6 things I’m loving for early summer

I like to keep a list in my bullet journal of the (mostly) little, everyday things bringing me a disproportionate amount of happiness these days. A recent sampling:

1. Lenten roses. 

Or any kind of low-maintenance, long-lasting, happy-making perennial. We inherited some of these (formally known as hellebores) when we moved into our new-to-us old house last winter, and they bloom weeks before anything else in our yard. It’s ninety-something degrees as I type, but I can remember how glorious these first blooms looked back in the dreary winter.

And then … they keep on blooming. Months later, they still look good. Ours ring an old tree in our backyard, perfect because they love light shade. We came by ours accidentally but I might add more on purpose.

2. New-to-me pens.

You know I’m a pen geek, right? My friend and fellow pen geek introduced me to some new-to-me fineliners and I love them. They’re easy to write with, make my handwriting look good (no small feat), and come in a slew of interesting colors. And then I found out that—as far as good pens go—they are cheap.

Pen geeks: my favorite book and bullet journaling tools—including a slew of great pens—are right here.

3. Easy chicken recipes. 

This list of easy chicken dinners is saving my life right now. As is Deb Perelman’s Street Cart Chicken and Rice from Smitten Kitchen Every Day. If you’ve come to my house for dinner in the past few months, this is what we ate. If you’re coming to my house for dinner this summer, this is probably what we’ll eat. If it’s Tuesday night and we’re all home and I failed to plan ahead that week, this is what we’ll probably have for dinner, because everybody loves it.

On my list of 100 dreams, I said I wanted to “find and perfect a signature dish.” We’ll see if this sticks, but maybe I’ve found it? (Does it still count if it’s dead simple and someone else’s popular recipe? Please say yes.)

4. #Plantstagram.

I have no idea if that’s a word; I just made it up. But I’m loving the inspiration and advice I’m getting from Instagram about my plants—both inside and out—these days. The #Plantstagram folks have identified my inherited perennials, taught me how to care for my bargain houseplant finds at Home Depot, and helped me not overwater my fiddle leaf fig.

A favorite follow is @hiltoncarter, who shares both happy houseplant advice and regular photos of his ridiculously awesome urban jungle (nearly 300 plants in one small space. I also love @forageplants, the account for a local Louisville plant shop (on Frankfort Avenue, for you locals). They offer info on sales and new products, sure, but they also share amazing stories with tips on plant care, troubleshooting, and propagation.

5. Dermstore’s beautyfix box.

I am no beauty or skincare expert, but my skin care-obsessed friends have raved about the monthly beautyfix subscription box from Dermstore. I hear falling down the skin care/hair care/beauty rabbit hole can be expensive, but this isn’t an interest I’m interested in shelling out a bunch of cash for. Enter the beautyfix box. When I saw this month’s offerings—particularly the sunscreens—I decided to give it a try.

I have super sensitive skin, and have a hard time finding products that don’t cause a nasty rash. (TMI? Seriously, it’s gross.) I’ve had good luck with mineral sunscreens and powder sunscreens, but they’re expensive. (My favorite powder sunscreen is $30. It lasts forever, but still!) The June beautyfix box contains a brush-on sunscreen from Colorescience and Nia24 mineral sunscreen. These are pricey products: each, on their own, cost more than the $24.95 box, so I ordered the box.

I’m not sure who I am anymore, because getting a shipment full of sunscreens and lotions and hair products was really, really fun. And on the practical side, I was impressed by the cost/value ratio.

6. Bongo Coffee.

Recently a friend told me it was kind of ridiculous how much she loved her morning coffee. I didn’t think she was ridiculous: I love my morning coffee‚ too, and a daily ritual is a little thing that’s kind of a big deal, right?

As a decaf drinker (that whole sad story is here), I struggle with finding a steady supply of interesting beans. (Something I’ve learned since I quit caffeine: most decaf is dark roast, and I’m not a fan.)

When I travel, I’m always on the lookout for coffee shops with interesting decaf. Last month I was in Nashville, and at the recommendation of a friend, stopped in at Bongo Java by Belmont on my way out of town. I got my Americano, beans for Will (easy peasy, as always), and took a chance on their Decaf Bongo Blend beans for me. It was fantastic, and I can order more online. I don’t know if I will, but I like to know I can.

What (mostly) little things are bringing YOU a disproportionate amount of happy lately? I’d love to hear in comments.

P.S. Previous editions of little things I’m loving: 6 (mostly) little things I’m loving this spring5 late fall/early winter favorites7 little January favorites9 October favorites, and 7 not terribly exciting things making me really happy these days.


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  1. Jess says:

    Currently loving: my Nespresso machine. I just got back from two weeks in Ireland and every airbnb we stayed at had one. The coffee is amazing and I finally bit the bullet using my amazon points! It’s like a keurig but for espresso.

  2. Amy says:

    I love this list and am now inspired to make one of my own. There are so many little things, on the daily, that add quality to our lives. They’re easy to miss. Incidentally, Juliet Has a Gun is one of my go-to scents. People never fail to ask me: what are you wearing? It’s a great cult classic.

  3. Sarah R says:

    I’ve been loving subscription boxes too! I jumped on the Fab Fit Fun train about a year ago after hearing every. single. podcast. I love it. It’s like Christmas once a season and I absolutely feel that the cost/value ratio is worth it. In fact, my Summer box is coming today!

  4. Tina B says:

    I started keeping a list of my own. I learned that there are many things that give me moments of joy in a week. Re-reading and adding to the list makes me happy.

  5. Jessa says:

    A couple things have been bringing me extra joy lately. Iced tea with lemon is so refreshing and if you don’t sweeten it you can have as much as you want guilt-free. My local bike-sharing program Bike Town lets me go for a ride when I want to feel the breeze on my face without the maintenance of owning a bike myself. Lastly, Scribd. Unlimited ebooks and audiobooks for less than the price of one normal book a month is making my summer reading and listening a lot of fun. Happy summer everyone!

  6. Christie says:

    Sorry about your decaf situation. But glad you found a good decaf! I am a new fan to some instaplant accounts and am really digging fiddle figs right now.
    As for my happy, our local farmers market is open for the season every Friday and it is my happy spot. Fresh fruit to go in every kind of cobbler is giving me all the smiles.

  7. Wendy Bussell says:

    I am a plant lover as well, just don’t own 300 of them. One thing I have learned with tropicals, like the fiddle leaf, is they will store minerals from watering. In the summer, they need to go outside, their growing time, and be watered every 2 days. Overwater them so that the stored minerals will wash out. Then add new soil before taking them back in for the fall-spring time. In Texas, my plants are outside, in the shade, from easter to halloween. And they do really well. haven’t lost one yet and my fiddle leaf has just put out its 6th leaf for the year.

  8. Heather says:

    Making me happy: The long summer days — right now in northern Canada the sun rises before 5 AM and doesn’t leave until after 10 PM. Add in lingering twilight for the magic of a never-ending day. Second on the list of delights: my lemon and lime trees. I’m not great with any plants, but these brave little trees are actually giving me fruits (they live indoors. No outdoor citrus here.)
    And yes, your favourite chicken recipe totally counts as a signature dish. Sounds delicious.

  9. Jessika says:

    My happy list:
    *Lighter carpets in my entry and living room to brighten things up for the summer
    *Poems by Rudy Francisco
    *Listening to my teens play piano

  10. Jacqueline says:

    What a small world to see my favorite coffee roaster pop up on a favorite blog! I grew up outside of Nashville and Bongo Java was a high school hang out for my friends. About ten years later, I took my husband there on nostalgia tour of the city. I was surprised to find Bongo Java coffee was actually great (high school me didn’t know much about coffee quality). We now stock up when we are in town visiting family and order online a few times a year. Good to know the decaf is also good!

  11. Amy Reasoner says:

    Do those pens bleed through the page much? My experience with cheaper pens is that they bleed through a lot and I can’t really use them in my bullet journal. But if these don’t, I’m definitely going to get them. That is such a good price!!

    • Anne says:

      Mine do not (and I use a Leuchtturm, which has relatively sturdy pages) but from the reviews it sounds like the ink flow may be inconsistent among various lots.

  12. Short answer: green tea, cheap wine at Aldi, podcasts by the pool, kid-friendly youtube videos, the Who Was show on Netflix and $5 movie nights at my local theater. I wrote about this in more detail at my blog.

  13. Claire says:

    Anne, spend the money on sunscreen or other products for your sensitive skin. That is not a frill–not an extraneous expense. From the vantage point of several decades older than you I can tell you this is true. Don’t short change your skin! It’s what is holding you together!

  14. Kim says:

    I’m loving small bouquets of fragrant flowers tucked all around my house: honeysuckle, roses, lavender. The scent wafting around me is so restful. Also, I’m weaving lavender wands and that is wonderful, too, for a related reason: the scent. With woven lavender, you keep it long after the blossoms are gone.

  15. Julia says:

    So about that chicken…….I’m looking at the recipe (drool). Do you use the thighs or could you use breasts? Which kind of paprika do you prefer…I have all 3 kinds? Do you buy or make harissa? What kind of ‘hot sauce’ do you use? Any hints that make the recipe easier or better now that you have perfected your signature dish :-)?

    • Anne says:

      I’ve used both thighs and breasts (although the breasts cook a little quicker). We use Penzey’s sweet paprika, or Trader Joe’s if we don’t plan ahead. Both are tasty. We buy harissa at Trader Joe’s, and often use their hot sauce as well (though any kind will work).

      Something that helps me is to make the spice mix and marinate the chicken in advance—hours or a full day before—because then it feels like dinner goes together really fast.

  16. Dark Chocolate…… and if you knew me 8 months ago before I went strictly AIP for over 6 months you’d understand why that was weird. I use to not touch dark chocolate with a ten-foot pole! Seriously. I still haven’t added in dairy and I’m still TRYING to keep the sugar down, so dark chocolate it is!

  17. Deb Kelner says:

    My summer garden makes me deliriously happy. This year the right combination of rain, good organic fertilizer and magic has made it particularly lush and full of flowers and edibles. My peas have been prolific producers and nothing beats a pea fresh off the vine. “Solar Caps” a small garden individual plant green house (a wall of water supported by a metal cage) allowed me to plant tomato starts in early April. In the Rocky Mountains where I live this is a big deal. The solar cap stays in place for the whole growing season and has protected my plants from killer hail storms and the other freak vagaries of our weather. I love my new San Diego hat sun hat. I work outside all day and it shields my pale skin from the harsh sun. I love my Alba Botanica sunscreen- it’s a gentle, natural product that doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin and has kept me from burning…..
    And I love the little garden fairies who left 2 painted rocks in my garden today: “Be Kind” and “Spread Joy” – great reminders and boy did this surprise delight me!
    Anne, as always, your posts enlighten me and serve as fabulous reminders in my life. Thank you for your spirit.

  18. Kristie says:

    Fellow pen addict here, catching up with my email.

    I discovered Tokyo Pen Shop (www.tokyopenshop.com/) a few months ago and it has kind of completely changed my pen life. I had no idea there are tip sizes down to 0.28 mm. And there’s way more to multi pens than the Bic 4-color pen, and I love having really lovely and fun colors that are convenient to carry around.

    Confession: I placed two orders this week. I wanted to try a few things one day, and then yesterday they put up some new scented limited edition pens and limited edition multi pens. I’m a total sucker for a limited edition…

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