Favorite things.

In no particular order, and very likely very definitely overlooking many amazing things and places, I'd like to share a few of my favorite things that I discovered/re-discovered/was introduced to in 2014. The first is Goat Lake Wilderness in the Giffort Pinchot National Park. Cransky and I backpacked there this summer along with our friends and our pups and we were met with more wildflowers than those that grew under Aslan's playful post-crucifixion pounce across Narnia. What are some of your favorite discoveries of 2014? Please share in the comments!






Podcasts - Countless times a day Cransky will instant message me with a link to a YouTube video. I ignore all of them. At any given time I have 20 open tabs in my browser, a few word docs in progress, a PowerPoint report underway, and a focus as consistent as a prism light bouncing off the ceiling. Videos? No time for that. I'll listen to OPB radio throughout my day, or This American Life, but the news can be downright depressing, and I find myself often daydreaming away from This American Life and when I'd return, Ira Glass is having conversations in a subway and I have no idea how he got there. Wasn't he just in Amish country? Then I decided to start a podcast with my friend, Rae Ann. With just a little bit of research and a sampling of iTunes offerings, I discovered a whole new world of media that let me tune in to stories of culture, humor, music, science, history and stream of consciousness awesomeness. I could listen to these while I twittered between my 20 open tabs. I could walk away and come back and easily head back through the episode chunks I missed. Podcasts, I learned, are a fantastic media for multi-tasking moms, and so the urbanMamas podcast was born. With a few podcast tutorials under my belt and some wise guidance from audio expert friends, I have fallen head over microphone for podcasts. And now so have my kids! Ever heard of Story  Pirates? Head to iTunes NOW and dig in. 12 minute episodes of kid-authored stories interpreted and told by a talented cast is the perfect background to after-school and weekends. And while you're checking out Story  Pirates, subscribe to (and review!) the urbanMamas podcast. Please. Because I love you.



Three Little Figs - My friend Leanne and I hit the grand opening of Made Here PDX this fall, and while we loved roaming through the gallery-style space and ogling the many beautiful, hand-crafted pieces of art and indulgence, we spent the majority of time with these guys because of YUM. Heads up: this has nothing to do with pork. Three Little Figs is a culinary OMG. They're technically jams, but only in the way that stretchy leggings are technically pants. They are, but they're better. I have now sampled and purchased for myself and for gifts the Balsamic Fresh Fig, Tomato Tapas, and French Onion Confit, and I'm ready to hit up my local New Seasons to grab one of their new flavors, like Citrus and Smoked Salt. WHAT. Put them on crackers with cream cheese or manchego, as a charcuterie accompaniment, or stick your finger right in the jar cause you have a flair for the don't care. Mix a little of the French Onion Confit with some crema and you've got an artisanal french onion dip that will make you seem far more clever and cultural than you actually are. Their jams are locally sourced, seasonally available, and handcrafted in small batches. They're worth every cent and food always makes a great gift. Local. Sustainable. Delicious. Bliss in my belly.


Eliot's Adult Nut Butters - My digestive prowess was unexpectedly interrupted in early December with an emergency trip to the ER and the removal of a bastardly appendix. The aftermath was a significantly reduced appetite, and an antibiotic-induced nasty metallic taste in my mouth. After a week of at-home recovery, I hobbled from the confines of the house and hit the annual Crafty Wonderland Super Colossal Holiday Sale. And between the handmade jewelry and soaps and felted nerd toys, Cransky and I came face to face with a whole new nut butter world. Subtle spice, simple ingredients, Eliot's Adult Nut Butters shot straight to the top of my "Eat This Now" list. The Spicy Thai fought the metallic taste in my mouth and took home the gold. It's been on bagels and crackers, licked off of spoons, and even, in a fit of holiday merriment, spread on the back of a gingerbread cookie. Make an adult happy. Give them better nut butter.

GladRags - I was slow to come around to the whole reusable feminine hygiene thing. Disposables were the status quo and I knew what to expect - despite some of those expectations being garbage, discomfort, unreliability, and dumbass marketing tactics. And then I tried The Moon Cup and the status quo quivered. And then I picked up some cloth pads and the status quo shattered. Period-related garbage in my life is now non-existent. My hoo-ha is as happy as a kitten on a catnip pillow. I'm saving moolah. And my undies are unmarred by the errant oopses of a dangling tampon string. BONUS POINTS: GladRags are Made in the USA by a teeny tiny, woman-run company here in Portland. Your vagina is a gateway, don't plug it up with garbage.

rockin black socks and scary tall heels at a NLP. 
Naked Lady Parties - A few years ago I helped coordinate a Naked Lady Party in conjunction with urbanMamas. Just a couple of days after the party I received an email from a local reporter who wanted to conduct an interview because he had heard about the party and was intrigued. I responded with "That sounds great! But first, just to clarify, do you realized that Naked Lady parties are clothing swaps? No one is really naked, at least not for long." The reporter, funny thing, didn't follow up. I have been hosting and/or going to Naked Lady parties for years. Everyone brings in the doesn't fits and no longer wants from their closets. There's wine. There's food. Items are organized by size and/or type. And then when all are present, we dig in and swap shop. My favorite clothes are previously worn items acquired at these parties. Between Naked Lady shopping and hitting up the best curated consignment shop in Portland, the only new clothes I ever seem to buy anymore are socks and underwear, and hell, I don't even need those half the time. BONUS POINTS: There are always leftovers from Naked Lady parties. These good finds are then donated to women's shelters, Dress for Success outlets, high school "closets", and more. You and (most of) your friends have great taste. Share it.

The Bodies of Mothers - I have been following A Beautiful Body Project since its very early stages, when Jade Beall, one of my favorite sisters whom I've yet to hug, began sharing her exquisite and untouched-up photos of women; mothers and their babies in their own gorgeous flesh. Their stories were transformative. I had ordered a copy of her first book, The Bodies of Mothers, for my old office crew at gDiapers. And then finally, on an early June morning after a long night sleeping on the floor at SFO, my own copy arrived. And I blissed the geek out. "THIS needs to be in every women's health office, in every spa and salon, in every gym, and library and health class, until it is finally driven home that the true standard of beauty is in our diversity and constant change. We are not stagnant creatures cut from hard plastic. We are soft, we are supple, we are strong, we are truly lovely. Thank you Jade Twilite Beall. I love you. I love this movement. I love the world that is being built for our daughters, for our sons and for us."


back that Air up
CrashPlanFinally an insurance plan that didn't demand my eternal soul in exchange for a slight peace of mind. I signed up for CrashPlan's back-up cloud storage service at the suggestion of a dude that knows these things. When I switched from one laptop to another, all I had to do on my new machine was log in to CrashPlan, click "Restore" and bam! all of the data from my old machine was magically on my new one. So that was nice. But then BONUS POINTS: After being on a brand new job for all of a month, the brand new MacAir that they had entrusted to my possession was stolen. UGH to the holyfuckingshit. And I had been in the midst of a project that I hadn't saved properly before logging off (I KNOW, I'm so many kinds of horrible for all of this.) And then I remembered CrashPlan, and all was well. I was even able to access my files through the CrashPlan app. I like to think of them as my own secret vault at Gringotts Cloud Storage.

all the pretty locks, and I took a picture of this one
Locks of Love at Schenley Park Bridge - This fall, I visited Pittsburgh for my 2nd time. It was a bittersweet trip with my Cransky, his bro, and our friends Alethea and Michael. It would be Alethea's final trip home to her adopted 'burgh, and we filled up the time with pancakes at Pamela's, a Ducky Tour, and a trip to Falling Water. Alethea even got to see a Steeler's game! And Cransky and I timed our baseball passion just right with our trip, and had the chance to see the SF Giants crush the Pirates in a single Wild Card elimination game at PNC Park. Gahhhmazing. Still, my favorite thing on this particular trip were the thousands of padlocks, inscribed and Sharpied with the names and initials of people who love each other, forever affixed to the Schenley Park Bridge. A public declaration of love on an otherwise ordinary chainlink bridge is just ... lovely. Because even when those we love leave us, the love itself sticks around, and I thank the stars above for that.


Comments

Ladies in Navy said…
this is such an awesome list! :)
german in pdx said…
Great list and tips - love the back-up for the computer and must get it. Thank you ~ Bea @ The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
marlynn said…
Fun list! I love the Three Little Figs products.
Tracy said…
Great list. I'm with you on reusable feminine products. I switched to cotton pads about a year ago, then the Diva Cup not long after. And I haven't looked back. So much healthier - good for my body and the environment.
Geoff said…
It really is quite surprising how much of a re-rise podcasts are on again. It was just a few short years ago when they were considered passe.

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