Home and away readers’ best in 2021

Welcome. Last week, my colleagues and I shared our best of 2021, the movies and music, pastimes and provocations that enriched our lives this year, both at home and abroad. (I still wonder that Tonya Douraghy, art director of this newsletter, has grown sunflowers in her kitchen.)

This week, this liminal week between one year and the next, we present your favorites. Here’s what readers of the Home and Away newsletter loved in 2021. The answers have been edited for the sake of length and clarity.

  • “The best advice I got this year was from my manager, who told me that I should take care of myself first and that our work does not have to be perfect. In a protracted pandemic, I really needed to hear it. “—Cindy Chow, Mountain View, California.

  • “One of the highlights of 2021 was streaming the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of ‘Fire Shut Up in My Bones’ by Terence Blanchard. The opera tells a gripping and profound story of a young man’s journey to overcome trauma and adversity. My husband and I was deeply moved. ” —Peggy Geary, Vancouver, British Columbia

  • “My favorite thing I did to pass the time, in early 2021, was learn to make stocks from scratch. My boyfriend and I had just moved in together in November 2020 – my first time living with a partner. It was a project we patiently undertook as a team, letting the smoldering aromas from the stove fill our Brooklyn apartment for close to 15 hours while I finished my thesis at the kitchen table nearby.Cooking with our homemade fondue afterwards is great “But feeling close to him, at home, doing something fun together is the greatest reward imaginable.” – Steph Katsias, Brooklyn

  • “We built a cottage using 18th-century construction techniques. It allowed the family to get together outside and do something rewarding.” —Christopher Pryer, Fayetteville, NC

  • “Best recipe: ratatouille. Despite the fact that I usually detest eggplant, this is the most comforting and delicious thing I have made (five times) all year. It was also incredibly appealing to my vegetarian family members for Thanksgiving. ” —Katie Snyder, Kansas City, Mo.

  • “One of the best books: ‘The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People’ by Rick Bragg, read by him (for the audiobook) with his gentle southern voice. It’s about a dog and more. Funny, sad, sweet – nice read. ” -Teri Martine, Seattle

  • “After 18 months of isolation, my wife and I took a 44-day road trip in September and October. We went by car and stayed in hotels or with family and friends. This is certainly not for everyone, but for us it was great. Nine thousand miles. Sixteen states. Seven national parks. Sixteen relatives. About 20 friends. A wonderful 50th high school reunion. Breathtaking scenery. We’re so lucky. “—Mark P. Proulx, Des Moines, Wash.

  • “I would be forgiving if I did not nominate ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’ as a best TV show from 2021. Although the series was short, each episode was full of intrigue and fun. The cast is absolutely sensational, with longtime favorites like Tony Hale and Kristen Schaal and a wonderful group of younger actors who clearly enjoyed their roles. Beware of Constance, the expert play by Marta Kessler; her remarks were delivered with so much mental weakness that she made us roar with laughter. ” —Kimberley Kitzmiller, Portland, Ore.

  • “‘Shetland’s Jimmy Perez in Season 6: A Tortured Detective Inspector in a Torture-Like Place in His Personal and Professional Life. His face reflects every fight. As good as Ann Cleeves’ mysteries are, this is a case of television taking over the books – largely due to actors like Douglas Henshall (who plays Perez) and Alison O’Donnell (who plays detective Alison McIntosh). this world.” —Ellen Girardeau Kempler, Laguna Beach, California.

  • “Dresses with pockets. How else can I roam the house and walk comfortably with the dogs while having a safe place for my phone so I can listen to podcasts all day long?” —Mary Beth Cox, Richmond, Va.

  • “The full-length episodes of ‘Funny People Making Food’ (there are also livestreams) are fun and informative.” – Erica Wides, Brooklyn

  • Use the two-minute timer on your electric toothbrush to improve your balance. While brushing, stand on your left foot for the first 30 seconds, switch to your right foot for the next 30 seconds and repeat. (This assumes you have it kind of electric toothbrush that warns you every 30 seconds during the two-minute brushing time.) “-Christine Thornton, Topsham, Maine

  • “The piano music that plays when I solve the New York Times Mini Crossword. Pure Validation. “—Rebecca Hodgkins, Greenwood Village, Colo.

  • In 1979, Michiko Kakutani profiled Joan Didion for The Times: “A gifted reporter with an eye for the telling detail – the frayed nail, the shaking hand – she is also a foresighted witness who in her own experiences finds parallels to time. The voice is always “Precisely, the tone unsentimental, the sight unashamedly subjective. She takes things personally,” wrote Kakutani. Didion died this month, aged 87.

  • Will darker days be a feature? Use ShadeMap to get a sense of when your house will be visited by sunlight.

  • Here’s Amythyst Kiah performing “Wild Turkey” at The Egg in Albany, NY

  • How are you using the closing days in 2021? Write to us: athome@nytimes.com. Include your full name and location, and we may include your contribution in an upcoming newsletter. We are at home and out. We read every single letter. As always, several ideas for leading a full and cultured life are shown below. I’m back on Friday.

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