SEPTEMBER 22, 2017
I love recommendations. They feel like a gift. I will read any article that anyone writes sharing their favorite things. I’m an avid listener to the What Should I Read Next podcast to get book recommendations. I love when someone I trust shares a helpful review of a product or service. I’m a member of NextDoor and have joined way too many local Facebook groups to follow along as everyone asks for recommendations on everything from car seats to date night restaurants to trusted cleaning services. If one of my Mommy friends tells me they just love something for their baby, I am on Amazon ordering it, no questions asked.
I think this is because I can’t deal with choices. I get utterly overwhelmed by too many options. And, in today’s world, everything seems to come with unlimited possibilities. I often find myself stuck running down the rabbit hole of researching option after option until I become gridlocked in analysis paralysis. When faced with even the smallest tasks of selecting a place to go out to eat or what TV show to watch, I can find myself feeling a sense of anxiety. What if I pick the wrong thing???? (And let’s not even talk about life’s big decisions, such as where to live, or what career to pursue…)
While I feel grateful to be living in a world with so much possibility, I tend to prefer having no more than 2-3 choices and, surprisingly, may even occasionally feel relieved when something is decided for me. It eliminates the potential for regret. Or FOMO. Or buyer’s remorse.
So, since I appreciate a good solid recommendation, I thought I’d pay it forward and share some of my current favorite stuff with you all. No rhyme or reason. No forcing an assigned category. I literally just closed my eyes, mentally walked through my days and thought of the things that make me happy at the moment. And came up with 23 things.
Here you go:
(I've included links to each item, just click on the bold blue headings.)
o Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave: I’m so happy I am able to read again after going through the era of having a newborn. And I loved this book! There are so many WWII historical fiction novels being published these days, but this one was especially good. Based on real-life love letters from the author’s grandparents, the story begins in London in 1939 and follows the wartime experiences of 3 people, whose lives are also intertwined by friendship and love. It’s witty, heartbreaking and powerful.
o Book Of The Month Club: This is a subscription service, which offers 5 carefully curated, newly published books to choose from each month. You pay $14.99 per month, which includes one hardback book from their Book of the Month selection. You can purchase up to 2 additional books from their “Extra Books” selection at $9.99 per book. Shipping is free. A BOTM subscription is also a great gift. I’m currently reading Little Fires Everywhere by Cynthia Ng and loving it! (Click here for a referral link with a 3-month discount.)
As I wrote about here, I’m a huge fan of podcasts and listen to them any time I’m driving, cleaning, cooking, and working out. Here are a few of my current favorites:
o The Simple Show: Host Tsh Oxenreider chats with her friends about travel, home life, parenting, books, life hacks and thriving in simplicity. I think I love this one because I get a lot of great recommendations and I savor the idea of still being able to travel the world, even with kids.
o By The Book: This hysterical podcast features comedian Jolenta Greenberg and her friend Kristen Meinzer as they pick a different self-help book each episode to follow “by the book” and share how it changed their lives and whether or not they recommend it. It’s part self-help, part social experiment and very entertaining. Disclaimer: They have potty mouths, so beware if listening with children.
o The Daily from the NYTimes: 20 minutes a day. 5 days a week. This podcast takes you behind the scenes and gives context to hot topics and current global and national issues. I like this one because it brings the issues to life and provides background on many topics that I feel kind of clueless on.
o Calm: I’ve been using this app for a couple of years. It’s similar to the popular Headspace app, but I prefer the woman’s voice on this one. I try to meditate for 10 minutes in the morning. With Calm, you can select their daily guided meditation, which focuses on a different topic each day, or choose from a variety of other topics and durations of guided meditations. It costs $59.99 for a year, or $12.99 per month.
o Aaptiv: This is a subscription-based workout app ($9.99 per month) which includes trainer-led workouts for everything from cardio, to treadmill running, to weights, to marathon training, to yoga, or prenatal workouts. The workouts vary in length and include curated music that keeps you engaged and motivated. It’s like having a personal trainer with you everywhere you go.
HEALTH & WELLNESS:
o CSA Subscription: I recently joined a local CSA, (community supported agriculture), which provides me with bi-weekly bags of in-season fruits and vegetables from local farms. My service also comes with a different loaf of bread from a local bakery each time and a monthly newsletter with recipes to help me use my local produce. The one I use here is: www.localfarejax.com but these exist almost everywhere now. I also did this when living in London (www.abelandcole.co.uk) and San Francisco (www.eatwell.com). It supports the local community and I know where my food is coming from. Win, win.
o Simple Green Smoothies Cleanses: I started following Simple Green Smoothies a couple of years ago and making daily smoothies using spinach, kale and fruits, per their daily recipes. But then they came out with their 21-day “Fresh Start” cleanse plans. They are plant-based meal plans that are intended to jumpstart healthy eating and re-energize you. I’ve done 3 or 4 of them now and have had great results every time. I have also adapted many of the recipes into our weekly meals. You purchase and download the PDF, which includes a weekly meal plan, recipes and grocery lists. Plans run from around $35 - $50.
o Stroller Strength: I’ve mentioned this in my blog before, but I joined Jacksonville Stroller Strength back in January, when Oliver was 8 weeks old, to help me get in shape for my wedding. It’s a bootcamp-style work out in a nearby park that is designed to allow you to bring your baby, whether an infant, toddler or older. I lost my last 10 lbs of baby weight in 2 months, got into excellent shape and met lots of fun moms. I took off for the summer to keep Ollie out of the humid Florida sun, and man did I miss it. I’ve just started back this week and so happy to have it back in my schedule. (I also can’t walk after Monday’s session.) I believe this type of workout is offered in some form in most cities, so if you’re looking to work out without finding childcare and gain a great new local community, see what's available in your area.
IN MY CLOSET
o Capsule Wardrobe: Okay, so I did not actually create a capsule wardrobe, which is basically paring down all of your wearables to 37 total items. However, I was inspired by the concept (unfamiliar? Check it out here) and I did use it to inspire a total closet overhaul. I realized that my closet reflected my old lifestyle – lots of “business casual” dresses, heels, beautiful expensive Karen Millen outfits from my days of working in London, etc. And my current lifestyle is an entrepreneur Mom living in Florida. I rarely dress up. And hardly ever wear heels. And definitely don't need much cold weather gear. I kept holding onto my old clothes thinking I may need them again someday. And I might. But in this season, I’m more of an athleisure girl. So I eliminated everything I couldn’t see myself wearing all the time. I gave bags and bags away to Goodwill. And I was left with things that I actually wear. To organize what was left, I used Marie Kondo’s folding method from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And I can’t tell you how much weight that exercise lifted off my shoulders. It made me feel great and I now love my closet and getting dressed each day. I have a color pallet that I mix and match and I try to now invest in only items that I absolutely love.
o Athleta Pants: I love these pants. I have them in navy and just ordered them in black. It’s the tail end of their end of summer sale, but there may be a few sizes left. (On sale for $34.99 as I am writing this.) So comfy and I can wear them year round in Florida
o Tieks: This is the first time I saw something in a Facebook ad, clicked through and purchased it. I have these in “Poppy” red. They are super pricey. But I can wear them year round, they are incredibly comfy and they make me happy.
o Oofos: I was suffering from plantar fasciitis a couple of years ago and discovered these reinforced flip flops. I wore out my first pair and just invested in a second pair. Another great year-round option for a climate like Florida. They are around $45-60 per pair.
Man, this category is overwhelming to a new Mom. So I find I just follow recommendations of friends and stumble into things that work well for us and for Ollie. Here are a few of my current favorites for our now 10-month old:
o Play Yard: This has taken over our living room. But it gives Oliver his own space and I don’t have to follow him around 24/7. It’s also easy to fold up and travel with. (We ended up buying a second one and making an even larger yard!)
o SweeTooth Teether: Oliver is teething like crazy right now. And this little blue ice cream cone is his favorite little teether.
o Learn to Walk Toy: My friend Katie sent this to us right before Ollie was born and, since he was 4 months old, he has just loved it. It’s only been in the past month that he’s actually used it to learn to walk, but he’s fascinated with all the bells and whistles and he’s spent countless hours playing with it.
o Where is Baby's Belly Button?: I read to Oliver every night before bed. Most books he just grabs from me and tries to eat. But, for some reason, this one mesmerizes him. He sits and giggles at each page and seems to actually be following along.
o Stacking Cups: My friend Vikki sent us some stacking cups right after Ollie was born and they have been one of his faves for months. They can divert his attention from a tantrum or from a nearby cell phone like no other toy.
FOR THE HOME
o My special chair: I am loving my new reading chair, which sits in the corner of my office. I got it at Cost Plus World Market. And I sit in it every morning, with a cup of tea and do a little bit of reading before Oliver wakes up.
o PCB Home: I heard the owner of this online home goods store on a podcast several months ago and have purchased several things here since. It’s great for gifts.
o Spiralizer: My friend Christine gave me this little gadget and I use it all the time. It’s so easy to turn any veggie into “pasta” and even easier to clean. I used to have a bigger spiraling contraption, but I used it only once because it was so complicated and hard to wash, so was thrilled to get this one.
So, there you have it. Some of the things that make me happy right now. Whether you’re a stay-at-home Mom, running your own business, or a busy corporate executive, hopefully there’s something in here that you find interesting. Or maybe it will inspire you to curate your own list of recommendations to gift to the people in your life. I’d love to know what you recommend!
Note: I am not paid to promote any of these products or services. They are just what I happen to like. And, for my international friends, some of these things may not be available outside the US.
GIVEAWAY: Subscribe to my blog mailing list and/or like my Facebook page to be entered to win a gift box, which includes a few of my favorites: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, Little Fires Everywhere, SweeTooth teether and a veggie spiralizer. Already a subscriber? Comment on my FB page with your own recommendation and you'll be entered into the random drawing. Winner will be announced on Friday, September 29th.