Each year around my birthday, I like to reflect on the past year of my life and remember what made it special. My 24th was a beautiful year, full of lots of beautiful memories. It’s so much fun to record the things I loved, so here they are in no particular order, my favourite things when I was 24.
Coffee | I didn’t drink coffee until I became an English teacher in Korea. I left Korea right before my birthday last year, but this year has really converted me into having a real fondness for coffee. I don’t need it – some mornings, I forget – but I really enjoy the ritual. I bought myself this cold brew coffee maker for Christmas which makes my coffee habit cheap & easy.
Yoga in the park | We started a free yoga class in the park here in Quito in October, but it quickly turned into one of my favourite things….ever. We have met some wonderful people, gotten some career opportunities, and most importantly created something to anchor us to the community here. It’s always a high point of my week.
Spanish | I was trying to learn Spanish while in Korea using Duolingo and Memrise but not having a ton of success. Luckily, just a couple months after my birthday I met my now-boyfriend, a born and bred Ecuadorian to practice with. After moving to Quito, my Spanish grew by leaps and bounds and I’m happy to say that I’m told I even have a Quiteña accent. I enrolled in a Spanish course at the local university just before my 25th birthday and it’s drastically helping me to refine my verbs and grammar.
1 Second Everyday | I only started using this app in January, but it still makes the list of my favourite things. It’s such a simple, lovely way to document your life and watching the video gives me so much joy.
Saltwater sandals | Katie’s mom brought these for me right before we left Korea, and it’s safe to say I’ve lived in them ever since. They got a bit beaten up on my travels in Asia, but they are stylish and comfortable and can survive a bit of a beating which I love. I am planning to buy another pair or two this summer when I’m home.
Elizabeth Gilbert | No, she is not a thing (obviously!!) but I really fell in love with Liz Gilbert this year. Of course Big Magic was incredible (and watch this interview!), and Magic Lessons was endlessly inspiring, but I especially love her posts on Facebook (which have my inspiration lists many a time). About halfway through this year I changed my settings on Facebook so that whenever she posts something new, it’s the first thing I see and it’s always a huge breath of fresh air.
Journey to the Heart | This is a beautiful book that always has something helpful to say. There is a thoughtful passage for every day of the year so you can either read today’s meditation or flip the book open to a random page and soak up the wisdom there. I usually read one every morning.
Ecuadorian food | Some of my favourites are Ecuadorian-style ceviche, pan de yuca, canelazo, and Ecuadorian quesadillas. Ecuador has such a rich culture and I feel lucky to be getting to experience it.
Slack & Timely | Yes, these are relatively new additions to my (work) life, but they have changed it dramatically. Such wonderful tools for increasing productivity and efficiency and streamlining processes.
Happier | I started listening to this podcast on a bus in Vietnam right after they began recording it and it has made my life better ever since. Gretchen Rubin is a personal hero of mine – I just find her so full of great ideas and perspectives that really do make life better. She and Elizabeth (her sister) are so great on this show, and I look forward to Wednesdays every week (really).
#Stephlovestoread | One of my favourite things to do this past year was take a picture of the book I was reading and post it to Instagram with this hashtag. It’s been such a lovely way to celebrate reading and books, and it’s also helped me to find some other “bookstagram” accounts that are full of great recommendations and pretty photos: @tarenreads and @better_with_books are my faves.
Laura Vanderkam’s work | I love this author’s slightly counter-culture approach to topics like time & money: “yes, you have enough time for everything you want to do”, and “yes, you can buy your way to happiness”. She is so thoughtful and I find her ideas so fresh. She also put me onto the wonderful List of 100 Dreams Exercise which lights me up whenever I revisit it.
Baking bread | On my 25 before 25 list, I started out with the goal of baking 4 breads, and quickly (and dramatically) upgraded it to 25 breads. And considering I only really started this goal in October when I moved to Ecuador, that meant a lot of baking in a relatively short time. I ended up making 23 breads this year, and I can safely say I am completely unafraid of using yeast and everything else that comes along with making bread from scratch.
Elin Hilderbrand books | I think I read over 5 of Elin’s books the year I was 24. They’re very easy beach reads for the most part, but I find that they really transport me, bringing me into the world of Nantucket Island that her characters inhabit. They always seem to inspire me to live a lovelier life.
Hand-lettering | Chances are, this will make the list next year too, because I think my love for beautiful writing is only beginning and I still don’t have access to the best tools to practice with. However! Learning beautiful handlettering was on my 25 list, and I did learn a little. More than anything though, I fell in love with beautiful writing photos and videos (shoutout @lfrae and @cl_lettering) and can’t wait to get my hands on some Tombow pens this summer when I’m home.
Capsule wardrobe | This was the year I tried out a capsule wardrobe and it’s still going strong! It helps that clothes are expensive in Quito and I only brought a capsule wardrobe with me when I moved down here, but I am a huge fan of the idea and it’s going really well. I love not having to think very hard when I get dressed in the morning but still end up wearing clothes I love. I am definitely planning to supplement my wardrobe with a few pieces when I’m back in Canada, but I want to stick to the capsule concept.
Manicures | Yay! I got more manicures during the year I was 24 than I did in my entire life – by a lot. I’m talking like I got one manicure from the age of 0-23, and then probably close to 15 this past year. It was such a fun – and cheap – thing to do while travelling in Asia, and again when I moved to Ecuador. When I was living at home I got my nails done once with my sister and mom which was a lot of fun, and the rest of the time just used The Nail Basket that my dad’s partner keeps in the living room and which is pure magic.
Chelsea boots | I bought boots (similar to these) this year and I have worn them almost every day since. They go with everything, are comfortable and stylish, and best of all don’t have a heel. They’ve replaced Toms in my closet as my go-to shoe.
Magnum Almond Bars | Fell in love with these when we went to the beach in Canoa, have been obsessed ever since.
Bonfires + Bocce Ball | When I was home in the summer, these were my two very favourite activities. I had never played bocce ball until this past summer, but it’s so much fun that it quickly became a fave. And of course, bonfires will be on my list of favourite things forever and for always.
All Day Always | I wrote this song while I was in India and just starting my relationship with my boyfriend, but it’s been an echoing soundtrack of my life ever since. We’ve recorded a couple of different versions, and none of them is perfect yet, but every time I hear it or sing it or play it I’m just struck down with love.
Sunset Gratitude | Technically this was in my life in before I turned 24, but my good friend Dylan really made it stick. To me, sunset gratitude means taking time at the end of the day, at sunset, to reflect on how big and beautiful the world is, and how lucky I am to be living the life I am living.
Fresh flowers | I love flowers (who doesn’t?) but I’m not very good about buying them to have in the house. Luckily, my boyfriend is very good about buying flowers, so our kitchen table has been adorned more often than not since I’ve been living in Quito. We often have gorgeous roses, since Ecuador grows (the most) beautiful ones.
“Never suppress a generous thought.” – Camilla Kimball | I don’t know if this quote in particular was on my mind during the whole of this past year (it’s hard to remember what thoughts were rumbling around in there most), but I’ve definitely thinking about it a lot lately. Thoughts about being my best self + being present to this moment in my life were very important to me this year.
Making lists like these is always such a lovely activity for me. It’s an exercise in keeping track of and loving the simple, ordinary parts of my life, and it’s such a treasure to look back on these lists when some time has passed. I absolutely loved my 24th year, and I am planning to make 25 even more special. Onwards and upwards.