2019 was a rollercoaster year. In the past 12 months I have experienced some incredible highs and some heartbreaking lows.
On the positive side, I became an aunt this year. My sister gave birth on September 4 to the most adorable little boy. His name is Zeke, which was my grandfather's name. Baby Zeke lives five minutes from his grandparents and his great grandmother, who was married to the Zeke for which he is named. Watching them together is the most special thing.
I was also very lucky to go on some amazing trips this year - the Bahamas, Los Angeles and a blissful week on Lake Winnipesaukee with my cousins and their kids. This was my second year joining them for the lake week and we're already booked for summer 2020.
This year I turned 35 (wowza) and had two straight weeks of toasts, beginning with a weekend in Portland, ME with my best friends from college and ending with a cake-filled celebration in Miami with my family.
This year also brought some really tough times. In April, my dad had open heart surgery. I wasn't able to be in Miami on the day of the surgery, which was very stressful. Once he was released from the hospital, I flew down to help with his reintegration at home. It was difficult to see him so uncomfortable.
Taking care of him became a full-time job for my mom, who has health issues of her own. His recovery took much longer than expected, which caused him to miss our family's annual trip to Truro in July. Being there without him crushed me.
I am happy to report that when I was in Miami for Thanksgiving, my dad seemed the most like himself that he has in months. His energy is back and he's feeling up to the outings he and my mom have always enjoyed.
No matter what 2019 threw at me, attacking my resolutions kept me grounded and excited to try new things. In case you missed them, here is my original list of goals from January and my six-month progress report in June.
Before we get into the official list, there is one resolution that I have carried over the past four years, which is to spend one night at home each week during the work week. When I first started doing this in 2016, the idea of forcing myself to say no to plans or cool events was completely foreign. As I started implementing this practice, I discovered that having that one night each week to relax and recharge made me more enthusiastic (and energetic!) about the plans I did have. I also felt more rested and more patient at work (which I am sure my co-workers appreciate!).
As you can see from the numbers below, I have strengthened my commitment to this goal with each passing year. This year, I had a perfect record for 37 weeks straight before I blew in week 38! I had one more imperfect week (week 40), bringing me to 50 out of 52 weeks for 2019.
- 2016: 35 out of 52 weeks
- 2017: 42 out of 52 weeks
- 2018: 50 out of 52 weeks
- 2019: 50 out of 52 weeks
Maybe 2020 is the year I get all 52?
Ok, now onto the year-end report!
1. Send my grandmother one piece of snail mail every week
Status: Pen pal perfection. When I made this resolution at the start of the year, I had two motivations: (1) make my grandmother feel more at home in Miami and (2) improve our communication. That month, January 2019, my grandmother moved out of the home she had shared with my grandfather in Jupiter, FL, to a condo down the street from my parents in Miami. The adjustment was hard for her. She missed her friends and as she would go on to tell us nearly every day, her perfect view of the ocean. I hoped the weekly letters would make her feel less lonely.
Second, for my entire life, my grandmother has been hard of hearing. She wears hearing aids (begrudgingly), but even with them, getting her to understand you is a challenge and it's nearly impossible over the phone. While I visited Miami more in 2019 than I ever have before, it was the time in between visits where I wanted to feel more connected to her.
So, I began sending one piece of snail mail each week and I have done that all 52 weeks this year. I send cards for every holiday and I try to send something from each place I travel to. That's been a fun part of this for me, with every trip for work or for pleasure, I am always on the lookout for a card for her. She's received mail this year from Austin, Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Truro and even the Bahamas!
Many people have asked me, "Does she ever write you back?" She has written me back exactly two times. Ha!
The first time was in May, when she sent me a postcard from a restaurant in Miami called the Icebox, which she knows I love.
The second card came in October and it was all about how much she adores baby Zeke.
For Hanukkah this year, my sister and brother-in-law sent me custom stationary and the card with the gift read, "To help continue your pen pal-ing!" I was so touched.
I plan to keep up this weekly ritual for all of 2020. I know my grandmother enjoys it and I do too!
2. Get TSA pre-check
Status: Best $85 dollars I've ever spent. This was the very first resolution I tackled in 2019 and I completed every step in the month of January - applied online, scheduled my in-person appointment and received my traveler number. The status change happened just in time for my annual work trip to San Francisco in February.
There are a few things that make my blood boil instantly and one of them is the security line at the airport, especially if I am standing behind people who have never flown before or have a gaggle of small children. Once I got TSA pre-check, my entire life changed. I am less stressed heading to the airport, because I know the line will be short. I also know that all the other people in the line are seasoned travelers and know exactly what to do. I especially appreciate not having to take my shoes off or remove my laptop from my bag.
Here is a photo of my very first boarding pass with the TSA pre-check stamp!
If you have been thinking about doing this for yourself, what are you waiting for?!
3. Take a tropical vacation (year two!)
Status: Complete - with two celebrity sightings to boot! The winters in Boston are long. And cold. Having a warm weather getaway to look forward to has become one of my survival tactics. In March 2018, I went with two of my best friends to The Shore Club in Turks and Caicos. It was such a fantastic trip that two years later we're still talking about it!
While I would be happy to go back to Turks every single year, my travel buddy was itching to experience something new. For our 2019 winter escape, we flew to the SLS Baha Mar in the Bahamas. The resort is absolutely gorgeous.
We had a spacious room with beds that felt like clouds.
The highlight for me was the restaurants. Baha Mar has a superb roster of chefs and we ate like queens every night! You can revisit all of those meals here:
- Dining Out: 4 Lunch Spots at Baha Mar
- Dining Out: Fi'lia
- Dining Out: Katsuya
- Dining Out: Cleo
- Dining Out: Costa
In addition to the sunshine, the swimming pools, the ocean views and the endless supply of frozen drinks, we also had two celebrity sightings! During our dinner at Katsuya we were seated two tables away from basketball star Ray Allen and on our final pool day, we were just a few chairs away from Robin and Juan Dixon from The Real Housewives of Potomac. At one point, we were in the pool and Robin swam by close enough that I could have touched her. Needless to say, I was freaking out!
The tropical tradition will continue in 2020. We have already booked a getaway to Curacao. It will be the first time there for all four of us and I can't wait.
4. Go back to Israel
Status: Flying in January 2020! When I first made this resolution, my plan was to head to Israel in October. That is a beautiful time of year there. It's after the high holidays in September and the weather is warm, but not hot.
My plans were foiled when I discovered I would be kicking off with two new clients at work during the exact week I had planned to travel. I had convinced these companies to partner with our agency and I couldn't leave during our very first week working with them, so I pushed the dates. Because I already had travel plans in November that didn't feel possible and December is always crazy with the holidays. So, I am headed to Israel the third week of January and I am so excited!
As I always do, I will split my time between my aunt, uncle and cousins and one of my best friends from summer camp who lives in Israel with her husband and three kiddos.
With just three weeks to go until I take off, I am already dreaming of all the delicious food I will eat . . .
And the smell of the salt air in Tel Aviv . . .
And the beautiful stone streets in Jerusalem . . .
And all the Limonana I will drink!
5. Secure a reservation at Pammy's
Status: Visited not once, but twice! I made my very first visit to Pammy's in August 2017 and fell instantly in love. The dining room was a warmth . . . almost a glow, that makes you feel welcome and like you're in for something special.
Pammy's has been called a "pasta paradise" and it certainly lives up to that name.
Due to an impressive list of accolades the restaurant has racked up since opening, it is very difficult to secure a reservation, unless you plan weeks in advance.
I was determined to get back to Pammy's in 2019 and I was able to go not once, but twice! The first trip was in March where we enjoyed the antipasti plate, the bucatini with shrimp and the casarecce with wild mushrooms.
The second visit was in July, the night before my mom and I drove to Truro for our annual week on Cape Cod.
In both cases, I made the reservation six weeks in advance. If you know you want to head to Pammy's for a special occasion or while a friend is in town, be sure to plan ahead!
6. Order a Freak Frappe at Boston Burger Company
Status: Conquered! Black Tap in New York City started a phenomenon when they began offering milkshakes piled high with gluttonous toppings. Here in Boston, the best place to get a milkshake like that is the Boston Burger Company. They call their creations Freak Frappes. There are frappes that are always available and then each month there is a new, seasonal special.
Committed to experiencing one of these monstrous milkshakes, I asked my twin cousins to join me for this outing. I instructed them to come hungry and wearing stretchy pants. We had burgers first (we're not heathens) and then after much deliberation, decided on the Buttah Face, which was cookie butter ice cream, a ring of Reese's Pieces around the glass, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, a chocolate chip cookie dough Pop Tart and a Nutty Buddy.
Yes, people. This really exists. And let me tell you, it was freaking delicious!
Since that visit, I have also ordered the Oreo frappe, which is less of a production, but tastes equally fantastic.
My one piece of advice is to share these frappes. Don't try to finish one on your own. There were three of us and we still didn't get to the bottom of the glass!
7. Frame and hang more artwork
Status: Gallery wall #goals. Each year there is one resolution on the list where I drag my feet. It happens every year, without fail. For example, in 2016 I resolved to visit the Boston Public Library (since I'd never been) and I didn't go until December 28!
This year, the framing project was the victim of my procrastination. Though I had 12 months to make progress, it wasn't until December 21 that I even took one step toward accomplishing this. And honestly, I can't even really take credit because had a friend not offered to help me pick out the frames and hang them, I probably wouldn't have done it all.
On the afternoon of December 21, I placed my favorite pieces on the dining room table and my friend (my framing spirit guide) leapt into action. We drove together to A.C. Moore where we found frames for each piece in under 10 minutes. We got hooks and backings to protect the walls and before I knew it, we were back home and beginning the process of creating a gallery wall.
We put each piece into its new frame - one in the kitchen and the rest for the gallery wall above the headboard in my bedroom. I have lived in my place for seven years and I have never hung anything on that wall. We put each of the pieces in consideration onto the floor and began moving them around to see which order we liked best. It took several arrangements (and the addition of two pieces from the living room) to find the ideal layout. We took a picture of the winning arrangement and then she got to hanging.
20 minutes later, the gallery wall was complete!
I am still looking for something to add to that bottom right corner, but it's 90% of the way there.
Some of these pieces I've had for over 10 years and it's been sparking some serious joy to come in and out of my room each day and see them proudly displayed. Each one brings back a specific, happy memory. I love having them up!
8. Read two books per month
Status: Major bookworm mode. When I made this resolution at the start of the year, I thought two books per month felt like a reasonable, achievable goal. Of all the resolutions I made this year, this one felt the most constant and present in my daily life. Each time I would finish I book, I would feel a tremendous sense of victory, knowing I was marching toward this year-end total.
Originally, I planned to read two books per month, 24 for the year. I am ending 2019 having read 28 books - four more than my initial goal! Below is the complete list. I have linked to all the reviews I've written so far.
15. The Plaza: The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel by Julie Satow
17. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
18. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
23. The Occasional Virgin by Hanan al-Shaykh
27. Ladies Who Punch by Ramin Setoodeh
28. Know My Name by Chanel Miller
I enjoyed this resolution so much that I plan to keep it for 2020. I think I am going to up the ante and set my goal at 30 books for the year.
9. Share top 10 lists
Status: A glorious year of reflection. On January 4, 2019 I celebrated 10 years of Pop.Bop.Shop. On that anniversary post, several readers commented that I should publish a series of top 10 lists, sharing my best discoveries of the past decade. I loved the idea so much that I decided to implement it immediately, writing a different themed list every month.
In case you missed any, here are all 12 lists:
- Top 10: Brunch Spots
- Top 10: Viewing Party Moments
- Top 10: Favorite Books
- Top 10: Outdoor Dining Spots
- Top 10: Dog-Friendly Spots
- Top 10: Cape Cod Spots
- Top 10: Martha's Vineyard Musts
- Top 10: Ice Cream Favorites
- Top 10: Birthday Meals
- Top 10: Pumpkin Dishes
- Top 10: Gratitude Moments
- Top 10: Discoveries in 2019
Sitting down to write these each month offered me an opportunity to look back and reflect. Often I would look at every single post I had written in a particular category and it would remind me of things I reviewed in the early years, founders I've met, trips I took or incredible meals I enjoyed. It was kind of amazing to see the breadth of topics covered in the past decade.
Thank you, my brilliant readers, for the suggestion. I had a blast doing this!
There you have it! My year-end report. Normally, at this point, I would share the final tally, but in this case, I checked every single resolution off the list! In the five years I have been sharing my goals here on the blog, this is the first time I have completed all of my resolutions. And you know what? It feels pretty damn good!
Thank you for following along on this journey. For leaving comments, sharing ideas and recommendations and encouraging me along the way.
Tell me, did you set any resolutions for 2019? How did it go?