5 late fall/early winter favorites

A few (mostly) little, everyday things that I’m really enjoying right now:

1. Harney & Sons hot cinnamon spice tea.

My friend Leigh got me hooked on this fantastic tea, which tastes like my favorite wintry things—cinnamon, cloves, and orange, with a hint of sweetness. It’s so good I’m drinking less coffee, and that is saying something. I would be drinking more except I cannot find it anywhere in decaf. (If you can, holler!)

I do the loose leaf, and brew it up in this little single-serving teapot from Rishi.

2. Arrowstack necklace.

I have been gazing longingly at this beauty from Madewell for a couple of years now, and finally decided it would be a great accent with the simple tops and sweaters in my fall and winter wardrobe, and worth splurging a bit for. (Although that splurge would have hurt a bit less if I’d waited for the sale that’s going on right now. Click here for details.) I love that it’s simple and pretty, and not too heavy.

I’m a big believer in wearing what makes you happy, but I will say that this might be the only item I own that draws compliments from both stylish friends and the 17-year-old checkout guys at Walgreens. (Hot tip: a fellow reader wore this necklace to a book event, and told me she got hers via Stitch Fix.)

Psst—I don’t have the experience yet to call the lip balms in the photo above dependable favorites, but they are Clinique’s chubby stick intense lip balm in broadest berry and chubby stick lip balm in mega melon. (That last one was a freebie in a gift with purchase pack from Nordstrom and I love the little-bit-more-than-nude color—but I’ve only had it a few days.)

3. Everyday red curry.

I have been eating this every weekday for lunch. And by every weekday, I mean every weekday. Which isn’t as hard as it may sound, because it’s so easy to make.

Mine may not be the best method but it’s one I’ve used for years. The basic formula is veggies + 1 can coconut milk + a little broth + curry paste/powder.

This is the quick version of what I do: I start sautéing my veggies in a big, wide skillet in a dab of coconut oil (although nothing would break if you used vegetable oil or olive oil). I add whatever veggies are in the fridge: bell peppers, broccoli or cauliflower, green beans, and carrots are regulars in our crisper drawer. If that’s empty I look to the freezer: skinny green beans, broccoli, peas. Leftover cooked veggies are fine if they’re not heavily seasoned.

I add my curry paste or powder with a little bit of coconut milk, distribute it thoroughly, then add the rest of the coconut milk and enough broth to get the consistency I want, usually one half to one cup, plus a splash of fish sauce and a couple of shakes of soy sauce or coconut aminos. I simmer until the veggies are done, and add leftover cooked chicken if we have it. (You can add it raw and simmer it for a few minutes until cooked, but I’m talking about a quick lunch, and that does not involve raw meat around here.)

This makes enough for two. You can serve over rice or cauliflower rice but I usually eat it as is, with a spoon.

A few details: I use full-fat coconut milk, currently Thai Kitchen brand because Costco has it, but I also like Trader Joe’s coconut cream and the Chaokoh brand from my local grocery or World Market). I skip the broth if you don’t have any on hand. I like adding a little kaffir lime powder if we have it in the spice drawer.

I am not brand loyal to a specific curry paste or powder, but lately I’ve been loving this red paste. I also like Penzey’s Now! curry powder and Trader Joe’s curry powder. I can’t find a local source for kaffir lime powder so I order online.

4. My organized pantry.

Readers, I’ve had a quick succession of book deadlines lately, which means: I finally organized the pantry, because it was driving me crazy to keep opening it up and not knowing which of five shelves I would find the coconut oil. I’m sharing a snapshot to assure you that when I say “done is better than perfect,” you know how far from perfect it really is. But it makes me really happy. Also, this is a great time of year to NOT stress about finding the cough drops or coconut oil, or to run out of flour because you’re sure you just had some … in there … somewhere.

5. L’oreal blow dry quick dry primer spray.

2017 was the year I learned how to blow dry my hair. I’ve been wielding a blow dryer for thirty-ish years now, but this year I finally figured out how to get results that are kind of, sort of in the same ballpark as I’d get at the salon or DryBar. Not the same, but the same ballpark. This spray has helped a ton.

The purpose of a primer spray is to cut blow dry time, by as much as half. I’ve used primer sprays before, and they did make the blow dry process go faster, but they also made my hair tangle really easily. I assumed that was the tradeoff I’d have to make for a quick blow dry.

Well, when my last bottle of expensive stuff ran out I grabbed this at the drugstore and I love it. It does what it’s supposed to do, and it also smooths my hair and smells divine, for less than five bucks.

What little, not-hugely-significant things are bringing YOU a disproportionate amount of happy lately? I’d love to hear in comments.

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  1. Andrea Wells says:

    I love your tips, especially for quick red curry! Thanks for sharing!

    I’m excited to try the L’Oreal spray. My husband worked on some L’Oreal projects when he worked for a consulting company a few years ago and he told me then he was impressed with their research. He is NOT easily impressed and I’ve been using more L’Oreal products ever since, happily! One of my new faves is their Visible Lift Radiance Booster Brightening Primer.

  2. Nichole says:

    I drink my coffee every morning out of a handmade coffee mug. I bought them from a local potter at our farmers market a few years ago. It’s a little thing, but it elevates my coffee drinking just a touch. Also, I ALWAYS drink tea out of a cup and saucer. My favorite was a gift my husband bought while he was in Japan…maybe I have a thing for pottery.

    Also, love the tip on the blow drying primer. I’m 35 years old and thanks to a headful of curls I never blow dry my own hair…seriously never. I’m now learning on my daughter. I’ll try anything that might make it easier!

  3. Lori M says:

    Well, since I’m eating it as I type, I will nominate my own homemade oatmeal mix. To about 5 cups of oatmeal, I add a bit of salt, and then the exact right amounts of brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts for MY taste (took some experiments; I have a recipe on a post-it on the inside of a cabinet door in my kitchen). So I then pop several cups worth into a quart size zip lock and just keep in a drawer to heat half cup at a time in the microwave at work. I like it a little chewy. I’ve been splurging on real half and half in my coffee in recent years and it tastes good in the oatmeal, too. As I write this, I’m thinking I need to adjust that recipe to the exact amount that fits in the quart zip lock bag. 5 cups won’t fit. Oh – I also re-use the bags, and that makes me happy, too. 🙂

    Also, Anne, I’m looking forward to making your “not too sweet” nut mix again this December. I made SEVERAL big batches last year – so good!

  4. Donna says:

    I discovered that tea a couple of years ago and it’s my favorite now. I also wish it came in decaf. I order mine in a large one pound bag from Amazon!

  5. Meghan says:

    I’ve used the Clinique chubby sticks for years and love them! My go-to color is whole lotta honey.
    My other favorite things are cutting down on coffee — I never thought I would, but having less anxiety is worth it! — and the pencils from Target’s dollar spot. They’re pretty and the perfect hardness (the ones with no erasers), and come 6 for $1.
    I’ve been a fan of Mighty Leaf tea since college (! 15 years!), and love Green Tea Tropical and Chamomile Citrus (you can order loose leaf from their website).

    I’m so glad this post came up in my email this morning. I’ve been fighting stronger than usual holiday grumpiness, and this was just what I needed to refocus a bit!

  6. Melanie says:

    I ditched my soda habit and I’ve been mixing Crystal Light Energy packets into bottled water and they make me insanely happy. All of the flavors taste good but grape is my absolute favorite–it tastes just like grape kool-aid and takes me right back to my childhood, minus all the sugar.

  7. Cathy says:

    I love the Clinique lipstick chubbies too! At Dillard’s they have a gift set of all of the mini chubbie lipsticks for $49. About 25 colors. It’s great to have all of them to try.

  8. I’m glad others found the herbal Hot Cinnamon Spice – I was going to point you to it! The regular version is my husband’s favorite tea.

    Making me happy: the boot camp I’m doing one night a week, chai from my favorite coffee shop, fresh flowers for my desk at work, and huevos rancheros on I-can’t-handle-cooking nights.

  9. Anne, What a fun post. I like finding out about new products. I get in a rut. My five favorite things are, for the most part, not things you purchase.
    1. I live in the country, so I love seeing the wildlife that comes through our yard. Almost every day the roadrunner takes a trip under the mesquite tree outside my office window and I often see rabbits, deer and all kinds of birds from our house windows. We live in one of the top ten riparian tourist attractions in the U.S. with lots of hummingbirds. A couple of times we were even visited by a bobcat and I love hearing the coyotes howl at night.

    2. This is my one favorite thing you can purchase. I love Origins skin care and makeup products. They are organic and smell so wonderful. They don’t make me sneeze which for this allergy sufferer is of paramount importance. And they make my skin feel wonderful.

    3. I love being able to work at home writing. I also love teaching theatre classes at our local community college. I learn so much from my students and local writer friends.

    4. I should have put this one first. I have an amazing husband. He supported me for the nine long years it took me to publish my book. He’s an artist too and designed the cover for my novel. Plus, he’s my go to tech guy. He treats me with respect and I know I’m lucky to have him as my life companion because he makes me laugh. We’ve had 37 years together and have learned so much about ourselves and each other during that time.

    5. I have to have one frivolous thing on my list. I love drinking my supercharged hot chocolate every morning. I make my own mix with Ghirardelli cocoa and Cadbury drinking chocolate. I add hot water, a bit of evaporated milk and mix it with two tablespoons of coconut oil and one tablespoon of butter. I know, it’s got so much oil, but I swear over the two or three years since I started drinking it, the cellulite on my legs has been greatly reduced. And it’s no more decedent than the drinks at Starbucks or other fine coffee shops.

    That was fun. Thanks for giving me that challenge.

  10. SHERRY JOHNSON says:

    I have just discovered the Chubby Stick. My color of choice is “mighty mimosa.” I love the feel of it on dry lips. I am new to you site, but am enjoying it very much. Keep up the good work!

  11. Jes Z Smith says:

    I redid my window seat in the kitchen and put in new curtains for under $100. Sales at Joann Fabrics and time gave me an opportunity to sew a cozy, warm place to read my books this winter.

  12. Traci says:

    I also got that arrow necklace from Stitch Fix and it’s my very favorite now! I considered it a huge bargain since I paid just $21 for it (due to actually liking and keeping every item in that specific fix)!!

  13. Kitty Balay says:

    2 things….

    1. Anne, I’ve been wondering for ages: do arrows have a special significance for you? I see them on your blog, your reading journals, your necklaces. I have your silver & emerald journals embossed w/ arrows sitting in front of me right now.
    2. The Clinique chubbies look a lot like my Neutrogena Moisture Smooth color sticks. I love these. They are light, moisturizing & smell good. Soft Raspberry (60) gives me some natural color. Rich Raisin (80) has more color, brightens my face, and is my daily go-to. I’ve worn traditional ? forever, but this year I’ve transitioned to the color sticks and don’t feel a need to go back.

  14. Jillian says:

    I can’t wait to try this curry! My herbal cinnamon tea go-to is Celestial Seasoning’s Bengal Spice. When I was pregnant with #3 I craved cinnamon tea, and Bengal Spice was the only one that worked, after buying everything I could find! My Instant Pot is still my favorite thing- just made amazing mashed potatoes in it. 🙂

  15. Margot says:

    Just bought $30 flannel sheets from Costco. They have turned my bed into a warm cocoon. I can not over estimate how much better it is getting into bed.

  16. Lisa C says:

    We have a great local coffee company up here….New England Coffee Company & they have flavored decaf which I love! Our local supermarket carries the ground coffee bags and k-cups but you can order online too. I’d be happy to send you a bag or box of k-cups if you’d like 🙂 A local coffee shop has more flavors than what shows online….I’m still trying to figure out how to get the toffee caramel decaf at home but I’m happy with french vanilla & hazelnut for flavors. Brewed decaf is the best, no syrups here!
    Also, the thing that’s saving me & making me extremely happy right now is pre-cut parchment paper from King Arthur Flour. It’s awesome to just grab a piece & know it will fit perfectly on my cookie sheet without cutting, curling up & being a pain…it’s a little pricey but I am in love! I use it for absolutely everything…calzone, cookies, nachos, bacon….little to NO clean up!

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