Put on your shades, because this edition of Favorite Things is chock full of bright colors and fun gadgets for springtime. We’re ready for it, are you?
When Ann was visiting her family in California, they did a lot of hiking and saw so many interesting desert plants and wildflowers. They had fun identifying the flora along the way using an app called Plant Snap – you simply take a photo and the app will identify any plant, whether in the wild or in your house or, garden.
There are about 10 plant or flower identification apps, some free, and all with pros and cons, including Blossom, PlantNet, iNaturalist, and Plant Scan. If you’d like to determine which app will best suit your needs, Youhadmeatgardening.com has a helpful breakdown of each apps’ pros and cons.
Favorite Outdoor Lighting
Barebones Living Rechargeable Railroad Lantern has an old-time look and feel, like the ones they used to use on railroads way back when. But its function is quite modern! It has an LED bulb that charges with a USB cable, and runs over 100 hours.
This would be great for deck or patio use on summer nights and is well-suited for camping. It even comes in multiple colors! The price point is now $68 on Food52, down from $85.
While shopping for wine last year, a knowledgeable employee sang the praises of Quadrum boxed wines, adding that each box (currently $19.99 at Wegman’s) contains the equivalent of four standard bottles, and once opened, will keep in the fridge for 6 to 8 weeks. Perfect for parties or sipping one glass at a time over many weeks. Clever packaging accounts for the long lifespan: the wine is contained in a plastic bladder fitted with an air-tight valve, which emerges from a protective corrugated box. The slim box stores efficiently in the refrigerator and doesn’t drip.
Ann enjoys red and white wine and gives both varieties high scores. The red is a blend of 80% Cencibel and 20% Garnacha and offers notes of red raspberries and strawberries. The white, a mix of 70% Verdejo and 30% Sauvignon Blanc, carries hints of honeydew, white peach, and grapefruit. Both are balanced–neither too sweet nor too dry–and are versatile enough to complement a wide range of food, from marinated chicken, tacos, and charcuterie boards to use in a refreshing sangria.
These wines would go well with our next favorite thing…
Favorite Drinking Glasses
Ann raves about these colorful tumblers which were a gift from a friend for her birthday. A non-slip grip gives them an appealing feel and look, thanks to the fun colors and whimsical pattern. She uses them for everyday drinks as well as cocktails.
A set of 4 glasses retails for $30. They are dishwasher safe and durable.
Favorite Kitchen Gadget
Emily has memories of waking up on the weekends and her parents making fresh-squeezed orange juice. It was a fun family tradition. Juicers have become much more sophisticated over the years, but a small manual hand juicer still has its place.
Emily picked up the Kitchen Aid Citrus Juicer for $10.99 at Target, and it’s perfect for a quick glass of OJ or cocktails and various recipes requiring a small amount of fresh citrus juice. Her kids love “kiddie cocktails” which is simply one squeezed orange topped with some bubbly water. Ann uses a similar juicer often, and over the warmer months, puts it to use regularly for in this easy, flavor-packed Essential Marinade, which requires just three ingredients including freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Favorite Nail Polish Color
Spring is a fun time of year for nail polish. The dark wintry reds and browns are out, and the flowery pinks and purples are in. This year, pastels seem to be the trend, as is mixing and matching similar shades for some extra fun!
Emily decided to go purple this month with the new spring Essie polish colors. She was tempted by the pastel blues and greens, as well as a gorgeous pink called “stretch your wings,” but was won over by the purple family with “tangoed in love” and “flight of fantasy.”
Along those lines, a mani/pedi or spa gift card is always appreciated for Mother’s Day.
Favorite Birthday Tradition
When anyone in Ann’s family has a birthday, they top the cake with candles. But not just any candles. Since the time Ann was little, her mom always added one trick candle to the mix. After all the candles were blown out, one would magically relight. Ann still does this with her family, and even though it’s not really a surprise anymore, it’s still lots of fun!
Emily has never done this with her kids but will be throwing one in for her husband’s birthday next month for an extra special laugh. Shhh!
Favorite Game for Kids
For Emily’s sons’ 5th birthday he received a game called Spot it! from a friend.
It’s essentially an upgraded matching game that’s fun and challenging for kids and adults alike. Small enough to take on trips but substantial enough to enjoy at home, Spot It is for two players and costs $9.99 at Target. The age range is listed as 6 years and up, but her 3-year-old plays and often comes out the victor!
Favorite New Movie for Kids
The latest Pixar movie Turning Red (on Disney+) is about a Chinese Canadian in her early teens who is a little awkward and nerdy–and totally relatable. Because of a family curse, she turns into a giant red panda every time she has a strong emotion as she enters into puberty.
For parents of younger kids, there are some aspects regarding puberty that may go over their heads – such as talk about having your first period – but for some parents this may be a good way to segue into potentially awkward conversations.
Favorite Outdoor Game
If you’re looking to up your outdoor entertaining this summer, consider Kubb (pronounced Koob), a wooden outdoor block game that originated in Sweden. The main objective is to knock down the other team’s larger pieces of wood with your own smaller pieces. It’s also great for team building, is fun for all ages, and has a bit of a cult following! It runs $52.99 from Amazon and includes a carrying case.
Favorite FAK Recipes for May!
You are likely as excited as we are about spring and summer produce. Following is a preview of what’s on our menus. What will be on yours?
When strawberries first come to the farmers markets – or for the lucky ones who live near farms, strawberry picking! – they are a favorite of adults and kids alike, and the natural sweetness of in-season berries can’t be beat.
This year, add them to something savory like this Strawberry Chicken Salad with Candied Walnuts and Goat Cheese. Or (or AND!), take a twist on the classic with this Almond Coconut Strawberry Shortcake.
If you are a rhubarb fan, take advantage of this in-season fruit with Rhubarb Streusel Muffins, which are sweet and tangy with a tender crumb. Or enjoy this lightly sweet Rustic Polenta Cake with Rhubarb or the Ginger Almond Rhubarb Bars with Coconut Crust that go perfectly served with afternoon tea.
And for two easy main courses, try this Salsa Simmered Fish (prepared with your own preferences in mind!), which couldn’t be easier or more flavorful. Or, the Sautéed Shrimp & Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto and Parmesan. As greens are making an appearance, this Baked Swiss Chard with Peppers and Feta is a great accompaniment to any springtime meal.
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