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Illustrations by María Alconada Brooks

This is a space for joy. Welcome. Even in a year of strife, there have been opportunities to soak up a little sweetness, to be entertained, to find warmth and ease. Personally, I’m learning to find joy in reflection. There’s a strange sense of contentment that comes with naming my deepest wants and carefully considering how to build a life that reflects those strivings. That, and 30-minute sitcoms. There is much happiness to be had while watching “The Good Place.” Team Lily, along with some of our friends, wanted to share the experiences and items that expanded our well-being and left us delighted (or delightfully distracted) these past months.

We hope you find something that catches your eyes, engages your mind or touches your heart.

Things we read

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me,” by Bess Kalb

This heartfelt memoir will make you feel like you’re sitting with your grandmother. Its distinct voice is so natural and warm that it will stir up your own family memories as the author recounts her maternal relationships and thoughtful, often funny advice passed through three generations.

— Coleen O’Lear, deputy director, Emerging News Products

Mexican Gothic,” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This fictional novel set in 1950s Mexico is the perfect creepy, haunted page-turner, if you want to get lost in another world.

— Rachel Orr, Lily design editor

The Namesake,” by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is a book I have returned to over and over again since I was a teenager. The novel chronicles the struggles of a first-generation couple and their American-born children. I find new joy hidden in my worn-out copy each time I read it.

— Neema Roshania Patel, editor of The Lily

Commonwealth,” by Ann Patchett

Patchett builds a layered, vividly rendered story in this generation-spanning novel. (She is also, quite honestly, one of the warmest people I’ve ever talked to.) I remember some of the scenes so clearly it’s almost like they’re my own memories.

— Nneka McGuire, Lily multiplatform editor

The First Sister, by Linden A. Lewis

I went to a local bookstore and asked the woman working what she had read recently and was excited about. Without hesitating, she recommended this. It’s not something I would have ever picked up otherwise and it was a fun way to branch out.

— Haley Hamblin, photo editor, By The Way and The Lily

Your House Will Pay,” by Steph Cha

One of my best friends in Los Angeles recommended this novel to me. It’s a page-turner based on a true story about a crime decades ago that forever connected two families — one Korean American and one Black. To me, it’s about the journey each character takes as they try to heal from loss.

— Maya Sugarman, Lily video editor

The Peekaboo Paradox,” by Gene Weingarten

I finally read this iconic Post story about “The Great Zucchini,” the beloved D.C.-based kids entertainer. You might not think you need to read 10,000 words about some guy who does children’s parties, but trust me. You do.

— Caroline Kitchener, Lily staff writer

The Vanishing Half,” by Brit Bennett

Like so many others, I loved this book. It’s just so good. The story is compelling, but Bennett’s writing is masterful.

— Soo Youn, Lily contributor

Things we watched

Mi Obra Maestra. This deadpan movie is about the friendship of a doubtable art dealer and an antisocial painter in Buenos Aires that makes you question the value of art.

— María Alconada Brooks, Lily art director

Jordan Firstman’s Instagram Stories. You’ve probably heard about Firstman’s impressions by now — minute-long, irreverent impressions of everyday realities — but his IG Stories, in which he riffs on “secrets” from his followers, make me laugh out loud every time.

— Lena Felton, Lily multiplatform editor

The Great British Bake Off.” I never totally understood the appeal of this show — until now. I regularly refer to the finalists like they are my friends and can’t stop dreaming up what I’ll try my hand at next.

— Neema Roshania Patel

Over the Moon.” I cry during every animated movie I watch, and this film was no exception. It’s a comforting adventure story about a strong-willed girl who learns to grieve after her mother’s death. It also made me very hungry for moon cakes.

— Maya Sugarman

Younger.” This series about a 40-something woman who pretends to be in her 20s to get a job in publishing is truly a delight. Between the fun outfits, shots of New York, love triangles and strong female friendships, the series feels a tiny bit like the younger cousin of “Sex and the City,” which makes all the sense in the world — both were written by Darren Star.

— Nneka McGuire

Crash Landing on You.” This Netflix drama is about star-crossed lovers — a South Korean fashion mogul and a North Korean soldier. I’ve been watching with my cousin, her daughter and friends in Canada and Arizona once a week. The fashion (especially sweaters and coats) is aspirational and it’s a refreshingly cute rom-com.

— Soo Youn

“Parks and Recreation.” I’ve seen the full series before, but re-watching was exactly what I needed in the first two months of the pandemic. I am a comfort TV junkie, and this show calms me down like nothing else (except maybe “Gilmore Girls” — and you don’t need to know how many times I’ve re-watched that).

— Caroline Kitchener

Things we listened to

Heavyweight,” a podcast from Gimlet. The social isolation brought on by the pandemic this year has led to self-reflection for many people. That’s why the latest season felt especially relatable and therapeutic for me. In each episode, host Jonathan Goldstein helps a listener confront an unresolved moment from their past.

— Maya Sugarman

Simply the Best,” by Noah Reid (from “Schitt’s Creek”). This song unexpectedly came up on my Spotify this week, and of course I started happy-crying. I love “Schitt’s Creek” — another coronavirus comfort show — and Patrick’s serenade to David was one of my favorite moments.

— Caroline Kitchener

Classics. Lots of oldies I grew up listening to with my parents, from Otis Redding to Tracy Chapman to Fleetwood Mac.

— Lena Felton

Lhasa de Sela. I used to listen to this album from her nonstop some years ago but had forgotten about it. This year I got into it again.

— María Alconada Brooks

Bigger Love,” John Legend’s new album. As a longtime fan of Legend, I love that this album is more reminiscent of his early work. When it came out in June, Legend said he thought the music “was full of love and joy and human connection.” I found it to be exactly what I needed this year.

— Neema Roshania Patel

Once Upon a Time in the Valley.” Joy might not be the best way to describe this podcast, but it was a fascinating distraction. The subject was new to me, and though the themes were tough, I left every episode thinking and wanting to explore more about how society handles young women and the perception (or distortion) of reality.

— Coleen O’Lear

Nice White Parents.” Maybe this podcast about unequal education in public schools didn’t bring joy, but as someone who grew up in a rural place with a tiny school system, I can’t stop thinking about it!

— Haley Hamblin

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Ears Edition.” I’ve been listening to this podcast for a funnier take on larger national stories. It’s nice to know he’s also been locked down (although in the same building with his best friend and writing partner!) and hasn’t gotten a haircut.

— Soo Youn

You’re Wrong About.” A friend recommended this podcast, which clears up myths and provides little-known facts about people or events from the past. There’s a five-part series about Princess Diana that turned out to be exactly the content I needed this year.

— Nneka McGuire

Things we ate

Jeni’s ice cream. Two words: Brambleberry crisp.

— Caroline Kitchener

Emergency frozen pizzas. My boyfriend introduced me to the magic of frozen pizzas; he believes you should always have one ready to bake when you’re having a tough day. We’ve gone through many this year — and discovered cauliflower crust pies, which are delicious and feel (somewhat) healthy.

— Lena Felton

Bagels. Eating a fresh-out-of-the-oven, homemade bagel is wildly satisfying and delicious every time. I use this recipe with Babish’s shaping method.

— Haley Hamblin

Nut cake with lemon icing. It’s a family recipe and my mother will definitely take me out of her will if I share it. I once dared posting an Instagram story while making it. Got a voice message five minutes later.

— María Alconada Brooks

Queso. I ate so much queso, my favorite comfort food. I’m still not sick of it and still can’t pick a favorite recipe from Lisa Fain’s “Queso!” recipe book, which I bought years ago after loving “The Homesick Texan’s Family Table.”

— Coleen O’Lear

Good coffee. It’s not local to me anymore, but ordering beans from my favorite L.A. coffee shop, Caffe Luxxe, has made me so happy. It’s a great small business, they have a great decaf and the coffee is low acidity and low bitterness so you don’t need to sweeten it.

— Soo Youn

Tofu and green beans with chili crisp. This recipe has been on heavy rotation in my home. It’s delicious and easy to make. I hadn’t tried chili crisp, a spicy, crunchy, umami-rich Chinese condiment, until recently; it is a revelation.

— Nneka McGuire

Sourdough bread. Very far from an original answer in the year of the pandemic, I know, but when I felt like nothing else was in my control this year, I turned to homemade bread. I found comfort knowing that with the right steps, attention and time, something tasty and magical would emerge.

— Neema Roshania Patel

Popcorn. I bought a giant bag of multicolored kernels from a shop in a small Virginia town outside D.C. I pop them in the microwave in a brown paper bag. I love adding coconut oil, kosher salt and sprinkles of nutritional yeast.

— Maya Sugarman

Things we took comfort in

Gardening. I left my studio apartment in D.C. to move to a house with a big yard in Argentina. I won’t lie, it’s a full-time job and I’m grateful that my boyfriend mows the lawn once a week, but every day I find something to do, either moving a plant from one pot to another, cleaning the flower beds, watering or fighting with snails eating my basil. It’s been such a joy.

— María Alconada Brooks

Knitting. I picked it up in May and can’t stop! It’s taught me to look at messing something up as practice; I can undo it and start over even better than before.

— Haley Hamblin

Daily baths. I have no shame about taking a bath every. Single. Day. It’s one of the most comforting things to me. Some days, I scroll through TikTok or read or even have a snack in the tub.

— Rachel Orr

FaceTime. I have a FaceTime date with my nearly 2-year-old niece every weekend, and it’s brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined. Connecting through video calls keeps me from missing out on crucial developments and helps her remember me when I can’t be with her in Texas.

— Coleen O’Lear

Oven-bake polymer clay. I’ve found comfort in revisiting activities from my childhood. One of my favorite crafts was making miniature figurines of animals and food using Sculpey. I bought myself a collection of 30 different colors. I sit on my living room floor molding miniature salad bowls and fungi while watching my latest reality television obsession.

— Maya Sugarman

A new pen pal. I wrote a story in April about women who are living alone during the coronavirus. Once the story published, I started exchanging emails with Hazel, one of the women I’d written about, who is in her 70s and living on her own in New York. It’s been wonderful to connect with someone new during this very lonely time. I hope we get to meet when all of this is over.

— Caroline Kitchener

Making soup. It’s no secret on our team that I love soup. I enjoy the entire process: the chopping, the simmering, the seasoning and, of course, the eating. There is something deeply soothing and enriching about warm broth full of veggies and (depending on the flavor) sprinkled with fresh herbs and cheese.

— Nneka McGuire

Group chats about TV shows. I’m in several different groups dissecting dramas, the political debates, SNL, “The Undoing.” It’s a nice form of remote water-cooler gossip that feels like I’m actually doing something with groups of people.

— Soo Youn

Scrabble. I hadn’t played this word game in many, many years, but we luckily picked up my husband’s original set from when he was a kid during his parents’ recent move. It’s been a quiet escape to spend time focused on a board game.

— Neema Roshania Patel

The concept of impermanence. This idea, central to Buddhism, is that nothing lasts. I’ve taken it to mean that if something bad is happening, I can take comfort in knowing that things will eventually change; and if something good is happening, I can’t take it for granted. It’s helped me keep this year very much in perspective.

— Lena Felton

Recs from friends of The Lily

“My husband and I have been leaning into setting up things to look forward to during the middle of the week and again during the weekends. So far, we’ve created a new ritual called Carryout Wednesdays, where we go through our list of delicious local spots to get dinner from. It’s definitely a small joy … but a good and consistent one. Other things we’ve tried: themed cocktail + movie nights (like bourbon cocktails + ‘The Holiday’) and game nights (puzzles or Scrabble are our go-to).”

— Alisha Ramos, founder and CEO of Girls’ Night In

“My Athleta joggers — and Pilates, so I can fit into my Athleta joggers!”

— Katie Couric, journalist and co-founder of Katie Couric Media

“My husband and I (the parents of four kids, a puppy and a flock of quarantine chickens) began giving each other half-days off each week — free from work, child care, cleaning, etc. I don’t know why it took us a pandemic to realize that each of us needs a no-questions-asked break each week, but having this time scheduled into our weekends has been so liberating for both of us. My husband often goes out for hikes; I have been grabbing a home decor book, a fresh cup of coffee, and reading in peace somewhere other than my house.”

— Liz Tenety, co-founder of Motherly

“When D.C. shut down, I was eight weeks pregnant and my husband and I had already been self-isolating for two weeks. As survivors of long-term solitary confinement, we knew we’d be okay. We didn’t know, though, how special being stuck together would be. The weeks turned into months and long daily walks became a precious part of our routine. It’s been a hard year for all of us, but we have so many reasons to be grateful.”

— Yeganeh Rezaian, Iranian journalist who formerly worked for Bloomberg

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