Leah's 2020 Picks

Leah's 2020 Picks

2020 will definitely go down in the books as a year to remember. It was simultaneously the slowest and fastest year for me. Looking back at the beginning of the pandemic feels like a lifetime ago, but the amount of hours worked and the intense emotions and feelings of stress and anxiety also made the last year feel like it was never going to end. I’m always grateful for a fresh start. Though I know the clock striking midnight doesn’t ultimately change anything left behind from the year prior, it’s still a nice time to look at what serves and what doesn’t. I'm trying to allow myself a slow start to this new year, and before I look forward, I thought I would take a moment to share some of the positives that came out of 2020 for me. I consumed a lot of good books, new podcasts and music; ate more takeout than ever before; and found ways to lift my spirit in the small things, bringing moments of joy to an otherwise very tough year. I hope some of my picks of 2020 inspire your 2021. 


Collage of Leah's favourite books of 2020

Reading has always been my way of turning off the thinking/working brain. It helps me sleep and it helps me let go of racing thoughts, getting lost in another person’s world. Early last year was the first time I ever felt unable to read. The anxiety and stress brought on by the start of the pandemic had my brain and body working in overdrive. I would so look forward to picking up a book at the end of a day only to find myself not being able to focus or absorb anything on the pages. An article by Sophie Vershbow for Vogue gave me some comfort to find I wasn’t alone. Luckily, come summer, as we got into more of a groove with this new way of doing business and being, I was able to seek comfort in reading again. I ended up being just shy of my 35 Goodreads goal, reading 31 books last year. Here are some of my top picks:



Collage of Leah's favourite podcast and music album covers of 2020

It was nice to see how many albums were released during 2020 despite the inability to go on tour or promote in the way we’re used to seeing musicians promote. Artists knew we needed new tunes to get us through the year and I was so grateful every time I saw a new song come up from an artist I love. I also discovered a ton of new podcasts, which helped the days of packing orders up solo in the basement go a little quicker and feel a little less lonely. 


Hands up if you’re a true crime podcast binger! I definitely fall into that category myself, but I had to take a break this year from some of the darker podcasts I have enjoyed in the past. I can’t say I omitted them all together, but I sprinkled in some others that helped to uplift my spirits a little more. Here are some podcasts I found solace in:

YOU’RE WRONG ABOUT - This one was introduced to me by my coworkers at the end of 2020. Every week they reconsider a person or event that's been miscast in the public imagination. Think Kurt Cobain's suicide, Columbine, and Princess Diana. Great for pop culture fanatics and anyone curious about the misrepresentation of events in media. 

CONAN O'BRIEN NEEDS A FRIEND  Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend finds our red-headed Irish friend interviewing celebrity guests in hopes of finding a friend in them. He doesn't take him self seriously at all and I've been a fan of his humour since the early days of his talk show. Light-hearted and a nice way to escape and enjoy some laugh therapy.

HEAVYWEIGHT - The host Jonathan Goldstein goes back to a moment in the past his guest needs clarity around. Something that may have had a long-term impact on their life that they never had all the answers they needed. It can be uplifting, depressing and humorous. 

TERRIBLE THANKS FOR ASKING - OK so this falls into the category of less light-hearted, but that's sort of the point. Trigger warning: it's a podcast on grief, a subject so many experience but so few are comfortable discussing. It's sometimes sad and sometimes funny, but most importantly it's open and honest. 

SCENE ON RADIO - I revisited this podcast in the spring to get more understanding around the history of how whiteness became known as the "supreme" race. Their series "Seeing White" digs deep into racism and the history of racial inequity in our schools, criminal justice system, housing, and the list goes on. I also recommend the series "Men," which asks why we live in a male-dominated world and where it all began.


If I'm not listening to a podcast, I always have music on in the background. Cooking at home, making a puzzle; I've even found some nice instrumental music I've really enjoyed when I need something on in the background but am trying to focus on a work task. I created a playlist of some songs that really stuck with me through 2020. Some were released last year and some are older songs I only discovered last year. I hope you enjoy and discover something new, and yes, I do love Taylor Swift.


As I mentioned above, I was having such a hard time reading earlier this year due to the overwhelming stress on my brain that I did discover some shows that helped me to decompress. I'm not ashamed to admit it, The Great British Baking Show was the best thing I ever could've discovered during a time when my body and brain were so exhausted at the end of a workweek. Hot tip: CBC Gem has a bunch of really great shows you can watch FOR FREE! You're welcome!



Tablescape flatlay of soup from The Goods in Roncesvalles

My husband and I aren’t very big takeout eaters. We do (ahem, he does) a lot of cooking at home so we can fill up our freezer with lots of meals to get us through the week. With the toll last year took on restaurants (and will continue to have), we decided to have a once-a-week (sometimes twice-a-week...) take-out night and these are some of our now favourite local take-out spots:

  • The Goods: Vegan and plant-based, this spot is known for their salads, but I love their soups and the Goodwich!
  • Ding-a-Wing: Fried chicken sandwiches in Roncesvalles, don't forget their sides!
  • Leela: Indian food in the Junction
  • NODO: Italian cozy comfort food in Leslieville and the Junction
  • Isaan Der: Thai Food in the Junction


Leah stands amongst an autumnal forest view, walking along the top of a fallen log

With the limitations on travel and visiting with friends and loved ones, I had to find new ways to make sure I was still getting outside and taking care of my mental health through movement and nature. 2020 was the year I realized how much I crave fresh air and connection with nature. Though much easier in the summer, a little winter fresh air and sunshine can also do wonders if you bundle up. My husband has been working from home and rarely needs to leave the house; I’m sure others have found that too. It can be so easy to just cozy up indoors, forgetting the positive impact a little movement, fresh air and vitamin D can have on us. These are just a few things I did to make sure I was tending to myself during a year of stress, and hope to continue into 2021.


I am so grateful to live within walking distance from the beautiful Humber River Recreational Trail. I took the longest walks in the summer down along the river and through the woods, listening to podcasts, talking on the phone with friends or just in peace and quiet. If you aren’t a west-ender, I still recommend a day of exploration if you can. There are playgrounds, open fields, wooded portions, gardens and if you can remember come the fall, you can catch the salmon run.


I definitely fell off the wagon with a regular yoga practice earlier in the year. I was too exhausted for anything other than keeping the business going and sleeping (oh and watching The Great British Baking Show). Once I got over that initial hump, I was able to start doing some more gentle exercises and have always relied on Yoga with Adriene’s free YouTube videos. They have so many options for whatever yoga you are looking for and every January, they do a 30-day yoga series, which is always a nice little reset button. 


Meditating is another practice I have relied on periodically over the years to help ground me. As was the theme with 2020, the spring wasn’t a great time for much personal care, but as I settled into the new way of being and doing, I was able to get back on the meditation train. I’ve tried to stick with a habit of starting each morning with a meditation before picking up my phone and it really helps me start my day with more intention. Insight Timer is my favourite free meditation app. There are so many different teachers, you can find one whose voice works for you, or if you prefer, you can just use their timer for a self-guided mindful moment.


When do you go from saying you like to go on walks to saying you like to hike? My husband and I sort of laugh at the differentiation. We’re not sure we’re worthy of a hiker title, but we do more than just go for walks and he did buy me some base layers from MEC this Christmas... Lately we’ve been exploring parts of the Bruce Trail. They tend to be a little quieter than the Provincial Park trails near the city, and they feel a little more like you are off the beaten path. We’re checking trailheads off our map as we go and hope to one day say we’ve hiked the whole Bruce Trail (in pieces).


Yoga has always been good for me but I sometimes find my body is craving a little something more. Pilates has been another nice source of movement and strengthening. I bought a class pass from Muse Movement and have been doing virtual classes with my favourite instructor (and friend), Leslie Hopkins. She teaches challenging classes with options for everyone and her background in anatomy and physio gives me confidence in her knowledge of the body. And she's funny. And she has good playlists :)


Though 2020 was a struggle for so many small businesses, we saw more than ever the need to give back when we could. I still have a roof over my head, good food in my fridge and can afford the luxuries mentioned above in this post. Even with the stress and unknowns of the business, I still wanted to give back knowing how much those around us need it even more during this time of uncertainty. Thanks to our amazing community of support, we were able to donate to a variety of organizations in 2020:

I'd love to hear what inspired you in 2020? What were your favourite books or outdoor discoveries? Feel free to share below!

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