Actually, I don't even know what Oprah is doing these days. Does she still do her favorite things list? Or is she just sleeping on a bed made entirely of hundred dollar bills with a champagne and black truffle IV, cackling in her sleep? Regardless, I'm borrowing (stealing) her idea. Which, technically she borrowed (stole) from the Von Trapp family.
Anyway. I'm one of those people who greatly enjoys giving tips. Tips on beauty, on what to read, on haircare, on dog parenting. What to eat, what to drink. And I'll be so goddamn happy when you come back to me and say "Hey, I tried that malbec/dogsitter/acne treatment you suggested, and I loved it!" So here is an amalgam of things I have discovered and loved in 2013...
Nicaragua: Yes, the country. Cheap, warm, and undertouristed. When I said that we were taking our last pre-baby adventure in Nicaragua during my sixth month of pregnancy, most people said "Is that safe? Can you even go there...like that?" and I said, "You know, lots of pregnant women live in Nicaragua." We spent a week in almost empty, $60, four- and five-star hotels. We ate amazing Latin and Creole food, brushed up on our Spanish, and watched stingrays jump out of the water. Let me repeat that: stingrays, from time to time, launch themselves out of the water. And I got to see it. That alone was worth the trip.
the Soda Stream Machine: Oh, bubbly, fizzy goodness. Refreshing molecules of toungue-dancing enjoyment. I fucking love this thing. Makes you feel like you are eating lunch at a white tablecloth restaurant with Perrier in a crystal glass ALL THE TIME. No more lugging flats of sparkling water home from the supermarket. And no more plastic bottles to pile up in your recycling bin. Don't EVEN get me started on the Diet Pink Grapefruit flavor (comparable to Fresca).
"Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple : David Sedaris is the only author to make me reliably laugh out loud, so I compare most "funny" books to him and his talents as a humorist. I did laugh out loud a couple of times with this one, but I more found myself exclaiming in awe or disbelief, slapping my own forehead, that type of thing. The characters are so fully developed and the action never stops. I love the way Semple uses correspondence (emails, ER bills, notes, texts) to help tell the story -- an age-old technique that she uses in a fresh way. So while Semple is no Sedaris in my mental funniness hierarchy, she certainly got a rise out of me. Well done.
Dogshaming: oh dear god this web site. I'm embarrassed to say that it's one I visit almost daily. Any pet owners know the look of shame (okay, not cats, because they don't give a flying fuck) they get when they KNOW they have done something SO, SO wrong. This web site provides photographic evidence of the crimes and the confessions, and they are freaking priceless. And also make me feel like my dog is, comparably, an angel.
Scrivener: These people should pay me for the evangelism I do on their behalf. Working in any of the popular word processing programs on a book-length document can make any writer CRAZY. It's just not effective, easy, or organized in any way that is helpful for an epic work-in-progress. Scrivener is organized in a way that makes SO much more sense for storing notes, documents, outlines, images, and drafts. You can move things around, to cut things out, and put those cuts aside in case you need to move them back later. I could not have completed my manuscript without it, no joke. OH AND IT ONLY COSTS $45. One caveat, which the mysterious creators of this program are totally up front about: this is NOT a word processing program. It is a composition program. You will have to export to Word or Open Office or whatever in order to get a clean, formatted, printable copy of your document and that part is a total pain in the ass. But you only have to do it once.
Marrakesh Hair Oil: If you have dry, color-treated hair like me, this one's for you. I'll never have shiny Breck-girl hair, but one can dream, and this product gets me partway there. You can use it both on wet hair (dime-sized glob only on the ends of your hair) or dry (teeny eeny weeny bit, also just on ends, not near the roots or you will instantly look like you need another shower). And it smells DIVINE.
Dogvacay.com: When you have a furry companion, the trip to Palm Springs on a spontaneous weekend becomes MUCH harder. In the past year, I have definitely lain awake at night on 600-thread count sheets in an expensive hotel wondering if my darling Polliwog is safe and happy. We've used dogvacay a couple of times with rousing success: this site basically matches owners with people willing to board your dogs while you're away. All are insured and certified through the site, have CPR training and all of that stuff (whichis more than I can say for myself). Staying in someone's home can be much less stressful for doggies than at a typical boarding place. And some of these lovely people just don't have time for a full-time dog and instead just want to sign up to take one for the weekend. Everyone wins!
New Beauty Products: Since this is a beauty AND writing blog, I feel that I should devote some space to new skin care products. But to be perfectly honest, I haven't found one blockbuster, life-changing product this year. It's like when an awards committee picks no winner. So I'm not going to lead you astray and suggest some amazing new product. Keep cleansing, exfoliating, and use your damn sunscreen. And check back often: when I find something I love, I usually cannot shut up about it. I'll let you know.
*** Where I have linked to products on amazon, that is just an example. Please buy books and products at your local book store and beauty salon!