Some of our pandemic hobbies stuck. Others didn’t: Plants died, sourdough starter failed, puzzle boxes gathered dust. Those abandoned needlepoint projects are still in a drawer, occasionally taunting us. But we also found new things — books, music, activities, stuff — that brought us comfort, much needed in another tough year. Here’s what brought 19th staffers joy in 2021.


illustration of person with headphones listening to records
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Taylor Swift blessed us with an even grander, 10-minute version of “All Too Well” as part of the rerelease of her 2012 “Red,” a move centered on the idea of reclaiming your work. “All Too Well” isn’t about the person it lyrically eviscerates, but about the fans who have treasured this song that was never a single, never had a music video, never played on the radio. We waited almost 10 years to hear it as she first imagined it, and now we can’t imagine a world where this wasn’t the original cut. Thanks for the tears, Taylor. — Chabeli Carrazana, economy reporter

I could not count how many times this year I listened to “Little Oblivions,” Julien Baker’s third studio album that came out in February. But what I can tell you is that the album — full-throated, harrowing, vulnerable and intimate — was the emotional bedrock I needed in a year that has often felt unrelenting. — Shefali Luthra, health care reporter

I really enjoyed listening to Laverne Cox’s podcast. It covered a wide range of issues: childhood trauma, trans women and dating, discrimination against low income people, historic redlining. It was enlightening. — Nadra Nittle, education reporter

I started 2021 in the throes of grief over a breakup with someone I thought I would marry. Jazmine Sullivan’s album “Heaux Tales” swooped in to make me whole again with perfect vocals and vignettes about gender, class, sex and empowerment, told by women I felt like I knew personally. — Candice Norwood, breaking news reporter


Illustration of people watching TV in a living room.
(Malte Mueller/Getty Images)

“The Chair” on Netflix had everything: Sandra Oh, great clothes, sharp writing! I laughed, I cried, I told everyone I knew to watch it. Also, my 2021 “Veep” re-watch was essential viewing this year. So funny, so prescient. Other highlights: Cat videos on TikTok, the podcast “Once Upon a Time at Bennington College,”, Itoen green tea from Costco and Pom Pom Squad’s debut album “Death of a Cheerleader.” — Jennifer Gerson, breaking news reporter

“Rutherford Falls,” a sitcom streaming on Peacock, was so funny and sweet that I’ve been singing its praises to anyone who will listen. The show feels shockingly fresh thanks to co-creator Sierra Teller Ornelas. Not only is it special in the way it centers Indigenous characters, but the leading lady Reagan, played beautifully by Jana Schmieding, is a brilliant, kind and imperfect character I love spending time with.  — Faith Smith, senior director of events


Illustration of couple reading books on living room sofa
(Malte Mueller/Getty Images)

One thing I loved about 2021 is a person who I have never met: Louise Penny. Her books featuring Inspector Armand Gamache and his hometown of Three Pines were such a welcome escape from everyday life in D.C. and a pandemic that kept me from being out in the world. — Amanda Becker, Washington correspondent

With the help of The 19th’s internal bookclub, I made a refreshing return to reading. On my own, I read “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero. That book led me to another that has truly changed my life — “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Here’s to more self love and being our best selves in 2022. — Sereena Henderson, community manager

This year I finally read “Know My Name,” Chanel Miller’s incredible story of survival, perseverance and hope. It had been on my bookshelf for a while, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for it in the throes of 2020. I’m so glad I picked it up; beyond being a staggeringly beautiful read, she is an inspiration, and a reminder of the enormous power of owning our own narratives. I also became a near-daily bath-taker, thanks to the calming properties of a glass of red wine and EO’s French lavender bubble bath. — Emily Ramshaw, co-founder and CEO

I started the “The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King this year (on audiobook), and it’s been a fabulous escape on long drives. I’m nearly halfway through book four right now — “Wizard and Glass” — and Roland’s quest to save a world that’s moved on reminds me that even after everything ends, there’s bound to be a few folks stubborn enough to insist that life goes on.  — Orion Rummler, breaking news reporter

Earlier this year, grief broke the part of my brain that could read for more than a few minutes. But I missed words, so I stopped being intimidated and started reading poetry: Mary Oliver, Maggie Smith, Ada Limón, Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkin, more. They gave me a connection to words and emotions that I desperately needed.  — Terri Rupar, politics editor


illustration of person mowing lawn
(Malte Mueller/Getty Images)

In March, I picked up a tennis racquet for the first time. This could be a fun hobby that I don’t have to take too seriously, I remember thinking. Now, I play three times a week. Tennis has been beneficial in so many ways: It helped me overcome my fear of looking silly in front of others (something I do frequently on the court); it gave me something outside of the news to be frustrated about; and it has introduced me to the wonderful world of skorts. — Abby Johnston, deputy editor

In 2021, I learned how to grow hydroponic cherry tomatoes. Aerogarden makes small, relatively affordable hydroponic rigs. I first bought one in 2020 on a whim, when things were more locked down — I missed being outside. I hand-pollinate the tomato blossoms as they bloom, using a tool that is essentially a glorified electric toothbrush. In nature, the pollen is usually spread by the wind, but there’s no wind in my apartment. So I do it instead. It’s been exciting to watch something grow, and the resulting fresh tomatoes are delicious. — Sara Luterman, caregiving reporter

2020 was a year of people getting into hobbies that I, an introvert and hermit, engaged in long before the pandemic. 2021 was a year of leveling up so I didn’t just look like a biter. This year I discovered the joys of drip irrigation, deeming useless every hour wasted over the years spent standing in front of plants with a hose. — Jayo Miko Macasaquit, chief people officer

I received a hydroponic kit about the same time I joined The 19th, and it became part of my new home office. Through the summer I worked next to a pocket garden of parsley, basil, lavender and chives, sometimes chewing absently on a parsley leaf as I worked through the day’s stories. If I wanted something more substantive, I turned to the delights of the cheese plate. I have snacked on the “party goat” cheeses (Drunken Goat and Naked Goat), triple crèmes like Saint André, and the occasional fancy old favorite like Humboldt Fog. — Flora Peir, news editor

This is the year I discovered “morning pages,” and they are giving me life. I had never been able to develop a steady creative writing practice until I started Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” a 12-week regimen of morning pages and “artist dates” to help recover and nurture your inner artist. — Amanda Zamora, co-founder and publisher


Illustration of woman stretching on sofa while dog naps on the floor
(Malte Mueller/Getty Images)

This year I enjoyed discovering fiber and collage artists whose work explores social commentary, challenges stereotypes and myths. The works of Bisa Butler and Deborah Roberts challenge ideas of inclusion, consumption, and dignity of historically marginalized people. Through bright, bold patterns, Butler’s quilts revive the life-forces of the people who helped build our country. Roberts’s college work investigates the way the Black identities have been imagined and shaped by societal interpretations of beauty. Through another proven form of storytelling, Roberts invites viewers to think about the societal pressures young Black girls and boys grapple with throughout their lives. — Clarice Bajkowski, creative director

The secret sauce behind all my self-care rituals is lighting. I purchased this pack of colorful light bulbs and have never been the same. They are not tacky IRL! I now look forward to switching off my day by switching on a pink light bulb and transforming my space. — Abby Blachman, product engineer

I gifted myself a Fujifilm Instax Wide in May, and beyond the camera’s ease of use and the film’s lovely retro aesthetic, the physicality of instant photos has been a delight. A few of my images are framed, some are gathering dust, stained with wine or coffee or marked with dates or places. Others have traveled with friends and strangers (and are likely stained or dusty in some other corner of the world). In a year filled with uncertainty, holding an object which has for its sole purpose remembrance and beauty has felt truly comforting. — Lydia Chebbine, photo editor

Olive & June nail polish! Besides the little dopamine boost from selecting pretty colors from the woman-owned business, painting my nails has become an ultimate act of self care because I literally can’t multitask while doing it. It’s my subtle form of meditation. — Alexandra Smith, audience director