My Favorite Things 2018 Edition

These are some of the many things that made me smile, think, or grow in 2018. I hope you find some good resources (and recipes) here.

Please leave your favorite things from the year in a comment.

Art Trips & Clients

Wow! I got to hang out with a group of phenomenal plein-air painters in Port Clyde, Maine in September. For a week I watched them rise early and paint until dark. Then we cooked and ate dinner together every night. So grateful to Mary Erickson for the invitation and the artists of Nanatuck.

Nanatuck Artist Group

After hearing about it for many years, I finally visited the MARBLE/Marble Symposium in Marble, Colorado. For two summer months, sculptors camp and carve marble under majestic trees. It's another world! If you go, expect to leave with a sprinkling of marble dust on you.

There is not enough space here for me to brag on all of my students and clients, so please forgive that I chose just one story for this space. During that same trip to Marble, I visited  Carmen Mariscal during her annual sojourn to Colorado's Anderson Ranch.

A former Inner Circle member and now private client, Carmen was taking a well-deserved respite from the craziness surrounding major exhibitions this year, including a solo show at the Musée de l’Amérique Latine in Paris. She has worked so hard to make this happen and it’s been a pleasure to watch her go after her goals.

If you're ready to go after your goals with gusto (like Carmen), come to one of our Mastermind Workshops, held in various parts of the country.


All nonfiction. That’s my thang.

Old In Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over by Nell Painter

Here’s what I learned: It ain’t easy being a senior woman of color in art school. And Nell Painter is a badass. I want to be her when I grow up.

This book is for everyone who has assumed the life of an artist after the end of another career. You will be totally inspired and ready to thumb your nose at any naysayers who cross your path.

Nell Painter is a Ph.D. historian who went back to art school at age 64 and eventually on to grad school. She found the “old” part of her story the hardest for people to accept. It was tough to witness, if even via words on paper, the prejudice she faces as an older student and woman of color.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

Here’s what I learned: To create a vibrant group culture, establish purpose and build safety and cooperation.

While I felt the book lacked a feminine perspective, I still picked up some excellent pointers for leading (and being part of) groups.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

Here’s what I’m learning: We gather (in meetings, workshops, seminars, parties) without putting enough thought into it. Our gatherings can have a much bigger impact when we focus more on people and less on logistics.

I’m not quite done with this one, but I had to add it to my list. The Art of Gathering includes a feminine perspective that was missing from Coyle’s book. As someone who brings artists together throughout the year—online and off—you can bet I’ll be thinking more deeply about our purpose as we gather.

Parker’s book will have you reconsidering (in a good way) what you thought was a simple dinner, party, or workshop.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

Here’s what I learned: There really is a science behind good timing.

I geek out on social science and love the stories in this book. My favorite section is toward the end when Pink discusses the impeccable timing of the 5,000 dabbawalas in Mumbai, who pick up and deliver more than 200,000 homemade meals each day.

Curly Hair

This was the year that I (again) learned to embrace my curls. Life is too short to spend so much time frying my hair with the hair dryer or curling iron—especially in the heat of summer.

I was well aware of the Curly Girl Method, which I followed for a number of years in the early 00s. It has evolved! I developed a girl crush on Curly Susie on YouTube and obsessively watched her videos. The one she did on the Laura Method was the game changer for me.


Linda Melone of Ageless After 50 helped me create an exercise routine and start getting back into shape in 2018. I loved working with her weekly (and remotely) for 3 months. I feel like I have a renewed commitment to taking care of these old bones.

Linda is an entertaining writer, which makes it fun to read her fitness tips. She takes excellent care of her members in the Ageless Army, a group whose fee is only $19.95 a month.

Food & Cocktails

Let’s get it out of the way: Bert’s Eggnog!

This family recipe has made many a doubter into an eggnog convert. I’ve tried others that professed to be The Best, but they’ve never come close. I defy you to make only a single batch of it.

Just the other day I received an urgent SOS on Facebook from Bert’s Eggnog devotee Ruth Armitage.

Download the recipe and story.


It so happens that I’m going easy on the indulgences during these holidays, but if I weren’t, I might be sipping on Kirkland Añejo Tequila. Or eggnog, but we’ve already covered that.

Yep, Kirkland as in Costco. As in $20 good tequila. I’m pretty picky about tequila, but I’d just as soon drink this as one of the pricier añejos.

Thai Broccoli Soup

As I type this, we are preparing another batch of Thai Broccoli Soup from Ashley’s My Heart Beets blog. This is my crack. Really. It’s phenomenal.

Here are a few changes we make. First, we substitute ground turkey for the beef and add it to the soup later so we can make extra broth to freeze. While the turkey is frying up, I put some of the broccoli in the broth to cook and then use the immersion blender so the broth is smoother and has the broccoli flavor. The broth—with its bit of heat—is a perfect to sip on when you are cold or have a cold.

Finally, I microwave small broccoli florets and add along with the ground turkey near the end.

Image ©Ashley Thomas, My Heart Beets blog.


I started using Planoly to curate my Instagram feed because, being visual and all, I like that I can see my feed as I plan the next posts.

My Web development team turned me on to One-Time Secret, which allows you to share sensitive information online via an expiring link.

Office Supplies

Oh, Pentel EnerGel RTX Retractable Liquid Gel Pen, how did I ever do without you? That some poor soul lost you and I found you on my desk is my good fortune. It was fate. And love at first write.

I know I’ve dabbled in affairs with pens before, but I’m cuckoo crazy about you! And I promise never to leave you for your “permanent” cousin. I briefly strayed only to discover that he’s a poser. You’re the real deal.


Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller

I love the format of this podcast: humor, warmth, and business. You’ll be completely inspired by Miller’s interview with Bob Goff.


This was the year that I finally got a tattoo! I say finally as if I have been thinking about it forever. I have not. However, my mother and I did talk about doing it together at one point. I think I’d like to do that, I recall her saying.

On July 10, I picked up Mom from the airport (don’t get any ideas! I rarely pick people up from the airport) and informed her we were going to the tattoo parlor so she had a little time to think about it.

Her: No! No we’re not.
Me: Yes we are.
Her: No we’re not.
Me: Yes we are.
Her: Why?
Me: Because I told everyone we were going to. What are you going to get?
Her: Probably a monarch.

Just like that. It was my gift to her for her upcoming birthday.

She selected a monarch because she raises monarchs and sends milkweed seed to anyone who asks.

I got a ladybug.
Ladybug Tattoo

When I was little, we lived in Germany and I had this fuzzy ladybug toy/seat on wheels that I pulled around. Mom started calling me Ladybug.

And now, she calls other little girls ladybug out of habit.

My tattoo is on my left forearm so I can easily see it and think of her.

What were some of your favorite things in 2018?

My Favorite Things 2017
My Favorite Things 2016

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56 thoughts on “My Favorite Things 2018 Edition”

  1. I got my nose pierced. I’m 57. I recall admiring a small stone in a woman’s nose when I was 11 or 12 years old. I am finally to the point where I don’t care what people think. I love it!!!

  2. Alyson, I love your tattoo! I love ladybugs!

    My favorite things in 2018:

    One of the artists at the Asheville mastermind workshop had this notebook that I fell in love with. She gave me all the info and as soon as I got back I ordered mine in my favorite color, turquoise, or aqua as they call it.
    A Circa® Impressions Sliver Notebook with Pockets. I LOVE it. Papers go in so easily. You have to read about it to know how it works.
    Mine is all ready fo 2019 and everything I will be doing during the year. All ready to begin the new 2019 Inner Circle!

    The birth of my granddaughter, Michaela was the highlight of my 2018.

    I retired from my other business, a summer camp, which I had been doing for 28 years. Another favorite happening in 2018.

    2019…first ever as a full time artist.

  3. Alyson,
    Thanks for sharing! I’ve already downloaded 2 books from Audible. I love to listen while I’m sculpting. Definitely trying both the ugly hair method and the eggnog….maybe at the same time.

    Most of all, thanks for the best newsletter I have ever read. I’m going to follow your lead, and try to make a personal one for the folks on my e-mail list.

    1. Alyson, thank you so much for this great newsletter, I shall look up a lot of what you include. As for my favourite picks for 2018, I chose having subscribed for ACSS, this is one of the best investments I’ve done so far, having received superb guidance and made some awesome friends within this group, a trip to Vienna on account of Gustav Klimt’s anniversary, accumulating one of the best private book collections in Athens, and finally being able to focus on my art after having to overcome serious hurdles.
      Happy Holidays Alyson!

  4. My art book club is reading Old in Art School for our next meeting – so I like seeing this recommendation. I am going to download the soup recipe – looks good. And – 2019 will be the year I get another tattoos (I have a small shamrock on my ankle), and it will be – guess what? Book related!!!!
    This was the year I started really paying attention to my personal rhythms and finally not feeling guilty about not working 9a-5p after years of corporate conditioning! I also found how much I love working with memory impaired adults with art! A forged a new direction this year with my art and other skills! Can’t wait for 2019.

  5. Nimi (aka Nirmal) Trehan

    Loved reading your e-mail.
    I love your book suggestions-I will recommend these to my fellow artists and book club members. I am especially interested in the Art of Gathering and Old for art school.
    Thai is my favorite cuisine, so the broccolli soup fits right in my TTD for 2019.

    Re: your comment on dabbawallas in Mumbai, ….this method of delivering hot, home-made lunches has been going on for decades. Beats modern day high-tech

  6. Jacqueline Perreault

    *First of all, loved your list, Alyson, and love being in IC!
    *This was the first year that I had my own studio space; what a difference in focus, routine, and productivity! It has changed my life, really.
    *Alyson turned me on to my latest craze: the podcast called “The Sculptor’s Funeral”. I’m up to podcast #38. So informative and inspiring, I recommend to anyone interested in figurative sculpture, even if you aren’t a sculptor. (No it’s not about an actual funeral.)
    *My favorite thing above all has to be my 13-year-old son Matthew! What a unique person. He’s the best! (When he’s not driving me crazy, LOL!)

    1. Jackie: How awesome that your son is your favorite thing! And I’m glad you like that podcast I came across. I have never listened but couldn’t help thinking of you.

  7. What an amazing post. I’m sorry I missed the previous years! Tons of goodies and tidbits to ponder. I especially liked that you read and reviewed Old in Art School. Nonfiction is my thing too. I wanted to get that one. Now I have to get it! Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Finding other artists had been a big part of 2018. Getting back to my painting roots by committing to an almost daily practice. Listening to podcasts was a new thing for 2018. And being accepted into a juried group show was another first that I’m particularly proud. Thank you Allyson for your podcasts, newsletters and e book. They have been fuel for making this list happen.

  9. Nice newsletter Alyson! Enjoyed the links and found the information interesting. Wishing you a joyful holiday season and a very prosperous 2019🌟

  10. Thank you Alyson for sharing and inspiring us/me!
    I love Nell Painter’s story … more than inspirational!
    I went to art school 20 years ago in my 40’s and it totally changed my life on all levels … yes one goes with baggage, but more the richer for it!
    my loose list is …
    discovering Jaine … Makeba … thanks to you
    watching great British classics, including Jayne Eyre which I studied at school
    listening to Andras Schiff Schubert’s Hungarian Melodies
    and trio op.100 Andante con. moto … on repeat
    reading “Mirka Mora my life wicked but virtuous.” … French born Australian Artist …
    last but not least Miranda Hart … such fun!
    enjoy your Christmas season
    much love mx

    1. Merilyn: So happy you like Jaine. She’s awesome! And what a lovely list here. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Hi Alyson,
    Well, the really super lesson to be learned from today’s email, as there always is something to be learned, is:
    You can write one heck of a subject line!
    And that was a very valuable lesson.
    (There’s plenty more to be learned from all of your links too. I just haven’t gotten through them yet…)
    Thank you!

  12. Alyson, welcome back to the world of curly girls! I embraced mine again last January. I absolutely loved this newsletter and can’t wait to read and listen to all of your suggestions! Thank you! The tale of your tattoo was very sweet. And, sharing the experience with your mom made it extra special, I am certain. This year I grew as an artist and scaled down as a person! Gratitude is the word that sums up 2018 for me!

  13. My friend Thyra just recommended a book called “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. It is all about systems and how small changes can be compounded into large gains over time. The goals we set are destinations while systems are the roads we take to meet our goals!

    Some other favorite things:
    -Baking bread
    -QoR watercolor paints
    – New mystery by Louise Penny, “The Kingdom of the Blind”
    -Pumpkin pancakes
    – Artist’s group Art2Life
    – A new purse!

    1. Oooo. Another productivity book! Nice, Elise. (I swear I’d be more productive if I quit consuming productivity articles and books.)

  14. One of my favorite things this year was from your 2017 List … Sanebox has set me free from the endless pages of emails!
    Love reading your yearly finds! Thank you

  15. Thanks for the renewed link, and the recipe! Can’t wait to make it for Christmas 🙂 I’m looking forward to trying this broccoli soup recipe, and exploring all the goodness your other favorites promise here!
    My favorite things this year:
    Googlecast – love streaming content from my online reading to my tv at the touch of an icon.
    Christmas light remote controls – so easy to turn on the tree & outside lights!
    Home made Yumm Sauce – vegan, gluten free and addicting!

    1. I make a type of burrito bowl that they serve at cafe yumm… black beans, rice, avacado, chicken, cilantro, tomato, salsa and sour cream. So delicious!

  16. Beth Clark-McDonal

    Hi Alyson,
    I really enjoyed this post. Planning on checking out the Curly Girl video and the soup recipie. This year, I think one of my favorite things that happened was, I sold a painting that I had done many years ago. The image is of a pink and yellow faery horse with a breast cancer ribbon in her mouth. I had donated it to a local fundraiser for a friend’s coworker who was struggling to pay her medical bills. It never got any bids in the silent auction and came back to me. I have taken it to shows, had it in my Etsy shop but nobody connected with it. About four months ago, I got an email from a woman who was interested in buying it. She explained that she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and that she was facing a double mastectomy at the end of that month. She said the Faery Horse painting, (Which I had titled “Hope”), was encouraging to her and that she felt would really inspire her during her recovery. After lugging that painting around for years and a significant relocation to another part of the country, it was extremely satisfying and humbling for this artwork to go to someone who’s life it really touched. Also, encouraging to me to be reminded, and all of us, that our creations really do make a difference in the world. 🙂

    1. What a great story, Beth! And THAT is why artists are critical to our society. You’re doing your job.

  17. Thank you Alyson! Love the fact that you know your business, but include the human side of life as well. The books sound inspiring and can’t wait to try the soup. A few of my favorites? “Insight Timer” app for meditation, Essentrics for movement, and of course ArtBizBlog!

    Thank you for all you do!!

  18. Tell your mom that she is a butterfly hero! I love that she helps the Monarchs. Also, love that it was Ruth Armitage that asked for the eggnog receipe (my art world circles intertwine on that one.) And Carmen’s continued success is so wonderful to follow.

  19. Wow,
    Alyson’s favorite things..
    Thank you for sharing, as always! I have yet to try the eggnog recipe, and this might just be the year!

    From your list I found something I can absolutely relate. I had the chance to listen to Priya Parker , Brené Brown and several other amazing speakers live at a power woman conference in Austin just a few weeks ago. I’d say that was one of my favorite things this year. I am still in a daze and trying to assimilate all that was said.

    In a nutshell, at this conference I learned that we must know ourselves so we can pursuit our goals and dreams. I also learned that together we are powerful, and that we can help and lead one another through this journey called life and it’s pursuit. We must lead others from our truthfulness, but most of all I learned that the way we connect with each other and how we share our time together is crucial to how we choose to live our lives.

    This conference was the confirmation of the work I had been doing throughout the year while re-reading and working through the Artist Way, by Julia Cameron, and reconnecting with my creativity. This book and the work involved has always been one of my favorite things.

    Thank you for all you do!

  20. My favorite thing I did this year was take a fantastic painting workshop with Stephen Quiller in beautiful Creede, CO at the amazing 4UR Guest Ranch. What a treat it was to spend the week enjoying learning and trying new things in the most beautiful surroundings I could imagine. My first art workshop in ten years!

  21. What a great list! I can’t wait to try out that pen!! It sounds amazing. My favorite part of the year was becoming a Reiki Master. I am using it with my art-making with amazing results, and brainstorming more ways to combine the two. I now have a connection to my spiritual side that I never had before, and am so honored to be able to help people do their own healing <3

  22. Man, O Man, I am in your debt, yet again! Just made the Thai Broccoli Soup and it was fantastic! Whe had everything on hand except the Coconut Aminos, which I left out. AND, I love Planoly so far! I hope your generosity comes back to you tenfold.

    1. Hi Alyson,
      I’ve been following your blog for at least a couple of years and enjoying every installment. They’re always full of great advice with a sprinkling of fun! This is the first time I’ve commented and I feel inspired and ready to expand my art community horizons. So, I’m looking forward to more connections, more community and more mutual support. I’m glad to finally be involved,
      Thank you!

    2. Ruth: So glad you liked it! I never have that either and I forgot to mention. I substitute soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.

  23. Love the newsletter – especially the tattoo story! That is a secret ambition of mine. 🙂 My best to you in 2019!

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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