2020 truly was a year for the books (don’t worry, I instantly regretted that pun). This is the year where I discovered that I’m obsessed with contemporary romance novels (think Berkley, not Harlequin). I was a super-avid reader as a child, but I found it harder to make time for it as an adult. Nothing like being stuck at home for nine months to catch up on old hobbies!
Here are a few of my favorite things from the year!
Favorite Fiction (in no particular order)
The Bookshop of Second Chances – Jackie Fraser (to be released in 2021)
So, technically all of the “non-fiction” I read this year was either presented in memoirs style (10% Happier) or to fictionalized to protect the identities of the innocent (Three Women, lol). So for this somewhat amorphous category, I’m picking The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West. Yes, technically they are humor essays. However, they are boldly political, analytical takes at culture at large rather than explicitly personal essays, very much a response to the evils of the Trump administration and the #MeToo-era reckoning of the sex pests. This book informs and challenges as it entertains, and for that, it has won the top slot in its category.
Open Book by Jessica Simpson – I loved this book so much that I listened to a 4-part podcast series about it after I was finished. I was shocked that I could be so invested in the story of an artist to whom I hadn’t previously given much thought. I listened to the audiobook (obtained through my local library!), and not only was Jessica’s performance incredible and emotional, her (literary) voice came through so clearly in her writing. Honorable mention: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.
Favorite Essay Collection
This one feels like choosing between my own (currently non-existent) children. Humor essays are my all-time favorite genre of writing, so they comprise a significant portion of what I read in general. Although David Sedaris will likely always be my favorite humorist, this year it went to a tie between Wow, No Thank Youand We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. These two books had me wheezing from start to finish. I’ve actually never been so inspired to write before (although of course, I didn’t follow through because everything I produced was absolute garbage compared to the Word Science herself).
Best Audiobook Performance
While this book didn’t make it into one of my favorite slots, I had to shout out Rachel Bloom’s unbelievable performance of I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are. This was a joy start to finish, and she performs a literal musical in the middle. Rachel Bloom is a STAR.
These are the books I’ve started (and enjoyed) this year but didn’t finish by midnight on the 31st:
Well, the entire world is on fire, and not for the usual reasons. Things are hideously bleak at present and, apart from sewing some masks and making some donations, there’s literally nothing we can do about it except stay at home and not touch our faces. We’re kind of living in Station Eleven, and yes, that is the justification I will eventually use for performing Shakespearean monologues on Instagram stories.
My family and I are doing really well, and as yet, no one we know has been affected by COVID-19. I’m so fortunate to still be able to work remotely (I love my job and wish I could gush about it but I would like to keep it private so that I can, y’know, keep it). My husband is also able to work from home, which we didn’t initially know would be an option, so we’re really thankful.
I’ve been making an effort to shower and get dressed every day, to preserve a sense of normalcy, even if the shower doesn’t come until 3pm. Everyone keeps posting about snacking all day long, but I’ve actually been having the opposite problem: I keep completely forgetting food exists. We’re not panic-buyers, but our fridge and freezer are STOCKED with healthy stuff (we also have an adequate amount of toilet paper—Trader Joe’s has it!) I’m hoping that my reduced calorie intake counteracts my absolute lack of any physical activity whatsoever. I actually danced last night for over an hour (if you’re a millennial, I highly recommend throwing this song on and going absolutely buckwild). I’m trying to use this time to improve my home (I ROYGBIV’d my bookcase) and myself (I’m crushing DuoLingo French checkpoints like a frat boy crushes p—I’m sorry, this is a family blog). As of yet, I have not done anything fucked up to my hair, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.
Before I get into my usual frivolity, I just want to say that, if you’re like me and you’re still earning an income, do whatever you can to support your community. I made a donation to my local food bank, and I’m looking for other ways to lend a hand during this crisis. One positive outcome of this might be the increasing radicalization of society, proof that nothing ethical can exist under capitalism. Comrades Fran & Britney certainly seem to agree! But in the meantime, schedule Zoom happy hours, get into that book you’ve been meaning to read, organize your bathroom cabinets, take your meds, and remember to eat your fruits and veggies. I think we’re going to be in here for a long, long time.
I love and miss you all. If the worst happens, please play this at my funeral, and make sure David Hyde Pierce is on the keys.
Of Montreal, Tame Impala, Best Coast, Mandy Moore, Justin Bieber and probably lots of other people have just put out albums so go listen to them!
I made an Apple Music playlist of the trashiest pop from when I was a kid (late ’90s/early ’00s) and it is giving me life.
This is my most-listened song of quarantine. I guess you could call it optimism. We do not deserve Ariana Grande.
Can’t wait to go absolutely HYPEBEAST for Self Made, starring ACADEMY AWARD WINNER OCTAVIA SPENCER.
I read the book years ago, but I finally watched Room and oh my GOD. Brie Larson WERKED for that Oscar, honey. Also, Jacob Tremblay is a star the likes of which this world rarely sees and I simply have to stan.
I bought the audiobook of Cameron Esposito’s Save Yourself. Cameron is one of my favorite comedians and I daily mourn the loss of Put Your Hands Together.
I’m trying to read Silas Marner along with my tutoring student and wow, only 18 months out from earning a literal Master’s degree in Literature and my brain has atrophied to Jello. I’m going to try to make a concerted effort to get through some classics in quarantine. I’m thinking Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, and Brideshead Revisited, since I already own them.
So, Everlane is canceled. They vindictively laid off their newly-formed union of remote workers and uh, wow, fuck you, guys.
If I find out this company SUCKS too, I’ll return them, but I am trying out these pants because it appears that no company (including Everlane) makes dress-pants for what I’m generously calling my hourglass shape. Also, of course they went on sale after I bought them. Will report back on fit for my thicc chicks ❤
Also, I have bought myself another handbag, and I need to stop, but just so you know, I keep them forever and display them when not in use because they are my precious babies. Also, handbags have way better resale value than most stuff online, just sayin’. Here’s another recent purchase that’s a particular fave, and the best computer bag ever.
I found an Etsy shop I love! I got these belly rings (1, 2) and these conch studs (1, 2). Unfortunately, I’m an idiot and forgot that my belly piercing is 14g, so I might try to exchange but these things are seriously gorgeous.
I’m reorganizing my house, call it early Spring Cleaning, and this shelf is going above my kitchen counter. It’s so cute and perfect for me that I can’t believe I didn’t personally design it.
I’m a huge, huge fan of Method‘s cleaning products, but their Heavy Duty Degreaser is an absolute lifesaver. I am not about to use conventional cleaning chemicals on my stovetop, a surface that a. is exposed to fire and b. is where I prepare our food, so finding this more natural alternative that really works was a gamechanger. I buy mine at Target or Grove.
Chelseas can have a little home improvement, as a treat. Since Governor Baker basically shut down Massachusetts (I’m not complaining!) I have purchased this chair and this rug. Soon my entire house will be monochrome pink and I’m not mad about it.
If you’re not following nostro re, persona di colore dell’esperienza italiana, Giabuchi, you are not truly living in these times. Considering what’s going on with coronavirus worldwide, especially in Italy right now, Jaboukie’s mild Italian shitposting is tremendously healing. Catch him before he gets suspended again for heroism.
I loved this post about creating a reusable on-the-go car kit. When we’re finally out of quarantine, I really want to make a more concerted effort to be no-waste. Not being able to use reusable bags at the grocery store right now is killing me. P.S. The cutlery set Laura mentions? It comes in pink.
Discovered this shop last night and I’m intrigued to say the least.
Good morning, friends! I’ve been on staycation for the past week, and I have to say: time off is extremely good for mental health! On Friday, I took a tour of the Rhode Island State House. Random, but it was super fun! Doris, the tour guide, was an absolute treat!
It’s been so nice to relax and reset before I start my new job. I feel like an entirely new person. And with the renewed energy of a calm and centered woman, here’s this week’s list!
Started watching the Australian Netflix series, Sisters. I’m loving it so far—the premise is dark, but the show is so vibrant!
I am obsessed with Universal Standard, and I truly wish I were a millionaire so I could bedeck myself in all of their wares.
Should I get an Instant Pot? I already have so, so many kitchen appliances but people seem to love them! A huge consideration, of course, is that it comes in this color. Extremely into the idea of making my own yogurt!
As you know, I’m a full-on ho for podcast endorsements, so I’m looking forward to checking out Thrive Causemetics! I actually have one of their products already (I got it in a subscription box) and I love it!
Against my better judgment, I’m absolutely buying this dish set. It’s finally time to donate the Ikea set that I’ve been rocking for 6 years and get some grown-up dishes. They’re not microwave-safe so it’s all the more reason to ditch that appliance!
Okay, so by this year, I mean 1/1/19 to present. As I may have previously mentioned, I took a really prolonged break from spending money so that I could (successfully!) pay off ALL of my credit card debt. I also refinanced my student loans and got a lower interest rate on my car loan, so despite the fact that I absolutely was not making a living wage, I managed to kick some serious financial ass. I would not have been able to do any of this without my amazing husband and my in-laws—they’re so supportive and generous.
The crazy thing is, I went through and tallied up what I spent on everything on this list, and it’s roughly equivalent to what I spent on copays and medication for the year. Not trying to be controversh, but I shouldn’t be able to get an enormous tattoo, furniture, and an iPhone for less money than basic healthcare. In the spirit of that sentiment, please join DSA and consider volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign /end rant.
It’s also worth mentioning that a couple of the things mentioned below are from truly evil corporations that I, as a feminist socialist, do not want to continue supporting. Disengaging with major retailers is hard work, and participating in capitalism at all means that we all have the “damn’d spot*” on our hands. Next year, I hope this list is all small businesses and sustainable retailers, but all I can do is try my best. So without further ado, here are the purchases I made last year that were absolutely worth every penny:
Owning this device has kind of ruined my life, to be honest. I was already pretty addicted to my phone, but the size of this screen and sleekness of the device have me hooked. The best feature, by far, is the fact that I can more easily do the New York Times crossword on this screen, which is truly the only thing I care about in this life. And I have to admit, I love the facial recognition. I know Apple is probably conspiring with the government and stealing my identity or whatever, but the level of convenience of opening things with Face ID is…almost worth it? Saying this really feels like the Chrissy Teigen tweet about Airpods, don’t cancel me.
Casetify Phone Case
This thing is indestructible, and comes in about a billion designs. I, of course, went with the sunflower pattern. I got a discount code from a podcast for 20% off, but I’d absolutely pay full price for another one.
I finally did it. I caved and bought AirPods. I was going to buy them through Apple, but I found the same ones on Amazon for considerably cheaper (I bought this silicone protective case too). I…love them. I can’t believe I didn’t buy them sooner.
Magnetic Car Mount
A lot of phone shit, I know. but I’ve tried every type of car mount on the market, and this is by a mile the best. The magnet is super strong, and you can just stick it inside your case so you don’t have a big ugly sticker on the back. The best part is, for only $6, it’s a 2-pack, so you can give one to your significant other. My husband is still rocking an iPhone 6+, but the gear’s ready for him whenever he decides to upgrade.
The Comfiest Cardigan
Target has really been coming thruuuu with cute clothes and décor lately. This cardigan, from their A New Day line, is legitimately the coziest garment I own. I love it so much, I went back for another one.
The Best Earrings in the Game
Okay, so I’m wildly biased, because creator and entrepreneur Shelly Harper is my cousin, but damned if I don’t love her work. She is a fucking artist. Harp Designs is a woman-owned, woman-made brand out of Oakland, CA, and it makes the jewelry at retailers like Madewell look like an absolute lil’ bitch. Everything she makes is outstanding, but these earrings are so fun that I had to have them in gold and silver.
A Kitchen Table
The pub table in my kitchen had been rickety for a while, but for the ~$100 I paid for it, it certainly served its purpose. Helping my mother shop for her new home, I stumbled across this beauty, basically a dupe of my old table, except cuter, and I simply had to have it. It could be a little sturdier, but to its credit, I built it, so…
Savage Lovecast Magnum Edition
IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO ME, OKAY! I’m done with podcast ads, they’ve been my undoing! This podcast is my must-listen of my week, and I respect Dan so much for evolving and growing and doing everything in his power to get progressive ideas into the mainstream dialogue. Nobody’s perfect, but I’ve never not enjoyed an episode of this show. I also subscribed to Slate Plus for Dear Prudence and Stitcher Premium for Groceries, and I have zero regrets (except for the fact that Stitcher is quite possibly the ugliest, least user-friendly app on the planet). The Stitcher subscription won’t last, but ad-free podcasts were absolutely the highlight of 2019 for me.
Netflix & Hulu (no commercials!) Subscriptions
To be fair, I’ve had these for a lot longer than a year, but when you’re trying to live that homebody life and save money, these services are indispensable! We got rid of cable about a year ago, so this is the only way I can keep up with my programmes. For the combined total of $20.98/month, I get more TV than I could ever find the time to consume. Beautiful.
Monthly Charitable Donations
I’ve been donating $5/month to the ACLU & Planned Parenthood since the day after the 2016 election. It’s not much, but the number of donors to these organizations is often as important a metric as the amount donated. Planned Parenthood is an organization which is particularly near and dear to my heart, and from whose services I have personally benefitted. I also give to WERS, which is the local radio station out of Emerson College, because independent radio is important, and for my money, it’s the only radio station in the Greater Boston Area that plays anything I’d ever want to listen to.
Hell yeah. So, here’s the story from A to Z—when I was 21, and towards the end of my last pre-husband relationship, I impulsively got a matching tattoo of (gag) Minnie Mouse on my ribs with my ex-boyfriend. That was in July…we broke up in November. So, for nearly 7 years, I’ve been living with this incredibly stupid-looking reminder of the guy I started dating when I was 18. No shade to him—I truly hope he’s living his best life, he’s a great guy—but it also seems psycho to have this permanently etched on my body. So, I put out some feelers on Facebook (I know…) and my friend Lauren hipped me to her shop. After perusing the various portfolios of the recommended shops, Famous Tattoos in Dartmouth won out. It’s clean, not too far away, and the work speaks for itself. Cut to a few months later—it was the best body art experience of my life. Ryan Vidinha is incredibly talented and so skillful with the tattoo needles. I sat for a cumulative 6 hours between two sessions, and he made it an absolute pleasure. And SO REASONABLY PRICED for what he was able to accomplish. My shop 4 life. Having a beautiful piece of art in place of what used to be an embarrassing blemish is so freeing. Best money I’ve ever spent.
Oh, and I got another tattoo, whilst I was on vacation in Florida. Gaze upon it. Apparently I wore the exact same outfit to both.
Laser Tattoo Removal
I know, I just got an enormous cover-up tattoo. Why wouldn’t I just do the same in this case? Look, I tried. Because of the placement of my wrist tattoo, and how heavily the line-work was done, it’d be nearly impossible to do a cover-up that wasn’t giant and blobby to cover the black. Luckily, I discovered Disappearing Inc. Utter pros. Tattoo removal is a long, expensive process, and I’m so lucky to have Jenna as my technician. The tattoo is 3 stars (from the corner of the pages of Harry Potter, I truly was an absolute dumb bitch as a youth) and they’re so poorly done. They never healed correctly. I’ve cringed looking at them for years, and I’m so excited to see them slowly fade away. Read up on how tattoo removal works—it’s nuts and fascinating!