A few things I’m loving these days

1. Blue hydrangeas in vases.

We have one blue hydrangea in our yard, growing practically underneath the trampoline. That is a sad place for a hydrangea to be.

But despite its unlovely spot, our hydrangea is thriving there—and when we snip the blooms and bring them in the house, you can’t tell where they grew.

2. Mineral sunscreen. 

I have extremely sensitive skin, to the point where I have never found a sunscreen my face can tolerate for more than a few minutes. I was talking to a friend about this not long ago, and she asked if I’d ever tried the powder stuff. I had no idea what she was talking about.

I did some research and found this Peter Thomas Roth mineral sunscreen and I love it. It’s a loose powder that you brush on like makeup. After reading the reviews, I opted for the transparent instead of the bronzer. First I bought one, then I bought another for my purse. I use it for myself and for my sensitive-skinned daughter.

It’s not water-resistant so it’s not a perfect sunscreen solution, but it’s such a huge improvement over my previous option (which was nothing). I wish I’d found it ten years ago, but better late than never.

3. This quote.

Rilke quote

It’s been a while since I stumbled across these lines from Rilke. (Ironically, this was the epigraph on a memoir I abandoned before the halfway point.)

So good, right?

4. Five-ingredient granola bars.

My friend and I were commiserating about our kids’ nonstop requests for snacks, snacks, and more snacks, and she told me that she had found a partial solution: these 5-ingredient granola bars. (Per my friend’s advice, I use coconut oil, only 2 teaspoons honey, never use wheat germ or chocolate, and sometimes add chopped dried fruit. I’ve been using old-fashioned oats and they work fine.) I’ve been making two double batches a week, ever since, because my kids have been gobbling them up for snacks and breakfast. I cut them into bars and keep them in the fridge.

read Jane Austen Penguin classics

5. Jane Austen.

I’ve been on a Jane Austen binge, and even though I’m reading these novels for the third to eleventh time each, they are so good.

Italo Calvino called a classic “a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” Exactly.

6. Zucchini noodles. 

Always a summer favorite. I’ve been following this recipe (more or less) for years, using an inexpensive mandoline to make my noodles. I would eat these every day if I could. This is the only way my children willingly eat zucchini.


7. PrepDish.

This is a healthy subscription-based meal planning service that I first discovered when they sponsored What Should I Read Next and then fell in love with for its own sake.

Every week you get a shopping list and meal plan in your inbox. The list is organized by category, which makes shopping easy. All the recipes are paleo and/or gluten-free (depending on the plan you follow—your subscription includes both options), easy to prep, and stuff our family actually eats.

(To get a free two-week trial go to the PrepDish site and use the code READNEXT.)

What are YOU loving these days? I’d love to hear about your summer favorites in comments!


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  1. I’ve been making zucchini noodles too after buying a $3 zoodle maker at ALDI. They’re perfect for my family since we’re gluten-free. Much more nutritious and cheaper than gluten-free noodles (and better for weight management for the adults!).

  2. Anjanette says:

    I have the same issue with sunscreen. Colorescience is another mineral powder brand that also makes a water-resistant formula if you need one. I prefer the feel of the PTR one for everyday, but I love the Colorescience water-resistant SPF 50 for the beach and pool, especially for my kids (also the brush is better than the PTR one, and you can buy refills). You can order Colorescience from their website and also on Amazon and Sephora.

    • Joanna Brauckmann says:

      I’ve been using Colorescience 50 for myself for the past 10 years. I love it! I always have one in my purse to dust my face and part when I have outside lunch duty and give my kids a quick top up. I love that you can refill the brushes and that my clothing doesn’t discolor when I dust my face or décolleté.

  3. Susan says:

    Not necessarily summer-related, but I’m loving my fairly new Vera Bradley Camofloral Laptop Messenger Bag that I take to work with me everyday – whether I carry the laptop or not. Room enough for my bullet journal, my spiritual journal, several books, my current bible study, my favorite pens (Pental R.S.V.P.), etc.

  4. Gina says:

    Thanks for the ideas Anne. So for the granola bars you use peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, oats and coconut – in the amounts they give except the honey?


    • Anne says:

      That’s right. (Although my daughter made some this morning and she threw in two chunks of a trader joe’s dark chocolate pound plus bar. The recipe still worked just fine.

  5. Megan says:

    Hi Anne! Do you have an Amazon link for the mandoline you use? Thanks!

    What I’m loving these days: Rereading The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, my vegetable garden and berry bushes, and spaghetti squash.

  6. Gina says:

    I just signed up for prep dish. It sounded great when you were describing it. One thing I noticed when I looked at the menu/recipes – my family isn’t
    “picky” perse but we don’t eat everything. Ex: Some of us don’t eat fish and none of us eat mushrooms. So far, all the menus I’ve looked at have mushrooms and at least one fish dish. I’m going to still give it a try and just not make those dishes but it could cause an issue for some people who don’t eat certain foods. Just a heads up for anyone else who is interested in PrepDish.

    • Anne says:

      Interesting because we LOVE mushrooms around here. Or at least I do. Not all my kids do. I’ve found with PrepDish since it’s baking, not cooking, it’s pretty easy to just drop the ingredients I’m not sure about or can’t find (or just plain forget) to pick up at the store.

    • Anne says:

      She’s so smart and funny and witty, and she’s managed to stay at the top of the reading lists for 200 years, so it’s worth giving her a try and seeing what the fuss is all about. If she’s not for you, that’s fine, but if you’re the sort who would find her work delightful it would be a shame to miss out.

  7. Karen says:

    Those blue hydrangeas are gorgeous! We have to keep several snack options in our house. 🙂 And homemade granola bars are one thing I make too. We like them much better than most of the store-bought ones.

    I’m currently reading Pride and Prejudice and it’s been fun reading it after watching the movies I don’t know how many times. 🙂

  8. Casey says:

    I’ve been loving the “Before Sun Protector” from Primal Life Organics last year and this year. You can choose between an oil in a pump bottle, a solid beeswax/oil formulation that comes in a tin, and a version in a deodorant-like stick with added zinc oxide. The sun protection comes from red raspberry oil, not from whatever is used in commercial sunscreens. Red raspberry oil provides about SPF 50. They even have a pregnancy formulation so you don’t have to worry about using essential oils that aren’t safe during pregnancy! I get the stick for my toddler and use the oil for myself, as a daily moisturizer.

  9. Cindy McMahon says:

    Things I’m Loving this Summer:
    1) Your blog. I never fail to get several new ideas.
    2) Contemporary Poetry – have always been a classicist before.
    3) My good attitude toward a horribly-restrictive diet, because my kidneys are worth it.
    4) My quirky mother.

  10. Theresa says:

    Oh my, Thank you, thank you for the powder sunscreen recommendation. I too have sensitive skin, hate liquid sunscreen, and I burn just making toast in the morning, so this mineral powder is something I am definitely trying.

  11. Jamie says:

    Zoodles!!! My sister gave me a spiralizer for my birthday earlier this year and I LOVE making zucchini noodles, or zoodles as we like to call them. I even eat them for breakfast. My oldest daughter and husband love them. Son and youngest daughter pick at them and tolerate. 🙂 We have a running joke about all the food we can turn into -oodles…jalepoodles has been the best one so far (not that we’ve tried to make them but the name is so fun to say).

  12. Anna says:

    I did not know about mineral sunscreen. I have fairly sensitive skin, but have been able to find some oil-free that work. I lived almost on top of the equator for 5 years, and now a little further, but still close. With fair skin, sunscreen is a must every day- high power (and a hat) if I’m going to be out in the sun more.
    I’m going to try out the chocolate granola bar recipes with what I have available. (in Mali.)

    • Greg says:

      On the granola bars, is the recommendation to not use wheat germ or chocolate a personal (or allergy) choice or does it affect the quality of the end product? I seem to recall that wheat germ can spoil more quickly than other ingredients. Just wondering before I make them

      • Anne says:

        Just a personal preference. The bars are really forgiving: I could eyeball the ingredient quantities instead of actually measuring them after making a few batches.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I love the quote. I’m not a poetry reader and should try more often. I’m going to have my kids make the granola bars as a summer activity (they need one so I can read!)

    I discovered your podcast recently as the “Books On The Nightstand” podcast ended. I binged on all of the past episodes. I love the format and I eagerly await the new episode each week. Thank you for filling the hole in my podcast heart 🙂

  14. Amalia says:

    Have you read ‘Love and Friendship and Other Youthful Writings’? Being a young writer myself, I love getting to see Austen’s progression from young, short, fanciful tales to the grander tales we know her for. I think that book actually may well be my favorite Austen book (closely followed by the others, of course!).

  15. LOVE that Rilke quote – its been one of my faves for years! Your blue hydrangeas was beautiful – they’re my favorite flower. I enjoy zoodles, but I feel like we’ve never quite mastered the recipe at our house – they turn out gummy. I’ll definitely have to try your recipe and method. I’m loving my BOTM selections, journaling, my Penspiration boxes from Cloth & Paper, and having some time off from theatre rehearsals! Happy Summer Anne!

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