Hello Fun Seekers

The Passionate Pursuit of Delight

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Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for Cooks

Gifts For CooksNote: This post contains affiliate links

Happy holidays! I don’t know about you but I am most definitely not a get up early, fight the crowds, Black Friday kind of shopper. For me, I prefer to sit on my comfy couch, with a cup of coffee and my laptop to make a dent in my holiday shopping list. For more on how I keep track of my shopping list, check out this post.

You know who these people are on your list. They always know the best places to eat, they subscribe to multiple food magazines, and would rather be in the kitchen than pretty much anywhere. Food is love for these folks. Food is love, people.

Here are few gift ideas than any foodie would love to find under the tree. Or, maybe you are like me (not much of a shopper) and you tend to buy things for yourself during the holidays when you are shopping for others. Whether you are buying for someone on your list or yourself, here are few of my favorite kitchen essentials.

Instant Pot

The gift that is on everyone’s wish list. If you have one you know how fanatical devotees are, if you don’t have one, take it from me, the Instant Pot is a game-changer.

Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker and Warmer

OXO Good Grips Mandoline

The tool that makes slicing pretty much anything a breeze. I love to slice veggies paper thin. You can take credit for your incredible knife work, no one will be the wiser.

OXO Good Grips V-Blade Mandoline Slicer

Enameled Dutch Oven

If the fancy French brand is out of your budget, this enameled cast iron Dutch oven by Lodge is a great alternative. I have one of these and use it several times a week.

Lodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Island Spice Red

Cast Iron Skillet

I was SO hesitant about investing in a cast iron pan, I held out for years because I was intimidated by the care and upkeep. But, once I got one and started using it, there was no looking back. I love my cast iron pan and with a little bit of tender loving care it keeps getting better with age.

Lodge L8SK3 10-1/4-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Immersion blender

The ultimate soup-maker! I use this immersion blender every single weekend while making a pot of soup. It does a great job blending and it so much easier to clean than a blender.

Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick 200 Watt 2 Speed Hand Blender, Brushed Chrome


Baking Sheets

Every cook needs at least a few of these baking sheets. These heavy-duty baking sheets help ensure even cooking whether you are roasting veggies or baking cookies.

Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet

Are there any kitchen tools that you are hoping to find under the tree this holiday season? If so, let me know in the comments below.


October Chill Spotify Playlist

October Chill Spotify Playlist

Photo by Nathan Riley on Unsplash

Listen up all you creepers, Courtney is back with a super spooky Spotify playlist. The October Chill Spotify playlist will ensure that the chill in the air matches the chill running down your spine. So, grab a cozy scarf and something warm to drink and prepare for goosebumps.

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”

― Bram Stoker

October is the time to soak up the spookiness all around you. One way I love to amplify the chill in the air is with this creepy, scary, and deliciously evil playlist. This one is perfect to play while getting together with friends for costume parties, carving pumpkins, or just sipping on a hot toddy on your patio while you’re wrapped in cozy blankets and sweaters.

creepy doll

Photo by Rain Wu on Unsplash

The Songs

It starts out with Eel’s “Flyswatter” to cover you in creepy crawly goosebumps. I follow that up shortly with Sea Wolf’s “Leaves in the River.” This song sets the October weather and ambiance stage perfectly. I feel like I am right there with these two walking home from the Halloween party at which they met.

I’ve also included a few songs by the National including “Afraid of Everyone,” “Anyone’s Ghost,” and “Demons.” The National love the dark songs as much as I do.

Ghost latte

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

And speaking of dark songs, I added Johnny Cash’s “I See a Darkness” as well as “Dark Night of the Soul” by Danger Mouse featuring David Lynch. That is a right spooky tune right there. If I had to pick a favorite song on this playlist, I think it is currently My Morning Jacket’s “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Pt. 2”, and the one with the best title is of course Sufjan Stevens’ “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh!”

The playlist has over two hours of tunes perfect for October like Tom Waits’ “Cemetery Polka.” It ends with a truly frightening song by Shivaree from The Kill Bill Volume 2 soundtrack, “Goodnight Moon.” Yeah right, just try to sleep after listening to this one.  Bwa Ha Ha Haaaa……

If you love the tunes that Court is throwing down, be sure to check out her other Hello Fun Seekers playlists:

Tailgating Playlist


My friend Courtney is back with another rump-shaking Spotify playlist. Court is a University of Utah football fan through and through. One of the many things that I love about her is that saw a need in her tailgating group and took action which she explains below.

If anyone can rise to the challenge of creating a Spotify playlist that meets the musical needs for a multi-generational crowd, Courtney is the one. So, get your tailgating food packed up and bring along a portable speaker so you and your tailgating crew can enjoy the pre-party before the big game.


Courtney tailgating

I’ve been tailgating and attending football games with the same group since 2008 (Sugar Bowl Championship year!) They were tailgating together for years before I joined them. Up until a couple of seasons ago, it was a pretty dialed in operation, with the exception of one thing: the music.

little tailgater

Our group ranges from Baby Boomers to Gen Zers. Every time someone tried to play music, someone else would be complaining, “what is this?? It’s terrible!” And it usually was. I knew I had to do something, but was I up to the challenge? Putting together a playlist that all of these people with varying musical tastes could enjoy for hours?

I wasn’t sure, but Coach Whitt gave me a great pep talk (in my mind) “EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT! LEAVE NOTHING IN THE TANK! IT’S RIGHT THERE FOR THE TAKING! GO TAKE IT!”

OK, coach!

Tailgating Swoop
The Music in the Tailgating Playlist

What I came up with includes gems for the Baby Boomers by Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, and Elton John. For the Gen Xers we’ve got stuff by Modest Mouse, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Beastie Boys. For the Millennials I added The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Amy Winehouse, and Beyoncé. And for our Gen Zers, we’ve got songs by Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Alabama Shakes, and Alt-J. On top of those, I added songs sure to pump you up for the big game like Spoon’s “The Underdog” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”

tailgating gamesNow instead of complaining, we bop our heads up and down while we pile up our plates, shake our hips while we play holy board, dance while we top off our drinks, and tap our feet while we discuss our team’s #throwgame, and whether or not this year, our new offensive coordinator can improve our production.


It is a true crowd-pleaser with songs sure to get you ready for the big game. I hope you and your tailgating group enjoy! Go Utes!!

Tailgating playlist

Be sure to check out Courtney’s other playlists

Summer in the Country (A Gardening Playlist)

Summer in the Country Playlist

Photo by MSI Sakib on Unsplash

Isn’t summer a glorious thing? A friend brought me a grocery sack full of apricots from her Grandmother’s tree today. I adore summer for many reasons but one of the things that I love most is that food is growing all around. From this bounty, you barely have to cook a thing. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a treat right off the tree, vine, or plant. I haven’t decided what I will do with those apricots besides eat them right out of the bowl but you will be the first know when I decide.

For the second year in a row, my herb garden is a splendid thing of basil-making beauty. I am about to go on a pesto-making binge. Last summer I made tons of pesto. I froze it in ice cube trays and we enjoyed that summer fresh taste of basil all year long. I think I only have one or two cubes left in the freezer.

Summer in the Country Spotify Playlist

Whether you consider gardening a pleasure or a chore, or maybe you just need some fresh tunes to listen to while you mow your lawn, my friend Courtney is back with another fabulous Spotify playlist called ‘Summer in the Country’.


Making playlists on Spotify is something I love to do. I have playlists for different seasons, moods, and activities. I’ll spotlight some of them here on Hello Fun Seekers playlist series. I hope you enjoy!

Last night we had pork for supper

Today’ll be chicken consomme

And a fruit jar full of iced tea

On a long hot summer day

For every day I work on the Illinois River

Get a half a day off with pay

On a tow boat pickin up barges

On a long hot summer day

-Sara Watkins

This playlist is perfect for those long hot days working outside in your garden or yard. I love this playlist so much that I look forward to mowing the lawn and weeding the garden just so I can spend some time with these tunes on my headphones.

It starts out with Sara Watkins’ beautiful voice and fiddle playing “Long Hot Summer Days.” Her voice just sounds like summer to me. Next we have Valerie June singing “Workin’ Woman Blues”, then Brown Bird’s “Fingers to the Bone.” There are a few songs from Old Crow Medicine Show’s album Remedy, as well as songs by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and of course, Willie Nelson.

I’ve also put in a couple of fiddle solos by Sara Watkins and the song “Be My Husband” by her group called I’m With Her. There are a lot of pistols, criminals, and vigilante justice in this country playlist and it ends violently with Ruby Friedman Orchestra’s “I’m Not Your Friend” which is just so good.

Get your gardening gloves, a fruit jar full of iced tea, and get to work! Hope you enjoy!

Be sure to check out some of Courtney’s other Spotify playlists:

Brand New Day Spotify Playlist

Brand New Day Playlist

Hey party people, the days are getting so wonderfully long! One of my favorite things about June is that the sun rises very early and daylight stays well into the evening. I love to get outside for a walk before work especially when the flowers are in bloom and the grass is green. I find that it helps clear my mind. I also find that solutions to problems often pop into my mind while I am out walking. Plus, I get to check something off my to-do list before 7:00am!

The best part about walking is that all you need is comfy shoes, sunglasses, and some great tunes. My friend Courtney has put together this Brand New Day Playlist for you specifically with morning walks in mind (or evening walks if that is your jam). This playlist is filled with music that will keep you smiling at the sun, the flowers, and the dogs walking by you.

So, without further ado, I turn the time over to Courtney.


Making playlists on Spotify is something I love to do. I have playlists for different seasons, moods, and activities. I’ll spotlight some of them here on Hello Fun Seekers playlist series. I hope you enjoy!

“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”

John Muir

This playlist called “New Day” is perfect for a beautiful morning walk. It’s full of hopeful, joyful songs to wake you up and make you feel optimistic about your day.

The Songs

It includes some old school classics like The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child” (I can’t help but dance when I hear this one) and Van Morrison’s “Brand New Day.” Plus some newer stuff by Bon Iver, The Lumineers, and Sara Watkins.

A couple on this list that are new to me that I can’t get enough of: “Dearly Departed” by Shakey Graves and “Where I’m Going” by the Wild Reeds.

Grab your morning beverage, some walking shoes and your headphones, and have a beautiful new day!


You can check some of Courtney’s other playlists:

Brand New Day Playlist

Spring Break Playlist

Spring break playlist

Guess who is back with another incredible Spotify playlist for our listening pleasure? None other than the beautiful, talented, and overall lovely Hello Fun Seekers Contributor Courtney Droz.

Court puts together the most amazing playlists and she has another one for you today.  This playlist is especially dear to me, as Courtney put this one together with me in mind. Read on to get Courtney’s inspiration and be ready to shake your groove thing.


Making playlists on Spotify is something I love to do. I have playlists for different seasons, moods, and activities. I’ll spotlight some of them here on Hello Fun Seekers playlist series. I hope you enjoy!

“If you got your ticket, man, you’re allowed to come with me

Yo, for right now I’m gon chill at the beach

Check out the pretty girls layin back, you know how we do playa yo

I’m out here in the sun baby it’s all good!”

-Wyclef Jean, The Carnival

I made this playlist for Diane who was looking for a Spring Break playlist. I thought, what would the perfect Spring Break vacation with Diane be? Immediately, I decided it would be going to New Orleans and showing up at a house party hosted by Wyclef Jean and Shakira. So that’s the basis for this one.

New Orleans House Party

There is a good amount of Creole and Zydeco music throughout this playlist to keep that Louisiana party vibe going. I think of the rest of the songs as guests we run into at the party: The crazy cool Lisa, Angela, Pamela, and Renee (LL Cool J), an American teen (Khalid), the earnest guy who does not seem to be having a great time (The National), the magnetic artist (Amy Winehouse), someone who just stopped in to see what condition her condition was in (Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings), and a group asking if they can kick it (A Tribe called Quest) to name a few.

It’s quite a party, and it ends with Big Al Carson inviting us to leave in a very polite way.

What would your ideal Spring Break entail?

Cheers, and enjoy! 

Want to check out more of Courtney’s playlists? You can find her Road Trip Playlist right here.

Spring Break Playlist

Road Trip Playlist

Road Trip Playlist

I am over the moon excited to introduce you to Hello Fun Seekers Contributor Courtney Droz. You are in for a real treat if you love music. Court puts together the most amazing playlists and she has one for you today. Hopefully, this will be the first of many playlists that Courtney will share with us. Court, take it away!


Making playlists on Spotify is something I love to do. I have playlists for different seasons, moods, and activities. I’ll spotlight some of them here on Hello Fun Seekers playlist series. I hope you enjoy!

The Spotify playlist I’m spotlighting today may be my absolute favorite ever. I made it specifically for road trips; it’s called, “Miles From Nowhere.”

What is better than a good road trip? I love the feeling of packing up the car, leaving your job and responsibilities behind you for a little while, rolling down the windows and hitting the open road! I especially love road trips through the desert, places like Moab, or Arches National Park in southern Utah. What are your favorite road trips?

This playlist winds its way from New York to California. Starting out with songs set in New York like “I and Love and You” by the Avett Brothers, we then spend some time on tunes about Ohio Like The Low Anthem’s “To Ohio” (an aside: there are so many songs about Ohio. It’s kind of weird. Why Ohio?).

Spotify Playlist Road Trip

Photo by Jeremiah Roth

Next we take the scenic route through the south with some Old Crow Medicine Show, and Johnny Cash, back up to the Midwest with songs from The New Basement Tapes, and Bruce Springsteen, and then we finally head through Utah, Idaho, and Nevada with songs like Damien Jurado’s “So on, Nevada.”

Finally, we make it to California with songs by Dawes, Joe Purdy, and John Hiatt. (There are almost as many songs out there about California as Ohio) I also sprinkled in songs about travelling like Laura Marling’s “Rambling Man” and of course Cat Stevens’ “Miles From Nowhere” where the playlist title comes from.

Miles from Nowhere

This playlist is nice and long: 3 hours and 15 minutes, so it will keep you entertained through a good part of your long trip. Turn it up good and loud and sing along. Let me know what songs you love, what songs you would add, and where your travels take you!


Ten Essentials for a Perfect Pool Day

10 Essentials for a Perfect Pool Day

Hello Fun Seekers! I am so excited to be heading down to Las Vegas on Thursday for a long weekend of rest and relaxation.  The weather forecast calls for clear, sunny skies with a high of 80 degrees. EIGHTY DEGREES! Can you say pool day?  I cannot wait to get down there.

While the others are in the casino gambling, I plan to spend the day at the pool. I am not talking about getting to the pool early, sticking a towel on lounge chair kind of pool day though. Instead, I plan to rent a daybed which is a little splurge that I love to treat myself to on occasion. #treatyoself

There are a few essentials that I always bring for a pool day retreat. Here is what will be in my pool bag to ensure a day of fun.

10 essentials for a perfect pool day-1
Pool Bag Essentials

A total must-have is my Kindle Paperwhite (fully charged!) loaded with two new books:

(Small tangent) Do you need ideas for what to read next? I just heard about this new service from the NY Times called Match Book. It is a literary advice column where readers can email a description of books they love and books they did not like.

“The weekly column will connect readers with book suggestions based on their questions, their tastes, their literary needs and desires.”

Smartphone with external battery with:

  • Podcasts – If you haven’t gotten on the podcast bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for? If you have an iPhone there is literally an app that is already on your phone called Podcast. Open it and search for one of these podcasts below and your commutes and walks will never be the same.
    • Modern Love 
    • The Happier Podcast
    • S-Town – Seriously! I listened to this series already but it is so good. If you have not started listening yet, do yourself a favor and download the first episode today.
  • Music – I have to have some tunes because I don’t trust hotel pools to play decent music and I fear getting stuck with techo music all day. Not relaxing!
  • Audiobook
    • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See’s new novel. Set in the remote mountains of China and the Akha people. See’s books always transport me to another world and introduce me to a culture I know nothing about.
Other Essentials

Snacks – Almonds, dried cranberries, dried apricots, with coconut is my favorite.

Sunglasses, cover up, and sun hat – You don’t want to get sun-burned. Plus, your older self will thank your younger self for these skin preservation measures.

Finally, I stash a water bottle, sunscreen, and headphones in my bag and then I am ready to go!

What am I forgetting? What are the essential items in your bag for a perfect pool day?






Holiday Shopping List – A Foolproof Way to Track Gift Buying

Holiday Shopping List Tracker

Why You Need a Holiday Shopping List Tracker

Thanksgiving is two weeks away! Then we will be full throttle into the holiday gift buying season. I enjoy coming up with ideas for thoughtful gifts for my family and friends. But, I needed a way to stay organized, enter the Holiday Shopping List Tracker.

You may not know this about me but I am a spreadsheet devotee. I have spreadsheets for everything. Here are a few examples: household expenses, menu-planning, packing lists, and yes, holiday gift buying. Now, I have over ten years of these spreadsheets now. I use them to track holiday gift ideas, purchases, and spending on gifts for my family and friends. Another bonus is that I can refer back to them from occasionally to make sure that I don’t duplicate gifts.


I find that being organized helps keep the holiday stress to a minimum which is important to me. So, if you promise not to make too much fun of me, I will share a blank copy of the spreadsheet that I use with you.  Once you click on the link below the holiday shopping list tracker will open up.

Holiday Shopping List Tracker


Note: If you would like to get more helpful tips from me twice per month add your email in the side bar! 

The holiday shopping list tracker is super easy and effective to use. But, if you aren’t really comfortable with spreadsheets, I have prepared a short instructional video for you on how I use the holiday shopping list tracker.

How to Use the Holiday Shopping List Tracker

If videos aren’t your thing I will summarize the steps that I use here:

  • I store the spreadsheet in Dropbox which is a free cloud-based file storage system which I cannot live without. With Dropbox I can access my files whether I am home, at work, or via mobile when I am on the go.
  • Enter each name on your holiday gift list onto a row of the spreadsheet. If you typically buy that person more than one gift I would leave a few blank rows underneath their name so you have room for multiple gift ideas.
  • As you think of gift ideas for people or they give you hints, add those ideas to the spreadsheet in the ‘Gift Ideas’ column. I basically access this spreadsheet all year long and add gift ideas whenever inspiration strikes!
  • If you know where you can purchase the item, add the store name or URL of the website to that column.
  • Once I purchase a gift I mark the yes/no drop down arrow to the right of the cell
  • The purchase price column keeps a total of how much you have spent at the bottom of the spreadsheet
  • I usually start wrapping presents once I put up my Christmas tree so I like to keep track of what has been wrapped and what hasn’t
  • If I have to mail gifts to recipients than I can sort the list and make sure that those gifts get purchased, wrapped, and sent in plenty of time.
  • After the holidays I open the file, do a ‘save as’ and rename the spreadsheet for the following year. Then I remove all the information that I added for the current year so I have a blank slate to start with for next year!

So, there you have it. Let me know if you have any questions about the gift tracker. Or, email me if you have suggestions for improvements. I am all ears. Cheers to a holiday season that is organized and stress-free!

Holiday Shopping List | A Foolproof Way to Track Gift-Buying


How to Have an Amazing Autumn


Every Labor Day weekend I start to feel an impending sense of dread that summer is over.  It’s nothing against fall. I like fall, I really do. The cool crisp air, Mother Nature shows off her glorious colors, football, apple picking are all things that I love.

But, you know what the end of summer means. Winter is coming with its cold, gray, and dreary days. Commuting becomes driving to and from work in the dark. Don’t even get me started about photography. NO NATURAL LIGHT. Not Monday through Friday anyway because of the J.O.B.

So, each year I spend time reflecting on the change of seasons and relishing all that is good about autumn.


Soup Night

Soup is my boyfriend. I love soup. It warms you up from the inside, makes the house smell amazing and is a way to get loads of vegetables into your diet. This year I am going to invite a few girlfriends over for a soup night.  I plan to make a pot of soup or two, get some artisan bread and cheeses. Here are a few soups that I have bookmarked because they sound delicious:  sunshine split pea, mulligatawny, and cauliflower cheddar soup.


I am a recovering shoe addict. Shoes are easy. Your shoe size never changes so it is no wonder that many women love buying shoes. I don’t buy nearly as many shoes as I used to do but I still love buying boots. I love boots with leggings, boots with skirts, and boots with skinny jeans.  I am thinking about getting this pair.


There is something dramatic and a little romantic about walking around in the fall while the fallen leaves crunch under your feet. I love the sound and smell of autumn especially when I walk on campus at the beginning of a new school year, in a pretty neighborhood or on a mountain trail.



Cool nights mean that you need a hot toddy to warm you up from the inside. I am super excited because I have a jar of  local lavender honey and a jar of honey from a friend’s hive which will make an amazing hot toddy. Don’t you think? One of my friend’s uses ginger tea in place of hot water for her hot toddies. Genius! Also, I thought this autumn sangria looks delicious too. I think it would be fun to serve at book club or for an afternoon of leaf-raking.


What? You don’t know what Gourdfest is? Gourdfest is an annual gathering of my friends which initially started as a pumpkin beer tasting. We’ve mostly agreed that pumpkin beer is over-rated but we still get together in the fall and eat all the gourds. Here are few recipes that I am considering for this year: curried butternut and white bean tacos, sweet and spicy roasted butternut squash pizza with cider caramelized onions,


Are you guys into blanket scarves? I am seeing them everywhere this fall. They look so cozy. I like this one. I love watching YouTube videos on how to tie a scarf. I thought this one was great.

Roasted vegetables 

Roasted vegetables are the best vegetables. All vegetables taste better after they are roasted. My favorite veggies to roast are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. All that you need to do is chop them into uniformly-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast.


I love tea. I drink iced tea by the gallon in the summer.  This summer I was obsessed with brewing hibiscus and mint tea. But, when it is chilly outside I love to drink hot tea. For the most part I drink herbal teas. I always have roobios, mint, and chamomile in my pantry.

I hope all these ideas will help you enjoy an amazing autumn and keep your mind of winter!


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