Posts Tagged ‘favorites’

I enjoy sharing my favorites with you. I know it’s just my opinion and you may not share it, but it’s been fun to think about what I like and then narrow it down to just five things. So to conclude a rainy, sloppy, cold-then-hot-then-cold-then-wet-then-tornado month, here are my final five for May.

(1)  Casey’s pizza

For those of you reading this from anywhere other than Middle America, you have no idea what Casey’s pizza is. I’m sorry for your loss. Casey’s General Store is a chain of convenience stores in just about every small town throughout the Midwest. They have decent coffee, really good donuts (if you get there before they’re picked over), normal convenience store items like small cans of oil, overpriced 2-liters of pop, whole shelves full of beef jerky, beer (and more beer), bottled water and…pizza. Really good, greasy pizza. Download their app so you can order it at the end of your tutoring session and have it ready for pickup at your most convenient location. As I ordered my large pepperoni pizza the other night, I had four Casey’s locations within 1 mile of me…life can be so good sometimes.

(2)  Lemon Asparagus Pasta with Grilled Chicken

img_2780-1Don and I enjoy trying new recipes. Made this pasta dish over the weekend. Definitely a keeper!! Didn’t take any pictures of the finished dish but trust me, it looked and smelled amazing. And tasted so so good. Lemon zest and lemon juice in the alfredo-style sauce made it feel lighter than other pasta dishes…so I had two helpings. Don’t judge.

Another culinary entry – this makes 3 out of 5 favorites are food related. I know – I’m suffering.

(3)  Gianni’s Italian Beef

My downfall is that Gianni’s is within close walking distance from my work so though we’ve only been there twice, we’ll definitely be going back…over and over again. Take the time to read the back story on the restaurant’s owner and how the name Gianni’s was selected…and tissues.

If the story doesn’t grab you, the Italian beef will. Or the Italian sausage. Or the seasonal Italian ice. I plan to try the salad and the beef hot dog at some future visit, but that Italian beef is tough to pass up. Small menu but big flavor. Love the atmosphere too.

(4)  Joy Williams 

My go-to resource for new music is my adult children. All four of them love music so I have a never ending list of artists to try out. David and Tristen love Joy and now I do too.


Joy Williams – Front Porch

Give a listen to her latest album “Front Porch” – such a sweet, soulful, slightly country sound. An interesting side note: I am also a huge Ben Rector fan. Ben’s song “Boxes” off his “Magic” album talks about CDs given to him by wanna-be musicians as he tours around the country. It’s a really good song (as are all of his) and includes these lyrics:

“On through this Rolodex of railroad tracks and fresh-cut hair
I see Joy who won some Grammys and is now a millionaire”

That’s Joy Williams – isn’t that cool? Well, I think so anyway.

(5)  Ephesians 4:1-3

I read my Bible every morning. Sometimes things jump out at me…sometimes not. But I trust that my obedience in reading God’s Word will feed my spirit, even when I may not “feel” like it. Recently read this passage from The Message version…

“In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.”

Isn’t this awesome? Run on the road God has called you to travel. Run!! Quit sitting around waiting for God to tell you what to do. Move forward until He tells you to stop. This journey He has for each of us is not a sprint – it is a marathon. And our training isn’t done via YouTube…it’s done out there in the real world. So put on your running shoes and run!

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I need to come up with some catchy title for my weekly favorite-things blog. If you have a reasonable suggestion, let me know. Since I don’t post it on Fridays, I can’t use “Friday Favorites.” “Wednesday Weirdness” may work. We’ll see.

I found it hard to narrow down my favorites to five this week. I loved the Reese’s peanut butter cup blondies I made on Saturday – but I’ll write about those next week.

img_2584(1) Trader Joe’s dark chocolate cherries and almonds. Because I made a three-hour road trip back to my hometown to celebrate my uncle’s 80th birthday, my cousin (who flew in from California!) brought me these amazing chocolate treats. Not sure how she knew dark chocolate was my muse, but we are treating ourselves to one or two (or three or four) a day. Don prefers the cherries so of course, that leaves a large container of almonds just for poor me.  I think they may last through Sunday, but only because I’ll be out of town for a couple of days.

(2) Dare to Lead. I try to read something enlightening, entertaining or educational, along with my daily Bible reading. This week I’m working on Dare to Lead by Dr. Brené Brown. I’m only about 50 pages in, but I know I’m going to love it. There are a lot of Tweet-able quotes in here along with some amazing content designed to make me think. And then do! Imagine that. One of my favorites already: “You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability. Embrace the suck.” It’s gonna be a great read.


My new mug, complete with this morning’s lipstick!


(3) My library. I use my local library every week, sometimes multiple times, and not even for books. Every Tuesday evening I meet my little 5th grade tutoring student in a study room to play math games. Every so often my husband will camp in a chair with a black coffee for an afternoon to study or write. When I was a homeschooling mom, I used library resources to supplement my curriculum. My company has used their auditorium for our annual meeting. The space is open, light and loud. Yes – the library isn’t the quiet space I remember from my childhood. It is a gathering spot for everyone: teenagers studying after school, young moms hauling kids to story time, job seekers on the computers, groups having meetings, homeless staying warm and dry, and of course, those sipping a latte on a rainy afternoon. I could go on and on – haven’t even mentioned the rooftop garden. My library – it is definitely one of my very favorite things.

(4) Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. I listen to a lot of music. When I walk, drive, sit at home…I love music.  About six years ago, at our first NEEDTOBREATHE concert, we fell in love with the opening band. You can go to their website to read all about them, but I feel like Drew and his wife Ellie really are my neighbors. They are down to earth, honest, faith-filled people, writing and performing down to earth, honest music. Their latest music video “Family” is a new favorite – filled with some of my most beloved musicians (spying Amy Grant in the group!) and some pretty fun dance moves.


This song is on repeat – YouTube and Spotify.

(5) Kathie Lee Gifford. Seems like an odd addition to a favorite’s list, doesn’t it? Kathie Lee’s been around a long time, only recently leaving her talk show hosting duties on NBC’s Today. She was welcomed into America’s homes while co-hosting Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee for 15 years. And I actually remember seeing her on “Name That Tune” back in the early 80s – something not even noted in her Wikipedia biography.

But Kathie Lee is on my favorites list today because of her most recent work. Her book The Rock, the Road and the Rabbi records her journey into a deeper understanding of God’s Word. But I was in tears last night because of her collaboration with Nicole C. Mullen on The God Who Sees. I’m not going to spoil it for you – you must click on the YouTube video and experience it for yourself. Many years ago, Don had a few of us take a name for God and do a study to present to our Sunday school class. Mine was “El Roi” – the God who sees. Maybe that’s why it was so powerful for me. Or maybe it was because the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me in the middle of that video – giving me assurance that He sees ME and those I love…that the dreams He’s given us have not been forgotten..that the desert we are in isn’t endless – He sees me. And He sees you. Wherever you are today.

Until next week…

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My Lent blog posting adventure (marathon) is complete, but I’ve kinda, sorta gotten into a routine writing again so I don’t want to stop completely. Really enjoyed writing the Five Favorites post last week, so you’re going to get another list of five of my current favorite things.

(1)  Spring Flowers! You have to be honest – this winter in Iowa was brutal. Cold. Snow. Cold. Snow. The cycle that never ended. But within the last week or so, we’ve had some absolutely lovely weather and so spring has sprung in the gardens, trees and bushes around Cedar Rapids. I love to take nature photographs with my little iPhone so if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen a few flower shots. Such a reminder of fresh beginnings. Something we all need occasionally.


(2)  “Lay It All Down.” Saw a friend post about a song she has on “repeat” this week. I love it when friends share music because I don’t always know when good stuff comes out, especially with artists I’m not familiar with. img_2563It was a definite perk of having music-loving sons living at home. So when I began listening to Will Reagan’s “Lay It All Down,” I also put it on repeat. All day. Each day. I have Spotify so I listen to Will’s music on my long walks, but you can also enjoy this on his YouTube video. Please listen. You’ll be singing along in no time.

(3) Iowa Coffee Roasters. My Lenten caffeine fast is over!!! My wonderful husband took me out for good coffee on my first day back but I am blessed to have a wonderful friend who roasts coffee. A personal coffee roaster! How cool is that? Well, he roasts for lots of people (and my office, and many other offices, too) but I hope you’ll check out Lee’s website and retail space in Marion, Iowa.

(4) My Uncle Dan. img_2561Today is his 80th birthday. I was so glad I was able to attend his party last weekend. My nephew Matt took some wonderful pictures of Uncle Dan out at the farm he was raised on (and lived at until the mid-90s). Matt posted the photos on his Instagram account and I was in awe (and a little teary) when I read some of the comments. Dan, a life long bachelor, is a retired middle-school English teacher who has touched so many lives through his teaching, volunteering and church work. He enjoys attending local school sports and music events and is a well known and loved member of the community. We are so blessed to have him in our lives.

(5) Monthly Bible reading plans. Since the first of the year I’ve been using Rachel Wojo’s Bible reading plans to focus on one characteristic of God each month. In May, she is using God’s magnificent power. She provides a journal to download, plus a daily reading that only takes about 5-10 minutes to complete. I’ve been using a plain notebook for my journal, and as I read the Scriptures each morning, I also write them out in my own words. It has been a powerful exercise for me – to get those life-giving passages deep into my spirit for the rest of the day. Rachel has many plans to choose from – you don’t have to do them in any particular order…confident trust, pure joy, perfect, names of God, and more…I have enjoyed every one.

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand, it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:10-13


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“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.
Brown papered packages tied up with string.
These are a few of my favorite things.”

Everyone has favorite things. Mine change from day to day, week to week (well – except for the really important things, like my husband and kids). Seems to be a “thing” to blog about favorite things…so I’ll jump on the bandwagon.

Sweet and Spicy Tea. Since I’ve given up caffeine drinks for Lent, I’ve embraced herbal tea. I love sipping a hot beverage morning, noon or night, so it was imperative that I find a tea that I could enjoy at any hour. I found this one at HyVee and fell in love. I’ll probably drink this even after I take up coffee drinking again (ON FRIDAY!). The title describes this tea perfectly – sweet orange tangles with spicy cinnamon. Not too harsh, like some darker herbal teas. And no after taste either. Just really great flavor and I can get a couple of cups of good tea from one teabag. Score one for frugality.


Two of my current favorite things: Sweet & Spicy tea and “Peace Like A River”

Peace Like a River. A friend from work loaned me this novel by Leif Enger about three months ago and I have dinked around getting through it. It isn’t because it’s bad. It’s very, very good. This best seller from 2001 is “a heroic quest, a tragedy, and a love story,” the story of 11-year-old Reuben Land, who joins his younger sister and father in a cross country search for his outlaw older brother. The writing flows, the story is captivating, the premise is unique. I really like it – and I promise I”m going to get through all of it by next Monday. I promise. If I could only stop everything else I need to do and just read…

Brussels sprouts. (yes – it’s plural “Brussels” not brussel – I looked it up.) I’ve loved these little cabbages for years. But somehow now it’s “cool” to love Brussels sprouts so I order them as appetizers and no one looks at me in horror. In the last month, I’ve eaten them in three separate restaurants – all were great, though they were prepared differently every time. Don and I roast this veggie at home – trim off the bottom, cut in half, toss with olive oil, salt and paper and lay out on a foiled-lined sheet pan. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Delicious!

C25K app. Yes – I’m back to training again for a 5K. I do it every year. I always take the cold winter months off. I have no treadmill and I will not run outside in snowy or icy or freezing conditions. It’s not that important to me. But once spring rolls around, I like to get back out on the trail. I’m not fast, but this app helps me slowly get back into enough shape that I don’t embarrass myself at an organized race. This year I’ll be tackling a 10K also so I especially like that the 5K app will progress right into a 10K app.

Jennifer Dukes Lee. A couple of years ago I discovered a book called “The Happiness Dare, ” written by an Iowa farmer’s wife named Jennifer. Soon I started searching my house for cameras because it felt like she had overheard my conversations, read my mail, and sat at my kitchen table. Though we’ve never met in person, I’ve been privileged to interact with Jennifer multiple times via social media and if there is anyone I’d like to live next door to, it would be this special woman. She’s vulnerable, talented, relevant, devoted, gifted, funny and beautiful, inside and out. I hope you’ll sign up to receive Jennifer’s blog or buy one of her books. She’s a best friend I haven’t met yet.

I know the title of today’s blog is Five Favorites, but I want to end with one of my favorite Scriptures. My husband is notorious for calling every Scripture he preaches on his “favorite,” but it’s true – the Word of God is so rich, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. Lately I’ve been taken with Psalm 62, especially verses 5-8.

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. 
In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”



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