There’s something for everyone in the the latest edition of A Few of my Favorite Things!
Though some of us may itching for longer days and warmer temperatures, there is a lot to love about February. Between the Super Bowl and the Oscars, the first two Sundays of the month offer a little something for everyone. The first Saturday of February is National Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. (That’s today, by the way!) There’s Valentine’s Day of course, followed by a three day weekend. And we happen to have three February birthdays in my family, so there’s plenty of cake…and ice cream! My younger son will be particularly delighted to know that February 5th is World Nutella Day. And this year is a Leap Year — that’s sort of fun. But possibly the most exciting thing about February? After a small hiatus, we have another Favorite Things post to start the month! ❤️
💙Favorite Valentine’s Day dinner: This recipe for Pan-Seared Heart Chicken is easy, versatile and fun!
❤️Favorite chocolate: This recipe for Chocolate Peanut Clusters with Sea Salt, Wilbur dark chocolate (which Evan’s Candy also uses in their confections; if you’re not local you must visit and try!) and Hu’s Salty dark chocolate bars.
💙Favorite recent movies: Little Women and Bombshell
❤️Favorite TV show: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Favorite hand cream
I mentioned in my very first Favorite Things post that my favorite body lotion is Burt’s Bees Body Lotion with Milk & Honey. I still use it daily and have upgraded to the larger pump size. In winter, however, my hands get extremely dry and cracked, and for this I have found a new favorite－Aveeno Skin Relief Hand Cream, Intense Moisture. It’s thick, creamy, not at all greasy and a small to medium-size dab provides the best relief I have found. This is perhaps the first winter in years that my hands feel really good!
Available at most grocery and drug stores. I recently purchased the 3.5 ounce tube for $6.88.
Another excellent way to dramatically improve dry, cracked hands is by using the following easy-to-make homemade hand and body scrub. It also makes a boutique-quality gift, and if you add a drop of red food coloring, will turn a pretty shade of pale pink for a practical, thoughtful Valentine’s Day gift.
Teatulia’s Masala Chai Tea: If you enjoy a hot cup of tea and warm spices appeal to you, this tea is a must. While delicious on its own, you can easily replicate a cafe-worthy chai latte with the addition of warm milk and a sweetener of choice.
How to make a shortcut chai latte: Warm a quarter to a third of a cup of milk. I eyeball it and heat the milk in a mug in the microwave while I’m boiling water on the stove. (Use your favorite milk. I especially love the creaminess of oat milk－I like Oatly－which also adds the subtlest hint of oatmeal cookie flavor, which works especially well with this tea.) Then pour in a cup or so of hot water, add sweetener to taste, and let the teabag steep. The resulting mugful is lightly spiced, creamy and delightfully satisfying for a fraction of the cost of a fancy latte!
As an added benefit, all of the packaging, including the 16 pyramid shaped tea bags, is fully compostable. I purchased my last cardboard canister at Wegmans for $6.99. Each bag may be used twice and may also be used for iced tea.
Favorite no-added-sugar yogurt
Fage TruBlend vanilla: I considered this find a really good one! I had previously settled on Fage’s plain Greek yogurt as a favorite in that category, and would add a drizzle of maple syrup when I wanted something slightly sweeter, like in my overnight oats. That said, a lusciously sweet vanilla has always been near and dear to my heart. (Locals who have enjoyed Pequea Valley Farms decadent vanilla yogurt will understand－it’s high in fat-fat, high-sugar and just plain delicious.) With this in mind, I’ve tested many brands, and always liked the options that were a little higher in the sugar department. So when I first tasted Fage’s offering, I was impressed. It has just enough fat (1.7%) to make it lusciously creamy and the natural vanilla flavor shines through beautifully－with zero added sugar or syrups. The nutritional stats list 5 total grams of sugar, but this is the naturally occurring sugars in the milk. The 5.3-ounce container, shown below, also has 110 calories and 13 grams of protein.
Reader Favorite Kitchen
The above-pictured kitchen (with alternate view below) garnered the most engagement and positive comments in my Facebook Friday Featured Kitchens post. The occasional objections centered around the “floating cabinets” on either side of the oven or the challenge of cleaning such a vast space. For those who haven’t yet checked in, I post a kitchen on my Fountain Avenue Facebook page every Friday between 8:00 and 8:30 am, and I’d love for you to join the conversation!
The following kitchen was a very close second. At press time it had fewer positive comments, but most of them were glowing!
Favorite book of the month:
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Soon to be a Hulu limited series starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere takes place in idyllic Shaker Heights, Ohio and explores the weight of secrets, complicated family dynamics, race and social divisions and the pull of motherhood. Although I gravitate towards historical fiction, nonfiction and memoirs, this fictional story is equal parts fun and thought-provoking and well worth the read. It was easy to get lost in the book, as the characters and setting were so beautifully brought to life. You may struggle with who you’d side with in the several weighty plot issues－issues that make this read a great book club pick.
Some favorite moments
My younger son, Christian (2nd from left) and one of his several swimming cousins, Henry, swam against each other at a recent meet. Grandparents were there to cheer them on! (Thanks to my sister-in-law, Mary, for thinking to capture the moment!)
My husband’s and my Christmas present to our kids and each other was two nights in New York and tickets to see two shows. Mostly I enjoyed the family time, but Hamilton absolutely lived up to its stellar advance billing. There was another unexpected hit however…
Max Bartos (second from right, below) is the talented son of family friends from Lancaster who was cast in the off-broadway production of Sing Street, which we also saw on that trip. The storyline: set in Dublin in 1982, a group of school friends start a band to escape troubles at home and impress an intriguing girl. The musical score embraces various classics from the 80s and the show itself was thoroughly entertaining and engaging－as evidenced by the fact that it was just picked up by Broadway! Congratulations, Max!!!
It rained most of the time we were there, so we sought out some quality indoor time, including a visit to The Whitney Museum, where we caught a glimpse of another hometown hero, artist Charles Demuth. John and Christian are standing in front of two of his acclaimed works in the photo below.
Below is a view of the foggy Hudson River from the Whitney Museum. We later braved the conditions and walked the stairs of New York’s Staircase (aka the Vessel), the towering sculpture that has been both lauded and criticized for its unique design. It’s part of the newly opened Hudson Yards, the recently developed area which is set atop rail yards and has altered the Hudson River skyline with a new set of skyscrapers. For those who may be interested, Hudson Yards also offers a mega-mall that features restaurants from star chefs, such as David Chang and José Andrés.
One of these days I should share our favorite NYC restaurants, but I will leave you with two for now. Han-Bat is a Korean restaurant we have been going to for the better part of two decades now. Located at 53 W. 35th Street, it offers very affordably priced, authentic Korean food. We order the BiBimBap bowls every single time. (They come with an egg on top that gets quickly stirred into the piping hot bowl, but the photo below was taken several bites in!) Before the entree, a half dozen or so small complementary plates called banchan (which literally translates to “side dishes”) are served, and it’s always fun to try them.
For breakfast, we love Bluestone Lane on 55 Greenwich Avenue. This location has a broader menu than some of their other cafes and features a seasonal menu of what they call “progressive” café fare (what I call healthy, clean and delicious!), for all-day breakfast, lunch and early evening appetizers.
If you have a favorite spot in NYC, be it a museum, restaurant or other special activity or attraction, please share in the comment section for all to enjoy!