The Odd & Random “Best of 2014” List

Betony and I have been loving the “best of” lists for 2014. It’s fun to see summations and high-lights of an entire year. It’s like distilling a story into a brilliant, concise single sentence.

We started thinking about our own favorites of the year. They ended up being strange bits and pieces of the good life we’ve been (and always are) discovering. So here now is the “best of 2014” list as curated by Giants & Pilgrims:

BEST SMELL of 2014:

This year I found my signature scent. Go ahead. Laugh at that ridiculous sentence.

But I have friends that always smell a certain way. Truly, specific colognes or Bath & Body Works lotions will always remind me of  various people. I’ve been on the search for a cologne that I could wear as my own, but each name brand I’ve tried never quite feel like me. Then I discovered Portland General Store.

Portland General Store are out of Maine and specialize in homemade men’s colognes and shaving items. Sounds like a disastrous business plan to me. But I ordered an expense cologne sampler regardless.

I cannot believe how awesome these smells are. They come in great marketing names like “tobacco, whiskey, farmer, saltwater, professor”. And they smell amazing- smokey, fresh, with a manly depth. That’s the way I want to smell. But best of all, Betony loves the scents too.

BEST PASTA of 2014:

This category could also be “best new restaurant find”. Betony and I had heard good things about Pellegrini’s Italian but had never been. It ended up being a magical date night there. Our favorite dish was the BOSCAIOLA- a house-made pappardelle pasta sautéed in white cream sauce with Cremini mushrooms, home-made sausage and tomato. There’s several words in that sentence that I don’t know. I just know I want to put them in my mouth.

We’ve been back several times since. If you’re around Greeley, CO you should hit it up too!


Every line from The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Monsieur “Gustave H.” wins this category we just made up.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson, gave Betony and I something rare- big laughs that also made us feel smart and cultured because we felt like we “got it”.

But seriously, watching this movie brought such joy. There was real variety in the comedy- from funny one-liners:

Gustave H. (played by Ralph Fiennes) to a dead, ex-lover-

“You’re looking so well, darling, you really are… they’ve done a marvelous job. I don’t know what sort of cream they’ve put on you down at the morgue, but… I want some.”

to random:
seeing an old man’s bare behind getting pelted with hot water in the hotel’s basement hot springs… for no real reason. This movie was really, truly funny.


The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak! Lucy chose this one. She requests this book be read to her serval times a day… by any individuals she comes across.

It’s a clever and funny book. My favorite part is the hippopotamus named “Boo Boo Butt” part.


This one doesn’t go to Serial. Hahaha.

It goes to “The Liturgists” Podcast put on my Science Mike, Michael Gungor and various guests. They take on different subjects through the lens of art, science, and faith. I’ve loved each hour-long episode produced and find myself tearing up often as they explore some of the deep issues close to my heart.

I say this with some gravity that no book, sermon series, song or media has enriched my faith more this year than this podcast!


Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a Young Adult book about a middle school boy with a facial deformity. It is mostly written from the boy’s perspective, but it also jumps into first person accounts from other characters in the story. One of my favorite quotes is “Always be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” For me, this book captures that idea beautifully. It showcases that as humans we are more good than bad, more light than dark. (The fact that it has a perfect 5 stars on Amazon speaks for itself).


Monument Valley is so beautiful and fun and artistic and creative. It was named the number one game from Apple this year! You are Ida, a forgotten princess, who makes her way through the ancient monuments of men- which are crazy, M. C. Escher-like, perspective puzzles.

The rule was, as we played it, we had to play as a family. No one was allowed to sneak playing the next level without ALL of us watching. We got the iPad out and only played with all four of us (baby Bea was uninterested) crowded around it. It became a really wonderfully family activity.

BEST LIQUOR of 2014:

Every Thanksgiving I try to make a new, creative cocktail to go with the feast. This year I mixed a “martinez”, which is a play on a martini, using sweet vermouth rather than dry. But the recipe I used called for Maraschino liqueur. I immediately thought about the gross, fake red things put on top of sundaes. I was oh, so wrong.

Maraschino liqueur, made by Luxado and imported from Croatia is bright, clear and complex and is woody and sweet with hints of creamy cherry. It’s now become one of those “secret weapon” ingredients that surprise the mouths of those we have over for dinner.


Betony and I were extremely blessed to get to go to Iceland this year for our 10 year anniversary. We had been there several days and seen wonder after wonder. (I’ve told people it’s like a harsh middle-earth: foreign and brutal, from another realm.) We’d experienced geysers and continental divides and lobster soup. Then we accidentally ran into this waterfall, the second accidental waterfall find of the day.

Skogafoss is what it’s called. It’s massive and, as Iceland doesn’t really worry about hazard ropes anywhere, you could walk right up to it’s base.

As the roar and noise and mist rose over me I had this great sense of how small I am and how immense the nature, life, love, God, power, and blessings that I get to witness are. I felt poured into in such tremendous ways.

I’ve called it BEST WATERFALL but I could also say BEST SPIRITUAL MOMENT of 2014 as well.
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Where would your awards go to for that category? What odd categories would you make up to highlight interesting things in your life? Feel free to leave comments below and add to our “best of” list.