When I buy someone a gift, I always give them something that I really love or want. It’s a little self-involved of me to think they will like what I like. Fortunately for my friends and family, I have good taste and know what people should like. I am no Oprah, but who says we can’t come up with our own favorite things and pursue our own personal quest for the items, places, or shows that enhance our life and fulfill us in our own way. So here is my top ten list of mostly free favorite things that you should check out and I am certain you will like …
1. Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Podcast (http://www.gretchenrubin.com/)
Gretchen Rubin accidentally became a self-help guru on the subway. While squished between fellow commuters, Gretchen realized she was not fully present in her life. She was shuffling through her routine not savoring each moment, and getting hung up on to do lists and negative self-talk rather than focusing on all the good in her life – a life that was going by pretty fast.
Gretchen set out to do a year-long self-study to focus on what makes her happy while researching the psychology behind happiness. Gretchen aptly named her quest, The Happiness Project which turned into a self-help book with a sequel, Happiness at Home and a new book, Better than Before. In concert with her latest book she started a podcast along with her TV writer sister Elizabeth Craft. Once a week, the sisters talk about happiness and good habits, share easy tips to help focus on the good in life as well as successful habits that have improved their life. The sisters give out demerits to themselves as a way to showcase a misstep on their happiness journey or a gold star to reinforce some happiness success or new good habit they applied.
The podcasts reinforce what Gretchen’s books discuss and over a course of 20 minutes you get some helpful tips and listen to Gretchen and Elizabeth chit chat. The sisters are like two friends, sharing advice and hang ups in their effort to enjoy life. If you don’t have time to read Gretchen’s books, the podcast is a quick synopsis. What I like is that I can listen while damp moping the floor or folding laundry which makes those menial tasks all the more enjoyable.
2. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/)
Laughing can’t happen enough and Jerry Seinfeld’s internet show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is perfection. You are a voyeur in the life of Jerry and one of his comedian buddies as they meet up in a car Jerry has selected for his special guest that epitomes their personality. In the case of Jim Carey, Jerry picks him up in a 1976 Lamborghini Countach because it is one of a kind like Jim. They jet off to some cool diner, drink coffee and chat about the craft of comedy, life in the industry and other worldly observations. The show is well produced, stylish and Jerry is able to show a snippet of these people you’ve never seen before. Because the featured guest is friends with Jerry, the comedian(s) let down their guard and you see their vulnerability, their worries and other idiosyncrasies. It’s like eavesdropping on the other side of the vinyl booth while Jerry and his friends catch up.
It’s my favorite thing to watch and because it’s online you can watch it at your convenience. My favorite episode is Jerry interviewing Michael Richard of Kramer fame. Michael is a guy still reeling in regret over his breakdown on a comedy stage when he lashed out racial slurs to a heckling audience member. There is this real moment when Jerry reminds Michael that the comedy isn’t about him, it’s about the audience and it really opened Michael’s eyes to the incident and that his performance wasn’t about pleasing himself, but pleasing others. Then Jerry tells Michael to stop carrying around the mistake, and that it’s time to put the mistake down.
3. Flower Pots
Summer means flowers and over-sized pots filled with annuals on the deck, front stoop, by the pool, or anywhere. I love a bodacious, full, cascading ceramic pot blooming with bright annuals.
Growing up my mom was great at picking individual annuals and creating a bountiful pot of flowers. I tried for my patio in my first house and my assortment of flowers never gelled and never created the effect I was looking for. I am sure I got this idea from someone else, but I can’t recall who or what. I started buying a hanging plant and transplant it into a pot. It’s already full and fabulous and ready for summer. I love it.
4. Ali Wentworth Yahoo (https://screen.yahoo.com/daily-shot-with-ali-wentworth/)
Ali Wentworth is married to George Stephanopoulos of Bill Clinton Campaign fame and Good Morning America anchor. She was also on In Living Color and her mother was the social secretary to former first lady Betty Ford. Ali is funny and you may have seen her on the View or Oprah back in the day. She had a program on Yahoo that has been cancelled, but Yahoo continues to show old episodes of “Daily Shot.” The interviews aren’t too long and you can pick and choose who you want to watch.
5. T.J. Maxx
T.J. Maxx is my sanctuary, church, place of worship. It is the greatest store ever created. You walk in and are struck by the smell of leather purses pulling you in. The TJ Maxx gods even arrange the store so that you are on a journey, starting in purses, accessories and jewelry, then shoes which suck you into the mid-section of the store full of racks and racks of clothes. The back of the store is home goods and then the far end is men and children which I usually skip and probably the least populated in items because TJ Maxx is all about the woman.
A visit to TJ Maxx is good therapy. The sounds of fashion opportunity — plastic hangers scrapping against the rack as you swish through the tops, dresses or slacks. The feel of your arm as it slowly gets weighed down by all the clothes you want to try on. The long aisle of the fitting room that ends in a three way mirror that makes everything look fantastic on you because it shows a 20 pound lighter you.
Sometimes it’s a bit and a miss. But when it is a hit, its pay day!
6. Ever-Blooming Day Lilies
Way back when, I would read the Better Homes and Gardens February issue to study their recommended garden charts that featured flower beds that ensure blooming flowers throughout spring, summer and fall to guarantee color all the time. The saved garden plans were always tossed because when summer arrived I had other commitments steering me away from gardening.
Then I discovered the Ever-Blooming Day Lily. Genius and true to its name, the Ever-Blooming Day Lily blooms May through October and doubles each season so you can divide it and plant in other areas of your yard.
The Knock Out rose bush is another low maintenance plant that also blooms May through October.
6. Ice Cream
Greatest food invention ever. I could live off of ice cream.
7. Ina Garten’s Short Bread Cookies
Every Christmas and Easter I make a few batches of Barefoot Contessa’s Short Bread Cookies, put them in little plastic bags and hand them out to family at holiday gatherings. It’s a little tradition and all who receive gobble them up with fanfare. They are addictive because it’s just butter, sugar and vanilla so what more could you want.
8. Testing Recipes
I aspire to be a good cook, however, I am incapable of improvising in the kitchen and stick to my favorite cookbooks from Ina Garten and Ree Drummond. Uncomplicated recipes are my specialty and I love going on the Food Network or Cooking.com and typing in some basic ingredients that are in my refrigerator and viola, a recipe comes up! Recently I watched Barefoot Contessa and Ina made a blue cheese souffle. She said it’s easy so I am trying it this weekend along with her pomegranate cosmos!
9. Odd Mom Out
Half hour of funny on the Bravo Network. It is one of maybe two scripted shows this reality TV marathon channel airs. The show is a fish-out-of-water mom living among the Upper East Side privileged. Every moment of the show this Odd Mom makes one faux pas after the next. What mom hasn’t felt like the Odd Mom Out. Field Day, teacher conference, sporting event side lines … you name it, I always feel like the Odd Mom Out. So for a half hour, I am among a friend who is tripping through the networking of moms, neighborhoods, and the expectations of fitting in and yet never fitting in. But she is fine with her fumbles and who she is.
Summer is my favorite season. Even the downside of summer I revel in: humidity, weeds, rain, thunderstorms, flies, mosquitoes, hot driveways, and sweating. Alright, skip the flies and mosquitoes. Summer is the reward for all those months of cold, wind, snow and ice. Sun, pools, flip flops, long days …if only it could last the whole year.