Everyday Life

Colored Pencils to Cookbooks to Coffee at 2:00 – Things That Are Saving My Life, Winter ’21

A few years ago, I attended a delightful favorite things party that was disastrous for me. You may know about these parties…they’re like high stakes cookie swaps. Instead of swapping cookies, you bring a small item that gives you an inordinate amount of joy, and leave with someone else’s favorite item. I went to this party and watched twenty of my friends and acquaintances share their favorite little things, and I realized I hadn’t stopped to appreciate any little things in a long time. The thing I brought to that party wasn’t really much of a favorite of mine at all.

Since that wake up call, I’ve been keeping a list. I like to save my Favorite Things list to share in the dead of winter when Anne Bogel asks on her blog “What’s saving your life right now?” February can be a hard month. We’re so over winter at this point, but hibernation isn’t an option. Drat. As I looked over my list this year, I noticed that some of my lifesavers are products but the most important are practices. So, as we enter yet another month of gray, wintery weather, I hope that seeing some of the items or practices getting me through winter will stir you to think about your own favorites and how you can make the rest of this season more livable.

Prismacolor Pencils are our favorite!
  1. 2:00 O’clock Coffee Break – Instead of asking myself at 10:00 a.m., 11:18 a.m., and 1:37 p.m., “Should I make another cup of coffee?” I have decided once and for all that at 2:00 p.m., I will sit down with a second cup of coffee. I like to read or write while I drink that second cup, but sometimes I jot down a list or grade somebody’s schoolwork. Often I’m holding/nursing my 3-month-old. But I look forward to the 2:00 o’clock cup every day, even if the “break” only lasts 10-15 minutes.
  2. Friday grocery pick ups – Here’s another “decide once” life saver. I load my Aldi Instacart all week and then pick it up on Friday morning. Finally, we have food on the weekend, and I don’t have to stress over when I’m going to grocery shop every week. I also stick to theme nights for meal planning, like Kendra Adachi recommends in her book. It goes something like Monday Soup, Tuesday Tacos, Wednesday Roast Something, Thursday Convenience Food, Friday Pizza, Saturday Grill, Sunday Leftovers.
  3. Saturday Chores – Much like the Friday grocery pick up decision, the Saturday chores give me peace all week. When Thursday comes and I think, “Eesh, our bedroom carpet really needs vaccuming!” I don’t have to expend any energy wailing “When will it ever get done?” because I know: Saturday. We clean the bathrooms and vacuum everywhere, and I thoroughly clean the kitchen. Even if that’s all that gets truly clean some weeks, we’ve got a baseline that makes me feel less crazed in the brain.
  4. Prismacolor Pencils and Sharpener – Our homeschool is so much more enjoyable with these colored pencils. We do our map work with them and whatever other coloring we do, for school or fun. They are silky smooth and rich in color, and actually last a very long time! We’ve had our set for five years and use it daily. The Prismacolor sharpener is also a must! Regular pencil sharpeners wreak havoc on these soft pencil cores. Last winter (before I spent most of my down time holding Baby #5), I really enjoyed these pencils and In Bloom: A Step-by-Step Guide to Drawing Lush Florals. I’m completely inexperienced at drawing, so if I can enjoy it, anyone can! [On the art supply front, I am in search of good markers! Crayola just isn’t cutting it, so if you have some markers you love, let me know [Edit 4/26/21: We actually have come to love Crayola Supertips, thanks to Leanne for recommending them!]
  5. Ethique Shampoo Bar – I started 2020 trying to reduce plastic use in my home. Some of my attempts didn’t work out at all. Clean Cult products didn’t actually clean very well. Darn. But the Ethique shampoo bars are perfectly amazing. I started with a sample pack and found that my favorite is the Frizz Wrangler. It both cleans and moisturizes; I don’t even use conditioner anymore. I would use this shampoo bar even if I weren’t trying to reduce plastic. I also can honestly recommend Dropps laundry detergent. I switched from Tide with Bleach to Dropps and I can’t tell a difference. Our family of seven goes through a 210 pod order twice per year, and I love that it’s a subscription I don’t have to think about.
  6. The Whole30 Cookbook – Laugh if you want but these recipes are seriously good! We use a lot of them whether we’re in the middle of a Whole30 or not. My kids love the Italian Meatball Soup and I cook the Cherry Chipotle Chicken and the Chicken Cutlets with Roasted Pears on the reg (that second recipe is on the page linked above).
  7. Kindle Paperwhite – My Kindle is a crucial part of my reading life right now. Even though I prefer paper books, I wouldn’t get half as much reading done if I couldn’t read in the dark while holding baby Peter. I bought one for my husband for Christmas this year because I knew he would get a lot more chances to read if he had a backlit e-reader, too. (Hint – the refurbished ones work great!)
  8. The Convect Bake Mode – A friend recently told me that the fancy convect mode on my oven really just means that the fan continuously blows the heat around the whole oven so the bake is even. What??? I have been bemoaning my gas oven for two years and how the bottom is so much hotter than the top. I have to put everything on the highest wrack possible and things like cookies still have blackened bottoms and pale tops! I tried convect bake a couple of times last week and the difference was amazing. I should’ve read that user manual a long time ago. (Thanks, Megan! I owe you a batch of evenly baked cookies!)

9. Adoration – Introduced to me by Sara Hagerty’s book Adore, this idea has really meant a lot to me lately.

I’d love to hear what’s saving your life this winter, too! And for more Favorite Things on this blog, follow the links below. May the rest of your winter be warm and cheerful and full of good things, especially good books!

The Things that are Saving My Life Right Now – A Favorite Things Redemption Story

Favorite Things, 2018 Winter Edition

What’s Saving My Life, 2019 Winter

Cherries and Wicker – A Summer Favorite Things List

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15 thoughts on “Colored Pencils to Cookbooks to Coffee at 2:00 – Things That Are Saving My Life, Winter ’21”

  1. Dawn says:

    Thanks for sharing! Loved your list. I’m taking a look at the book Adore. I have a tea break in the afternoon and it really has become a refreshing time of my day. Most often it really is 15 or 20 minutes, but there is something about that ritual of stopping in the middle of the day to reset.

  2. Carolyn Davidson says:

    Thank you so much for this “lifeline” of a blog!!!!!! Just in the nick of time I had the opportunity to read about the things that are saving your life this winter.
    These days of restrictions were better handled before the new year came. Part of it, I think, is that to me a new year is a clean slate to ponder how to invest the weeks ahead….people to see, places to do, various activities, etc. Well, we all know that is a bit hard to get into when the future is a question mark because of the virus!
    Your choices have encouraged me to rethink how I’m approaching daily life. Thank you so much!!!!!!!

    1. MiaTheReader says:

      I am beyond pleased to hear this! =)

  3. Stephanie Webb says:

    Practices/rhythms are saving my life now as well. I’m a big fan of The Lazy Genius theme dinner days also! I haven’t yet mapped out my entire month, but working from a dinner matrix has certainly simplified my life. Great post!

  4. Jessica A Chance says:

    2pm coffee break?! I LOVE this idea!! Thanks for sharing! Also – I’m going to check out the shampoo bar and laundry detergent- always on the lookout for natural products that work to add to my routine.

    And your gas oven tip —this just changed my baking life! Thank you 🙂

  5. Stacie @SincerelyStacie says:

    I love your 2:00 coffee break idea. I hem and haw about whether I should have coffee or not in the afternoon. I need to just decide once and do it (ala Kendra Adachi)! I also love the Whole30 cookbook and have some regular favorites in there. I’m also adding Adore to my reading list. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Angela Richter says:

    That shampoo bar sounds amazing, I didn’t even realize those existing. We love our colored pencils too, and our paperwhite of course:). We are also homeschoolers, it is nice to meet fellow homeschoolers.

  7. Debbie says:

    I love the idea of a specific afternoon break time and I’ve been looking for a new cookbook. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Lis M says:

    ahhh I wish my gas oven had a convect mode – that sounds brilliant!! I also love your 2pm coffee and loading up the grocery cart all week long

    My list includes slippers, going to bed early, workout plans, hand warming mugs, and leaving up the holiday lights.

    Here is it if you’d like to check it out – this was such a fun process to really sit down and think about the list and see what everyone else has come up with that linked to Modern Mrs Darcy!

    https://www.everyoneslibrarian.com/blog/whats-saving-my-life-lately-middle-of-winter-2021

  9. Leanne Sowul says:

    Hi Alana! I clicked over from the MMD sharing post, and I really like your blog! Great thoughts on pre-planning things like groceries and chores, and deciding just once. That’s super-important to my peace of mind, too. I do have a marker recommendation for you– though they are Crayola brand, my kids and I love SuperTips. Tons of colors, and they have a nice brush-stroke quality.

    1. MiaTheReader says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for the marker tip! I am definitely going to try those.

  10. Brittany Arcand says:

    I love this list! And yes, that cookbook is great. Having nothing to do with Whole30, it’s just great! I’ve been making a LOT of stuff from that and some paleo cookbooks and the family hasn’t really noticed! Except maybe the lack of cheese in my cooking…

  11. TheBargainBabe says:

    Okay well now I want fresh chocolate chip cookies. Those look so good!

    Love that 2:00 coffee break idea. I usually drink a cup at home and then brew another as soon as I get to work. Sometimes that afternoon slump is a big one though. What a good idea of something to look forward to.

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