Happy Christmas, friends!
With the advent of winter break, due to finishing up my two graduate courses, I’m enjoying some leisure time writing my book. And by writing my book, yes I mean building Spotify playlists, streaming Fuller House, and watching Jimmy Fallon interviews. Productivity at its finest, right?
I do want to take a minute to send you a short holiday letter. I love gushing about the things I love, and each year is full of different discoveries, whether that’s music or restaurants or friendships. So below, I’ve listed my 7 Holiday Favorites that just maybe you’ll enjoy, too.
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1. Favorite Song: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by The Piano Guys
The Piano Guys’ arrangements always blow me away, which is why they’ve acquired the phenomenal following they have. But this one in particular is one of the most hauntingly beautiful compositions I’ve ever heard. It also holds a more profound meaning this season, as pianist Jon Schmidt tragically lost his daughter last month. This has always been one of my favorite carols, probably due to the longing it expresses for the Messiah to come and rescue us—a song we’ll be singing until the end of time. The Fisher twins and I were able to play it live twice this year at our Christmas concerts. Chills every time.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
2. Favorite Podcast: That Sounds Fun by Annie Downs
It was after reading Looking for Lovely that I discovered author Annie Downs’ podcast, That Sounds Fun. How can you not be drawn to a title like that? Each podcast since Thanksgiving has been part of a “virtual Christmas party” series, including interviews touching on everything from home decor to advent traditions. One thing that struck me on a recent episode with Ann Voscamp was when Annie discussed New Year’s resolutions. Basically, she doesn’t do them anymore, their being intrinsically designed to set us up for failure. Instead, she likes to try what she calls New Year’s experiments—because everyone’s curious to see if an experiment will work, if you give it a fighting chance. Brilliant, right?
3. Favorite Film: La La Land
La La Land is one of the most whimsical things ever to grace the screen. Opening in select theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, it’s set to open everywhere Christmas Day, and you’d better know I’m going in for a second (or third) screening. Mom and I drove to Century Arden to see it Monday and were blown away. Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this film is as close to a classic 1950’s musical as you can get, while portraying even more plot depth and set creativity. Crafted with a nice mix of realism and idealism, it follows the story of an aspiring actress and a jazz pianist who fight for their art, and their relationship, in the midst of everyday pressures. Choreographed by Mandy Moore, there’s plenty of romantic, silhouetted scenes with Gosling and Stone shuffling around, soft-shoe style. I mean, did you know Ryan Gosling could sing, dance, and play very advanced piano? One of the best moments is when Emma Stone sings “The Fools Who Dream” during the final audition scene. Featuring John Legend in the cast was a fun element, too. And yes, in case you’re wondering, the soundtrack is fantastic.
4. Favorite Book: Bandersnatch
This October in Nashville, I got the pleasure of meeting author Diana Glyer, who was the guest speaker at The Rabbit Room‘s Hutchmoot conference. Her taught was called “Provocation: Creativity through the Lens of Hebrews 10” and told the story of how the Inklings spurred each other on to finishing their novels through collaborative community. Bandersnatch is Diana’s newest release, which focuses on this very subject, and it’s been a wonderful read this fall season. I’m still seeking out my own Inklings group in Northern California and, slowly but surely, it’s happening.
5. Favorite YouTube Channel: SarahsDay
If you love Australian accents, paleo-based food, and electropop, you’ll probably get a kick out of this girl’s YouTube channel. Many of you know I’ve tinkered around with a ton of different meal plans in the last couple years. It was exciting stumbling on Sarah’s videos because I realized we share pretty similar metabolisms and hormonal imbalances, so my body feels the best if I follow her eating strategies. Sticking to a high-fat diet (avocados, fish, nuts, meat, coconut) with moderately high protein and “heaps of vegetables,” as she likes to say, both of us have to eat every three hours with lots of healthy snacks in between. Plus, her gym routines are fun to watch, and I get to learn words/phrases like food haul, lollies, Uni, and capsicum.
6. Favorite Hot Drink: Chai Tea Latte
I love chai tea lattes. Not being a person who can tolerate coffee or alcohol, this has become my go-to drink during the holiday season. I love the dark spices. Cinnamon, cloves… it tastes like Christmastime in a mug. I’ve started trying this drink at as many coffee shops possible to see who brings the strongest game, and so far two are tied for being undefeated: Temple Coffee in Sacramento and Frothy Monkey in Nashville. Obviously, a legit coffee mug makes everything taste better, but these two coffee shops serve up the best, richest flavor with a creamy undertone. Also good options are The Mill, Peet’s, and Panera. However, let’s just talk Panera’s chai for a second. My friend Margie took me to get one two nights ago (she always raves about them when we write), and as I was sipping, I instantly got the image of something floral. It kind of tasted like I was drinking a bottle of perfume. Fifteen minutes later, I looked up from my laptop and said, “ROSE! There’s rose in this chai.” I’ll let you choose your own adventure on that one. I’m not saying it was bad. Just unexpected. I’ve had rose-flavored gelato in the Italian District of San Francisco and had a similar, taken-aback reaction.
7. Favorite Spotify playlist: A Very Folksy Christmas
Maybe I am a little biased since I handcrafted this playlist myself, but I’ve been loving the more acoustic-based songs, and I’m always discovering folk artists I love. Some new favorites are Johnnyswim, Joseph, Jillian Edwards, Josh Garrels, Jenny & Tyler (are you noticing an alliteration here?), most of which you can find on this playlist. Each year I find the mood around December to be a little different, so each new year requires new music to accompany it. Thank goodness people don’t ever stop making Christmas albums. What are some of your favorites? Jot down a couple of titles in the comments below, as I’m always looking to add to this playlist.
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This Christmas, I’m thankful for all my special families—my immediate family, my WJU family, my Horizon church family, my Rabbit Room family, and my friends who feel less like friends and more like family. I love you all deeply. To be honest, this is a bittersweet Christmas for our family since my Grandpa Tom (mom’s dad) passed away earlier this month. I was very close to him, so losing him was a real loss. However, he modeled a wonderful life and lived to the fullest. Age 92! We love you, Gramps, and look forward to seeing you again.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Deus est bonum. (God is good.)
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