Walder Wellness IRL (2023 Recap)
Hello friends! Welcome to the first edition of WW IRL (Walder Wellness in real life), where I give you a little peek at my life behind the scenes. Each quarter, I’ll share little snippets of what I’m working on, where I’ve been traveling, restaurants I’ve tried, books/podcasts/TV shows and other content that I’m consuming, and anything else that comes to mind!
Why am I starting this series?
One of my goals for 2024 is to connect with my readers (you!) on a more personal level. It feels wild to say that I started sharing recipe content on Instagram all the way back in 2015. At the time, I was sharing so much more of my life online. To be fair, I was 25 years old, attending grad school in NYC – life was pretty new and exciting 😉
Over the past few years, I’ve found myself wanting to share less and less on social platforms. To be honest, the social media landscape has changed so much. It feels like a constant fight with the algorithm and much less of a welcoming space than it once used to.
With that said, my focus over the years has shifted a lot more towards this blog. It feels like a safer space, one that I own, and something I have more control over.
While I love sharing recipes, I’ve been missing the personal connection with my followers that I once had. My hopes with this series is to give this blog a more personal touch!
I don’t know about you, but I love getting to know more about the creators I follow, finding out what I might have in common with them, and discovering new things through their recommendations.
So with that, grab yourself a cozy cup of tea and let’s hang out while I recap what happened in 2023 🙂
2023 favourites: books, shows + more
📚 Books. The first half of year started off in a bit of a reading slump, but picked up considerably during my 10 weeks in Europe (more on that next!) Here are my top 3 books I read this year:
- Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. Ugh this book! I didn’t put it down during the entire 10 hour flight home from Europe – almost finishing it in one go. This is a story about two friends who design video games together. Trust me, you don’t need to know anything about video games to enjoy this book – it covers the human experiences of love, friendship, loss, success, failure, and so much more. The characters are complex and it’s a beautifully-written coming of age story.
- Yellowface by R.F. Kuang. This book is a WILD ride – it reads at an incredibly fast pace and I absolutely devoured it. It tells the story of an author who steals the unpublished manuscript of a bestselling novel from her dead friend. Kuang discusses race, fame, cultural appropriation, and the terrifying place that is social media.
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. This touching story is about Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant chemist who becomes the star of a beloved cooking show in the 1960s. Zott is an unforgettable, quirky character, and this book highlights themes of feminism, inequality, and staying true to oneself.
📺 Shows & Movies. My favourite TV shows this year were The Last of Us and Beef. I also enjoyed season 2 of The Bear, although the show does make me incredibly anxious (flashbacks to my first job in a restaurant, maybe?! haha). My favourite movie of the year was Past Lives – what a beautiful, heartbreaking film.
🤸🏻♀️Workouts. I’m going 3 years strong with Bootybymich’s online workout platform. I’ve tried so many others, and nothing compares for me! This year I’ve also been enjoying my walking pad, it’s essentially a treadmill that fits under a standing desk. I love it on days that I’m writing or doing computer work – it really helps me focus and I can get thousands of steps in while working.
👀 Content creator. My favourite content creator this year has got to be Jules Acree. I LOVE her form of mindful productivity, organization tips, and her emphasis on slower, more intentional living. 2023 was the first year I shifted entirely to digital planning and organization on Notion thanks to Jules (this inspiring video does a deep dive). I never thought I would get rid of paper planning, but I can confidently say that I now adore having it all in one hub that I can access anywhere. Highly recommend checking out her channel to feel inspired going into the new year! Jules also inspired my walking pad purchase lol (see above).
What were your favourite books, TV shows, or movies from 2023? Content creators you enjoy? I’d love it if you shared them in the comments! This year’s goal is to read at least 24 books 🤞🏻
2023 travel highlights
One of my main goals in 2023 was to take a BIG, long trip. It was the first time that both my husband and I had flexible jobs that allowed us to work remotely for an indefinite amount of time. I worked really hard to get all my content ready for almost 10 weeks away – hopefully you didn’t even notice that I was gone this summer 😉
🍝 May-July: Europe.
As mentioned, I spent much of the summer in Europe, half of the time visiting my dad in Zurich, Switzerland (where he lives) and the other half enjoying our extended honeymoon throughout Italy and Spain (we got married in September 2022!)
On this trip, we visited Tuscany, Barcelona, Sardinia, and Puglia, with quick stopovers in Milan, Florence, and Rome. Below are some (mostly food-related) highlights.
In Sardinia, the highlights were the incredible hotels we stayed at!! This was the true “relaxing honeymoon” portion of our trip and we basically just lounged at the 2 hotels: Albero Capovolto and Gallicantu Stazzo Retreat. Both spots were boutique hotels with about 7 rooms and the most warm, welcoming hosts we could have asked for.
Every meal was prepared in house – no menu, you just ate what they cooked. Everything was locally grown or sourced on the island, too. It was such a dream! I also highly recommend doing a private boat day in the Maddalena islands to enjoy the beautiful beaches and clear waters – we had one of the hotels organize this for us.
In Tuscany, we stayed in a villa with friends and enjoyed many home-cooked meals with all the fresh produce at the local markets. A couple restaurants we loved were La Fontanella, Ferdinando I Restaurant at the Fonteverde hotel, and wine tasting at the gorgeous Castiglion del Bosco.
We did a lot of sight seeing in Puglia, visiting different towns like Polignano a Mare, Alberobello, Ostuni, and Lecce. The south of Italy has such a different feel to the North, and it was lovely to explore somewhere entirely new. While we were up to our ears in pasta and pizza by this point LOL, our food highlight here was Artefarina lievitati – the pizza was DIVINE and so well-priced. We ate here twice!
🏕July & September: Mayne & Hornby Island.
After getting back from Europe we headed straight into wedding season! A few of the weddings took place on some local islands around Vancouver (where I live) and it was such a treat to spend some time in beautiful BC.
Our first stop was on Mayne Island and the next was on Hornby Island – both of which I’d never been to! We are so lucky to have places like this in our backyard – it was a reminder that I really need to explore these local spots more.
🗽 November: New York.
I try to go back to New York every year since I left the city in 2018. I’m lucky enough to have one of my best friends living there, so I had the pleasure of staying with her for 5 days. A couple of my other best friends met us there from Sydney and Toronto, making it a lovely reunion and girls trip 🙂
Some restaurant highlights from this visit include:
- Raf’s – a French and Italian inspired bakery, cafe, and dinner spot
- Roscioli – a new Italian spot from Rome, now open in NYC!
- The Nine’s – loved this spot for a girl’s night out. It’s a vibey piano bar and the famous burger was the juiciest burger I’ve maybe ever had.
- Parcelle – such a cute wine bar in the LES! Their natural wine was fantastic.
- Davelle – I discovered this Japanese cafe last year and had to go back for the best matcha latte of all time (I literally dream about it haha). Also tried the uni spaghetti and their lemon toast – both so good!
- Raku – we checked out their other location in the West Village after going to their East Village spot last year. Their udon is SO tasty and perfect for a cold day.
- La Mercerie – not my first time here, but I love this spot for brunch before shopping in SoHo. The butternut squash quiche and warm cookie were to die for!
BTW, if you’re looking for more NYC recommendations, I have a long list of restaurants from my 4 years living there (and many trips). It may be a bit dated by now, but there are some classic spots on there!
2023 business highlights
This year I published 81 recipe posts and reached over 4.2 million page views on the blog alone. It’s just me who creates absolutely everything you see on here, so I’m feeling proud of these numbers (especially since I travelled A LOT this year 😅).
I was able to surpass the revenue goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year, with the strongest Q4 I’ve ever had. This year was a conscious shift away from social media/brand partnerships towards growing blog traffic and, as a result, focusing on display advertisements as my main income stream.
I also dabbled a little bit in digital products, publishing 2 recipe ebooks: No More Boring Salads and Healthy Seafood Dinners! This was a bit of an experiment and I’m curious if you’d like more of these? It’s another way for me to share my recipe content in a curated, downloadable way, free of ads.
I feel beyond grateful every single day that I can do what I love, make an impact on people’s lives and health, and that this career allows me to have so much flexibility. By making my recipes, sharing the blog with your loved ones, YOU make this all possible. From the bottom of my heart, thank you SO much ❤️
Most popular recipes of the year!
Here are the top 10 traffic posts (published in 2023):
- Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Yogurt Clusters
- Sautéed Celery (Asian-Inspired)
- Stuffed Salmon With Spinach & Feta
- Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce
- Overnight Oats With Frozen Fruit
- Roasted Peppers & Zucchini
- Roasted Green Beans With Parmesan
- Roasted Bok Choy
- Almond Crusted Salmon
- Tomato Bruschetta Pasta Salad
Here are the top 10 OVERALL traffic posts of the year: these were published in previous years, but it can take a little while for posts to rank on Google!
- Honey Garlic Tofu
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Carrots
- Goat Cheese Stuffed Mini Peppers
- Whipped Feta With Roasted Strawberries
- Peanut Butter Greek Yogurt Bowl
- Tofu Tomato Pasta With Veggies
- Homemade Greek Frozen Yogurt
- Mediterranean Canned Mackerel Pasta
- Summer Salad With Corn
- Grilled Zucchini With Goat Cheese
5 of my personal favourites from 2023:
- Baked Chili Salmon – Soo easy + SO delish! Perfect for weeknight dinners.
- Apple Cranberry Salad – Everything you want in a fall salad! This was a reader-favourite during the holiday season.
- Lemon Ginger Energy Balls – Replicated one of my favourite treats with this one 😍
- Watercress Salad – Something about this salad just really hit the spot for me… probably the apple + pecorino combo – I need to start using pecorino in more recipes!!
- Harissa Pasta Sauce – I LOVE all things harissa, and this creamy pasta sauce was delightful
I’d love to know what your favourite recipes were in the comments! And a BIG thank you to anyone who has left a kind review this year – they always make my day to read. Recipe reviews are one of the best ways to support food bloggers! They let me know what people are making, what to make more of, and encourage others to try the recipes too ❤️
Well friends, that’s a wrap on this first edition of WW IRL! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was such a nice little change from writing recipe blogs, and I’m already excited to do a Q1 recap in a few months.
Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see or any questions you’d like me to answer. I’m wishing you a wonderful start to 2024!