The Books of 2020

Writers & Lovers by Lily King, was one of my favorite books I read in 2020.

So many books, so little time—part 14.

My son started keeping a reading list in third grade, so I did too. This is the 14th year we’ve done this.

2020 was such a weird year for everything, including reading. I’m usually a very avid reader, but once the pandemic hit and everything shut down I really couldn’t concentrate on books for the first few months. I felt like I was reading the same line over and over again. It made me so sad that on top of everything else, losing one of my favorite leisure activities  was heartbreaking—especially when it was one of the few things we were still able to do.  I’m not really sure when I started being able to read again, but when it kicked back in I had more time to read than probably ever before. Thank goodness. Traveling with my favorite authors was the only way I could escape this year.

My favorite books of 2020 were Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, Writers & Lovers by Lily King, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, All Adults Here by Emma Straub, Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout, and The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I’d love to hear what else people loved.

Here’s the 2020 list.

The Female Persuasion Meg Wolitzer
Country Danielle Steel
Trust Exercise Susan Choi
The Liar Nora Roberts
Every Day David Levithan
Beyond Ever After Catherine A. Weissenberg & Jocelyn Montanaro
Ask Again, Yes Mary Beth Keane
Manhattan Beach Jennifer Egan
My Reading Life Pat Conroy
The Whisper Network Chandler Baker
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be
Your Own Person
Shonda Rimes
Saint Anything Sarah Dessen
My Ex-Life Stephen McCauley
Skeletons at the Feast Chris Bohjalian
Such a Fun Age Kiley Reid
The Proposal Jasmine Guillory
Delicate Edible Birds Lauren Groff
First Star I See Tonight Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Homegoing Yaa Gyasi
Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceit Jessica Tom
Come Sundown Nora Roberts
Lost and Wanted Nell Freudenberger
Home Front Kristin Hannah
Where the Crawdads Sing Delia Owens
How Hard Can it Be Alison Pearson
Sophia of Silcon Valley Anna Yen
Three Women Lisa Taddeo
The Broom of the System David Foster Wallace
The Last Black Unicorn Tiffany Haddish
The Dinner List Rebecca Searle
The Perfectionists Sara Shepherd
Stranger in Paradise Eileen Goudge
Writers & Lovers Lily King
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
Up and In Deborah Disney
Yes, And (The One) Kristi Coulter
Second Glance Jodi Picoult
All Adults Here Emma Straub
Secrets of Eden Chris Bojhalian
Sisters First Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
Olive, Again Elizabeth Strout
Small Great Things Jodi Picoult
The Guest List Lucy Foley
Oona Out of Order Margarita Montimore
Under Currents Nora Roberts
The Bride Test Helen Hoang
Big Summer Jennifer Weiner
Celestial Bodies Jokha Alharthi
Stars of Fortune Nora Roberts
The Assistants Camille Perri
Bay of Sighs Nora Roberts
Island of Glass Nora Roberts
Good & Mad Rebecca Traister
Saving Grace Jane Green
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and our Lives Revealed Lori Gottlieb
This is Happiness Niall Williams
House Rules Jodi Picoult
Fame Adjacent Sarah Skilton
The Book With No Pictures BJ Novak
Wildflower Drew Barrymore
Vinegar Girl Anne Tyler
The Floating Feldmans Elyssa Friedland
Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing Allison Winn Scotch
I Almost Forgot About You Terry McMillan
Modern Romance Aziz Ansari
If You Were Here Jen Lancaster
Followers Megan Angelo
The Vanishing Half Britt Bennett
Nothing Like I Imagined Mindy Kaling
The Plus One Sarah Archer
The Complete Persepolis Marjane Satrapi
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett Annie Lyons
The Girl He Used to Know Tracey Garvis Graves
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill Abbi Waxman
An Anonymous Girl Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
The Identicals Elin Hilderbrand
American Dirt Jeanine Cummins
How to Walk Away Katherine Center
The Undoing Project Michael Lewis
The Honey Don’t List Christina Lauren
Island Visions Pedal Born Pictures
The Wedding Party Jasmine Guillory
The Editor Steven Rowley
Bridal Boot Camp Meg Cabot
Half-Truths and Semi-Miracles Anne Tyler

Holiday Gift Guide 2020

Where and What to Buy During This Holiday Season in the Time of COVID

If there were ever a year we could use some holiday cheer, it’s definitely this one. Our holiday gift guide for 2020 spotlights some of our favorite stores and shopping hubs, as well as some other ideas to help you get into the spirit of the giving season. You might even find a little something for yourself.

As Oprah Winfrey, one of our favorite Montecito residents, says, “Every gift I’ve ever given has brought as much happiness to me as it has to the person I’ve given it to.” In a year where supporting locally owned businesses is more important to our community than ever, here are some ideas to help get your generosity flowing.

Click here to see the gift guide as it originally appeared in print in the Santa Barbara Independent on December 3, 2020.

2020 Best of Santa Barbara

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again this year. It was a huge, fun project, and a little easier the second time around.  Even (or maybe especially) in this weird year, people were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the PDFs below.

Introduction + Eating 770 10-15-20_Part1

Eating 770 10-15-20_Part2

Eating, Drink, Out & About + Romance 770 10-15-20_Part3

Romance 770 10-15-20_Part4

Romance, Looking Good, Living Well, Sporting Life, Little Creatures, Housing + Driving 770 10-15-20_Part5

Driving + Media 770 10-15-20_Part6

Big Ideas for Small Spaces

Authors Isa Bird Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer Discuss Small Garden Style

Gardens are magical in any season, but during this seemingly endless season of COVID-19’s “sheltering in place” restrictions, there’s never been a better time to have a garden to escape to in Santa Barbara.

No matter how much space you have to work with, authors Isa Bird Hendry Eaton (a landscape designer) and Jennifer Blaise Kramer (a lifestyle writer) have collaborated on a book that’s here to help. Small Garden Style: A Design Guide for Outdoor Rooms and Containers is an excellent resource to help you create a design framework to bring your garden dreams to life.

“It’s all about being really encouraging, really accessible no matter what size space you have,” said Eaton. “Even if you’re doing just a couple containers by your front door or your porch, everyone deserves to have a little garden in their home, and why not make it something that really feels like you and bring your individual aesthetic?”

A key component of the book is helping you figure out what your individual aesthetic is. There’s a really fun quiz that kick-starts the book with a series of questions that help you define your style. Are you a Clean Minimalist who starts your morning routine with black coffee and a cold shower? Or is your style more Bold Eclectic, with a black leather Eames lounge chair as your favorite place to relax at home? Perhaps Organic Modern is more your vibe if your ideal mode of transportation is hiking shoes, as you head for the mountains. Or is it a Jeep Wagoneer with wood paneling that reflects your New Traditional style?

“Then we walk you through these different gardens,” said Eaton, acknowledging that many have crossover styles. “We take you through the design framework behind how to put a container together, how to design an outdoor room, so you can understand the design theory behind doing a really dramatic container.”

By the time you’re at the nursery picking plants, the vast choices are not so overwhelming.

“It’s like a little mini design school for the reader,” said Eaton.

The authors embarked on the project when they wouldn’t find another garden-meets-design book. “We wanted this to feel like a design book for your outdoors,” said Kramer. Her own garden was designed by Eaton, who focuses on layering. “But not just in a pot and not just in a garden,” said Kramer. “It’s the whole look, it’s the whole room, and it’s thinking about your outdoor space just like you would your indoor space.”

Their goal was to make the book be “fun and beautiful and inspirational, but also very practical and useful,” said Eaton. “A container is a miniature garden; it’s the best place to start. There’s a little bit of trial and error. Read the book, then go to the nursery on Saturday morning and try it out — you don’t have to start designing the entire garden; you can start with a couple of containers. Now’s a great time to plant!”

Small Garden Style can be purchased at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.) or amazon.com.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Santa Barbara’s Rugged Beauty: Photographer George Rose Turns His Lens to Wine Country

Santa Barbara’s Rugged Beauty: Photographer George Rose Turns His Lens to Wine Country, from the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

One of the things about Santa Barbara County’s wine country that is so unique is the western feeling, says George Rose, whose new large format photography coffee table book, “Wine Country Santa Barbara County,” showcases this bewitching California coastal wine landscape to perfection.

A longtime wine and travel photojournalist, Rose, whose most recent coffee table book was “Vineyard Sonoma County,” has photographed the Santa Barbara region for decades.

“When you get over into the Santa Ynez Valley where the grapes are grown in Santa Barbara County, the mood is very western and in the summertime it’s a little dusty and considerably warmer than on the coast. I just love the attitude, from Santa Maria barbecue to all of the crazy Danish memorabilia and architecture in Solvang,” Rose says. “It’s a lot of fun and I think it comes through in the book, which I divided up by trails or regions of the county.”

Also unique to the region: just about every wine grape variety known to the modern American consumer is grown in Santa Barbara County. A veteran photographer whose work has been featured in Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone, as well as throughout the wine and travel world, Rose captures Santa Barbara’s beauty with sections on the various AVAs and wine trails, as well as chapters that spotlight people enjoying the wines in urban tasting rooms in downtown Santa Barbara and Solvang, and the all-important harvest.

“These people who toil out in the vineyards all year long really are the key and the linchpin of this whole business,” says Rose, who explains that his approach was kind of “National Geographic-style photojournalism.”

Indeed, the sumptuous landscapes and the intimate lifestyle shots are both truly a work of art — and an eight-year labor of love to compile and shoot. The book is handcrafted, hand stitched and each sheet was hand fed into a Heidelberg press, says Rose.

“Wine Country Santa Barbara County” is available at featured wineries, as well as georgerose.com.

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

Garden Plots

Gardens Books feature from 805 Living Magazine, Spring 2020. Two recently released books aim to celebrate and galvanize the gardening ambitions of 805-region residents.

Private Gardens of Santa Barbara: The Art of Outdoor Living (Gibbs Smith, 2020) by landscape designer Margie Grace of Grace Design Associates (gracedesignassociates.com), offers an intimate look at 18 distinctive gardens set on the grounds of large estates, modest homes, and surf retreats, including Grace’s own secret garden, which she affectionately dubs “Lotusland South,” after her storied Montecito neighbor.

“Coffee table books for me can be a three minute vacation that refreshes,” says Grace, who hopes her new book will offer just that to readers. With beautiful photography by Holly Lepere, the book is also packed with inspiration and takeaways for sustainable home garden designs with all-important water-conscious, maintenance-friendly, and fire-safety priorities in mind.

“We are starved for beauty in nature,” says Grace. “If we can get a little dose every day, we just feel better.”

For those with big garden dreams and small spaces in which to realize them, Small Garden Style: A Design Guide for Outdoor Rooms and Containers (Ten Speed Press, 2020) may prove to be an invaluable resource.

“We couldn’t find a garden meets-design book,” says Santa Barbara–based writer Jennifer Blaise Kramer, who co-authored the realistic take on fashioning gardens with Isa Hendry Eaton of Isa Bird Landscape Design (isabird.com).

The book starts with a fun quiz to help readers determine their small-garden style.

“Everyone deserves to have a little garden in their home,” says Eaton. “Why not make it something that really feels like you by bringing your individual aesthetic?”

The variety of ways to bring your own unique style to your garden are lovingly documented by local photographer Leela Cyd.

“We really wanted it to be fun and inspirational but also very practical and useful,” says Eaton. “A container is a miniature garden; it’s the best place to start.”

805 Living Spring 2020Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine 805 Living Pulse April 2020

Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide 2019

 

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Uptown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Uptown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Downtown Santa Barbara, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Barbara Waterfront, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Barbara Waterfront, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Montecito, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Montecito, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Goleta, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Goleta, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Santa Ynez Valley, 2019 Shopping Santa Barbara Gift Guide, SB Independent, December 5, 2019.

Fielding Grad Mallory Price Leads for Literacy

Mallory Price, From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

Mallory Price, From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

Adams Elementary School’s Literacy Coach Is New Breed of Educator

Mallory Price is part of a new breed of educators out there, one that’s not anchored to a classroom or a particular grade’s curriculum but rather to skilled listening, problem solving, and relationship building. 

“My primary role is to support teachers,” said Price, who is in her third year as the literacy coach at Adams Elementary School. With some support from Santa Barbara Unified School District, she received her doctorate from Fielding Graduate University, which inspired her “to see beyond the walls of my own classroom, ultimately leading to the realization that I can have a greater impact if I step out of the classroom and expand my reach in a new role.” 

Price worked closely with former Adams principal Amy Alzina to become the district’s first literacy coach, and she was then then supported by the new principal, Kelly Fresch, who came from a school that had literacy coaches. “The stars were aligned for me,” said Price, “and she was the perfect principal for them to hire at that time!” 

Price works with teachers in cycles and allows them to determine which areas they want their students to focus on. “If the teachers don’t trust you, it’s going to be hard to have them open the door and trust you,” she explained. 

Price grew up in Summerland, attending Summerland School, Crane School, and Santa Barbara High, and is the daughter of retired Cold Spring superintendent/ principal Tricia Price, also a Fielding grad. Education may be in her blood — her grandfather Jim Thorsell was a teacher at Washington School for about 30 years — but she had zero interest in teaching when she was growing up. 

But after graduating from the University of Washington, Price started working as an instructional aide at Summerland School. “I just needed a job and wasn’t going to stay long, but it’s the classic story — I fell in love with teaching,” laughed Price, who then got her teaching credential and master’s from Antioch University in Santa Barbara. 

Eight years ago, she became a kindergarten teacher at Adams. It wasn’t the grade she wanted, “but I just kept surprising myself. I ended up falling in love with kindergarten too, and I did that for five years at Adams.” 

During that time, she also traveled to New York every summer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. “It’s the best professional learning experience I’ve ever had; it’s transformational,” said Price. “It’s based on some research from some of the smartest literacy experts from around the world, and it really treats teachers like professionals. You feel like you’re with the best people who are really passionate about what they’re doing.” 

Now she’s using that model here in Santa Barbara. “Kids learn and grow and fall in love with reading when they can choose their own books. I never really loved reading until I got to choose my own book and I chose to read Harry Potter for the first time,” said Price, who added that one of her favorite activities has been helping teachers set up their classroom libraries. “The district has been amazing and has purchased libraries for every single classroom.” 

Thanks to Price’s success, the district now has literacy coaches at each elementary school: Barbara Conway (Washington/Franklin), Courtney-Firth Williams (Cleveland/Roosevelt), Sandy Robertson (SBCA), Amy Gates (McKinley/Monroe), and Lindsay Alker (Harding). 

“I love it,” said Price of transitioning from traditional teacher to coach. “I don’t think I could ask for it to go any better with my colleagues. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but they’re so supportive, and I feel like all of them welcomed me and want me there.” 

Click here to read this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 7, 2019. SB Independent Schools of Thought Insert 11.7.19

 

2019 Best of Santa Barbara

SB Independent Best of

From the Santa Barbara Independent, October 17, 2019.

So, I had the honor of writing up the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners this year. It was a huge, fun project. People were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing (203 winners at last count) by clicking here, or on the PDF below.

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part1

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part2

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part3

Best of Independent Cover