2020 Year in Review

New Year's Eve // www.WithTheGrains.com

“I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have.”

I reposted this quote from The Chalkboard a few months ago. It hit me, but it didn’t really hit me. There’s so much speed and so little processing when it comes to social media. Major lessons become minor blips. The endless scroll is an endless temptation, but life has a way of bringing lessons back around, sometimes in the form of a gut punch. Let’s be real – very frequently in the form of a gut punch.

As the holidays loomed, I felt that gut punch. I found myself mourning my past relationship, even while celebrating a new one. Human emotions are complex and anything but neat and linear. I felt the insecurity of jealousy, of failed expectations, and the loss of all the peripheral relationships – siblings, parents, grandparents.

Then, I found myself on a rather impromptu trip to Thomas, West Virginia. It’s a beautiful mountain town with a strong sense of community and creativity. Our host invited us to an intimate gathering to celebrate the Winter Solstice, where luminaries glowed in the snowy hillside, and kindred spirits gathered around a fire pit to “kill their darlings.”

New Year's Eve // www.WithTheGrains.com

I wrote my “darlings” on a snowy piece of paper, the watery ink manifesting what I wanted to leave behind. As the negative feelings burned in the embers, and the celebrations continued, I really did begin to appreciate everything I have. I had fixated on how my choices led to loss and missed how my choices opened the doors to gain.

When the pandemic demanded isolation, I found new parts of myself. I found more quiet contentment and a deeper companionship with my sweet girl, Julep. I found a slow and patient appreciation for nature while simultaneously trusting more in my body to be a part of nature. I walked and hiked miles and miles. I swam in a flowing gorge. I stretched and danced into a healthier version of myself. I pushed my kitchen resourcefulness, and eating alone made me later appreciate eating with others all the more.

It’s easy to look back at the big picture of this year and slip into societal standards. This wasn’t a resume-building year. I didn’t walk away with a bulleted list of tangible accomplishments, but I’m immensely proud of myself this year. I am someone who is learning to speak for myself. I am someone who shows up for my people. Above all, I am someone who appreciates everything I have.

Looking Back on 2020: Quiet Times & Deep Connections

January Highlights

I hustled to put the finishing touches on so many apartment projects, so I could have a fresh start to the year. Julep will take you on the full apartment tour.

Read More: Home as a Hell Yeah (My Updated Apartment Tour)

Home as a "Hell Yeah" (My Updated Apartment Tour) // www.WithTheGrains.com

February Highlights

Prioritized setting dates with friends and reconnecting. Celebrated my birthday with a ridiculously fun roller skating party. Carried the baton of my mini birthday-cake tradition.

A Brunch in Celebration of Worth Manifesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: A Brunch Board in Celebration of Worth Manifesto 

A Roller Skating Birthday Party for Me, a Grown Ass Woman // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: A Rollerskating Party for Me & My Inner Child

36 Cakes for 36 Years: Mini Persian Love Cakes // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: 36 cakes for 36 years

March Highlights

Co-hosted a maker fair at Ace Hotel right before the world closed down. Invested in a few meaningful pieces from our vendors. Made a choice to have dinner with friends in spite of exhaustion after all the maker fair logistics – one of my last shared meals before COVID changed everything. Looking back, this time reminds me not to shy away from moments of connection because we never truly know if we’ll have another chance. One week later, we were all ordered to shelter in place, and our lives changed forever.

Handmade Items from Pittsburgh Makers // www.WithTheGrains.com

April Highlights

Slowing way down. Embracing simplicity and the slow transition to spring. Committing to work my way through The Artist’s Way and celebrating the one year anniversary of my first-born, The Gluten-Free Grains Cookbook.

Practicing Creativity with The Artist's Way // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: Practicing Creativity with The Artist’s Way

On Seasons and Looking Back on Spring // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: On Seasons and Looking Back on Spring

The Making of a Cookbook (My Book is One!) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: The Making of My Cookbook (My Book is One!)

May Highlights

Leaned into and sat with my loneliness. Sought joy in tiny moments like setting the table for myself or figuring out new ways to bake for others. Appreciated and nurtured the importance of my chosen family all the more, especially after a very special [platonic] doughnut proposal arrived at my door.

Whole Grain Peach Pie for Annie // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: A Whole Grain Peach Emoji Pie for Annie

Waste Less: Ripened Tomato Pasta // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: Waste Less: Ripened Tomato Pasta with Chorizo

Angel Food Bakery Doughnut Proposal // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: A Doughnut Proposal & The Value of Chosen Family

June Highlights

A friendship-solidifying trip to Marlene’s hometown of Ithaca, NY. Hiked for the best vertical views of the iconic gorges, attended outdoor wine tastings, swam at the local watering hole, made epic brunch boards, and partook in the South African grilling tradition called a Braai. Started a monthly herbalism class called The Alchemy Path with Alison Garber of Land Spirits. Fostered a growing spiritual practice – an unexpected journey that emerged during the pandemic.

The Ithaca Farmer's Market // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: Visit The Ithaca Farmer’s Market

A South African Inspired Braai

Read More: A South African Inspired Braai

July Highlights

Said “yes” to summer as often as possible, and in the course of the many “yeses,” I met Dylan. Established a friendship that blossomed and deepened as the summer continued. Plenty of hikes, long walks, and adventures to Lake Erie. Birthdays, grills, piñatas, and fireworks.

An Easy Mediterranean Picnic for a Beach Trip // www.WithTheGrains.com

An Easy Beach Picnic // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: An Easy Mediterranean Picnic for a Beach Trip

Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lemon Dill Chickpea Salad for a Vegan Beach Picnic // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: Lemon Dill Chickpea Salad for a Vegan Beach Picnic

Witchy Beach Times // www.WithTheGrains.com

August Highlights

Disconnected so as to connect with my family to surprise my dad for his 80th birthday! Cornfields, country drives, cheese boards, lake trips, and smoking meats. Long hikes. Many a picnic.

September Highlights

Another friendship-solidifying trip with my “pod,” aka The Dondolos. Basked in the warm weather of Stone Harbor & Cape May, NJ. Made my Wildwood boardwalk matching sweatshirt dreams come true.

Donna's Place in Stone Harbor, NJ // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: An Epic Seafood Boil in Stone Harbor, NJ

A Seafood Gathering in Stone Harbor // www.WithTheGrains.com

The time I died and went to farm heaven // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: Beach Plum Farm in Cape May, NJ (ie: The Dreamiest Greenhouse Ever!)

October – November Highlights

Friendsgiving, Friendsgiving, and more Friendsgiving. A constantly warm oven. Plans changed many times, but above all, it was a fulfilling month of finding more ways to connect and cherish the season.

Friendsgiving // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: Reflecting on Friendsgiving and the Gift of Chosen Family

Garden Harvested Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

December Highlights

Forged so many new traditions. Chrimukkah. A gift exchange, a trip to Thomas, WV to say goodbye [for now] to Dylan, the heartbreaking loss of Honey the dog, a white Christmas, letting go to lean into cozy times with friends. And a very sparkly New Year!

The Importance of Traditions // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: How We Celebrated Chrismukkah & the Importance of Traditions

Read More: A Memorial for Honey

Christmas Wrappings // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: Take a Peek At My Natural Holiday Decorations

A Rustic Holiday Cookie Box + Homemade Peppermint Patties // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: A Rustic Holiday Cookie Box + Homemade Peppermint Patties

How I Christmas'd in 2020 // www.WithTheGrains.com

Read More: How I Christmas’d in 2020: Simplifying, Appreciating & Sharing

NYE Cakes / www.WithTheGrains.com

Welcome, 2021!

Thank you for joining me on these journeys. Thank you for your comments and conversations along the way. This year has filled me with immense gratitude for everything I have, and the friendships I share. May we all remember the hard-earned lessons of 2020.

Here’s wishing you a belated but bountiful 2021!


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