Friday Favorites: Summer Essentials

If you weren’t sure if we were going to have a typical summer in southern Indiana this year, this week definitely confirmed it for you: 100 degree days with 200% humidity. Great days to enjoy some Netflix and chill in the AC. (Literally chill, guys.)

Today I’m going to share a few of the things I’m loving this summer + a few of the things that I feel like are saving my life. The bugs. The heat. Sigh.

I’m also linking up today for Friday Favorites, so be sure to check out all the other posts today! ❤

Bug Stuff

You guys, the bugs are insane this year. I think it has something to do with how warm it was all winter—things didn’t die as they were supposed to as part of the circle of life. I am particularly susceptible to mosquito bites, and my legs look like those of a child who has been playing outside all day (minus being tan, because I’m in an office all day). These are the products I’m relying on to help with all the bugs.

Badger Anti-Bug Shake & Spray

I love pretty much anything put out by Badger Balm, but this bug spray is pretty legit. You will smell like citronella. But I think this natural bug repellant is much more effective than some of the other hippie ones I’ve tried.

Witch Hazel

I’m convinced witch hazel will cure anything. But this is one of the ONLY things I’ve found that actually relieves the itching/pain from bug bites. I put some on every night after I get out of the shower.

Badger Balm also has an after-bug balm that works nicely, although I think witch hazel is a little better. Also, I’ve tried lavender oil to repel bugs a few times, and it worked pretty OK. It’s nice in a pinch if you would like a more natural bug spray.

Sunscreen

Speaking of Badger Balm, I’m a big fan of their sport sunscreen.

This is a zinc-oxide (HAY) based sunscreen, so it goes on pretty white—I recommend applying it with a mirror nearby so you can see what you’re working with. It’s waterproof for up to 80 minutes, which I think is a nice bonus. I definitely miss the convenience of the spray-on sunscreens, but I’m getting used to this natural option.

Sandals

I splurged on 2 pairs of sandals this year, and I have no regrets. My first purchase (which was technically this spring) was this pair of Birkenstock Mayari sandals.

I wanted these sandals like whoa last summer, but you couldn’t find them anywhere by August. So I got on it this year and ordered them in April. Sizing was a little challenging—I ordered a size down, and think I really should have gotten them in narrow, but I was sick of ordering and sending back and reordering at that point. Anyway, I tightened the straps and have never looked back.

Next up is this pair of Chacos.

First off, the style is called Dorra, so how could I not get them?? They are probably the most comfortable sandals I’ve ever owned right off the bat—no breaking in necessary. I also love that they are really functional, but could also be worn with a summer dress or out for a nicer occasion if needed.

Drinks

I got this Healthy Human stainless steel cruiser tumbler a while ago, but it has been a life-saver this summer.

The “keeps cold for 24 hours” thing is legit. I bring my iced coffee in it to work every morning, then on lunch will stick the tumbler out in my car for the rest of the day. In the 100 degree heat. In my car with black interior. And there is still ice in there when I get in at the end of the day to go home. It’s magic.

Also, this nettle tea from Republic of Tea.

I read an article earlier this year about how nettle tea can provide allergy relief, so I figured I’d give it a try. I don’t know if it has really affected my allergies, but this tea is dang delicious—it almost tastes like cake.

Fresh Fruit

Specifically, cherries.

I’ve never bought cherries before, mainly because they are $$$ at the grocery. This year I’m splurging on them every week and cannot get enough. They are the perfect amount of sweet and so refreshing.

Much thanks to Erika, Narci, and Andrea for hosting today’s linkup—be sure and go check them out!

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Quick & Easy Lunch Ideas

Like I’ve said before, I’m pretty OK at this whole bring-your-lunch-to-work thing.

So we’ve already covered the basics of successfully packing your lunch for work. Today I thought I’d share my 3 best quick and easy packed lunches.

These may not be the fanciest or most impressive lunches, but they are my go-tos when I’m really busy at work—and they get the job done. “The job” being feeding me mid-day so I don’t pass out from hanger.

Leftovers

This is probably the most “duh” of all lunch ideas, but bringing leftovers from the night before is cost-effective and helps prevent food waste. However, when bringing leftovers, make sure they will either reheat well or be OK chilled from the fridge—so, maybe avoid salads that are drenched in dressing.

I like to throw leftovers from the night before over some greens and make a salad. Confession: I stole this idea from a coworker. I have no idea why this never occurred to me, but it’s genius. In the photo above, we had grilled chicken kebabs for dinner, and I had an extra one that I put over mixed greens with some Tessemae’s ranch dressing for lunch the next day.

The Mindless Salad

A “mindless salad” doesn’t really have to be a salad—it’s just a very quick lunch that you will almost always have the ingredients on hand for. So for me, this is a salad: Arugula, dried cranberries, walnuts, chicken, and homemade dressing. It’s delicious and takes less than 5 minutes to throw together the night before.

I buy all of these ingredients at the grocery each week because I know more than likely, there will be one day where either we don’t have leftovers or I am uninspired to meal prep. To make it easier, I buy organicgirl baby arugula, which is prewashed, and Applegate Naturals precooked chicken breast. Sometimes I actually am not lazy and grill a chicken breast to have on hand, which saves a LOT of money, but having the precooked is a great backup.

Look in the Fridge

This last option is less of a planned meal and more of a strategy for utilizing whatever you have available in the kitchen. For each lunch, having a good source of protein and some greens is essential. If I’m out of almost everything, I can usually scrape by with a few staple ingredients.

Hardboiled eggs are easy to make in advance, especially if you have one of these egg cookers. At one point I thought an egg cooker was an unnecessary appliance, but then I realized the worst thing about hard boiling eggs is standing at the burner while they cook. Now I can make some eggs the night before without having to sit and watch a pot boil.

Sweet potatoes are another ingredient I usually have on hand—plus, they keep well so if I end up not using it, I can save it. The easiest way to cook a sweet potato is a tip I learned from Fed + Fit: Poke your holes in the potato with a fork (I usually do 4 lines of 3 holes with a fork), wrap the potato in a damp paper towel, and microwave for about 8 minutes (for a medium-size potato—adjust time according to the size). This is great for last-minute lunch packing the night before, because again, I just have to pop it in the microwave and not worry about it.

Lastly, like with leftovers, when in doubt, throw your food over some greens. I buy a few tubs of prewashed greens at the grocery each week, which come in super handy for these emergencies.

All that to say, plan ahead when you’re at the grocery store to have a few things on hand for emergencies—whether it’s a carton of eggs or some packets of tuna. Keep a few bags of frozen veggies in the freezer. ALWAYS buy some greens. Then you’ll have all the fixins for a last-minute lunch. Even if it’s not the most delicious, you managed to save a few dollars and eat something healthy and well-balanced. ❤

Gardening 101

Do you like the fact that I planted a garden approximately 6 weeks ago and I already am writing a blog post like I’m qualified to give advice about it?

But really, this is less of a “gardening 101” post and more of a “how I’ve so far not managed to kill everything I’ve planted” post. (We’ve still got a ways to go so KNOCKONWOOD again y’all.)

When I started the garden this year, I got advice from friends, the lovely Master Gardeners of Southwestern Indiana, and of course, the Internet. I’m going to compile the list of helpful things I found online plus some of the things we purchased if you are curious. And so I can reference it again next year. 🙂

Total Beginner Info

Planting Calendar and Zone Finder

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Common Gardening Mistakes and What I’ve Learned from Them

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Basics

How to Build a Raised Bed

Soil Info

Soil Calculator

The Perfect Soil Mixture for Filling Your Raised Bed

We ended up using a pre-mixed organic soil (because I’m lazy and didn’t want to buy a bunch of different soils and mix them together). We used this Harvest Organics brand from Lowe’s.

Other Helpful Stuff

Mulch for Vegetable Gardens

Rain Barrel How-To

Seed Starting FAQ

My Beginner Notes

Like I noted earlier, we used a pre-mixed organic soil, and I think the quality of the soil has really done most of the work in the garden for us.

My friend at work told me to put straw down (see the post on mulching your vegetable garden above). I was doubtful at first because I had never seen anyone do that, and it would make the garden look a little…ugly. I am so glad that we did. A bale of straw was probably $5 at Lowe’s, and we used about 1/4 of it. So far, I think I’ve pulled one weed out of the garden, and the soil is usually pretty moist since the straw helps it retain water.

NOTE: Don’t get hay. Get straw. Maybe you already know the difference between the 2, but I didn’t. If you cover your garden in hay, you’re going to be pulling weeds all summer.

For questions on specific plants, I’ve been referring to my friends who have gardens or searching gardeners.com advice section. They have lots of specific articles on different fruit, veg, and flowers, so I’ve found myself on their site several times, especially when I was first planting.

Hopefully I’ll be back soon with an update when our veggies actually come in. Until then, I’ll keep anxiously checking every night while I water. ❤

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Starting My First Garden

As a kid, my mom and dad would take me and my younger sister to a Lowe’s or Home Depot every year to pick out flowers. There was a small flower bed alongside our back patio, and they thought it would be a good experience for us to learn to plant and take care of something. She and I hated it, and finally, one year my mom stepped in and told my dad, “We’re not doing this anymore. They hate picking out flowers.”

That was basically the extent of my gardening experience until about 2 months ago. Moving to a house with a big yard, I had always thought it would someday be fun to have a garden. Someday.

In April, my boyfriend and I offhandedly started talking about starting a garden. And then one day I came home to this.

(He’s pretty handy.)

OK, so we’re starting a garden, I thought. For real. And with this beautiful setup, the pressure is going to be on me to make it work.

Luckily, I had coworkers and friends and the Internet to help me navigate. I spent several night reading alllll about organic gardening at home, when to plant, HOW to plant…basically I created my own Vegetable Gardening for Dummies manual.

Since it was kind of late in the season, a friend at work recommended that I go to the Master Gardeners plant sale, which was in a few days. They had plants already started, and she thought they would be more trustworthy than picking them up at a local garden center. So I headed to the plant sale that Saturday morning with my boyfriend’s sister and loaded up.

I found everything I was looking for and more…including a succulent and a couple hanging baskets. Seriously, the Master Gardeners are amazing and the plant sale was so much fun. I’m looking forward to going next year.

That weekend, we finished getting the fence and beds built, and then it was time to plant!

This is our bigger bed, which had several plants I got from the Master Gardeners, plus a few I was starting from seeds (zucchini, yellow squash, and spinach).

Here’s our smaller bed, which had 2 strawberry plants from the Master Gardeners and arugula and leaf lettuce that I was starting from seeds.

I also got several herbs, which I put in small pots so I could use them year-round.

My biggest fear when starting a garden is that I know myself, and I historically get very excited about projects like this and then lose interest very quickly. We had spent a lot of time and money investing in this, and I was worried I would get lazy and let everything die.

However, we are only 2 months in, but I’m happy to report that I LOVE having a garden! It’s so fun to go out every day and see how the veggie plant babies are doing. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that my first garden has done pretty darn well. (*KNOCK ON WOOD*)

This is a picture I took about a week ago, and the tomato plants are probably a foot taller and the zucchini is enormous.

Here are the herb babies. I planted the mint from seeds and it is finally coming up.

I would like to take a moment to remember my yellow squash, which has unfortunately passed on to veggie heaven. I might try to replant in a separate container and see if it does better like that, otherwise, we’ll just continue purchasing organic yellow squash at the grocery store. 🙂

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Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

As I was typing up my first post in a while, I was thinking about what kind of things I wanted to share on here. I started keeping a note in my phone with possible topics. Because while I love reading “day in the life”-type posts on blogs, they get kind of repetitive. Even more so when you’re a creature of habit, like me. Posting the same breakfast, lunch and snacks plus work synopsis would wear pretty thin pretty quickly.

One of the first ideas that popped in my head was tips on packing your lunch, because that is something I kind of have on lockdown. Packing a lunch bag for work (or school or whatever your current life situation is) is one of the most effective things you can do to make healthier choices throughout the day AND save some money. So here we go!

Tip 1: Get Your Shit Together the Night Before

Pardon my French, but this is THE most important thing when getting my lunch (and life, for what it matters) together. I am not a morning person (which if you know me at all, you know that about me), and I can think of the instances when I’ve actually packed a good breakfast + lunch + snacks the morning before work on like, one hand. So now I make it a point to put everything together the night before—and honestly, it usually takes no longer than 5 minutes. Then I can snooze in the morning and not worry about having nothing to get me through the day at work.

Tip 2: Get a Really Nice Lunch Bag

I got mine at TJ Maxx for less than $20, but you can find it on Amazon here. I love it because it’s big enough that I can get A LOT of stuff in there, but small enough that it can still fit in the fridge at work without taking up an obscene amount of space. It also has some nice outer pockets where I keep utensils, stuff that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, etc.

Tip 3: Invest in a Few Reusable Containers

(I didn’t have any clean containers, so I used the ones with my lunch in it for tomorrow. Cooper was pretty interested haha.)

For years I used Gladware or other plastic containers, but I recently got a set of 4 Pyrex containers so I don’t have to worry about anything leaching into my food, especially if I put it in the microwave. I can’t find the exact set I got online, but here’s a similar one: mine has a 4-cup bowl, a 2-cup bowl, and two 1-cup bowls. I got them at Target for less than $20 (and they seriously go on sale all the time). I also got a set of these 4 ounce Ball jars, which are perfect for dressings or dips.

Lunch is usually a salad that I put in the largest bowl, and then I bring berries or some other fruit in one of the smaller bowls. The 4 bowls in this set plus the 4 ounce jars are basically all that I need. And, pro tip: If you are able, wash your containers at work, so you’ll have them clean when you get home—just throw everything together for tomorrow and you’re done!

The other thing I’ve started using recently that I really like are these reusable zip bags (like Ziploc, but you can reuse them). I used to use a TON of Ziploc baggies, and I started getting really convicted about how wasteful that was. I found this set of 5 online (3 sandwich size, 2 snack size) and am in love with them. They are BPA-free, freezer-safe, and I just wipe them out with some soapy water and a paper towel, then air-dry them overnight.

Tip 4: Overpack Rather Than Underpack

So ideally, pack the right amount of food, but I would much rather bring too much and then bring it home with me or leave it at work for the next day than not bring enough and be hangry all day or looking for change to use at the vending machine.

Most days, I bring my breakfast, lunch, and then a snack for midmorning (which I sometimes skip) and a snack for midafternoon. Breakfast is usually turkey sausage with a banana and almond butter (which I buy in pre-portioned packets, so I don’t go overboard with the AB), and lunch is either leftovers or a salad. I try to bring snacks that are healthy, filling, and portable. Most days I bring 2 cuties, a sandwich bag of baby carrots or some other fresh vegetable, and a Larabar. If I know I won’t be heading home right after work, I might have some grapes or jerky to hold me over till dinner.

This is based on years of research, fyi. Figuring out how much food to bring, plus what kind of food is filling without making you feel miserable, is a lot of trial and error.

Tip 5: Extras and Nice-to-Haves

OK, now we’ve basically covered what I consider are the essentials of a good packed lunch. Now we arrive at the things that are nice to have, but really up to you. A couple things I really love:

  • A good water bottle. I actually bring 2 big water bottles to work every day (each 32 fl oz) to cut down on buying bottled water from our vending machine (I’m really into recycling right now, guys). I still usually have to buy maybe 1 or 2 bottled waters each day, but it’s much better than before.
  • Reusable utensils. I came across these bamboo utensils while I was poking around online and they look pretty neat. The ones I keep in my bag are just plastic, maybe Tupperware. Honestly, I mostly use them when other utensils are not available—I should stop doing that.
  • Coffee tumbler that keeps drinks hot or cold. I am obsessed with this Healthy Human tumbler I got. It for real keeps drinks cold for 24 hours (or after an entire day in 90 degree heat, in the sun, in a car with black interior). Plus it’s so pretty.

And that’s all I got! Let me know if you guys have questions or would like to see more of these types of posts. Oh, and have a happy and fun long weekend! ❤

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2017 Book Roundup Part 1

Earlier this year, I made a public commitment to read more—ahem—variety. You see, I LOVE to read. My first degree is actually in English literature. I read pretty much every night before bed; in fact, if turn the light off without even flipping through a magazine, you know I’m exhausted.

But for the last couple years (while I was juggling school and work and life), I started having a lot of anxiety. (This would take a much longer post to get into, so this is a very abbreviated version.) With all the stress and anxiousness in my life, I wanted comforting things before I went to bed, so for the last 2+ years, I pretty much exclusively read the Harry Potter books. Over and over.

I was feeling much better at the beginning this year, and so in February, I decided I was going to put HP down for at least the remainder of 2017 and begin reading other things. A lot of people ask for book recommendations, and I love seeing other people’s book lists, so I thought I would share what I’ve read so far on here.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

I picked this book up at Target on a whim—I was drawn to the cover art and title, and then the description on the back looked good. The story is kind of literary mystery-romance, and it was a quick read that I really enjoyed. (Note: if you were an English major, you’ll probably love this book.) It’s the author’s first novel (she’s younger than me WHAT.), and I’m looking forward to what she’ll write next.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

OK, I am a total sucker for chick lit that is set in England, and Jenny Colgan has some of the best of that. Her Little Beach Street Bakery series is one of my favorites. This is probably my favorite book that I’ve read this year: it’s about a woman who moves to rural Scotland and starts her own mobile bookshop. I can’t wait to reread it.

Hemingway in Love by A.E. Hotchner

The last few years on my birthday, my best friend has gotten me a Snoopy birthday card and a book about Hemingway. I hope this tradition never ends. This is a super-quick memoir written by one of Hemingway’s friends who had a series of conversations between him and Hemingway recorded (at Papa’s request), and he published them after Hemingway’s last wife, Mary, died. It’s a really beautiful book and a great companion to A Moveable Feast (my actual favorite book).

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

I personally don’t really care for nonfiction or self-help books, but nutrition books and books by Gretchen Rubin may be the exception. Her book The Happiness Project was really interesting and helpful, and I feel the same way about Better Than Before. It took me a bit to get through it, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I feel like I really learned a lot about myself and have begun to form ways to break not helpful habits and form helpful ones. Personally, I think everyone should read this book (or at least the Four Tendencies framework), and I’ve already loaned it out to one of my friends.

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

I was really excited about this book (probably because of the cover), but to be honest, it was kind of a hot mess until about halfway through. I was interested in the story, but also was kind of unsure where it was going and whether or not the author had control of it. In the end, everything was wrapped up pretty satisfactorily, and I did find myself getting more intrigued in the second half of the book. I would say I liked it, but it’s definitely my least favorite book I’ve read this year.

I’m currently reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, the first novel in the Thursday Next series. So far I really like it, and I’m sure I’ll include it in part 2 of this roundup (which I’m assuming will be this fall or summer). In the meantime, you can check my Instagram for what I’m reading (@lindseyholder) or look up the hashtag #lindseysbookshelf ❤

Fancy Seeing You Around Here

So…it’s been 6 months since I posted on here last? (Actually, when I logged in I realized I had started a post in March and never got around to finishing it. Delete.)

Well, we had the holidays and then work got really busy for the first few months of 2017, and then I just…lost interest. I kind of felt like, what do I even have to post about? I snooze too late every morning, go to work, spend 8-ish hours there that are sometimes awesome, sometimes frustrating, and then go home. Maybe I’ll hit up a hot yoga class or spend some time outside. Maybe I’ll plop down on the couch and watch mindless TV for the next few hours. And then get ready for bed, read a chapter of a book, and hit the lights.

Occasionally, I would think about my poor little blog, and how I kind of missed posting on here, and my mom and boyfriend also missed it (or so they say ❤ ), but then…it seemed like so much work. I only really wanted to be on here because I enjoyed it, felt like I had something to SAY, and could provide some benefit to the people who read it. I still think I would like that.

I mean, I’m never going to be one of those bloggers who strikes gold and quits her job and just does this for a living. But those people often become incredibly unrelatable and boring. So I already know I’m not going to be posting on here 3 times a week. Hell, I may not post on here 3 times a month. But my aim is to stop in here occasionally and tell you what’s been going on in lovely southern Indiana.

If you’d like that, I hope you stop by sometimes. I’ll try to post lots of photos of Dora and Cooper, because I know that’s what people mostly want to see. Thanks for checking back in. ❤

 

Ten bucks says I won’t post on here again before June. 😉

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