Favorite Things lists. You’ve seen them in magazines, blogs, and obviously: Oprah’s. I debated posting my own for some time. I dislike the thought of contributing to rampant American consumerism, where we view material things as a symbol of the life we want to live. Hypocritically I also love favorite things lists. So F-it. I this is happening (I’m thinking yearly, like Oprah). To feel less guilty about creating a favorite things list, I’ve decided to include non-material items, starting with number 1.
1. Getting Rid of Things
You can’t enjoy favorite things if you have too many things. A French teacher once told me, that in Europe everything is more expensive and people can’t afford many things. Instead they buy quality items and use what they have for forever. I took these words to heart, and today I strongly believe that just about everything we Americans own is garbage (despite having never left the U.S.), and we must be vigilant in policing how much of it we let into our lives.
Here are a few great tips for getting that stinky garbage out of your home: 1. Sell your clothes: its a toofer, get rid of clutter & make money. 2. Keep a box of items to sell/donate in a closet somewhere. I am lucky enough to have a living room closet to keep these boxes in and it helps me declutter like woah. 3. Don’t buy cheap crap. If the garbage never gets in, you won’t need to take it out.
2. Fancy slippers
Everyone deserves fancy slippers. My Mom got me these amazing Michael Kors slippers for Christmas last year and I LOVE them. They keep my feet comfy while I cook, work at my desk, standing in the kitchen drinking with friends, and treking back and forth between Gabe’s and my apartment (we met because we live in the same building, its stupid convenient and awesome).
Buying Cookbooks is for suckers. Don’t be a sucker. All the recipes are on Pintrest. That being said, 1-3 carefully selected cookbooks are a good home staple. I own 3 cookbooks, Julia Child’s The Art of French cooking , Plenty by Ottolenghi, & The Encyclopedic Cook Book: an heirloom from my Father that was given to him by his Father. My Pappou and my Father are from Greece, and although I never met my Pappou, he was well-known as an amazing chef (if only I had recipes for my Yiayia’s dishes, which I remember almost too well…sadly she never worked from a cookbook or wrote anything down-just one more reason I miss her to death).
3. Comfy Robe
I got a grey sweater robe gifted to me for Christmas years ago and I have a philosophy on the perfect robe. You should own only one robe for your entire life (choose wisely). It should be sturdy, soft, and fall just above your knees. Over time, it will acquire some light/faded stains from cooking or drinking wine in it. Somehow, this does not lessen the feeling of luxury it provides but increases it. Never buy another robe. If one is gifted to you: donate it.
4. Personal mug
Do yourself a favor. Find a mug that symbolizes something you love and only ever drink hot drinks from that mug. Make it known that this is your mug. When Gabe and I started dating he carried around a Michigan State Spartan mug (his Alma matter) so much I wondered if he had any other mugs (he does not).
I have this mug from a local restaurant in Marquette (my middle-of-nowhere home town). Note: if you look closely you can see my adorable puppy Roscoe in the background.
5. Keurig (with environmentally-friendly re-fills)
Be a better person than me. Don’t buy a Keurig. They are sooooo lovely, but they are also expensive and bad for the environment. Now that I’ve made myself feel better by saying that, a Keurig is a wonderful way to Treat Yo Self. As if working from home wasn’t awesome enough, I love the fact that I can start my day by walking into my kitchen, hitting a button and boom: tasty coffee, every time. If you do get one, try to get a refillable insert so you’re not murdering the environment like the individually-packaged ones (another toofer, as it saves money).
6. the New yorker
I ask for a New Yorker subscription for Christmas every year. Pictured left is a post card of a New Yorker cover that I framed and hung in my room as art. You can not be a hoarder and get a (cheaper) electronic subscription, but I like having the physical magazine. I will get rid of many things to have room for books and New Yorker issues (which I’m saving for my future library). Life is about priorities.
7. Aveeno tinted moisturizer
The key word here is tinted. I discovered this stuff in a hasty purchase after running out of some too-expensive face lotion. It’s tinted enough that it gives your face an even look without the fake look you get from cover-up. You can brush some powder makeup on after applying, or even go makeup-less in this stuff. Also, it moisturizes your skin and protects you from the sun. Bonus, it lasts a super long time and is reasonably priced.
8. Food Processor
This is a food/lifestyle blog after all. Getting a food processor raises your cooking to the next level. Bonus: there are a lot of over-priced groceries that are easy to make at home for cheap if you have a food processor (see my recipes for pesto and hummus). I bought this cheap one for around $20 and it has paid for itself 10 times over.
Another beautiful kitchen gadget that I discovered this year: the Veggetti. It makes noodles from vegetables. I’ve only done Zucchini so far, but we eat it as noodles at least every other week now. You can make flat vegetable noodles with a Mandoline, but those are expensive and all of a Mandoline’s other functions can be done with a knife and cutting board.
10. quality bed, sheets, & comforter
My bed is the biggest purchase I ever made and by far the nicest thing I own. I was very hesitant to spend so much money, but my Mom convinced me and I am so glad she did (she even got got me a nice comforter for Christmas). While I was initially upset and unwilling to get rid of my old ikea duvet, I’m glad I did because my bed is now one of my favorite things. Pro tip: TJ max has really cheap high-quality sheets and pillows.
11. Handmade coaster set
My best friend made me hand-made coasters of my favorite books for Christmas last year. It was ridiculously thoughtful and perfect and I love them.
12. Three wick candles from bath & body works
Whoever tried a B&BW 3 wick candle and didn’t fall in love? Its an expensive addiction if you actually pay full price ($22 a candle, which burns for ~40 hours). Only suckers buy ANYTHING at B&BW at full price. Their 3 wick candles go on sale for 2 for 22 at least once a month (normally twice), so sign up for the email and wait. I like to buy as many as I can afford on black Friday and save even more. The last time Gabe and I went, they had the two for one deal, plus a coupon for $10 off every $40 you spend. We got a year’s supply and Gabe finished his Christmas shopping for his work Secret-Santa and his Aunt’s.
If you haven’t checked out the following podcasts, you should: RadioLab, The New Yorker Fiction Podcast, America’s Test Kitchen, Fresh Air, This American Life, Stuff you Missed in History, The Moth. These are my favorite podcasts but I listen to a lot more. Podcasts are great while cooking familiar recipes or cleaning.
I love listening to audio-books just as much as podcasts (although not while cleaning or I will miss parts and I am too OCD for that). An audible account is $15 a month, and for that price you get an audio book (even if it costs well over $20) plus an app that allows you to save bookmarks and personal notes. Love.
15. founders brewing company
Grand Rapids is Beer City USA. It’s official. There was a vote. We have so many amazing breweries Brewery Vivant, Grand Rapids Brewing Co…I love them all. But Founders, one of the first I visited when I moved here years ago, is magical. They recently added outdoor seating with heaters so you can sit outside in the winter and summer (as winter is almost upon us here in Michigan, I’m excited for winter nights at Founders). The beer is top quality and I’ve tested my fair share of Microbrews. People set up tents to line up outside the night before they release a new beer, brewers from as far as Chicago wait all night in Michigan winter and exchange free beers among a community of beer lovers. Founders is casual, I used to go there with friends after running 4+ miles, sweaty and in my running gear, not feeling a bit out of place with the many others who had come in after running, biking, etc. It has live shows every week, amazing sandwiches, and the ultimate: jalapeno cheesy bread. When the only California-based member of my team at work came in to visit last week, the first place we took him after the airport was Founders. Founders is awesome, and a favorite of mine.