Meandering Monday is a series of posts that feature not-so-piano topics. 

Raindrops on roses, And whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things…

My list of favorite things looks a little different than the one we’ve all heard about in the Sound of Music. But, I thought it would be fun to share some of my current obsessions these days. I really love reading holiday gift guide blog posts and many of my favorite things are things I’ve received as gifts so maybe they’ll inspire your holiday shopping or your own wish list.

Brush lettering supplies and instruction

I’ll have to tell you more about my brush lettering obsession sometime, but the short story is that it’s my current favorite winding-down activity at night after my kids have gone to bed. I’ve been collecting some supplies over the past year and here are my favorites:


Pens – Tombow Duel Tip Brush Pens are probably the most common pens recommended for brush lettering. They write really nicely and are easy to work with. Once I got started with Tombows, I realized that I didn’t always want my lettering to be as large as it tends to be with the Tombow tip, so I also discovered Pentel Sign Pens, which are much smaller. These are fun to use with all of the colors and the small size makes them a little more versatile. My absolute favorite pen to use is the Tombow Fudenosuke, which also has a smaller tip. It always seems to make my lettering look better than it really is! And, it’s fun to use for creating a shadow on larger letters. I have this set of 3.

Art Of Brushlettering – I’ve been following the author of this book on Instagram and FB and I love the style of her letters. As a teacher, I really appreciate a great teachers. Kelly’s definitely a great teacher, so when her book came out, I ordered it ASAP. It’s really beautiful and I really like working with it right in front of me, rather than scrolling through my computer or phone while I practice my lettering.


How To Draw Modern Florals – I found out about this book through Kelly Klapstein, (the author of the Art of Brush Lettering). This book teaches you how to draw beautiful floral drawings that pair really nicely with brush lettering. Before I got this book, I didn’t even know that I’d like drawing flowers, but it turns out that I love it and I love how the drawings look.

Gel Pens – I really love good gel pens and there is a lot that you can do with gel pens to compliment brush lettering. I recently got this set of TUL pens to use in my studio, but I often “borrow” them for my brush lettering practice.

Smooth paper – It took me a while to discover that practicing lettering is so much better on smooth paper. And, It it prevents the markers from fraying. There are several good options. A lot of people use a ream of laser jet paper. I have this little notebook that I love using to create a little masterpieces at the end of each practice sessions. I also have this bigger marker paper pad. The paper is really thin, so I often put lined paper or practice drill sheets underneath to practice with since I can see through it.

Ukulele

It’s no secret that I’m a ukulele fan. There was quite a bit of ukulele activity in my studio this summer and it’s another fun winding-down activity for me.


I currently have 2 ukuleles: I originally got this basic one, and over the summer I got this Waterman in purple for my birthday. I’m really tempted to add this cute blue one to my collection, but I also try to reign in my obsession. I can see how ukulele fans end up with a bunch of different instruments. They’re small so they don’t take up much room and they all seem a little different so it’s fun to try out different models.
As for books, I have a few that I enjoy playing from. This book, First 50 Ukulele Songs You Should Play has a really great collection of popular songs that most people enjoy playing on the uke. I just ordered the Christmas version. I also love jamming with James Hill’s book Booster Uke. He uses a lot of unconventional chords and harmonies that make the music sound really intriguing. And, they’re used in a really simple way so the songs feel easy from the beginning.

Things that follow me around

Lifefactory Glass Water Bottle – My water bottle is my sidekick. I never leave home without it and when I’m at home, it’s almost always an arm’s distance away. When I first got a lifefactory bottle a few years ago, I didn’t realize how much I prefer to drink out of glass rather than plastic. But, that’s officially my preference and I love my glass bottle now. It is super sturdy and has held up to many falls on my driveway, my tile kitchen floor and in parking lots.


Vera Bradley Smartphone Wristlet – I call this my external purse because I love how I can carry it without my purse on quick errands. There’s a pocket for my phone and my keys clip onto it. I’m a pretty organized person, but I think I’d be a bit of a mess if I didn’t keep all of those things tied together at all times.

Erin Condren Planner – I’m firmly in the paper planner camp. I’ve had 2 of these beautiful Erin Condren planners in the past. I’m taking a brief sabbatical this year to try out bullet journaling, but I think I’m about to make a return to the fancy planner. For something that I look at many times each day, I really like for it to look pretty and I need it to have a layout that jives with how I think through my week. This one does the trick(If you thinking about a fancy planner for 2018, you can get $10 off by if you order through my link.)

Fitness


Garmin Vivofit -This fitness tracker could also go in the “Things That Follow Me Around Category”. I’ve been wearing my Vivofit for almost 3 years now and I love it. I was initially interested in it because it could record activities other than just steps. (But, I think a lot of other trackers do that now too.) And, I also like that it sets a goal for me each day based on the previous day’s steps. I have to be honest in that I don’t use it a rigorously as I had hoped to, and I almost never track other activities with it. But, I really do like being aware of my activity levels. I’m usually pretty motivated to at least hit the goal number that it sets for me each day.

Bike Trainer – Hopping on my bike and going for a ride is always one of those things that I think I can make happen, but logistically is harder than it needs to be. I love having a bike trainer so that I can get a ride in without leaving the house. Often times, I’ll do a quick living room workout before my preschool music class on Wednesday mornings and riding my trainer is one of my favorite options. (Fitness Blender videos are another go-to.) There are a bunch of bike work outs on YouTube, so I’ll turn a video on and just follow along.

In the kitchen


Instant Pot – Last year, I jumped on the Instapot wagon and it was great decision. The instant pot is an electric pressure cooker. I didn’t know much about pressure cooking before I got this, but there’s a vast world of pressure cooking out there! It’s great to use on busy teaching days because it has a timer so it can finish cooking as I finish teaching. It cooks things like beans and potatoes super fast. There is a bit of a learning curve with it, but I’ve found it to be worth it.

Omega Juicer – I really love juicing, so our juicer is one of my very favorite kitchen gadgets. Before I got this one, I did tons of research and chose this one because it juices slowly and maintains the nutritional content of the fruits and veggies better. Our go-to juice is a green juice that is celery, cucumber, apple, lemon and ginger. I love packing all of those fresh, nutritious foods into the beginning of our day. Even my kids like green juice!


Vitamix Blender – I invested in a Vitamix blender a few years ago, and there’s no going back. Once you realize how fast and smooth it can blend, conventional blenders won’t do the trick anymore. We use our Vitamix mulitple times a day, mostly for blending smoothies but also for sauces, dressings and other cooking adventures.

This and that

Diffuser – One of my obsessions that has been going strong for many years now is my love of essential oils. I use them for practically everything. I was initially interested in them for cleaning, but I quickly discovered many of the therapeutic benefits of using oils. I have come to love the aromatherapy associated with some of the lovely scents of the oils. We have several diffusers in our house, but when I learned about this beautiful one with a flickering candle LED light, I pretty much had to get it. I use it almost everyday and I love trying out different combos of oils to create a pleasant atmosphere in my home and studio. I’m currently really into cardamom, cinnamon bark and orange. (I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the past few years studying up on essential oils. If you’re new to oils or interested in Young Living Essential Oils, I’d be glad to help you out!)


The Barefoot Executive – I read this book by Carrie Wilkerson this summer. It was perfect timing because I was ready to take my piano studio and my business to a new level and her words were exactly what I needed to read. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is running a business or aspiring to run a business. Carrie’s writing is really encouraging and motivating, and it also gets you thinking outside of your box, which is something I really needed.


Ottlite Bluetooth Speaker – I recently got this Ottlight lamp for my main teaching piano and it happens to have a bluetooth speaker built in to it. It’s super handy to have a blue tooth speaker right by the piano. I can easily play recordings for my students from my phone. The light has several levels of brightness. I really like how I can turn down the brightness for late night practicing and turn it up during the day.

Games

My husband and I recently discovered cooperative games and we’ve loved learning new games and sharing them with friends. We’ve always had trouble finding board games where we’re evenly matched and equally interested, so working together at a board game is the best route for us.


Hanabi – this is our very favorite! This game involves laying cards solitaire style – in piles of like colors in numeric order. The twist is that all of the other players can see your cards but you can’t. You have to give your teammates clues to help them know which cards to play. It can have some intense moments, but it’s super fun and keeps us laughing.


Forbidden Desert – This game has more of a storyline that you follow, but it’s another fun cooperative game. Every game is different and before each move, you have to check in with the other players and re-evaluate the best course of action. (We’ve also been playing Pandemic, which similarly follows a storyline and requires all the players to work together. I’m still kind of new to it, so I can’t decide if it’s going to land on my list of favorites like Hanabi and Forbidden Desert have.)


Patchwork – This one’s not a cooperative game, but it is a fun 2-player game. It involves filling a board with different shaped “patchwork” pieces. Each pieces has a different value and shape, so on your turn you have to determine the best piece to select. This is a rare game that my husband and I seem to be fairly evenly matched in so we’ve enjoyed playing this one.

Gadget accessories

Gorilla Pod Iphone Stand – Recently, I’ve been playing around with finding the best view of the piano from my phone camera and I’ve loved the Gorilla Pod stand. I can wrap it around my piano lamp and get a great birds-eye view of the keys (which you can see in my recent posts on learning the piano, such as Your First Piano Lesson and Learn Silent Night). I know many people have found tons of the other great applications for this little tripod. It’s flexible legs can bend or grasp onto many different surfaces so you can get tons of interesting views with it.


Native Union iPhone Charger – I’ve tried so many phone chargers over the years and this is the only one I have found that holds up well. I find that it lasts even longer than the Apple branded chargers we have. We have the 10-foot Native Union charger, which is really handy. You don’t feel like you’re attached to a wall when your phone is plugged in to it. Also, the woven rope cord doesn’t fray like other chargers do.

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