Updated: Mar 20, 2018
My Good Stuff post is back! When I shared 23 of my favorite things last fall, I had such a positive response from you all and had so much fun sharing that I thought I’d do an updated edition. Just like last time, you will see these recommendations are completely random and literally are just things that come to mind when I think about what I’ve been loving since last fall. I’ve grouped them into general categories and you can click on the headings to link to more information about each one.
Also, just like last time, I’m giving away a box of a few of my favorites.
To enter to win:
· If you’re not already an email subscriber, sign up at the bottom of this page
I will draw one random winner next Thursday, March 29 and share it on FB and Instagram.
Books and Bookish Things:
This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell: I completely loved reading this unique and compelling story that centers around main character, Dan Sullivan, but is told from various points of view and jumps back and forth in time and place, telling a story that spans from 1944 to 2016. It’s a love story that stems from an unlikely meeting in Ireland between an ex-film star in hiding and a guy from NYC. And it’s a story about the complexity of family and experiences and choices. I couldn’t wait to read it each night before bed. My favorite book I’ve read this past year.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: I was looking for an uplifting, heartwarming book last month and this one hit the mark. It starts in January 1946 as London is emerging from WWII. It centers around writer Juliet Ashton, who is seeking a subject for her next book when she receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey. He came across a book with her name written in it and is asking if she could please send him another book by the same author. This one letter leads to regular correspondence from this man and the rest of his book club on the island, and then to a series of events that changes Juliet’s life. The book is written through the letters the characters send one another. It touches on heavy topics around the war, however has a great sense of humor and an aspirational tone. By the end of the story, you will want to move to Guernsey yourself and live amongst these characters.
The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah: I just finished this book this week and am still reeling from it. The story takes place in the wilderness of Alaska in the mid to late 1970s. The central character is a teenage girl named Leni and her father has just returned from Vietnam where he was a POW for 6 years and has changed dramatically, suffering from nightmares and a violent temper. He inherits a piece of land in Alaska from a fallen war comrade and decides to uproot their family of three and live there. They arrive in summer, completely unprepared for this off-the-grid life, but are quickly supported by the tightknit little community there and things seem to be looking up. Until the first winter arrives. The round the clock darkness is not good for Leni’s Dad’s state of mind and they begin to see that the wild life outside the home may be safer than inside. I got sucked into this world pretty quickly and felt like I knew the characters so well. Much of the time I felt afraid to find out what happens next, but at the same time couldn’t stop reading. I will say some of the parts are very hard to read. There are hard topics like abuse and some gruesome scenes, so be aware of this before you pick it up and decide if it’s right for you. But if you can push through those, it’s an exciting and wild ride. Oh and have some tissues handy.
The Deluxe Reading Journal Kit: I treated myself to this fun little gift a couple of months ago and love it. It’s from Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and the What Should I Read Next podcast (where I received recommendations for all of the books listed above). It includes some of Anne’s favorite things- a journal, tin of book darts, stickers, bookmark and her favorite pens and highlighters. If you are an office supply nerd like me, you will love this. This journal has become my weekly planner notebook and the pens are my new favorites. It is $37 and makes a great gift for a book lover or someone who loves stationery.
Icarus on Netflix: You guys, if you haven’t seen this documentary, check it out. It’s a fascinating documentary from Bryan Fogel, who sets out initially to explore performance-enhancing drugs and their effects on an amateur cyclist like him. During his experiment, he is connected with Grigory Rodchenkov, head of the Russian anti-doping lab, who guides him through it to see if doping affects his performance and if he can get away with it. In the midst of their work together, the story takes a turn after Rodchenkov is exposed for being a central part of a report revealing Russian state-sponsored doping in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Bryan now finds himself in the middle of an incredible expose of doping in Russian sport. And it’s a fascinating journey. It also just won an Oscar for Best Documentary.
Courage and Clarity Podcast: This podcast from Steph Crowder of Fizzle.co is my new favorite. It’s geared towards female entrepreneurs and offers both the heart and the head part of starting or running your own business. Each guest tells their “courage” story of how they got to where they are and then leaves the listener with some practical tips from their area of expertise. I devour each episode when they drop on Monday mornings and they always seem to be completely relevant to where I am and what I am working on. Not only are they inspirational, but I have been surprised by how many tips I’ve taken away from these episodes that I actually implement. If you are running your own business, side hustle or dreaming of doing so, download an episode and see what you think. A great episode to start with is this one, which is one of my favorites.
Spotify Chill: I know I’m late to the party, but I’m a new fan of Spotify. I have specifically started listening to the Chill stations (located under Genres and Moods), which has a series of chilled out playlists in styles from acoustic to ambient. I like different ones at different times of day and mostly use them as background music while working. My current favorite is Your Favorite Coffeehouse. From that playlist, I also discovered artist Charlie Cunningham who I am loving.
Yung Pueblo on Instagram: Yung Pueblo is a writer and speaker who shares inspirational messages about self-love, positivity and happiness on his popular Instagram account. I started following him a few months ago and really enjoy his thought-provoking and often powerful quotes.
In The Kitchen:
Plan To Eat: I started using this subscription service back in September and it has been extremely helpful for organizing recipes and meal planning. If you’re like me, you have recipes all over the place- in emails, PDFs, books, attachments, etc. Plan To Eat allows you to pull them all into one place for digital storage. You can also plan your weekly meals by simply drag and dropping recipes into each day of the week and the site then generates a shopping list for you. It also has an app, so you can easily pull the list up on your phone from the grocery store and delete each item as you put it in your cart. It is definitely labor-intensive in the beginning to get all of your recipes loaded in, but now that I have all of my favorites in there, it’s easy to drop in a new recipe here and there as I find new ones that I love. You can also easily share your recipes with friends. It costs $4.95 a month or $39 for the year. A great gift idea as well. And it offers each member their own affiliate link (like the one I included in the heading) for easy sharing.
The Clarified Menu: You can see a theme here. I struggle with meal planning! In addition to Plan To Eat, I recently subscribe to The Clarified Menu, from Marianne Sundquist at The Clarified Kitchen. Marianne is a former chef turned Mom and is a member of the Courage & Clarity Facebook community with me. When she announced her new weekly menu service, I did her free one-week trial and was hooked! Every Wednesday, she sends out a beautiful PDF composed of 6 recipes (1 breakfast, 2 lunches, 2 dinners, 1 dessert), a shopping list and a “Prep Party” guide to use on Sunday so meals are easy to make during the busy week. Let me tell you, every single meal I have made so far has become one of our staple meals and Max has commented that they are “restaurant quality” more than once. Additionally, the meals are healthy and often plant-based. I personally interchange the lunches and dinners and usually make about 4 of the recipes and that fills our dinner plans for the week, with plenty of leftovers for lunches. Try her free sample week and, if you like it, it’s $8.99 a month or $89 per year. (Use the code friendsforever10 for 10% off.) These weekly menus have made cooking so much more fun for me!
Sous vide: Pronounced “sue veed”, this little machine has been one of my favorite things for quite some time now. I bought it for Max as a birthday gift 4 years ago and we have since become hardcore evangelizers of this contraption. It basically allows you to cook meat to perfect preferred temperature in a water bath. You put the meat into a plastic bag (for best results I recommend a vacuum sealer and bags), drop it into the water and set the temp for however you prefer it to be done. The beauty of it is that once it hits that temp it never changes, so it doesn’t under or over cook, it seals in the juices and you don’t have a lot of human error (which is basically anytime I try to cook meat on my own!). It’s perfect for when you have guests because you drop it in and forget about it until you’re ready to eat. The results are so good that many fancy restaurants use this to prepare food as well. We have this big expensive version, but since I bought it, there are now plenty of smaller, more affordable versions that can just hang over a large pot, like this one. You will impress your family and friends and eat well!
Rx Bars: I recently discovered these healthy protein bars. They are made with egg whites, dates, nuts and other natural ingredients and they are chewy deliciousness. A bit on the pricey side, but you can buy them in bulk on Amazon and Target. They come in a variety of flavors and I haven’t found one I don’t like, but the chocolate sea salt is my favorite.
Rishi Tea: So I’m trying to cut back on my coffee and caffeine intake. I recently went through all of my old tea boxes and threw a bunch of extremely outdated ones in the trash. I found myself standing in the tea aisles of both Whole Foods and The Fresh Market not knowing what I would like and feeling overwhelmed by the options. The next day, I randomly received a tea recommendation in an email subscription I have for another coach, Ashley Gartland (thank you Ashley!). It was for Rishi Tea, specifically the ginger/turmeric blend. I ordered it online, have been drinking it every day since it arrived and absolutely love it. It’s pricier than some of the options in the grocery store, but I realized I used to spend $3-5 per day on gourmet coffee, so this feels worthwhile. Plus I use each teabag a few times. If you’re looking for a yummy new healthy beverage, give it a try.
Baby chair: Our friends with infant twins introduced us to this brilliant little baby chair back when Ollie was just 5 or 6 months old and we still use it all the time. We bring it with us everywhere we travel, it’s great for camping and he also uses it in the living room as his special little seat. It folds up into a little case and is easy to transport. I’ve gotten so many questions about it when I have posted photos of Oliver on social media, so I thought I’d share it here as well.
Tower of Learning: I was not familiar with the ‘tower of learning’, but our good friend, Jeff, was and he generously built one for Oliver for his 1st birthday that we absolutely love. For now, we are using it at the teeth brushing station, but soon we will move it down to the kitchen so he can hang out and watch us cook in the kitchen. As he grows, you just move the platform down a notch to accommodate him. We don’t leave him unattended in it yet and stay close, but he loves the vantage point. And it made for a great little throne at his first birthday party :). If you don’t have a woodworking friend like Jeff, in addition to the Amazon option (link in the heading) there are less expensive and more interesting options on Etsy.
Bay & Bee: This is a locally-owned, membership-based play space for kids age 0-5 and I just renewed my 6-month membership after having a wonderful experience here since joining last July. I love having a place I can bring Oliver where he can play freely, interact with other kids and join in on interesting, age-appropriate classes. We both get the opportunity to get out of the house and into a new environment and I like meeting other Moms while I’m there. It’s designed with Montessori and Waldor-based principles in mind, is super clean and has great educational toys. Additionally, there are a variety of classes available each day, including things like music, art, yoga, bubble time, and story time. There are 2 locations in Jacksonville, but if you live in another area, I’d recommend seeing if there is something similar near you.
Health and Fitness:
Fitbit Ionic: I was an early adaptor of these wearable fitness trackers. Starting with the Jawbone several years ago, like many of you, I’ve gone through so many of them. I’d either accept the free replacement when it broke, or try out another brand, such as Fitbit. I recently bought a fancy Garmin watch and didn’t find it very intuitive or easy to interpret. It was also slightly off on GPS tracking, so I decided to return it a few months ago. And I replaced it with yet another Fitbit- this time the new Ionic. It’s pricey but less than the Garmin I had returned. And it’s been a pleasant surprise. It’s easy to figure out, has a simple layout and I like the app. I currently just use it to track my steps, sleep and time, but it does plenty of other things as well. Max ended up buying one too after seeing me enjoy mine and now we compete on our step count. (I’m currently winning.)
Rollga Foam Roller: I was lucky enough to win one of these during a recent fitness challenge with my Jacksonville Stroller Strength group. It’s like a foam roller on steroids. Unlike regular foam rollers, its contoured for an even deeper massage effect (think 3 large tennis balls connected together). We recently had Tiffany, from Rollga, meet with our group post-workout to show us how to actually use it and- wow. It felt great. And I miraculously wasn’t sore the following day (which is crazy b/c I am just getting back into shape after a bit of a break from my workout regimen). I also carry a lot of tension in my shoulder/neck area and using the Rollga on this area felt amazing. I now keep it in my living room and use it when I get a few free moments here and there in addition to using it post workout. There’s an app you can download to help guide you through the various ways you can use it. The best seller version that I have is $39.
Dog Bed: About 6 months ago, our sweet pup Charlie’s bed was getting a bit grungy. So we decided to invest in a newer, nicer one for him, since it’s something he spends a lot of time in. We found this great bed at The Company Store and Charlie has loved it since the second it arrived. He likes to lean up against something when he sleeps, so he loves the raised cushion walls in this round comfy bed. It makes us happy to see him cuddle up in it.
Camping Chairs: We recently bought a little travel trailer because we want to do more camping and now that we have our little guy it’s not as easy to tent camp. Since we have more space to bring things along now, we also invested in these chairs to hang out in at the campsites. And they are a hit. We loved them the first time we used them in a campsite and have also used them outdoors at home when we have guests and they are great to bring along to other outdoor events. They are comfy to rock in, have a handy cup holder and are reasonably priced.
And there you have it - my current Top 20. As I mentioned last time, I love recommendations because they cut through the clutter of options and overwhelm for me. So, I hope some of these did the same for you. I’d love to hear what you’re loving as well. Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message.
And don’t forget to enter to win my box of favorites, which will include the 3 books, Rishi tea, RxBars and a Rollga foam roller.
There’s one more thing I’m totally loving right now that I will share along with my upcoming Leading Ladies spotlight, because it’s a service our next female entrepreneur offers (Hint: It's health & wellness-related). Stay tuned for that interview, coming up soon!
Note: Amazon links are affiliate links, but these are otherwise unpaid and genuine recommendations of things I use and love!