My Favorite Things 2018
Not long after I moved from Austin, Texas, to Blacksburg, Virginia, I met this beautiful blonde woman named Melissa at church. We started chatting, and eventually she mentioned that she ran her own blog. “Oh yeah?” I said, “What’s your blog called?”
“320 Sycamore,” she told me.
Friends, it was like realizing that Julia Roberts had been sitting in the next pew.
Long before I knew that Blacksburg, Virginia, existed, 320 Sycamore had filled my feedreader. That I’d ended up in the same place as Melissa—the Melissa—felt like a sign. STAY HERE, the sign said. GOOD THINGS ARE COMING.
Eventually Melissa’s family moved away (sob). Meanwhile, I wrote a whole book, This Is Where You Belong, about how I stayed and put down roots here—and how you can make wherever you live feel like home. Friends and neighbors like Melissa make a big part of the magic happen.
Melissa’s annual Favorite Things feature is an obsession, so I was thrilled to be asked to participate this year. Gonna be real here: Tons of my favorite things come straight from the interwebs. But one thing I learned writing my book is that buying stuff locally connects you to your community—and may just make a small business owner’s sugar plum dreams come true.
I wrote a Buy Local gift guide last year. These items look different but the idea is the same: When you can, buy the books at the local bookshop, the games at the toy store down the street, the bag at the local boutique. It makes your community thrive and helps you fall in love with where you live..
Seriously, though, Favorite Things is the best. Read on to see mine, and check out the rest of Melissa’s posse this year:
12 on Main
Life With Fingerprints
Creations by Kara
SCOUT Deano Tote Bag
I use this enormous workhorse bag to haul my stuff for seminary, the early-morning scripture study class I teach for teenagers at my church. This particular one came from an amazing Blacksburg shop called T.R. Collection, and I adore it. Water-resistant. Durable as heck. Lugs 50 lbs. of candy without complaint. (Don’t ask). Makes your beach trips super-stylish.
GAP Cable-Knit Sweater
I’ve been hunting for years for a lovely, simple cable-knit sweater that would stand up to machine washing because ain’t nobody got time to dry clean. This beauty from the GAP is it. You can even throw it in the dryer. #miracle
Spice Drawer Organizers
My family built a new house this spring, and for weeks after we moved in all I wanted to show off to visitors was the utopia that was my spice drawer. No more falling-over lazy Susans or rooting through piled-up shelves to find the one container of cumin that got shoved to the back. No ma’am. I stuck these inexpensive little YouCopia SpiceLiner organizers into a drawer next to the stove and the angels sang. They’re rubbery, so they hold the spices in place, with the labels facing up like nature meant it to be.
It says “skinny” right on the bag of Skinny Pop popcorn! I think that means I can eat the whole container of crunchy goodness and never gain weight! Yay!
Burt’s Bee’s Tinted Lip Balm
We live far from all our extended family, so figuring out Christmas gifts for the cousins in Utah is an ordeal. A few years ago we took a cue from 320 Sycamore and mailed a box of our favorite things: HydroFlask, issue of Country Living magazine, Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels. Everyone adored it, and last year, my sister-in-law’s family sent us their favorite things for Christmas. My niece Emily included this Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm, and I agree with her 100%. It’s a fave, hydrating with just a small hit of color.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
I don’t know what it is, but Christmas time always gives me a hankering to read a really dark mystery. You too? No? Okay. British novelists P.D. James and Ruth Rendell are holiday standbys for me, but this year I highly recommend Michelle McNamara’s best-selling true-crime book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, about the hunt for the Golden State Killer. Lock your windows. Or discover what I thought of all the other books I read this year at Goodreads, where I specialize in one-sentence reviews.
Double Ditto Game
I’m a reluctant board game player at best, to the chagrin of my 11-year-old. Double Ditto even I can handle because (a) it only takes 10 minutes a round, and (b) it’s actually fun trying to figure out what the other players will name in response to a category like “Foods you put in a refrigerator” or “Things you clean every day” so you can win points for matching. Hilarity ensues.
Nugget Ice Maker
I don’t have this nugget ice maker and honestly, I may not even want it because I have friends who have it. That’s all I need. I just want other people in my life to own a pebble ice maker, and I want them to bring me gallon-size bags of pebble ice every few weeks, and I want to horde the pebble ice in my freezer and then periodically scoop it out and eat the pebble ice. I may have a problem. Help.
Q&A a Day Five-Year Journal
How many stamps are in your passport? What’s the next book you want to read? Who would you trade places with for just one day? (One, Oliver Twist, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.) The questions in Q&A A Day rattle your brain in the best way, and four lines to write an answer keep it pleasingly doable for busy folk. Probably getting these for my daughters this year.
Home State Apparel Camp Mug
My unofficial research shows that basically everyone likes stuff with a picture of their state on it. I’m partial to this blue-rimmed enamel camp mug from North Carolina company Home State Apparel—with a map of Virginia for me, duh, but you order the home state of your choice.