I thought I’d branch out a little bit from what I normally share on this page and talk about something else I enjoy – sweet treats!
I feel compelled to share about my most recent dessert of choice because it’s SO GOOD. And it’s made in Iowa, an extra perk.
Over the Fourth of July weekend we had a yummy lunch with my mother-in-law. For dessert she had two options - cheesecake and ice cream sandwiches. I normally would go for the cheesecake (because, cheesecake), but I chose the ice cream sandwich to try something new. Now I can never eat a regular, rock solid ice cream sandwich ever again.
Let me introduce you to Thelma’s Handmade Ice Cream Sandwiches based out of Des Moines. According to their website, “Each of our signature treats is handmade for peak deliciousness.” And that’s the truth!
My favorite right now is the sugar cookie with strawberry ice cream sandwich. Both the cookies and the ice cream are somehow soft, which only science can explain. You can tell it’s handmade – it doesn’t have a “processed” taste to it and it literally feels like you’re eating something your grandma just handed you fresh from the kitchen.
TRY THESE! So good. Get your fill while the weather is still warm.
My husband is opening my eyes (and ears) to podcasts more and more as time goes on. I don't default to podcasts. I'm more of a book and TV series kind of girl. But I'm starting to come around!
On our recent trip to see the Rolling Stones in Chicago (I'll post about it soon - Bucket List item checked off for sure!) we bounced around looking for the right podcast, as usual. We landed on The Two Princes. Going from the thumbnail artwork, I was skeptical. As you can see, it is cartoonish, so I thought we were getting ourselves into a children's story. Not the case at all!
This charming podcast is full of adventure and surprise, so I won't give too much away. I was hooked from the start. Two princes from rival kingdoms meet by chance in the enchanted woods. One prince chooses to stay "undercover" once he finds out who the other man is, the second prince. During their time together in the woods, the two develop a bond, new emotions surface, and a special friendship forms. That's all I'll say!
You'll probably recognize some of the voices. One of our favorite young actors, Noah Galvin, voices one of the princes. So that made us like it even more.
The storyline is strong and full of fantasy. I'm normally not into that, but really did enjoy this podcast. We finished the entire thing before reaching Chicago, so if you have time to binge a podcast, this would definitely be a good choice.
I hope you enjoy it! My heart was smiling by the end. I hope yours is, too.
I always enjoy trying out different types of annual plants in my planters that surround our house. I am big on perennials, but annuals give me a chance to change up the exterior of our home each year with new pops of color.
I inadvertently chose red, white, and blue for my large pots. I must have been feeling patriotic that day! I tried to keep the color combinations classic this year – red, white, blue, yellow. I’m normally all over the board, choosing whatever I like, but I tried to be a little more coordinated this year.
I wanted to share more information about one of the plants I bought to add a pop of red. I got the basic impatiens and petunias, of course, but in addition, I tried out a plant that is new to garden centers this year – Berried Treasure® Red (Strawberry Fragaria ananassa). It is a plant that produces rich red flowers along with edible strawberries!
In our community, we have a large Burmese population. They have huge gardens overflowing with produce. I noticed some have produce growing right outside their front doors – like cucumbers and other vine vegetables. This concept stuck with me, and I am always thinking how I might do that at our house. I feel like planting Berried Treasure was a baby step in the right direction.
I planted them in mid-May (I planted super late this year because of unpredictable weather in Iowa) and they have established themselves well. They are already quite full and producing up to 4 ripe, delicious berries (in total from all 4 plants I have) daily so far. I have them on the east and south sides of our house. East side is part sun, south side is full sun. They’re doing well in both settings. They seem pretty heat tolerant, they haven’t required a ton of water.
They are graded “Valedictorian” for being both ornamental and having tasty fruit. It is a continuous, long bloomer and doesn’t need to be deadheaded. It also attracts bees! They last from spring into fall, which is always appealing.
I highly recommend this plant if you are looking for a high performing plant with rich color and/or if you are a strawberry lover. I eat the berries while I’m deadheading my petunias…so they don’t last long. Happy summer!
OK, this one may seem like it’s out of left field, but I really enjoyed watching the show “Lunatics” on Netflix. It is a “mockumentary” following the “peculiar lives” of six characters, all played by Chris Lilley.
When they say peculiar lives, they mean it. The characters are so bizarre they’re endearing. They each make you laugh and cringe simultaneously. As the episodes progress, you really start to understand and empathize with them to a certain extent. I will even go as far as to say that you begin to see yourself and others you know in the characters, even though they are seemingly one of a kind.
My personal favorite character was Becky. An abnormally tall college girl with a heart of pure gold. She’s a DIY girl, so I related with her on that level. I fell for her immediately and her story was especially hard to watch, but thankfully ended positively!
Going in, I thought this show was simply an eccentric comedy, one of a kind itself. But when it came to the end, I was completely shocked to realize all along the show was celebrating differences. Uniqueness. The beauty of being yourself – even if you are marching completely and solely to your own drum. You are special because of it. You are loved because of it. Maybe not by everyone, but by someone, and that’s all that matters.
The series wraps up on a high note, and I never expected this, but I was crying! The message was just so good. So even though it looks and sounds a little whacky, and it certainly is, I recommend this show. It will surely lift your spirits, make you feel good that you aren’t like the characters to start, and then make you feel good that you are indeed at least a little bit like the characters by the end.
Jodi Picoult is officially one of my new favorite authors. I think I'm a little behind in discovering how great she is because she has a huge collection of popular titles, many being New York Times Best Sellers.
A Spark of Light was a joy to read. It is centered around a very controversial topic - abortion. An active shooter holds staff and patients of an abortion clinic hostage in an act of anger, hate, and revenge for his young daughter who recently had an abortion. Throughout the story, you learn about all sides of abortion - those who have them, those who protest against them, the procedures themselves, laws surrounding them. Even though it is a fiction book, it has several non-fiction elements that I enjoyed.
I also liked the structure. The book starts with the drama and suspense surrounding the shooter in the clinic, works its way back hour by hour following each of the characters, and ends back with the shooter in the clinic along with the final outcome for all of the characters. It's really a lovely progression.
At the end of the book, you find out that Jodi did her background research. She followed actual abortion patients and providers and protestors. She witnessed procedures. She learned about the laws. She read the data. Knowing this made me like the book even more because it confirmed for me that although the book is fiction, there were truths throughout. Most of which were heartbreaking and unjust. But truths nonetheless.
No matter what side of the fence you are on, this book humanizes abortion in a really important way. I hope you'll take time to read it in order to understand different perspectives of this touchy topic.
Let me know if you read it and what you think!
Happy New Year! I hope you had a 2018 full of lessons and milestones that helped you grow.
If you're into starting your new year on a positive note, I wanted to share a couple of FREE 30 day programs I'm committing to. The best part (aside from them being free)? They can both be done from the comfort of your home. It felt too good to be true when I discovered that two of my favorite women, Adriene Mishler and Mel Robbins, were releasing programs both starting on January 1, 2019. For me, there's no better way to enter into an improved physical and mental space as I navigate my way through the next year.
Here's a quick rundown of these programs and links to the information you need if you'd like to join in:
Dedicate - A 30 Day Yoga Journey
Adriene Mishler, Yoga with Adriene
There's nothing like 30 days of yoga with Adriene. I've done several of her 30 day programs and although it's tough at times to hop on the mat every single day, the pride and release of emotion you feel on day 30 makes it all worth it. The best thing about this program is that although it is designed to be done every day for 30 days, you can really do it at your own pace. Don't beat yourself up if you get out of sync. Adriene wouldn't want you to feel that way! She wants you to find what feels good.
I like to keep myself accountable by using the calendar she provides. If you sign-up on the Dedicate webpage I linked above, you'll also get daily encouragement emails from Adriene. She's truly one of the best humans. I know you'll fall in love with her. She is the perfect teacher for an at home yoga practice.
All you need for this program is access to YouTube, a yoga mat (or towel, or rug - sometimes I don't use anything!), and some blankets or a pillow.
Mel Robbins, Author of 5 Second Rule
I stumbled upon Mel Robbins on Instagram in 2018 and it was one of the best things that could have happened for me. She is a wonderful, inspirational woman who gives honest, common sense, and science-based advice on how to be a better human. Someone that believes in themselves and their ability to do anything they set their mind to. Someone that controls their mind, not allowing themselves to become a victim of it. And so much more. I absolutely love her.
Joel got me her book 5 Second Rule for my birthday and my mother-in-law got me the journal that helps you apply the teachings from the book to everyday life. I will be reading the book and using the journal throughout Mindset Reset. I've been waiting anxiously to get started!
You don't need the book and journal to take part in Mindset Reset. All you need is, again, access to YouTube, the Mindset Reset guidebook, and a journal. You'll want to sign-up for the program on the website I linked above so you get notified when a new video is up! Make sure to follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as well. She shares uplifting messages everyday.
If you decide to do either of these programs, let me know! I'd love to keep in touch throughout the 30 days. We could also keep each other accountable! I'm all for that.
Namaste and I wish you the best in 2019!
Abbi Jacobson may have regretted writing this book, but I’m sure glad she went through with it.
If you don’t know who Abbi is, here are a few bullet points on her:
Before having the privilege of attending Abbi’s book signing at The Vic Theater in Chicago, I knew very little about her as a person outside of her characters. I had read she felt that much of what you see of her on Broad City is an exaggerated version of herself in her 20’s, but that’s about it. She addressed this very thing during the program before the signing, saying she is at a point right now where although she still feels like that person today, so much has changed, so her professional choices as of late have been ones to help show she has evolved from Broad City Abbi now that she is in her 30’s.
As we sat in the theater and Abbi was interviewed by fellow author, Samantha Irby, I was captivated. I immediately connected with her. It felt like I was watching myself speak. So much of what she said deeply resonated with me. It was an experience I have never had before. Her celebrity status wore off quickly. She was just a woman on a stage sharing who she was, what she thought, how she felt. An hour flew by and before we knew it we were in line to meet her in person!
Joel and I got to have our picture taken with her after she signed our books. I had prepared and practiced statements ahead of time. I would tell her she was such a role model to me. That she and Ilana are two of my favorite women of all time. If I panicked, I knew I was going to say I loved her and didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to freak her out! But both of us just lost it when we saw her. We got out a quick greeting, a “so nice to meet you, take care,” and it was over! She’s a doll. Just what we expected her to be.
Quick (Additional) Celebrity Sighting Break – We were semi-distracted throughout the program because we sighted not one, but TWO of our favorite celebrities sitting just a few seats away from us. Hannibal Buress (a.k.a. Lincoln from Broad City) and Jeff Tweedy (from Wilco, who we just saw this past September)! Joel and Jeff exchanged waves. It was surreal and made an already amazing evening even better.
Now let’s get to the book. With three weeks of vacation on her calendar, Abbi takes a solo road trip across the country to work through a recent break-up and feelings tied to the imminent final season of Broad City.
If you are a 30-something female, I think this book will resonate with you on some level. It’s a quick read because it is a collection of essays, illustrations, memories, and general ponderings. I felt like I was reading her journal. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, it has true reflective depth that sneaks around each corner of her humor - catching you a little off guard. Overall, I related to her story strongly because I realized she and I are very alike. I nodded in understanding and snickered in empathy of what her human experience is like. Because it felt so much like mine.
It has been wonderful to get to know her better. I didn’t realize how much self-reflection would happen on my end because of what she shared. And I don’t think she meant for this to be a personal development/inspirational book, but it was for me. She’s a bad ass babe who humbly owns the direction of her life. Even though it makes her uneasy sometimes, she’s steering her own ship. She’s creating her own opportunities. She’s not waiting on anyone to do it for her.
5 out of 5 stars. Two thumbs up. More in love with her than I was before. Highly recommend if you like humor, have been heartbroken, sometimes just need to “get the hell out of here,” or have had to put a passion project out to pasture. If you are already a fan of Abbi, you'll enjoy it even more. There are points throughout when I could hear her voice reciting the words I was reading.
Chicago Travel Details
I also wanted to share a few quick details about our stay in Chicago. We have visited Chicago quite a bit throughout our marriage. It was getting to the point where this special place was starting to feel stale. That all flipped on this last trip. All it took was a change of hotel location!
We normally stay in the heart of downtown. This time, we stayed at the Majestic Hotel in the Lakeview area, which isn’t far from the city. It is a boutique hotel that includes parking for $25 dollars. It was a super cozy place that is renovated while maintaining its historic charm. Here are some photos:
It was within walking distance to some nice stores and restaurants that we hadn’t been to before. If you are a Chicago Cubs fan, the hotel has a hint of baseball décor and Wrigley Field is just a few blocks away.
The neighborhood felt safe, everyone was sweet as sugar, and you forgot you were on the outskirts of a huge city. Our walk to find coffee the morning we left was idyllic and made me heartsick to live in the city, which I haven’t felt in a very long time. It was nice to know I haven’t lost the city girl spark in my heart!
To get around, we used Uber. If you haven’t tried it yet while traveling, just do it. I’ve only had great experiences and the price is right. Reserving an Uber from the app is super easy and no cash is exchanged, it all takes place through the app. Joel had never been in an Uber before our trip and he ended up loving it!
I took these photos on our way out of the city. Such a magical place. I love the feeling of so many possibilities big cities bring.
It has been awhile since I've watched a documentary. I'm a Buzzfeed junkie (I had to delete the app from my phone because I was on it too much...) so I thought I'd check their new docuseries out. It did not disappoint!
The series features a number of different Buzzfeed reporters as they "probe topics ranging from quirky internet crazes to safe injection spaces for opioid users." They have episodes on ASMR, survivalists, the intersex community, tech addiction, plastic surgery, video game pranksters, and other unique topics.
Every episode was really well done. The reporters are thoughtful and empathetic, curious and thorough - looking at as many sides of each topic in 15-20 minutes as they can. I appreciated their professionalism and genuine interest in each subject they covered.
My favorite part of this series is how thought provoking it is. I couldn't help but think through my own stance on each topic after the episode ended. I was glad to have both sides of the story to analyze so I could form an opinion of my own regarding social issues I wasn't aware of before this series.
If you're looking for a documentary series to watch that covers current events, does it in less than 20 minutes, and makes you think - this one's a winner!
My latest television series indulgence is also doubling as my new favorite book!
I was late to The Handmaid’s Tale bandwagon because I’m not a bandwagon person. The instant something is super popular I’m normally not interested. I suppose that is the hipster in me.
Anyway, this story is worth all of the praise! The most intriguing thing to me is that the book was published in 1985, written by Margaret Atwood, and the scenarios she includes are eerily relevant today. I feel that the world she created amplifies what is subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) happening in our current political climate and country.
The handmaid sharing her story is named Offred (Of Fred, her Commander). In the story’s setting, handmaids are simultaneously revered and looked down upon. In this new totalitarian world, fertility is a challenge. Handmaids are the answer to this problem. And although many times they give the gift of life, it can’t be overlooked that in their life before the country changed, they were adulterers, “whores,” “gender traitors” – women who had “sinned.” Their bodies are no longer theirs, but their Commander’s and their Wife. Frequent “ceremonies” occur where essentially the handmaids are raped in an effort to conceive a baby. It is dark and twisted and will take your breath away if you choose to watch the series.
Atwood’s world is built on religion. Those who revolted against and attacked the United States government have created a new era based on The Bible. Everyone is expected to live and breathe the words in The Bible. Any past transgressions or current day actions that that fall outside of the Holy Word result in severe punishment, and in most cases, death.
Freedom as we know it is non-existent. Women are forbidden from reading or writing or working. They must obey their Commander or other men. Free thinking is beaten down. Uniforms are implemented to help others identify your status. Love is arranged. Money is no longer. “Guardians” are omnipresent, guns in hand, ready to shoot you down. Public hangings on “the wall” are the punishment of choice. The outlook is bleak.
BUT, hope resides. Some people were able to escape to Canada before being captured and forced to live the Gilead way of life. Secret messages are exchanged. Revolution bubbles beneath the surface. Stories of what is truly going on are leaked to countries who could potentially help. People exist within Gilead with enough power that they can attempt to assist people in getting out.
It’s the hope that keeps the characters going. Memories of how life used to be. A yearning to eventually get back to “normal.” Although, most of the men in power have no interest in this because they’ve “got it made” in their opinions. So, it might be a long road.
If there’s one thing this story is teaching me is that we have it good. Really good. Today freedom reigns, but in a blink of an eye it could all be taken away from us. So squeeze your family tight. Appreciate your right to share your opinions, thoughts, feelings. Stand up for what you believe. Don’t allow basic rights to be taken from you. Read. Write. EXPRESS YOURSELF. Don’t take it for granted.
If you enjoy strong, female leads in the shows you watch – check out Broad City – you’ll get two for one!
I’m embarrassed and disappointed in myself to say that it took me around five tries to get into this show. I must have been in a different head space and taking life a little too seriously during my previous attempts. It’s a shame I didn’t latch onto it earlier, but am glad I eventually did because it lives up to all of the hype.
The show was created by and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. I’ve expressed my love for Ilana in a previous post. She’s actually the reason why I gave this show so many tries. But I’ve come to equally admire Abbi. Here’s a recent interview she did with another of my favorite females, Courtney Barnett.
Abbi and Ilana are 1) the perfect pair, 2) funny as hell, 3) boundary pushers, and 4) extremely charming. They are two very relatable women getting through life the best way they know how – together. Although some of the shenanigans they get into are completely off the wall, it only makes you like them more. For their brutal honesty. For their ability to laugh through the most terrible situations. For their dedication to each other as friends. The list goes on.
There are currently four seasons of this show available on Hulu. I flew through them too fast, but each episode is so brilliant and funny, I am already re-watching them over time. Season five will be their last according to the internet…which is so sad…but I can’t wait to see what else these ladies do together and as individuals.
Check it out and let me know what you think!
If you burn through the episodes like I did, they have a mobile app full of Broad City themed games that brought me some comfort when I was missing the girls!