While I was in college, my mom decided to tack on another activity to our New Year’s Eve traditions. In addition to celebrating with the East Coast by watching the ball drop in Times Square and cracking open dozens of loud plastic party poppers with paper streamers, all at 9 pm so we could still go to bed at a normal hour…
She bought a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle for us to work on while the TV softly played the ABC Times Square special in the background. She believed that puzzles were a fairly standard thing to do on New Year’s Eve… Maybe because they’d keep people occupied (and awake) for hours!
As the biggest puzzle fan in our family, I excitedly agreed!
Within the next years, I asked if we could add yet another tradition to our New Year’s Eve celebrations… I suggested that we spent some time reflecting on the year and talking about our favorite memories while we worked on the puzzle.
For this New Year’s Eve, I’m getting ready a little early. I already picked out this puzzle as the one I want to do, as well as writing down my list ahead of time… And I’m sharing it with you!
So here we go… These are 17 of my favorite moments from 2017!
listed in order of occurrence… not necessarily in order of favoritism!
Buying my house.
In 2015, the idea of moving to San Diego planted itself in my heart. It stayed there, quietly growing, until early this year. I started looking at houses on Zillow and Trulia every single day, clicking through the pictures and scrutinizing every kitchen. I wanted something that felt spacious yet homey, bright and white yet cozy… And within a few weeks, I found—and bought—the perfect house, just a mile away from my grandma’s. (The story of buying my house is a story for another day… It deserves its own blog post! 🤓)
Driving to San Diego with my brother.
Two months later, my family helped me load all of my belongings into a U-Haul. My younger brother and I drove down to San Diego in my car, while Mom took the wheel of the U-Haul. (She’s fearless—and such a trooper!) We spent over nine hours in the car, mostly due to bumper-to-bumper LA traffic, but I didn’t mind one bit. My brother and I hadn’t spent that much time together as just the two of us in years, and we had a great time! We took turns driving, talked about dozens of different subjects, blasted music from our childhood on the radio and sang along, snacked on fruit and French fries and dark chocolate, and documented it all on Snapchat. ♡
New daily routines.
In the beginning of 2017, I tried establishing new morning and evening routines. While eating breakfast, I slowly read a few chapters from a motivational book. (See the next paragraph for which books I loved!) Every evening before bed, my little dog and I relaxed on the sofa. She burrowed next to me, snuggling as close as possible, while I snacked on something I had baked earlier and worked my way through the newspaper’s crosswords, Sudoku, decode-a-quote, and word jumble. I love puzzles of any kind!
For the books, I started out with this one and its sequel. I’ve read those at least four or five times each, and I always get something new out of them every time. Then I moved on to this book, followed by its sequel and another one in the series. I’ve done the same thing and reread each of those multiple times too. I highly recommend all five of those books (and probably in the order listed!), if you need a little recentering and motivation in your life!
Getting on the big screen and the Padres tweeting me how to get free ice cream.
As my birthday present, Grandma bought tickets to a Padres game. She, Mom, and I arrived at the ballpark early, with plenty of time to watch batting practice and scope out the best food. (They favored the BBQ place right behind our section on the third base side!)
Towards the beginning of the game, I tweeted a picture of Grandma and me using the Padres’ hashtag, A couple innings later, Mom nudged me. “Look!” she exclaimed. “You guys are on the big screen!” The Padres cycled our picture through two more times, so I tweeted them a big thank you… And then they mentioned I could get free ice cream for my birthday! I gave it to Grandma because she bought the tickets… But she gave me back the souvenir helmet the ice cream came in because she knows I collect them!
The failed birthday beach attempt.
My mom drove down to San Diego for my birthday weekend, mainly to help me unpack after moving into my new house. I mentioned that I’d love to eat my birthday dinner on the beach like we did the year before, so we cruised out to La Jolla that evening. Despite 95°F+ temperatures a few miles inland… The beach was completely foggy! The fog was as thick as pea soup, and we couldn’t make out the water just thirty yards away. We couldn’t stop laughing at the irony of it all… Better luck next year!
Visiting the San Diego Zoo.
An old high school friend flew into town a day early for his business conference, so we explored the zoo. We walked around and around and around some more, seeing pandas and lions and reindeer and penguins (my favorite!). You can see more of my pictures here. I loved it so much that I bought a yearly pass!
Watching MLB games with my grandma and second mommy.
Partway through the baseball season, Grandma and I befriended a season ticket holder in our favorite row of the Padres stadium. As a businessman yet gentleman, he offered us his extra tickets at a discount, so we took him up on that multiple times throughout the rest of the season. It was so fun to head downtown with Grandma and cheer on the Padres!
Towards the end of the baseball season, my “second mommy” came to town to watch her favorite team play. (She baby-sat me during the summers so my mom could work, and because she had three boys of her own, she still calls me “the daughter she never had!”) Since she was given a serious medical diagnosis over the summer, it was truly special to spend so much time visiting and chatting with her at the ballpark.
Seeing the San Diego symphony.
Partway through August, Grandma invited me to see the symphony perform songs from musicals, including Fiddler on the Roof, at an outdoor venue right next to the bay. Fiddler on the Roof was actually the first musical I performed in (I played in the orchestra pit—my acting skills are basically nonexistent!), so listening to the music brought back so many fond memories from my high school band days.
Accidentally training my dog to come running at the sound of zip-topped bags.
After moving to my new house, I started cooking big batches of chicken for my weekly meal prep, and I stored it in zip-topped bags. When I took it out of the fridge, my dog wandered into the kitchen and sat at my feet, looking up at me with the cutest puppy eyes, so I almost always dropped a little nibble for her… And eventually, she started to recognize the sound of zip-topped bags. Now, she immediately comes running—whether she’s chewing on a toy downstairs or sound asleep in her bed upstairs—even if I was opening a bag to store my freshly baked oatmeal cookies or fudgy brownies!
Being approached to write another cookbook.
Towards the end of the summer, a well-known publishing company reached out and asked if I would be interested in writing another cookbook. (This is my first one!) I was absolutely floored and completely flattered… But the timing wasn’t quite right because I really wanted to focus on my upcoming YouTube TV show, so I politely declined. However, I still plan on writing another cookbook in the future, so stay tuned!
Going to MLB games by myself.
Although I love baseball as much as baking, watch multiple games every day of the season (thanks to my MLB TV subscription!), and went to my first game before I turned five years old… I had never been to a pro-level game by myself. In September, when my childhood friend’s team came into town for a four-game series and Grandma couldn’t go to all of them with me, I bravely drove downtown, found parking, and attended a couple of games by myself. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel weird at all—and I loved every minute of it!
Meeting my parents’ new puppy.
Over Labor Day, my parents brought home a new golden retriever puppy! Soft, fluffy, energetic… And she has the biggest, most loving heart. She immediately took to my parents’ three-year-old golden retriever and stuck by his side like Velcro: sleeping with her head resting on his belly, nibbling on his ears to instigate playtime, and even tugging toys right out of his mouth. Mom sends us the most adorable pictures of the dogs nearly every day!
Hanging out at the batting cages.
A friend from college regularly travels to San Diego for work meetings, so when one ended early, I tagged along for an afternoon of fun with him and his coworkers. Although we started at a brewery, they quickly realized the establishment shared the building with batting cages… And we spent the next hour or two taking swings. Since I love baseball as much as baking, I was in my happy place all day!
Recording funny Thanksgiving Snapchat messages with my brother.
On Thanksgiving, my family and I were so efficient in our cooking that we ended up with an hour of downtime while waiting for my homemade rolls to rise and Dad’s sausage stuffing to cook… So my younger brother and I played around with Snapchat. When Mom heard the squeaky, high-pitched filter of one of the clips, she couldn’t stop laughing—and she immediately asked if we’d record one to text to her college friends! Of course we obliged… And her friends sent a similar Snapchat clip right back!
Befriending my new neighbors.
Shortly after I moved in and began regularly dropping off treats with my neighbors, one of them asked what they could do to support me. I tried to tell her, “Nothing, really!” but she wouldn’t accept my answer… So finally I caved and replied that she could share a link to one of my recipes, which she immediately did on Facebook. As a result, her mom tried that very same pumpkin chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe, absolutely loved it, and shared it with all of her neighbor friends. And now, their whole neighborhood in Arizona regularly makes my recipes too—which totally melts my heart!
Filming episodes for AHB TV.
I’ve had a dream of hosting my own TV show for a few years, and this year, I finally started to make progress towards that goal. I bought my house with its gorgeous kitchen that’s perfect for filming, stumbled upon great deals on video equipment, and found a fantastic video editor. In the fall, I started filming episodes—and I loved every minute of the process! Baking in my kitchen, being on camera, sharing my favorite recipes… I’m grinning ear-to-ear as I type this because it was such a blast! And the first episode airs January 1!
Surprise Christmas cards and gifts from my new neighbors.
A few days before Christmas, many of my new neighbors dropped off festive cards and thoughtful gifts. The little three-year-old boy next door was so excited to drop off my package that he rang my doorbell 10 times in a row… Absolutely adorable! And then my heart melted when he ran back to wish me Merry Christmas and sweetly mention he loved the pumpkins on my front porch. (Shh, don’t tell… I was so behind on decorating this year!) I was blown away by their kindness—I truly felt like I was part of the neighborhood!