This year, one show has never failed to cheer me up. Run BTS. If you’ve followed my blog, you may know that I’m quite a fan of the Korean band, BTS. I became a fan of them last year. I started listening to some of their songs (Spring Day is one of my ultimate faves). But then discovered that they have their own variety show. And it’s in their variety show where I learnt how funny they are. They play games, they learn new activities (table tennis, flower arrangement), have funny debates, race around trying to trick each other….Whenever I’ve got it on my tablet, headphones on, and I’m laughing or grinning away, my husband knows I’m watching Run BTS.
Reply 1988 and Hospital Playlist
Despite being a fan of BTS, I’ve not really watched much Kdrama. But I did enjoy these two series this year. Hospital Playlist is a new series, while Reply 1988 aired in Korea in 2015 and 2016. But they’re by the same writer and director. I really enjoy how these shows are about a group of people – Hospital Playlist is about a group of doctors who have been friends since medical school and Reply 1988 is about 4 families who live in the same street in 1988 Seoul.
Baking Impossible and School of Chocolate
I really like these two recent series on Netflix. Baking Impossible teams up an engineer and a baker (who’ve never met before the competition) to make some fascinating bakes that have to pass stress tests. Like a boat that actually floats and a robot that can make it through an obstacle course. And it’s edible! Amazing.
I had already followed chocolatier Amaury Guichon on Instagram before the show launched, so I had already known of his amazing creations. But I really like that it’s not a weekly elimination type of competition. That these chefs actually get to learn and grow.
We usually keep it simple during Christmas. Christmas tree, presents, and cookies!
I’m just going to focus on cookies I made for Christmas this year.
So the past few years, I’ve been making and sending cookies to Seattle. That’s where my husband’s mentor lives – they used to work together but his mentor since retired. A few years ago, his wife sent a big box full of Christmas goodies, from fudge and peanut brittle to cookies of all sorts. It was
I was quite pleased with this adaptation. This is a matcha Neapolitan cookie. The original recipe calls for both matcha and hojicha powder. I didn’t have hojicha but guessed that cocoa powder would do fine. And it did work. Also, I like that it’s relatively easy to make.
This is a delightful cookie. As I can’t leave recipes alone, I added some five spice powder and some freeze-dried strawberries. Five spice powder after all has cinnamon and cloves right, so I figure it’s Christmassy in an Asian way keke. I think I’ll add more five spice next time. And yes, there will be a next time. These cookies were delicious. A little bit harder to cut from the logs though, so just be careful when slicing them.
Once There Were Wolves – Charlotte McConaghy (17,752 Goodreads ratings)
This is one of my favourite reads of the year. It’s so beautifully atmospheric with a hint of eeriness to it. It’s set in the Scottish Highlands and the main character is a biologist trying to bring wolves back to Scotland.
The Lost Village – Camilla Sten (12,659 Goodreads ratings)
I listened to this one and the audiobook narrator’s voice really added to the creepiness of this book!
Miss Meteor – Tehlor Kay Mejia (1,670 Goodreads ratings)
A really cute story about inclusion, about bullying, about a beauty pageant in a small town.
The Last Fallen Star – Graci Kim (1,359 Goodreads ratings)
This middle-grade read has great blending of Korean mythology into modern times.
We Are Satellites – Sarah Pinsker (1,467 Goodreads ratings)
I loved the idea behind this one – a brain implant that helps your brain work faster. What happens to those who refuse to get it? Or just can’t? A really thoughtful and relevant piece that more people should read.
The Shadow King – Maaza Mengiste (8,972 Goodreads ratings)
This book is set during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Its focus is on the women fighters of the war. It was really an eyeopener, but also a really gripping story full of great characters. This was on the 2020 Booker Prize shortlist. So I’m a bit surprised that it’s got so few ratings!
Love is for Losers – Wibke Brueggemann (1,478 Goodreads ratings)
A funny and honest book about a 15yo girl. It’s a coming of age story, also a learning what love is kind of story.
So how to define popular books? Well, some of these books are on “best of” lists, others I came across on Instagram. So anyway, here are some books that seem to be popular (?) that I think are worth the hype.
Earthlings – Sayaka Murata
A bizarre book that’s not for everyone, but for me, completely unforgettable
Shuggie Bain – Douglas Bain
I listened to this one, and I really enjoyed the narrator. I guess his Irish accent really helped make this book come alive for me.
Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner
This memoir was honest and emotional.
The House in the Cerulean Sea – TJ Klune
Just delightful! It felt like a mug of hot cocoa on a chilly day.
The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood
A cute romance about scientists!
The entire Truly Devious series – Maureen Johnson
This series set in a private school was just so much fun. A mystery that’s decades old. Riddles and puzzles. A true-crime enthusiast.
Little Eyes – Samanta Schweblin
Another strange book that has these mechanical stuffed animals that have cameras for eyes and can be controlled by people. You can buy the stuffed animal or you can pay to become the stuffed animal, controlling it and watching what’s going on.
Luck of the Titanic – Stacey Lee
I just like books set on boats actually. But I especially love that this story is about the actual forgotten Chinese passengers onboard the ship.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors – Kawai Strong Washburn
I’m not usually a fan of magical realism but I really liked this book set in Hawaii.
NOT worth the hype
Milk Fed – Melissa Broder
It’s probably just me, because this book is on quite a few Best Of lists. I also DNF-ed The Pisces so well, I guess I’m not going to try reading anymore of her books.
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
I get it, I think. I get why it’s so popular. I just felt very manipulated as a reader. Maybe the best way to describe it was that it’s very preachy? I did finish reading it though.
MON | Dec. 6 – #AMonthofFaves Moments of 2021. What were some of the moments this year that you are grateful for?
Ah I’m so glad that A Month of Faves is back. It’s a fun way to look back at the year.
Moments I’m grateful for:
School campuses opening again!
The 2021-2022 school year started with the boys going back to their school after a year and more on remote learning. Zoom classes are hard, you guys! The teachers try their very best but it’s so difficult for kids to sit and stare at a talking head on a screen. I had to keep an eye on my two kids as they sat at the kitchen table, headphones on, making sure that they were actually on Zoom and not half-watching some YouTube video or playing some online game (“but it’s an educational game!”).
They’re also so much happier being back in school themselves, being with their friends again. Masks on of course. But it’s better than Zoom school!
Los Angeles trip and BTS concert!
I’ve been a fan of BTS since September 2020, when I first watched their Tiny Desk Concert on NPR and thought, oh these guys can sing. And fell down the rabbit hole with their many albums and singles, online concerts, their own variety show called Run BTS which is the funniest thing ever, and all the very many things they have on social media (it’s hard to keep up).
When they announced the concert in LA (4 days!), I panicked and thought, I need to see this, but can I even get tickets? And yes, I did manage to get pretty good seats in the 200s section facing the stage. I went with a friend from the Bay Area. SoFi Stadium in LA is huge and I think each day they had 50,000+ people. It was just so much fun to be among the crowd, singing along, screaming, yelling, dancing, waving my lightstick (ARMY bomb). It was the best moment of 2021 for me.
The husband and kids also went to LA, so we wanted to do something a bit different. Our last trip (pre-covid) we did Universal Studios. This time we went to the California Science Center too see the retired space shuttle Endeavour. And also to the Petersens Automotive Museum for all the three car fans. I thought that was quite interesting too, we got to see the electric Harleys that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman (or at least one of them) rode on Long Way Up from the southern tip of South America to Los Angeles. And there was a exhibit of lots of different vehicles used in the James Bond films.
And not to forget all the good food that LA has to offer. Japanese breakfast (grilled mackerel) is the kind of breakfast I’d like to have more often! It just seems like too much work in the kitchen for mornings though!
Trip to Mammoth Lakes
We had initially planned a summer trip to Singapore. But the quarantine period increased from two weeks to three. And three weeks in a hotel room with 2 kids? Not sure we could do that…so we had to cancel that.
Instead, we took a short trip to Mammoth Lakes via Yosemite. It was a first time to Mammoth Lakes for us. What a beautiful place! It’s famous for skiing and mountain biking, and of course, it’s different lakes. You can read more about my trip here.
Vaccinations and boosters
I was so thrilled when they announced that children could get vaccinated and as soon as possible, got appointments for the boys. And they got their second shots last week! The husband and I also got our boosters last month, so I’m just thankful and relieved.
So I posted this image on Instagram a couple of days ago, and I’ll share it here too, but with the full list written out just for you! Do note that these are books I read in 2020, but not necessarily published in 2020.
Today’s topic is Favorite Things [Holiday Edition]
Putting up our (fake) Christmas tree together! That includes ornaments purchased by grandparents, ornaments the kids made, and a tree skirt that my mom made. As well as an advent calendar that was sewn by a family friend in Australia.
Oh I meant to check in and join in with A Month of Faves, but I hadn’t seen it on GirlXOXO earlier. Looks like they had posted it on Instagram though! I’m going to see if I can muster the will to put up posts from the earlier topics, but I’ll start with this one…
This is the topic for Dec 11:
Favorite Things [Daily Life Edition]
Because this is a year in which to celebrate the everyday things.
It’s been strange year to say the least.
We are fortunate to have been healthy and safe, to have a roof over our heads, and not need to worry about if we can afford groceries. So our problems have been minor compared to those of many out there.
We had to cancel plans to visit Singapore, so this is the first time in which the kids haven’t seen their grandparents for a whole year. Every year since the boys were born, at least one grandparent has made a visit (a 17+ hour flight mind you, and it was longer before they launched the direct flight). The last visit was when my mum was here for Christmas in 2019, which seems like years ago.
Anyway, this post is about celebrating the little things.
Small things such as the husband working from home, so he actually gets to see the kids for more than an hour or so a day. He used to leave the house at 630 to catch the Bart into the city, and would most days return after 730pm, which meant we seldom ate dinner as a family, and the kids hardly saw him. So if there’s one bright side to all these stay home restrictions, that is one thing.
As I’m going through these posts, I was kinda surprised at the many new things that I tried making this year. Bagels! Flatbread! (So weird boiling dough though).
We even tried out grocery delivery for a while, as I’m sure many of you did. I especially liked shopping from Weee! an Asian grocery outfit. I like their variety and the surprising freshness of their produce.
Besides being at home because of Covid-19, we were also stuck home for a long time this summer because of the wild fires in the area. It was really bad this year as one of huge fires was actually in the city I live in. Some of our friends had to pack their bags in case they had to evacuate (luckily they didn’t). We weren’t directly affected as we don’t live in or near the hills, but the kids had to stay indoors for quite a few weeks as the air quality was horrendous. So I am grateful that we have two air filters. And the husband had bought me the Ringfit game for the Nintendo Switch, so the kids were happy to play with it for some exercise.
If you look at the photo above, that was the day we woke up and the sky was orange. We had to have the lights on all day because the smoke was trapped under the marine layer. It was the weirdest, most apocalyptic sight. And it was also the day I learnt that my iPhone can’t take a photo of the orange light indoors. It kept correcting the colour and making it look normal. In the end, I had to download an app (Focos) so that I could adjust settings and take an accurate, actually orange picture.
Other favourite things?
The Internet? I don’t know. Oh, maybe HBO Max! And Disney+ (which somehow I had the foresight to prepay for 3 years at such a good price, especially since now they’re increasing the fees!).
So I tried out New Horizons when it came out, and it was cute and fun. But I got a bit bored with it after a while. And started playing Pocket Camp which is the free mobile phone version. It’s a fun and adorable distraction. And yes, I have a library at my campsite!
What about you? What were your favourite things this year?