A Few of My Favorite Things

A few days before Christmas is the perfect time to share some of my favorite things with you: business and personal tips, recipes, online email classes, and products I love.

Skip the famous eggnog recipe at the end at your own peril. Merry merry!

©Annie Salness, Candy Cane. Oil on gesso board, 8 x 10 inches. Used with permission.

©Annie Salness, Candy Cane. Oil on gesso board, 8 x 10 inches. Used with permission.

Tech and Online Stuff

IPhone Class

Emil Pakarklis offers loads of info in his complimentary video tutorial for hacking your iPhone camera: 7 Hidden iPhone Camera Features That Every Photographer Should Use. I learned a ton and I didn’t even get to all of his lessons.

Later’s IG Email Class

Later.com is an online service that allows you to schedule your Instagram posts. They also have a fantastic free e-mail course on using Instagram for Business and regular tips via email when you sign up.

It’s totally worth it to learn more about taking advantage of Instagram. Check out their blog, too.

Products

Seize The Year Calendar

You gotta have a wall calendar by Neu Year to see the rhythm of your year. I heard about this find via Jane La Fazio who I believe got turned on to it by Patti Digh. This wall calendar is uber functional and attractive.

The clincher is the way the months run into one another instead of being compartmentalized. Oh … and the biggest twist of all: one side is vertical and the other is horizontal.

I also love that this calendar isn’t too stiff, which means that it uncurls easily when you take it out of the cylinder. I’ve wrestled with wall calendars previously for weeks trying to get them to lie flat.

Sharpie Pen Stylo

Oh, Sharpie fine point writing pens, how do I love thee?

We’re all familiar with the traditional Sharpies that come in multiple colors and tip widths, but I use these babies for everyday writing. I’m addicted. I’ve been addicted to other pens before (like this Sharpie), but I don’t see this love affair ending anytime soon.

I buy them in bulk, give as gifts, and make sure they’re everywhere I am.

©Peggi Habets, Disconnected. Watercolor, 30 x 22 inches. Used with permission.

©Peggi Habets, Disconnected. Watercolor, 30 x 22 inches. Used with permission.

Grapefruit Cleaner

Ever have something that made you want to clean MORE? Me either! Until I discovered Method’s grapefruit all-purpose cleaner.

If you like the smell of grapefruit, you’ll want to give those counters a good clean at least once a day – just for the aromatic high.

Frasier Fir Smelly Stuff by Thymes

Grapefruit is perfect most of the year, but for the holidays, it’s anything in Frasier Fir by Thymes. It started in the diffuser, but now I can’t get enough of it everywhere else.

Oils, sprays, and candles. I’m crazy for this scent!

Strange But True

I just have to share this one.

Oil Pulling

I used to bleach my teeth. No more. For at least three years I’ve been using this nutty ninja trick to whiten my teeth. It’s called oil pulling. <That article says it won’t whiten your teeth much, but I have had a different experience. It also makes my teeth feel dentist-clean.

A couple of times a week, on a good week, I put about 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil in my mouth and swish for 20 minutes (this is a great time to hop in the shower).

When you’re done swishing, spit the oil in the trash can so that it doesn’t clog the drain. Brush your teeth as usual.

Instructions will tell you to use 2 tablespoons, but that’s crazy unnecessary and may just make you gag.

Food

I’ve been gluten-free for more than ten years, so all of you GF people can count on these being safe.

Moosewood Cookbook’s Lentil Soup

My mother calls me “The Bean Queen” because I’m such a fan of legumes. Very little comfort food makes me happier than the lentil soup recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook.

It says the herbs are optional, but do add them. I left them out for years and discovered that they’re a delightful addition.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sauce

I came across this scrumptious cheesecake recipe in a Bon Appétit magazine back in 2005 and it is a true crowd-pleaser. The pecan crust makes it naturally gluten-free.

Drizzle on the bourbon sauce or skip the cheesecake and just inject the sauce into your veins. It’s THAT good!

©Kim Smith, Here Comes Santa Claus. Oil on gesso panel, 6 x 6 inches. Used with permission.

©Kim Smith, Here Comes Santa Claus. Oil on gesso panel, 6 x 6 inches. Used with permission.

Pumpkin Seed Tortilla Chips

After being on The Plan (bonus favorite thing!) this past summer, you’d think I’d be sick of pumpkin seeds, but I still say they’re magically delicious.

So, when I saw these tortilla chips at Bed Bath & Beyond, I grabbed a bag on impulse. Only later did I learn that they have honey. (I could swear my bag had cinnamon, but the ingredients list online doesn’t say that.)

Try them with plain hummus.

Bert’s Eggnog

I’ve been making eggnog converts out of my followers for years with this family recipe. You don’t have to believe me. Just try it.

This is what we sip as we open packages on Christmas morning. Yes. I said morning. Breakfast of champions!

Your Turn

Please share your favorite things from 2016 in a comment.

Send to Kindle

32 comments to A Few of My Favorite Things

  • Happy Holidays to all of you at Art Biz and thanks for the tips! [I needed some help with IG and just popped over and signed up for that class.] Favorite things: 1. Tiny rituals like smudging the house and studio on winter solstice. It’s a time for me to define what I need to let go of and what I need to make room for without the regular holiday stuff getting in the way. And then we have fun with the regular holiday stuff. 2. Gift bags and tissue paper. 3. Jars of jam to give away 4. Homemade soap to give away. 5. Spending a day to do watercolor cards to use later as thank yous. Super fun.

  • Merry Christmas from Oklahoma, Alyson! (I enjoy your newsletters a lot.) I love to abandon small pieces of art in Eufaula. People love that! I also love to make cards and postcards for Christmas.

    • Beth: So good to see your name here! How long do you think you’ve been on my list? FOREVER. So grateful for that.

      Do you take pics of your abandoned art? Seems like it’d be a fun Instagram feed.

  • My new favorite product is from Simple Human. It it the microfiber Sponge Mitt.

    Simple Human makes those fabulous stainless steel trash cans and this mitt works miracles on all stainless steel. A simple wipe with the convenient mitt and all smudges, scuffs…everything is wiped away. It is machine washable and lasts for years.

  • Merry Christmas!
    Favorite things…(besides painting for fun ) spending time with family, playing games, traveling, reading novels and singing.
    A group of us went caroling last night around the neighborhood- such fun to share that with people.

  • Loretta Busch

    I was looking for new upbeat jazzy- tunes to listen to while painting in the studio. Discovered Tia Brazda
    https://youtu.be/5obTcgghv0E

  • Thanks so much for yours Alyson.
    My favorite things:
    Walking in nature
    Being with people I love
    Talking to groups about my new book Studio Stories and sharing about creativity
    Making art Making art Making art
    Being grateful – so thanks for this opportunity!

  • I second your support of the calendar by Seize The Year Calendar by Neu Year! I have one at the office and my studio, and it helps me to see my upcoming year without any of the “breaks” between months!

    • Rachel: Do you post it horizontally or vertically? I forgot to mention that option. Might go add it now.

      • Because of the wallspace I have, I post it horizontally. (sorry for the late reply, I didn’t get notified about the reply to this post somehow). I’ve got all my goals for the upcoming year laid out with dates associated with the milestones.

  • Hi Alyson!
    Thanks for a fabulous list! I’m a big Sharpie enthusiast and did not know about the stylus pen model – woot!

    I’ll add oil pulling too! I started doing this last year : my brother is a big fan and sent me the book by Bruce Fife http://www.faim.org/dr-bruce-fife

    Here are a few of my favorite 2016 food and recipe picks!

    Food52’s Genius Kale Salad https://food52.com/recipes/15584-northern-spy-s-kale-salad

    and their Olive Oil Granola https://food52.com/recipes/15831-nekisia-davis-olive-oil-and-maple-granola

    Home made corn tortillas (organic masa, a splash of olive oil, pinch of salt and hot water) – so easy and delicious – created in minutes and cooked on a cast iron griddle – YUM!

    Primal Essence Extracts – added to tea or hot water. Fav flavors include Chai, Ginger and for healing purposes, Tumeric https://primalessence.com/

    Sending holiday love and delight to you and your family – and all here on the blog!

    xoxox
    Frances

  • Thanks for the recommendations, Alyson. I can think of few things more satisfying than writing in my journal with a cool writing instrument, with the scent of fresh fir trees in the air, while sipping a mug of boozy eggnog! Cheers!

  • Unfortunately that calendar doesn’t ship to Australia 🙁

    I’m trying wearing rings for the first time as an adult. I wasn’t sure because I have fibromyalgia. Semi-precious stones and Indian Sterling Silver. First one is garnet, and all is going well.

    Sent seasonal cards out because there are people I don’t see often enough. Cards came from redbubble.com where the cards use original art. I put business cards in with the other cards this year.

    Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox does wonderful jazz covers of pop songs and christmas carols. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aLnZ1NQm2uk

  • As its forecast to be super hot in Australia on Christmas morning (I’d love the eggnog version) but we have cold champagne and a cheese platter for breakfast.

    Then I love spending time preparing prawns, cooking the turkey and making delicious salads for our super enormous lunch which runs into leftovers for dinner.

    I’ve had a tradition the past few years of making home made tiramisu for Christmas pudding. My husband ban me from making it during the year, he said it was making him fat!
    My youngest son and I made it together this year which was really lovely 🙂

    Watching the kids open their Kris Kringle and trying to guess who gave the gift.

    I love receiving a new diary and spending some of my down time planning and brainstorming my year whilst I’m feeling relaxed. I purhcased a Planner Pad this year. I still keep coming back to the paper version.

    Happy Christmas everyone xxxxxx

  • Happy Holidays Alyson and Thank you for all the great info!!

    My daughter suggested this. She is super savvy! I have downloaded the app and am just starting to get organized.
    https://en.todoist.com/mac
    also Love Love Love Artwork Archive Inventory System!!!
    https://www.artworkarchive.com

  • Michael L

    I modified Bert’s recipe: replace bourbon with whiskey and brandy, then add a dash of cognac just before serving.

  • I’ve deployed coconut oil in oil pulling for about a year now. It’s also anti bacterial and will help gum health.
    I use coconut oil for a number of things. Mixed with brown sugar, it’s a great exfoliator and nothing non edible on your skin.

  • Bug

    Bristlon brushes. These things have solved all my brush issues. Oh, yeah, and Murphy’s Oil Soap for cleaning them. Both great and not expensive.

  • Thank you for so many great ideas and such a variety! Merry Christmas Happy Holidays to all!

  • Alyson! You’ve outdone yourself. So very generous….only got to read this post now and busy ordering so many of the things you recommended…treats with which to begin the new year. Hmmm. A few of my favorite things. I am a big tea drinker (loose leaf and bag)…and my favorite strainer is one that you can use in large broad rimmed tea mugs (I love a BIG mug of tea). It has a lid that keeps the tea hot while brewing: https://www.teavana.com/us/en/teaware/tea-tools-accessories/cool-touch-tea-strainer-011035113.html?navid=tea-tools-accessories&start=1. Stemless wine glasses. Plenty to choose from out there. Creating holiday cards using one of my pieces as the cover…especially now, wanting to reach out personally to all the special people in my life. Making stationary cards for future gifts out of pieces of my torn down monotypes (hand pulled prints). Walking outside. Spending time with family and friends. Being grateful. Hope you had a wonderful holiday!