Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing up my annual review. My process is relatively simple – I run a retro – what worked well, what didn’t go well, what I’d like to improve. I gather the evidence of the year – my photos, my calendar, my sent emails, my journals, and I look over them, taking the time to sit in the feelings. I feel lucky to be able to spend some real time taking stock.

The biggest takeaway I have is that 2020 proved a strong point about why the practice of acknowledging the good (and writing it down) is so important for me. During times of stress I straight up forget the facts. Stress robs me of my ability to see the bigger picture. Instead, I may remember the theme (PANDEMIC!); the colors are not vivid, and the details slip through. When I take notes, when I write, and when I pause, I get to keep living the plot.

While working on my review, I was honestly surprised at the breadth of experience this year – in large part because my brain (really our collective brains) have been overloaded by the suspense, fear, grief, news cycle, and more. 2020 was a collective trauma.

As I took notes on this year, I was surprised to see how many of the dreams and hopes I had for 2020 actually ended up happening, despite the pandemic, or even more unlikely – because of it. This year I was able to help more people in my business, cook more, move more outdoors, create, develop deeper friendships with people thousands of miles away, and become closer to my friends and family – because of the constraint of something truly awful. This experience led me to be of better service to others. It’s a weird, complicated mix of feelings.

Back to the process.

Photo Documentation: To start, I open up my Evernote and my photos, and scroll back to January 1st. I then take the time to look through each of my photos for the year. As I go through, I take notes on fitness adventures, the meals and snacks that stood out to me, making sure to take note of novelty.

Reviewing my “master lists” and my tech history: my movie goal (I have a spreadsheet, and share on Instagram stories), my reading list (Goodreads), I also take a peek in my Amazon and Netflix viewing history. That said, in 2021, I think I’m going to track my television viewing on my movie list as a way to make it more intentional and enjoyable. I listened to a good deal of podcasts, so I made sure to note those too. How diverse is my input? What kinds of sources are driving my thinking and ideas?

I then take a look at my calendar, review my blogs and notes in Evernote, and peruse my saved sent emails to capture some of the things that end up not showing up in my camera roll or typical lists: conferences, courses, people that I’ve met, the occasional Facebook group drama. I take note of what I learned, and the projects I worked on, and work highlights.

A few more categories I take note of:

  • Review Travel and Creative Dates. (This year that section was short – next year I’m working on re-framing the possibilities rather than cutting out experience all together.)
  • Identify the things and experiences that brought me joy. (There was a lot of material purchases as I “upgraded” to the (best) items that would improve my experience of living at home.
  • A list of Random Things that don’t get slotted anywhere.
  • People I met or re-connected with.
  • A list of low points in 2020.

This year, I spent some time thinking through the process with a friend who does the same and added a few more categories and questions to think about, as she does values-based goal setting:

  • How have I connected to my values this year?
  • What do my choices show have been my priority?
  • This year I was….. as evidence by:
  • What do I want to pull into next year – carrying forward the work I’m already doing?
  • Where do I want to be next year? Which of these themes should I work towards in the coming year?

I tend to spend a few weekends working on capturing, notes, and reflection.

Of course I wouldn’t leave you without a peek into some of the good things; that is, of course, what I aim to do with this corner of the internet. This is admittedly the highlight reel; I have a long document with the rest of it all, but that’s probably best for another day.

Favorite Eats of 2020: we shall start here. This was the part of my annual review that SHOCKED me the most – the variety of foods that I ended up cooking and eating was very expansive.

  • Favorite Breads: Stone & Skillet Muffins, everything from Elephantine, Whizzo’s seedy bagels. Joseph’s Flax Lavash. Hamburger buns from my farm share.
  • Favorite Beans: everything delivered in Rancho Gordo bean share. Pickled black eyed peas.
  • Farm Share Favorites: Valicenti pastas. Pierogies. Pimiento Cheese. Bagels. Fennel. Soups!
  • Favorite Food Gift: White Gate Maple Syrup.
  • Standout Recipes and Dishes:
    • Niloufer King’s Fish in Coconut Milk,
    • Saffron and Lemon Chicken from Persiana,
    • Chuletas de Puerco from the Versailles Cookbook,
    • Banana Fish curry
    • Taco Pasta
    • Lomo Saltado.
    • Cumin lamb with yogurt sauce over rice with tomatoes
    • Mustard Mayo Fish and Miso Mayo Fish.
    • Calamari in the air fryer.
    • Melissa Clark’s Mango Cashew Chicken with Rum
    • Cauliflower Gnocchi Manti style with yogurt garlic sauce and ground beef.
    • Lobster (or Crab), Mango, lime and Tajín
    • Chicken Liver Curry
  • Favorite Stand By Rotation Meal: everything rice bowl (with omelette, pork, or fish, seasoned rice and furikake).
  • Summer of Dessert: mug cakes and cookies: chocolate brownie, funfetti with frosting, corn cookie, pumpkin chocolate chip; sticky toffee pudding, lemon pudding, chocolate pudding. Key Lime Pies. Somchay’s Carrot Cake. Summer’s pumpkin cookies.
  • Favorite Cookie: Brothers’ Snickerdoodle
  • Favorite Mid-GVRAT run refresher: Brothers’ parmesan crisps at about 6 miles in; or a Panera lemonade.
  • Favorite New Trader Joe’s Items: Cacio Pepe; Dynamite Sauce (RIP), Spicy Chakri Mix, Bazaar Mix.
  • Favorite Internet Trend: Dalgona coffee.
  • Favorite Items Ordered from Internet: Xi’An Chile Oil; Bagels from Montreal. Mozzarella Cheese Company Cheese assortment. Bonnie’s Euphoria Truffles!
  • All the Things I ate from Elephantine Bakery: all of the cake slices, ricotta danish, focaccia, cookies, jambon beurre, bûche de noel, cranberry curd gingerbread pecan pie. Parker House Rolls!
  • Favorite Takeout: LeDu, Shan-a-Punjab, Cafe Sushi. Wegman’s California rolls (don’t judge.)
  • Favorite Lettuce Varietals: agugula; crispy.

Fitness Highlights: I started the new year with my Needham New Years 5k, after a few months of running three miles three times a week, three years of my run streak down, I took great joy in completing the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (and back) – 1275 miles during the months of May through August. I organized my “fitness station” visibly in the middle of the living room to make sure that movement was always on my mind: yoga mats, props, blocks, dumbbells. I didn’t lift as much as I would have liked because I don’t have a barbell at home, but enjoyed some solid lifting at home with my growing collection of weights and Bret Contreras’ at home fitness program. And I took a LOT of yoga classes on Ompractice – our schedule has grown to almost a hundred live group classes a week, and it’s been a true delight seeing classes get “regulars”.

Movie Highlights: I can’t really choose a top 10, so this is about a top 15. Of note – in the (before time), the last movie I saw in the theater was Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn in the ARCLIGHT – which was the single most glorious cinematic and acoustic pleasure I’ve had in a theater. Some of my favorites this year included: Booksmart, Ladybird, Uncut Gems, Dolemite is My Name, 1917, Fighting with My Family, John Wick 3, Raising Arizona, Portrait of a Lady On Fire, Tigertail, Troop Zero, The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats It’s Young, The Half of It, My Spy, Pride, Mucho Mucho Amor, and Brave.

Favorite Books: in no particular order. I read less this year than usual, but still enjoyed a real range of genres and topics.

  • The Institute – Stephen King (fiction)
  • Vagina Bible – Jennifer Gunter (non-fiction)
  • The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides (fiction – thriller)
  • Legacy of Orisha — Tomi Adeyemi (2) (YA)
  • Ride of a Lifetime – Bob Iger (memoir)
  • It’s About Damn Time – Arlan Hamilton (memoir)
  • Range – David Epstein (non-fiction)
  • Rise – Patty Azzarello (business)
  • Piranesi – Susanna Clarke (fiction)
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – VE Schwab (fiction)
  • Untamed – Glennon Doyle (memoir – inspiration)

Favorite TV Series: in no particular order. Chef’s Table BBQ, the Queen’s Gambit, Hannah Gadsby – Douglas, Kim’s Convenience, Tiger King, Ashley Garcia, Worst Witch, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Umbrella Academy, Locke + Key, Vera (finished the series), Midsomer Murders (finished the series after years!), Jack Ryan, Schitt’s Creek, Indian Matchmaker, Bridgerton, Dash & Lily.

Favorite Podcasts: the Michelle Obama Podcast, How I Built This, RadioLab, Tim Ferriss, 1619, My Favorite Murder!, Dirty John, Inside Trader Joe’s. A few business specific: Arlan Hamilton’s My First Million, and Simone Seol’s Joyful Marketing.

With that, here’s to a full year to come. Thank you for reading, being a part of my life, and making the world a better place. I appreciate you.

xo, Sam.