The Best of 2020

I think we can all agree that 2020 was not the stellar year we had hoped it would be as we entered into a new decade. This year presented us with a lot of devastation and heartache. It’s been a dark year in more ways than I can count and when you find yourself in a dark place it can be difficult to see your way out. I know I’ve had my fair share of those moments this year. I realize we’re all in different situations and circumstances, but when I deliberately shift my perspective and focus on the things that brought me joy, it really helps me to feel gratitude. I encourage you all to find what made you happy this year too. Well, without further ado, I present my list of happy things that came my way this year!

Best Quarantine Purchase: We purchased a king-sized bed frame and memory foam mattress and then promptly wondered what in the heck took us so long to do so in the first place. It’s the best! I even wrote a post about it here.

Best Thing I Watched on TV: In 2020 its been all about the mini-series for me. I love when a great book is made into an even better mini-series. For me it was without question Normal People. My friend recommended that I read the book and watch the mini-series and I have to say that both are just phenomenal. I felt all the feels. It’s raw, emotional and extremely relatable, like scary relatable. I watched it for a second time and found more meaning in the story. Ugh, I’m just not the same after this, haha. Also, the soundtrack is bomb.

Best Book I Read: This was a hard one to narrow down. I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked to and I kind of fell into a reading slump only finishing 29 books this year. I had a goal of 30 and I can’t believe I missed it by a single book. After reflecting back on those 29 books I would have to say that the best/favorite book I read this year was Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (see my review here). There were so many books that came in a close second.

Best Song: Summer Feelings by Lennon Stella (feat. Charlie Puth). Whenever this song came on it just made me want to dance and put me in a happy mood – I couldn’t get enough of it this year!

Best Discovery: Please don’t make fun of me but I used to diss on La Croix real hard buttttt I discovered a flavor that I absolutely love and cannot live without. Now I drink a Passionfruit La Croix every. single. day.

Best Meal I Made: So this is not really a meal, but we’ve been eating a lot of salmon and I came up with this stand-out sauce that goes so well with salmon and anything you choose as your side (roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, cous cous and asparagus are some of our favorite sides). The sauce is a maple-mustard sauce and it’s very simple to make. In a small bowl combine 1 TBS of melted butter, 2 TBS dijon mustard and 2 TBS maple syrup – whisk together and voila! This sauce seriously elevates anything you place it on!

Best Thing I Baked: Baking was a thing this year! The best thing I baked is hands down these soft chocolate chip cookies. My secret weapon is to use coconut sugar instead of white sugar. Trust me on that one 🙂 Also, only bake them for 9 minutes, no longer. You’re welcome.

Best Travel Experience: Without a doubt, Australia! Luke and I barely squeaked in our international trip this year right before the world starting spinning out of control with the pandemic. We visited Sydney, Melbourne + the Sunshine Coast in Feb/March and made it home one day before all international flights were cancelled. Words cannot express how grateful we are that we were able to take this trip. A very close second is the quick trip we took to California to get some sunshine and fresh air.

Best Professional Accomplishment: I started a “stretch assignment” at work where I carve out space from my current role and step into new responsibilities on a different team. It was a bit stress-inducing to learn a new area of the company remotely in our current WFH scenario, but it’s been the best thing that has happened to me professionally this year. I’m working in a digital operations capacity and not only is it a great fit for my skillset but it’s given me a lot more confidence in myself.

Best Personal Accomplishment: I opened an Etsy shop! I’ve been wanting to do something with my travel photography for a long time and this sounded like a fun thing to do! Photography has always been a huge passion of mine and I’m excited for this new venture and hope that I can connect with people that like my work and want to display it on their walls. Visit my Copeland Print Studio! Keep checking back because not only am I’m continuing to add new prints, but I have some ideas and projects coming up in the next few months.

Presidential Election: Luke and I are very invested in politics and have daily conversations on everything going on in our community and our country. There was a lot of stress and anxiety leading up to this election and I couldn’t be more thankful for the outcome. Joe Biden is going to be our new President and Kamala Harris our new Vice President! The future is hopeful my friends.

Upper Left USA

A few weekends ago we took an extra day off of work and spent some time up in NW Washington for a little escape. We made Port Angeles our home base and explored the surrounding areas. Port Angeles is a cute little town with a historic vibe and from the waterfront you can see our Canadian friends just around 20 miles north. Oh, how I wish I could’ve hopped on a ferry to Victoria, sigh. We’ll save that for a time in the future when this pandemic is successfully behind us.

This trip was spent mostly taking in the scenery and exploring the outdoors (sensing a theme here from my previous travel posts during a pandemic?) and we were very lucky with beautiful albeit very cold weather! Not far from Port Angeles, we explored Lake Crescent and Snug Harbor, located in the northern part of the Olympic National Park – which is where some of the darling photos below were taken. Even though I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, the beauty here still amazes me every time. The mix of evergreen trees and fall foliage is uniquely NW. It’s little weekend getaways like this that alway inspire me to explore more of Oregon and Washington since we live so close.

On the way in/out of town we briefly explored Sequim and Port Townsend – both of which I see us visiting again in the future!

A Quick Trip to California

Back in September we were itching to get away for a quick weekend trip. We had California on our minds and envisioned driving up and down 101 and taking in the views of the central coast. We figured staying in our car/finding places to explore outdoors was our best bet given there is still a pandemic in full swing. Anytime we were around anyone else we 100% had our masks on. We actually had our masks on just even walking around outside. For us, it’s better to err on the side of caution and plus I truly don’t mind wearing a mask. I understand people being leery of traveling (trust me, I am as well) which is why we take our safety and the safety of others very seriously by wearing our masks, washing our hands, sanitizing, eating meals outdoors away from other people, etc.

In California we explored Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea were new-to-me places and they were just adorable! I don’t have any restaurant recommendations, coffee shops or fun things to do to share in this post as this trip was really focused on being close to the water and breathing the fresh California air. I do have some pretty pictures to share though, which is something I’m always good for!

New Bed + Bedding (our best quarantine purchases!)

Being in a constant state of quarantine for the past 6+ months and the foreseeable future has really made us think about what we want to upgrade in our house and what we can live with and what we dont want to live without. One thing that had been on our minds for months was whether or not it was the right time to purchase a new bed. We’ve had a queen-sized bed (in good condition, just not my style) and even though we always dreamed of having a king-sized bed we never thought our primary bedroom was big enough for one. One day I took the measurements and realized IT WAS big enough! My sister coincidentally had purchased a new mattress around this time and had been raving about it. When we visited to help her move apartments we instantly fell in love with it, too. It was firm, but soft – and very comfortable. After a few stressful months of not sleeping particularly well on the old spring mattress (the pandemic, fears of losing our jobs, the administration that is running this country and just general fears of an uncertain future) we started looking into finally upgrading to a king-sized bed. It has been very clear to me in these uncertain times that prioritizing our health needs to be a the forefront. Purchasing this new bed definitely falls into this category, amiright?! After a ton of research we landed on a new frame and memory foam mattress and because of the size increase, we had to purchase new sheets and a duvet cover as well. We kept as much as we could (rugs, curtains, queen pillows, throw blanket, nightstands) because it really isn’t in the budget to makeover the entire room 🙂 We’re super happy with how the room turned out and we’ve been sleeping better than ever! See below for links to everything in the room.

King Frame in Charcoal, Green Tea Memory Foam Mattress, Queen Pillows (purchased a few years ago at IKEA and I believe still sold in store but not online), Throw Pillow, Bedding in Gray, Throw Blanket (purchased a few years ago but linking similar from Costco), Moroccan Diamond Rug, White Curtains, Nightstands

Recent Reads V.8

Recent Books

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland | I’ve long been fascinated with Northern Ireland history and when Luke finished this book late last year, he recommended that I read it as well. It was a phenomonal read and one that will stay with me. The author spent four years doing research, interviewed over 100 individuals and made seven trips to Northern Ireland for this book. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about The Troubles through specific and real events, I cannot recommend this book enough!
(4.5 stars)

The Sun Does Shine: How I found Life and Freedom on Death Row | Anthony “Ray” Hinton was accused of crimes he didn’t commit. He spent 30 years on death row in Alabama because the racist system was stacked agains him. There was no evidence linking him to the murders he was being accused of, only a few accounts of false testimonies from people that were set to see him imprisoned. Ray spent three decades attempting appeals that ultimately failed until the Supreme Court decided to throw his case out in 2015, making Ray a free man. While Ray’s story is incredibly heartbreaking it’s also lined with hope and inspiration. He made a life for himself on death row, transforming himself and those around him.
(4.5 stars)

China Rich Girlfriend | This book is the follow-up to Crazy Rich Asians (which I read a few years ago). China Rich Girlfriend follows the same characters, only a few years later. The crazy stories and family drama intensify with each passing scandal. It was a fun escape into the extravagant lives of these ultra-rich billionaires in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
(3.25 stars)

Americanah | A story of two young adults from Nigeria that leave their country for America and London, respectively. Ifemelu learns what it’s like to be Black for the first time in the United States while Obinze navigates a life in London undocumented.
(4 stars)

White Fragility | An eye opening and important read. This books dives into why white people have such a hard time being confronted and challenged on racism and how we need to work at being anti-racist every day. This book really made me take a hard look at how I show up and what I can do to be anti-racist. 
(4.25 stars)

Know My Name | A powerful memoir by Chanel Miller, the young woman who was sexually assaulted on the Stanford campus by Brock Turner. I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Chanel and I was blown away by her bravery and eloquence. While is story is horrific, it’s also filled with hope. 
(5 stars)

A Trip to Chicago, IL

We recently returned from a week in the Midwest visiting Luke’s parents. We spent most of our time in Chicago showing my dad around as this was his first time here. This trip looked A LOT different from past trips due to COVID-19. For weeks and weeks leading up to the trip we were unsure if it was even going to happen. We even second guessed the trip many times. Our flights were changed numerous times as the airline consolidated flights for the week. I was scared to even get on an airplane during a pandemic! When we finally decided to go ahead with it, we had a lot of conversations on how to proceed with our travel plans as safely as possible. Chicago was in Phase 4 of re-opening and we had a game plan. We brought plenty of face masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. We planned activities where we could maintain distance from others and also planned on only dining at establishments that had outdoor seating. I was quite impressed with how safe I felt in Chicago. Most places we visited had temperature checks and everyone had social distancing in place. By the end of the trip it felt like my face mask was a permanent fixture to my face – a small price to pay for safety though.

While it wasn’t’t the trip we had initially planned on, it ended up being a great time with family and I’m grateful we were able to make it happen. We had non-stop flights on Alaska Airlines and they kept all middle seats open. They thoroughly cleaned everything and scaled back their in-flight meal service to only offer bottled water, a few sodas and snack packets. Face masks were required by everyone – which quite honestly felt safer than visiting Safeway or Fred Meyer down the street from my house where half the shoppers don’t even bother with them. While I understand traveling is controversial right now, I feel good about how we handled everything and the safety precautions that we took. The number one reason for this trip was to see family that live outside of Chicago and since it is summer, we spent time in the city together.

Where we ate:
Ersi Brewery (This was our first dinner after landing at O’hare. The weather was perfect, the patio was spacious and the food and beers were just what we needed after a day of traveling.)
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria (A great spot for pizza and beers in Wicker Park)
King Crab House (What a gem! We were walking around Lincoln Park and spotted this cute place in the neighborhood. I put my name on the list for dinner and even got to pick out where we wanted to sit on their patio.)
Kaiser Tiger (A fun spot with plenty of outdoor seating)
Kennedy Rooftop (This was our last dinner of the trip. Their patio had just recently opened and we snagged the best table there was – unobstructed views of the entire Chicago skyline!)

Other places that we love in Chicago: Velvet Taco, Le Colonial, The Publican, Giordano’s, Public House, Cindy’s Rooftop, Eastman Egg Company, Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Places that are on our list for our next visit: The Purple Pig, Girl & The Goat, Au Cheval

Where we drank:
Paradise Park (A fun spot with a huge patio to grab a few drinks)
Island Party Hut (After a boat tour on the lake we stopped here for a few beers. They have an expansive outdoor area and we found large bench to sit on right by the river.)
Big Star (We stopped in here or a few margaritas to get out of the sun)
Pilot Project (Creative and delicious beers in a beautiful outdoor space)
Sully’s House (We came across this place on the way to another place. When that other place didn’t work out, Sully’s welcomed us with open arms – and a very socially distant patio.)
Murphy’s Bleachers (We originally booked this trip before the pandemic, so we planned on catching a Cubs game on the trip. While the Cubs game didn’t happen, we walked around the outside of the ballpark and stopped in here for lunch and beers.)

What we did:
A lot of walking (We walked all through Lincoln Park taking in the sights of the city and the tree-lined neighborhood streets, Millennium Park, Wrigleyville and Wicker Park.)

Boat Tour (Wendella boat tours now require masks to be worn at all time and they’ve also restricted the number of passengers to allow for social distancing)

Recent Reads V.7

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately. All of the books in this post are all very different! There are cheesy young adult romances, historical fiction and stories of violent faith. My taste in books is usually all over the map; I just like to mix it up.Recent BooksNantucket Nights | I’ve heard that people loveeee Elin Hildebrand books, so I thought I’d give this one a try. Truthfully, I didn’t love it. It was a cheesy young adult romance novel with a far-fetched storyline. An older woman gets pregnant by her best friends’ 18-year old son and fakes her own death, leaving her friends behind to take the blame. It was a little too far out there of a story for me.
(2.5 stars)

Forever, Interrupted | In all honesty I didn’t love this one from Taylor Jenkins Reid and I usually love her books. Elsie marries Ben after a whirlwind 6-month romance. After a little over a week of marriage, Ben dies in a tragic accident. Elsie now has to face the mother-in-law that didn’t know she existed and her own family that she doesn’t have a relationship with. Forever, Interrupted starts off with tragedy and then weaves in and out through time to tell Elsie’s story and how she picks her life back up.
(3.5 stars)

Truly Madly Guilty | I love a good Liane Moriarty book, but admittedly this one was not my favorite of hers. A lot of reviews said the book was about 100 pages too long and I agree. I felt myself frustrated and annoyed at how long the storyline dragged out.
(3 stars)

The Alice Network | I had borrowed this book from the library a while ago and got to about page 150 before I had to return it and never got back on the list. I recently got on the list for the audiobook and thought that would be a good way to finish it, as the book was quite long, haha. I love historical fiction (it might be my favorite genre) and I loved this different take from two different women that eventually come together to find answers about their past.
(4 stars)

Always and Forever, Lara Jean | The last book in the To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before series and by far my favorite of them all! The movie hasn’t come out yet and the first two books were quite different from the movies so I can’t wait to see what the movie is like!
(5 stars)

Under the Banner of Heaven | I grew up around the LDS church – a lot of my extended family are practicing mormons but my immediate family is not. I’ve always been curious to learn more about the religion as growing up around it I had a lot of negative experiences associated with the religion. This book dives into the history and evolution of the religion and the horrifying truths that come with it. As someone that knows more than the average person about the church, this book was still absolutely eye-opening to say the least.
(4.5 stars)

New York City for Thanksgiving

This past Thanksgiving Luke and I spent some time in NYC. My cousin lives on the Lower East Side and we thought it would be fun to spend the holiday weekend with her. She graciously hosted us in her tiny (yet very comfortable and cozy apartment) and even played tour guide for us – ensuring we saw everything we haven’t already seen in the city. I’ve been to NYC a handful of times and so has Luke so our main goal of this trip was to just relax, take our time and hang out. I was coming straight off my Uganda trip, so my body legitimately had no idea what time it was or where in the world I was. It took me a solid two days to finally catch up to everyone else, haha. It was a fun trip, but my bank account would tell you otherwise.

In my eyes, New York City is always a good idea and visiting this magical place will never get old.

Where we ate:
Bistrot Leo (They had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu and it was delicious)
Russ and Daughters (My first Jewish deli and definitely not my last)
Uncle Boon’s (Some of the best Thai food outside of Thailand)
Chelsea Market (It’s fun to walk through Chelsea Market and grab a bite to eat amongst the crowds)
Egg Shop (A delicious eggy breakfast spot)
Frank (We had a fun group dinner here and some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever had)
Emmy Squared (We split a Detroit-style pizza, burger and Brussels sprouts salad – and it was SO GOOD!)
Bluestone Lane (We stopped in here for some chais and ricotta-strawberry toast)
Levain Bakery (Fueled up on cookies and baked goods after a sunny walk through Central Park)

Where we drank:
Grey Lady ($1 oysters and beers from Nantucket)
Amsterdam Ale House (A cozy spot for beers after walking through Central Park)
Skinny Dennis (We stopped in here after the basketball game and was blown away by the whiskey/coffee drink)
Three’s (Amazing brewery in Brooklyn with very creative IPA’s)
Strong Rope (Another Brooklyn brewery)

What we did:
Chelsea Piers Driving Range (On our last day it started snowing during a walk so we hopped over to Chelsea Piers to hit a few buckets of golfballs)
Union Square (There was a Christmas Market going on here!)
5th Avenue Shopping
Central Park (You can’t visit the city without a walk through this beautiful park)
MoMA (We got lucky and enjoyed free admission on Friday night. Although it was admittedly very chaotic with so many people in attendance.)
Vessel @ Hudson Yards (A few years ago when I first took Luke to NYC this area didn’t even exist!)
The High Line (A walk along the High Line is always fun in my book)
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Nets vs Miami Heat game @ Barclay’s Center

Recent Reads V.6

Here’s what I’ve been reading (and listening to) lately. A friend from work told me about the Libby app and it’s been a lifesaver recently. With our stay at home orders in Oregon, all the public libraries are closed for the time being, but you can still “borrow” ebooks and audiobooks from the library and it couldn’t be easier! If you have a library card, just enter your number in the Libby app and you can start borrowing from your local library.

I read a few of the books below and then also listened to a few of them on audiobook. I find that I’m able to get through a book faster when I listen to it. Being at home 99.9% of the time now I’ve been listening to audiobooks when I clean the house, when I’m putting a puzzle together, cooking, going on a walk, etc. What a game change this has been. I’m wondering why I’m just now catching on this this though, haha!

Open Book | I read Jessica Simpson’s book in a few days, it was such an easy read. Jessica is very candid about her life and her struggles as she navigates her relationships, career and fame. It was a fun read and I found that I relate to her in so many ways.
(4 stars)

Twice in a Blue Moon | I loved the last Christina Lauren book that I read so I thought I would give this one a try! I read it on a recent vacation and it was a cute and fun YA read.
(3.75 stars)

To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before | I really should have read this before I saw the movie! Although the movie and the book don’t share a lot of the same details I still found it absolutely adorable.
(4 stars)

P.S. I Still Love You | Just like the first book in the series, I should have read this before I watched the first two movies. While there still are some similarities between the book and the movie, they are quite different – it’s still adorable though!
(4 stars)

Tiny Little Thing | This is the first book that Beatriz Williams wrote in her “Schuyler Sisters series”. I had already read books 2 and 3… and loved this one as well. You don’t necessarily have to read them in order, I don’t think you’d be lost if you didn’t as the storylines focus on different characters/sisters. In true Beatriz Williams fashion she weaves in and out of different time periods and even throws a family scandal or two in there!
(4 stars)

Evvie Drake Stars Over | I thought this book was the cutest, a little predictable, but the cutest. Evvie is trying to move on with her life after the death of her husband and rents out a spare room to a retired New York Yankees pitcher who’s also trying to move on with his life after a career-ending injury.
(4 stars)

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Our visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was the highlight of our Australian adventure. We spent a long time researching different zoo’s and sanctuaries in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and ultimately landed on Lone Pine. It was important to us that we not visit a place that keeps animal in cages as merely a tourist attraction. We wanted to support a sanctuary and a place that supports the conservation of animals. Lone Pine seemed like the perfect place for us to visit.

Lone Pine first opened in 1927 as a safe refuge for injured, sick and orphaned koalas. Their goal has always been to create a safe and happy environment for their animals to thrive in. It was evident straight away that the Lone Pine staff have a deep love for these animals. They were loving, nurturing, highly interactive and even shared some fun facts with us about the koalas!

All the koalas have names and the koala keepers know them all by name and can even point out their different personalities.

The koalas are grouped by their family. If they were to try and take a koala out of their home and into a different area it would cause them a lot of stress and they might even fight each other.

Even though koalas adhere to a mostly eucalyptus diet, they are extremely picky eaters. There are roughly 800 species of eucalyptus but they’ll only eat 50-60 of those and they all have an individual preference. What one finds to be a tasty leaf one day could be completely ignored the next day.

Koalas have extra fur and a cartridge pad around their bottoms to account for the hours upon  hours they spend balancing on trees.

People often call them “Koala Bears” when in fact they are actually marsupials. The correct terminology is simply “Koala”.

In addition to the koala sanctuary, Lone Pine is also home to a variety of other animals: Kangaroos, Emu, Wombats, Dingos, Tasmanian Devils, Freshwater Crocodiles and Turtles, Platypus, Bats and different species of birds and reptiles.

Another highlight on this visit was hanging out with the kangaroos!

Can you spot the little joey’s ear peeking out of the mama’s ouch above?

There are two different fields where the kangaroos are free to roam. We purchased a small bag of kangaroo food and had the chance to interact with them and feed them. As long as you were calm and gentle towards them, they didn’t spook and were actually quite friendly and soft.