Amanda's Faves of 2016

This is a bit of a personal post. However, there's plenty of art sprinkled throughout! So, I felt it appropriate for Party in the Art Room. Plus, I want my readers to get to know me as a person, which involves way more than "art-teacherin" (as my friend, Cassie Stephens, would say). 

Now, here goes all my wisdom for the day:

All you have to do is scroll through social media to get slapped in the face with Doomsday messages. Climate change, politics, civil rights violations, violence, human resistance to antibiotics, nuclear weapons, deaths of beloved celebrities, drugs, mental health crises, privatization of public education, and on and on and on.

Just this morning I saw a blog post from Rolling Stone about how if we thought 2016 was bad, 2017 will likely be worse.


Yeah, there were some really disappointing (depressing, even) events in 2016. We are living in an era of rapid change. It can be scary! I can totally get overwhelmed myself. However, I am determined to keep my head on straight. I will live a life of service to my fellow human beings. I will smile and be kind. I will enjoy my time on this planet and not be crippled with anxiety.  I will love and allow myself to be loved. I will teach my daughters how to live this way.

I am reminded this morning of The Sound of Music:

When the dog bites, when the bee stings

When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Read more: The Sound Of Music - My Favorite Things Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

So, for my end-of-year blog post, I decided to make a list of my favorite things to help me celebrate goodness, and happiness, and joy, and smiles, and beautiful morning light, and the laughter of my children, and all the warm, fuzzy feelings. 

I encourage you to do the same. Share it with me. I'd love to read it! I mean that!

Favorite Color

This color goes by many names: burgundy, wine, oxblood, crimson, cranberry, etc. I am an alumni of Mississippi State University. So, I prefer to call it MAROON!  I always love anything pink, but this year was all about maroon for me. So many great things are maroon. Mississippi State football. The St. Jude logo. My hair at one point. Dahlias. Blubber jellies. Pepperoni. Who else loves this color? 

(Oh, and I found a blog post about how to wear maroon, if anyone is interested. Just thought I'd share!)

Favorite Makeup

This is my actual product.

I have always loved the way contouring looks on other people and had really wanted to try it. However, I don't have a lot of time for a makeup routine. I found this Too Faced Chiseled to Perfection product and watched a couple of tutorials before purchasing.
I've been using this one everyday since October.
I ended up loving the product. It is easy and quick to use. It comes with a brush, a How-to Guide, and looks great. PLUS, it smells like chocolate. It costs $40. You can get it at Ulta. I hope they never stop making this. It is going to be permanent part of my makeup routine. 
This is my fave tutorial:

Favorite PD
I was able to attend the National Gallery of Art's Teacher Institute in July. Finally! I had applied for this three times. I wanted to do it so badly. It was definitely worth the wait and hassle of applying over and over again. We spent six days in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. studying Renaissance Art. I know so much more content about art from this time period than I did before. I needed to learn about this era in art history, too. I had a gap there that this professional development experience filled for me. 

Titian's masterpiece
There were several lectures and gallery walks. There were also art-making experiences and a visit to a print-making studio at Georgetown University. One of my favorite experiences was watching renowned artist, Rob Liberace, recreate Titian's Ranuccio Farnese.

Liberace with his copy in progress

I also met some incredible educators, many of whom I remain in contact thanks to social media. I encourage every educator to apply for this experience. Worth. It. 
The group of educators at the Teacher Institute at NGA.

Favorite New-to-Me Work of Art

While at the National Gallery's Teacher Institute, I encountered a new painting. It was new to me in the sense that I'd never given it much attention before. I'd never really even looked at it but was aware it existed. So, I'm labeling it "New-to-Me."

Adoration of the Magi
We studied The Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi like crazy. I don't know how many hours we spent in front of that painting. We analyzed how it was made, the symbolism, the composition, etc. We talked about the Medici family. We talked about the math of the work and how we could use it to teach other subjects. We spent so much time with this painting that it began to feel as though we had an intimate relationship with it. I fell in love with the painting. I was 8 months pregnant when I attended this. I have a felicity about this work. Not a felicity in the marital sense, obviously, but a familial felicity. When I think of Mary with her baby, I am reminded of my pregnancy. I remember the beautiful lighting in the room and the way it smelled. I remember the sounds. I remember the texture of the couch I sat on during one of the discussions in front of this painting. All of these things remind me of the time in my life when I was anxiously awaiting the birth of my daughter, Ruby. Very intimate, indeed.

My study of implied lines and composition.
I have a sheet of tracing paper over a printout of the painting.

This is me in D.C. admiring my bump.

Favorite Not New-to-Me Work of Art
While I was in D.C. back in July, I went to the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. One of the first things that I saw was Felipe Archuleta's Baboon. I was tickled to see this because I've had the print of that sculpture hanging in my classroom for at least four years.  This is by no means my favorite work of art. However, I think it was my favorite familiar piece to see in-person in 2016. If you haven't visited this museum, I highly recommend you make time for it if you are ever in D.C. It's a beautiful building with many famous works. There is an incredible collection of sculptures in that building. 

Favorite Art Selfie
Preggers selfie with American Gothic.
Then, of course, there are life's obligatory selfies. American Gothic requires a selfie. I went to Chicago in March with my mom and 20 month old, Willa. I taught a ticketed course at NAEA and spent the rest of the time touring the city. We visited the Art Institute. (That's another art museum for you to add to your bucket list, btw.) I am as intrigued by American Gothic as everyone else, even if it is not my favorite work of all time. It was an honor to view it...and to take a selfie with that old couple. 

Favorite Pic of Me as a Mama
As I was looking through all of my photos from 2016 to put this post together, I came across a photo that I adore. My husband took this pic of me holding both of my girls at the Memphis Zoo. I remember the first time I saw this pic...right after he took it. I told him I was so thankful he'd captured that moment because I never want to forget how it felt to hold both of those sweet angels while they are so small. 

It looks like I have maroon flowers in my hair. Ode to Frida!

Favorite Regular Selfie
I am a bit selfie crazy. I guess I get it from the Kardashians. LOL! I like this selfie because I had been to get my haircut and colored with my good friend and amazing stylist Amber Higgins who owns Intricid Salon in Tupelo, MS. I love the color! We had fun on this day. We talked about all the good stuff. I adore Amber! I felt beautiful when I left her shop. This is my favorite selfie of the year! No pregnancy swelling and no filter!! Which is your own favorite selfie of 2016? Show me, I'd love to see!

Favorite Pin
I've been only a little obsessed with this pin. I don't care about the liner. BUT, I've been trying to recreate that shadow for months. My Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance palette has helped me get real close. How perfectly named is that palette??? I mean, my fave PD was a study of Renaissance art! 

Favorite Memes

I have two of these to share. Individually, they express two ideas which I have been trying to live for the past year. Together, they express who I want to be moving forward. 
From Blog Lovin'

Found on Life Hack

Favorite Lifestyle Changes
Dude, this year brought a lot of change for me. After I had the baby, I started Weight Watchers again. Then, I started going to Boot Camp in the mornings. I feel great. I feel strong in my body and mind. I will continue to do these things. They help me be who I want to be. They help me live my best life. It helps that I have the best Weight Watchers leader on the planet (you know who you are KO) AND the best Boot Camp instructor on the planet (you know who you are VJ). 

I learned how to love to eat oatmeal and hummus, AND how to do cool things like this:
Bosu Ball Burpees
(I found this pic on Pinterest. It links to that blog.)
Suspension Crunches

Favorite Experiences
I seriously could not narrow this down to just one. When I think back on the year, I think about the many happy experiences with which I was blessed. As I get older, I value experiences more than things. I think I've always been like that, but I am more aware of it now. It is definitely a good way to be. 

I've included several pics here. There are so many other experiences though. This post is long enough without me adding a pic of every single one. There was the Polar Express ride with my mom and Willa, the first time Willa picked a flower, when my dad took us to ride a train at their neighbor's house, mass with my entire family (parents, brother, sister-in-law, husband, and children) on Christmas Eve, lunch date with my teacher friends, Willa's first movie (Sing! was great btw), Mother's Day lunch with my family (including Judy and JB, the sister-in-law's parents who we love so much), my cousin Deanna's first grandchild's shower (I don't even know if all those apostrophes are right!), the Lee County Children's Literacy outings, and on and on...

This year, we were able to celebrate the birthdays of two of my grandparents who are both in their 80s.
This is a pic of one of them who drove thirty minutes to visit as a surprise after we brought the baby home.
It is a blessing to see my grandparents holding my own children.  
Celebrated 7 years of marriage to this guy. He is my BFF and ride or die!

I finished the St. Jude Memphis Half-Marathon again.
What an humbling experience!
I think everyone that is able should do this race at least once.

My brother and I (and my daughter) playing with Legos on Christmas morning.
Don and I used to play with Legos a lot as kids.
He got me the Yellow Submarine Lego kit for a Christmas gift!
So thoughtful!

Save Our Schools Rally and March
This is my friend Anthony Cody.
He has been an amazing mentor to me.
You should read his blog Living In Dialogue. 
You will learn A LOT!
We visited my brother and sister-in-law in NOLA in the spring.
We went to Sno Bliz to order a pink snowball to announce that Willa was going to be a big sister to a little sister.
This was the photo we shared to tell everyone.
We also went to the Frenchman Art Market while we were there. Put that one on your bucket list too!

My mom, daughter, and I were able to view all three of Vincent's bedrooms while we were in Chicago.
That was amazing. They will probably never be together in the same room again in our lifetimes.

My school had an arts festival this year.
I played the dulcimer with the local dulcimer group.
I hadn't played in years. It was a great experience.
I visited the Holocaust Museum on one of my trips to D.C. this year.
This is an image of a child's artwork.
This child was deported to Auschwitz in 1944.
I don't have any words that can describe this experience.
I'm a better person for it. That's for sure. 

Favorite Day

Ruby Imogen on the day she was born.
It started on a Sunday evening and carried on until well after lunch the next day. The contractions were fierce. I am so stubborn that I refused the epidural until two hours before she was actually born. My husband asked me if I thought it would make me heal faster by not having the epidural. In other words, he wanted to know why I didn't get it right away. "I'm just stubborn," is what I told him. Her blood pressure and heart rate kept dropping. It was scary to hear that extremely slow heartbeat on the monitor. She was also turned in the occiput posterior fetal position, which is why my back hurt so bad in the weeks leading up to delivery. She didn't turn herself around either. So, I delivered her like that. It was hard. The nurse said, "Whew, I didn't think you were gonna be able to do that." My mom, Chad, and cousin Whitley were in the room with me for the birth. I needed each of them to support me through that. This day full of pain and stress was the best day of the year. At the end of it, I got to hold my precious Ruby Imogen.

I know, I know

Okay, I'll admit it. This post was about me. It was to make me smile and to make me happy. I seriously had the best time creating this post. It lifted my spirits to think of the things that make me smile. I could have listed many more things. I think counting blessings and being intentional with joyful thoughts is a best life practice. I DO hope you discovered something, learned something, felt a connection to me, decided to try something new, or gained something else positive from reading it!


In 2017 let's remember the good things. Let's lift each other up. Let's live this life together in peace and love and harmony. Let's make healthy, happy choices. Let's take care of ourselves so that we can care for each other. 

Remember that you are amazing. There are many who love and need you. Never forget how important you are. Never forget what you give to the world. You are strong. 

Thank you for reading. Best wishes for the new year. 


  1. Thank you Amanda! Lovely blog. My favorite thing of course is how many of your favorite things I actually share. I wanted to share a photo of my parents who alway joked they looked like the American Gothic painting. And Legos are my absolute favorite toy since I encountered them in Tanzania. My friend from there had brought home a set to his family (1971) and all of us sat around their table playing with them! Thank you so much for your spirit and joy! We need it so badly!