Looking Back and Forward

2016 was supposed to be The Year of Focus, and it’s hard to say how that theme played out for me personally. Was I truly more focused? Hard to say. In this post I’ll do a little bit of reflecting on different areas I cover in my blog and how I feel I did last year and what I want to change (or keep) for this year.

One of my major resolutions was to blog more. “More” is not quantifiable, so more specifically, I wanted to beat my 2015 blog post count—and I did! In 2015 I posted 15 times (shameful) and in 2016 I posted 36 times. I struggle with how over-saturated the blogging world is, and I try to create high quality posts. I am proud that I spend a significant amount of time creating each post, but I still think that this year I can speed up and increase my post frequency. So, there’s a goal for 2017: Bring my monthly average to/above 4 posts/month. 

Shakespeare and Company

This small victory in increased post numbers certainly owes a lot to my monthly book club posts. Being part of a book club helps keep me accountable to not only reading, but processing my response to it through writing. It is easy to read a book or watch a series without processing it, and this step has been missing from my entertainment consumption so I’m excited that it’s continuing this year. Goal: Keep book club going. 

2016 Book Club Posts: 

london-8

My goal for 2016 was to focus on two big trips instead of multiple small trips. I did so-so on this goal, since we sneaked in a trip to Mexico City at the end of the year, went to Kansas for a wedding in October, and went camping a few times. I certainly took fewer weekend trips than I did in grueling 2015, so that was nice. I never blogged about my March trip to Washington, DC. I meant to do so in the fall as the weather got cooler, but now here we are. Goal: Process trip photos in less than 3 weeks from arrival back home.

2016 Travel Posts:

While travel blogging was my first love, home blogging was my second. I barely put out home posts in 2016 and one of my major goals for My Friend Staci this year is to put out more home posts. Goal: At least one home post per month. 

A Bright and Cozy Loft

2016 Home Posts:

Thanks for joining me on this little journey back into 2016. I feel like I didn’t blog much but now that I am reflecting, I’m proud of the high quality work I did last year and I’m energized for blogging in 2017.

“A Man Called Ove” book response and January selection!

Virtual Book ClubTo finish out the year we picked A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a book that has been making its way around many book club circles especially in the latter part of this year. The blurbs on the cover of this book pitched it as touching and heartwarming. I am generally a fan of Swedish things, so I was looking forward to reading this Swedish best-seller.

I will admit that this book did not win me over until the last couple of chapters. I’m not one to not finish books, but if I wasn’t reading it for book club, I might have set this one down and moved on to something more exciting. I found that Ove reminded me too much of people in my life who’ve let the process of following rules to the letter, and sticking to rigid principles instead of practicing flexibility, rob them of so much joy. I understand that is the point of the book, the word “curmudgeon” is right there on the cover, and yet when I dove in I really underestimated Ove’s curmudgeonliness.

[Spoilers in the next two paragraphs, I guess]
Ove’s preoccupation with ending his life really rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, his wife died and he doesn’t know how to adjust to the world at large without her. Suicidal tendencies are not out of the question when the most important person in the world is taken away. I know that depression is a crushing and inescapable feeling and I think the author treated the protagonist’s three failed suicide efforts (one serious, two more half-hearted) too lightly, as “day in the life” episodes instead of life-shattering moments which they would be.

It is revealed bit by bit that Ove has had a hard life. Growing up very poor, losing his house, his wife’s accident, losing his wife: these are all things that can make a person’s heart hard. However, the way the story is presented, it seems like Ove’s heart has always been hard even from childhood. In this way it is not like Ove’s diverse group of neighbors are helping him rediscover a version of himself that was lost long ago, but instead totally change his whole personality. Of course, the end where he does change himself to being open to his new neighbors and knits himself into the lives of those in his cul-de-sac is the best part of the book, and once we reach that point, it feels more like an epilogue than part of the story itself. So, aside from the fact that an elderly man changing his whole personality seems far-fetched, the end is by far the best part of the book and it does live up to the “touching” and “heartwarming” blurbs on the back. But it’s kind of too little, too late.

A Man Called Ove

There have been one or two book club reads that I’ve been “meh” about but this was the first one I actively disliked as I was reading it. Looking forward to what my fellow readers have to say in their responses! I know Libby will be posting one up and Steph might be posting one too so make sure to check out their blogs.

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


The Secret History of Wonder WomanA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. Message me on facebook to be added.

To start the new year, we decided to read a non-fiction book since the majority of what we tackled in 2016 was fiction work. Our facebook group voted on three choices and picked The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Havard professor and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore. This book was Steph’s choice, which I voted for over my own nomination! The Amazon synopsis sounds really great so I am very much looking forward to this glimpse of feminism in the comic book industry.

Fall Camping on Palomar Mountain

Before you give my post title the side-eye, I will have you know that the first official day of Winter is December 21!

View from Palomar Mountain

For the past two years, our friend group has gone camping on Palomar Mountain at the Doane Valley Campground, which is a little over an hour northeast of San Diego. We’ve gone one of the first two weekends of November, when the weather definitely feels like “fall,” but it is not yet too cold to be sleeping outside in a tent.

Pinecones

Both years, the itinerary has been as such:

  1. Arrive to the campsite and get tents/gear set up
  2. Short hike up the fire road to view the sunset (watch out for mountain lions—really)
  3. Food and drink around the campfire until we run out of firewood
  4. Wake up with the sun (this year we had a jetboil to make coffee—so helpful)
  5. Longer hike. Both times we’ve done a modified version of the “Chimney Flat” hike.
  6. Brunch at the vegetarian diner outside the state park

Each time, we have only camped out for one night. A lot of people in our group work in the school system, and fall is such a busy time; this 24 hour period without cell reception is perfect to unwind and connect with nature. There were plenty of other campers with lots more stuff and I could tell they were settled in for a number of days.

This year’s trip felt very special since last year we were all just beginning to spend time together. I sort of happened to fall in with a few old classmates a couple years younger than me who were freshmen/sophomores when I was a senior. I knew them but didn’t know them, until Doug and I spontaneously agreed to go on last year’s camping trip. It was really the event that gelled us into the “squad” we are today. We even jokingly called ourselves “Squad 14” since we were camping at site 14, but somehow the name has stuck for more than a year.

Campsite 14

Camping Crew

Making friends as an adult is really weird and really hard. When we moved out here to San Diego, we were starting over, aside from maybe 3 or 4 people I was still in touch with from college. We had just left an awesome friend group in Kansas so we were drifting a bit. A few years later, we are now part of a #squad and I couldn’t be happier. I know that like most things in life, this friend group will wax and wane, but for the moment I am feeling lucky to have found such good people.