I Love 2012...

Back at the beginning of the year, I predicted that 2012 would be the year of quiet domesticity, but I was wrong -- if anything, 2012 has been a year for change. Yes, on a day-to-day basis, I did less around town than in years past. Justin and I saw far fewer plays, fewer movies, and ate out less, though with my new restaurant column, we may have actually tried more new restaurants. We stayed close to home, and I managed to try over a hundred new recipes from my seemingly endless recipe queue. But looking at 2012 on such a finite scale ignores the huge changes that happened in my life this year.

I left the South Loop, where I had lived for four years for free, for my own condo in Roger's Park, that I share with the man I love. It's been about eleven months now, and our house feels like home to me. With the exception of hanging the curtains in the master bedroom (in almost a year, I haven't managed to work up the energy to tackle all that ironing), we have finished all the short-term projects I wanted to tackle. And we have opened our home to friends and family for more dinner parties and festive gatherings than I can count. 2012 was certainly a great year for entertaining for us.

Though it wasn't my choice, I also left my job at the Chicago History Museum after four years. For the first time, I learned what it is like to be unemployed when you have bills to pay, and I had the joy of experiencing a relentless series of frustrating interactions with the state's unemployment benefits system. I was incredibly lucky to find a new job in about a month and a half, and though finding my footing at ASSH has been a challenge, it's been challenging in a good way. I feel like I am growing and expanding my skill set every day, and I am looking forward to establishing more of a routine in the next year.

Introspection aside, the end of the year is usually the time when I reflect back on the previous 365 days and evaluate the highlights. So without further ado, here are my favorite things about 2012:
  • Best New Recipe - Savory: After trying so many new dishes in 2012, you'd think it would be hard to single out a favorite, but you'd be wrong. Far and away, the best new dish to come out of my kitchen in 2012 was the banh mi burger recipe I improvised to use up some leftover ground pork that was hanging out in my freezer. I did a mash-up of an awesome, but labor intensive meatball banh mi recipe we had tried earlier in the year with a random Asian pork burger recipe that I found online, and the results were so good that we repeated this recipe over and over through the summer and fall on our new Weber grill. We made it for guests, we made it for ourselves, and we occasionally doubled the recipe so we'd have lots of leftovers because they were that good. If you try one recipe from my blog this year (and you eat pork), let it be this one. 
  • Best New Recipe - Sweet: This category is actually much more difficult for me this year, because I did so much less baking than usual. If I had to pick just one thing, however, that stands above the rest, it would have to be the Mexican Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon-Spiced Pecans that I made for Cinco de Mayo, the first time Justin's family came to see our new home. I had actually eaten the recipe before when a colleague made it, and the memory of it came back to me at just the right time. I finally got to put my tart pan to good use, Justin's family was very impressed, and I have enough leftover Ibarra to make it again if I want to. It's a win-win situation, as far as I'm concerned. 
  • Favorite Movie: In case you hadn't noticed, I have stopped reviewing films here on "The State I Am In," because I stopped enjoying writing the posts for them. That doesn't mean that I stopped going to movies, however, though I fell somewhat short of my goal of seeing one a month for the year. Nevertheless, I'm going to say that the best thing I saw this year was probably The Sessions, an indie film telling the true story of a profoundly paralyzed man and his quest to explore his sexuality through visiting a sexual surrogate, played by Helen Hunt. Despite its content, the film was far from tawdry, and it explored the subject matter with surprising humor and depth of emotion. The performances were incredible, and I find myself hoping that Helen Hunt gets an Oscar nomination, and even a win for her work in this role. 
  • Favorite Album: Though Mumford and Sons released a new album, Babel, this year, I still haven't gotten around to downloading it yet, so this accolade is going to have to go to Andrew Bird's Break It Yourself. I know, I know, it's the predictable choice for me, and it technically came out in December of 2011, but that's so late in the year that I'm counting Break It Yourself as a 2012 album. As with many of Bird's releases, it took some time for this recording to grow on me, but now that it has, it has entered the pantheon of my all-time favorite albums. This is why Andrew Bird is my favorite musician, hands down. 
  • Favorite Song: People are going to hate me for saying this, but I loved (and still love) Goyte's "Somebody That I Used To Know." It got totally overplayed, but I don't care. I thought this song was hauntingly beautiful, heartbreaking, and it didn't hurt that Goyte looked fine in the buff for the video. And while we're on the topic of videos, the one for this song spawned so many awesome parodies that I kind of can't help but love it even more. Sorry guys! 
  • Favorite Theater Experience: Justin and I definitely scaled back our theater attendance this year; whereas we saw fifteen shows in 2011, we saw five in 2012. While The Book of Mormon was definitely the most hyped production we saw, with the most difficult tickets to obtain, I think I actually preferred Fela!, the biographical musical telling the life story of the African musician, Fela Kuti. I was totally surprised by the infectious energy of that show, and the spellbinding and charismatic performances of its actors. The Book of Mormon may be the biggest thing to hit Chicago's theater scene in 2012, but surprisingly, it wasn't my favorite.
2012 was a busy year, full of upheaval, but on balance, everything turned out for the best. Here's hoping 2013 goes just as well, though I'm definitely looking forward to more peace and stability in the year to come. Happy New Year!

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