listcember

5 Things We Don’t Have to Do (List-cember #9)

I feel like a lot of end of year posts tell of things you did, and New Year’s posts tell of things you want to do or think you should. But for this last List-cember post, I wanted to share five things we don’t have to do—even though the world suggests we should.

There are so many good things in this world. So many good people, good hearts, good intentions and good words, but they are so often shoved into the background by greed, selfishness, jealousy, pride and fear—many of which are celebrated or encouraged—intentionally or not—by and on social media.

So, as we reflect on the year we’ve just finished and look forward into the year we have ahead, let’s try and remember that we don’t have to do these things, even if they seem easy, popular or what everyone else is doing.

Also, please hear me when I say that I don’t write this post from a motherly, all knowing, “perfect” perspective. I am just as guilty of these things as anyone else, and I write this as a letter to myself as well as anyone else who might come across it.

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1) Take things personally

Have you ever been driving on the freeway and wanted to change lanes but the person next to you is either going too slow, too fast, or for whatever reason, just won’t let you over, so you are FUMING, spewing words of hate at this person for being a terrible, selfish driver? Have you ever done so without turning on your blinker, thus not giving the person next to you any reason to know anything about your desire/need to change lanes, thus making them not a selfish, clueless idiot, but just an uninformed driver who is simply trying to get to their destination just like you?

I saw a post on Twitter a while back where a girl shared that one of the most valuable things her therapist ever told her was: “Not everything is about you.” While this seemed obvious at first, I realized how often I too assume this—as a driver or otherwise. Not necessarily in a selfish way, but in an anxious one that suggests, somehow, that everything everyone is doing is targeted at me—whether that be in a positive or negative way.

This is not necessarily surprising, as digital media has made us all believe we are the center of the universe. Algorithms are designed to cater to our needs and technology has been created to satisfy our every whim within seconds. As a result, I think we tend to forget that we aren’t the center of the universe. That there are opinions, perspectives and values that are different than ours—will always be different than ours—and those differences aren’t an attack on us, but rather a truth for someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, our values are important. Removing toxic people and things from your life is important. Unfollowing and/or muting friends and family members that only bring you frustration is important. Fighting for what you believe in is important. But encouraging progress and community by holding room for healthy conversations between opposing perspectives, rather than submitting to the taught behavior of blocking and ignoring all opinions and people that don’t agree with or celebrate you, is one of the most important things we can do right now.

Take a minute. Turn on your blinker and look out for others’. Remember that the things people say and the opinions they hold are built on more than just impulsivity. We are all products of our unique upbringings, and our values are defined by our core experiences. Your way of living is not the only way. So while you shouldn’t turn a blind eye to those blatantly trying to belittle or destroy your or others’ way of life, you also shouldn’t always assume that someone else’s way of life is a direct attack, slight, or even remotely related to or taking concern with yours. It is not always about you, or me, or any single person. Life was given to and made for all of us, and we can all make the world a better place by sharing our unique perspectives and listening to those of others.

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2) Have the last word

The idea of the “clap back”—of having a good retort to an insult or sarcastic comment—has become very popular online. People love to see the drama, to see the perfectly worded arguments and digital slaps to the face. I get it. I’ve tuned in to the drama and I understand wanting to be the smartest, wittiest or toughest. It can give you confidence, it can make you feel like the bigger person. But a lot of the time, it just drags you down.

Sometimes you might say something you don’t mean, just because you were trying so hard not to be the person who was left speechless or proved wrong. Sometimes you set yourself up for more hurt than the comment is worth. Sometimes you forget you can just let things go.

You can let the argument end, you can release the negativity associated with the situation. You can be the better person and realize that, maybe it doesn’t serve you to continue to try say the most hurtful, most clever, or most sarcastic thing. A lot can be said with silence. With not giving in to the invitation to fight or tear down.

Plus, the thing about drama is there will always be more, and people will always move on to the next big thing. But you, me, we are all left with the consequences of our actions, of our “last words.” So maybe sometimes we don’t throw that final punch, maybe we react with kindness, or maybe we say nothing at all.  

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3) Lean on drama for conversation

I am someone who at times is self-conscious about lulls in conversations. I often feel very responsible for keeping conversations going and read awkward silences as a fault or failure of mine. As a result, sometimes when I can’t think of anything else to say, my mind will reach for details that I’ve seen online or heard in passing conversation. Rumors beg to be spread in those moments, it’s what keeps them alive. But maybe next time you catch yourself without an obvious next topic of conversation, you don’t turn to the gossip and drama of other people’s lives. Maybe you just relax into a moment of thought. Maybe you get a little vulnerable and share something about your own life that you’ve never shared before. Maybe we stop spreading (or starting) negativity or judgement just to protect ourselves from discomfort or awkwardness.

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4) Make sense to everyone

2021 was a big year of getting to know myself. I spent a lot of time alone, a lot of time experiencing my own company and everything that entails. I got to know what I like and don’t like without the context, and thus the opinions or judgements of other people. Sometimes it was magical, sometimes it was terrifying and lonely. Because when you really get to know yourself, you learn who you truly are, and in understanding and accepting that person, it becomes harder and harder to present anyone else to others. And sometimes, when you present your truest self to others, it doesn’t make sense to them.

But that’s okay.

Your likes, dislikes, values, opinions, quirks and choices will not always make sense to everyone—and sometimes won’t make sense to anyone but you. But you are the only person living your life, so when it comes down to it, the only person you should make sense to is you.

The term “relatable” has become so enamored and sought after. We want other people to relate to and understand us, especially in our most vulnerable places. But it often takes someone stepping outside the box of relatability to share something actually relatable—even if it’s only to a select few people.

So let’s stop worrying about making sense to every person we meet—or every person we love. Let’s just learn who we are in our most honest states, and start introducing those people to the world.

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5) Witch Hunt

I get that the world has a lot of flaws, and I agree that some of them are unforgivable. I believe that there are people who abuse their power, manipulate others, commit unimaginable crimes, and treat people as less than human. There are people who need to be taken down, laws that need to be changed, directions and attitudes in the public that need to be adjusted and corrected. But waiting in the wings, listening with ears that only aim to cancel and condemn, and borderline hoping that someone makes a mistake solely so you can put them in their place—namely on video or in the spotlight of the social media comment section—does not actually do the world any good.

We live in a world that thrives off of cancel culture. Everyone claims to be furthering a greater cause, when most people are really just screaming at each other from opposing sides of an argument. We’ve stopped looking for ways to connect with each other and instead obsess over ways to destroy each other. We dig into each other’s pasts, unwilling to take notice of whether previous opinions, comments or mistakes have led us to become better, more productive, more educated human beings. We negate all progress and feed only on persecution, convinced that the destruction of bad people will result in the flourishment of good people. But we forget how much life goes into forming an opinion or person, and how far a simple redirection can go. How far a story can go. How far our vulnerability, our willingness to explain where we stand and why we stand there, can go.

So don’t write people off after one mistake. Don’t witch hunt. Don’t feed off of the failure of others. Communicate, encourage, and redirect. Prioritize community over cancellation.

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Happy New Year, y’all. May we take extra time and care to make this year as bright as possible, for as many as possible.

Wishing only good things for you, see you in 2022!


Check out more List-cember posts here.

2021 Goals Wrap Up (List-cember #6)

As always, the goals I set for this year took me a on a ride.

I am forever learning to go with the flow when things don’t quite go as I plan, and to tweak goals when appropriate.

I am also still learning and growing every year, which I love!

This is how my goals went this year:

1) Volunteer 5 timescompleted!

I mentioned in my Things I Tried this Year post that I took on a new role at Food Forward this year, which opened me up to volunteer more than I usually could. I also started actively volunteering at my church each month, and the combination of the two not only helped me reach this goal, but double it!

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2) Watch the sunrise completed-ish!

Early in the year my sister and I went to our first big wedding since COVID. (I wrote about it here.) We were both bridesmaids and so the weekend consisted of a handful of bridesmaid duties, including getting up super early the day of the wedding to get our hair and makeup done. My goals were fresh on my mind and my sister knew them too, so as we got in our car on the morning of the wedding, looking disheveled and tired, we noticed that the sun had only recently poked its head above the horizon.

“I think this counts as watching the sunrise,” my sister said, drinking her coffee.

“I think so too.”

In the moment, I assumed I’d plan another day where I would intentionally and officially watch the sunrise, but sleep won that argument for 40 straight weeks. Oops.

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3) Raise my VO2 Max score to 40completed!

To the distinguished court of “pics or it didn’t happen”, I’d like to call to the stand, my sister, Natalee, who can testify on my behalf that I did in fact raise my score to 40 in the summer of 2021. No, I did not take a picture, and yes, I did stop running about the time of my birthday and so my cardiovascular level, and thus my VO2 max score, has gone down to a 38 in the meantime BUT IT DID HAPPEN. I was a 40 for like, two whole months. Thank you, your honors, I rest.

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4) Get published

I think if I didn’t get so much writing done this year, I’d be more bummed about not being published, but I really did make great progress on so many projects. I wrote pieces that I’ve wanted to write for a long time, both for UCLA Extension classes and for myself, and I completed a big writing project that I can hopefully tell you about soon! Overall, I’m just really proud of how much time and effort I put into my writing this year, so I think that’s good enough.

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5) Donate blood or plasmacompleted!

The process of figuring out when and how it is best for me to give blood has been a journey (one that suggests I stick to donating only blood for now) but I did give blood twice this year and I’m going again tomorrow! So I’m very excited about that and I hope to keep giving in 2022!

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6) Reduce screen time to four hours (or less) day(barely) completed!

I initially set this goal to be three hours or less, but I changed it to four about halfway through the year. While I set this goal both to bring awareness to how much I’m on my phone, and to break the habit of reaching for my phone whenever I’m bored, mad, sad, etc., I started to become a little too obsessed with how much time I was on my phone rather than what I was using my phone for. After doing a little research into my screentime, I found that on a good week, when I don’t lean on social media or stare mindlessly at my phone rather than go to sleep, my screentime is about 3 ½ hours per day. It was hard for me to get it below that because I’m busy and like to check in with friends, take pictures, scribble out notes, scroll through new music, etc.  So for me, staying below four hours is both an attainable and maintainable goal both for now and the future.

Fun fact: My average screen time for 2021 was about 3.99 hours a day. So I made it by the actual skin of my teeth.

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7) Finish writing prompt book

I simply did not do this. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I remember being in a pretty good routine for the first few months and then I completely fell off. I just didn’t want to. But the point of this goal was to get me writing, which I did plenty of otherwise, so I’m not particularly bummed about this one.

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8) See one WLRAcompleted!

In case you missed our Epic October Trip, while in North Carolina visiting some family we did in fact check off one of the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions: The World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. It was gigantic, it was ridiculous, it was fantastic. I loved it.

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9) Read 5 books on this list

If you didn’t see the initial link for this list (which was in a post that is unfortunately gone now) I typed up the list and you can find it here. It is a list of 75 inspirational books, and I’m going to keep working my way through it in the years to come. This year, I read: The Noticer by Andy Andrews, The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, and Story of My Life by Helen Keller, which were all fantastic. My favorite of the bunch was probably The Noticer and I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for some fresh inspiration. Obviously, I didn’t reach the goal of five, but what can you do?

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10) Try 1 new recipe every month

I’m not really sure what happened with this one but come September I just kind of…stopped. I think it’s just because I got busy (and have remained busy, and will remain busy until roughly 2025) so when I was at home to make dinner, I just stuck with some of my reliable favorites rather than risking something new. I’m hoping to do more cooking next year though!

These are the recipes I tried this year:

January: Honey Garlic Pork Chops

February: Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi

March: Naan Pizza

April: Apple Spinach Salad

May: Seared Ahi Tuna Steaks

June: Honey Garlic Chicken Skillet

July: One Pan Italian Sausage & Veggies

August: Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza

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11) See all the movies nominated for best picture

Again, I started out so strong. When the nominees were released I watched half of them in a month. But then, I just…stopped. The ones I missed are still on my long list to watch, but the nominees for next year are right around the corner so I can’t make any promises. Of the nominees, I watched: Nomadland (which won!), Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal (which was by far my favorite), and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

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12) Finish my Dodger stadium cross stitchcompleted!

There came a point where I thought that I might be stitching grass for the rest of my life, but I did eventually finish, and I am so happy with the way it turned out! I got it framed at Michael’s and it now hangs on my wall as a testament to both 2020—which is when I started the cross stitch as my quarantine project—and to my grandma, who taught me how to cross stitch when I was seven ❤

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13) Learn to curl my hair

I asked for a straightener for last Christmas because I heard you can use it to curl short hair. I had such high hopes for this hack and for me not having to bug my sister to curl my hair whenever I want to look fancy. But she is so close—she is literally across the hall—and she is so free and all I have to do is sit there, so I remained curl un-educated. I did use the straightener to straighten my hair though, so it’s not like I completely neglected the straightener—just this goal.

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14) Try acupuncture

I was feeling really good going into this post but now I kind of feel like I did nothing? I opted out of trying acupuncture because I started going to the chiropractor regularly. Again, I’m not bummed, I stand by my choice, but I keep throwing up goose eggs on these goals and I’ll admit, it stings.

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15) Read 12 books of the Bible

I actually did better on this one than I thought I would. I wanted to read the Bible more and so I thought I’d cheat by making it a goal to read 12 books (or one book per month) because a good chunk of me is logically minded and I love checking off a goal. I did struggle however, finding a time to read. In the mornings I am running on routine alone and in the evenings I’m too tired to really focus, so it took a concerted effort both to open my bible rather than look at my phone (or read a different book) and to do it consistently. So I made it a point to do specific studies or to participate in guided readings of certain books, that way I could stay on task and actually absorb the text rather than just read it. In the end, I read eight books: Genesis, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Ruth, Esther, and 1 John.

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16) Keep my plant alive(can barely be considered) completed!

This was perhaps the biggest roller coaster of all. My sister gifted me a plant last Christmas that I was SO excited to receive and determined to care for and keep alive. Unfortunately, by April, that plant was dead. In May, I went to Ojai and bought a new plant because it was too beautiful not to buy, and once again set out on a plant mom journey. But by July, that plant was also dead. Clearly I have “the touch” but in my case, the touch is death. Finally, in August, I was gifted another plant—a ZZ plant which, and I quote, “tolerates neglect.” Now, neglect has never been my problem, I am more of a helicopter plant mom, but it was nice to be given guidelines to leave this plant ALONE. So I do. And it is still thriving. I think it’s even grown! So, with a live plant closing out my year, I think I’m going to count this goal as a success. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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17) Tuesday’s of 2021 projectcompleted!

This was a fun project and I kept up with it pretty well. The goal was to take a picture every single Tuesday of the year so that I could have a kind of Tuesday scrapbook. You will be able to hear more about this particular goal on Tuesday 12/28 a.k.a the final Tuesday of the year, but overall I say I both completed the goal and liked it!

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And that wraps up my goals for 2021!

I won some, I lost some. I completed some, I neglected some. But overall, they got me through the year and taught me a lot.

I’ve got 17 new goals for 2022 on the docket. Come back on Thursday to find out what they are!


Did you set any goals this year?

Check out more List-cember posts here.

The Best Things I Bought This Year (List-cember #3)

Since we are in the spirit of recommendations this week, and because I never get tired of reading lists of random things people like/bought/just thought were cool, I thought I’d share a handful of things I’m glad I bought this year. It’s a little bit of everything, which I personally find to be the most dangerous kind of list, because you can’t immediately convince yourself you won’t be tempted to buy anything because you don’t know what’s coming next.

In other words, this list is my (wallet’s) worst nightmare. So I apologize in advance if you find yourself *adding to cart* but just know that I love everything on this list so actually that apology was fake and I think you should do it.

1) Third Love Bras

These were mentioned on an early favorites post and they hold up. They are the first bras that have ever really fit me and they are SO comfortable. I will recommend them until my dying day. (find them here)

2) Ray-Ban sunglasses (Erika Classic)

For years I bought $10 sunglasses that I would throw in my purse and wear until they were too scratched to see out of, thinking I was a bargain shopper. But then I bought these and realized I was just being cheap and more or less going blind because none of those glasses were polarized and how was I even driving while wearing them? Things are better now. (find them here)

3) Aerie no-show underwear

I don’t know how to recommend underwear other than by saying, BUY THIS UNDERWEAR, because that’s the kind of customer review that really drives home a sale for me. So just, like, buy them. (find them here)

4) Free to Grow Tote bag from The Tote Project

I love this company and the causes it supports, and so I was happy to purchase a tote. I did not plan on falling in love with this tote, but I did. I take it on every grocery shopping trip. We have bought so much ice cream together. (find it here)

5) Lounge shorts from Old Navy

In the dead of summer, we all need a pair of shorts we can put on after we get home from work and rip our professional pants off. These were my go-to shorts. They are comfortable and just the right amount of high waisted. (find them here)

6) Big bottle of First Aid Beauty moisturizer

I feel like I could go on and on about this moisturizer as a moisturizer, but I also feel like that’s been said and done on many a beauty review. So instead I’m just here to tell you to buy the big bottle. It has lasted me almost the entire year, which is magical for any skincare product. So if/when (and it should be when) you buy this, go BIG. It’s worth it. (find it here)

7) Bralettes from Forever 21

I love doing yoga, but it is hard to find good shirts to do yoga in. Sometimes tank tops are too tight, other times t-shirts are too baggy and you wind up borderline suffocating while trying to hold downward dog. So, I started wearing these bralettes that are both cheap, comfortable, and not in danger of having a boob pop out. They check all of my boxes. (find them here)

8) Plain white Vans

For a long time I’ve wanted a pair of plain white sneakers because they go with everything and, if you can keep them relatively clean, I feel like they make you look like you’re put together. These were the perfect pair for me. (find them here)

9) Amazon Smart Plug

I never foresaw myself being one of the those people who has a “smart house.” I thought I might get a clap-on light—maybe. But I didn’t think I’d dip my toe into the world of Alexa being my appliance secretary. However, when my sister and I moved into our new apartment at the beginning of this year and the plug for my lamp was in seemingly the most inconvenient place, I decided to try an Amazon Smart Plug so that Alexa could do the footwork for me. Now I ask her to turn on my light every night and I say thank you as if she is a real person. (find it here)

10) Candles

In the last place my sister and I lived, it was part of our lease that we weren’t allowed to have candles in the house. This was devastating to me because I love candles and there are few things I enjoy more than standing in the candle aisle at the store sniffing. In our new place however, candles are fair game and I have been taking FULL advantage. Life is better and our apartment smells like heaven. (I like this one from Trader Joe’s and this one from Target)

11) Kate Spade purse

This is easily the most expensive thing on this list but not nearly expensive as it could have been because I bought it on super sale and felt like I was getting away with murder. For anyone out there wondering if they should get a new purse, this is your sign. Check out surprise.katespade.com. I won’t tell anyone. (find it here)

12) Small crossbody purse

Speaking of purses, shortly after I bought my Kate Spade bag, I realized that there are probably going to be a lot of occasions when I don’t need my Mary Poppins purse. Say, when I’m traveling, or going to the beach. So I grabbed this guy at Target that gives me just enough room to carry my phone, a small wallet and some chapstick and it has been perfect. (find it here)

13) Neutrogena Hydro Boost Eye Cream

I’ve had some troubles with eye allergies for the last couple years and at times it’s felt like I was Ryan Gosling, standing in front of Rachel McAdams in The Notebook, asking my eyes, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” Because it felt like everything I tried made things worse. But, with the help of these eye drops that I mentioned in a past favorites post, and this eye cream, I feel like me and my eyes are finally friends again. (find them at Target)

14) Pill case

This is the cutest little guy that I like to fill with varying assortments of (non prescription) pills in order to be the person that says, “yes! I have that” whenever someone should need an Advil, Benadryl, iron supplement, lactaid, etc. (find it here)

15) Floral Laptop case

I started a big writing project this summer and decided I wanted to buy a new laptop case to celebrate. It was kind of like buying a new outfit for the first day of school and I loved it. (find it here)

16) Amazon Utility hooks

I bought these when we moved into our new apartment on the off chance I might use them to hang things. And let me tell you, I hung EVERYTHING. These are so easy to install and can hold a good amount of weight. At this point they are like hidden Mickeys in our apartment. (find them here)

17) Foam Roller

I started going to the chiropractor this year and she recommended I buy one of these to do back stretches at home in between sessions. For me, it is a night and day difference. Plus, I learned to roll out my legs and my IT band has never been so happy with me.  (find it here)

18) Chick-fil-a Sauce

One day I was at the grocery store and I saw a two-for-one deal on full size Chick-fil-a sauces, so naturally I partook. I assumed I’d use it every once in a while, but I ended up putting it on practically everything. I was completely devastated when I ran out and I bought more the minute I went back to the store—it wasn’t on sale anymore but I didn’t even hesitate. That’s true love. (I found it at Ralph’s but check your local grocery store sauce aisle or probably Chick-fil-a…)

19) Olive & June Dry Drops

Let me start by saying, I have no idea how these work. All I know is: they do. If you do (or at least attempt) home manicures, you have to try these. I am the queen of smudging my thumb the minute after I paint it, and then proceeding to hate-remove the polish on every single nail as a result. But these babies dry your nails almost instantly, leaving little room for even me to mess them up. They are magic! (find them here)

20) Target blankets

At the start of fall, my sister and I decided to clean out our blanket stash. Some, of course, are sacred and irreplaceable, even when they’re shredded and old and barely alive. But others simply sit at the bottom of the pile, unused and unpicked, still in great shape but very much not the favorite. So, we separated out the ones we never use and donated them, and then bought two new ones from Target. Cozy doesn’t even begin to describe them.  (find them here and here)


Did you buy anything especially great this year? My wallet is both scared and curious to know.

Check out more List-cember posts here.

My 2021 Rec Roundup (List-cember #2)

“Best of” lists at the end of the year are some of my favorite things to read. So I always like to include my Rec Roundup in List-cember as my way of contributing to those.

If I were tougher, I’d rank the items in each category from 1 to 10, but honestly, narrowing myself down to 10 choices is hard enough.

So, these are my favorite favorites from this year. I hope you enjoy!

Note: these aren’t necessarily things that came out in 2021, but they are things that I found this year and loved.

Books

  • Survive the Night by Riley Sager
  • The Noticer by Andy Andrews
  • The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Guest List by Lucy Foley
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Live in Love by Lauren Akins
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Podcasts

  • CounterClock (especially season three!)
  • My Unsung Hero
  • Live in Love Podcast
  • A Slight Change of Plans
  • The Happiness Lab
  • The Basement Yard
  • Anatomy of Murder
  • The Proverbs 31 Ministries Podcast
  • Bouncing Forward with Amy Purdy
  • Other People’s Lives

Movies

  • Coda
  • The Last Letter from Your Lover
  • Tell Me Who I Am
  • The Broken Hearts Gallery
  • INSIDE
  • The Year Earth Changed
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal
  • The Dig
  • The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

TV Shows

  • Panic (Amazon Prime)
  • Love Life (HBO Max)
  • Bridgerton (Netflix)
  • The White Lotus (HBO Max)
  • Mare of Easttown (HBO Max)
  • Starstruck (HBO Max)
  • Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
  • Barry (HBO Max)
  • The Wilds (Prime Video)
  • The Morning Show (Apple TV+)

Music

  • Obviously by Lake Street Dive
  • All In by John Splithoff
  • Songs to Break Up To by Wild Rivers
  • Godsend by Riley Clemmons
  • One Foot in Front of the Other by Griff
  • SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo
  • star-crossed by Kacey Musgraves
  • Into the Mystery by Needtobreathe
  • Red (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift
  • 30 by Adele

Misc

Modern Different Newsletter: I’ll admit, I went in hard on newsletters this year. I subscribed to many—some might say too many—and as a result, I often fell behind on reading them. Never this one though. I always liked seeing a new issue in my inbox and I loved the unique product recommendations that were always inside. (find it here.)

Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi: This was easily my most made recipe of the year. It’s easy, it’s delicious and it makes a lot. Highly recommend if you’re looking for a quick weeknight dinner! (find the recipe here)

KIND Bar Subscription: I never would have imagined I’d be a loyal subscriber to KIND bar content, but here we are. After trying and loving their Breakfast Protein Bars at the beginning of the year, I subscribed to their delivery service, that gives you x number of bars (you choose) per month/every other month/etc. I love having a variety of different choices to grab on the go for breakfast, and in doing the math, I’m saving money in the long run by ordering them in bulk straight from the source! I’d love to say this is sponsored, but it is isn’t—though it could be, Mrs. KIND. (find it here.)

Do you have any favorites from this year?

Let me know!


Check out more List-cember posts here.

And you can check out last year’s Rec Roundup here.

My Year in Pictures (List-cember #7)

One of the more obscure goals I set for myself in 2020 was to make an “emotion scrapbook.” My idea was to try and create a more accurate depiction of my year, by taking pictures when I felt a wide range of emotions, rather than just when I was happy, excited, or in need of making people jealous with whatever dessert I just ordered.  I wanted to take pictures when I was sad, when I was angry, etc., to try and remember those days and honor them.

As it turns out, it is simply not my first instinct to take pictures when I’m feeling those kinds of emotions. Often I turn to writing instead, whether it is in the form of a blog post, a few pages scribbled in my journal, or a run-on sentence in the Notes app on my phone. That being said, with this goal in the back of my mind, I did make a conscious effort to take more pictures this year. Whenever I got that I should take a picture of this feeling, I tried to roll with it. And as a result, I got a pretty wide range of photos that tell the story of this crazy year.

Here are some of my favorites:

1) The Band

On one of the very first weekends of the year, my family drove up to visit our cousins at the beach. That Friday night, my sister, my cousin, Taryn, and I casually decided to learn a Tik-Tok dance before we went to bed, but ended up staying up until 2:00 a.m. choreographing our own music video. To this day no one can figure out how it progressed to that, but it was by far one of my favorite nights of the whole year.

2) Kobe

Kobe’s death rocked the world, but it especially hit hard in Los Angeles, where so many fans gathered in front of the Staples Center to pay tribute to a man who had been the hero of their city. My family and I went to pay our respects and to see these murals that were set outside for fans to sign. It was an incredibly moving sight.

3) Persimmons

I took this photo at a farmer’s market I volunteered at in February. Dried persimmons are hard to find, but they are also my mom’s favorite, so when I asked a vendor if she had any and she opened up this absolute treasure chest, I audibly gasped and took a picture.

4) The Quarantine Collection

Never would I ever have guessed I’d spend so many hours on Zoom and Facetime this year, but I swear that friend and family time is what made those lonely, blurry months of quarantine bearable.

5) Home Gym

My brother is an avid rock climber, so when lockdown kept him home, he had to get creative with ways to both keep himself busy and in shape. I’m not sure if I dared him to do this or if he just suggested he could and I followed closely behind him with my camera for proof, but either way, I got the shot.

6) Cousin Quarantine Olympics

One summer weekend, my brother, sister and I met our cousins up in the mountains for a little quarantined getaway and decided to hold the first ever Cousin Quarantine Olympics. This was a heated, neck in neck competition that included games like, who can build the best Jenga tower? and who can move an Oreo from their forehead to their mouth—using only their face—the fastest? I did not make the podium.

7) The beach

This picture was taken on a Saturday evening spent at the beach. On a whim we decided to drive up and watch the sunset and it turned into such a fun, easy day, where for a little while I felt like everything was going to be okay. (I wrote this blog post about it.)

8) Backyard Dinners

This was taken in the backyard of my friends Rachel & Dylan’s house, where we spent many a socially distanced evening hanging out, talking, grilling burgers, and watching the Dodger game. They even hosted a small, COVID friendly, backyard movie night for my birthday in September, which was incredibly lovely and wonderful. 

9) Neo

June was a bit of a rough month for my family, with a lot of things moving in a lot of different directions and a lot of questions not being answered. This picture was taken in a brighter moment at the beginning of July, on a night we drove to the beach in hopes of catching a glimpse of the comet Neowise.

10) Defeated

I was barely able to take this very strange, blurry picture of my sister because I was giggling so much. And while this exact moment of the day can bring a smile to my face, the day as a whole was a tough one. I remember telling my sister as we sat in our living room chairs that I “just felt defeated from minute one.” It seemed like every hard thing from the day, the year, my life, everything was weighing on my shoulders that day and I felt so heavy and stressed and overwhelmed. I wasn’t really ready to talk about it, mostly because I was afraid if I started I might burst into tears, but I was in need of some company. So, that night my sister and I ordered two pizzas and two bottles of wine and we sat in our living room—each drinking our respective wine straight from the bottle—and watched a movie.

11) Celebrity

This photo never fails to make me smile. Mostly because I think it looks like I squeezed in to take a picture with a celebrity who was trying to fly under the radar, but also because it is very unlike me to have volunteered to take this picture. I rarely, if ever, take “selfies” and, (not so) fun fact, I was just getting over an eye infection and was still unable to wear eye makeup. Nevertheless, I was having a good day and was cracking up at this makeshift mask my cousin put on before we stepped in to a restaurant to order takeout.

12) The Notch

I took this while sitting in a fold up chair, fishing in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. This mini getaway was one of the only bits of traveling I did for the year and to be honest, as I sat in that chair, I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the room I had to think and digest the happenings of the year. (I wrote a little bit about it in this blog.)

13) Solvang Waterfall

While on my dad’s birthday trip to Solvang in November, we went on a small hike to a waterfall. And while the waterfall itself was skinny and slow moving, the view around it was beautiful!

14) The Jump

When in 2020, baby showers are required to be small and safe. Which is why one Friday evening my sister and I blew up tons of balloons to host a part of four (including the mom to be). It was such a nice, relaxing evening that included a small photoshoot that was made possible by self-timer and a ladder that we dragged in from the garage. This blurry, chaotic mess of a jumping picture is by far one of my favorite pictures of the bunch.

15) Baking Cookies

One of the best parts of this year was my baby cousin Easton being born in June, and one of the best parts of this holiday season was getting to meet him for the very first time! Usually in December we have a family cookie baking day where a big group of us gets together and bakes recipes that have been passed down for generations, but this year was the first year in my entire life that we had to cancel. And while it was heartbreaking, we exchanged pictures back and forth, showing we were making the recipes at home, keeping the tradition alive until we can all see each other again next year. At my parents’ house, we introduced Easton to our holiday tradition, and even tried our hand at making handprint (or salt dough) ornaments. I think he thought we were nuts, but they turned out really cute.


Check out more List-cember posts here.

2020 Goals Wrap Up (List-cember #6)

It’s safe to say that many of the goals I set for 2020 were compromised by COVID and the corresponding shutdowns. But I also did my best to adapt and set milestones for myself that helped me see through the blur of quarantine and remain calm during the chaos of the year. So while this goal recap is a little different than those of years past, it still makes me proud and excited to see what I accomplished this year. Let’s have a look!

1) Kick a field goal

I’m considering this one pending, as there is still time left in this year and I think my cousins and I might be able to sneak this one in over the next couple weeks.

2) Learn Spanish – she’s on a roll!

This was a continuation goal from 2019, and I must say, if you are looking for a fun way to challenge yourself, I highly recommend downloading Duolingo and learning a new language. I was delighted to receive a “year in review” report that showed me I spent over 1618 minutes (which is almost 27 hours) learning Spanish. Obviously this goal is still far from being completed, but I’ve learned a ton this year and am excited to learn more!

3) Do a pullup changed to finish the ciabatta workouts almost done!

I’ve had “do a pullup” on my list for a couple years now. And while I could blame my lack of progress on the fact that gyms were closed for most of the year, if I’m being honest, I’ve also just lost interest in it. I think I saw doing unassisted pullups as an overarching mile marker of upper body strength, but doing things like yoga has shown me there are many different ways to strengthen your body—looking at you chaturanga—and many ways to feel strong. Thus, I decided to change this goal to finishing all eight “ciabatta” workouts my friend Mel created (that I mentioned in this post). They are hard, but in a good way and they always leave me feeling exhausted and convinced that I am made of pure muscle, stamina, and greatness. Six down, two to go!

4) Volunteer (at least) 5 times – completed!

I am very pleased to say that even amongst the restrictions, I was able to achieve this goal! After volunteering with one of my favorite Southern California nonprofits, Food Forward, in February, the months of quarantine and lockdown brought the opportunity to volunteer at my church, which ran a weekly drive-thru food drive for families in need. I felt very lucky to be a part of it!

5) Write 5 positive Yelp reviews – completed!

As someone who is a big reader of reviews but a rare writer of reviews, I wanted to start doing my part. And so, in the few new places I was able to visit and/or order from this year, I made sure to write them a review.

6) Donate plasma changed to give blood – completed!

A couple years ago I made it a goal to give blood, and then this year I wanted to take the next step and donate plasma. But while I did the research, I will admit, after many months in quarantine, I lost my nerve. However, this past week I made an appointment and gave blood with no problem, so I am going to try and work my way back up to plasma next year.

7) 30 Day Cleaning challenge – completed!

When I am stressed, I clean. So needless to say, there is absolutely nothing in my house that I did not clean this year.

8) Savings challengecompleted-ish!

It could also be said that when I’m stressed I online shop. Because when the world is falling apart around you, maybe a soft hoodie can help, you know? So while I did allocate money into savings, it wasn’t as much as I anticipated, but I just feel lucky to have had the opportunity to keep my job and continue to make money, so that is all I’m saying on that.

9) Purchase one charity t-shirt per month completed!

This was a fun goal and one that I enjoyed researching each month. I will admit, I did take some creative liberties and at times bought things other than t-shirts, like hoodies or hats, but it was fun knowing that I was buying something for a good cause. I’ve linked those that are still available 😊

10) Pay it forward

I actually found this one surprisingly difficult, mostly because I tended to order in rather than drive-thru. But I tried to make up for it in other ways, often noting when I had left over change that I didn’t need or could spare to tip someone more than was recommended.

11) Take a self-defense class

This one will have to be put on the backburner for now, but I am still interested in it.

12) Go to (at least) 5 concerts

*sighs*

13) Take a writing classcompleted!

As I mentioned in this post, I took a class through UCLA Extension and was thrilled with it. It was amazing to be challenged in my writing and to have a reason to really dig in and write about things that I might otherwise not have. I’m very excited to take my next class this January!

14) Go to 5 breweries changed to go to 5 breweries or wineries

Among the varying waves of COVID restrictions, I was able to find wineries with friends and family that were safely open for outside tastings. These made up some of my favorite memories of the year and were such a nice taste of normalcy. I went to:

  1. Barrelhouse Brewery
  2. Rava Winery
  3. Peachy Canyon Winery
  4. Brickbarn Winery
  5. Lucas & Lewellen Winery

15) Go to a comedy show

This was another one that simply wasn’t possible this year, but hopefully will be soon!

16) The Emotion Scrapbook – completed-ish!

This one turned less into a “scrapbook” and more into a renewed dedication to document things that mattered to me. I made a conscious effort to do better at taking more pictures this year, even if it meant being the person saying, “hold on, hold on” which often makes me uncomfortable. As a result, in this Thursday’s List-cember post, I have a list of my favorite pictures I took this year—one of which involved my brother hanging upside down by his toes in my parents’ backyard, which is surely not one of my mom’s favorite photos.

17) Make a time capsule

I think when I wrote this goal I had thoughts of marking the start of a new decade, the start of my 30’s, etc. I had no idea what was to come. But now I’m more motivated than ever to make a little time capsule, as this year is one beyond belief, and one that, in 10 years will (hopefully) be far behind us and worth reflecting on. So in these last couple weeks of the year I’m going to pull together some things that represent 2020, showcase where I’m at in my life, allude to the state of the world, etc., and in 10 years I’ll be able to see how far we’ve all come.  


Check out more List-cember posts here.

Things I’m Excited to See Again (List-cember #4)

While things are very much still tough, and the approach of the new year doesn’t have so much magic as it does desperate hope for something better, I am trying my best to think about the good things. It’s unclear when life will go completely back to “normal” or when we will be able to do all that we love and miss again, but we will get there one day. And when we do, these are some of the things I’m excited to see:

1) People walking to school

I’m excited see young kids, with backpacks hanging low on their shoulders, almost shadowing their entire frame, holding the hands of their parent or grandparent or older sibling as they make their way across the street towards the gates of their school. I’m excited to see high schoolers, walking in groups laughing or alone thinking, sitting in their cars wondering or opening up their lockers hoping that today will be a good day. And I’m excited to see college students, walking both lazily and with purpose, in sweatpants and suits, barely making it to class or betting their entire future on it.

2) Full cars

I’m excited to see cars full of families, silhouetted heads moving this way and that, with suitcases piled high on the roof, bikes strapped to the back, or a trailer being pulled behind. I’m excited to wonder where they’re going, if it’s a weekend getaway, a cross country road trip, or perhaps a new house, to start a new life in a new city. 

3) Smiles

I’m excited to see the big, face changing smiles, the small, polite ones, the unexpected, undeniable ones, the shy, nervous ones, and the ones that connect you to a stranger as you both shake your head as a way to say, can you believe this guy? I’m excited to see smiles freshly whitened, smiles made of braces, and smiles with teeth missing and awaiting reward from the tooth fairy. Most of all I’m excited to stop avoiding eye contact simply because I’m afraid my mask will hide my smile and my sunglasses will hide my eyes, making it impossible for me to let someone know that I hope they have a good day.

4) Sports fans jumping from their seats

I’m excited to see stadiums packed with people, sitting side by side, on the edge of their seats, hoping for a big play, a big moment, and doing their best to cheer and rally their fellow fans. I’m excited to see them stand, and to stand with them, clapping and chanting and tapping their team’s name across the fronts of their jerseys. I’m excited to see that big moment happen, and to hear the gasps and excitement and energy rip through the entire stadium, bringing everyone to their feet, hugging and high fiving.

5) My whole family—up close and personal

I’m excited to be able to stand with my arm around a cousin or my head on the shoulder of an aunt, or to sit right next to my grandpa and watch a baseball game. I’m excited to eat chips from the same bowl and dip them in our family’s homemade guacamole, to swap Christmas cookies and cheers late night drinks. I’m excited to plan each and every annual family gathering, to catch up and share stories, take group pictures and spend way too long hugging each other as we try to say goodbye.

6) Movie previews

I’m excited to walk into a theater right before the room goes dark, and to look over at my sister and guess how many previews are going to play before the movie—I always guess four. I’m excited to whisper things like, “that looks good” or “I’ve been waiting for this!” or “what on earth is that?” And I’m excited to finish whatever snack I brought or bought before the previews even end, and not feel mad or sad, but content and prepared to sink into my seat and watch a movie on the big screen.

7) “OPEN” signs

I’m excited to drive around town, hungry or bored, or just in the mood to explore and see all the restaurants and stores and gyms and parks and churches and salons and bookstores and museums open and ready for business. Ready to welcome customers and families and people looking to try something new or return to something they love. I’m ready to watch people hold the door for each other, to eavesdrop on what other people are buying or ordering or talking about, to spy on the cute boy at the gym or look over at the person typing furiously on their keyboard in a coffee shop. I’m excited for the world to open back up, for people to open back up, and for the hope and unity we’ve been struggling to find over this last year to finally, truly, bring us together into the new normal.  


Check out more List-cember posts here.

My 2020 Rec Roundup (List-cember #3)

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year is to look at everyone’s “best of” lists. I love recommendation lists and you will find my notebook, my phone, and sometimes even my hands covered in scribbled notes of things to check out. So, since I know I will be actively consuming these lists, I think it’s only fair to contribute one of my own.

Here are my favorite things from 2020:

Note: these aren’t necessarily things that came out in 2020, but they are things that I found this year and loved.

Books

  • Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
  • Sorry I’m Late I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan
  • Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic by Michael McCreary
  • The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
  • This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
  • A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost
  • Black Widow by Leslie Gray Streeter
  • A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw

Podcasts

  • Pretty Big Deal w/ Ashley Graham
  • Truth & Lies: Jeffrey Epstein
  • Straight Up w/ Trent Shelton
  • Dolly Parton’s America
  • Everyday Decisions w/ Jo Firestone
  • Off Air with Joe & Orel
  • 1619
  • The Next Right Thing
  • Human Seeking Human
  • Song Exploder

Movies

  • Little Women
  • 1917
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Emma
  • Brittany Runs a Marathon
  • Home Again
  • Troop Zero
  • Swiss Army Man
  • Peanut Butter Falcon
  • Knives Out

TV Shows

  • Schitt’s Creek
  • Hunters
  • Outer Banks
  • Dark
  • Never Have I Ever
  • Normal People
  • Emily in Paris
  • Pen15
  • Peaky Blinders
  • The Queen’s Gambit

Music

  • Rare by Selena Gomez
  • Ocean by Lady Antebellum
  • Apart by Léon
  • Lady Like by Ingrid Andress
  • Go Somewhere by John Splithoff
  • State of the Heart by Patrick Droney
  • Kelsea by Kelsea Ballerini
  • folklore by Taylor Swift
  • The Otherside by Cam
  • Sad Hunk by Bahamas

Misc

Take the Day off Cleansing Balm: This is hands down the best makeup remover I’ve ever used. Not only does it get allll of my makeup off, it doesn’t irritate my skin, and it lasts for a long time. (find it here.)

Aveda Shampoo: I feel like I’ve been looking for “the right” shampoo for my hair for a long time and to my absolute delight, I finally found it in this one. This was an intensely impulsive purchase that was brought on by quarantine boredom, but it has been a lifesaver! Pro-tip: if you try it and like the shampoo, just get jumbo size bottle, it’s worth it. (find it here.)

Tangle: This bi-partisan newsletter was a valuable find for me, especially this year when there were so many important conversations being had. I liked being given both sides of an argument rather than trying to weed out the truth between all the screaming and arguing that took place on opposing sides. (find it here.)

AirPods: I would have never guessed that I’d be finishing out the year recommended AirPods as one of my favorite things but I would be lying if I said I haven’t used them absolutely every day since I bought them. These have especially been a lifesaver for listening to music at work, doing chores, talking on the phone, etc., because I no longer have to worry about the cords of my old headphones. (find them here.)


Check out more List-cember posts here.

And you can check out last year’s Rec Roundup here.

10 Things I Tried this Year (List-cember #2)

I’m a sucker for a new hobby.

I’m also a sucker for going hard into a new hobby and then forgetting about it for months.

But alas, I keep searching. I keep hobby-ing. I keep trying to find things that I like, that I could maybe, eventually even love, and things that can help me learn about myself, about the world and how I fit in it.

This year, with so many things being closed for so long, it was hard to try new things, but with so much extra time on my hands, it was hard not to try new things.   So I did a little bit of both.

Here are 10 of my favorite things I tried this year:

1) Digitizing National Archives

If you don’t mind a little bit of busy work, this is a great thing to do both to pass the time and to help make historical records more accessible. It’s super easy, fun, and can be done remotely. I usually try to log on and do it for about a half hour at a time. (Check it out here)

2) UCLA Extension Writing Class

Taking a writing class was actually on my list of goals for 2020, and I was very excited to not only find a class through UCLA Extension, but also a Creative Writing Certificate program that I am now a part of. Next week, I finish up my first class of the program and I can’t wait for the next one! If you are interested, they have all kinds of classes and open enrollment for the winter quarter is now open! (Check it out here)

3) Pickleball

If you have never heard of pickleball, or have never taken the time to look it up (like me) it is essentially the love child of tennis and ping pong. You play with paddles and a wiffle ball, on a court about half the size of a tennis court, and you are worse than you think will be when you start. One of my best friends and I decided to take it up as a new hobby and we are having a blast. Look out for us on the courts, we plan to play until we qualify for the senior citizen leagues, grey hair and all.

4) Going to the chiropractor

My mom and sister have been going to the chiropractor for years now but I have always been way too scared to join them. The thought of willingly letting someone crack your neck sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. But, after having a few years of constant pain in the base of my neck and shoulders, I decided to give it a go, and let me tell you, I am now a believer! I’ve gone twice now and I would have never expected the results I have gotten. Not only did she *literally* realign me, but she pointed out some things to focus on with my posture that might have been contributing to the neck pain, and overall just performed voodoo magic on my bones.

5) Using a planner

I mentioned this planner in my favorites for May & June, and I still very much love it. I will admit, I’ve fallen out of the habit a little bit and sometimes make to-do lists that I don’t look at for weeks at a time—which is not only frustrating for my desire to make a habit of using the planner, but also quite frustrating when I open the planner weeks later and find I still haven’t completed items on my to-do list. That being said however, if you are looking for a planner, this one is great and it is undated, which works wonders for forgetful people like me.

6) Mealime

I go through phases of planning my meals, not based on interest but rather the willingness to plan and then go to the store to buy the ingredients to carry out said plan. It was by pure impulse that I downloaded this app that helps you pick and plan your meals and even makes you a grocery list to keep track of which ingredients you will need. I love the layout of the app and definitely foresee myself using it more after the holidays—when my diet isn’t primarily cookies.

7) Overnight Oats

These were truly a love that I did not expect to find. I have never been an oatmeal person as I find it too mushy, so I never expected to like overnight oats. But this recipe really surprised me and there have been few weekday mornings since I found it that I don’t have a mason jar of oats to grab on my way out the door.  YUM.

8) Modified HIIT workouts

I hate HIIT workouts. I hate jumping, I hate circuits, I generally hate feeling like I’m going to die for every minute of a workout. This is why I stick to running and yoga and pickleball. However, my friend Mel recently graduated with a doctorate in physical therapy and started releasing weekly HIIT workouts that I wanted to check out. And lucky for me, she showcased a lot of modifications that are not only friendly for those (like me) looking for lower impact/non jumping workouts, but also those (like me) who might be working out on a second story, with my sister working from home right below me. (Check out @ptmelmel on Instagram for the workouts, especially those of you who ski/snowboard, her “ciabatta” series is designed especially for snow season!)

9) Pimple patches

If I’m being honest, I’m almost upset by how great these work, because I feel like this is a secret that has been kept from me for TOO LONG. I especially like these ones you can get for very cheap on Amazon. They are small, barely visible, super effective and don’t leave your skin dry and irritated. High school me would have died for these.

10) Join a book club

I have always wanted to be a part of a book club, and when COVID hit I was pretty devastated that this was something that was pretty out of reach for me to find. But then in October, I came across Literati, which is a group of book clubs that all have different themes and are run by different moderators. And what’s more, while you choose which club to be in, if you are more interested in the book of another club for a specific month, you can switch! There’s also an app you can download to join the conversation about the book, and while I’d love to tell you all about it, I am already behind on my reading and have not opened the app once so one could argue I am failing at being in a book club but I would disagree, if only to maintain my dignity.


Did you try anything this year that you loved?

My Favorite Ornaments on My Tree (List-cember #1)

Hello and happy December List-cember to you! I have made it a tradition on my blog that in December every post is centered around lists, and here we are again, in year five!

You can check out some of the previous List-cember posts here, otherwise let’s get started!

If I’m being honest, alongside my sister, I broke every rule this year. We watched our first Christmas movie before Halloween and had our Christmas decorations up by the first week of November—but can you blame us? There’s just something special about Christmas time and all the goodness that comes with it, and this year we were in a hurry to get to all that good stuff.

Usually during List-cember I give out “superlatives” to the many ornaments in my life, but this year, after having spent so many months isolated from family, friends and all things “normal”, I just wanted to highlight some of my favorites.  These are the ornaments that make me smile and give me hope that good years with good memories and even more good ornaments to commemorate them are ahead of us.

1) The Burrito

Ornaments are meant to highlight people and things that you love, right? Well one thing my family can agree on—almost every time we order-in for dinner—is burritos. My sister likes to joke (even though she’s serious) that she has Chipotle on speed dial, but our burrito backlog goes far beyond the local chain. So for a time of year when so many other foods and food groups reign supreme, I love having an ode to burritos up there on our tree, reminding us that yes, you should order-in tonight, you deserve it.  

2) The Fireplace

Some of my favorite ornaments on my parents’ tree are those with family names handwritten on snowmen, stockings, Santa hats, etc., so when I saw this ornament a couple years ago, I couldn’t resist bringing it home and making one of my own. And with our roommate Rachel moved out into a new house now, this ornament is even more special, as it now commemorates the time we all lived together, which is full of so many happy memories.

3) Yoga Santa

I love me some yoga, and I got even more into it this year during quarantine. Yoga Santa reminds me to relax, and to stop stressing—because compared to a guy who has to deliver presents to the entire world in one night, how big could my problems really be?

4) New York

Last year my family took a trip to New York for a whirlwind weekend to see the New York Giants play. It was only a few months before the world took a turn for the ‘rona and is one of the last times I remember being out and about without a mask on. So while I look at this ornament longingly for a time before 2020, I also look at it with the hope that one day this will all be behind us.

5) The Shark

My roommates and I nabbed this guy when I signed us up for a bar crawl a few years back. He came in our gigantic fishbowl of a drink and, me being the sentimental being that I am, stuck him in my purse to keep forever. For reasons lost to time (and alcohol) we named him “Timothy Bruce Henry” and he might be the only homemade shark ornament I’ll ever encounter.

6) Candy Cane

These are a staple on my grandma and grandpa’s tree that were handmade by my grandma herself. And not to paint myself as a thief, but (along with shark) I also stole this. But it was from my grandparents’ house and they have lots of extras and definitely would have freely given it to me if I asked—so it’s only, like, half stolen.

7) Michael Strahan

As a Giants fan you can’t not like Michael Strahan. And as a loyal Giants fan, you can’t not look at this ornament and feel desperately nostalgic for a time when you were a Superbowl champion. *sigh*

8) Jameson Distillery

For the longest time it was my sister’s dream to go to Ireland, and in 2016, we were able to make that happen. Then, in June of last year, we were able to go back—and even visit London and Paris too!—to show our family the place we’d fallen in love with, which made it all the more incredible. This ornament is from one of our favorite places, and where, without shame, we all got a little buzzed at 10:00 a.m. on a weekday morning.  

9) Turtledove

Similar to the candy cane, this ornament has special meaning as it came from my grammie and papa’s tree. You’ll be happy to know I didn’t steal this one, though I might say I did, just to up my street cred. Because as we all know, stolen turtledove ornaments are worth infinite street cred.

10) Cheeseburger Topper

While tradition is key during this time of year and one might expect to see a star or an angel at the top of the tree, we consistently and unabashedly put this cheeseburger with legs on top. I can’t tell you why or when it started, only that it is strange and glorious and weirdly normal at this point. It makes me smile every time I see it, and especially every time someone comes over and takes brief moment to pause and ask, tentatively, “is that–is that a cheeseburger?