listcember

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?

17 Goals for 2020 (List-cember #8)

It’s that time of year again, y’all.

I’m going to be honest, this list was not easy to make this year.

My 2019 was absolutely CRAZY in terms of busyness, so a lot of my goals were left unattended and it made me very discouraged. For a hot second I thought about not setting any goals at all, but then I was tempted by the mistress of a new decade and here we are.

In the past, I’ve picked goals based on their grandeur and their promise of a big, impressive challenge, however, I’ve worked hard on learning to pick things that I like, that I want to do, and that can challenge me in ways I want to be challenged.

So, with that being said, I am very excited to share my goals for the new year, the new decade! May we all make 2020 our bitch.

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1) Kick a field goal

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I have exactly zero talent in anything relating to football (except watching it) but I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to kick a field goal. So, this year, I plan on 1) buying a football, and 2) trying my hand foot at field goals.

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2) Learn Spanish

I replaced one of my original goals for 2019 mid year with “learn Spanish,” and since I am in no way a linguistic prodigy, I am not yet fluent in the language, thus I’m keeping it on here. And since there’s no way to really gage how far along in a language you are, I’m going to base my progress on the app I’ve been using to learn it. Duolingo divides languages into sections and as of now I’m at the end of Section 1, so my goal by the end of 2020 is to finish Section 3. Deséame suerte!

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3) Do a pull up

This is another repeat from last year because damn it, I’ve made progress but not enough. Upper body strength has just never been my strong suit, but I’m working on it!

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4) Volunteer (at least) 5 times

This is a regular on my list of goals and it never fails to be one of my favorites.

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5) Write positive Yelp reviews

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I didn’t put a concrete number on this one like I usually do, but that’s only because it’s hard to know how many new places you’ll visit in a year, you know? But I wanted to put in on this list because I feel like there aren’t enough good reviews on the internet. People are quick to log on and write horrible, scathing reviews, but often forget to share their positive experiences. So I’m hoping to find good things and write good reviews about those good things, so that other people can find those good things.

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6) Donate plasma

A couple years ago I made it a goal of mine to donate blood, and while it took me two tries to do it, I was so glad I did! This year, I’m hoping to donate plasma, which can be in just as high of demand as blood. Check out where you can donate plasma here.

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7) 30 Cleaning Challenge

I have been in desperate need of a deep clean in my life, and I think this challenge is just the place to start. I don’t plan on doing the challenge in order or all at once, I’m just using it as a checklist/baseline for the massive clean I’m going to do around my house. Call me a nerd, but I am PUMPED.

30dayCleaningChallenge

You can download the PDF here.

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8) Savings Challenge

This one makes me a little less pumped, only because it’s been pretty fun spending money I don’t have for the last couple years. But I would really love to get back into the habit of saving, and build up an account that I can use for splurging, rather than just closing my eyes, hitting purchase and crossing my fingers that the stars align and all my bills get paid. I’ve seen a bunch of different challenges out there, and while I don’t think I’m going to stick to any by the letter, I’m going to use this one as a baseline.

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9) Purchase one charity t-shirt per month

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A few years ago I wrote a blog post all about t-shirts you can buy that will benefit great charities. I love a t-shirt with a cause, and so I decided a cool way to donate money to charity each month would be to buy a t-shirt from a specific charity. The way I see it, you donate money to a charity, you get a great t-shirt, which then gives visibility to that charity! It’s a win win win. I can’t wait! (Find this t-shirt here)

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10) Pay it forward

Have you ever had someone in front of you pay for your food/coffee/etc? I have had someone do it for me once, but I have never done it myself. So this year I’m hoping to give it a try. Personally I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do it in front of anyone, but I’d love to hop in a drive thru, pay for the person behind me, and then sneak away so the receiving party could be surprised.

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11) Take a self defense class

I think this is important for anyone, but I feel particularly drawn to it as a woman. What can I say, I want to feel safe, I want to feel tough(er), and I want to give off that BDE. You know, badass defense energy.

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12) Go to (at least) 5 concerts

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Last year I was lucky enough to go to a handful of amazing concerts and it reminded me why I love them so much. There are few things better than live music, and so I want to make it more of a priority to see it. As of now, I’m happy to report I already have 3 on the calendar! 🙂

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13) Take a writing class

I love blogging and it has always been my dream to write a book, but since it was a passion I found after college, I never took a class that might help hone my skills and better my ability to express myself through writing. So I’m hoping to find a class online that is both fun and challenging—something that can move me forward in this field of mine.

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14) Go to 5 breweries

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Being a beer drinker, raised by a beer drinker, who loves trying and drinking new beer, I find it surprising how few breweries I’ve been to in my lifetime. This year I’m hoping to change that, both by visiting breweries in my state, and possibly a few others. We’ll see what we find.

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15) Go to a comedy show

This is another one that seems crazy to be so inexperienced in when I live in a state that is home to so many great comedy houses. There’s something special about setting out on your evening with the intention of laughing. And with so many great comedians out there right now, I’d love to spend a good amount of time doing just that.

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16) The Emotion Scrapbook  

I feel like every year I have that one goal where my inner art major shines through, and this year, it’s this one. I have always loved pictures and the way they can capture parts of a moment or experience that you can revisit even years later. And so, to make a unique kind of scrapbook for this year, I made a list of 20 different feelings/emotions that I’m looking to capture in 2020. The idea is that when I find myself feeling one of those feelings, I want to take a picture of whatever can capture it best, so I can have a memento of it. Not all of these emotions are happy ones, but I think the list as a whole can give me a good idea of where the year took me and what it taught me, so I’m excited.

In case you’re interested, the list I’m going to work off of is as follows:

Take a picture when you’re feeling…

  1. Happy
  2. Sad
  3. Angry
  4. Peaceful
  5. Free
  6. Afraid
  7. Confident
  8. Love
  9. Relaxed
  10. Thankful
  11. Nostalgic
  12. Inspired
  13. Adventurous
  14. Stressed
  15. Bored
  16. Important
  17. Brave
  18. Optimistic
  19. Curious
  20. Determined

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17) Make a time capsule

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Since 2020 is going to be the beginning of a new decade, I thought it would be cool to make something to commemorate this decade. The last 10 years of my life have brought about a lot of change, and I would have loved to see a collection of things I valued at the beginning of 2010 compared to now. So, I’m going to find myself a box, gather up some things that I think best represent who I am and where the world is at the beginning of 2020, and then seal it, stash it, and open it at the end of 2029.

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And there they are in all their glory!

This might be the first year that I’m more excited than terrified. That has to be a good sign, right?

Don’t tell me if it’s not, I don’t need that kind of energy going into a new decade.

I hope you feel as optimistic and excited as I do about this new year, and I wish you luck on any goals you might be setting!

My Decade Recap (As Told by Old Facebook Statuses) (List-cember #7)

I have seen a bunch of posts in the last month where people recap their decade, going through the highlights of each year to cringe, reminisce, feel nostalgic and propel themselves forward into this new decade.

When I sat down to do a post of my own, I struggled with what I wanted to share/not share and how I wanted to share it. Then I saw an update from my Facebook page. “On this day 6 years ago…”

That’s when I realized that if there’s anything that can accurately recap the last 10 years, it is my Facebook statuses. 10 years ago, I was ALL ABOUT Facebook statuses. I liked trying to be witty and clever, I liked updating the Facebook universe on things they probably didn’t need to be updated on, and I often posted quotes from my favorite movies and television shows, or just funny one liners from my family and friends.

So, as we close in on 2020, on the 20’s, let’s see what my Facebook has to say about the 10’s.

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2010

I experienced loss.

2010 blue pen

And triumph.

2010 donkey kong

I set goals.

2010 goals

I had road rage.

2010 peds

And I made myself laugh.

2010 witty

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2011

I made a wish

2011 accent 1

I started my first blog when I studied abroad in Australia…

2011 first blog

…where I was able to manifest my wish.

2011 accent 2

I made important cuts

2011 ipod

I asked important questions

2011 robert pins

And I continued to have road rage.

2011 road rage

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2012

I graduated from college

2012 college

I was grateful

2012 camel

I got into hockey

2012 hockey

Like really into hockey

2012 hockey 2

I took my stance on soul patches

2012 soul patches

And yes, I continued to have road rage

2012 driving

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2013

I met Bobby

2013 bobby

I charted a new career path

2013 career

I found a new motto

2013 motto

I questioned my brother’s plan for the zombie apocalypse

2013 zombie

And I got into puns

2013 hammer

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2014

I started this blog

2014 blog

I started my presidential campaign

2014 president

2014 president 2

I beat sinus congestion

2014 sandra

And I climbed Mt. Whitney.

2014 whitney 2

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2015

I decided to start eating healthier

2015 fealth

I stood up to the man

2015 time warner

I got published

2015 writing

And I continued my relationship with puns

2015 whoop ass

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2016

I became a meme

2016 meme

I cooked

2016 dinner

I questioned parenthood

2016 siri

And I lost control

2016 target

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2017

I earned my black belt

2017 karate kim

I splurged

2017 ice cream

I introduced the world to Kevin

2017 kevin

And I got better at laundry

2017 laundry

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2018

I started exercising

2018 gym

I embraced my true self

2018 old lady

And I expressed my true fears

2018 sneeze

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2019

I let everyone know I ran the marathon…

2019 marathon

…and then did nothing else except share my blog posts and spy on people.

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Overall, I’m happy with where I came from and how I used that to get where I am now.

And even though my Facebook statuses are slim, if not completely nonexistent these days, at least I have this blog where I can do everything I was trying to do in those three sentence updates—including make myself laugh. Here’s to another 10 years.

 

A Christmas Quiz (List-cember #6)

We are less than a week away from Christmas, which means that most schools are closing for winter break.To celebrate that, I thought I’d take us back to school for a minute for a little Christmas quiz.

I invited/politely forced my sister and two cousins to participate in a friendly Christmas themed quiz in order to win bragging rights and familial pride. What started as a cordial match quickly became a heated quest for Christmas glory.

Here were the results:

1) What kind of Christmas does Elvis Presley sing about?

Answer: Blue

Natalee: (singing) Bluuuuuuuee…Christmas without you….

Amanda: Wait, should I give a different kind of answer? I’m going to say he’s devastated by the thought of his loved one not going to be with him on Christmas. So that’s my word. Devastated.

Cory: Maybe he just likes blue Christmas lights.

Point awarded to Natalee. 

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2) What is the name of the Grinch’s dog in the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas?

Answer: Max

Amanda: I know! I know!! MAX!

Point awarded to Amanda.

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3) In which century was the Christmas tree first used?

Answer: 16th century

Natalee: The 1300’s! So, the 14th century.

Cory: 16th.

Amanda: I’m going to say the 18th century.

Me: It’s the 16th.

Cory: HA HA.

Amanda: Okay, now it’s on.

Point awarded to Cory.

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4) What is the name of Rudolph’s dad?

Answer: Donner

Natalee: Ugh, I know his girlfriend’s name.

Amanda: Oh my gosh. You can totally–

Natalee: –Prancer! Wait, no.

Amanda: No, they said it in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer when they introduce the mom and dad.

Natalee: He’s one of the reindeer.

Cory: I feel like it’s something really bland like…Steve.

Me: Yes, Steve the reindeer.

Amanda: I’m gonna say Donner.

Natalee: Damnit, that’s right.

Cory: Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Comet? Is Comet the father?

Me: It’s Donner.

Amanda: YESSS!!!!

Natalee: I knew it right after you said it.

Point awarded to Amanda

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5) What is the best selling Christmas song ever? 

Answer: “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby

Natalee: Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas is You.

Amanda: *shakes head* I’ve heard this before. I heard it on KOST 103.5. It’s not Mariah and it’s not White Christmas, but that was everyone’s guess.

Cory: (singing) Feliz Navidad.

Amanda: I’m gonna go with Jingle Bells. 

Me: It was White Christmas.

Amanda: Damnit! You know, maybe that’s why I immediately thought of White Christmas…because it was the right guess.

No point awarded. 

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6) In Home Alone, where are the McCallister’s going on vacation when they leave Kevin behind?

Answer: Paris. 

Natalee, Cory & Amanda: In which one?

Me: The first one.

Natalee: Europe! Um….we just watched this. France?

Cory: Where did they go in the first one? I know in the second one they go to Florida.

Amanda: Dangit, I was thinking Florida.

Cory: Well she takes the bus with that guy to find him and they’re in the snow…Canada?

Amanda: Niagara Falls?

Me: It was Paris.

Natalee: YES!!!

Point awarded to Natalee.

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7) What well-known Christmas carol became the first song ever broadcast from space in 1965?

Answer: Jingle Bells

Natalee: (singing) Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus right down Santa Clause Lane.

Cory: It’s Jingle Bells.

Amanda: Oh Holy Night.

Point awarded to Cory. 

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8) What Christmas beverage is also known as “milk punch”?

Answer: Eggnog.

Cory (before I even finish the question): Eggnog.

Me: That’s correct.

Natalee: Hey! Wait until the question is complete.

Cory: I’m sorry, there’s just no other Christmas beverage.

Amanda: Yeah there is. There’s cider.

Natalee: There’s peppermint shit.

Cory: It’s eggnog.

Point awarded to Cory. 

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9) In the early 1800’s, the first gingerbread houses were reportedly inspired by what famous fairy tale?

Answer: Hansel & Gretel

Natalee: Shrek! I mean, no.

Amanda: She said Shrek. She commits to Shrek!

Natalee: I was thinking of the gingerbread man!

Amanda: I’m gonna go with Hansel & Gretel.

Cory: Alice in Wonderland.

Natalee: Goldilocks & the Three Bears.

Point awarded to Amanda.

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10) Which one of Santa’s reindeer has the same name as another holiday mascot?

Answer: Cupid

Cory: Cupid.

Me: That’s correct.

Natalee: That was so fast. I was only on Vixen in the song.

Point awarded to Cory. 

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11) In the movie Elf, what was the first rule of The Code of Elves?

Answer: Treat every day like Christmas

Cory: Treat every day as Christmas.

Me: *nods*

Amanda: DAMNIT CORY.

Natalee: OH MY GOSH.

Me: Cory is coming in and slaughtering you guys.

Point awarded to Cory.

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12) How many gifts in total were given in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song?

Answer: 364

Natalee: Ugh, this is math.

Me: NO CALCULATORS.

*Amanda, Cory & Natalee start mumbling as they do mental math*

Natalee: 76!

Cory: 78.

Amanda: I think…120?

Me: Amanda is the closest. Remember each day they get all the gifts from the previous days as well.

*a collective nod*

Me: So Amanda gets the point.

*Amanda smiles while Natalee and Cory nod a little bitterly*

Point awarded to Amanda.

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13) In the movie A Christmas Story, what was the name of the neighbors’ whose dog ate the Christmas turkey?

Answer: The Bumpuses

Natalee: Oh shit.

Amanda: I’m going to go with a classic…

Natalee: The Chungs.

Amanda: A classic…Max.

Cory: Steve.

Me: It was the Bumpuses.

Natalee: So I was the closest.

Me: Absolutely not.

No point awarded.

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14) On average, what day do most Americans put up their Christmas trees?

Answer: The weekend after Thanksgiving

Natalee: The day after Thanksgiving.

Amanda: The Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Me: You guys can both be right.

Point awarded to Amanda & Natalee.

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15) On average, what day do most Europeans put up their Christmas trees?

Answer: Christmas Eve.

Natalee: Christmas Eve.

Cory: First week of December.

Amanda: Two weeks before.

Point awarded to Natalee. 

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16) What does Clarence get for accomplishing his task in It’s a Wonderful Life?

Answer: Wings

Cory: A new show.

Natalee: His life back.

Amanda: He becomes a better person.

Me: He gets his wings, y’all. Clarence is the angel.

Amanda: And with his wings he becomes a better person.

Natalee: Well I was right about the actual man, he does get his life back.

No point awarded.

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17) Which company was the first to use Santa in an advertisement?

Answer: Coca Cola

Amanda: COCA COLA!!!

Natalee: Oh my gosh. That came out of nowhere.

Amanda: I know this, well, because I just do.

Point awarded to Amanda. 

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Final Score

Amanda: 6

Cory: 5

Natalee: 4

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Congratulations to Amanda for being crowned this year’s Christmas Quiz winner!

If you are interested in Christmas trivia, I found these questions (and more) here, here and here. 


 

Check out more List-cember posts here. 

2019 Ornament Superlatives (List-cember #1)

Hello and happy December 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! If you can believe it, this is already the fourth year!

Over the last week, I have decorated not one, not two, but three houses for Christmas, giving me a full face dunk into the Christmas season. The first of those three houses was my grandpa’s house, and upon arriving there on a Sunday afternoon, I quickly took my place at the Christmas tree to fluff branches and hang ornaments, a job that has been mine for the last 15 years or so.

Similar to my parents’ tree, my grandpa’s hosts seemingly thousands of ornaments. Some cute, some questionable, many sentimental and a few downright strange, which is perhaps why I love it so much. So once we were finished, I decided to look around and hand out some superlatives and these were the results:

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Most Likely to be Mistaken for the Charmin Toilet Paper Bear

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Most Likely to Put the Bob the Builder Theme Song in Your Head

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Biggest Overachiever

(We get it, Karen, you can sew, but no one needs a stocking that big.)

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Most Likely to Ask Kids What They Want for Shredmas

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Most Likely to Make You Ask Questions Like, “Why?” and, “No, Seriously, Why?” and, “Aside from Everything Else, Why is this Giant, Terrifying Mouse Wearing a Headband?”

IMG_8401

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Most Likely to Make You Do A Doubletake

(Things you might notice in your doubletaking: the horse has no feet, the horse is giving the woman incredibly sassy side eye—which could perhaps be attributed to the intense amount of overfeeding she has been doing, which could perhaps be the reason he has no feet, or more specifically that his feet have been swallowed by his belly—also the woman’s glasses are a disaster and can’t possibly be providing any assistance.)

IMG_8394

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Most Likely to be Hung Front and Center

(because I made it and want your praise)

IMG_8403

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This is a three time winner for: 

-Best Style

-Most Athletic Golf Ball

-Best Legs

IMG_8391

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Most Likely to Make Me Jealous for the 31st (even though I’m only 29) Year in a Row

IMG_8390

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Most Likely to be Out of Date Almost Immediately after this was Purchased

(As of now, if you include wives, husbands, grandkids and great grandkids, there should be upwards of 15 more stockings on this fireplace.)

IMG_8402

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You can check out past editions of Ornament Superlatives here, here, and here.

Happy List-cember, y’all!