Loving Lately

This spring weather has been giving me life and bringing so much sunshine into our days, despite all that’s going on in the world. While I think we all very much imagined and wish our springtime (and summer) looked differently, there have been a lot of little joys and sweet moments scattered throughout. I wanted to share a lighthearted, fun round-up of ten things I’m loving lately! I love the idea of sharing a little overview of things that I’ve personally been loving. Plus, I love taking a peek into what others have discovered and loved! These are all things I’ve been raving about (virtually) to friends in real life, and I hope you take great delight in one or all of these, too!

the Libby app + recent reads | The free Libby app, connected to your local library, has been such an amazing resource while the library has been closed! 99% of the time, I read physical books, as there’s just something about holding an actual book in my hands. I have a pretty extensive collection of books, thank goodness, but I’ve been turning to the online Libby app through our library now more than ever! It’s definitely convenient to be able to rent books (for free, of course) and have them downloaded to my phone, and I’ve been able to keep up with plenty of reading over the past few weeks (26 books so far this year!). Some recent reads that I’d recommend:

The Giver of Stars, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Lost Roses, When Less Becomes More, The Dearly Beloved, The Scent Keeper, Untamed, Such a Fun Age, Along the Infinite Sea, The Gown, and Where the Crawdads Sing (for the second time!)

Related to reading, I’ve also been having my own little lending library from our front porch! Right before North Carolina shut down – and again, now that some restrictions are lifted – I’ve been sharing books from my bookshelves with some close friends! So that they can see the full extent of the books I have, I’ve been sending Marco Polo videos to them (with some personalized, specific book recommendations!) and then leaving books on our front porch for a contactless book pickup and sharing. I’m so glad I can share books with friends, especially since libraries aren’t open!

Trader Joe’s chili lime seasoning | I’d heard great things about this chili lime seasoning for so long, and it had been sitting unopened in our spice cabinet for months. No longer! On cinco de mayo, we made (see below!) chicken tinga tacos, pineapple salsa, and margaritas rimmed with chili lime seasoning and salt. Game changer! It was so incredibly delicious and not at all overpowering. I couldn’t get enough, and I can’t wait for another margarita rimmed with this amazing, versatile seasoning.

articles club | I say it often, but our articles club is just the best. We’re approaching five full years of articles club (launched in 2015!), and though we’ve recently moved out hangouts online, I still look forward to getting together so much! This group has been one of the biggest blessings since I moved to Raleigh and started it with Emily, and our monthly articles club is truly a highlight. Emily has shared all of the articles and topics we’ve read over the years, and you can see the full yearly lists here, here, here, here, and here! Highly recommend.

fluffy pink peonies | A friend dropped of a bouquet of these fluffy pink peonies, and they bring the biggest smile to my face day after day! There is just nothing like the scent of fresh-from-the-garden peonies. These blush blooms are stunning, smell like heaven, and are just so beautiful to stare at – and it doesn’t hurt that I carry them around from our living room to the deck to the dining room to my nightstand to maximize enjoying them!

Desert Essence face wash | My sister also recommended this 100% natural, organic face wash to me, and there’s no one I trust or listen to more! I’ve been using it for almost two months and really like it. I’ve always had oily, acne-prone skin (even now in my thirties), and it feels nice to completely switch gears from my usual and use something with all-natural ingredients and with no chemicals. I haven’t been wearing any makeup whatsoever for the last two months (minus mascara, my favorite!), and I’m really loving how free my skin/face feels from makeup while also using a natural, organic face wash.

our deck/dogwood tree/view | I call our deck and backyard our little oasis, and it brings me so much joy. Since we’re home now a million times more than ever, I’ve never been more thankful for our deck, our yard, and time spent outside. It’s been such a gorgeous Springtime (my favorite season!), and while we can’t enjoy our usual adventures and travels, I find myself noticing the little things even more, cherishing time on our deck, and savoring the view of the little lake, the trees bursting to life, flowers blooming, birds chirping, and squirrels excitedly running around. We spent many hours a day on our deck, for sure – reading, playing board games, talking for hours, staring at the trees and daydreaming, grilling, enjoying al fresco breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and just soaking up the sunshine. I know how fortunate we are to have outdoor space of our own during these days, and I hope we never take it for granted.

Cultivate What Matters card set | I adore the Cultivate What Matters mission and their team (and am grateful to work alongside them quite often!), and many of their products are part of my life, like their Powersheets. One of my favorites, hand’s down, is their joyful greeting card set. It’s a boxed set of 24 high-quality, gorgeous greeting cards for an array of occasions… and it comes out to well less than $1 per card, which is insane! I’ve bought them for my mom and some friends (and myself, of course) for gifts, and especially now that I haven’t been to a store in over two months, I’ve been using up my stash left and right. They’re such a beautiful quality, come in such appropriate, stylish designs, and even come with a colorful envelope liner.

Half Baked Harvest Super Simple cookbook | I became a bit obsessed with Half Baked Harvest many months ago and promptly made many of her incredible, delicious recipes — seasonal cooking is my favorite, and her recipes (and photographs) just speak to me! I was so, so excited to get the newest Half Baked Harvest Super Simple cookbook for Christmas, and I’ve already read it cover to cover three times — ha! I bookmarked 38 recipes that we absolutely must make ASAP (38 musts — wow!), and we’ve been wholeheartedly cooking and baking our way through her cookbook (and recipes on her website). It’s the best! In the past couple weeks alone, we’ve made: chicken tinga tacos, pineapple-jalapeno salsa, chicken pot pie, cacio e pepe Brussels sprouts, peanut butter blondie brownie bars, skillet peanut butter blondie cookie, and sesame orange chicken, all of which were utterly amazing and easy to make. I can’t recommend this cookbook enough; it’s absolutely worth buying!

al fresco dinners | I mentioned this above: eating dinners outside has become a staple these days, especially before the intense heat, humidity, and mosquitoes set in. Some days we set the table a bit fancier and sometimes we eat on the loveseat and other times we make it a true picnic, but regardless, I’m still such a fan of al fresco dinners. They give me life!!

I’m also really proud of these blog posts from the last couple weeks: why you need a wedding planner now more than ever and dear 2020 brides, with love

What about you?! Have you discovered or tried anything new and noteworthy over the past few weeks?! Do any of these resonate with you? Do tell, if so!

Here’s January’s love list for more inspiration!

PS: nothing sponsored or promoted here – just my personal favorites! I’m not fancy enough for that – ha!

Quarantine Dinner Tables

These past few weeks have been interesting times, to say the least, and in an effort to bring a little more beauty and joy into our every day lives, I’ve had great fun in setting the dinner table for us. This isn’t anything too different than our usual, as I’ve always believed in the power of infusing our every day lives with meaningful and memorable moments, as well as doing what I can to use my creativity and what I have at my fingertips to bring as much beauty into our corner of the world. With all of these weeks at home and in the company of each other, I’ve intentionally tried to set the table for the two of us, rather than just eat a hurried meal on the couch. Savoring quality time together, no matter what we’re doing or what we’re eating, is one of our truest forms of joy, and thankfully, we’ve been enjoying that in abundance this season. If you know me at all, you know just how much I love a myriad of things: meals outside, time with my husband, setting the table, fresh flowers, decorating and hosting, cooking and baking, and lingering over long meals with those I love. Since we can’t host for others during this season, I can still tap into all of these things that I love and bring me joy, regardless!

While this isn’t anything particularly momentous, I do know how much I cherish time together with my husband (and maybe you feel similarly about your spouse, children, roommates, or whomever you are spending your days with)! Setting the table, eating outside when the weather is nice, cooking dinner together, and taking a pause in the day to sit together, have long conversations, and to really connect is something I look forward to all day. Dreaming up the pretty dinner table details challenges me to think creatively during a hard season, and it’s great fun for me – I usually fall asleep trying to distract myself by dreaming of tablescape ideas and little touches for our next dinner. And all of these dinners at home feel just a bit more special with a tad more effort, as well! As always, I’m abundantly grateful that we are able to eat dinners together at home, which I very much realize isn’t a reality everyone is living right now. We’re trying to do the best we can, where we are, with what we have, like everyone!

I shared this on my Instagram last week, and I wanted to share it here, too:

I think it would be really fun to challenge YOU to use what you already have to set your own tables for a meal or two — and share it! Whether it’s breakfast or dinner, for yourself or for your roommate or a date night in, whether you learn a new recipe or make frozen pizza… share a “tablescape” with me for a fun creative challenge and instant mood brightener! You can tag me or message me a picture, and I’ll share it. Use flowers or greenery from your yard, pull out a pretty tablecloth (or get creative and use a beautiful bedsheet or table runner or placemats!), use that china that is gathering dust, pull out some pretty candles… the possibilities are endless. Shop what you already own and be creative with what you have, and have fun with it! I can’t wait to see what you dream up, as well as to encourage you to sit down and savor dinnertime, conversations (even if it’s via FaceTime or Zoom!), and the beauty that surrounds us.