“Favorite Good Things” Part 1

Oprah has her “Favorite Things” and Martha has her “Good Things” and I’m basically their lovechild, so I thought I had better make a list of my “Favorite Good Things.” I am single-handedly reviving the economy with my shopping sprees and random purchases of all things cheap and expensive, so, I have a lot of experience with merchandise. Please enjoy this list of all the things I discovered the past year. (Be warned, this is only the first part of three.)

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The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Season 1 $17.99 | www.amazon.com

I can’t even begin to describe this fantastic monstrosity to you in words that come close to defining why this show is so awesome. It revolves around a group of ladies: Caroline, Jacqueline, Theresa, Dina, and Danielle, and their interwoven lives. In the process, tables are flipped, houses are built, shoe closets are designed, arguments ensue, a book is unearthed, cat fights go down, secrets are whispered over mani/pedis at Château, boob jobs are done, friendships are destroyed, and in the end — somebody is called a “PROSTITUTION WHORE!” This show is heavenly and if you haven’t seen it yet, get on it!

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Body Talk Pt. 1, Pt. 2, & Pt. 3 by Robyn

$5.99 – $7.99 | iTunes

Robyn is hardly new to the music scene, but she was new to me until I stumbled across her single “Dancing On My Own,” from Body Talk Pt. 1. I was immediately impressed and she replaced rivaled Lady Gaga on my pop star pedestal. The albums are simply beautiful, to me, at least, and if you are the kind of person who enjoys pop music, then you should think so, too. It’s edgy, futuristic, and relentless. I’ve never used the word relentless to describe anything, but this is. You hit play and you have to go through the whole album, the whole oeuvre is cohesive. The stand out track is “Criminal Intent” from Body Talk Pt. 2. From the first techno police siren, Robyn has you hooked and you know that she isn’t messing around.

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Nespresso Espresso Maker

From $279 | Various Sources [www.amazon.com & Williams-Sonoma]

Ever since my first sip of espresso at Atelier Maître Albert in Paris two years ago, I have been hooked on this intense coffee. When I came home from Paris, I purchased a Moka brewer, not knowing the first thing about espresso, and was satisfied with that for a time, but it was nothing like that first shot I had. It was good, mind you, but not what I wanted. So, I began to do a lot of research into what made an espresso and was quickly overwhelmed by all the tamping and water pressure and all the superstitions around the whole thing. Thinking I would have to give it up, I came across the capsule system. I was familiar with this as Keurig machines were just coming into vogue, and discovered that there were espresso machines that used the same concept. There are a few competing companies, but Nespresso is obviously the champion, not only in design, but in variety. The machine is rather expensive, and I drooled over it for awhile, but finally found the previous generation “Le Cube” at a reasonable discount on eBay. I’ve been in love with it every since. My Nespresso machine makes a perfect espresso every time I turn it on with no effort. My favorite blends are Ristretto and Roma. If you love espresso, but hate the crap you get at Starbucks, pick this machine up. Each shot costs a little over fifty cents. Bargain!

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Martha Stewart Living Magazine

$24 | www.marthastewart.com

This is my bible. Each month is filled with unique and clever ideas about cooking, cleaning, collecting, flower aranging, sewing, crafting, and a thousand other odds and ends. It is beautifully put together and photographed and worth far more money than it costs. With Martha, you know you are getting quality, unlike other magazines, like Sandra Lee’s Holiday — which I still can’t believe was published or even conceived. If you are at all crafty, love to cook, or simply enjoy looking at beautiful things, you must subscribe. The issue above was the first one I read and it changed my life. (There is also a digital issue of Living for the iPad (another “Favorite Good Thing” coming up) which is freakishly good. It is the absolute future of print media.)

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Stuff You Should Know Podcast

$0 | Search “Stuff You Should Know” on iTunes

This one’s free! Oprah never does that! Anyway, if you are curious about anything at all you should subscribe to this. I can’t begin to describe this podcast, as the topic varies widely from week to week, but the hosts are well-informed, funny, and you will learn something new with every episode. My iPod would be a lot less informative without this.

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MagiX Face Perfecter SPF 20

$10 | www.avon.com

I came across this product while rummaging through midget sized piles of junk in the home of a demented old woman. I was intrigued by the title, as I have always been sensitive about my skin. It has sucked for most of my life, and I remember thinking as a young child that if I could change anything about myself, I would want to shed my skin and get a new one. Like a snake. My skin is a far cry from what it used to be, but it is still oily and sometimes unpleasant. I tried this cream/lotion/sunblock and was delighted by it. It has no color, goes on smoothly, and magically blocks the shininess of oily skin. It does nothing for problem skin, though, but it still does wonders. I wouldn’t go out without it, especially now that I’m terrified of getting age spots. Worth every cent. Buy it!

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Light in the Piazza

This is a tease, as it isn’t available for sale! 

I set this movie to tape on the DVR a month or two ago when I saw it playing on TCM and promptly forgot about it. A couple of weeks ago, I felt like watching an old movie and started this one up and was totally blown away by this film. It is at times a romance, a drama, and a black comedy. The plot revolves around an American woman named Margaret who takes her daughter, Clara, to Florence, Italy, for a few months. Clara suffered an accident as a child and now, fully-grown, has the mental capabilities of a 10-year old. While in Florence, she falls in love with Fabrizio, who comes from a wealthy family. It is a sweet and charming story, watching Clara’s mother try to protect her, and then realizing the only way she can protect her is to let what happens happen. I’m not writing this very well as I don’t want to give it away, but if you can manage to see it, please do. This is on my list of favorite films now, right next to A Very Long Engagement and Last Holiday. I scoured the Internet for a place to watch this, but it is simply nowhere. Tell TCM to rebroadcast Light in The Piazza and be sure to watch it!

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Ghirardelli 60% Cacoa Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

$2.50 | Walmart 

They say that some people are chocolate people and some people are lemon people and some people are coffee people when it comes to desserts. Well, I’m all of these, but if I had to choose, I would immediately choose chocolate. I have tried a crapload of chocolates in my life, from Hersey to Valrhona, to some chocolate a missionary brought back from Turkey for a group of children at Sunday school. I’m sure Jesus won’t mind my borrowing a piece. After all this experimentation in the chocolate world, I’m happy to announce that there is no finer chocolate for baking or snacking than Ghirardelli 60%. It is perfect! Since each person has their own personal taste, I can’t begin to tell you why I prefer this one, but I’ll try. It has a rich, full flavor, while others are too sweet or too light. It melts beautifully and makes the most delicious ganache. Even if you are already a fan of a different brand, give this one a try. It’s available almost anywhere and quite reasonably priced. (As I side note, I do not recommend the Ghirardelli cocoa powder. For this, I’d go with traditional Hershey’s as I find it is simply the best!)

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Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work DVD

$14.99 | www.amazon.com

Joan is a national treasure and this documentary is a masterpiece. I had always been a  fan of Joan’s and thought this would be an amusing thing to see when it came to theaters, assuming it would be light frivolity, but it was serious, funny, and inspiring. You are totally immersed in Joan’s world — her sadness and struggles, the joys in her life, her work ethic, her literal wall of jokes, and what makes her Joan. I never knew that there was so much to know about this legendary comedienne, but from my own experience of writing about people, I should have known that each person has a great story inside of them. This is a poignant and unvarnished documentary, it makes you think, inspires you to be more than you are, and in the end it fills you with joy. (And, if you ever get the chance to go and see her live, DO IT! It will be some of the best money you have ever spent.)

Please check back soon for the second part of  my “Favorite Good Things!”

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