2018, you were a doozy. As I look back on this year, it was one of both wonderful highs and devastating lows.
A lot of tough stuff happened this year. One of my best friends moved away after we'd shared 12 years of Thursday night dinners together. Her departure left a gaping hole in my heart (and my weekly routine). A few days after her move, Scout, my beloved pup, suffered a very serious bout of gastroenteritis, which caused me a ton of anxiety, and also resulted in me missing my annual summer trip to Maine with friends, which is a weekend I look forward to the entire year. A few days after Scout's hospitalization, my grandfather passed away. His death reopened a lot of sadness around losing my grandmother, which I wasn't quite expecting. The tears would come at all kinds of weird moments, leaving me a blubbering mess for several weeks.
This year, I also experienced a new level of stress at work that I didn't even know was possible. When I reflect on my career so far, I always think of my years in advertising as being the most intense. Well, 2018 toppled that experience right out of the number one spot. This year, I adjusted to a new position with lots of responsibilities that are both high pressure and emotionally taxing. The weight of that manifested itself in many unpleasant ways: eye twitching, headaches, stomach aches, severe back pain and even a two-week stretch of hives that left my entire body feeling like it was on fire.
Though there were a lot of challenges, this year also brought many happy memories. I went to Turks and Caicos with two of my best friends, which is a destination I've had on my bucket list for years. I went on a girls trip to Palm Springs, CA that filled my heart with so much joy and laughter (and Vitamin D). I enjoyed the best of New England summer on Lake Winnipesaukee and Cape Cod. Scout even got to come to the Cape for the first time! On top of all that, in 2018 I've visited my family in Miami more times than ever before in one year. It's been so nice to be with them, and of course, escape the cold.
You may remember that there are a few resolutions from past years that I wanted to carry over into 2018.
- Spend at least one weeknight at home every week - I made this resolution for the first time in January 2016 and it's one I've tried to keep ever since. I've found that by blocking off at least one weeknight to myself, I feel less stressed, I have more energy the next day, and I am even more excited for the plans I do have, because I haven't run myself ragged. I am proud to report that this year I've kept this resolution for 50 out of 52 weeks.
- Use my gift cards - Let me preface this by saying I know this is a first world problem and I hate myself for even complaining about it. No matter how many times I write about not wanting to receive any more gift cards, they just keep coming. I received two at work last week and had to suppress a groan. I've found new ways to donate the cards and I've also tried to use some in practical ways, like to pay for groceries or help cut the cost of my holiday shopping. All that said, I still have about two dozen cards in a pouch in my purse.
- Attend the Revere Sand Sculpting Festival - The first time I attended this festival in July 2016, I fell in love. The boardwalk is a lovely place to stroll, the sculptures are amazing, and of course the ice cream truck didn't hurt. Each year since, I have tried to go back, but it always seems to fall when my parents are in town, and they have no desire to go. So, maybe 2019 is the year I get to return!
- Experience the Hull Harbor Illumination - In 2017, I made a resolution to attend the Hull Harbor Illumination, an annual event in my dad's hometown. Though I grew up on the beach there, I had never been. The day I was supposed to go in 2017, I woke up and Scout was horribly sick. I called my mom in tears, realizing I'd have to miss it. This year, I got a fresh chance and was delighted to experience it with my cousin, sister and brother-in-law on our way back from Cape Cod. I shared a full post about it (see that here). The photos can't even really do it justice. The pink glow on the harbor was gorgeous.
Now onto my final progress update on this year's list!
1. Take a tropical vacation
Status: Complete! Now that's it's December, I can't even believe this trip happened this year. It feels so long ago! Back in March, I stayed at The Shore Club Turks and Caicos with two of my closest gal pals. Turks had been on my travel bucket list for years and it was a dream come true to spend a long weekend there.
The Shore Club was stunning, both the property and the beach.
Our room was luxurious, including a bathroom fit for a queen and a private outdoor patio we lounged on every afternoon when we came home from the pool or the beach.
I knew the trip was going to be epic when we accidentally crashed a wedding reception on the very first night.
Whenever I'm having a stressful moment at work, in line at the airport, or the freezing winter winds are whipping in my face, I just close my eyes, take a deep breath, and pretend I am at the adults-only pool overlooking the ocean.
2. Visit Charleston, South Carolina
Status: Plot twist! I keep a domestic travel bucket list and Charleston, SC crept to the top by the time I was penning this list in January. I knew I didn't want to go in the summer (good lord, the humidity!) so I started targeting September. A few weeks before my birthday, one of my best friends offered to be my travel buddy and we started to research flights, hotels, and most importantly, food. We were getting ready to hit "purchase" on our flights when she had a sudden change of plans. With two weeks to go until our intended takeoff date, it was too late to ask someone else to join. Since I already had the time off work, I wound up going to Miami instead.
As fate would have it, Charleston is in my future. While I was in Miami for Thanksgiving, my cousin (who is like a sister to me) announced that she, her husband and her two kids would be moving to Charleston during Christmas week. I will definitely be going to visit them once they get settled. So though this trip didn't happen in the way I originally planned, I will get there!
3. Get back to New York City
Status: In a New York state of mind. When I graduated from college in 2006, I went to New York City all the time. My cousin lived there (the same one moving to Charleston), as well as a bunch of my camp and college friends. I always had a couch to crash on and I took advantage of that often.
As we've gotten older, and those friends have moved to Connecticut and New Jersey, I visit less. I used to come all the time for work, and these days I usually take the Amtrak down and back (same day) for a couple hours to attend a new business pitch or a big client meeting.
This year, I firmly resolved to spend more time in New York. I really missed it. I made three work-related trips and then in October, I planned an entire weekend of exploring. During those three days I discovered the best pizza of my life at Marta, I revisited Hillstone for their life-changing veggie burger, inhaled the house-made chips with blue cheese fondue at The Smith, sipped rich hot chocolate at Maison Kayser, indulged in the buttery perfection of Levain chocolate chip cookies, walked through Central Park on a beautiful fall day and made my first trip to the Frick Collection, which captured my heart.
I love New York.
4. Spend time on Cape Cod
Status: Blissfully complete! I grew up spending at least one week on the Cape every summer. When I was really little, my grandparents used to rent a house in Dennis, and when I was about 10, we started renting from friends in Truro.
In 2017, my parents wanted to mix things up and asked if we'd be ok doing our family vacation in Maine instead of on the Cape. I was skeptical, but figured, the Cape will always be there. We did have a lovely time in Camden, Maine, but on the drive home, we all agreed it couldn't replace Truro.
So this year my mom got a jump on things and booked us a rental house in January. This house allowed dogs, so I was able to bring Scout to the Cape for the very first time. He was a total natural, lounging on the back deck, chasing the waves on the beach, and trying to eat everyone's fried food.
We spent the days on our favorite beaches - Head of the Meadow, Corn Hill and Great Hollow. We didn't make it to my dad's favorite spot, Long Nook (which has a very steep incline going down and back up), but I'm glad we skipped it because the following week a man was bit by a shark on that beach!
We revisited several Truro staples - Savory Pizza, Sweet Escape Ice Cream, Atlantic Spice Company, Chequessett Chocolate and of course, the Truro Vineyards. This year they introduced the sangria slushie, which was refreshing and delightfully strong.
We also did day trips to Wellfleet and Provincetown, which led to the discovery of my new favorite place in P-town, Canteen. It's unassuming from the font, but has a fantastic outdoor set up in the back, right on the beach. They also make a vegetarian version of fish and chips (with mushrooms), earning them major bonus points in my book.
My mother has already researched and booked our rental house for July 2019. Is seven months before too early to start the countdown?
5. Revisit my favorite downtown restaurants
Status: All the Open Table points. At the start of 2018, I felt like I was in a dining rut. I had my go-to spots, and rarely left the triangle of Watertown / Cambridge / Somerville. When I worked downtown, it was so easy to hop on the T and meet friends in a bunch of different neighborhoods. Now that I work on the other side of the river, it takes a bit more effort.
Not only did I make it to all of those restaurants, but over the course of the year I dined downtown 29 times! That's basically every other week.
Here's a complete list of all my downtown stops:
- Bin 26 Enoteca (2x)
- Blue Dragon
- Boston Chops
- Cafeteria (2x)
- City Table
- Committee (2x)
- Double Chin
- Earl's at the Prudential Center
- Eastern Standard (2x)
- Eataly (2x)
- The Marliave
- Myers + Chang (2x)
- Ocean Prime
- The Paramount (2x)
- Trade (2x)
Check, please! I crushed it.
6. See Hamilton when it comes to Boston
Status: I'm not throwing away my shot. When I made this resolution, I knew Hamilton was coming to Boston, and I also knew tickets were selling for sky-high prices. I was certain it would take a miracle to get me into the show.
One afternoon at work I was posting an update to a client's Facebook page and after I hit "publish," I went back to the home page to see how it looked in the newsfeed. It was in that moment I saw a friend from high school had just posted that she had extra tickets to the show on October 28 if anyone was still looking. My heart started racing and I messaged her immediately. I think my opener was, "I realize someone probably already snagged these, but if by any chance you still have two left, I'd be thrilled to purchase them." She let me know I was the first person to write to her (ah!) and the tickets were mine. The best part? She'd sell them to me at face value.
I was so happy to have secured tickets, I never even asked what section or row they were in. On the night of the performance we had a delicious pre-show dinner at The Marliave, and then walked over to the theater. As the usher showed us toward our seats she kept walking, and walking, and walking, until she arrived at the right box closest to the stage, spitting distance from the actors. Our jaws were on the floor. We could not believe our luck!
Though everyone told me to listen to the music before the show, I didn't. I wanted to experience it live and I am so glad I did. I felt the full range of emotions - happiness, joy, anger, sadness - and was welling up during the final number as the cast took their bows. It was an incredible experience and I'll never forget it.
7. Tour Short Path Distillery
Status: Last call. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I never made it to Short Path. I've been wanting to go for years, and I have no excuse. All I would have to do is get in my car and drive to Everett. All year long they have had so many fun events, food trucks, specialty cocktails and I've just been following along on Instagram, not mobilizing.
This one will carry over onto the 2019 list, as I still really want to do it!
8. Go treasure hunting at the Brimfield Antique Show
Status: A new annual tradition. For the past few years I had been following along as bloggers, interior designers, restaurant owners and more flocked to the Brimfield Antique Show. I would watch as their Instagram photos and stories rolled in, showing off all the treasures they'd found. In January 2018 I resolved to experience this myself.
One of my best friends flips houses and also has a staging business, so we decided to attack this resolution together. With the advice of a friend who grew up going to the show with her parents, we were armed with the best time of day to arrive, the ideal lot to park in, and all kinds of other pro tips like wear sneakers, bring lots of water, and pack a cart to help haul back all your finds.
I wrote a full post recapping our day at Brimfield; you can revisit that here.
It's been a few months, and I still regret not splurging on that Nantasket Beach sign for my family's house in Hull, MA. Hopefully something like it will reappear in 2019.
We had such a blast that we've committed to go back together every year.
9. Become a plant lady
Status: Green thumb forming! I distinctly remember the moment I decided to make this resolution. I was reading my favorite blog, Cup of Jo, and the post was a home tour featuring a woman named Amira who had a whole ritual around tending to her plants. Becoming a plant lady had not only helped to breathe new life into her space, but it gave her a sense of calm when other things in her life felt chaotic.
In May, I purchased my very first plant. It was during my maiden voyage to IKEA (yes, I went there for the first time at age 33) and I was smitten. She was so perky and cheery and I couldn't wait to watch her grow.
Well, fast forward three months and I was gone for the entire month of July, and never asked any of my dog sitters to water her. Due to neglect, she died.
I was so discouraged that I wasn't sure I could pick out another (or really deserved to). Then, the week of my birthday, my co-workers surprised me with the sweetest birthday celebration. They put out Diet Snapple (my favorite drink) in champagne glasses, made dirt dessert, and lined the table in our office kitchen with plants. They had picked out eight plants for me to take a second crack at this resolution. When I realized what they had done, I started to well up.
I am pleased to say, that four months later, seven of the eight plants are still alive! I keep most of them in my kitchen window (which gets amazing light) and then I have one on my dining room table.
Every time I'm draining pasta, or washing my hands, or rinsing dishes, the sight of them brings me great joy. It's a combination of the fact that they're still alive, and a reminder that my sweet co-workers hand picked each one just for me.
10. Feature more female-owned businesses
Status: A work in progress. When I made this resolution in January, I was hoping to create an entirely new series here on the blog that spotlighted women-owned businesses. Much like the recurring series of Dining Out or Movie Musings, I wanted this to be a regular post theme that readers could look forward to.
I started off strong, by celebrating the blog's ninth birthday on January 4, 2018 by featuring nine of my favorite female-owned companies. I was feeling fired up about this goal.
As the weeks and months went on, I couldn't seem to find the time to interview these women in the way I had hoped, or schedule time to photograph their products or stores.
When I'm feeling bummed about the false start on this one, I remind myself of all the other ways I support women here on Pop.Bop.Shop. This year I shared my thoughts on nine movies with a female lead, reviewed 12 books by female authors, and highlighted dozens of women-led brands in my 2018 holiday gift guides.
This is a resolution I want to reignite in 2019.
11. Hire a Pop.Bop.Shop. intern
Status: Failure to launch. At the start of this year, I dreamed about having an intern to help with a bunch of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to make this site feel effortless. I longed for a partner in crime to plan round ups for theme days, like Chocolate Milkshake Day or S'Mores Day. I was excited by the idea of a buddy to help scour the web for the best gift guide selections. And I was particularly hopeful I'd have a wing woman to collaborate with me on planning something special for the blog's tenth anniversary, which is coming up on January 4, 2019.
Needless to say, I did not ever hire an intern. I never even wrote a job description. I was just kind of hoping the stork would deliver this blog newbie to my doorstep, excited and eager to learn.
As I head into the new year, I'm reevaluating if this is really the solution, or if can I find ways to purposefully carve out more blog time and plan ahead for big things on the horizon. As always, I will keep you posted.
With that, we've reached the end. It's time for the year-end, final tally:
7 resolutions complete
#1 - Take a tropical vacation
#3 - Get back to New York City
#4 - Spend time on Cape Cod
#5 - Revisit my favorite downtown restaurants
#6 - See Hamilton when it comes to Boston
#8 - Go treasure hunting at Brimfield Antique Show
#9 - Become a plant lady
4 resolutions left on the table
#2 - Visit Charleston, South Carolina
#7 - Tour Short Path Distillery
#10 - Feature more female-owned businesses
#11 - Hire a Pop.Bop.Shop. intern
While I am disappointed not to have checked all 11 resolutions off the list, the seven that I did complete were big ones. That Turks and Caicos trip was a major highlight of 2018, and getting back to my favorite downtown restaurants, Cape Cod and New York City were all shots in the arm of happiness. I'm still beaming from Hamilton, I'm psyched to have a new annual tradition in Brimfield, and each morning when I see my plants, I'm reminded that you can achieve things you thought you sucked at.
A huge thank you to all the readers, friends and family members who cheered me on while tackling this list, and even offered to be part of many of the adventures. When I felt like giving up, you recharged me.
Over the past two weeks I've fielded a lot of questions about if I've decided on my 2019 resolutions and if I'll publish them again here. Tell me, do you still enjoy these posts? Do you like reading the quarterly updates? I'd really love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!