In the coming weeks, in honor of Oprah, our contributors are going to be sharing a few of their favorite things with you. Lisa Van De Graaff came up with the idea and leads us off here…

In honor of Oprah, my favorite things!

by Lisa Van De Graaff

Burt’s Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil – It moisturizes beautifully, and the touch of light color makes me feel feminine. I pack it around in my pocket and use it several times a day!

My Passport – The freedom to travel around the world, experience new cultures, see for myself the things I read about in National Geographic Magazine (while pretending to be a NG photographer), and EAT! I challenge myself to fill every space before it expires, and I came close with the last one!

Flour sack towels – I’m particularly fond of embroidered ones, since they make me feel like my Grandmother and Great-Grandmother are cooking with me. More practically, I pull out a huge stack and set it on the counter as I begin a large cooking project. They are handy whenever I need a fresh towel to pat strawberries dry before dipping the berries in chocolate, to clean the crumbs off my knife for the next perfect slice of banana bread, to wring the water out of spinach for spanakopita, or, of course, to dry my hands after washing. I toss them in a pile as they get soiled and clean ’em up all at once at the end of my culinary explorations. They wash up beautifully with a little bleach. (Don’t use the towels to sop up cooking oil or bacon grease – The oil can be flammable in the heat of the dryer.)

Nitrile Gardening Gloves – These are from Gardener’s Supply Company, and they are flexible for good gripping and movement, breathable so my hands don’t sweat, and waterproof enough for most gardening tasks. I have two pair, and I use them exclusively when doing yard work. (Hands need nurturing, so apply a generous dose of hand cream after gardening.)

Cardamom – My passion for spices and herbs runs deep, and I get a bit fanatic about them. Right now, it is all about the cardamom – green pods float in my morning coffee, pancakes and scones include a generous teaspoon of ground cardamom, and Halibut will never be boring again. Mmmmm!

My Camera – I’ve had various cameras seemingly permanently connected to my body since high school, but my most recent favorite is a Canon EOS 40D. It is heavy, but I love the big screen to review images and the practically nonexistent delay. It is almost as good as my old 35mm SLR (I still long for the darkroom).  I get great photographs of my daughter – which is fulfilling as a mother – and I can take artsy images of food, flowers, and travels to nurture my creative self.

Tank Tops – They are for more that pajamas! I’m especially fond of the ones that are all cotton with spaghetti straps, and I like to wear one instead of a bra under t-shirts to give me a bit of support but allow my breasts to move for better lymph drainage. It is especially fun to match them to my panties…

Technology – I am so very grateful for Facebook, Skype, email, texting, and cell phones. I live far from family, and while a tweet is no substitute for a long face-to-face chat over a cup of tea, it does keep me in daily contact with loved ones between visits.  While some bemoan the minutiae that appear on these sites, they give me an intimate look into the life of those people I love but can’t see every day.