OK, OK, I swear, this is the last round-up post from 2018. However, it’s been my tradition to share a few things that were real game changers for me in the past year. No surprise they often involve food and drink, and yes, I realize I’m late to the party on many of them. Forgive me if these changed your game two years ago. I’m old. (Disclaimer: I’ve not been paid or asked to promote or write about any of these products.)
Hard Water — Admit it, we all saw those ads for alcoholic water and said “Are you kidding?” But I also like my Pelligrino or Perrier or La Croix. So, it’s probably not a stretch that at some point, we tried one a hard sparking water, in the heat, by the pool or on the beach, and said “Wow, this is really light and not sticky sweet and perfect for summer.” And all with the alcohol content of a 5.0 beer. My fave: White Claw Hard Seltzer
Silicone Microwave Popcorn Maker — A friend told me about this product on a trip in April. It’s a perfect solution for those of us who like the results of stove top pop corn but the ease of the microwave. The silicone bowl collapses and can go in the dishwasher (although sometimes it needs a soapy hand wash because of the oily residue). In goes your corn, your oil, and the lid which sort of floats up as the corn pops. Only caveat, it may take a few tries to find the perfect pop as the corn can burn easily. My fave: Lakue Microwave Popcorn Popper
Brioche Dough and No-Knead Bread — Let me begin by saying I’m not a baker, but years ago, I purchased the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and it immediately begin gathering dust. For some reason, this spring I actually read it, and HOLY. MOLY. Game. Changed. The authors start with two master recipes — one for regular bread and one for brioche. Both can be made in large batches, proofed, and kept in the fridge. In theory, you form/shape a loaf a day (5 minutes, no kneading), proof it a second time and bake. (As my niece said when I showed her how easy it was: “Guess I’m not losing that last 5 pounds of baby weight.”) With the two basic recipes you can do Italian breads, baguettes, sandwich loaves, and even chocolate brioche. The book’s been through a few updates but the basics and techniques are the same — and total game changers for the home cook who isn’t necessarily a very confident baker. My fave: Picnic loaf with brioche dough stuffed with salumi and cheeses.
Aaptiv App — In the app category, I have to mention Aaptiv, because it really did change my workout game. I don’t like working out in the gym. I get bored and after 5 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical, I’m over it, so winter workouts have been a problem for me. Enter Aaptiv (which I read about on The Skimm newsletter) with 100s of workouts from beginner to advanced for most machines with a trainer and music walking you through changes in incline or intensity just like a class. You can sort them by trainer, machine, level, etc, and save them into lists — including “to-do”. You can even download workouts for travel. (How many basement hotel workout rooms have we been in with no signal?) Bonus — Aaptiv includes yoga, stretching and even meditation. Best part? $99 for the whole year. (Some similar apps are much more expensive.) My fave? 45 minute intermediate incline workout on the treadmill with Jessica. Favorite trainer? Jaime.
Mixology — I know I am *crazy* late to the party on this one, but in the Spring, we took a class in New Orleans with bartending legend Chris McMillan. I’ve tinkered with cocktails in the past, but never properly, which is why I probably always had disappointing results. Chris taught us the basic set ups and equipment, how to properly handle ice, garnishes, and most important — the ratio. In making cocktails, ratios are everything. 3:2:1 or 2:1:1 — no matter which one you use for the drink you’re making, the proper ratio of alcohol to sweetness to citrus to garnish is key. Once you learn the technique, you can invent your own (or at least get the basics right for tasty cocktails.) Total game changer for me. Plus, a shout-out to the fab Amy Zavatto for her book Prosecco Made Me Do It full of great sparkling cocktail recipes. It got a lot of use at my house last summer! My faves? The French 75 and the Whiskey Sour.
Bright Temporary Hair Color — I love the idea of Unicorn hair or bright streaks of pink for Manga hair, but it’s just not me to have my colorist put it in for 4-6 weeks. A little research before a fun black-tie fundraiser let me to the perfect solution — pastes,l sprays and chalks that you can comb in, spray or use as a highlight. I can add a magenta or pink streak or big strands of gold or green and, et voila!, it washes out in the morning. My fave: Comb-in Hair Chalks
Adult Gummy Vitamins — Last January I decided I needed to step up my Vitamin game. The challenge? I choke on those giant horsepills. A friend said “why aren’t you taking gummies?” D’oh. So, while I’m the last person to figure this out, my vitamin game is now on point — multi-vitamin, Calcium, Vitamin C, it’s all there every morning in its soft squishy, slightly strange tasting, gummy glory. My fave: Nature Made Calcium with D3