Considering all the April showers (and downpours and thunderstorms!) we had here, I’m pretty sure the May flowers are going to be amazing. So with thoughts of brighter days ahead along with some recommendations and light humor as we continue to hunker down, I invite you to join me for another edition of Favorite Things!
🌺Favorite Flower of the Month
Rhododendrons! The showy blooms on these bushes are big and vibrant and just the thing to perk you up on a dreary day. The photo, below, was taken on the edge of our driveway, where we have decades-old rhododendrons that literally tower over us. The photo is a throwback to 2009, when John was a few weeks shy of his 11th birthday and Christian was seven. 💜
Runner up: I spied these vibrant blooms on a walk earlier this week! ⇩⇩
🌱Favorite Do-it-Yourself Project of the Month
Simply put the root ends (an inch or two is all that’s needed) in a glass of water and place the glass in a sunny window. Change the water once or twice a week, or top off as needed. I used a large shot glass in the photo above and, because of the small size, had to add water every couple of days. The upside of a small glass is that it helps to hold the short root ends upright as you begin the process.
The first time I did this, I was surprised to see new growth within a day or two. In less than a week I had several inches of the darker green growth. By week’s end you should be able to begin harvesting the green ends of the scallions. Just snip what you need—you can take up to 70% of the green, leaving the rest behind to continue growing.
When the weather is warmer, you can even plant the roots in your garden and watch them grow there!
🍿Favorite Movie of the Month
The cinematography is breathtaking and the shots of wild animals will undoubtedly offer added appeal to many. The documentary is a conversation starter, and I appreciated the rare opportunity of seeing a process unfold over nearly a decade. The ending leaves the viewer feeling hopeful, if not inspired. And who couldn’t use a little bit of that right now?
For those who like these details, the film has a running time of 92 minutes. The Rotten Tomatoes rating is 91% and the Audience Score is 95%. The movie is rated PG for mild thematic elements, but I would say it’s appropriate for most ages.
📚Favorite Book of the Month
The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw: I read this book when it was first published, over 15 years ago, and it gave me an unwavering appreciation for my grandparents’ generation. Thinking it would be a meaningful read for my two sons, I ordered a new copy after remembering that I gave away my original long ago. Given the current crisis and the likelihood that the effects will be long reaching and, in some ways, life altering, I thought my sons might find hope and strength in the stories of those who sacrificed so much decades ago.
In this outstanding book, Brokaw profiles the men and women－from military heroes and community leaders to ordinary citizens－who bravely served their country and, with a shared purpose, persevered and ultimately used their experiences to create purposeful lives and build modern America.
These poignant stories provide hope that there are, indeed, silver linings in the crisis we are living through today. For anyone looking for an inspiring read, this is it!
🧩Favorite Daily Activities of the Month
Walks and puzzles! After dinner walks with the whole family most definitely constitute a high point of the day. The fresh air and chance to share a brief conversation with neighbors is rejuvenating for sure.
One little activity I allow myself before I get to work every morning, however, is the daily New York Times crossword puzzle. I used to whip through the easier puzzle included in our daily newspaper, but I heeded my husband’s advice when he told me I needed to step it up! The puzzles offer a mild challenge on Monday and Tuesday, and become increasingly more difficult as the week progresses. Full disclosure: to reclaim a sense of accomplishment, I often revert to the easier puzzle by Friday! My kids sometimes help, which adds to the fun for sure. I “warm up” by doing the word jumble on the opposite side of the page after my husband completes the Sudoko. My sons often do the puzzles online－a great option for those who don’t receive a print copy of the news.
✂️Favorite Gadget of the Month
Philips Norelco MG7750/49 Multigroom Series 7000, Men’s Grooming Kit with Trimmer for Beard, Head, Body, and Face (no blade oil needed; currently retailing for $54.99 on Amazon)
This suggestion is offered with a dose of humor, as so many of us are contending with a missed haircut or two at this point in the quarantine! A friend of mine did the product research for this one and, when my husband asked me to cut his hair, she also suggested I watch this 4-minute tutorial. She had successfully cut her husband’s hair (and she had a far fuller head of hair to contend with than I did!), so I figured she was onto something.
In a nutshell, the stylist in the video recommends two specific guard sizes (which attach to the clippers and control length) and sharp scissors (which also come with the trimmer linked above). He offers pointers that really did help, both in terms of how to angle the clippers and how to use the scissors.
I was nervous my husband wouldn’t like it, but he was happy. My kids also approved, so I took that as a good sign. That said, they don’t want me to touch their hair! 😂
👩🍳Reader Favorite Kitchen of the Month
This bright space slightly edged out a kitchen with accents of orange. (Who would have thought an orange kitchen would be so broadly received?) Having lost track of the day, I was late in posting this winning kitchen. The oversight inspired one reader to share the following graphic, which I thought we could all appreciate!
🖼Favorite Graphic of the Month
🍓🥦🍝Favorite Recipes of the Month
Between quarantine cooking and Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought some recipe inspiration that focused on accessible ingredients and a touch of something special might come in handy. Following are a few items on the menu in our house:
- Mom’s Classic Strawberry Shortcake － which we have been know to eat for dinner!
- Apple Crumb Cake can be served as coffee cake or a delicious dessert
- One Pan Teriyaki Salmon & Vegetables － Several readers have made this simple, heart-healthy skillet meal recently, and it occurred to me that it would be a special but easy dinner for all those moms who may be cooking their own Mother’s Day dinners!
- Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce － Following the above line of thinking, this flavorful sauce can be whipped up in a flash for a meal that is sure to please the troops. Leftovers are a treat, and the recipe can easily be doubled and freezes well. My kids love it when I use this sauce for English muffin pizzas for lunch.
- Broccoli and Prosciutto Bake － My Aunt Peggy gets the well-deserved credit for this tasty, all-in-one meal that comes together in minutes. I made this last week after a long hiatus, and you would have thought I had slaved away for hours! As an added bonus, this dish can be made entirely in advance, reheats beautifully, freezes well, and is a great meal to deliver to friends or family you may be helping out. And the aroma while baking is heavenly!
- Jen’s Incredible Baked Meatballs － In the last few weeks, many of you have told me you’ve been doubling and freezing this longtime reader favorite recipe. (One reader made a quadruple batch and another sent photos of her 3-year-old son doing all the rolling!) For several super speedy dinners, I like to bake them all and then freeze a portion, but the meatballs can also be frozen uncooked. Beyond the classic spaghetti and meatballs, these flavorful bites make a scrumptious meatball sandwich or a worthy alternative to meatloaf.