The latest edition of “Favorites Things” is loaded with great finds and fun recommendations, from the best masks to the most popular kitchen designs!
Sparkly fireworks, family picnics, and buttery corn on the cob are just a few things to love about July. To add to the fun, I’m sharing my latest favorites, from a refreshing bottle of wine and a noteworthy book to family favorite TV watching and the best masks I’ve found to date. And move over bikini, 2020 seems to be the year of the trikini!
There’s a little something for everyone in the latest edition of Favorite Things, so let’s get started. As always, I encourage you to weigh in with your latest favorites!
📺Favorite TV Show of the Month
Several months ago, I mentioned Survivor. At the time, the show was celebrating its 40th season with an ensemble cast made entirely of previous winners. In our house, the series has long been a favorite that the whole family watches together. Given the limited new programming, our kids have dug up what they deem to be the best of all the previous seasons (they are free on demand), and the older seasons have not disappointed! We watched Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites (season 16) and are currently watching Heroes vs. Villains (season 20). A mutual Survivor fan just told us we must watch One World (season 24) next. For those who’d like a complete list of seasons and rankings, click HERE. Ultimately, Survivor is just a fun family show with creative team challenges, individual competitions and rewards, lots of big personalities, beautiful nature shots, and nothing R rated.
🥜🥗Favorite Recipes of the Month
Happily, my family’s favorite peanut dressing is becoming a favorite with some of you, too! I’ve received many thoughtful comments and emails from those who have whipped up a jar of this no-cook peanut sauce or used it in these easy, Asian-inspired wraps. Many have claimed they will be keeping a jarful in the fridge at all times. (I love to hear that!)
To reinforce what a staple it is in our house, I just whipped up a fresh batch for a simple but satisfying dinner salad tonight. If a salad with chopped broccoli and red pepper, slivered cabbage and carrots, chickpeas, and a few other odds and ends (tossed in the peanut sauce, of course!) sounds appealing to you, let me know and I’ll firm up the recipe. As I said in the recipe post, however, the dressing plays well with a wide range of ingredients, so feel free to experiment with tasty combinations of your own. (Rice noodles instead of, or in addition to, the beans, for example!)
🎁Favorite Gift of the Month
To help spread her family’s exciting news, my friend, Stacie, posted the photo, above, on her Instagram account. I texted her right away to offer congratulations, of course, but also to get the details. I knew immediately I’d have readers who would be interested!
Stacie explained that the line of custom drink ware (tumblers, travel mugs, and insulated water bottles are also available) was started by two local crafting sisters during the quarantine. To ask questions or to order, visit Glitter and Glue Sisters on Facebook. They respond quickly to messages and inquiries. I also spied some cute onesies.
📚Favorite Book of the Month
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See tells the story of two girls from very different backgrounds over the course of several decades. They live on the Korean island of Jeju, where women tend to be the bread winners of the family while the men care for the children. As teenagers, girls join their village’s diving collectives and learn to dive (no oxygen tanks－they hold their breath in what can be a very dangerous job) for sea urchins, abalone, octopus, and other sea life that they then sell to earn a living.
See’s work of historical fiction follows the girls and their families, beginning during the Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War, and its aftermath. Throughout the novel, dangers lurk everywhere: extreme physical work, near starvation, unparalleled threats, and devastating losses amidst the political unrest that surrounds them. At the same time, See’s story illustrates the complexities of female friendship and asks the age-old question of how to find forgiveness after the worst of transgressions.
🍷Favorite Beverage of the Month
Galen Glen Winery’s Bubbly Rosé ($14.99): Pre-quarantine, I bumped into a friend at a local restaurant and commented on the pretty pink beverage she was drinking. She insisted I take a sip (that would never happen now!), saying that this wine, with its notes of cherry and mandarin orange, was her absolute favorite. I’ve never been a rosé drinker but ordered a glass that night and became a fast fan. This wine is crisp with a hint of effervescence and a flavor that’s “just right”－not too sweet and not too dry. I enjoy it with a few ice cubes, so it’s extra cold.
Shortly after my restaurant introduction, I stumbled across the wine at our local Wegmans. My parents recently moved, and my family and I brought them dinner and a bottle of the Bubbly Rosé on moving day. My dad is neither a rosé nor a champagne drinker, so he said he’d have “a sip.” He had two refreshing glasses and declared himself a new fan! So while the light effervescence makes this a lovely alternative to champagne, you need not be a champagne drinker to enjoy it.
Pro tip for those who, like me, use one of those contraptions to suck out the air before recorking a bottle of wine: an employee at Wegmans recommended against this practice for this variety of wine. He said that the vacuum effect removes the carbonation and that it will keep better over several days if the screw cap is merely replaced. He was right! I once kept what was left of a bottle for three days and it still tasted great. I’ve since tried Galen Glen’s Gewürztraminer (sort of like a Riesling), as well as a non-bubbly version of the pictured rosé, and enjoyed them both.
🌺Favorite Flower of the Month
My favorite flowers of late are…whatever I can cut! I have never been adept at flower arranging, so when doing it myself, I’ve gravitated towards big showy blooms like hydrangeas, sunflowers, and tulips because I can simply plop them in a vase and they look great! Recently, however, I’ve taken to snipping a little of whatever is growing in our yard, and guess what? The arrangements have turned out pretty well! For those who have struggled with creating a pretty arrangement, following are my keys to success:
- A 16-ounce Mason jar offers a rustic yet timeless way to display a mishmash of flowers, and the opening is just the right diameter to prevent the stems from splaying too far out. Leaving the band (but removing the disc) adds a nice touch.
- If you have smaller (or bigger) blooms, try an 8- or 32-ounce Mason or similar canning jar.
- Even a single bloom in a bud vase or pretty glass beverage bottle will add life to a room－and requires no flower arranging ability!
- Herbs make a lush filler, adding vibrant greenery and a lovely scent. For the bouquet, above, I used hearty sprigs of basil and spearmint. Everyone here really loves the aroma of the mint!
- No blooms? If you have herbs, simply make an herb bouquet. All green looks great, but if you’d like additional color, tie a pretty ribbon around the band of the jar.
- When placing the flowers in the jar or vase, aim for the most height in the center, gradually trimming the stems to a shorter length along the sides. Once I learned to go a little shorter around the edges, my arrangements started to look better.
Have flower-arranging tips of your own? Please share! 🌸
🌶Favorite Tip of the Month
Several months ago, I saw this tip from Jamie Oliver and tucked it away, waiting for summer gardens and markets to yield their seasonal bounty of colorful peppers. Freezing peppers and grating them (you can do the same with fresh ginger) seemed like an especially useful tip, as we often need just one jalapeño, for example.
Just like onions and most fruits, peppers (both sweet and hot varieties) can be frozen without blanching first. If your fingers don’t like the idea of grating the small peppers, simply mince or dice them and freeze for future use.
👩🍳Reader Favorite Kitchen of the Month
Reader comments read something like this: “My ideal kitchen.” “Love it! Feels serene.” ” Love high ceilings and the colour of duck egg” (alternatively referred to as robin’s egg and turquoise blue by some readers). One reader commented that she would prefer all the cabinets to be white, but the comments on this featured kitchen were mostly glowing!
🖼Favorite Graphics of the Month
…and who would have ever thought the next one would be “a thing?!”
😷While on the mask topic…Favorite Masks
We all have to wear them, and some masks are most assuredly more comfortable (and stay up better) than others, so please feel free to comment if you have a favorite source for masks. My older son hit on the pictured 100% Human Face Masks from Everlane. They are unisex, 100% cotton, machine wash and dry, and retail for $28 for a 3-pack. They are available in all black or the grey/charcoal/black trio shown above. Everyone in my family likes them, so I recently ordered a second pack. For every 3-pack sold, the company will donate 10% of sales to the ACLU. To date, they’ve donated over $600,000. Also, there’s currently a 10%-off special for new customers.
Locally, I found comfortable masks at Lemon Street Market that fit well and are offered in an assortment of fun colors and prints. They carry adult and child masks that retail for $7.99 and have recently begun selling XL masks, which cost $8.99. The cotton, machine washable masks are made locally by Amy Yocom and her daughter Carla. Special edition July 4th masks are available for a limited time.
The final photo shows one last family hike before my older son John left for a summer internship in California. There may be a little less laundry and one less mouth to feed, but for me, the very best part of the quarantine was having my whole family together for so many months.❤️