As I write this column, the world is still a blazing dumpster fire. I was looking back through old columns, particularly this kind of roundup style column and found one from last year where I said, “as we approach week four of social distancing.” Sweet Lord, I was naïve. Ignorance truly is bliss.

In keeping with the ignorance is bliss theme, I thought I’d share with you a little something to brighten your day, take a break from all things health and wellness, the heaviness of the world, COVID-19 — a little mental health break if you will.

I wanted to share with you some of the simple daily things that bring me joy. A good book, music, a guilty pleasure or two and, of course, a little chocolate.

Reading has been something I’ve enjoyed all my life. For me, reading is an escape, a free vacation to another world. I share my love of reading with my dad, along with his nose, forehead and extremely hard walk for two somewhat petite people. My mom always tells me the story of my dad reading the paper to me when I was a baby. I recall with fondness him reading “Berenstain Bear” books, one after another. As I got older, I would keep a flashlight under the bed, staying up late to finish a riveting “Babysitter’s Club.”

Andy and I try to read to Landon every night. While she has about three books that she seems to always want to “read” on repeat that I could recite in my sleep, I sure hope as she grows up that we share a love of reading. It’s always been so special for me and my dad to discuss what we are reading and from time to time pass our favorites back and forth.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorites as of late.

“Oona Out of Order” by Margarita Montimore is a delightful break from rereading Dracula with two of my dearest girlfriends and my book club’s pick of “When No One is Watching.” To say I was ready for a lighthearted read is an understatement. This delicious little page turner is a wonderful “how to” for living in the moment. Perfect for when you need something a little less heavy.

“Sorrow and Bliss” by Meg Mason has humor, sadness, marriage, partnership, the complicated thing that is family, mental health. This book made me laugh, cry, feel seen and left me with a sense of hope.

I could not put down “The Last Thing He Told Me” by Laura Dave. Now I know I say that often, but this time I really mean it. My dear college friend Amanda and I like to talk about what we are reading and swap favorites. She loved this one as well. She is a voracious reader with a little more discerning taste, meaning, she’s just smarter than me. But while we were both reading this one, we would text daily about how much we liked it. A domestic thriller with plenty of twists and a soft side too, Reese picked a good one. I’ve heard rumors that Julia Roberts is set to play the main character in the made for streaming services adaption. Gosh, I sure hope so! Here’s to all “the could have been boys” — one of my favorite lines from the book.

“The Man Who Ate Everything” by Jeffery Steingarten is written by an attorney turned Vogue magazine food critic. This book made me laugh out loud so many times. Steingarten takes you to beautiful places with exciting people and food. No thanks to COVID-19 and a husband who isn’t a big fan of super long plane rides, I won’t be seeing any of these places any time soon. This book was a delightful escape, perfect for the foodie or travel fan in your life.

Let’s move on to music. “Take it to the Limit,” Miley’s cover. All day, every day. Throw in a little Chris Stapleton, Audible — because I’m most certainly not reading Dracula at night — and a podcast here and there and you’ve just covered my morning and evening commute to Morristown for work. I’ve really been digging “What Are You Listening To?” by Stapleton as of late.

How about movies to indulge in some guilty pleasure time? The remake of “She’s All That,” called “He’s All That,” did not disappoint. For a good cleansing cry watch “The Starling” on Netflix. Melissa McCarthy, Kevin Kline, Chris O’Dowd — do I need to say anymore? Humor, a beautiful love story, healing, strength, my goodness this movie has it all. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about needing an entire box of tissues.

Recipe time favorites, coming up. I love a chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow moment but seeing as how I’m expected to wear pants to the office a couple days a week, not just my work from home attire of sweats, I try keeping the s’mores moments on a not so regular basis. Enter Calla’s “Clean Eats,” a lovely little blog and Instagram account I follow for some very yummy yet healthy recipes. When I came across her S’mores Baked Oatmeal recipe, I knew I had to give it a try. Gluten Free, vegan, and packed with all the flavor and goodness of a s’mores with none of the guilt.

S’mores

Baked Oatmeal

From the blog “Calla’s Clean Eats”

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

1/3 cup oats

1 tsp chia seeds

1 tbsp vanilla protein powder (I use Vega or Amazing Grass)

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup + 2 tbsp milk of choice

1 graham cracker sheet

1 small handful chocolate chips

1 small handful marshmallows

Instructions: In a bowl mix oats, chia seeds, protein powder, baking soda, milk, and 1/2 graham cracker sheet (crushed). Add in marshmallows and chocolate chips and stir again. Pour into a lightly greased oven safe baking dish. Top with the other 1/2 graham cracker sheet (crushed), and a couple more marshmallow and chocolate chips. Bake at 350F for about twenty minutes.

What are you reading lately? Listening to? Guilty pleasure and snacking on?

I’d love to hear from you!

Jessica Barnett is a Southwest Virginia girl married to a Greeneville native, a mom, personal trainer, certified fitness nutrition specialist, runner, herbivore and ice cream lover. To learn about working with Jessica, prospective clients may email jcbarnett616@gmail.com.

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