20 Things I Love

GoodStuffThere was such tremendous response to Monday’s gift guide, that I thought today I’d share a another list with you.

Many of these are gifts you could buy for yourself or someone else, but some of them are simply web sites, blogs or apps that I love. In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share a “few of my favorite things” with you, so here’s the Well Curated Life Guide to Good Stuff:

(I do not have any affiliation with or receive any compensation from any of the above-mentioned brands.)

Healthy Cooking

1. NutriBullet Blender – I’ve written a few posts about how much I love my NutriBullet, and it’s still going strong after 15 months of (almost) daily use. My go-to recipe: 2 cups of kale, 1 small banana, 1/2 cup frozen berries, 1 serving of plant-based protein powder, filtered water.

2. A Salad Spinner – I don’t think brand matters much here. I’ve got a relatively small one and I use it pretty much every day to wash and dry greens, herbs and other vegetables (it’s great for whole button mushrooms, actually). This is one kitchen implement I couldn’t live without!

3. Breville Panini Press – I’m sure other brands are just as handy, but I happen to have the Breville. In our house, we use it in place of a toaster. It’s also our go-to source for warming up anything that doesn’t go into a pot (bread, pizza, muffins). We even use it as an indoor grill and cook our veggie burgers and sausages on it. My mom has a George Forman indoor grill that can do all of this, too.

4. Healthy Cookbooks – I get most of my recipes online, but there are a few cookbooks I return to again and again for some of my favorite healthy meals. I love the whole line of Happy Herbivore cookbooks, by Lindsay S. Nixon, but the Happy Herbivore Abroad is especially good. The Eat Clean Diet cookbooks, by Tosca Reno, are also phenomenal, and she has a version for vegetarians and one with kid-friendly recipes. When I get onto a juice or smoothie kick, I reach for the Big Book of Juices, by Natalie Savona. It really is big!

5. Healthy Recipe Websites – The two recipe blogs in my RSS feed are rebelgrrlkitchen.com and ohsheglows.com.  These recipes tend to be vegan (perhaps they all are, I haven’t tried that hard to find out), and they are all delicious and very healthy. I especially love the recipes for sweet treats on OhSheGlows.

Awesome Apps

6. MyFitnessPal – I use this app and it’s companion web site whenever I am keeping a food and exercise diary. This is an important part of maintaining my weight, even after years of being at my ideal. Every couple of months or so, I check in on my diet by tracking calories and macronutrients for about a week. I have tried other apps, but I find MyFitnessPal to be the most intuitive and user-friendly for me.

7. MapMyRun – This app is great for any activity – walking, running, cycling. You can even use it to log your strength training workouts or record flights of stairs. The free version does have a lot of ads, but they stay in the margins for the most part and don’t bother me. I will say that distance and pace are pretty inaccurate when used indoors, but that’s what I’d expect from a GPS-based app.

8. Untappd – Here’s a nod to my love for craft brews. I just started using this app last week, but it’s a fun way to engage with other beer lovers in your social network. The app lets you keep track of all the different beers you’ve tried and gives you the options of checking in at a location via FourSquare.

9. Pulse for iPad –  I’ve tried Flipboard and Pulp (for Mac OS X) and a couple of other news readers, but I love Pulse! It’s easy to customize and lets me quickly scan headlines throughout the day from a number of publications all over the world. Sharing articles to social media is super easy, and a “favorites” button lets me save the ones I want to refer back to later.

10. Saint Paul Connect – This is another app that’s new to me, but a neighbor has spoken so highly of it, that I downloaded it and started using it this week. It’s an app by the city of Saint Paul where residents can report issues that need tending to – anything from suspicious activity to potholes. It also lets users view any issues that others have reported in the area. Check with your city to see if they have something similar. If they don’t, tell them to get on it!

Nifty Gadgets

11. Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones – I’m wearing these right now, and I do every time I work from home. I was amazed the first time I donned them and turned them on. I had Laura yell at me from ten feet away and I could just make out an unidentifiable bit of sound, and that was before I turned the music on. While the audio quality is nothing to get excited about, the noise-canceling technology certainly is.

12. Nikon ML-L3 Remote Shutter Release – I don’t consider myself a serious photographer, but I have invested in a few key pieces of gear to compliment my entry-level DSLR (the Nikon D3200). By far, the best purchase I’ve made was the $20 I spent on this remote shutter release. It’s so much better for controlling a shot than the timer function on the camera, and touch-free shutter release is an absolute must for clear shots in low light.

13. SqueezeBox – The SqueezeBox is a wireless music controller manufactured by Logitech. I’ve got the Duet model, which has a jukebox-style menu complete with album cover photos. I use it in conjunction with a paid Rhapsody subscription and a free Pandora account, but the device will give you access to hundreds of internet radio stations across the globe for free (a wi-fi connection is required). Mine is attached to the only speaker we own – a six year old Bose SoundDock. It’s more than enough sound for our 1,300 square-foot loft.

14.  iPhone 5S – I resisted the smart phone wave for as long as I could, but last spring Laura and I finally ditched our dumb phones for iPhones. We did so primarily because we signed up for Car2Go and Nice Ride plans – a couple of green transportation options here in the Twin Cities that are heavily app-dependent. Since I got the iPhone, I have wondered how I lived without it for so long. Its Notes and Reminders apps have replaced note paper, and I’ve abandoned my clunky Garmin GPS watch and SanDisk MP3 players and now use the phone to track my runs while it plays the music that makes them more enjoyable. It also serves as my back-up camera, though I really need to find a better photo editing app than the native one – I’ve been disappointed with my shots so far.

Other Great Stuff

15. The Ikea Friheten Sofa Bed – This is not your father’s sofa bed! Stylish and clever, as Ikea designs tend to be, this L-shaped sofa with attached chaise lounge pulls out into a queen-sized bed and stores the bedding underneath the cushion of the chaise. It’s easy to convert from sofa to bed and back, and at $699, it was a great bargain. We’ve found it to be durable (even with three pets enjoying it quite regularly) for the two months we’ve owned it. I know my mom is really going to love it when she spends the night here!

16. An Electric Toothbrush – I couldn’t think of anything I wanted for my birthday this year, but my mother always insists on buying me something, so at the last minute, I said, “How about an electric toothbrush like the one you have?” She and my sister have been raving about theirs forever, so I thought I’d give it a try. I have to say, my teeth do feel cleaner, and I know I’m reaching areas I wasn’t before. The small head and vigorous action make reaching the backs of my teeth at the gum line easy. I have a Phillips Sonicare – the least expensive model – and can report no problems. I’ve had the head for three months and it’s holding up very well. I expect to change it in another month or two.

17. Minka-Aire Ceiling Fans – Laura and I recently moved from a 1,000 square-foot loft with one wall of windows to a 1,300 square-foot loft with windows on three sides. While we love the new space, it is much less energy-efficient than our old loft was. When temperatures dropped shortly after we moved in last month, the place was freezing! We had already called an electrician to come and do some wiring for us, so while we had him here, we asked him to install boxes for a couple of fans in the ceiling. I ordered two 52″ Minka-Aire Wave fans and Laura and I spent about 90 minutes installing them ourselves. When we turned them on (in reverse mode, for winter) the temperature at ground level rose by three degrees within five minutes. Not only is our heater able to keep up now, we are toasty warm and the heater doesn’t kick on much more often than it did in our smaller unit.

18. The New Yorker Magazine – If I could only read one thing, it would be the New Yorker. While I’ve often wished that there were something equivalent with a more local flair (come on, Twin Cities!), there simply isn’t, so I continue to buy myself a subscription for my birthday year after year. The magazine’s timely coverage of current events and in-depth articles across all topics imaginable is only topped by its excellent fiction and the always funny Shouts and Murmurs.

19. A Good-Quality Tea Kettle – In the winter months, there’s nothing more satisfying than a properly brewed cup of tea. We’ve got a sturdy stainless steel kettle that heats pretty efficiently and holds about a quart of water. It’s a mid-price model that I think we got at Target. There are some higher end models available there and at kitchen supply stores that are quite fancy and equally expensive. The difference in the taste of the tea is probably not affected much though, so I don’t see the point. One thing is for certain, microwaving your water or heating it in a saucepan just isn’t the same.

20. My Foam Roller – The poor woman’s massage therapist, at times my foam roller has been the only thing that has kept me mobile. While training for my last two marathons, I found that if I didn’t use it regularly, the tightness in my hips, hamstrings and calves threw my form into something approximating Quasimodo’s gait. Even now that I am hardly running at all, I use it several times a week to work out tight knots that would otherwise cause a chain-reaction of problems from my shoulder all the way down to the back of my knee. Foam rollers cost between $20 and $50, depending on brand and construction. I have a simple, hard-density model that I ordered online from Power Systems.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about some of the things that make my life a Well Curated one. I would love to hear about your favorite things! Connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.


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