As the year comes to an end, this magical week between Christmas and New Year’s always feels like a deep breath. It’s a chance to rest, to think and reflect, and prepare for the change of the calendar.
One way I love to mark the end of the year is by noticing and naming the good things. It helps me look back on the last 365 days and find the things that brought joy, growth, entertainment, convenience, surprising delight.
Here is my list:
When I look back at my kindle library for 2020, I notice a theme: feel-good fiction. This was the year of easy reads, nothing that made me feel too much emotion, and, oddly enough, few books that were all that remarkable 🙂 There were a couple of standouts worth mentioning, though far fewer novels than in year’s past.
Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos
Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichl (this is a memoir that I enjoyed thoroughly)
Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey
As for non-fiction, there are a handful of important books I read in 2020.
The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Tim Keller (a must-read that is absolutely transformational)
Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen
Your Blue Flame by Jennifer Fulwiler
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho (I received this on Christmas morning and it was finished by Christmas night)
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (we read and discussed this in our women’s bible study group and it was so good)
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp (the devotional I used all year)
SHOWS + MOVIES
Here are the shows and movies that brought entertainment, thoughtfulness, mindlessness and creative inspiration.
The Chosen. This series is available to watch on the app and is absolutely beautiful. Season One covers the beginning of the ministry of Jesus (if I were not sitting with my family I could have let myself hyperventilate cry during episode one. It is beautiful).
The Chosen Christmas Special.
Cheer (I loved this one)
Into the Unknown: the making of Frozen II (I know, such a weird pick, but it is fascinating to see how the film comes together. Such brilliant artists!).
Hamilton. Of course.
Hart of Dixie (watched season one while packaging orders and found it so charming)
Survivor season 40 (can’t stop, won’t stop)
Annie and Eddie Keep Talking was a happy listen all year long.
Bridgetown Church HOPE episode (a must-listen)
The Jennifer Allwood Show
The Lazy Genius Way
The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey interviewing Alli Worthington and Annie F. Downs interviewing Alli Worthington
Never Believe Anything Bad About God (Next Right Thing Podcast)
The Blessing by Kari Jobe
Protector by Kim Walker Smith
The Hymns 1 album by Shane & Shane
It’s Quiet Uptown from Hamilton (this one makes me cry hard)
Lover by Taylor Swift ft. Shawn Mendes
Cinderella Soundtrack (this is what I listened to while I wrote and edited my book. I will always love it)
Most listened to Spotify playlist: Chill Hits.
Lots of time was spent at home this year. Like, pretty much all the time. These are the things that made it homier:
Ferpie & Fray Reed Diffuser in Grapefruit Pine.
Stripe Organic Sheet Set
Lilia Rug (we bought this for our family room and I could not love it more)
Kitchen Backsplash Tile in white (did I mention we remodeled our kitchen this year?!)
New Floors (did I mention we redid all the downstairs floors?!)
SCHOOL + KIDS
What an odd year it has been for the kids and school. The spring was spent doing online school through our school district and the fall brought a new experience for all of us: Homeschool. It’s been good, challenging, tiring, freeing. We are grateful for adaptable kids and a mother-in-law who stepped in to help when overwhelm kicked in hard for me.
Abeka Online Academy (this is what we’re using. We mostly like it, but it is more intense than any of us expected).
Noise Canceling Wireless Ear Buds (a must)
Cute Binder (to hold all the grades)
Plastic Magazine Holder (for all the workbooks)
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Polymer Clay (so many hours of clay creating)
Duct Tape (the perfect source of endless creation)
ART + WORK
2020 was the year of finishing up Freely and Lightly and starting on Twirl, two books that I am so proud of and so grateful to be part of. It was also a year of jumping back in the product creation world with Truth for Today cards and Watercolor Workbooks. What an incredible year it’s been for my business and finally feeling like I’m moving in the right direction. These are the art and work things that I reached for most this year:
Watercolor Paints (I use tubes of paint in assorted colors)
Size 6 Round Brush (this is my favorite)
Size 1 Round Brush (also my go-to)
Scanner (I scan all watercolor art and bring it into Photoshop to remove background and make slight edits)
Day Planner (such a cute cover)
Slippers (all day every day)
Skinny Jeans (Sometimes you find a pair of jeans that are just right. This is my pair.)
Wideleg Jeans (also worn on rotation)
I cooked my way through so many recipes from my two favorite cookbooks: Half Baked Harvest Cookbook (the Thai coconut curry with chickpeas is delish!) and Half Baked Harvest Super Simple (especially the Everything Bagel Salad!).
How many batches of Chocolate Chip Cookies did I make? Countless …
Sea Salt Caramels were a hit again this Christmas
Cinnamon Rolls are always good.
What a year. Strange, yes, but also full of God’s goodness found in so many places. I hope you can take a few minutes to reflect on all that was good, true and beautiful about your year.
with much love,
I listen to a lot of podcasts.
It dawned on me when I was sharing my five things Friday on Instagram and all I wanted to talk about were the podcast episodes I listened to. I listed a few and held back from the others because I didn’t want you to think that I do nothing else with my time other than listen to podcasts 🙂
The truth is, I do listen to several episodes each week. But I’m usually doing it while doing other things, so that makes me feel better about this habit.
I pop in my headphones and turn on a new episode when I’m making dinner, washing dishes, folding laundry, vacuuming, picking up around the house and deep cleaning. It feels like a reward to me – I have to do all of these daily chores but at least I get to fill my ears with laughter, conversation, deep thoughts, insights, information and entertainment. I just can’t get enough.
(p.s. that picture was taken before I had a pair of wireless headphones and my goodness, what a difference it makes! No more getting caught up in a cord!)
I’ll also put on a podcast in the car, but only when I’m by myself. The kids DO NOT share my love of podcast listening. I drove down to Oregon last month by myself and there was something completely delightful about having 4 hours to myself to listen to whatever I wanted the whole way there and back.
A few more tips about my professional podcast listening skills:
- For all but two podcasts, I listen on 1.5 speed. This is a big reason my kids do not like listening to my podcasts. It admittedly feels a little off, but as long as I can keep up, I like being able to move through them quickly so I can get to the next one 🙂 The two podcasts that I listen to on regular speed feel like they shouldn’t be rushed so I honor them and their impact on my soul by listening slowly.
- Headphones make concentrating much easier. If I’m at home by myself, I could listen through our house speakers, but putting the noise directly into my ears with headphones makes it way easier to stay focused.
- Choose the right tasks to do while listening. There are some things that just don’t work for me to multi-task on – I can’t type and listen to words, drive unknown roads, make a complex recipe. Sometimes I need to just turn off the noise to get things done.
- Curate a podcast list that makes you happy, challenges your thinking and keeps your brain engaged. If you listen to something a friend recommends and you’re not into it, no worries! There are so many different options and just because one show is super popular or someone loves a particular genre, it doesn’t mean you have to. My friend listens to all the crime/unsolved mystery podcasts and raves about them, but I’m just not interested (and that’s okay).
- Be a podcast supporter. We can support our favorite podcasters by leaving reviews, encouraging them through comments, not getting annoyed at the commercial breaks, purchasing their books and products and using their affiliate codes. I am so appreciative of the hours and hours of work it takes to put these podcasts together and especially grateful that everything is FREE!
Okay, now for the list of my favorite shows (listed alphabetically):
This is a church in Portland, OR with such good teaching on following the way of Jesus. John Mark Comer is the head pastor and I adore his style of teaching. The sermon series called “Fighting the World, The Flesh and The Devil” (starting 9/13/18) was transformational.
Tim Mackie is the theologian behind The Bible Project (see below) and this podcast is a collection of 10 years of his best teachings. I started at the beginning and am working my way through. If you like lots of historical contexts, language understanding, and biblical teaching, this is SO GREAT. The series on “Heaven + Hell” (9/18/17) changes my non-biblical view (why was it that way to begin with?!) and I cried listening to the first Psalm episode (10/23/17).
Christy Nockles is wise and gentle and a great story-teller who loves Jesus.
The premise of this is so good – here’s the description: Join host Jess Connolly as she interviews women who are using what they’ve got to run on mission today. It is the mission of Go + Tell Gals to equip women to take their place in the Kingdom, using what they’ve been given, for His glory and the good of others. I have only listened to a few, but I enjoyed them very much.
I love hearing the stories behind the successful entrepreneurs that Guy Raz interviews. It’s always fun to hear the behind-the-scenes for big brands like Crate + Barrel, LaraBar, Stitch Fix.
I’m such a fan of this show and Annie and all of her guests. This is my must-listen-to-every-new-episode show.
The combo of Eddie and Annie and the random conversations they have is delightful and interesting and enjoyable.
Listen in as Alli interviews a guest each week, and then answers three listener questions – one about faith, one about life and one about business. I like her.
Knox + Jamie (the popcast, see below) are the best hosts. They are funny, witty, so incredibly pop-culture-knowledgeable and also Bible-believers. This podcast takes stories from the Bible and talks about them in relatable, entertaining ways to help us understand them better. I happen to love a theological podcast, but this one is also super fun.
I LOVE THIS PODCAST. I love the Bible Project, in general, for their videos that breakdown books and themes of the Bible (go watch those here). The podcast is a collection of conversations had before the making of the videos.
I have a thing for the Enneagram and enjoy hearing Suzanne’s gentle insight with her guests.
Jamie just knows how to do an interview. She is personable and engages in interesting conversations with a variety of (mostly) women. If you want to listen to a blast from the past, I was on her show a few years ago (episodes 42 + 43).
This is one of the shows that I listen to on regular speed. There is just something about Emily’s voice and her words that make you exhale, think and reflect and leave the 15ish minutes more grounded than when you started. I especially adored her episode “If You’re Afraid of Making the Wrong Decision” (1/29/19).
The episodes are usually short and to the point and I appreciate Jennie’s wisdom so much.
This podcast is so helpful for all of us making efforts to add healthy rhythms into our lives.
The Pivot is a podcast about transition. The guests are mainly from the music industry but the stories are universal. It is so encouraging to hear how others are navigating change and pivots in their lives.
The whole thing is just one big party. I laugh out loud in almost every episode and am amazed at how much these two know about pop culture. They were made for their jobs.
Two things about this: one, much of what these two pastors talk about is just slightly over my head and two: I feel privileged to listen in on their fascinating discussion of what it means to follow Jesus in a post-Christian culture. Also, Mark Sayers has an Australian accent and I don’t know why, but an Australian or British accent just makes me want to listen all the more.
This enneagram podcast is another one of my go-to’s. The guests are so varied and conversations never predictable. My favorite episode of all is the one on 1/23/19 with Ryan Stevenson. It was so powerful to hear the freedom starting to shine through as they talked about changing the narrative. So good.
The founder of Relevant Magazine interviews well-known Christians in such a conversational, deep way.
Okay! There’s my list. I’d love to hear your favorites!
For as long as I can remember I have loved picture books. As a child I would study the illustrations of my favorites – Blueberries for Sal, The Bremen-town Musicians, Caps for Sale, Go, Dog. Go! – I can still remember pictures and hear my mom’s voice saying, “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!” and “Caps for Sale! Caps! Fifty cents a cap!“.
Picture books are pure magic.
My sophomore year of college my best friend and I shared an apartment. She brought a couch, coffee table, tv; I brought a small stack of favorite picture books. Now looking back, this seems like a strange thing for a 19 year old to travel with from Washington to Southern California, but I guess I felt they were important at the time. I don’t know if I ever opened the books that year, but they sat next to the couch and I saw them everyday. Fun fact: those same books from way back then are up on Audrey’s shelves today.
We have so many favorite books. I thought it might be fun and helpful to have a big list of favorites, all of which are included in our little library.
So, in no particular order, here are 48 must-haves for your picture book collection:
The Jolly Postman
You’re All My Favorites
Guess How Much I Love You
King Hugo’s Huge Ego (get this one!)
Toot + Puddle
Elephant and Piggie
Sam and Dave Dig A Hole (get this one, too!)
Kiki + Coco In Paris (so adorable)
Lulu + Pip
Learning To Ski With Mr. Magee
Baby Wren and The Great Gift
Triangle (we love everything by this author/illustrator combo)
I Want My Hat Back
We Found A Hat
The Day The Crayons Quit (clever, clever, clever)
The Day The Crayons Came Home
Paul Meets Bernadette
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, And The Big, Hungry Bear
I Had A Favorite Dress (best illustrations)
Birdie’s Big Girl Shoes
Birdie’s Big Girl Dress
Just Being Audrey
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
The Book With No Pictures
The Circus Ship (love this one)
Bear Snores On
Llama Llama Red Pajama
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt
Bats At The Ballgame
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
Today I feel Silly
Blueberries For Sal
Where The Wild Things Are
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
The Napping House
Julius, The Baby Of The World
The Princess And The Pig
Henry’s Bright Idea
Well, that was fun! I hope this list is a helpful resource for adding books to your collection!