Travel

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Hello! Get a drink and settle in so we can get right to it. Every year I put together a holiday gift guide, with the aim of featuring quality, interesting items at all price points, for a variety of giftees. From stocking stuffers to big gifts, from grandparent to baby, I hope you'll find a gift idea (or two) for everyone on your list. 

Previous gift guides still have lots of good choices, so don't miss them: 2014, 2014 part 2, 2015, 2016.

(Like a lot of websites, I use affiliate links where possible, which means I get a small percentage if you click through and/or buy something. I still only choose items based on what I think is best, and none of these items are sponsored.) 

1. Let's start with a splurge: this candle smells divine, is beautifully packaged, and will go with any home décor.

Photo from saksfifthavenue.com.

Photo from saksfifthavenue.com.

2. Stuffie bean bag, for the kid with way too many stuffies and not enough furniture.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

3. Solar phone charging case. Clips to a waist, bike, backpack, tent, or wherever else they need it. My friend Sarah says, "My mother-in-law saved the day with this thing, because it charged their Satellite phone on a 12 day hike!".

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

4. An extra non-solar charger is also a great choice. For the traveler, busy bee, forgetful Frank, or otherwise average human who sometimes needs some juice on the go (so, everyone). This will charge your phone something like 10 times (don't quote me on that). There are other versions with dual USB ports so you can charge more than one device at a time, if you wish. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

5. Kiehl's lip balm. My husband got this as a stocking stuffer and loves it. He says his usual Burt's Bees pales in comparison. A nice little upgrade for a daily item.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

6. Cherry Bombe, the cookbook, from Cherry Bombe magazine. More than 100 recipes from 100 female chefs, authors, foodies, and all around interesting people in the food world today.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

7. A cozy cableknit throw in a variety of classic and modern colors. (Cream might still be my favorite.)

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

8. Pop beads for making some seriously cool jewelry, because pop beads are way cooler now that they were when I was a kid. I still adored them, though, and I bet a kid on your list will adore these. 

Photo from walmart.com.

Photo from walmart.com.

9. Photo Ark. National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore's lifelong project to document every species known to man. Conservation and protection begin with knowing. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

10. Cold brew starter kit. Chameleon makes great coffee, and now you can make it yourself at home! Fun and a relatively low price point at around $15.

Photo from chameleoncoldbrew.com.

Photo from chameleoncoldbrew.com.

11. Herschel dopp kit. I love a good travel kit and I'd have a whole closet full of them if that were remotely reasonable on any level. I recently got a Herschel overnight bag, and I really like it. I will definitely consider one of these the next time I need a new dopp kit. Huge range of colors and some fun patterns, including birds and leopard print.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

12. I am digging these pretty, modern ornaments

two-toned metal tree ornaments.png

13. MoviePass! For just $9.95 a month, you, uh, or your giftee, can see one movie a day in participating theaters. No blackout dates and tons of participating theaters (I checked, and the major ones near me are included). This is less than the cost of seeing one movie! If you know someone who goes to the movies often (or wants to), see if major theaters near them participate and then sign them up for a few months. This would also be good for a white elephant gift, or someone you don't know terribly well.

Photo from moviepass.com.

Photo from moviepass.com.

14. This soap smells lovely and the packaging is gorgeous. Go directly through the manufacturer and you can buy a soap of the month club. It would be a great choice for people who like surprises, pretty packaging, fancy every day items, and things that smell luxurious. 

Photo from formulary55.com.

Photo from formulary55.com.

I love fun office supplies and I bet someone on your list does, too. Help them jazz up their desk with (15) pieces of flair:

15. Fun pushpin holders!

Sushi

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 1.06.46 PM.png

16. Kitty Post-It pop up. I have this on my desk and it makes me smile every time I grab a sticky.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

17. This gold stapler sits on my desk, too, and gets loads of compliments. Plus, I feel extremely fancy when I staple my TPS reports.

18. And listen, we all need a hand staying organized. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

19. I apologize for that joke. Owl make it up to you.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

20. I feel like I put a sleep mask on the gift guide every year, but I can't help myself. This one has nearly 9,000 reviews, 4.5 stars, and is $10. If you already have enough eye masks, maybe tuck one away for a White Elephant/Yankee Swap/Secret Santa/what have you.

sleep mask

21. A classic henley with fresh detailing. I really love the burgundy version, too. Layer it up or wear solo.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

22. What if Everybody Did That? Because the world always needs more good citizens.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

23. A portable firepit with folding legs and a carrying bag for easy storage. It's a grill, too! For the camper or campfire lover on your list. At about $50, the price is right. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

24. Throw in some color-coded, rotating marshmallow/hot dog sticks and the ingredients for s'mores.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

25. This camp cookware set would also be a great accompaniment to the fire pit, or stands beautifully on its own.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

26. Codenames. A fun game involving words and mystery and thinking. My family played last Christmas and it was so much fun.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

27. These little tiny baby travel pinch tins of Maldon sea salt (the best sea salt), for the campers, foodies, travelers, and other seasoned seasoners in your life. This 6-pack is reasonably priced and could stuff several stockings.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

28. This book, just because I think it looks cool. 

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 1.47.23 PM.png

29. If your recipient just tosses their watch(es) on the dresser at the end of the day, try this watch box. Makes any watch collection look impressive, even if it's a collection of plastic ones from the vending machine at the grocery store. Variety of colors. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

30. Stuff this julienne peeler (CAREFULLY!) into your favorite home cook's stocking. Maybe ask them to make you a carrot salad with it. Kuhn makes fantastic tools and this one is well-reviewed, and not too much more pricy than the OXO—though that one has nearly 5 stars, too. The Kuhn comes with a safety cover, if that helps you decide.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

31. Speaking of vegetables, get them everything they ever wanted to know about butchering them. A great resource for omnivores, vegans, and everyone in between.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

32. Speaking of cookbooks, Deb Perelman, the genius behind Smitten Kitchen, has a new cookbook out, and it's lovely. Her original cookbook is still a favorite as well.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

33. Maybe round off these cooking gifts with this taco ornament, because taco ornament.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

34. A good sturdy flashlight, perhaps. A good, all-purpose gift. Plus, this one is apparently tactical?

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

35. I'm sure you know someone who needs these socks.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

36. Speaking of wine, this stainless steel electric wine opener has more than 2,000 reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star rating, and it's about $30. Seems like a great deal for the wine lover in your life. For the wine liker, even. It will tell you the temp, too.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

37. Maybe throw in something for your clumsy friends

Photo from worldmarket.com.

Photo from worldmarket.com.

38. Melissa and Doug make fantastic toys. These Water Wow "coloring" pads are perfect for the budding artist in your life who hasn't quite mastered fine motor skills yet. Fill the "pen" with water and watch as they use it to magically colors the pages. When it dries, repeat! Great for cars, planes, the kitchen table, or using over Gramma's priceless Persian carpet. They come in a variety of themes, from animals to princesses to vehicles, and at about $5 you can easily stock up or stuff several stockings. This 3-pack of animals, alphabet, and numbers is a great deal.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

39. These Melissa & Doug Smartypants cards for preschoolers are also really well reviewed, and come in a various grade levels.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

40. It's hard to see in this picture, but the detail on this platter is beautiful. Pile high with your favorite cookies or slap on your favorite latke recipe or simply wrap in a box.

Photo from potterybarn.com.

Photo from potterybarn.com.

41. Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment. The easiest way to take care of your lips and get a little color on them, too. Or not, if you choose the untinted version. My favorites are Petal, Ruby, and the universally flattering Rosé.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

42. Sugru moldable glue. Fix anything, including a stocking that needs stuffing. Comes in various colors.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

43. An illustrated book of untranslatable words for the word nerd on your list.

lost in translation untranslatable words

44. Bennington Potters makes gorgeous stuff, and I love this platter

bennington potters platter

45. A classic flask in a classic color. Affordable, sturdy, iconic.

Photo from amazon.com. 

Photo from amazon.com. 

46. This card-sized multitool is probably a great stocking stuffer for someone on your list. Open a beer, open a box, measure stuff, screw or unscrew things. They can keep it in their wallet.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

47. This gym bag, for the workout junkie on your list. Highly rated and in a range of colors.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

48. Speaking of exercise, this book, by the guy behind The Oatmeal.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

49. Meats! This salami of the month club is supposed to be great. 

Photo from olympiaprovisions.com.

Photo from olympiaprovisions.com.

50. These delightfully ridiculous macaron pill boxes for carrying medicine, jewelry, or whatever other tiny bits you can stuff in there. At $3 for 6, I think you need these for the stockings of tweens or fun-loving adults in your life.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

51. There's also a macaron earbud holder that's quite a steal.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

52. If you'd like to take a less whimsical route, this plain ole black earbud, USB, sim card carrying case is a great choice. I have one, and it's bigger than I expected, which is nice because it holds more than just earbuds but is still fairly small.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

53. While we're at it, you can never have too many earbuds. These are my favorites. They're affordable, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors. Maybe throw in a splitter for phones without a jack.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

54. Just look at this gorgeous farmhouse pitcher. Can't you just picture it chock-a-block with beautiful peonies, or on a brunch table, full of sangria?

Photo from potterybarn.com.

Photo from potterybarn.com.

55. These are awfully pretty.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

56. This 1000 colors puzzle, for someone you really love or possibly really hate. 

Photo uncommongoods.com.

Photo uncommongoods.com.

57. If you've got a puzzle lover who is also a reader, this slightly hokey-looking "Best Sellers" puzzle tickles me. It looks like something you'd find in your great uncle's lakeside cabin, next to some old candlesticks and paperbacks and a moldering, stuffed moose head.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

58. A ceramic paring knife is a great addition to any bar or kitchen. Include it with the gift of a cookbook, stuff (with caution!) in a stocking, tie it up with a bag of limes and a bottle of gin.

ceramic paring knife.png

59. I want this 5-year Q&A journal. There's a 3-year version for kids, too. Answer one question a day, repeat for five years, watch your answers change. This is a great gift for anyone, but especially someone starting a new chapter in their life. It's quick, fun, and doesn't take much commitment. Think recent grads, 20-somethings, new parents, kids, and anyone even slightly introspective or nostalgic. You can start it any time of the year.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

60. I really like this pretty frame a whole lot. It's modern yet classic, and the clean lines give it a universal appeal for an awful lot of people on your list. Stick in a favorite photo, or leave the quote ("These are your people, this is your year") in there, because it's pretty lovely as is.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

61. Wooden mixing bowl! This brand, Hape, makes such great toys.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

62. You guys. This Die Hard Christmas illustrated book, set to the rhyming cadence of Night Before Christmas. Someone on your list definitely needs this.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

63. Please include this Die Hard ornament in your gift, because nothing says festive like Hans Gruber's face on your Christmas tree.

Photo from CastleMcQuade Etsy shop.

Photo from CastleMcQuade Etsy shop.

64. I mean, you could throw in actual Die Hard too. At about $5, it's a great stocking stuffer. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

65. The very best ice cream scoop

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

66. Which you can pair with the best ice cream bowls (also excellent for anything else you use bowls for).

Photo from anthropologie.com.

Photo from anthropologie.com.

67. Exploding Kittens. Such a fun game. For all ages.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

68. Invisible ink pens! Kids definitely want these.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

69. And the adult version, sort of: an erasable, reusable notebook. Use the app to scan your writing and drawing and send to your various data-storing places (Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack, email.etc.), then erase, and start all over. 

everlast reusable notebook.png
Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

71. Pair it with this excellent mid-range bread knife (or a super fancy expensive bread knife, if you have the budget).

Photo from surlatable.com.

Photo from surlatable.com.

72. And for the Great British Bake Off fan, round it out with Paul Hollywood's bread bible. So many cookbooks this year. I'm not sorry! There is one for every occasion.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

73. While we're at here, let's consider Mary Berry's Baking Bible as well.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

74. Consider going all out by throwing in this absurdly twee-lightful and utterly cosy British cottage-esque Union Jack mug. And maybe some Downton Abbey tea?

union jack mug.png

75. And then consider this pricey, cool apron. Alton Brown's favorite! I like the olive canvas version a lot, too. 

Photo from hedleyandbennett.com.

Photo from hedleyandbennett.com.

76. This weird goo that I don't fully understand is supposed to sanitize and clean your keyboard. Hooray for stocking stuffers!

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

77. This sweet lil mouse ornament. Or this one.

Photo from potterybarn.com.

Photo from potterybarn.com.

78. Completely unrelated, obviously, is this book. Bundle 'em up together for your favorite little reader. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

Treat Yo Self gift bags. I did this for two of my cousins last year, and they were a hit. Indulge in buying some fun items they probably wouldn't buy themselves. Go for one main item, a couple medium items, and some smaller ones. You can do this for any budget and lots of items on the guide work but let's look at a $50ish dollar budget. 

79. For a main item, you can hardly go wrong with some Kate Spade earrings. Especially when Nordstrom price matches, or Macy's has them on sale. 

I mean, how cute are these glitter studs? This is what I included in the bags last year.

kate spade glitter studs

80. I wear these black drop earrings to work multiple times a week. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

81. And there's room in every wardrobe for these sweet, classic knots.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

82. For a medium item, I am a big fan of books. Go for the best thing you've read in the last year, or for a classic Christmas book, or straight up fluff. 

I really enjoyed this.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

Maybe a little holiday reading. A Christmas Carol won't steer you wrong, either.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

83. Face masks. Always face masks. There is no shortage of options, but I really like this rose eye mask from Sephora.

Photo from sephora.com.

Photo from sephora.com.

84. Listen, if you're going to do a face mask you're going to want to throw in one of these. Winning the coveted annual Cheapest Item On The Gift Guide prize, this adorable kitty ear headband is sure to put a smile on your giftee's face while keeping their hair off of it. FOR 2 AMERICAN DOLLARS.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

85. Depending on your budget, this Fenty universal lip gloss is supposed to be the bee's knees. From Rihanna's fantastic, inclusive new makeup line, this is designed to look lovely on all skin tones, and I hear that it does. I'd love to get this in my stocking or a gift bag!

Photo from sephora.com.

Photo from sephora.com.

86. Of course, you can always round it out with some of your favorite hot chocolate, or a split of champagne (as pricey or as budget-friendly as you please) that they don't have to share. Picture it: wearing new earrings, curled up reading a book while wearing a face mask and drinking some bubbly. Honestly, this is just a fantasy gift for yourself. 

Photo from totalwine.com.

Photo from totalwine.com.

87. As part of the Treat Yo Self bags or simply for someone who likes to take care of her paws, any or all of the following items make a great package together or separately. 

The very best, my absolute favorite-ever hand cream which is too expensive to justify using every day and thus makes a great gift. (My affordable daily driver is a great choice, too.)

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

88. Essie apricot cuticle oil. Not greasy, absorbs quickly, works beautifully to keep nails and skin looking healthy and fresh, and to prolong a manicure. (Allure loves it, too.)

Photo from allure.com.

Photo from allure.com.

89. Julep oxygen nail treatment. Keep nails healthy, keep nail color from staining. Allure loves this one too.

Photo from ulta.com.

Photo from ulta.com.

90. Listen, I don't know about you, but I can never find a ruler when I need one. And I would have loved this in my stocking as a kid. MY VERY OWN RULER.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

91. Merriam-Webster is one of my favorite accounts to follow on Twitter, and they now have swag. Their simple #WordsMatter mug speaks to me most, but this is also fun.

Photo from teepublic.com.

Photo from teepublic.com.

92. I have it on good authority that this card holder for little hands is a great stocking stuffer. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

93. This Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick combo. I have and use both items regularly and recommend them heartily.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

94. Throw in some smart plugs, so your giftee can control their lights from their phone or their new Dot or Echo.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

95. I have it on good authority that this candle is the best ever. Someone should buy it for me so that I can test out that claim. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

96. The candle would make a great hostess gift, and so would Christmas crackers, which are a British tradition I am quite fond of. You can find them in many different stores at many different prices. Check Marshall's and Homegoods, and maybe even Costco.

Photo from williams-sonoma.com.

Photo from williams-sonoma.com.

97. Presented without comment. (Okay, one comment: this is an absurd price for a burrito ornament, do not buy this.)

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

98. Perhaps I can interest you in a more reasonably-priced avocado ornament?

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

99. I can think of about ten hard-to-shop-for people that this identity theft protection stamp would be good for. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

100. Pocket-sized SOS kit. Don't we all need this?

pocket SOS

101. BILIBO toy. Just add imagination. There are minis, too. 

Photo from thetherapystore.com.

Photo from thetherapystore.com.

102. Tasty Science. Because tasty and science. What makes drinks fizz? Find out!

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

103. Balance board...thing. It reminds me of the Pogoball I had growing up and I feel like it would be good for someone who likes to workout or to keep your kid busy.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

104. I like these personalized bookmarks for hard-to-shop-for people. Design them with photos of their favorite people or places, an inside joke, or a quote about reading.

Photo from shutterfly.com.

Photo from shutterfly.com.

105. I am very strongly pro trinket tray, and I have one of these that says something else (Queen Bee, if you must know), and I sort of want to buy this teeny trinket tray for every female I know, even if they don't want to be CEO (which I don't). 

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

106. Maybe you want to pair it with this inflatable crown, while you're at it. I bought this for an adult last year, and I think it's safe to say it is a delight for all ages. It's $3, so maybe just get one for everyone on your list. One inflatable crown to rule them all.

inflatable crown
Photo from uncommongoods.com.

Photo from uncommongoods.com.

Photo from uncommongoods.com.

Photo from uncommongoods.com.

Photo from uncommongoods.com

Photo from uncommongoods.com

110. Battery tester. Useful, exciting for a kid, inexpensive. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

111. Show me something cuter than a kid in a robe, like a wee baby adult.

kid's robe
Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

113. A beaded NYC taxi ornament. I don't know why this charms me so, it just does. Beep!

Photo from potterybarn.com.

Photo from potterybarn.com.

114. I'll close with my annual commentary. When thinking of gifts, I love the old adage 'something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read'. I think 'need' is the only category I haven't truly covered here. Of course you can do your own research, but causes close to my heart include whatever local charity gives to kids who otherwise might not have a Christmas morning (like your local angel/giving tree), Toys for TotsFeeding America, helping wildlife, your local food bank, and your local blood & plasma bank. Maybe schedule an appointment to donate blood or plasma in January, if you want to give to someone not on your list. If you want to give in someone's name as a gift, you could certainly do that too.

***

Thanks for joining me and humoring me. I hope you've found some inspiration, and even if you haven't, this was a lot of fun for me to put together and I hope you enjoyed the ride as well! Wishing you and yours a truly happy, healthy, fun, delicious, and festive holiday season!

2015 Year in Review

Better late than never! The end of year holidays were lovely but completely bonkers, and I am only now sitting down to finish this. I should be taking down my Christmas tree instead, is how late this is. Regardless, I love reading everyone's end of year reviews and couldn't bear skipping out on summing up this crazy year. My 2014 is here

2015 was...whew. I think in general most years don't usually go quite the way we expect when they're still fresh and new and 12 months of a blank canvas. But man, 2015 sure was full of curve balls and craziness.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

Joined a crew team! Learned to scull and sweep row. Rowed in a boat with 8 other women. Sculled a single by myself. Had a broken jaw. Had 3 broken jaws. Been on a liquid-only diet. Twice. Stayed overnight in the hospital. Twice. (Huzzah, jaw surgery!) Carted around a life-sized cut-out of Kate Middleton to entertain myself and others. Spent an entire calendar year working for myself and not getting a regular paycheck from one single source. Drove to San Francisco through the central valley. Visited a wine region of California that is not Napa. Lived a whole calendar year in California.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't make resolutions, exactly. Instead, I pick a word for each year and focus on a few things around that word to help shape my year. 2015...oh man. My word for 2015 was "control". As I mentioned last year, my husband laughed heartily when I told him. And laughed. And laughed and laughed, no matter how much I kept saying "No! Not like that! I can explain!". I did intend to write more about that word here, and I didn't. I chose it because 2014 was so chaotic, I wanted to focus on what I could control in 2015. And to a certain extent, I did. I took up a new sport, I took control of my career and did something different. Focusing on what I could control in my life helped me handle all those things that I couldn't, like waiting around for jaw surgery and then having jaw surgery. Twice.

I haven't chosen a word for 2016, and I don't think I'm going to. I feel a pull and a drive for this year that I can't put my finger on or assign a word to, and I'm going to embrace it. (So maybe my word for this year is "zen", by default!)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

YES! My cousin who lives nearby-ish had a beautiful baby girl who is the light of all our lives. She is a joy and makes everything more fun, and we are all smitten. 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.

5. Where did you travel?

We explored wine country in Temecula in February or March. 

In May we spent a weekend on Point Mugu, which was beautiful and lovely and cheap as all get-out and just what we needed for a quick getaway.

In June we went 'home' to Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I was in my college roommate's wedding in Boston, and we were in the northeast for ten days, running around trying to squeeze in all our friends and family. It was lovely but utterly exhausting, and we learned that a week is about our max for that sort of thing. It's the kind of trip where nearly every meal is scheduled as a visit with someone, and it makes me want to lie down and nap just thinking about it. 

In early July we went to Tucson, back to the ranch we stayed at on our cross-country trip in 2014. It was heaven. 

Later in July we drove to San Francisco to see family who live there and family who were visiting. I love San Francisco, and I love getting to explore more of California. We drove up the 5 through the central valley, which is hundreds and hundreds of miles of orchards, nothing, then more orchards. We googled the trees we saw that couldn't place and determined that we passed almond, pistachio, and fruit orchards. A unique experience for these New Englanders! After San Francisco we drove to spend the night in Vacaville with our lovely friends Sarah and Chris. Our other lovely friends Elizabeth and her family came to join us for dinner and it was a blast. We then took off for Napa to spend the night with Zach's cousin and his husband, which is also always a wonderful time.

We were trying to squeeze in a lot before my surgery, which was scheduled for early August, and man was that the right move. We spent the next 4-5 months in surgery and recovery mode.

In August I spent the night in the hospital after surgery. I did the same in October. That sort of counts as traveling, right?

In mid November, a few days after I was able to start chewing again, we went back to Boston for a quick weekend for a family wedding.

Throughout the year we peppered in several trips to Orange County to see family. 

And then we closed out the year with a trip to Orange County to stay at my aunt & uncle's with our friends who were visiting from England. On January first (2016, I know!) we took off from there for Paso Robles for a trip we'd all been looking forward to.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you didn’t have in 2015?

I would like to get my braces off and be done with all of this surgery nonsense. It's been 2.5 years with braces, which were required for surgery, and I will likely need them for another 3-6 months. Fingers crossed they're off before my cousin's wedding in the spring!

I am ready to stop working for myself and get back to a regular job. I am putting it out into the universe: I would ideally like to be an in-house copywriter/content producer/marketer for a brand I am excited about and believe in. That is my goal for 2016. 

When we moved to California I didn't know when I would be having surgery, but we were under the impression that it would be Soon. I didn't feel right about getting a job knowing I would then have to be out for at least a month because of my surgery. It felt wrong to me. I had no idea how long it would actually take to have the surgery (a year after we moved!), or that there would be so many complications that would lead to a second surgery and a much longer recovery period. It is certainly not what I would've chosen, but in many ways I'm grateful for it. It led to me working for myself and gaining some wonderful experience and helping to figure out what I really wanted to do and where I really want to be. 

7. What days from 2015 will be etched upon your memory, and why?

August 5 - my first jaw surgery. 

October 2 - when I had to go back in and have the lower jaw done. 

November 13 - when I was finally cleared to chew again.

Are you sensing a theme for 2015? 2016 is going to be FULL of chewing and unbroken jaws.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?

I'm proud of the feedback I've gotten and keep getting about how I handled my jaw surgeries and protracted recovery with humor and a positive attitude. It's something I made a point of, and it is gratifying to know that it was noticed. Having it noticed also sort of feels like the positivity is reflected back at you and thus doubles on itself. It made me feel even more like I was in a positive environment and surrounded by extra love, support, and good vibes. Pretty amazing, and something I know I will keep coming back to and learning from.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Same as last year: Succumbing once again to that most vile temptress, Candy Crush. Getting to bed at a reasonable hour. (Although, due to so many 4am wake-up calls for rowing, I actually got better at that second bit.)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Um.

(I also closed out the year with a vile cold that spread through my family like wildfire. 2013 was the year of the Great Christmas Flu in my family. This was The Great Christmas Cold of 2015.)

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Same as last year: Rent that is slightly higher than we'd intended to pay, but is entirely worth it for living a block from the beach. (Walks on the beach are entirely free.) (Well, I guess not entirely.)

Different than last year: Small trips here and there sprinkled throughout the year. Trips to see family. Sourdough toast for myself and others.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My husband. As I said at one point in a personal Facebook post: "...my tall, dark, and handsome husband. He's been steadfast through all of this and I truly have no idea how I'd get through it without him. He deserves all the love and thanks and encouragement here, truly, because I'm just in it & don't have a choice: but he chooses it, over and over again. In a million ways, every day, he shows up. ...pour a little out tonight for the poor guy who married the biggest lemon in the bunch, but somehow manages to convince you his favorite food is lemons."

My parents. They waited around for the first surgery date just like we did, so that they could fly across the country to stay with us for 2.5 weeks and help take care of me afterward. I truly don't know how we would have done it without them. My mom is a handy one to have around in these situations not just because she's a retired nurse, but because you're apparently never too old to need your Mom when you don't feel well.

My friends, including some of you who might be reading this. The love, support, caring, and endless and thoughtful cards, gifts, jokes, packages, texts, and a million little things I got to make my recovery days brighter cannot be described. You were all my sunshine on a cloudy day.

13. Whose behavior didn't merit celebration?

Politicians?

14. Where did most your money go?

Same as last year: Well it’s boring, but it’s life: Bills. A mortgage. You know. All that stuff your 15 year old self would roll her eyes at heartily.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Going back to the ranch in Arizona that we visited last summer. Getting to see some familiar faces when we were there. Our friends from England coming to visit at the end of the year and traveling to wine country with them. Having a life-sized cardboard cutout of Kate Middleton show up on my doorstep thanks to a good friend who gets me. Having jaw surgery, finally! Learning to row (which also made me really, really, really nervous). Being invited to become a member of my rowing club after rowing there for a while. Seeing my baby niece, holding her, rocking her to sleep, and basically every tiny thing she does because she is scientifically proven to be the best baby in the universe, obviously. Getting to chew all the things again after weeks and weeks (12 total) of a liquid diet. Not having my mouth banded shut. Being able to speak via my mouth and not a white board.

16. What songs will always remind you of 2015?

HELLO. It's me.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

Happier, same, same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Read! Reading more is a big goal of mine in 2016. I didn't come close to my goal of 25 books in 2015, but I'm going to blow it out of the water this year. Are you on Goodreads? Let's be friends!

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Live on liquid foods, but I suppose that couldn't be helped.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

With my family, eating too much and laughing tons and enjoying each other and getting the baby to sleep, thus defending my World Champion Baby Whisperer title. (Secret: Get them to lay back and relax with a bottle, then rub their nose like a cat until they're down for the count. Then don't move a muscle and text your cousins to bring you snacks and cocktails. Feel like you have won Christmas, because you have.)

21. Did you fall in love with 2015?

Oof. I am grateful for where it brought me. I can't say I wish to relive it.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Oh, so many! Have you heard of this show called Breaking Bad? It's so good! I bet it's going to be a hit!

PARENTHOOD. The Good Wife. The Great British Breaking Show - we need more seasons, guys!

24. What was/were the best book(s) you read?

Station Eleven and The Royal We, no question.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Have you heard of this British gal called Adele? I think she's going to be big.

(I actually don't know that I discovered any new artists this year.)

26. What did you want and get?

Jaw surgery to happen and be over!

27. What did you want and not get?

Braces to be off! Soon, though.

28. What were your favorite films of 2015?

Wild. This is Where I Leave You. The Way. The Martian. (My yearly movies here.)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 34 and like last year, I rode a horse on a dude ranch in Tucson, AZ with my husband and some new friends. I once again rode a horse up and down a mountain and into a canyon, even though I'm afraid of heights. I sat by a pool and read a book and swam and got a massage and shared cake with friends. It was lovely.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I think this year was what it needed to be.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2014?

Working from home and rowing a lot and having surgeries meant a lot of yoga pants, spandex, and pajamas.

32. What kept you sane?

My husband, my dear friends, twitter, laughter.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

[redacted] 

(This is a politics-free zone, just like the holidays and family gatherings should be.)

34. Who did you miss?

As always, my friends and family who are far away.

35. Who was the best new person you met?

I've met so many wonderful people and made so many new friends through rowing. They're a smart, funny, dedicated, hard-working bunch, and no one is there who doesn't want to be there. It has been an absolute highlight of my year.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

As I said in yet another personal Facebook post, at the risk of sounding preachy and pardoning the language: "Every day, no matter where we are, we get to choose. We always get to choose. I don't always choose right and I'm not always my best self...But a 'good attitude' isn't something that somehow magically happens to certain people. It's something you get to choose. And just like a bad attitude, it's infectious. So spread that shit EVERYWHERE."

37. What are your goals for 2016?

Books. Tea. Sleep. Vegetables. Yoga. Rowing. Friends. Casual dinner parties. Landing that job as an in-house copywriter for a brand I love in a place that I can learn and grow. Getting my braces off. Having exactly zero surgeries. Having a wonderful, fun year that's challenging in all the right ways.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

LOOKS LIKE WE MAAAADE IIITTT!

It was a wild year, friends. And I’m ready for whatever’s next.