I’m so excited to share our third installment of favorite things! This list isn’t flashy or expensive, but it is chock-full of items that truly make me happy: a brain-stimulating TV show, a riveting book, the most simple Mother’s Day gift (which–bonus!–keeps on giving), a favorite family picture with a fun story attached…along with an extra tidbit or two!
Alex Trebek has always been likable, and his fans are routing for him now more than ever as he battles stage 4 pancreatic cancer. But then out of the blue comes contestant James Holzhauer, who topped the $1 million mark in a record-setting 14 games. He’s only the second person to surpass that amount (Ken Jennings was first), and he’s now breaking his own records for most winnings in a single show.
Money and records aside, this guy is fun to watch! He’s lightning quick, bets BIG (and odd amounts in honor of significant dates) and has flip-flopped the typical strategy, starting with the more difficult questions first and jumping from one category to the next.
James knows a lot about a wide range of subjects. Greek mythology. Check. Pop culture. Check. Royalty, presidents, word plays, ancient history, world geography and history, sports, stamps and science. Check them all.
He did, however, concede that ballet is not his strong suit. And for anyone who watched on Monday night, one of his challengers gave James a run for his money. Ultimately, James pulled out yet another victory in a nail biter of a Final Jeopardy.
Above all, this guy is likable. During Alex’s brief chit chat sessions with the contestants, the viewers have learned a little about James’ Japanese grandmother, crossword-puzzle-loving father and his rather interesting wedding attire.
He’s an outlier for sure, and it would rather daunting to go head-to-head with him as a fellow contestant. Have you been watching? Is he unstoppable?
Mother’s Day is just around the corner, which means roadside stands selling all forms of spring flowers will be popping up soon. With their big, bold blooms, hydrangeas are a personal favorite. Thanks to Mother’s Day gifts of years’ prior, by mid-summer our yard rewards us with vibrant, enduring color.
The perennial bushes produce big flowers that are ideal for clipping and －added bonus－require no flower-arranging ability to look stunning. A simple Mason jar serves as an ideal vase.
Tip: If you allow the water to slowly evaporate, the heads will dry out and look quite pretty for many months. No need to hang upside down as the sturdy stems will adequately support the blooms.
Educated is Tara’s personal story of growing up as one of seven children in a survivalist Mormon family in the hills of Idaho. Her mother claimed to home school her children, but there really was no school, unless you count working at her father’s scrap yard, where near-fatal injuries and true abuse happened all too frequently and were merely brushed off.
Despite her unbelievable existence and not formally starting her education until the age of 17, Tara went on to earn a PhD. As you read her story, you can’t help but imagine what it would have been like to live in her shoes, how difficult adapting to the “outside world” must have been and whether her personal scars will ever truly go away. I found myself longing to sit down with Tara and ask about her life since the book was published.
Above all, this tale of survival and struggle, with its dramatic, real-life twists and turns, illustrates that you can do anything you set your mind to. This is a book you will want your friends and family to read, too, so that you can discuss all of the little details and larger-than-life moments.
Bested only by shrimp, salmon and tuna are tied as the second most popular seafood consumed by Americans. For its part, salmon has long been favored for its flavor, texture and versatility. Salmon also tops many healthy-eating lists thanks to its high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Wild salmon is typically recommended over farm-raised salmon for several key reasons. First, it is more likely than wild-caught to contain contaminants, like carcinogenic dioxins and PCBs. Second, wild caught salmon has a healthier ratio of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats to inflammatory omega-6 fats, as well as an overall better nutritional profile. Lastly, farmed salmon is considered potentially harmful to the environment because of the spread of disease to wild fish.
While I do sometimes order salmon that I know is not wild on restaurant menus, I’ve made a practice of keeping wild fillets in my freezer. They’re convenient to have on hand and thaw quickly.
While I was raised to avoid frozen fish, these fillets are flash frozen hours after being caught. The result is perfect texture and and exceptionally fresh taste.
For several years now, I’ve purchased an annual share from Kwee-Jack Salmon, a favorite source for wild Sockeye salmon. However, we’re entering the season for fresh-caught wild salmon (late spring to early fall) and the flash-frozen fillets are widely available year-round, and often very affordably priced. The convenience of having a stash in the freezer can’t be beat.
Tip to avoid dry salmon: When cooking wild salmon, especially, Sockeye, note that these fish are usually leaner than their farm-raised counterparts and, as a result, cook more quickly. To be sure, check the cook time on any salmon recipe that is not clearly marked for wild or farmed several minutes early.
The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, although many will find that result to be dry. I look for an internal temperature of 120 degrees F for medium-rare.
We hadn’t seen our older son, John, since his Christmas break ended on January 1st. He’s on his college’s rowing team, and his schedule prevented him from coming home for spring break or Easter.
Unknown to me at the time, he was scheming with my husband to come home and surprise me last weekend. And then the night before his planned departure his coach informed him he was needed to travel with the team to upstate New York.
At the last minute, my husband came clean on the intended plan and, in turn, suggested that we drive to the New York race and surprise John! So at 7:30 on Friday evening, we departed for Ithaca, New York and rolled into the hotel where the team was staying around 11:30pm.
With the help of the front desk staff, we lured John from his room and surprised him in the hotel lobby. It was SO MUCH FUN!
As you can see from the photo above, the weather for Saturday morning’s race was cold. We had a little snow, a few raindrops and bracing wind. I guess that’s April weather for you! Having the chance to visit, however, warmed this mom’s heart plenty though. 💕
In other news, Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner but you need not throw a full-fledged fiesta to get into the spirit. Why not use the holiday as reason to make an otherwise ordinary dinner a little more festive?
Favorite Fiesta Food:
Favorite tips for the recipes above:
- Made together, these dishes create a full menu that’s 100% party worthy.
- Don’t have time to make everything? Use store-bought guacamole and plain rice. Carnitas may be prepared in advance. Dressing for the slaw can be made several days ahead, too.
- For a frozen (slushy consistency) Margarita, make the mixture in advance (anywhere from a day to several weeks) and freeze it.
- Don’t skip the cumin lime slaw! It’s crisp, incredibly easy, brimming with flavor and quite versatile. Beyond the carnitas, add it to a homemade burrito bowl or pile it in a burger, fish taco or sloppy Joe. Use it as a salad alternative whenever you need a quick side. (Bagged slaw mix makes for added convenience.) If you try this once, I’m pretty sure it will become one of your favorites, too.
- And last but definitely not least, after trying countless method to prevent leftover guacamole from browning, I discovered a foolproof solution…and it’s so darn easy!
How to prevent guacamole or a cut avocado from browning:
Store it in a bowl with a wedge or thick slice of onion (yellow, white or red) and cover with plastic wrap. No need to place the wrap directly on the avocado. The “gasses” from the onion will keep the avocado green. It’s magic. You must try it!
(Pictured batch of guacamole was stored for two nights and three days. Works for a cut avocado, too.)
Thank you for reading along and keep your comments coming as to some of YOUR current favorites!