I like to keep a list in my journal of the (mostly) little, everyday things bringing me a disproportionate amount of happiness these days. But also, a few things happened recently that called to mind some of my perennial favorites—as opposed to the smaller, fleeting ones I so often share here—and so I’m sharing those as well. I hope you enjoy the variety!
1. My Blundstone boots
We went to Rocky Mountain National Park lately and I was reminded of how much I adore my Blundstones, which I originally bought to go to Scotland back in 2018. Summer is the season I wear them the least but I was so glad I packed them for our trip! Some of the trails we walked on in Rocky Mountain National Park (pictured up top) were steep and more than a little terrifying, and I was grateful for sturdy (and comfortable) footing.
I can and have walked ten miles a day in them, and apparently—since I’ve worn them hard for going on four years now—they last a long time. By now my husband Will is used to me saying, every time I put them on, “I really love my boots.”
2. Packing cubes
Travel, how I’ve missed you! While I took a few short trips in 2021, this year we’ve hit the road repeatedly—mostly as a family, though I have at least one work trip on the horizon. And now that I’ve been traveling again, I’ve realized … I seem to have forgot how to do it.
I’ll confess, 2022 me had completely forgotten that packing cubes existed, let alone that pre-2020 Anne relied heavily on them to pack a whole week’s worth of clothes and book tour supplies into a single carry-on—during sweater season, no less!
These things are amazing. They’re great for organizing: on our recent trip I separated dressy clothes from casual ones, and later clean from dirty—all of which saves time and stress. But I really love them because they let me fit way more into my suitcase. (Because of the density these lightweight cubes make your bag heavier, but if fitting more in a suitcase is your priority, they’re magic.)
3. A favorite nonstick skillet
We cook A LOT at my house: all the time, for six people. We are hard on our pots and pans simply because we use them so much. I fully expect some of these kitchen items to last forever, like our Lodge cast iron skillets and our Le Creuset dutch oven. But others will need to be replaced occasionally.
Years ago I was advised by a chef friend to invest in a good nonstick skillet and treat it like royalty—and even then it would last five years at the most. We did exactly that: after trying a few variations of $12 nonstick Target pans that were amazing for the first few uses but sticky in a few short weeks, we finally invested in this $40 Tramontina 12″ nonstick skillet. (They’re less expensive if you can get by with a smaller one.)
I adored this pan and used it almost every day—but sure enough, the closer we got to the five-year mark, the stickier it got. This summer we reached the point when I dreaded making scrambled eggs because the clean-up was such a mess, and so I finally replaced it with the same model.
Having a new nonstick skillet is AMAZING. Making eggs for breakfast is a breeze again and I’m loving it. (I’m also making a mental note that next time I may want to plan on replacing it at the 4 1/2 year mark, because those last six months were pretty rough.)
4. Tools to help me hide from the sun
My sensitive skin isn’t particularly fond of the sun and really hates sunscreen, so finding the right products for sun protection has been a lifelong challenge—and one that’s been top of mind as I prepare to visit the Florida panhandle for a launch-day signing at Seaside’s Sundog Books! And my daughters’ skin is even more sensitive than mine so we’re in it together.
For starters: the sunscreen I can actually handle for my face is Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum (the holy grail) and Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen (the supplement). For the rest of me, our whole family swears by Trader Joe’s broad spectrum spray sunscreen. (I wish I knew who they partner with to make this sunscreen because I’ve never found a name brand that’s as gentle on our skin.)
Sunscreen is great, but my skin tolerates it much better if I don’t use it nonstop—which is why I rely heavily on hats, rashguards, and other means of protection. I’ve bought numerous incarnations of this J.Crew rashguard over the years and it’s still my first choice. (Because final sale is scary: I should be a medium in this style but I sized up to a large for a looser fit.) I’m also trying this Athleta sun protection jacket for the first time this year.
Finally, in the summer I never leave home without a book and a snack … and a hat! I have this inexpensive straw roll-up hat in both black and khaki. My 15-year-old daughter just got this adorable straw hat from J.Crew, but I’m sorry to say it’s now sold out.
5. Ted Lasso
I’m currently on my third rewatch of this show and still enjoying it. I first watched it last fall on a solo trip and loved it, so downloaded it to watch with Will on our recent plane trip. Because we didn’t quite finish the series while we were traveling we finished it again so the kids got hooked early in season two, and then they wanted to start again at the beginning.
How soon till season 3? We’re ready!
6. Spicy tomatoes
I really like Vivian Howard’s cookbook This Will Make It Taste Good and have enjoyed cooking my way through her master recipes for “kitchen heros”—a foundational recipe you can then use to make everything you cook taste better.
This summer I’m keeping my fridge stocked with Vivian’s spicy tomatoes or, as she renamed them for the book, “red weapons”: quartered roma tomatoes, pickled in brine with jalapeños and scallions.
Before this summer my favorite way to use them was to chop and toss with grilled vegetables. (Don’t get me wrong: this combo is still magic.) But this summer I started putting them in salads, and now that’s my daily lunch. More on that in a sec.
This cookbook excerpt includes the recipe for spicy tomatoes. (Don’t be put off by the single 3-star review: the reviewer is quibbling with semantics and hasn’t made the recipe yet.)
7. Pickled things
This summer my friend and MMD team member Leigh reminded me of a recipe I once made on the regular: Smitten Kitchen’s pickled vegetables. Deb calls hers a sandwich slaw but I’ve never once put this on a sandwich: instead, I dump it into salads for extra zing and crunch.
Deb’s version consists of beautifully layered rainbow vegetables; mine is usually carrots plus a few sugar snaps and red onions. It’s easy, it’s delicious, it keeps for a month in the fridge and it’s so nice to have a jar at the ready for lunchtime.
8. Salads, salads, all the time
Longtime readers of this blog (and readers of Don’t Overthink It) know that I’m a big fan of having the same thing for lunch every day. This summer, it’s been salads: a bed of greens, with spicy tomatoes, pickled vegetables, maybe some chopped fresh vegetables if something good is in the crisper, with a little feta and/or crunchy nuts. We usually have leftover protein to throw on top, or if we don’t I’ve learned it’s easy enough to air fry a salmon filet.
The thing that’s made this so easy and delicious is I discovered by accident that the spicy tomato recipe—brined in a mixture of vinegar and olive oil—doubles as a salad dressing. We’ll call it a spicy tomato vinaigrette. (Who’s been to the Red Bar in Grayton Beach, Florida? Every day at lunchtime I’m reminded of their salads.)
It’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s largely do-ahead. I love it.
9. All the word games
My family has a whole rotation of word games we work our way through every morning (and sometimes for the rest of the day). It sounds ridiculous, but then again, I love getting a text from my kid that says, “Pangram!” In the order I usually do them, we have: Wordle, Quordle, Waffle, Spelling Bee, and the NYT crossword (which we have a subscription for, and is some of the best money I’ve spent these past few years).
I’m actually wondering if I’m reading less because in sum they take more than a few minutes. But they bring me joy, so I’m okay with it … at least for now.
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: 8 (mostly) little things I’m loving for winter, 9 (mostly) little things I’m loving lately: kitchen edition, 8 (mostly) little things I’m loving for early fall, 9 little things I’m loving this September, 6 things I’m loving for early summer, 5 late fall/early winter favorites, 7 little January favorites, 9 October favorites, and 7 not terribly exciting things making me really happy these days.