As we begin our approach to the one-year anniversary of being in various stages of lockdown, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been reflecting a little about how my extracurricular activities have changed over the course of the past nine months. I’m not socializing nearly as much, but I’m thankful for my small, supportive COVID-bubble. I could go on forever about the negative impacts of the pandemic, but no one likes a whiner. The good news (and there’s always good news if you look hard enough for it) is I’ve become more “me” than I’ve been in a very long time. One of the most overused phrases the past few months has been “finding your new normal.” Irritating as it is, I finally get it. I’ve begun playing my keyboard and singing – albeit still poorly – writing poetry and fiction, learning new recipes, exploring gardening ideas and trying to make my house more of a sanctuary for me and less of a warehouse for “stuff.” I’ve become more selective about what type of behavior I’ll tolerate. If it doesn’t affirm, challenge or inspire, I’m refusing to entertain it unless it’s absolutely impossible to escape. I still watch the news and I love social media, but I will “snooze” people in a heartbeat who can’t bring anything to the table other than false witness and negativity. So, life has become more peaceful and less frenetic. And, that’s the whole point of this issue of Coastal Illustrated.

For the Coastal Illustrated feature, we interviewed several well-known Golden Isles residents and asked their opinions about their favorite television series, movies, podcasts and books. We received a variety of answers, and what is clear is that our readers are engaged and willing to share their favorites with everyone. Our friends’ choices covered the spectrum. Based on the responses we received, our people like westerns, historical books and television shows with historical elements, true crime, fantasy and faith. It’s a wonderfully tossed salad of fan favorites that demonstrates how different, yet how very much alike, we are. Since compiling and editing this piece, my watching/listening/reading lists have grown exponentially.

For an extra treat, there is also a continuation of the story online, at www.coastalillustrated.com, in which the members of our team make their recommendations. We hope you enjoy getting to know us a little bit better.

Literary columnist Cary Knapp gives us yet another great reading recommendation with “Such a Fun Age,” the debut novel of Kiley Reid. This tittilating tale of race and class will make you both think and laugh. Oh, what a tangled web we weave, no? In Shore Things, Cheri Leavy touts some great finds at local businesses, all with fascinating patterns – from the intricate Turkish rugs found at Wired Collaborative, to the simple beauty of a snack at Frosty’s. Check it out for more ideas! And, in our local Q&A, we sit down with Safe Harbor Executive Director Leslie Hartman, and find out what she enjoys doing in her spare time, the people she admires the most (she picked her fantastic in-laws, Susan and Jack Hartman), and her goals for Safe Harbor.

Now that you’ve got a handle on what to read, watch and listen to, visit Coastal Home and get some great advice from Lori Harden and Julie Willis of Pierce & Parker Interiors on how to turn your master suite into a plush, relaxing retreat. Who doesn’t just love to snuggle into layers of comfy softness? We have some tips for you to get started on the right track this new year. Also in this section, you’ll find great advice from horticulture columnist Anne Ditmer about how to help your landscape recover from a hard freeze. In his real estate story, reporter Gordon Jackson discusses how the low inventory of homes in the Golden Isles, has led to a seller’s market. In our Realtor Q&A, Dana Hill of Georgia Coast Realty tells us all about her family and how she likes to spend her spare time. She’s also got some great real estate advice for everyone.

As you nestle at home during what I always refer to as “drab January,” turn on a podcast, show or movie or grab a book, pour a warm beverage and relax. Until then, be kind, wash your hands and enjoy the issue.