You Asked for Random? You Got It (Mary Strand)

This month at YA Outside the Lines we’re supposed to offer random recommendations, mostly to give us (the bloggers) a wide-open topic to write about, perhaps because someone knew I haven’t even begun to work on taxes and don’t have time to think right now, let alone blog. (Thank you.)

By the way, I think our recommendations are maybe supposed to be book related, but I’m good with the word random.

Last month I highlighted six girls or young women I admired, so this month I’ll double that and offer 12 random recommendations, partly because it’s a random thing to do.

1. Do your taxes way before the absolute deadline. <ha ha ha ha ha!>

2. You’ve probably seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians (and if you haven’t, you should, if only to see Awkwafina, who is HILARIOUS), but I just read the book, and IT IS SO GOOD. Now I’ll watch the movie again.


3. Candles. They smell good even if you never light them. I never light them, and my daughter thinks this is crazy of me, and that’s good, too.

4. When you’re traveling (ONCE AGAIN!), put sheets of Bounce in your suitcase so your clothes smell great. I also put them in my convertible when I store it in the winter, and it has the added bonus of keeping mice out.


5. Zoom writing groups. Ohmygod, this is Changing My Life!! We generally have one or two daily sessions (usually two hours at a time), five days a week, and you can log in for whichever sessions you want. If we want, we list our goals for the session, and then everyone mutes. You just sit there and work for two hours while people can see you but not say anything, and it seems creepy, but you SERIOUSLY get stuff done. I usually work on my novels during these sessions, but sometimes I write songs, and the group thinks it’s hilarious to watch me rocking out on guitar when they can’t hear anything.

6. The movie Pirate Radio. HIGHLY recommend. And the ending is probably my favorite happy ending in the history of happy endings.


7. Live music.  Any way you can possibly get it, but preferably outdoors.

8. Clinique Smart Night dry combo moisturizer. My daughter (age 20) is leap years ahead of me in all things beauty and beauty products. (If it weren’t for our strawberry-blond hair, I would suspect she was switched at birth.)  I admit it’s expensive (which is not like me), but I feel and see the results. Put it on at bedtime, but especially under your eyes. Your face and my daughter will thank you.


9. Huge blackberries. They’re much sweeter than smaller ones, and blackberries are one of the healthiest fruits you can eat, so you don’t even realize you’re being good.

10. Mask and vaccinate! At this point most of us have tons of masks, but I got a pack of 50 purple disposable ones just for working out. (They usually last for about three workouts.) They’re easier to breathe in because you don’t inhale the mask when you breathe in, and it’s purple, so it matches my bike shoes, and if matching doesn’t matter to you ... well, YOU’RE WRONG.  (heh heh.)


11. 5-minute sleep meditations. We got a Peloton bike a couple of months ago, and it’s great, but what has turned into THE best thing about Peloton is their app, because it offers tons of five-minute classes, and my favorite are the five-minute meditations (especially by Anna Greenberg) that help you fall asleep. I’ve often had trouble falling asleep, because my mind starts going a million miles an hour the moment I lie down, and now I’m out cold almost the moment the 5-minute meditation ends. Note: I happen to do Peloton, but there must be other 5-minute sleep meditations out there. I know I also said this about my Zoom writing group, but this has changed my life.

12. Ben & Jerry’s snackable dough. Because God loves you and wants you to be happy. Or, if God isn’t present in your life, because I’m here rooting for you, too.


Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at


  1. Amen to #3. I recently bought a Creativity candle made by Crystal Journey Candles. I swear it has sent my creativity in terms of writing into the stratosphere.
    My #9 is walnuts with pineapple cottage cheese. Wicked good for you and tastes like a guilt free dessert.

    1. My daughter bought one candle for me but loved it so much that I sent it back to college with her. :-)

  2. This is too fun. And snackable dough???? Why did no one tell me about this before now?

    1. Oh, man, you do NOT want to know HOW GOOD snackable dough is!


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