What a year it’s been. I wrapped up my second decade on the planet, I discovered a new love for almonds, I changed my major to Social Work, I launched this blog, and I learned a heck of a lot. I won’t be diving into everything from 2017 here, but I will be sharing my favorite books, music, movies, TV shows, and recipes from the year. I hope your 2017 was fabulous, and I hope you enjoy the following finds!
2017 was a better reading year than 2016 (in that I read more books), so huzzah for that! Here are some of my faves:
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio: Is this book meant for children? Yes. Did I still thoroughly enjoy it? Absolutely. Did it make me cry? Of course it did. Wonder is about how a boy named Auggie, born with a facial deformity, goes to mainstream school for the first time. It’s inspirational, emotional, and fun. In this book, I loved both the plot and the characters. I also enjoyed the split POV, the short chapters, the humor, and the overall adorable vibe. Sometimes, you just need to take a break from teen angst and dive into a children’s book, and Wonder was wonderful for that.
- Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi: This fantasy middle-grade book is both thought provoking and incredibly whimsical. Furthermore follows Alice Alexis Queensmeadow as she and her new friend Oliver search for her Father and learn a lot about magic, telling the truth, friendship, and themselves along the way. My favorite part of this book was the ending, because it was an extremely well thought-out plot point. I also enjoyed the growth of Oliver and Alice’s friendship and the way Tahereh Mafi develops consistent themes in such a wild ride of a book. I recommend this to anyone looking for some fantasy fun (and also to anyone who wants to read a book that makes them sigh with happiness every time they close it because come on, the cover).
- Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King: Glory O’Brien was my favorite book of 2017. Honestly, it’s just weird. Glory O’Brien and her friend drink a bat and are suddenly able to see other people’s pasts and futures when looking at them. (Didn’t believe me when I said it was weird, huh? Try actually reading it.) I enjoyed all the weirdness, as well as how well the writing style fit the storyline and how Glory’s character develops.
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis strips down Christianity to its bare-bones basics. He begins with a logical argument for Jesus being who He says He is and continues into clear and compelling explanations of theology. The content of this book is just phenomenal. I also absolutely love his writing, which is full of strong word choice and stunning metaphors. I think this book would be an interesting, exciting read for long-time believers, new believers, and non-believers alike, so basically, I recommend it to everyone.
I discovered some new artists in 2017, and some of my favorite artists released new stuff. What a good time! Here are some of my favorite tunes from this year:
- Notos by The Oh Hellos: This album just came out a few weeks ago, and it is grand. The Oh Hellos are back with their classic folk sound, upbeat melodies, and fun vibe. Basically, I’ve just really enjoyed listening to this album.
- “I’ll Stay (Carla’s Song)” by Matt Stinton: I cry. This song is about choosing to stay with someone forever, and it. is. beautiful. Matt Stinton’s not-quite-crisp vocals and the simple acoustic guitar blend really well, and the lyrics are just wonderful.
- “New Year’s Day” by Taylor Swift: T-Swizzle got a lot of hate this year, but I love her new album Reputation. My favorite song from it has got to be “New Year’s Day,” although “Getaway Car,” “Dancing with Our Hands Tied,” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” are also contenders. Contrasting with the rest of her very pop-y album, “New Year’s Day” is stripped down with gorgeous lyrics and simple instrumentation. Honestly, it’s just really pretty.
- Starlight by Bethel Music: This is my favorite worship album of the year. It’s Bethel’s second all-female-led album, and it’s both powerful and extremely well done musically. My favorite songs are “Starlight,” “You Came (Lazarus),” “I See the Light,” and “Extravagant.” The lyrics on the entire album are poignant, inspiring, and refreshing. And of course, all the vocals are phenomenal!
- JOHHNYSWIM: My favorite artist find of 2017 is JOHNNYSWIM, hands down. I’d heard of them before this year but didn’t start listening to them until the spring, and I’m so glad I finally did! This band is led by married couple Abner and Amanda Ramirez, which is just precious in and of itself. But to make matters 1000 times better, their music is also dang good. The harmonies are gorgeous, the songs range from upbeat and fun to slow and smooth, and the lyrics are honest and meaningful. My favorite songs of theirs include “First Try,” “Villains,” “Diamonds,” and “Adelina.”
All of these movies and TV shows are available on Netflix. You’re welcome.
- Poverty, Inc.: Mark this down as the only documentary that has made me cry. Poverty, Inc., explores the compassion industry, from governmental foreign aid to TOMs shoes. It’s brutally honest in a way that is so, so necessary for reforming the broken systems that we use to “help” others. I highly recommend it to everyone, but especially those who are interested in helping others, whether you’re a nonprofit CEO or someone who donates a few bucks to Salvation Army every Christmas.
- The Crown: This Netflix original series details the personal lives of Queen Elizabeth II, her loved ones, and her political contemporaries like Winston Churchill. It’s dramatic, emotional, and beautifully done; the colors and the atmosphere are artfully created. If you’re interested in history, Britain, or both, The Crown is a great show to try! And speaking of Britain…
- The Great British Baking Show: I have never been able to get into cooking shows, but last week I straight up cried at the season 1 finale of Great British Baking Show. I am obsessed. I started watching it as something to put on in the background while I cooked, but then I became genuinely invested. Now, my mom and I are watching season 2 together. Even if you don’t like cooking shows, you would like Great British Baking Show, and my theory is that it’s because the contestants, hosts, and judges are all British. They’re so pleasant! Their accents are lovely! They’re competitive but also kind and considerate! They have such wonderful attitudes! Watching British people bake patisserie has brought me so much joy, and it can do the same for you.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: I loved this book series when I was a kid and was so excited when Netflix debuted the TV show, especially after the movie wasn’t the most accurate thing in the world. The show is so well done! The sets are very creative, the visuals are stunning, the writing is incredibly witty, and the storyline is accurate. I can’t wait for the following seasons to show the rest of the books and dive into the intriguing world of the Baudelaires!
This fall, I moved into an apartment (with a kitchen) and started cooking for myself. I used to be self-conscious about my stunning lack of chef-ness, but now, I absolutely love to cook! Here are some of my favorite recipes from 2017:
- Smoky Potato & Chickpea Stew: I made this stew a few weeks ago when I was starting to feel sick, and it totally hit the spot. It’s got plant-based protein, delicious flavors, and kale; what more could you need? (This recipe and the Chimichurri Chicken & Rice came from BudgetBytes, which has a ton of recipes under $2 a serving. As a broke college student, this site is one of my favorite finds from the year!)
- Autumn Sausage, Veggie, & Apple Sheet Pan Dinner: Sheet pan dinners are great for meal prep (which I do a lot because I need to grab stuff quick when I’m running late for class, and because I’m cooking for one) and for the tiny, tiny, tiny kitchen we have. I used turkey sausage for this recipe and added some brown rice to stretch it from four servings to five.
- Pumpkin Turkey Chili: Call me basic, but in the fall I’m all about all things pumpkin. This chili has lots of veggies and was so easy to make, so that’s a win in my book!
- 5 Ingredient Turkey Stroganoff: I used ground turkey instead of ground beef for this super simple recipe. It was a great weeknight dinner and meal prep. After adding a side veggie or side salad, this stroganoff is a filling, easy, and healthy meal.
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins: Another pumpkin recipe with absolutely no apologies. These pumpkin chocolate chip muffins are delicious and good for you. (A nutritionist actually told me to eat a piece of dark chocolate a day, so the chocolate in these muffins is good for you, too.) Shoosh yeah.
- Chimichurri Chicken & Rice: This one is my favorite recipe of 2017! I modified it a little by adding more frozen peas (can you tell I’m a little obsessed with vegetables?), using brown rice, and subbing balsamic vinegar in the chimichurri. This one-pot meal was quick, easy, and SO DANG YUMMY. I can’t wait to make it again!
Thanks for reading, everyone! Farewell 2017, and here’s to 2018!