Goodbye, 2018!

Given that I have written absolutely nothing since September, it feels like posting here is long overdue. The last quarter of the year included our annual apple picking adventure, ice cream consumption, a campfire or two, football season (complete with a baby in a Seahawks jersey), various outings to the local fair, farms, and walking trails, trips to Maine and Washington, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. All of those things deserve their own blog installments, but since ain’t nobody got time for that, I will summarize: family, friends, food, and fun. I could never pass up a good bout of alliteration.

And NOW, since the end of the year is mere minutes away, it’s time for a Best of 2018 recap! Last year’s recap was basically all about Elise, but I think this year we’ll branch out a bit more. Maybe. Hopefully. We’ll see. So without further ado…

Best Location

This year we traveled a few places, including Vermont, New York City, Maine, Washington, Basel, and Paris. Given my travel preferences, Europe almost always gains an edge over domestic travel, and Paris both a) involves speaking French, b) has amazing food, and c) is not as expensive as Basel, so that was an easy win. Take me back, please!


I plan to overuse all 100ish versions of this picture in perpetuity.

Best Podcast

This podcast has been around for ages but I just discovered it this month. But I’ve been making up for lost time and have listened to multiple episodes per day, so I feel like I can give you this recommendation with some authority. Even if only a little bit. Stuff You Missed in History Class covers all types of topics throughout history, ranging from the Emu War of 1932 to the House of Worth and the Birth of Haute Couture. The episodes are typically under 30 minutes, come out multiple times per week, and unless the topic itself is grim, doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable listening with Elise in the car. I may change that last evaluation when she becomes more familiar with terms like “born out of wedlock” and “beheaded,” but for now, I think we’re in the clear.


Best Book(s)

I actually read more than I expected to this year, and while I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that a few of my reading selections were celebrity biographies (here’s looking at you, Chip and Joanna), I read some quality literature as well. This is a hard one to pick a single favorite, because I read across a bunch of genres. So here are a few good book recommendations:

Fantasy: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

Historical Fiction: Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly

Non Fiction: Educated, by Tara Westover

Fluff Read: The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Best App

My favorite social media app will probably always be Instagram, so there isn’t much to say about that. However, I love love love Paprika, which is a recipe organization app. If you find a recipe online, you can download it, categorize it, rate it, and use it off-line. In addition, there’s a meal planning component, so you can put your recipes on a calendar. THEN, you can make your grocery list with the click of a button, deselecting any ingredients you already have before finalizing your list. It’s the best! I love it so much that I bought it for my phone and my computer.

Best Coffee Shop

After four and a half years in the area, we’re finally exploring the towns surrounding us rather than driving an extra 10 to 15 minutes to get to places we already knew. I’m happy to report that while our town itself doesn’t have a coffee shop, Battle Grounds Coffee Co. in Haverhill is a great spot with tasty food and drinks nearby. I don’t typically think of Haverhill as a Location, but the coffee shop is well worth the trip. Haverhill is also home to both mine and Elise’s doctor’s office, so maybe at some point we’ll make a habit of frequenting the place. Oh, and I couldn’t leave the coffee shop without a hot chocolate shot.


Best Free Kid’s Outing

With a toddler who doesn’t love her car seat, these two activities are very, very local. But we really loved going to our local part and pond this summer and splashing around in the shallow water. It’s close enough to walk (although the walk can be and/or was just a tad brutal on a really hot day), is right beside the (really delicious!) bagel shop in town, and has an ice cream stand on the premises.


However, summer weather doesn’t last too long around these here parts, but thankfully we’ve got farms with animals to keep us going when the pond isn’t on the table for the day. Both Smolak Farms and Brooksby Farm have a fun collection of animals. And, if you want to make it just a little less free, Smolak Farms has cider donuts, and Brooksby Farm has ice cream cones full of animal grain to offer the creatures for about fifty cents. Elise particularly enjoyed watching me feed it to the pigs, sheep, and emu.


Best Farm

Since we’re on the topic of farms, I might as well throw in the best all-around farm. I mentioned it before in the blueberry picking post, but without question, the best farm in this region is Cider Hill Farm. They have THE BEST cider donuts, the best pick-your-own fruit options, good prices on said fruit, and more animals. What’s not to love? They even have wagons big enough to fit three babies and three bags of apples!


Best New (to me) Recipe

It turned out that I didn’t actually need to hit up a farm to get my apple cider donut fix for the year. You can make them at home and they are delicious. Or, due to the name of the blog from which the recipe came, damn delicious. For those of you that believe you need special equipment to deep fry (like I formerly did!), I am happy to report that you can easily do it in a big soup pot with a metal spatula or slotted spoon. I’ve decided that making these will be an annual tradition on the first day of fall every year.

Best Baby Travel Hack

You didn’t think you could get through a blog post of mine without travel info, did you? This year, we needed to travel cross country (by air) with Elise’s gargantuan convertible car seat. I didn’t want to check an extra thing and I also didn’t want to tote the car seat, a stroller, a baby carrier, all our luggage, and a toddler through the airport. While you can buy a car seat travel cart for what seems like a ridiculously overpriced amount, all you really need is a rolling suitcase with an extendable handle, a lashing strap on the shorter side, and a substantial carabiner. Voila! A DIY car seat/stroller/rolling bag. When you roll the suitcase, the car seat tips back and supports itself on the frame of the bag so that it doesn’t scrape the ground.


Believe it or not, in spite of her expression in that picture, she did like it.

Best Baby Product

Can I even call this a “baby” product now, since my baby is much more of a toddler than an actual baby? The Hatch Rest sound machine/wake up light seems to have played a huge role in getting Elise to sleep better. She’s finally sleeping through the night on a more consistent basis, and the tide really started turning with the introduction of the Hatch. I’m counting on using it down the road as well, when the wake up light is amore comprehensible idea.


Well, considering 2018 officially ended while I was writing this, I should take a cue from the picture of Elise above and head to bed myself. Happy New Year, friends! Give me all your favorite-things recommendations so I can try them all and put them in my 2019 best list!

The Best of 2017: A Highlight Reel

It goes without saying that the best thing that happened in 2017 was Elise's arrival. Hands down, no question, duh. But curses. Now I've said it. So I'll just leave you with a Day 1 picture and a Today picture so that you can imagine how much goodness was in between the two.

Lest you mistakenly assume she sleeps all the time, I counter that assumption with reality: we were up at 2:30, 4:30, 5:40, and 6:45 last night. I think she's teething.

Lest you mistakenly assume she sleeps all the time, I counter that assumption with reality: we were up at 2:30, 4:30, 5:40, and 6:45 last night. I think she's teething.

And now that we've gotten that out of the way, I hereby give you my best-of list for 2017. You that it's 2018. I should have written this a week ago.

Best Location

I/We traveled several places this year, both pre- and post-baby. These places ranged from Vermont to New York to Washington to Vienna to Prague to Budapest, and Budapest took the cake. I was 19 weeks pregnant and it was cold/snowy/icy in January, but it was beautiful, and I loved walking around the city in all its wintry loveliness with my wiggly (internal) baby as company. The food is delicious, the cost of living is inexpensive, the people are friendly, and the history is fascinating. 


Best Book(s)

I read a lot of things until May 28th. After that my reading rate went WAY down, but I'm hoping to pick it up again in the coming months. That should technically be easy since Elise currently prefers to nap with me rather than in her crib...but I'm getting off track. Unsurprisingly, my favorite books were on the topic of home and/or motherhood. 

I've loved The Lifegiving Home for a couple of years now, and I've definitely recommended it here before. It's a book that really gave me a vision for how I want our home to be, and it has lots of practical ideas presented in a warm way that is both encouraging and inspirational. Since the second half of the book has a chapter for each month of the year, I reread through those sections from September onward. I'm hoping to continue that as we move into 2018. 

My other favorite book, The Magic of Motherhood, was a recent discovery that I purchased on a whim during a ridiculous Amazon sale (where else could you get a hardcover book for $7.50?). It's written by a group of authors who collectively contribute to the Coffee + Crumbs blog, and it's organized into several short essays. I found that it was best enjoyed during nursing sessions, since I could read a couple of the essays in the amount of time it took Elise to eat. It's beautiful and uplifting while at the same time not shirking away from harder topics. Two thumbs up from me.

Best TV Show

We waited all year for this one! The Crown (season 2) is a show that we anticipated for 11 months, and then watched in about a week. It went by too fast! 

As an unabashed British royalty fan, it was right up my alley. We enjoyed season 1 last year, and enjoyed season 2 just as much this round. And both Chaz and I liked it, which is saying something about a British period drama! This also relates to my next category...

Best Website

I heard about this one on an episode of the Federalist podcast that focused on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's engagement. I don't really know how to describe, so I will just tell you that it has lots of articles on the royals (well beyond William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan), TV shows (The Crown!), and a HOST of things including unusual celebrity fashion choices, award shows, and other bizarre things. I'm very much looking forward to their coverage of the royal wedding in May. I realize that listing this website as my favorite of the year may reveal my shameful interest in celebrities rather than just the royal family, but...there it is.

Best Photos

These are all pretty much baby-related. I'm not sorry. As a result, they're not actually the best *quality* photos, just my favorites.

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I think that's it for my highlight reel. Onward to 2018!

Taking Stock

I've seen all the Real Bloggers do Taking Stock posts every once in awhile. A quick Google search revealed that it may have originated here, but that's a bit of a guess, I admit. (It was a very quick search.) Despite the fact that I do not consider myself a Real Blogger, I thought it would be fun to do one of my own. Because why not, right? I'm once again trying to make writing a consistent thing over here, because a) it's a nice thing to do during nap times, b) I like having a record of what's going on in our lives, and c) I have to keep up my typing skills somehow. Pretty sure typing is like riding a bike and you never really forget, but I'm also a fan of typing fast and THAT might slip. Priorities. Gotta keep 'em straight.

So without further ado, here's my stock-taking:

  • Making: sourdough starter! I'm on my second attempt. My first grew mold and I had to start over...
  • Cooking: oatmeal bread. Not sure if that counts as "cooking," since it's technically baking, but that's what's I'm creating to eat at the moment. Since sourdough starter/bread takes several days to make, I needed a good interim bread that I could make in a day! 
  • Drinking: water. So much water. Feeding a baby is extraordinarily dehydrating, but that also means excessive bathroom runs. And here I thought I was done with that after giving birth...
  • Reading: this book! It's my absolute favorite and I'm now reading it for the second time. Also the Bible...sort of. I'm trying to read through it in a year, but I'm currently 13 days behind. I can catch up, I can catch up, I can catch up...
  • Wanting: a little more sleep. If the current trend holds fast, I *might* actually get more as well!
  • Looking: outside, but staying inside because it's so freaking hot. I'm not built for 90+ degree weather.
  • Wishing: that far-away friends were nearer. We're now six years post-college and the distance is still too far.
  • Enjoying: being home with Elise more than I expected I would. Watching her grow is rather miraculous. 
  • Waiting: for the next six hours to pass so we can officially start the weekend! Days when all three of us are home are the best days.
  • Loving: the way Elise sleeps with her feet tucked up under her. She's a tummy sleeper (despite all current sleep recommendations), and it's the cutest thing.
  • Watching: Anne with an E. I started watching it (another napping activity, although a very sedentary one!) and I like it a lot even though they took some clear liberties with the plot.
  • Pondering: how my tiny baby already has a personality...she's an introvert and a homebody, and it's a good encouragement for me to make sure that keeping a cozy, happy, warm home is a priority.
  • Wearing: Casual clothes every day! The novelty of not wearing office attire four out of five week days hasn't worn off yet.
  • Noticing: that the summer is slipping away fast. I'm much more inclined to spend time outside doing things when the temperature isn't so hot, so I'm not too sad about it. Bring on the fall! Too soon?
  • Knowing: that these early months are going so fast. I want to cherish them while they last. 
  • Thinking: about anniversary gift-giving. Our third anniversary is this week and I think I've narrowed down what I'm going to do!
  • Feeling: content. Tired. Happy. Quiet. All of that mixed together.