As we sit at the precipice of the new year, I can’t help but reflect on what a year this has been for us. For me, my family, the country. I wasn’t planning to create this post this year but out of tradition of t0p recipes from past years and for reflection on this year, I figured I would toss it up here today.
After all, I started this blog almost 10 years ago out of a desire to share my family’s recipes. Smells Like Home became its name because of the overwhelming sense of place I always felt when I walked into my childhood home and smelled a giant pot of Sunday gravy bubbling away on the stove, or a pot roast and gravy gurgling in the crock pot, or a pan of pork chops sizzling under the broiler.
This year, I lost a piece of my identity when my dad passed away over the summer. I wrote a bunch of words down about that when I talked about pie. Both of my parents inspired me in the kitchen but ultimately, it was my dad’s insatiable love for good, home-cooked food and the pride he exuded when his creations reached the table that made me want to be a better cook. The sense of loss I have felt since his passing is almost unbearable at times and though that day in July becomes more distant each day, the aching still survives.
Kyle and I also lost our close friend Ron earlier in the year; one of Kyle’s best friends, of 25 years. As we had just two weeks to prepare and say goodbye to my dad, we had almost no time at all to do so for our friend. He was involved in a motorcycle accident and died 12 hours later. This was a blow to our family and circle of friends that left us reeling.
It’s hard to imagine how you can pick yourself up from the loss we’ve experienced this year. They still hang so close to our hearts. They visit us in our day dreams and our night dreams. They are with us in the little things we do each day and in the big decisions that change our lives forever.
Ironically, the most popular new recipe on the site this year was the first thing I baked after we lost Ron – baking therapy, indeed – and the last thing I ever baked for dad. I loved baking his birthday cakes (see above re: his love of food) and his cannoli cake this year was the most over-the-top cake I had ever made. He flipped out over it and I’ll never forget the expression of pure joy on his face that day. It amazes me to think how one cake can feel like a bridge to so many emotions.
In August, we adopted Jackson in the hopes of helping me to heal from the loss of my dad. I don’t think either of us were prepared for how this pup could have changed our lives. The sense of purpose and infinite amount of love he has brought to our home is indescribable. We thought we were doing good by rescuing him, but it was really Jackson who saved us.
I certainly didn’t mean for this year-end wrap-up to turn into a Judy Blume-esque journal entry but my incredibly introverted self is working on being more open in this space and while this year has been one of sadness and loss, I expect we’ll have some really good news to share with you next year. More to come on that soon! In the meantime, let’s walk back through your top 10 favorites of 2016 (from top-bottom and left-right):
1. cannoli cake
2. how to bake the best baked potato
3. the ‘i want chocolate cake’ cake
4. cheesy hasselback potatoes
5. homemade crescent dinner rolls
6. strawberry cream cheese french toast bake
7. peach blueberry pie
8. chicken gyro salad
9. cobb salad for 2 with genius caesar dressing
10. three cheese lasagna roll-ups (not picture above)
Thanks to each and every one one of you for all of your love and support this year. My plan for next year is to be more engaged with you in this space – I hope you love what I have in store for you and that you’ll let me know what you’d like to see here! And as always, Happy New Year to you and your families. Wishing you all the best in the year to come!