2011: Year in Review

2011 deserves a slap on the back. It was a banner year, a year we’ll celebrate for the rest of our lives… hopefully with cake. In the heart of fall, arguably the loveliest time of year, I married my best friend, danced like a fool with far away friends whom I love, and had the pleasure of seeing months of wedding preparation and worry pay off in the most satisfying way. I was overwhelmed by the support of so many good and generous people all coming together to celebrate our marriage and future. Hands down, it was the best day I’ve ever known.

People ask if it’s weird to suddenly start referring to someone as “my husband” or note how “crazy” it is that I’m married now, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. To me it just feels right. For one, after a year and a half of referring to someone as your fiancé you can’t wait to get the words “husband and wife” out of your mouth, and for two… well, when I think back to the 9th grade version of myself and remember my achingly huge crush on Ben, the same one I silently harbored all through college, it does seem a bit crazy. Like marrying a rat-tailed New Kid on the Block after kissing the poster image of them hung over your bed every night… if I may make a horribly gross analogy. It’s the definition of a dream come true.

Photos by This is a Love

2011 was also the year I moved back to my home state of Michigan. It was about a decade ago that I moved to New York City for college and I honestly didn’t think I’d ever be back. I don’t always love it — the strip malls still get me down and I’m seriously mourning the lack of independent book stores and art centers — but getting to see our families, especially for holidays and our nieces birthdays, is something I don’t take for granted. Living here, we also have a much bigger and better apartment than in Chicago, which made having a second kitty finally reasonable, and Ben adopted one for me for my birthday. Hedwig. She is serious trouble, destroying plants and ornaments and shoelaces, but she is also THE GREATEST THING EVER. Speaking of my birthday, as of this year, I now share it with my beautiful niece Heidi, born September 14 at 10 am. She is a pink dream and seeing Ben & his brother Andy, and really the whole family, interact with her is pretty heart-melting stuff. In December, our niece Scarlett turned 2, learned to say “Ben” and had an inflatable bounce house birthday party that was easily as much fun for the adults as it was the kids. And in other exciting family news, my sister Michelle became engaged to Kevin, which I think was an incredibly good idea. I revisited Manhattan and Jersey City for the first time since moving in 2009, ate cake with some of my best girlfriends in front of St. Marks Cathedral while dodging a hurricane, visited my old stomping grounds, and was majorly relieved to eat a decent bagel for the first time in years.

In terms of “achievements”, I learned how to use liquid eyeliner, drove a car (in a parking lot), had oysters for the first time, cooked and baked more than ever before, revitalized my blog (!), am learning how to take decent photos, overcame my fear of asking for help in Sephora, and won an award for doing something dumb and terrifying — fake dying in front of a large group of strangers. Oh, and I finally saw the end (and alternate end) of Felicity. Oh, Ben! Oh, Noel!

In years past, I’ve made a list of favorite releases from the year — books, albums, that sort of thing — but I guess my media intake just wasn’t very hip this year because I’m struggling to pick real standouts. So instead, here’s a most memorable list…

  • Kitty Photo: There were many, but this one both horrifies and delights Ben & I the most.
  • Meals: Aside from our wedding dinner (we will never forget your pecan-encrusted salmon, Wendy Weller), my birthday dinner with Ben and his parents at Tom’s Oyster Bar in Royal Oak stands out. The food was fantastic (especially clam chowder), the atmosphere was nice, our server was top notch, and I felt tremendously loved. Of course, Friendsgiving 2011 at our pals Anthony & Ariels was fantastic as well…. Okay, we ate a lot of good things with a lot of good people. Next topic.
  • Bit of Cleverness: The Legend of Alexandra & Rose, a one page illustrated story by Jon Klassen, who was certainly one of my favorite artist discoveries this year.
  • Use of the Internet: 1) Comics. I’ve come across several artists using webpages for comics that scroll and take full advantage of your monitor. They’re great because, as with a book, the timing of visuals is key, and you don’t see everything at once. I was super impressed by Emily Carroll‘s work. This page from her comic The Prince & the Sea is a great example. 2) Printables. Designer and printer Amanda Jane Jones has great style and the fact that she’s a Michigan resident gives me a bit of artistic hope. She’s also a great example of how sharing some of your work by making it internet-accessible and printable is, basically, making the internet a more creative and better place to be. Her printable advent calendar is one such example and these Design*Sponge bookplates are another.
  • Music: I feel like all I’ve listened to this year is Hank Williams Senior, Best Coast and Time to Pretend by MGMT on repeat, though I know that can’t be true. I guess it’s just that my most memorable music listening this year revolved a lot around wedding planning, and there was virtually no new stuff to be heard there (except for when the DJ went off list and played us some Adele. Worse wedding music blunders have happened, though.) Our wedding party walked down the aisle to Sweet Jane by the Velvet Underground and I walked to the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, our pre-ceremony music was all boppy girl group and doo wop — Lollipop, Be My Baby, Chapel of Love — dinner was classic country — mostly Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Hank — and our party jams included The Monster Mash, Ramones, Otis Redding, and Supremes. I put together an Rdio playlist of some of our weddin’ tunes should that sound appealing to you.
  • Movie Moments: 1) In Hugo, during the opening credits, the moment 3D snow started falling over Paris I was awed. 2) Anytime Ellen Page laughed her embarrassingly unattractive evil cackle in Super, especially after smashing a man into a brick wall and then, only half dressed, got out of her car to scream “AND NOW YOUR LEGS ARE GONE“. Every so often, for no particular reason, I will think of this and smile. But if my mom is reading this, you definitely don’t want to click that link… 3) More appropriately, though still mean-spiritedly, in The Help, when Allison Janney’s character shouts “Get your raggedy ass off my porch! Go on! Get off my property now! Before we all get one of those disgusting things on our lips!” at a bitchy-assed coldsore-lipped Hilly Hollbrook. My pal Jenny and I struggled to stopped laughing/crying over the unexpected lip line in the theater and were still holding our sides as we walked through the parking lot.
  • Addition to our Regular Homecooking Repertoire : Homemade pizza. I just chop the vegetables and put the toppings on, but it’s always tasty and fun to make them together and try different concoctions. Ben’s perfected his dough making with a baking stone and peel.
  • Kitchen Discoveries: 1) The pleasure of fresh herbs. My mother and sister-in-law have much greener thumbs than me, and bestowed several plants upon on this year (basil, rosemary, mint, lemon thyme). Sadly they have all died as of this week… but we kept ’em going for a long time! And they really do elevate simple meals. 2) A garlic press. How and WHY did I live without one?
  • Favorite Purchase: My Kate Spade double bow black stud earrings. I bought them in Soho (which is a lot more fun than buying them in Sterling Heights), and wore them on our wedding, so I have fond memories every time I wear them. Simple. Cute. I love them.
  • Sweetest Moment: During our wedding reception, when our niece Scarlett took to the dance floor in her footie pajamas, dragging along her blanket with her.
  • Dangerous but Funny Moment: While moving from Chicago to Ferndale I was feeling sorry for our cat Emilio, who was moaning in his carrier, so I decided to hold him. He hates to be held though, so he decided to hide on the UHaul breaks, which made Ben, our driver, shout quite a bit.
  • Worst Excuse: Clyde Christopher Wellons for having “trapped gas” to get out of work. Which he didn’t have. As far as I know. The best part was that he didn’t even need an excuse because as he was telling me his genius sick day scheme I could barely understand him for the awful head cold he was already suffering.
  • Adjustment: New names. For me and my website. I changed my middle name from Ann to my maiden name of Johnston and took Ben’s last name. Nicole J. Wroblewski, that’s-a-me! Killmargot.com is being phased out in favor of the more triumphant shecanliftahorse.com :)
  • Taste: Cherry wine. I hope it always reminds me of our honeymoon in Traverse City, MI.

And then there are books. A subject unto themselves…

I figured the number of books I’d be able to read in a year would plummet dramatically after leaving my bookstore job, where the only real perk was that I was able to borrow books (and nooks), and leaving our Chicago apartment and it’s proximity to the public library. Fortunately, our new apartment is still within walking distance to the local library and my Kindle makes the adult new release titles I want to read affordable (and lightweight), so my reading habit hasn’t suffered much at all. I set a 50 book goal for myself, finished 54, and am currently working my way through 2 others. See everything I read and reviewed in 2011 on my goodreads page.

And now it’s on to 2012, “The Year of Ben”, as Ben calls it. He’s supposed to perfect his mojito-making and I’m hoping Illy espresso is going to be the key to me finally making the perfect at-home latté. Here’s to new recipes, new experiences, and new pals; to more art, more photos, and more making! Happy New Year!


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