Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

By the time this blog post goes live, 2017 would've passed and we'll all be enjoying the first day of 2018. As the new year begins, I'm 100% certain that there will be tons of "Best of 2017" lists floating around on your computer screen - from lists about the Best Shows on Netflix 2017 (if you haven't checked out these foodie documentaries, add that to your 2018 new year's resolutions!) to the Best Selling Books 2017.

This year, though, I wanted to end the holiday season - and 2017 - on a less materialistic note. As I shared this past Christmas, my family has shifted from giving actual "gifts" to focusing more on experience gifts. Similarly, we've also all tried to be more mindful...and gratitude is a big part of mindfulness.

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

So, to start 2018 off on a positive note, I'm sharing 21 things I'm grateful for from 2017, from delicious gluten free products that blew my taste buds away to special moments with loved ones to important events in the gluten free community. My hope for this post? First, that you'll discover some new gluten free foods or fun activities to add to your 2018 New Year's Resolutions. Even more importantly, I hope this helps you kick off 2018 with a mindful mindset - and that you think of 21 things you're grateful for too!

1. Learning how to take control of my gut health with Hyperbiotics.

It's no secret that my stomach and I still have days where we don't get along. As I've shared before, I used to be the kind of girl who could eat anything - and a lot of it. Since celiac entered my life, though, my less-than-flat stomach is the physical trait that I often feel most self-conscious about.

Making a probiotic part of my 2017 daily routine hasn't entirely put my stomach problems in the past, but, as I shared in this post, Hyperbiotics has definitely changed my gut health for the better! If you've never tried using a probiotic (or eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or kimchi), adding some probiotics to your life could be the healthy living trick you need for 2018.

2. Graduating college with honors!

2017 seemed like a really long year...and I think that mainly has to do with all of the big life changes that occurred during it, including graduating college! Technically, I finished my time at Point Loma Nazarene University in December of 2016, since I graduated a semester early. However, I didn't actually walk across the stage and receive my diploma until the following January.

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

Honestly, it already feels like it's been FOREVER since I was in undergrad. After all, in the eight months immediately after I graduated, I: 1) lived in Colorado with my parents and learned to adapt to the cold weather, 2) worked a full-time job with Entity Magazine (more on that later), 3) and almost went bat-cat-crazy over grad school applications.

But the chance to return to my college as a successful graduate and celebrate three and a half years of hard work with lots of family and friends? That was a pretty dang special moment of 2017!

3. Bonding with the countless other celiacs who also found that a gluten free diet wasn't enough...

This was one of my most popular blog posts in 2017, and, as I read more and more of y'all's comments on my blog and social media channels, it was easy to see why: I'm not the only celiac who has struggled to feel "right" even after going gluten free.

It was definitely hard to think back to such a dark time in my life. I literally can't remember a lot of my first semester of college since I was dealing with so much celiac complications, from going on a liquid diet the day after my 18th birthday to being hospitalized for malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. As usual, though, being able to laugh and cry and connect with tons of people across the globe who delt (or are dealing) with similar struggles made all the work worth it.

4. Reading too many epic mysteries and psychological thrillers to count.

I haven't really shared much of this on the blog, but I am a HUGE fan of mysteries and psychological thrillers. Heck, a lot of my winter break from grad school has been dedicated to hitting the local library and devouring all the novels I can get my hands on! So, it seemed only fitting to recognize some of the awesome reads that made 2017 especially great.

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017


Some of my favorite mystery books and psychological thrillers of the year include:
  • The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: I cannot say enough good things about this book or about the author's other novels. The plot will have you guessing until the very last page, and there isn't any gore - just a truly brilliant psychological thriller!
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: if you haven't already read this book (and/or seen the movie), definitely add it to your 2018 New Years Resolutions. The characters are all well-developed and intriguing, and you won't know who the real "villain" is until the very end.
  • The Widow by Fiona Barton: such an interesting (not to mention nail-biting) read about marriage and the secrets people hold for their loved ones. I won't say more for risk of giving anything away, but this book definitely needs to be on your 2018 Reading List.
  • The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle: what happens when your husband dies on a plane that he's not supposed to be taking in the first place? This book tackles that question! This was a fast-paced thriller that had plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested the whole way through. (Can you tell that marriage, loyalty and lies were common themes in 2017 psychological thrillers?!?)
  • Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo: anything from the Kate Burkholder mystery series is a winner. The main character (the aforementioned Kate B.) grew up Amish but chose to leave her Amish community, and a lot of her cases as the Chief of Police deal with her Amish roots. Great for mystery lovers and anyone interested in Amish culture!

5. The "things I'm afraid to tell you" blogging movement.

In case you didn't read any of these posts (including my own post, here), the "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" blogging movement is exactly how it sounds: a movement encouraging bloggers to write about the things they're afraid to tell their readers. The first time I read a "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" post, all I could think was: "Wow. Respect." 'Cause it takes a heck of a lot of courage to publish "secrets" or personal insecurities or controversial truths on the Internet, and that's exactly what bloggers like Ashley at Blissful Basil were doing.


I don't know how many (if any!) great secrets or truths I revealed in my own post, but I do know that it felt nerve-wracking to click "publish" - and that I'm so grateful for the bloggers who inspire me to be even more authentic and open every day!

6. Discovering the gluten free heaven that is the Gluten Escape in Denver, Colorado!

If you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, food allergies or just love finger-lickin'-good food, then you can imagine how excited it's been to discover an epic gluten-free bakery not too far from where my parents live. The Gluten Escape is a 100% gluten free bakery in Denver, and they also offer various paleo, nut-free and vegan options.

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

So far, I'm absolutely in love with their (gluten free and vegan) cinnamon rolls, scones (the blueberry version was to die for!) and their seasonal pumpkin muffins. Their dark chocolate brownie was also the best gluten free brownie my mom and I have ever tasted. One of the best parts about visiting home is definitely visiting the Gluten Escape during my stay!

7. Learning how to balance chronic illness and a full-time job.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest opportunities I received in 2017 was working as the Senior Editor for Entity Magazine. During the year I spent with Entity Magazine (I started interning with them the summer before my last semester of college!), I learned so much about freelance writing, interviewing experts, SEO optimization, and marketing an online magazine.

However, I also learned a lot about balancing a chronic illness and a full-time job, from knowing my physical limits (and making sure I get the accommodations I need to give my 110% every work day) to embracing the fact that I will never be a "normal" employee. Even though I no longer work with Entity Magazine, I'm so grateful for everything they taught me and how I'll be able to apply these lessons to my future career adventures.

8. Conquering the Manitou Incline!

I was sidelined by a re-aggravated IT band injury only a few weeks after my Dad and I attempted (and succeeded!) at climbing nearly vertical .8 mile hike fondly known as the Manitou Incline. However, I definitely have no regrets! It only took us 53 minutes to climb up the 2,300 steps, but we were sweatin' like crazy and ended up hiking around 8 miles overall. If you're ever in Manitou, Colorado and want a physical challenge with plenty of Instagram-worthy picture opportunities, definitely check out The Incline!

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

9. Seeing thousands of celiacs, gluten intolerants and food allergy warriors speak up against ignorance and ill-treatment.

It's impossible to deny that 2017 included plenty of negative events (many of which I won't even go into here). Some of the bad moments that especially stick out in my mind, though, are related to the gluten free and food allergy communities. For instance, there was the teen with a dairy allergy who died after school bullies allegedly gave him cheese and the boy with a gluten allergy allegedly forced to eat outside in the rain at Colonial Williamsburg. And, of course, these are only a few of the people who faced challenges related to their celiac disease, food allergies or chronic illness in 2017.

It's horrible that these tragedies happened, and it's equally horrible that stories like these will likely continue to be told in the New Year. What I am grateful for, though, is the fact that people spoke up when faced with tragedies or ill-treatment like those listed above. When I posted both of these articles on my Facebook page, hundreds of people liked, commented or shared; the first article even went mini-viral, reaching over 50,000 people. Similarly, people have also been brave enough to post articles like "Don't Be a Jerk About Food Allergies" to raise awareness about how dangerous dietary limitations can be.

As much as 2017 has been a year of challenges and tragedies for gluten free and food allergy communities, it has also been a year of increased awareness and support. My biggest hope? That 2018 will continue this movement...and trigger systematic change (like in school or restaurant policies) as well.

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

10. Being accepted into a fully funded grad school program.

To be completely honest, hearing back from the 11 grad schools I applied to was, in one word, brutal. Emails with my acceptance (or, in the case of 10 of the schools, rejection) would appear in email at all hours, and I was starting to lose hope that I would get into anywhere. Then, late one night, I opened up an email from Minnesota State University, Mankato...and screamed. I was accepted!

My joy was dampened by the fact that financial aid wasn't guaranteed at that paricular school, and I'd need to go through yet another application process to receive funding. A month later, I got another email offering me an assistantship: in return for teaching Intro to English, my tuition was covered and I'd receive a small stipend to live on. I'd never even visited Minnesota and I'd never taught a college class, but I said yes with a huge smile. And so began my next adventure of 2017...

11. Falling in love with everything from BFree Foods.

I know I say this all the time, but finding a gluten free bread that doesn't taste like cardboard is dang difficult...not to mention finding a gluten free and vegan bread option. So when I got the chance to taste BFree Foods earlier this year, it was an easy yes. Since then, BFree Foods has become one of my fave gluten free bread companies (along with Canyon Bakehouse). And trust me - their gluten free pita bread would definitely make 2018 even more delicious!

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

12. Making even more online BFFs.

It really is amazing how close you can feel to people even when you've never met them in person. The magic of the Internet, for sure! In particular, I've loved getting to know Cora from My Little Tablespoon (she really is one of the sweetest and most encouraging people I've ever "met"), Ellen from My Uncommon Everyday and Kat from Katalyst Health a little better this past year. Amber from Eats and Exercise By Amber is a sweetheart as usual while Dairy Free Gina and The Herbivorous Traveler and are partners in crime when it comes to Instagram giveaways! Especially since I've been battling a little bit of loneliness from moving to a new state where I don't know anyone, these online connections from 2017 were - and still are - true blessings.

13. Reading about the progress being made in celiac disease research or legislation.

I don't know about you, but progress always has me smiling - especially when it's progress in celiac disease research or legislation. Luckily, 2017 offered some of both. One of the biggest pieces of news about celiac disease this year was a study finding that a common virus could trigger celiac disease. There are still plenty of questions about the biological causes of celiac disease, but at least scientists seem to be moving in the right direction!

Even more recently, the FDA released recommendations for labeling gluten in medicines. In its current version, their draft of "Gluten in Drug Products and Associated Labeling Recommendations" suggests that appropriate products include the phrase: "Contains no ingredient made from a gluten-containing grain (wheat, barley, or rye)." Considering how difficult it can be to find out about gluten in medications right now, I know I'm looking forward to seeing how these guidelines are adopted.

14. Discovering some celiac-safe options near my new home in Mankato, Minnesota.

I'll be the first to say that Mankato, Minnesota is no gluten free mecca. However, I was beyond excited to discover that Friesen’s Family Bakery and Bistro, a small restaurant a few miles from my apartment, has several gluten free (and many vegan) options!

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

So far I've tried Friesen's peanut butter cookies (which turned out to be chewy, two-inch-thick gluten free heaven) and a carton of their white bean veggie soup (heavily spiced but perfect when paired with potatoes and avocado). Warming up with a celiac-safe bowl of soup - that you didn't even have to cook! - is one heck of a tasty reminder to be grateful for small blessings!

15. Mastering (at least most of the time!) the art of eating healthy on a budget.

It's no secret that eating healthy for cheap - not to mention eating gluten free on a budget - can be super challenging. In the last year, though, I've learned some tricks and tips that help me spend $35 or less a week on groceries. Of course, there are times when I don't plan my shopping carefully enough and end up spending more money than I should. There are also times when a girl just has to #YOLO it and buy the $3 avocado 'cause you're craving an epic guacamole burrito for dinner that night. However, every little bit of money saved helps...and will be put to good use in 2018.

16. Realizing that I actually *really* like teaching a college English class!

I literally had no idea how teaching my own college class would go. I knew that I was knowledgeable about the subject I was teaching (English 101), and I knew that I enjoyed helping people improve their writing. What I didn't know, though, was how comfortable I'd actually feel in the front of the class...or that I'd discover that, out of all the jobs I've tried, teaching has felt the most "right" so far. My most rewarding moment of the semester was definitely receiving an email from one of my students thanking me for the reading I'd assigned and explaining that the reading changed his perspective on writing. If I can make even a small difference in one student's life every semester, I'll be pretty dang excited!

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

17. Seeing restaurants like Chick Fil A and Jersey Mike's Subs step up their gluten free game.

You know I love finding even more gluten free restaurant options, and several new big chains joined the gluten free family in 2017. I was especially excited to hear of Chick Fil A's gluten free bun, which was introduced earlier this year. Since Chick Fil A's gluten free bun is served separately in a sealed plastic bag in order to prevent cross contamination, some have complained that the bun tastes dry and bland. However, I love the extra steps Chick Fil A is taking to have a celiac-safe gluten free menu.

Other gluten free restaurant news from 2017 included Shake Shack introducing a new gluten free bun (along with staff training to help prevent cross contamination), Jersey Mike's rolling out a gluten free bun and Canada Subways experimenting with gluten free bread. The more mainstream gluten free restaurant options there are, the easier it can feel to thrive with celiac disease, food allergies or other dietary limitations. Here's to hoping for even more gluten free restaurant choices in 2018!

18. Learning that homemade vegan protein ice cream is a thing...

If I had to sum up my night time snacking in 2017 using only three words, "protein ice cream" would probably be the most accurate choice! I'll admit it: usually, protein powder ain't my thang. However, I'm always looking for ways to upgrade my gut health, so when I got the chance to try this fermented vegan protein powder last August, I couldn't say no. Who knew that blended frozen bananas + protein powder + coconut milk could be so addictive?!? 

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

19.  Surviving my first semester of grad school!

Between car troubles, computer troubles, a phone that died the night before finals week and the regular chaos of grad school and teaching a college class for the first time, there were definitely moments I doubted being able to survive my first semester of grad school. So you can only imagine how freakin' grateful I was to walk out of my last final around a month ago. Grad school has definitely been one thousand times more challenging than I ever expected (and I'm sure I'll write a blog post with more details soon). However, considering how much I've grown from just one semester of grad school, I know this three-year adventure will be worth all of the stress and hard work.

20. Stumbling upon some new staple recipes, like homemade trail mix and rainbow energy balls colored with superfoods and fruit.

You know that moment when you bite into a delicious dish and realize you're completely in love? That happened several times in 2017 with my own gluten free recipes!

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

Some particular favorite gluten free recipes that I keep making again and again include:

21. Having the chance to relax and recharge with my family during the holidays.

As I shared at the end of November, I'm spending my Christmas break in between the first and second semester of grad school with my family in Colorado! It definitely took me some time to turn off my brain and get into relaxation mode, but having a solid month of just enjoying time with my family, writing and exploring Colorado Springs has been such a blessing. I can only hope that all of my readers' holidays (I'm talking to you!) have been just as relaxing and filled with family memories.

2017 was a crazy year full of endings and new beginnings and challenges and surprises and good food and everything in between. Throughout those intense 12 months, though, there were plenty of moments to be thankful for...and that's what this "Best of 2017" list was all about.

Best of 2017: 21 Things to Be Grateful For From 2017

Even more important than writing this list, though, is remembering it. I know that 2018 will have its own obstacles and blessings and, this year, I hope that I can do a better job of being grateful when something happens instead of only feeling gratitude upon reflection. And I'm challenging you to adopt the same mindset in the New Year - and beyond!



What are you grateful for from 2017? What are you looking forward to in 2018? Tell me in the comments!



Comments

  1. Well, we made it to see the end of the year and the beginning of a new year!. Happy New Year. My favourite takes was the joy of having restaurants embrace the fact that some people have to have a gluten free diet, being mindful and grateful for experiences, rather than tangible gifts. And also that blogging idea of opening up to our readers! Scary one for me, but who knows, it may just be the turning point for me. Thanks and all the best of the New Year to you.

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