Claire’s 5 Favorite Things From 2014

Sure, there’s the stuff that shows up on roundups of the year’s most popular music, movies, TV shows, books, trendy lettuces, vibrators, painful caught-on-video mishaps, or what have you. But a better way to sum up your own year in culture is to take a look at the things that really hit home and stuck with you. Here are the five things Claire discovered and loved the most in 2014!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I didn’t know it yet when I first opened the book, but Wild came into my life at exactly the right time when I needed to read a story like Strayed’s more than anything. The memoir follows Strayed’s adventure hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in her twenties as she sorts through the wounds of losing her mother and her marriage, and I’m so glad I finally gave it a read after hearing friends praise it so often. The movie version of the book that came out this December starring Reese Witherspoon was equally powerful (and everyone should go see it)!

Saltwater Sandals

I don’t know how I survived so many summers without Saltwaters, but I’m converted now and never going back. I heard about them through the mommy blogger circuit, which is a little odd, but my feet will now thank those women for the rest of forever. The flat leather sandals are walkable, durable, and get you through anything from the beach to the city sidewalk. I have pairs in red and tan now, and while I’m kind of weirded out by the way the color sometimes transfers to my feet, they’re one of my favorite things in my closet because they’re just so damn easy. Comfy feet are so important when you live in a walking-centered city or take warm-weather vacations that require trekking on foot, and these look cute while doing the trick.

“Les Miserables”

I’ve been a “Les Miserables” fan for a long time (I was a theatre kid growing up, so you can imagine how much shower belting went on), but 2014 was the year I finally got around to seeing it on Broadway, and now I have to wonder why the hell I thought it was acceptable to put it off for so long. It starred people I’d admired for years like Ramin Karimloo, Caissie Levy and Andy Mientus, and it touched me in a way I can’t even accurately describe. It blows my mind on a regular basis that all humans experience the same spectrum of emotions no matter where they live or who they are, and that it binds us all together. How else could the stories of French revolutionaries who lived hundreds of years ago feel so relevant to life in 2014? Good musicals make emotions tangible and leave them almost hanging in the air in a way that no other medium really can, and I love them for it. There is no other place but the live theatre that allows you to share such an intense and deeply personal experience with a group of strangers you’ll never see again, especially with an emotionally loaded show like “Les Miserables.” If you’re in New York City, go see it!

“Birdman”

I really didn’t want to like this movie when I walked into the theater. I’m actually still not sure I objectively like it or would truly consider it a favorite but it’s stuck with me these past few months in such a significant way that something is possessing me to include it here. I’m so over the “whiny old ‘deep’ white dude overcomes his neurotic struggles and hurts everyone else along the way” narrative, and that’s exactly what this film is, but it also digs deep into what compels any of us to try make art, the cold absurdity of life, and where we find our sense of self-worth. It’ll hurt you, but if you have a dark sense of humor, it’ll also make you laugh. Oh, and its drum score is amazing.

Madison, Wisconsin

Where has this place been all my life!? After a visit to Madison in July I’m convinced that I’d have moved there in another life and that some parallel universe version of me is traversing there right this second. Madison has everything a person could ever want in a small or mid-sized city – beautiful natural scenery, lakes, gorgeous architecture, college students and all the culture they bring with them, and (the best part) a hardworking and kind midwestern attitude. In Madison there’s always something to do or someplace to go, which gives me plenty to daydream about when it’s rush hour on the NYC subway and I start to long for a slower-paced life.

Honorable mention goes to Fabletics, the Clue period-tracking app, and Marc Jacobs lipstick in “Rei Of Light”!