Well friends, here we are again.
Remember the end of 2020 when we'd made it to that invisible goal post and it felt like we'd made it, like everything would be ok? Oh how little we knew.
Let's be real, 2021 was a real doozy of a year. From covid variants to natural disasters to Afghanistan to major blows to reproductive rights, it has been anything but gentle. And now we're entering 2022 with omicron blowing up all around us. Feels kinda bleak, right?
Honestly you guys? I feel pretty optimistic right now.
I've had a pretty pragmatic / realistic view on things from the beginning of this mess, so I never expected that 2021 was going to be a walk in the park. First of all, I have seen the movie Contagion, so I never expected this to last anywhere less than two years. Secondly, I have two science degrees, so I never expected things would be a simple as getting a vaccine and the whole pandemic getting nicely buttoned up just like that.
I expected more variants. I expected more chaos. And now, I expect that things are going to get better.
Why? Because we have vaccines! And yes, they're not perfect. Yes, we're seeing a lot of breakthrough cases. But we're seeing a suuuuuuuuuper low number of fully vaccinated people getting seriously ill.
Also, because we understand this virus a hell of a lot better than we did a year ago. There are new medications and treatments rolling out all the time and at a rapid speed. It's amazing! Science is amazing! The researchers and doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists who are working their butts off to get us through this are amazing!
And lastly, because this latest variant seems to be a lot milder, which is they way the virus needs to change if it wants to survive. I hope that at some point in 2022 the conversation will begin to shift from incidence to severity, and we can all just get on with our lives.
Seriously you guys, get those vaccines in your arms and keep your chins up - 2022 is going to be a good one. I can feel it.
Looking back, 2021 had some real ups and downs.
Professionally, it was a great year for me. Towards the end of 2020 I was asked to become interim head of my department at work while they recruited for a new manager. Just two months in, my bosses said I was the best they'd ever had in that role, and would I like the job permanently? Hell yes I would!
Of course it was a big adjustment and part of me was like, but my life is chaos right now, do I really want to be head of my department? Shouldn't I just coast for a while?
But coasting does not come naturally to me and I love being in charge of people, so that thought was fleeting at best.
Of course that meant a bigger struggle with finding work-life-blog balance, which sometimes I was good at and sometimes I was not. I unintentionally took a month off from the blog in the spring, and then then entire summer off.
But you know what? Nothing bad happened. Since most of my top content is older, the blog just kept chugging along, generating income from all those people wanting to cook mung beans.
While many food bloggers have aspirations of turning their blogs into their full-time jobs (my friend Sarah is killing it!) I have realized that it's not a priority for me, at least not at this particular stage in my life.
Right now I have a double safety net with the blog and a full-time job. At my job, I have a good salary, paid vacation, and benefits. So if Google changes an algorithm and my traffic tanks overnight (which did happen in November this year) it's annoying, but not devastating.
Similarly if my job were to go up in smoke for some reason (as well all know by now, anything can happen) I can double down on the blog and grow it from a profitable side hustle into a full-time job.
This feels like a really comfortable situation for me to be in right now, at this particular life stage.
Don't get me wrong - I do have goals for the blog in 2022. One of them is registering the business as an AB (which is like an LLC in the US) as right now I'm registered as a sole proprietor, which means that my personal finances and my business finances are all tangled up, and I'm paying taxes out the wazoo.
I'm trying out some tools to help better streamline my work process so that I make sure I focus on the right things and don't forget important background work. I want to try to work less next year, but work smarter.
I also got some fancy new tools recently in the form of a new camera which is a major upgrade from the 10 year old Canon Rebel I've been using all along (I upgraded to the Canon 6D mark ii) and a continuous light system which means I'm not beholden to daylight hours to shoot recipes. One of my goals is to set aside some time each week to really learn how to use them so I'm not just playing with really expensive toys.
On a personal level, 2021 sure was a roller coaster. There were high highs and low lows.
I got vaccinated! Twice! That was a definite high for 2021 and although it still bugs me that wealthy countries are onto boosters already while a large portion of the world remains unvaccinated, I do look forward do that 3rd dose in 2022.
I also eagerly anticipate Sweden starting to vaccinate kids 5+ (we're still on 12+ over here) so that I can get that microchip into my big boy's arm as soon as possible.
I started to run again! That has been one of my goals for a few years now, so I'm thrilled to have finally overcome all the injuries and feel like an actual runner again.
I wrapped up C25K in the summer and am now in the midst of a 10K training program, which I'm working through ever so slowly. But who knows, I may sign up for a 10K in the spring just to have something to look forward to.
I bought a car! The funny thing about that is how much I agonize over small purchases. Around the same time I bought the car, I really wanted a new pair of boots.
I had a pair of black leather boots that were basically brand new, but I didn't like them very much. I wanted a similar pair of boots, and I had the tab open on my computer for probably three months (I am a tab hoarder) trying to validate the purchase.
And then one day I was like, eff this I am so sick of biking with the kids to school in the snow. I'm miserable, they're miserable, I'm buying a freaking car. And less than a week later I drove out of the dealer with a new (to me) car.
That car has turned out to be a bit of a lemon, but I still love it and I'm super happy with the decision and the freedom it has afforded us.
Perhaps most importantly this year is the sense that I found myself again.
I hit rock bottom in the spring, and told my therapist that I felt like an untethered boat flailing around in the ocean without an anchor. She told me that that's exactly what I was, it had happened, it was here, so I didn't need to be afraid of it.
My mom sent this picture to Niko that I had stuffed on a shelf, and one day I looked at it and realized it was me. I mean, change the hoodie to grey and grey up that hair a bit, and it is me sitting in that boat rowing it along. I framed it and put it above my bed as a reminder of how far I've come.
When I read Caitlin Moran's book More than a Woman recently, she talks about how any woman with a child under the age of three is not in her right mind. My youngest turned three recently, and I realized a little while later that I finally felt like I can breathe again.
That child did not sleep through the night for two and a half years, and I don't think being permanently exhausted helped my state of mind. That plus the constant battles, being needed all the time, putting my own needs on the back burner again and again... it's no wonder I felt like a crazed, shouty person so much of the time.
But also, I feel like I've found my roots again. I commented to Paul how it's funny that more than 18 years ago when we first met I was the head lifeguard at work, driving a Volkswagen, training for a 10K, and had a profitable side hustle teaching CPR classes to medical students. Now here I am, all those years later, once again head of my department at work, driving a Volkswagen, training for a 10K, and have a profitable side hustle with the blog.
Of course all of the elements are quite different, but the basics are in place and it feels pretty good.
At the beginning of 2021, our family was fractured. We were trying to make things work, but kept falling apart over and over again until we really fell apart.
And then, somehow, once we had really burned things down properly, once we'd declared that it could be no more, once we'd each decided to move on, we found our way into a new constellation together.
It's not perfect, because of course it isn't, but it is real and it is good. Like I said, I'm pretty dang optimistic about 2022.
And lastly, I'd like to say thank you, dear reader, for being here.
Thank you for showing up week after week and reading my silly posts. Thank you for making my recipes. Thanks for your comments, for sharing, for pinning. Thanks for your emails and words of encouragement.
I wish all of you an amazing 2022 as well.
Best of 2021
Let's take a look at the top posts of 2020, according to Google Analytics.
1. Mung Bean and Coconut Curry
It should surprise no one that the Mung Bean and Coconut Curry still reigns supreme. This recipe accounted for more than 11% of the total traffic to the blog in 2021.
2. How to Cook Mung Beans
The people want to know! How to Cook Mung Beans shot up the ranks after I posted it last year, and has held steady ever since.
3. 10-Minute Vegetable Ramen Noodles
These 10-Minute Vegetable Ramen Noodles had a really good year! It took them a while to rank, but they've been bringing in steady traffic ever since.
4. Turmeric Latte Mix
This Turmeric Latte Mix recipe has been a fan fave for a long time on HNL and is in the top 10 for the second or third year in a row.
5. Chia Fresca
Another year with this post in the top 10. I dunno man, people really dig this funny little hydration drink, I guess. Chia Fresca for the win!
6. Black Bean and Quinoa Freezer Burritos
Good old reliable Black Bean and Quinoa Freezer Burritos. So tasty, so good, and such a great meal prep item to have on hand.
7. Red Lentil Dal
This Red Lentil Dal recipe is a favourite of mine. It's so simple to pull together, especially in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker.
8. Cinnamon Roasted Apples
Fun fact - I out-rank Martha Stewart for this keyword. Suck it, Martha! My Cinnamon Roasted Apples are better than your cinnamon roasted apples.
9. Pumpkin Seed Butter
Have you tried making Pumpkin Seed Butter yet? I love this bright green alternative to nut butter.
10. Collagen for Vegetarians
It's been far too long since I've written a nutrition post, but it's nice to see this guide to Collagen for Vegetarians in the top 10!