snack or something to wash your face with or a refreshing drink or inspiring music or a foodie movie, you might find a game-changer here. There'll be no tuna melts, however.

1. Belvita Dark Chocolate Sandwich Biscuits. I was already a big fan of these whole-grain breakfast/snacking "biscuits." But then they started sandwiching them together with dark chocolate, and my morning happiness quotient went up about 500 percent. My daughters like them, too, and if there's one thing a house with teenage daughters needs in the morning, it's more things they like. 

2. Gracelaced. My baby sister is turning 40 this year, and as soon as she sent me a birthday gift idea from this site, I was hooked. Gorgeous prints and greeting cards, recipes, a blog...all in all, a beautiful place to get lost sometime. Everything here is so beguiling, in fact, that when my sister's gift arrived in the mail, even the "please do not bend" request printed on the package was beautiful.

3. Noxema Anti-Blemish Daily Scrub. Fabulous skin is not one of my areas of giftedness, which is why I'm thankful for this cleanser. Unlike similar products that make you feel like you're rubbing your face with coarse sandpaper, this is gentle but with enough scrubbing power to make you feel like you're accomplishing something. Plus, it smells great. In the world of rotten skin, it's the little things that make a difference. 
4. Audiomachine. I have to thank my daughter's friend, Caleb, for bringing these next two favorites into my life. Caleb (God bless and keep him...he left a couple weeks ago for Navy boot camp) is a big music lover, and I'll always be grateful he introduced me to Audiomachine. If your life were an epic movie, this is the music you'd want as the soundtrack. Put this long-playing YouTube video on in the background of whatever you've got going on today. You'll feel like you're starring in your own life. 

(And yes, I'm well aware your life is not like an epic movie but rather more like a reality TV show with THIS as its theme song...)

5. Bai Antioxidant Infusion in coconut pineapple. Caleb (see #4) also brought these low-calorie, no-artificial-sweetener flavored waters to our attention. Drinking this coconut-pineapple version is exactly like sipping a pina colada on a beach in Maui, except without the calories or the cost of airfare. (Okay, also without the beach or the Maui, but still.) 

6. I'm Happy For You (Sort of...Not Really), by Kay Wills Wyma. Comparison and the discontent it breeds are Ongoing Life Issues for me, so I'm thankful (sort of...no, really) to my blogging kindred-spirit Tracey from Girls to Grow for making me aware of this book by putting it on one of her insightful reading lists

7. Thirty-One purse. My friend Cristina, a Thirty-One consultant of the highest fabulousness, carried this purse--I mean, "Organizing Shoulder Bag"--into Starbucks when we met one day for caffeinated fellowship. I said I loved it. Soon thereafter, she (being a great sort of friend) texted my husband and asked if he wanted her to order it for him to give me for my upcoming birthday. He (being a smart sort of husband) immediately said, "Yes, and how much do I make the check out for?" It arrived on my doorstep shortly thereafter, and how I survived so long in life before I had this is beyond me. 
8. The Hundred-Foot Journey. My favorite foodie movie in years. Beautiful, funny, inspiring, and worth watching more than once. Note: you might want to be eating Indian food while you watch this if you like that sort of thing.

9. Pasture Bedtime (A Cautionary Tale), Jenny H. Lyman. Heads up, people in my life who might someday have a baby: you WILL be getting this adorable and brilliantly punny book--and matching clothing from Lazy One--from me as a gift. I promise: this is a very, very good thing.

10. Oreo Thins (Mint). All the snappy chocolate-mint goodness of the famously addictive Girl Scout cookies, but in a version you can pay for in the self-checkout lane at 3 a.m. at one of those 24-hour grocery stores. 

So these are some of the newish things I'm loving these days. 
What's one of your new favorite things? Share the love in a comment or over on Facebook. And if you try anything from my little list and it changes your life, 
I'd love to know about that, too.

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**

July 15, 2016

Mamas, Please Don't Grieve That Your Children Are Growing Up

There it was again in my Facebook feed: someone’s post of an adorable birthday girl with a sweet smile and a sprinkled cupcake, ready for the eating. 
And beneath it, along with the likes and loves? A sad, crying Facebook “reaction” face. 
Which breaks my heart.
I understand the sadness of what is left behind, mamas. I really do. But how much more should we celebrate the gift of a new day, new hopes, new joys with our children? My thanks to Her View From Home for letting me get this off my heart. I'd be so grateful if you'd take a few seconds to head over there and read the rest of this piece. And I've love to know where your heart is on this. 

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**

July 7, 2016

Banana Cream Pie in a Glass

If you saw my list a few posts ago about my favorite kitchen tools, you know I was in the hunt for a new blender. (Also, if you read that? Thank you!)

I finally got one, but please don't be mad at me, all you lovely people who recommended the Ninja or the Vitamix. Because I got a Black & Decker. I know. I know! But the version I got had good reviews on Amazon and didn't break the bank. Which matters because you may recall I am the mom of teens and we have car insurance and orthodontia and other financially disastrous things going on around here on a regular basis. And among other features, this has a smooth digital keypad, not those raised buttons that every crumb in the world is always finding its way down between and driving me to distraction.

One of the first things I made in my new blender was this Banana Cream Pie in a Glass. Let's face it: there is only so much banana bread you can make with those overripe bananas that seem to multiply overnight. This healthy "shake" is a good alternative. 

Whether you've got a Ninja or a Vitamix or a blender you picked up at a garage sale, whirl one of these up. I'll keep you posted on the life-span of my newest appliance. In the meantime, what can you tell me about washing machines? Because I think mine is on the way out...

Banana Cream Pie in a Glass {print}

1 medium or large or 2 small bananas (frozen ahead of time if you think of it)
3/4 cup ice
1/4 cup (approximately) vanilla "milk": almond, coconut, soy, rice...whatever you like (or, do what I do because I am that kind of person: use sugar-free French vanilla creamer)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Optional but nice:
Crushed graham crackers
Whipped cream

Optional and more work but worth it:
Graham Cracker Crumbles

Throw everything into your blender and whirl it up until you don't hear any more ice clunking around. Check for consistency and flavor according to your preference. If it's not banana-y enough, add more bananas. If it's too thin, add more ice or bananas. If it's too thick or not vanilla-y enough, add more "milk" or vanilla extract. Serve in a pretty glass. Top, if desired (I, personally, always desire), with whipped cream and crushed graham crackers or (even better) Graham Cracker Crumbles. Serves 1.

Graham Cracker Crumbles
1 "sleeve" graham crackers (1 individual package from a box) 
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Beat up the graham crackers until you have a mix of some crumbs but also plenty of larger chunks. Use a fork to toss these with the sugar and melted butter. Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet. (I line mine with parchment paper, which will in no way surprise you if you read that kitchen tools post I mentioned earlier.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, stirring once. You want your crumbles a nice deep golden brown for maximum crunch factor. You do not, however, want charcoal.

Update on my washing machine: going, going, gone...
This post may have been shared at these blog bashes.