Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2018: Celebrating the Successes

So, after reading through my last post, I feel like I gave off the impression that 2018 was a rough year and everything fell apart. And while that's a bit how it felt at the end there, that is not true of the year as a whole. In fact, 2018 was a pretty great year, all things considered. So I thought it would be nice to just take a moment and reflect on the positives: the wins, the good habits that thrived, the happy parts of the year. In no particular order, here we go:

Reading Life

I've already talked about how 2018 was one of my best reading years ever, but my reading life was rich and good in other ways too this past year. We've always had read aloud time with our kids as part of the bed-time routine, but the read-alouds with my oldest son have just gotten so fun this year (Harry Potter, lots of Roald Dahl, Beverly Clearly... just some great classics) that I look forward to our reading time almost as much as he does. I'm absolutely loving to continue sharing books with my kids as they get older. It's amazing.

And on reading-related hobbies, I (barely) managed to keep posting around here (at least, I do when it's not the thick of the semester), and having a place to write about books for fun saves my soul from the grind of academia. Although, on that note, I did have a really fun academic semester studying just such topics as book culture, bibliomania, and book fandoms, and I've decided that there really doesn't have to be all that much distance between hobby/pleasure reading and my academic research (if you're thinking, "Duh! You're studying English! Of course the two are related!" then my answer is, clearly you've never taken a graduate-level English course, because often, there is zero relationship between "pleasure reading" and reading the way it's done in an academic English department).

Also, back in July, I opened the Such Stuff Bookstagram account on Instagram, and that has been a surprising source of joy for me. I find it kind of ironic that I started that up in a year when I've gone on two social media fasts and have in general tried to spend less time on my phone, but I have decided that as long as I never get caught up in a numbers game looking for likes or followers, and just post what makes me happy whenever I want, then this can only be fun for me. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what my style/content is over there, but what I've loved is having a place for shorter conversations about books, thoughts that don't necessarily need a full blog post, or as an extension of a blog post. I also love having a place to talk more about children's books, which I do a lot more over there than here. Despite my poor photography skills, it's been a fun bookish little enterprise and I'm excited to keep up with it. Just more ways and places to talk books!

My New Breakfast Habit:

I mentioned this briefly in my last post, but here's the story: I've struggled with breakfast foods for a long time (pretty much my whole life). I'm not the biggest fan of cold cereal (outside of pregnancy, when it's the only thing I can handle), and most other breakfast foods just don't sound appetizing to me first thing in the morning. However, I wake up starving every morning (do I not eat enough for dinner? Can my body just not handle 8 hours without food? I don't know!) so going without breakfast is just not an option for me (unless I want to be hangry and lightheaded by 10 AM).

For many, many years my go to breakfast was a bran muffin, but something changed after my last pregnancy and I seem to have lost all tolerance for carbohydrates in the morning. Do you know how many breakfast foods have carbohydrates? Pretty much all of them (at least, the ones that are quick and easy). While I was nursing I ate oatmeal pretty much every day (I always crave oatmeal while I'm nursing and then can't stand it at any point in between), but after the nursing petered out, I couldn't go back to muffins, and I suffered from serious morning breakfast blues.

When I read How Not To Die a few years ago, one of the pieces of advice that stuck out to me as something that sounded sensible was the advice to try and incorporate vegetables in some way in every meal, including breakfast. I know a lot of people do this with morning smoothies (they're so huge right now), but guys, I can't do smoothies. It's just not my thing. So I was brainstorming some other possibilities, and last January I decided to actually try making myself a hot breakfast of sauteed veggies with a fried egg. I eat this kind of meal for dinner all the time, so I thought, why not try it in the morning?

Life. Changing.

Something about having a savory instead of a sweet breakfast just completely works better for my body. Veggies and protein in the morning make me feel a million times better than carbohydrates. I only expected to be able to eat this sort of hot veggie breakfast on weekends and holidays, as it is rather time consuming in the mornings (and morning time is at a premium, don't we all know), but I was so in love with how this breakfast made me feel that I couldn't stop. I prepped veggies on the weekend and somehow found the time to make this breakfast for myself almost every morning this past year. Of course, when we traveled or stayed away from home or something, I would eat other things for breakfast, but my body missed this breakfast. This breakfast is my total jam.

The usual recipe is zucchini, bell peppers, red onion, and a handful of kale. I saute that up in a little bit of oil with some garlic salt, then fry up an egg to go on top. When avocado is at a good price, I throw some of that on the side and it just takes this breakfast to the next level delicious. This is my happy place. I wake up anxious and eager to eat breakfast now, and it is the best part of my day food-wise.

I'm a little bit anxious about how well this breakfast habit is going to last in 2019, considering this upcoming semester has me leaving the house 30 minutes earlier that normal most mornings. Will I wake up 30 minutes earlier just to have this breakfast? Or will convenience win in the end? We shall see.


On the note of food, meal planning in general turned out to be a huge win for me last year. I used to be a much more fun and experimental type cook, but that is not the season of life I'm in right now. In 2018 I streamlined my menu planning down to the best system I've had so far, rotating through my easiest tried-and-true meals that my family can handle eating on about a two week rotation (variety is not the name of the game right now). Occasionally on Sundays I'll experiment with new meals, but otherwise, my rotation has got me in a place where meal planning on a weekly basis is significantly easier, and meal prep on weekdays is fairly doable. Maybe we'll get totally sick of these recipes and I'll have to reboot at some point, but you guys, home-cooked dinner is happening. Every day. Even though I'm getting a PhD. Win-win-win.

Professional Development

So, if any of you remember (or care), one of my goals from January 2018 was to present a paper at a conference. Well, it just so happens that I presented papers at not just one, but two conferences! And only one of them required travel (avoiding travel is a win, at this stage in my motherhood career). I'm still pretty early on in this PhD thing (4.5 years to go, can you believe it?) but I'm doing work that I find interesting, I've got an amazing set of mentor professors to work with, and I've had some very lucky opportunities. I still have no idea what I'm supposed to do with this PhD thing once I earn it (become a professor? Go back to being a stay-at-home mom? Something in between?) but until then, I'm putting my heart and soul into this. It's hard work, but I'm pretty proud of the stuff I'm doing there.


Remember that awesome trip to England we took early last summer (here, here, and here)? Life highlight for sure. And we also had a pretty great weekend getaway with some friends in Chicago, plus my trip to Madison for the conference, so 2018 had some fun bits of travel in it for me. Unfortunately, I don't have any really cool trips planned for 2019 (we do have a family reunion in Idaho, super exotic, I know), but hopefully 2020 will make up for that.


I don't know how to really describe this one, other than to say that 2018 was just a great year for loving my people. I spent a glorious summer hanging out with my kids that I just didn't want to end. You know, they can be exhausting and distracting and frustrating, but when I pay attention, I really have some awesome kids that are growing up into really fun little people. Also just loved getting to hang out with my husband on our trips. I just really like that guy. Our family life felt happy and peaceful to me in 2018, so while there's not one specific thing I can really point to as a highlight, I just need to say this is a big part of the reason 2018 was awesome.

All right, there you go. 2018 was a really great year, all things considered. And just going by the word count devoted to each one of these categories, apparently a large part of why last year was awesome is because of breakfast. Food man, it's important!

What was great about your 2018?


  1. Wow, you still have 4.5 years left? That's crazy! Especially when you think of some master's/PhD combined programs that you can knock off in only 3 total. I wish you all the best of luck! Also, your breakfast sounds amazing. Maybe I'll have to give it a try one of these days (and I DO like all breakfast foods, so that's saying something!)

    1. Well, I'm hoping to be done about a year early, but yes, this program funds PhDs for 6 years. And that's after a 2-3 year master's program. It is insanely long.