A Few of My Favorite Things 2018

Another year is winding down. It hardly seems possible. We've had a lot going on in our family this year and so that has made it go by faster than usual.

After Thanksgiving and before Christmas, I always find myself reflecting on the past year. I sat down a couple of days ago and made a list of favorites. I thought I’d share because I’m always looking at reviews of products, places, and things others enjoy. The following are random favorites from my life the past year. I plan on sharing favorite reads on another post.

Favorite Podcasts:

This Cultural Moment - John Mark Comer, Mark Sayers

I’ve wondered (like many people in my generation) what is happening in the world and to the world? We are living in an age where society is changing at a rapid pace. It's hard to keep up or to understand the big picture. How are we to respond? I've realized I can’t understand the global context from my little spot in rural America so I read and listen in order to discern the times as best I can. This “city-centered” podcast about what it means to live in the post-modern, post-Christian west has helped me think through some things I had already been thinking about and provoked some good discussion with Jeff when we listened in the car. Mark's Australian accent is a podcast plus.

The Next Right Thing - Emily Freeman

Emily Freeman’s podcast is perfect for the overwhelmed who find it hard to make decisions. Having the opportunity to be able to make decisions is a privilege we can take for granted. Emily’s ability to simplify decision-making and bring peace to the process is unmatched. The episodes are short and sweet. Often, she ends with a Scripture meditation or a prayer. I'm always glad I listened.

Also, my friend Anna Packer is a podcaster at Doing Scary Things. I've known Anna since she was in college, I love getting to hear about how she's stretching herself and living her dreams. She and her friend Katie are co-hosts. I wanted to give a shout out to the young and creative!

Other mentions are Jamie Ivy's Happy Hour for its interview style podcast and Lisa Jo Baker and Christie Purifoy's Out of the Ordinary Podcast for thoughtful conversation about living in the ordinary.

Quick Meals:

I picked up this soup mix at the Ozark Mountain Market up in Heber Springs. You can find it online. I now keep it in the pantry for a quick meal. It's best as a base to make a heartier soup. My twist is to cook bite-sized pieces of skinless chicken thighs in store-bought broth, then add them to the mix along with an onion and a couple of chopped carrots. I sauté the veggies before adding them to the pot. I also add mushrooms if I have them. In less than thirty minutes, I have a big pot of tasty soup that seemed like it took more effort---and it's good with a piece of crusty bread.

I like a souped-up version of tomato soup using the Imagine brand boxed tomato basil soup. The soup is okay just out of the box, but better with a little bit of love added in. I sauté a chopped onion and add it along with a can of Cento tomatoes with basil leaves added. I discard the basil and the juice, add the tomatoes and use my hand blender to make the soup a bit more chunky than the box soup alone. I hand chop fresh basil and add along with a bit of half-and-half right or cream before serving. Of course, this is great with a grilled cheese sandwich. This is another quick meal to the table that is delicious and a breeze.

Store-bought Salad Dressing:

I make almost all my salad dressings for two reasons: it’s easy and they taste better. But I don't make Caesar dressing. This is a bottled version of Caesar Dressing I like a lot. It’s not too thick which is an issue with many premade Caesar dressings. I always have croutons on hand so if I have lettuce, I can have a salad ready to go in a few minutes. Romaine lettuce has been recalled for the time being so iceberg will have to stand in for the lettuce. 

Did you see this meme on media concerning the recall? “The Romaine Empire has fallen. Caesar is dead. Lettuce pray.” It made me chuckle. 

An Amazon Deal:

AmazonBasics Silicone Mats – 2 half-sheet sizes for under $10

I use silicone baking mats almost every time I cook in my oven. They make clean up so easy. The first mats like this I had were French made and expensive. Recently, I discovered them at an awesome price for similar quality on Amazon. These are a great gift for a new bride if you add a half-sheet baking pans, along with your favorite cookie recipe. If you don't have any of these mats, at this price you should buy them for yourself.


I love to cook, but I don’t like to bake because baking requires sticking to the recipe. If you aren’t careful to follow precisely, things don’t turn out well. I’ve made this cake several times now and it's fantastic. It has a wonderful “crumb” as they would say on The Great British Baking Show. I’m planning on trying the chocolate version of this cake, also published on Duke’s mayo site. I think the mayo addition will make a moist chocolate cake. (Yes, I wrote “moist” even though, like many others, I don’t like the word!) I love Duke's mayo.

Great Arkansas Cabin Rental:

We rented this cabin on a ridge near Mountain View back in May.  Unfortunately, the rental rates have gone up since we rented. It was a good deal for our family because we rented a bunkhouse beside the cabin that provided for lots of beds. It’s on a ridge with a view out over the Ozarks. Actually, the cabin is several antique cabins that have been combined into one. The decor includes interesting taxidermy and a good size kitchen. You can wind down the mountain roads and after a few minutes find yourself in downtown Mt. View on the Square. There you'll find free mountain music in the afternoons and evenings if the weather is good. And, you can eat a funnel cake.

Best travel tip for International travel:

Rent a Hotspot

Jeff and I went hiking in Switzerland back in July. We wanted to stay connected to our kids so we rented a hotspot in the airport. It costs about $10 a day but it was a better option than trying to figure out a cell plan we could understand. We used wi-fi to research while we were on the trains between the destinations on our itinerary and messaged our kids from high on mountain tops when we could find a signal. I think this option is available for the other countries. The world is small.

New App I’m Loving:

We started using this app while we were in Switzerland. Since then I’ve been using the video "walkie-talkie" app with friends and family---but not without negative comments from some. Seeing yourself while talking causes a self-awareness that causes “baby talking” or “acting” according to some observers. Despite those critiques, overall it’s a fun way to be social and I’m going to try harder at keeping it real. I don’t know what could be more real than chiming in when I'm doing my morning beauty routine and my face is covered in a mask?

Buy flowers for yourself or someone you love:

The thing I did for myself this year that I've never really done before was to buy fresh flowers when I didn't have flowers to cut from the beds. I ordered them from the farm share or bought them from the grocery store. It's a small thing that makes me happy and reminds me how short and beautiful life is. Fresh cut flowers on the counter have reminded me that life is beautiful and should be cherished. Isn't it odd that a simple bouquet in a tin pitcher can be so significant?

So these are a few of my favorite things...Favorite books coming soon.

I'd love to hear your favorite random things. (Thanks for reading! I haven't been compensated for any of the links in case your wondering.)