Well, it’s been about four months since I’ve done a Favorites post. Life has been a bit…intense.
I’ve hesitated to write this post for awhile now. But here goes.
In April, we suddenly lost my dad. No one saw it coming and it has rocked us all to our cores. And that is putting it mildly.
It was (and still is) a soul-crushing loss, and we’re all still trying to figure out how to live a life without him in it. It’s been heartbreaking, to say the least. He was one of a kind and he loved us all SO thoroughly. I will feel this loss for the rest of my life. I feel robbed. And I know my children have been robbed of a very special relationship. He was supposed to still be here.
I often marvel at how much of my life, thoughts, actions are consumed by the loss of him. It is something I am ALWAYS aware of, always thinking about in the back of my mind. I feel like I am constantly preoccupied with it, no matter who I am with or what I am doing.
I wonder if it will always be this way. In some ways, I hope so, because I never want to forget a single thing about my dad. Feeling the depth of the loss, the pain of losing him, reminds me how much he meant to us. How empty certain parts of my life will always be. Other times, I wish I could forget that he is gone, just for some relief.
As they say, grief is a wild ride, and you never know what’s coming next or the “right” way to cope. I never understood any of that before now. Losing a parent is such a specific type of loss. A constant in my life is no more. It’s devastating.
Much of my free time this summer has been spent cleaning out his house and sorting through his belongings with my mom and sisters. It has been a process. Half the time, it is therapeutic. The other half, it’s raw and draining and cracks my heart open a little bit more with each pass. I miss him so much.
That all to say: this site had taken a backseat to my grief these past few months. I went a full 2.5 months without posting a single thing, and while it felt like the right thing for me at the time, I did start to miss it. So, I’m back now, trying to post a couple times a week and to finally (!) deliver one of my lifestyle favorites posts. My dad, after all, was my biggest cheerleader and fan, and it would break his heart if I stopped sharing food and thoughts with you all. I do this for me, but I will also do it for him. He would never want me to give up.
While I navigate this devastating time, the rest of life has gone on. Like it’s supposed to. Some snapshots of our lives lately:
The boys wrapped up school in June, Kieran’s baseball season came to an end in early July, we went on our annual trip to the Outer Banks, and now we’re settling into a routine of summer camp, swimming, and soaking up these next few weeks of summer as much as possible before school (and sports!) start up again in September.
Time sure does go by fast. I am trying to soak it all up, and I’ll admit, I am not always successful. I feel like I blink and my children are bigger, older, wiser. Sigh. Being a parent is THE most bittersweet experience one can have. I’m convinced of it. The most fulfilling and challenging thing I’ll ever do.
I love them so much. My whole heart in a photo.
Anyway. Let’s get into some favorites as of late. I have a TON to tell you about.
During this period of grief, reading has been a huge coping tool for me. It allows me to escape in a way. I’ve been reading A TON these past couple months.
In my last favorites post, I mentioned that I had started The Serpent and the Wings of Night and was still on the fence about it. Well. That changed BIG TIME. In fact, it might be my favorite book I’ve read this year! I devoured it, and then read the sequel The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King in record time. The writing is beautiful. The story is gut wrenching and wonderful. And this is coming from someone who has ZERO interest in anything vampire related. The story just won me over. And the two main characters….just wow. WOW.
After that, I went with something lighter and read In the Weeds and Mixed Signals from the Lovelight Farms series. These books are ridiculously sweet and cute without making you want to hurl. They are like less-cheesy-but-still-swoony Hallmark movies. I really enjoyed the whole series. I believe there is another book still to come.
In a very big departure for me and what I usually read, I devoured the entire The Bonds That Tie series. Like, woah. So good. So different than my usual stuff. I kept seeing people recommending the series on TikTok. I bit the bullet and tried it out. A word of warning: these books are simply not for everyone. If you don’t want to read graphic love scenes, or about gore and violence (often centered around dark magic/powers), these are NOT for you. It’s also a reverse harem trope, which I am NOT usually into at all. I didn’t realize what I was getting into, but I found the story addicting. If you’re into steamy romance and supernatural fantasy with dark adventure, you will love this series.
Again, to lighten things up after that intense series, I read Icebreaker by Hannah Grace next. I loved this story! I’m a sucker for sports romances, and hockey just might be my fave trope. I love when the big, tough, alpha male athlete falls head over heels. This is a cute love story but with lots of real-life, messy situations. Very steamy. Very good.
Currently, I am FINALLY (!!!!) making my way through the Throne of Glass series. I have been putting this off for months and months because it felt like SUCH an undertaking. And you know what? It IS. But it’s fantastic. I love everything by Sarah J. Maas, and I didn’t think anything could top ACOTAR, but I might (just maybe?) like TOG more. I am currently working my way through Tower of Dawn. I only have Kingdom of Ash after that. I almost don’t want it to end! I’m loving every second of this epic story.
Once I finish TOG, the first book I’m reading is Fourth Wing. The hype about this book is off the charts, and it sounds like something I would absolutely love. I cannot WAIT to read it.
FOOD AND DRINK:
I have SO many fun food and beverage things to discuss this month.
First up are Q Mixers, specifically the margarita mix, hibiscus ginger beer, and elderflower tonic water. I usually hate pre-made margs of any kind (I am a margarita purist), but these are great! They are tangy and a touch sweet without tasting syrupy. I add my own tequila and a squeeze of fresh lime. SO easy and delish. The hibiscus ginger beer is delightful – on its own or with a little vodka added in. Sweet, floral, and spicy – a nice departure from a standard ginger ale. The tonic has been my absolute GO TO for gin and tonics this summer. It’s SO delicious. I love having all three of these on hand for quick and easy summer cocktails (or mocktails)!
I have been obsessed with these basil seeds. How is no one talking about these?! They are a nutritional POWERHOUSE and can be added to so many things. I stir them into cottage cheese almost every morning, but I also have sprinkled them into my salads, over pasta, baked them into banana bread, and on my avocado toast. They are similar to chia seeds but with more magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and fiber (15 GRAMS per serving. What.). Plus omega 3s! I’m telling you: these are a game changer. I’m already on my second bag this summer.
I have been obsessing over the sweet potato and mojo multrigrain chips by Late July. They are sooo flavorful with such a great crunch. I eat them plain or dipped in salsa or guacamole. I love that they have a slightly cleaner ingredients list too (still a chip, of course, but with some nutrition at least!).
I have been putting these roasted tomatoes by Divina in everything lately. They are so sweet and lovely. I eat them in cottage cheese, with eggs, or with avocado toast. They add a TON of flavor. I seriously eat them every single day!
I finally got my hands on the Tillamook cream cheese (not many retailers around me carry this brand). Dude. It’s fantastic. SO creamy and tangy. The chive was my favorite, but the strawberry is damn good on a toasted bagel.
I am always on the hunt for a good ranch dressing. I make my own a lot at home, but sometimes, it’s easier to just have a good bottle on hand. I hate the ingredients in most brands, so something with minimal, REAL ingredients is always a must for me. Trader Joe’s buttermilk ranch is GREAT! I live about 30 minutes from a TJ’s, and it’s one of the items I stock up on while I’m there. It’s tangy and herby and made with actual buttermilk. Highly recommend if you’re looking for a good ranch!
I do a lot of hot yoga. Three times a week, I’m in a 100+ degree room doing power yoga with a bunch of other people. To say that I am extremely hot and sweaty at the end of each session is a HUGE understatement. Hah. To help replenish my body after all that sweating, I’ve been really enjoying the Ultima lemonade electrolyte packs. I have a larger tub of the powder, but I love the stick packs just for ease. Expensive for this sort of thing, but it’s not loaded with sugar or salt and tastes REALLY good. My fave electrolyte powder to date.
In an effort to drink a touch less coffee each day, I decided to give matcha a go. I’ve had it in the past and never loved it. But! This Pique matcha is not only easy to make, it’s smooth and very high quality. I use my Nespresso aerocinno to make myself a matcha latte every afternoon. I add the matcha and water to my frother, and it whisks and heats it perfectly. Then I do a little of this oat milk and honey in the frother and pour it over top of the matcha. DELICIOUS. It gives me a nice sustained energy for the rest of the day without that too-much-caffiene shaky feeling or crash. I am definitely a convert with this matcha.
I jumped right on the TikTok viral snail mucin serum after seeing it A TON. So far, I really like it. It’s key to put it on damp skin and to allow it to settle into your skin before applying other products. I use it every day underneath serums and moisturizer. I definitely think it plumps my skin.
I recently tried out this vitamin C serum, and so far, I like it. Unlike a lot of serums, it’s not goopy or oily at all. Almost feels like water – and to me, this is a good thing! I pat it into my skin and immediately it looks more vibrant.
I have been loving this exfoliating glove in the shower. I have KP on my arms, and this is literally the only thing that helps. It’s always the last thing I do in the shower (you want your skin really softened), and it’s always amazing to me how much dead skin it buffs away. I use it a couple times a week and have noticed a big difference in the softness and texture of my skin.
In the summer, my hair gets so dry from the sun and swimming. This hair mask has been a lovely addition to my routine. I use it once a week after shampooing my hair, and it smells SO good and makes my hair incredibly soft. I think it works really well on the hair damage of everyday life.
I have been loving these L’Amarue face and body moisturizers. I was a sucker for a targeted ad late one night, and while I had my doubts, this proved to be an amazing addition to my skin routine. These are super hydrating with ZERO oiliness. They really sink into my skin. LOVE.
Lastly, I have been using this rosemary oil in my hair once a week before I wash it. It smells SOOO good and makes my hair feel incredibly hydrated and strong. I often apply it a few hours before I know I am going to wash my hair. It definitely makes my hair look greasy during this time, but the extra time it has on my hair makes a big difference.
With our pool and time spent at the beach this summer, I’ve been trying out some new sunscreen products for myself and the fam.
I am obsessed with this Coola lip sunscreen. One of my biggest pet peeves is lip sunscreen that gets into your mouth and because it’s waterproof, you taste sunscreen for hours with no way of getting it out. This does NOT do that and it feels so nice on. Very smooth and soothing.
I have been a longtime fan of Supergoop sunscreen, but this year, I tried out some of the spray sunscreens for the first time. The kids are always on the go, and the sprays really are so much easier to apply. We do SPF 50. This goes on SO nicely with zero white residue.
I also have been loving this Sun Bum kids’ face stick. Goes on wet or dry skin and does not get into their eyes. Love the easy application as well. Bonus: it smells like bananas!
I also love Blue Lizard sunscreens for the kids. It has no toxic chemicals but rubs in with less of a white caste on the skin. It’s the best “clean” sunscreen I’ve found.
I upgraded my sun visor to this one recently and I LOVE how it’s open on top (allows for versatility with my hair and keeps me cooler than a closed-top hat), and the brim is gigantic. I haven’t let sun get on my face in years, and this definitely fits the bill. It also folds up nicely in a beach bag, if needed.
I upgraded or replaced a few of our household appliances recently.
The newest favorite thing: this rice cooker. So, I avoided getting one for YEARS, but guys, I can never get rice right. I know. It’s one of the easiest things to cook, and I mess it up every single time. I bought this and cook a large batch of rice PERFECTLY every single week. I also use it for steaming veggies, and it is the best. LOVE!
My original air fryer was recalled by the manufacturer, so I bought this one as a replacement. Not only is it adorable, but it has a large basket and cooks things beautifully. Obsessed!
With all the wildfire pollution we had earlier this summer, I bought a few air purifiers for around the house. I bought this big one for our family room area and a couple smaller ones for our bedrooms. They give me peace of mind, along with being quiet and sleek.
And that wraps it up! LOTS of new discoveries, some of which have become full-on obsessions in our household.
Sending you all so much love! Enjoy the rest of your summer! And cherish the ones you love.
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