Hello friends! It’s been quite the year, right?! I thought it would be fun to document a few of my favorite things from this year, including books, things, music, media, and recipes. I hope you enjoy this list, and please let me know what your favorite things were this year!
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
I read this book intentionally slowly because it was so rich and good, sort of like a delicious meal that you don’t want to end. The book is described this way: “This is the story of a man’s love for his community and his abiding and unrequited love or Mattie Chatham, ‘a good woman who had too early made one bad mistake.’” This book gave my goosebumps, made me laugh, and made me cry. The last chapter of the book was one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read; so much so that when I finished the book, I sat in silence in my chair for probably 15 minutes, just thinking about it. If you enjoy beautiful, honest books, this one is for you. It’s simple and profound, and really is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
This is just a fun book to read! I read this book when I was healing from a foot injury and really missing my daily runs. A short synopsis: “Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.” I don’t agree with the minimalist running shoe movement that came out of this book, but I LOVED the adventure and storytelling of this book. It’s incredibly interesting!
- Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
- Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by Kathryn Greene-McCreight
- The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson
- Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
Hoka One One running shoes
After my foot injury, which came as the result of a bad fit on a pair of running shoes, I decided to try Hoka One One‘s shoes. They are definitely the most expensive brands of running shoes out there, but I have loved every single pair I’ve purchased. I run in Hoka Bondis for my recovery and easy runs, and use Cliftons for speedwork, tempo runs, and races. I won’t run in anything else again!
U-Turn Audio Turntable
For a while, I’ve wanted a turntable so that I can collect my favorite music on vinyl and enjoy it more intentionally. This spring, I used some of my stimulus check to order a turntable from American-based company U-Turn Audio. The customer service was great, and I’ve been very pleased with it so far! I really have enjoyed spending evenings listening to my growing vinyl collection, including the record you see in the header image: “Dark Bird is Home” by The Tallest Man on Earth. The title track is one of the best uses of the f-word I’ve ever heard.
LL Bean Performance Stretch Jeans
One consequence of the pandemic that many of us have experienced is the lack of necessity in wearing “real pants.” Out with the skinny jeans, in with the sweatpants. But folks: I recently purchased a pair of LL Bean Performance Stretch jeans and my life has been CHANGED forever. These jeans are so comfy, so stretchy, so well-fitting, and best of all: they do not sag or stretch in ways I do not want them to! It’s a true miracle! I feel just as comfortable in these jeans as I do in sweats or leggings. I cannot sing the praises of these jeans enough. Am I already contemplating getting them in every wash available? Of course!
- Edifier speakers (What I use for my TV/turntable setup)
- Tracksmith Brighton Base Layer merino wool running shirt
- Rifle Paper Co. rugs (A lovely rug that I just adore using in my bedroom!)
- My Arthur Bike Tee from Steel City Co. Perfect for wearing when you get a new bike!
The Tallest Man on Earth
Kristian Mattson, also known as “The Tallest Man on Earth,” became my go-to musical artist to listen to during the pandemic. Each Friday afternoon throughout the spring, Mattson would stream a live concert on his YouTube channel. It was a wonderful way to end each work week. One of the greatest discoveries I made was coming across this full live concert of his, linked below. I also loved the documentary he released in November called “The Little Red Barn Show.” I love watching him play; he is truly a special musician.
Favorite tracks of his: The Blizzard’s Never Seen the Desert Sands, My Dear, Dark Bird is Home.
In case you missed it, Taylor Swift released not one, but TWO incredibly well-made records during this pandemic. I really loved evermore for its musicality, lyrics, and leaning-into-sadness approach, but I think this review really hit the nail on the head for me on why I was so pleased to have two new Taylor Swift albums this year.
“2020 will be one of the worst years of most of our lives. Which is why I think it might be hard to explain to someone who wasn’t here for it why — for the people who really connected with Folklore and Evermore — these albums hit even harder and bigger than maybe the sum of their parts. The stuff that has offered any kind of big feeling of newness and immersion really stood out this year. […] Even when things online have turned rocky and overwhelming, you can see the same origin point: that we all want something new and fresh — something external that matches the internal chaos of our lives, experiences (sincere or painful or goofy) where we recognize ourselves in something or someone else.”
Favorite tracks: my tears ricochet (“And I can go anywhere I want / Anywhere I want, just not home”), mad woman (Enneagram 8 here LOVED this track), champagne problems, ’tis the damn season (I’ll never get over the electric guitar part)
- Mountain Banjo playlist on Spotify • I am obsessed with the banjo and this playlist is incredible.
- Heartbreak Weather by Niall Horan • This album is a pop masterpiece.
- Springtime by Chris Renzema • It’s so good!
Shows, Movies, & Media
This show is a few years old, but I was blown away by it. David Tennant and Olivia Coleman are world treasures, and this show was so incredibly well-acted. If you’re easily creeped out, then skip this one, but if not, this is an incredibly intriguing show.
I loved this new feature film version of Emma! It is so visually interesting, almost Wes Anderson-like. But I loved the humor of this movie so much! It is hilarious, and the scene of Emma and Mr. Knightley near the fire (if you know, you know) was soooo good that I literally stood up and clapped my hands during the scene. The movie also introduced me to the delightful folk music of actor Johnny Flynn—give him a spin!
Boman Martinez-Reid on TikTok
Boman Martinez-Reid is a TikTok creator whose videos crack me up SO MUCH! He makes short clips of different life scenarios as if they were on a reality TV show. Favorites include “Decorating the Christmas tree but it’s reality TV”, “When someone calls you a liar but it’s reality TV,” and “When someone swears at you but it’s reality TV.” He is a treasure that must be protected.
- Great British Bake-Off – I fell in love with Mark Lutton and was greatly distraught when the precious avocado cake/cake babies did him in
- The Crown – This show is just phenomenal and Josh O’Connor did an incredible job this season being both charming and despicable
- The Dawn Wall – This documentary follows climber Tommy Caldwell’s six-year effort to scale the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It’s an incredible documentary and very moving.
- Squirrel Gets Wild Ride on Bird Feeder – This video has buoyed my spirits so many times
Note: You can see photos of all the different things I’ve made this year in this Facebook album titled “Eat, Pray, Eat.”
- Sheet Pan Meatballs with Crispy Turmeric Chickpeas (Smitten Kitchen)
- Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas (Smitten Kitchen)
- Sweet Potato Lentil Curry with Crispy Sesame Chickpeas (Half Baked Harvest)
- Corn & Chickpea Bowl with Miso-Jalapeño Tahini (Bon Appetit)
- Cauliflower Tacos With Almond Butter Crema (Bon Appetit)
- No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars (Featherstone Nutrition – Note: I redesigned this website!)
- Vegan Vegetable Lasagna (Featherstone Nutrition)
- Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese (Featherstone Nutrition)
- Cranberry-Glazed Chewy Almond Cookies
Honestly I could go on and on! Just check out the Facebook album.
Well folks, I think that’s enough for this year! I hope you enjoyed this little list! Please comment below with any of your favorite things. I would love to know!
And if you made it this far, I’d love for you to give my latest piece “Tech Support and the Incarnation” a read – this kind of list-writing is fun, but what is really meaningful to me is the kind of writing that people often skip over. I think it’s well-worth your time though, if you have a moment.