Okay, I didn’t think there could be a year worse than 2016 and then 2017 happened. My stomach churns every day upon waking up and seeing what headlines will appear on CNN’s homepage, because let’s face it, it’s almost always of a damning and/or horrific nature. And then I also lost three very dear people who had always been in my life. They all led long lives but that doesn’t mean their permanent absence hurts any less, especially now at the holidays and knowing they’re really gone. They all loved to travel so I only hope their globetrotting adventures are continuing on the other side.
I mentioned it a couple of times before but this year I also started a new job. It was definitely a good move except I have even less free time now than I did before. So what suffered the most was my cooking or lack of it. In years past, I always had so many cooking/baking related posts. This year it was a fraction. And I’m not going to lie, that definitely makes me sad. But cooking has always made me happy, always given me a sense of fulfillment, so I truly want to make cooking a bigger part of my life again in 2018. I mean, I have so many amazing cookbooks just waiting to be cracked open.
On a travel front, this was definitely a more sedate year, as I (sadly) visited no new countries. I know, I know. It’s not always about visiting new places because I’m truly not a country counter (I swear I’m not!). I love visiting new countries more for experiencing their culture and cuisine than to tally up passport stamps.
But this year was definitely the year of Canada! I visited our beautiful neighbor to the north not once but twice (well, three times actually if you count my day trip over the border into the majestic Yukon Territory). It was also a year where I feel I’ve found my favorite part of the United States and where I finally got back to two beloved cities I hadn’t been to in years. So returning to them felt wonderful. And I also made it to Alaska, which is super cool since I can now say I’ve visited both of America’s non-contiguous states.
Without further ado, my year in review! And because I don’t share a ton of photos of myself on the blog (always the photographer, never the subject), here’s me for most of the year.
As always, January is a pretty slow month. The highlight was seeing one of my favorite authors speak here in Pittsburgh. Chris Bohjalian is such a captivating writer and if you’re looking for a new author to check out in 2018, I can’t recommend his books enough, although I personally prefer his historical fiction to regular fiction.
February turned out to be a super slow month as travel plans had to be postponed unexpectedly. But I made one of my favorite foods all year.
In March I visited a new state (Arizona) and came to the conclusion that the Southwest region is my favorite part of the United States. Maybe it’s the fact that its landscapes are so drastically different than what I’m used to here in the Northeast. Or the fact that you can dine al fresco in early March and that there’s so much sunlight (a rarity here in Pittsburgh). I only made it to Scottsdale and Sedona but I truly look forward to returning (cough: relocate) to Arizona in the near future. Oh, and I also became obsessed with cacti. The dream is to own a house where one is growing in the yard. I didn’t go on any food tours when I was there but I did see another Frank Lloyd Wright property and it was magnificent.
No food blogs this month between traveling and starting a new job…
In April D and I did a staycation overnight at the Omni William Penn, a historic dame hotel I had always wanted to stay at. I also tried a new Jose Garces recipe which turned out just about perfect.
May turned out to be a pretty busy month, a little too busy if I’m being honest. I went to my first ever food truck festival and the weather was horrendous (horrifically cold in May, yeah, Pittsburgh is SUCH a livable city…) and then my brother and his wife came to visit and we did a ton of gallavanting all over the city. The end of the month was time for our long awaited Alaskan cruise. We spent a couple of days in Vancouver prior to the cruise (that’s where it left from) and from what the locals told us, we truly lucked out weather-wise in Canada’s third largest city. The cruise would take place during both the months of May and June. I also went on my first food tour of the year.
The beginning of the month meant I was still sailing along Alaska’s beautiful Inside Passage. The middle and end of the month flat out sucked. I was sick on my birthday and the sick vibes continued on. Thankfully the beginning of the month atoned for the craptastic rest of it. My favorite parts of the cruise were undoubtedly seeing a brown bear (hey, I’m a city girl, this was a HUGE deal for me), getting up close and personal with Dawson Glacier, and visiting the Yukon Territory, THE place of the Canadian Gold Rush back in the late 19th century. The history lover in me found this so awesome. The scenery wasn’t half bad either.
July was a pretty slow month although the Fourth of July holiday weekend meant I finally got in some long overdue baking and cooking. At the end of the month I visited a beautiful hotel in Ohio’s Hocking Hills region I had always wanted to stay at. It was super expensive but how often do you get the chance to stay in your own private cottage? (Mind you I said cottage and not cabin; a rustic travel girl I am not.)
August was a fairly slow month. I went on my second food tour of the year. Although it was here in Pittsburgh it was in a part of the city that I had never been to, so that made it unique. I also finally shared a long overdue Reading Roundup post (I’m reading books faster than I can blog about them).
September was the month I visited the city I’ve been to the most times in my life but this visit to New York was different. I was now visiting as someone in her 30s with a greater appreciation for photography and food (those were never really important topics on my many previous trips to Manhattan). My visit to New York was fantastic and included highlights like finally walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, dining on authentic Georgian food, going on my favorite food tour of the year, and seeing the musical Anastasia.
My mom also came for a long overdue visit and we had a perfect weekend here in Pittsburgh. We made a delicious vegetarian dish from Burma (click here to access it).
In October I returned to what is probably my favorite American city. Chicago is like New York in so many ways but seeing as how it’s not situated on a tiny narrow island, there’s actually room to breath and move. And just as in New York, I did a ton of eating, wanting to make up for as much lost time as possible (i.e. I hadn’t been since 2011). And the main reason we went? I saw the musical Hamilton and it was incredible to see performed on stage. I also wrote one of my favorite personal opinion posts of the year.
November was a slow month (I had to work almost the entire Thanksgiving weekend) but I did write what was one of my most popular posts all year. It seemed to resonate with a lot of people, which always makes me feel good that I’m not just writing for crickets. I also traveled to Quebec City but since it was the very last day of November, I’ll talk about that in December.
I had always wanted to visit Quebec City during the Christmas season and this year I finally did. The city as a whole totally lived up to my expectations from a holiday decor standpoint and it was simply wonderful being there. But the bonus was that it wasn’t AS cold as I feared it would be. The skies were pretty gray and dismal but hey, I guess you can’t have everything. And even though it was Canada, Quebec City truly made me feel as if I were in France. It was so much more French than anything English (quite the opposite from what I found in Montreal). In fact, in 2018, I hope to do a new smackdown post, one between Canada’s French province’s two largest cities. I also went on my fourth and final food tour of the year.
I also had an unexpected visit to my hometown of Philadelphia. I did get to check out the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit currently showing at the Franklin Institute and the city’s Christmas Village (its German-style Christmas market) and it was truly terrific.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I genuinely hope that 2018 is a better year, both personally and for the world, for what a precarious world it is anymore. Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday and new year.