2021 In Review

It is January 29th and I’m finally feeling up for writing my year in review post for 2021. If that doesn’t say something about how tired and slow and behind I feel these days, I don’t know what does! 🤣

It’s hard to reflect on 2021 because it feels like such a blur, and because it was full of so many difficult emotions. Between the news, and the social isolation, and the lockdowns, and the political divisiveness, it’s been so hard to be a person in the world lately. I’ve felt so overwhelmed and alienated, by turns utterly hopeless and (very) cautiously optimistic. Put simply: this year has been exhausting. I am craving simplicity, for things to feel easier, to feel hopeful again.

And yet despite the emotional turbulence I’ve felt for most of the past two years, I have to admit that this year did bring a lot of positive changes to my personal circumstances. So while 2021 didn’t often feel good for me in my everyday life, I know I have so much to be grateful for. Isn’t that always the way? We need some perspective & space in order to see the forest. When we’re deep in the trees, we can’t see a way to go on.

So here we go, my 2021 in review. Be forewarned: this will probably read like a highlight reel, but trust me when I say that this year felt like anything but in the moment. Both things can be true: it was good, and it was hard.


january

I started the year by hosting my first-ever virtual business retreat, which went a lot better than I expected! My friend Sonja designed a beautiful menu that all the attendees recreated at home, and we made the most of the circumstances by being together virtually while apart physically. In January, I also celebrated one year of being with my partner Mike. We were in lockdown and it was one of the coldest days of the year, so we went for a very brisk walk, got some bread & pastries from the place we’d had our first date, and played board games at home. And that was basically…it. Business was slow that month and I was worried about money, I went for a lot of very cold walks with friends, I did some coaching calls, I took some bubble baths, I watched TV.

February

Out of the blue in February, I got invited to apply for an on-camera role with Shopify, and…I got the job! This was huge for me, a chance to grow my skills and also find a bit of financial stability in such an uncertain time. It has sometimes been challenging (ie. filming by myself, all alone in a super-hot studio without air-conditioning in the middle of a heat wave!) but has been such an amazing opportunity. Also in February, I started The Notorious Romance Book Group, (RBG for short 😉), a feminist romance novel book club with the coolest women that my friends & I knew. This online group has added so much joy this year and helped me make some new friends during such a tough time. Other than that: see above. A lot of cold walks, desperately searching for a new apartment, and trying to cheer myself up by getting the best doughnuts around.

March

In March, things started to feel a bit brighter. We finally moved out of the lockdown we’d been in since November, the days got longer, and some flowers finally started to poke their heads out from under the snow. But the most exciting thing that happened in March, without a doubt, was being selected out of tons of applicants for the apartment of my dreams. It’s in my favourite neighbourhood, on the top floor of an old house, with tons of windows, the perfect patio, and buckets of natural light. It has been a safe haven this year, holding (literal) space for me to cry, grieve, celebrate, worry, stress, smile and rest. Also in March I found my dream pink velvet couch for FREE on Kijiji which was a gigantic win.

April

On April 1st, I moved into the new place and spent a lot of time just lying with my face in sunbeams. I was so happy to get there right as the weather was warming up a bit (in that first week, we had shakshuka on the new patio! celebrated my birthday with my family outdoors in the sunshine! rented a bonfire pit at Ontario Place with views of the CN tower!), but it turned out to be perfect timing because within days of me moving in, Toronto was plunged BACK into lockdown. We had to cancel my birthday getaway and pivot to doing Covid-safe things instead, like exploring the abandoned Camp 30 and making cocktails at home, and I spent most of the rest of the month alone at home, settling into my new space. In April I also got asked to be the speaker at Creative Mornings Toronto which was such a special experience. So many of my friends and colleagues showed up to support me, and I was so proud of the talk I gave.

May

Even though April was full of good things, May was better for one simple reason: I got my first dose of the vaccine. It’s hard to express how relieved and hopeful I was as I stood in line at a community pop-up playing loud, joyful reggaeton music with daffodils blooming and kind volunteers helping out. It was an unbelievably good day. In May the flowers are in full bloom here in Toronto, and my camera roll is just chock-full of cherry blossoms, green grass, lilacs and magnolias from my walks. I took myself on a beach picnic for the first time all year (one of my fave activities), put up string lights on the patio, installed my beautiful rainbow shelves and saw more sunsets.

June

I loved June. I could finally go to the beach in a bathing suit, eat all my meals outside, get ice cream, and go to the drive-in movies. I went strawberry picking, went to the Toronto Islands (on the rainiest, windiest day, oops), hosted my friends & family for brunch and dinner on the patio, got some new outdoor plants (which slowly died throughout the summer) and got my second vaccine dose. I was nesting, spending lots of time outdoors, and finally feeling hopeful again. Oh, and I didn’t know it yet, but my future fur baby Bruno was born on June 27th.

July

In July, we hosted our second online business retreat, which was even more of a success since I was in a newer, brighter space and the food was so summery and fresh. I think I felt a bit restless, so I restarted my Steph Saturday Morning adventures to explore some new coffee shops and restaurants and get outside of my neighbourhood bubble. I also started swimming at the local pool, which was such a joy and delight every single time. Later in the month my boyfriend got some bad news and had to fly home to Romania, so my memories of July feel a bit heavy and tinged with sadness. I also remember being extremely tired because I was having a lot of trouble sleeping.

August

We started the month strong by heading back to a family-run campground we’d loved the year before up near Magnetawan, Ontario. We rented a tiny cabin and spent the week swimming under waterfalls, hiking in Algonquin Park, making friends with chipmunks, buying junk at garage sales, canoeing, eating, reading and talking. Those were very good days, some of my favourite memories from the whole year. Also among my best memories were the days that my friend Katie came to visit from New York. We hadn’t seen each other for almost TWO YEARS which was unfathomable, but it felt like yesterday. We spent a long weekend finding magic wherever we went: in vineyards, at swimming holes, on the Island, at my sister’s birthday party. Last but not least, in August we did “Wines of the World” in my family which was the funniest, most delicious event: we all had to bring a wine from a famous region and pair it with a specialty snack from the same country. It was a delight.

September

On September 1st, I brought home a puppy. This was both impulsive (it came together in a matter of days) and also an incredibly long time coming (I had started seriously applying for dogs in January 2020). Still, I was almost completely unprepared for how difficult this transition would be emotionally. The first month, despite the adorable photos I captured, was one of the hardest months of my life, if not the hardest. Taking care of a small animal who is totally disoriented, peeing in the house, requires constant vigilance, bites your feet and ankles constantly, barks in the most high-pitched tone, and can’t leave the front lawn while neighbours incessantly hype him up and ruin your training….well, it’s hard. Not to mention that Mike was still in peak wedding season which meant he couldn’t be around to help out very much in the first few weeks. There was a lot of literal blood, sweat, and tears, and I barely left the house all month. I did manage to celebrate one year of my business community, The Profoundery, but to this day I have no idea how I got through the day with an 11-week old puppy in tow.

October

Things started to improve in October, although I was still the most exhausted I’ve ever been. Bruno got all his shots, so I was able to start taking him on walks, to some parks, to visit my Grandma, to puppy school, to play with my mom’s dog. My life was still very insular, and our routine was still a challenge, and I still fell into bed most nights without being able to do much if anything for myself, but things were better. Bruno is a smart cookie, so he was learning his tricks and commands and doing so well being exposed to new places.

November

In November, my life started to feel slightly more like mine again. I went back to filming for Shopify after a hiatus, and it was so fun to be in a real studio with a videographer instead of filming alone. Mike and I did a little staycation on the East end of the city and actually went out for dinner, just us, without Bruno for the first time. Bruno graduated from puppy school and went to his first few dogs parks. We had a real scare when he accidentally ingested some marijuana, we assume at one of the aforementioned dog parks since neither of us imbibe, and his symptoms were terrifying for a new puppy owner who didn’t know what was happening. He was totally fine but: woof. But the best thing that happened in November was deciding last-minute to fly to New York City for Katie & P’s wedding in Manhattan. They got married in a sweet little city garden in the rain surrounded by their families and took a sunset boat cruise to the Statue of Liberty, and I was so grateful to be there for such an important occasion.

December

I felt the seasonal affective disorder coming on STRONG in December, so I leaned hard into the holiday season. I decorated my whole apartment, made an advent calendar with Mike, sewed a Christmas quilt and got us matching pyjamas. Myself and a few friends were lucky enough to go up to a cottage for the weekend which was so peaceful and quiet. My sisters and I had a festive brunch and got pedicures together in lieu of gifts. And best of all, we actually got to celebrate Christmas together this year, even with some precautions because of a few Covid scares. Still, a huge improvement over the lonely year before. Even though I felt very stressed & anxious over the holidays because of Omicron and a new lockdown order and a Covid exposure and cancelling plans to drive to upstate New York for NYE, we tried our best to make the most of a challenging situation.


Firsts of 2021

  • First time becoming a (dog) parent
  • First time speaking in front of such a large audience (Creative Mornings)
  • First time filming a video in a real production studio
  • First time visiting Algonquin Park
  • First time hosting a virtual retreat
  • First time having an apartment with outdoor space
  • First time renting a bonfire pit at Ontario Place
  • First time assisting at an engagement shoot
  • First time installing bookshelves
  • First time being on-camera “talent” for a commercial shoot
  • First time getting a matching loungewear set
  • First time picking someone up from the airport by myself
  • First time swimming at the Elora Gorge
  • First time at puppy school
  • First time trying Firehouse Subs

2021 By The numbers

  • 75 books read
  • 13 videos filmed
  • 5 hours & 23 minutes of meditation

favourite books read

My word of the year: Soften

Ironically but unsurprisingly, I actually feel like I got harder this year, more rigid and uncompromising, especially after getting Bruno. I was hard on myself (and continue to be) for the ways I felt I was failing, and hard on Mike during a time when I had very little patience or energy. I can’t count the times (even before becoming a dog parent) where I found myself saying “this is so hard”, because this year was so hard.

And yet I do think I softened a little. I softened in my anxious attachment and settled into feeling loved and safe in my relationship. I tried hard to soften my expectations for every experience needing to be The Best Experience Possible Under the Circumstances. I got soft serve ice cream more than a few times. I got a very soft velvet couch and an even softer puppy. The puppy forced me to spend time every day just sitting on the floor playing and cuddling.

So all in all, it was a good word, a good teacher. As usual, I think I’ll probably see the payoff of this word this year, in 2022, a lot more than I did in 2021. I certainly hope so anyways. The world continues to get louder and sharper around the edges, and I want to be soft, compassionate, calm.


That’s it from me for now. Little reminder to future Steph: don’t put off writing these reviews. In the process, you always get more perspective, more joy, more gratitude for the life you’re fortunate enough to lead. That doesn’t diminish the feelings of despair or hopelessness, those are always hard and painful and challenging. But writing, reminiscing, processing, remembering, documenting: these things give you hope. These things bring you joy.

And if you’re reading this and thinking your year sucked compared to mine, please know that I feel that daily in comparison to other people. I encourage you to ‘romanticize your life’, as the kids say on TikTok, by writing a review of your own, by documenting the good and the bad for your future self to look back on. For me, it makes all the difference.

Sending you so much love and lightness and a loosening of expectations and a lessening of stress, and a languorous stretch in the sunshine, the kind Bruno takes daily. Here’s hoping 2022 holds many beautiful things for us all.

xoxo,
Steph

PS. If you’re curious, you can see more of my year-end reviews here:

2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

One Second Everyday: 2020

Another year, another one second everyday video!

This was a WEIRD year. What’s even weirder is noticing that my One Second Everyday video looks..surprisingly normal? It’s miraculous to me that I can look back on these memories and see such little evidence of the global pandemic we all lived through. I guess that’s the beauty and the downfall of capturing just the best parts of every day – you don’t catch as much of the heartbreak & pain. Either way, I’m grateful that in 2020 I had this collection of beautiful moments, and many more.

This is the app I use to create these videos! If you’re curious you can watch my previous videos here: 2016, 2017 and 2019.

28 Favourite Things

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

Another year has gone by, which means it’s time for my annual accounting of what I’ve been up to and what I’ve loved over the past year of my life. I have to say that this year was by far my weirdest birthday, because I was social distancing from the people I love and the world as we know it was closed down. It was still special and definitely memorable, but strange for sure.

But as much as the world feels surreal right now, some traditions remain the same. No matter what, I know I’ll be happy to have this time capsule of memories someday. So without further ado, here are 28 things I loved when I was 28.


28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

TikTokThis is a recent addition to my life, but such a wonderful one. I resisted downloading it for a long time! Little did I know just how hilarious I would find it, or how much I would love learning dance choreography again, or how much joy it would bring me during a global pandemic. Bless TikTok and its weird, hilarious ways.

Sheertex TightsWatch out, these tights are no joke. They are essentially indestructible by human hands and yet very comfortable, which makes them the best tights I’ve ever owned. They *can* snag on a sharp point or toenail, so you still have to be careful, but even if they get a snag they won’t tear or run the same way regular tights do. These were expensive, but very worth it.

The DailyOver the last few years, whenever I’d go to New York to visit Katie, we’d listen to The Daily in the car and I always loved it. But it wasn’t until this year that I listened to it religiously at home as well because of the impeachment trial, the democratic primaries, and now the coronavirus. This is the only way I consume the news now and I am eternally impressed at the professionalism and the coverage they bring to tough issues. (My favourites are the episodes with smart kids.)

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

Essie Gel CoutureThe only nail polish I’ve ever found that even comes close to mimicking the look of shellac manicures at home. I get compliments on my nails all the time because of this stuff! Make sure to get the top coat too, because it makes a huge difference.

Dymo Label BuddyI found mine at a Salvation Army in Hamilton for 99 cents, but you can get one on Amazon for less than $20. These are SO MUCH FUN and are the perfect way to label things in a cool-looking way instead of a dorky-looking way (which, for the record, I’m still fully on board for). I bought black embossing tape to go with mine and now all my bottles look very chic.

Bon Appetit | I figured out how to download my favourite magazine for free onto my iPad (using the app RB Digital and my Toronto library card!) and it’s been so fun to get back into reading the issues each month even without a subscription. I adore the subculture of Bon Appetit and am also recently loving their YouTube channel too.

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

Glasslock ContainersWhen I successfully started doing meal prep (inspired by this YouTube channel), I bought myself these as a ‘reward’ for having done my meal prep for a month straight. They keep things fresh for me longer than my (also beloved) Pyrex containers, and are so satisfying to open and close.

Tiny SpellsThis email newsletter is such a delight. Little self-care prompts, with a bit of witchiness thrown in for good measure. I rarely do all (or any) of the things she suggests, but just reading it helps me feel calmer and happier. It’s fun, and thoughtful, and there are a lot of emojis.

Wild Woven Shower Curtain | I have this gorgeous hand-painted and botanically dyed shower curtain hanging in my bathroom and it makes me happy every time I see it. Pink polka dots make everything better.

Uniball Jetstream 1.0mmI have been a fan of the uniball jetstream pens for years now, but I’ve always bought the retractable ones. This year, I was introduced to the regular version by my friend Priyanka, and I have been hooked ever since. I still absolutely love both, but taking the caps on and off these ones is pretty darn satisfying. And if you haven’t written with either of these pens: you are in for a treat!

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

The Introspective RetrospectiveThis was such a fun project to work on with my friends. To reflect on 2019, we each came up with two deep & meaningful questions to ask the other women in our coven, and I packaged them together in a fun PDF with lots of emojis. Then we made it available to anyone who was interested, and were blown away by the response! So delightful.

WhatsappAfter YEARS of resisting, I am now a Whatsapp convert. The ability to quote texts is killer, and searching in a conversation is so easy. (With iMessage, the search function NEVER works properly and it’s impossible to find what I need.) I’m obsessed and trying to convince my bestie to move our text convo over to Whatsapp so we can search & quote to our hearts’ content.

Airpods ProAnother thing I resisted for a long time, mostly because I really don’t like the look of the first-generation Airpods (I can’t unsee this meme 😂). But after a lot of research and my regular headphones glitching on me one too many times, I finally bit the expensive bullet and got these. I have never once regretted it and in fact am totally obsessed with them. They make it so much easier to have calls, to do chores, to go for walks, etc, especially in winter when I had to wear mountains of hats & scarves that have a tendency to get tangled.

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

Knix | I had big love for Knix this year! I now have several pairs of their extremely comfortable underwear, a few of their amazing bras, and this super-cute, very comfy pyjama set. Their fabrics are amazing and so is their customer service. Big fan!

iPhone HolderSuch a simple device, but it comes in handy a lot more than I expected. I can use it for filming Instagram stories and TikTok dances, but it’s also helpful if I’m FaceTiming! This was an excellent use of $22.

Alexandra Gater’s YouTube ChannelI am totally obsessed with Alexandra’s style and makeovers. She specializes in renter-friendly updates, and her suggestions are always fun, colourful, and inspiring. She’s taught me a lot about home decor and watching her videos always makes me want to improve my own living space in ways big and small.

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

My Blue Coat | By some miracle, I found a mint-condition cashmere & wool coat (this $500 coat, to be exact), in royal blue (a great colour for my skin tone), at Value Village for a grand total of $21.99. I still don’t understand how it happened (Sonja helped), but I do know that this coat has been such a joy for me. I love the shape of it, and it’s so stylish and warm. Praise be!

Maker’s Clean Cloths | For years I used crappy cloths and paper towels to clean my house, but this year I finally upgraded! I have the Small Space Kit from Maker’s Clean and it’s amazing. My favourite is the glass cleaner cloth, because it leaves my mirror so clear and shiny, but all of them are great.

Human DesignLet it be known that this was the year I became interested in the quirky, odd, but helpful concept of Human Design. It’s kind of like astrology, but weirder somehow. And yet, I’ve found it so helpful and interesting to learn more about the framework – it’s really helped me inform how I live in the world. If you’re curious, start here or here.

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

East RoomMy friend Kate is a member at this coworking space, and has been good enough to let our mastermind group meet in the space each month! I could not be more obsessed with their aesthetic, attention to detail, branding and vibe. It feels so good to be there, especially when I’m so used to working from home. So much light, so many plants, so many people up to interesting things. I love.

Value VillageThis was the year I really became obsessed with the glory that is thrifting at Value Village. Up until this pandemic hit, it had really become one of my favourite pastimes to head to the big store near me and putter around while listening to podcasts. I have found so many beautiful, unique things to make my apartment feel more special! I can’t wait to get back there.

Radford FaceThis year I did some work with Victoria Radford and her management team, and was given their beautiful moisturizer as a gift. I adore how it smells and how it feels on my skin – it’s a dream. I’m also a big fan of their lip tint glow!

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

Wandering AimfullyAfter many years of admiring their work, I finally joined the Wandering Aimfully program this year and have been completely blown away ever since. Jason and Caroline are consistently delivering value, and doing so with heart and empathy and intelligence. I love being a part of the community, I love their coaching style, and I love all the resources I haven’t even had a chance to dive into yet. Such a great investment.

Burberry BritUntil this year, I hadn’t worn perfume consistently since high school. But I was so thrilled to find my new signature scent (or one of them!) this year with Burberry Brit. I’m so obsessed that I get excited when I re-wear a shirt that I’ve previously worn while wearing perfume. Is that weird? I just love the way it smells and it makes me feel so polished.

Romance novels | While this technically made this list last year, I have to put it down here again because this was really the year of romance for me. I now have a romance novel book club (!) with two friends, plus a spreadsheet of all our favourites. I also listened to this amazing podcast about why reading and writing romance novels can actually be a sacred practice. It’s become a feminist issue for me! Romance novels are disparaged because they are an art form by and for women, and hence in our culture, they must be “stupid”. I’ve had a very enjoyable time proving that belief wrong this year.

28 Favourite Things >> Life In Limbo

JoyfulI absolutely adored reading this book, which is all about the biological factors that bring humans joy: colour, surprise, abundance, and more. Her explanations of each of these elements was such a delight, and I’ve been thinking about the content ever since. Her Instagram account is very wonderful too.

Amazon Alexa | I have the Echo Dot, and while I am only scratching the surface of what this technology could probably do, it’s brought me a lot of joy this year. I love being able to ask for a song at any time, and have definitely listened to a lot more music as a result. I also like waking up knowing what the temperature is outside, or being able to get reminders about what’s on my calendar. Simple but helpful.

Zoom | Last but not least, this was the year I was most grateful for my Pro Zoom account. Thank goodness for stable video calls that don’t glitch (much) and can have practically unlimited participants. I don’t think I’d be getting through this pandemic without it.


And there you have it! 28 things I loved while I was 28. It is always so much fun putting these lists together. I mostly do it for myself, so that I can remember my life in more detail, but I also hope that something on this list can bring you some joy or delight as well. These days, we need all the lovely things that we can get.

If you’re curious, you can also see my favourite things from when I was 27, 25242322, and 21.

One Second Everyday: 2019

I’m so excited to share another year of one second everyday! This is such a fun practice that I’ve done twice before, in 2016 & 2017.

I am always so grateful to have these little home videos of what my everyday life was like during a given time. I always think the chapters of my life are going to last forever but (of course) they never do. It’s fun to see what things change and what things stay exactly the same as I move through my life. I’m so thrilled to have this record of what 2019 was like for me!

If you’re interested, this is the app I use to create these videos.