Better Left Empty

A friend of mine wrote a lovely post about emptiness, right at the onset of social distancing across much of the US and beyond. His post was broad-ranging and focused on other things, like the ongoing refugee crisis and what this pandemic can mean for those in camps. But one little bit really stood out to me.

In describing how many people are taking this opportunity to unplug themselves a bit from life in some ways, only to fill up watching Netflix or whatever. Which, he says, isn’t exactly a bad thing in and of itself, “unless it fills space better left empty.”

The past several months, I’ve had more than my share of empty time on my hands, what with working very part-time and not doing much else at all. So really, things haven’t changed much for me this past week because my behavior is already well-adapted to the times (yes, all those memes about introverts and social distancing are me). And I’ve often wished, at times quite ardently, that I had a little bit more to fill up on. More things to do, or more accurately, probably, more motivation to do even little things.

So now I’m sitting here thinking about what space is space better left empty. What are the spaces in my life where I could benefit from, not additional activity, but additional reflection. Spaces that I could ponder without filling. Spaces whose size and shape could teach me something. I’m not really sure where those places may be, and I’m pretty confident that I won’t know what do to with them if I find them. But I think the search is worthwhile even so. Just to know myself a little better–not just the things in my life but the bits that don’t get seen much, by me or by anyone.


And apparently, that’s all the space for introspection I have right now. Something is better than nothing, though. It’s worth coming back to, and I’m sure most of us have plenty of time right about now.

I have been baking some, which is always a good thing for me. Made some lovely brownies with a tangy cream cheese swirly bit on top, great combo. And some chocolate chip cookies because chocolate chip cookies are always a good option. Been hiking a bit as well, getting some Washington nature in as the season begins to change (hard to believe that we’re already almost to the solstice–it’s technically tonight!).

Wild to think that it’s essentially spring already. With everything going on, I’m not sure how much notice it will get. I did mostly forget that it was St Patrick’s Day just because it wasn’t really on my mind and I didn’t get out of the house. I have had some lovely walks, though, which have bee beneficial because I like walking and the weather is starting to turn and I went down to Glen Cove which is my favorite specific body of water, if I haven’t mentioned that lately.


Anyway. Taking a sec to go back to emptiness. I hope that you are given the peace and the space (metaphorical but also, six literal feet) to consider the places that the current crisis has emptied for you–or empty places that it has revealed to you.

I hope that you are able to consider those emptinesses in light of the things that have proven to be necessities. Toilet paper, apparently, but also connection, love, art, purpose.

I hope that lessons seen here and now are lessons that we remember. Watching the sick be treated without regard for payment. Watching the elderly be given attention that often they miss. Watching the air and water take a collective sigh of relief over our lessened emissions. Watching friend and neighbor working hard because they cannot afford not to. And a whole lot more.

And if you have no big social take-aways but you have learned something valuable about yourself or a loved one, then remember that, too. If you haven’t really been directly effected but you’ve taken note of those who are in need, from your own neighborhood to refugee camps around the world, remember that, too.

I think this would be a deeply terribly waste if we came away from this–and we will come away, sooner or later–having learned nothing and forgotten everything.

Let Loving Hearts Enthrone Him

Last Saturday, I went to the Candlelight Concert of the Tacoma Youth Chorus–the group that I had been in for nine years when I graduated high school. It was great to see some people whom I hadn’t seen in a few years, catch up a little, listen to music. Alumni were invited to sing a couple songs on stage, which was a lot of fun. I so miss being a part of a music group, performing like that with other people is unlike any other experience. Definitely on my list of things to do as soon as feasible in my life.

If you’ve never participated in organized singing–not just like, the national anthem or something–it really is a special experience. Similar to sports teams, I guess, or anything like that where you’re cooperating with a group. But it has a feeling all its own. Creating beauty like that, it’s just exactly what I needed. Still need.


One of the very surfacy things that I love about the Christmas season is all the baking. Since baking is very much my scene, an excuse to do it in excess and have everyone just be like “yeah that’s a totally normal amount of baking” is wonderful. There are a lot more things to bake on my list but so far, I’ve done shortbread cookies (including a delicious orange cranberry iteration), peppermint cheesecake (including my first time making ganache), and fig bread pudding (which is as close to figgy pudding as I’ve ever come). All delicious, thanks for asking. And beautiful, so here are some pictures.

If you are in my physical proximity and would like to bake together some time, let’s do it. It truly is such a joy for me and is so much better when doing it with other people. The above were baked with my mom, step mom, and brother, respectively. Let’s make something tasty together.


It’s wild to be posting this Christmas entry what feels like so early, since it’s on a Wednesday this year. There’s a whole week to go. And likewise next week, my New Year’s post will come on Boxing Day. But it would be remiss of me to neglect the kitties and so I will share a few more pictures because cats.

There are few things better than cuddly sleeping cats, I think.


Little theological moment. I don’t think that the “king” imagery and language of the Bible is wrong about God but I don’t think that the idea is a) the whole story and b) helpful in all circumstances. In fact, the Bible demonstrates to me that God was pretty against the idea of kings, being very reluctant to let Israel an earthly one at all. And here’s what I think that indicates: yeah, God is king in a kind of literal way, being creator and ruler of the universe; no, God is not a king in a scepter and crown way. So sometimes the fixation on royal imagery in Christianity bugs me because if God is a king the way people are kings, then there’s a problem. If God is king in a totally different way, why not just use a different word.

Since coming out, I have had occasion to move in some very progressive Christian circles and a term I hear relatively often is ‘kin-dom’ to replace kingdom in some contexts. This is well-supported in another image that’s jam-packed into the Bible all over the place: family. An imperfect metaphor (as all metaphors must be) but a good one. This is why I’ve chosen this line to title my Christmas post this year. Because if we’re going to talk about God as king–which isn’t a bad thing–we would do well to make it quite clear what kind of king we’re talking about.

There will be no throne, no crown, no palace, no castle, no trumpets. God sits enthrones within our hearts. And that is what makes Christmas a whole thing worth celebrating. That the Lord of the Universe does not require taxes, does not issue or revoke citizenship, does not demand fealty or service or even law-abiding behavior.

God simply draws near. Comes into this world even as into our hearts. And it is with our hearts–not our actions, our achievements or misdeeds–that we enthrone him.

The Road Before Us

You know I’m always here for singing a chorus or two but today, the road that lies ahead involves something a little different.

I’ve written before about how The Road Not Taken is NOT called The Road Less Traveled. Because they were really worn about the same. But even so, it is about which road you choose to take. Sometimes, however, there are roads that simply aren’t open to you. There is no choice, less traveled or otherwise.

And so all that is left to do is to take the road before you. There is no fork, there is no turn, there is only the road that is already under your feet. Thank God that we have a chorus or two this Christmas season, at least, to help us along the way.


A phrase that I heard this week: “You cannot burn yourself to keep others warm.” I don’t know to what extent that may or may not be currently applicable to me– as either the burner or the recipient of warmth–but it was very arresting when I heard it. Finding that balance between extending yourself toward others and keeping yourself whole.

Interpersonal relations are hard. Also, being a personal is hard.

Even so, I’m glad that I do have people around me. I’m not always cognizant of what a blessing that really is. People who care about me. And cats, of course (pictures forthcoming, sorry).


You may know that I am an avid re-consumer of entertainment media. I do not know why it took me so long to rewatch Wonder Woman, having first seen it in theaters when it came out. And boy am I glad that I rewatched this week. What a excellent film and what a poignant tale in this regard: evil will never be defeated because it lives within each of us but every day and every moment, we have the opportunity to choose good.

And, of course, I truly do believe that only love can save the world.


A disjointed post for a kind of bleh week. Big disappointment followed by a flurry of effort followed by zero effort. On the plus side, considering some of the things I want to bake in the next few weeks so I’m very excited about that. Hopefully, there will be a large number of delicious home-made treats in my life very soon.

In particular, I’m hoping that my cheesecake will turn out better than my last few attempts. They’ve been nice but not quite mixed and a little underbaked.


The British parliamentary election is today and I’m very interested to see the outcome. Probably won’t be anything I love but what can you do. Also, apparently this is the first British election in December since the 1920s (and I’m just realizing that now you have to say 1920s instead of 20s because we’re going to be in the 20s again very soon).

It’s been so interesting and unfortunate to watch this whole Brexit drama unfold the past few years. I’m still kind of hoping against hope that it won’t happen but not hoping too much at this point. I will obviously have to look at real-time results because elections are I guess like sports games for me except with actual stakes that impact people’s lives very directly. Anyway.


As an update on the previous previous, made cranberry orange shortbread yesterday, it was delicious. I also painted my nails, which I haven’t done in ages. Tried to do something festive and it didn’t quite work but at least they’re red and green!

There are worse ways to take a road before you than pretty nails and tasty treats. And as for the chorus or two, I’ve got that in hand as well. Will be going to a choir concert on Saturday for the choir I was in for many years–half my life, in fact, by the time I graduated high school. There will be audience carols and, as an alumnus, I will get to sing a couple songs up front as well. Very much looking forward to it.

Plus, though it’s just been rainy here, there’s been lots of snow in the mountains the past couple days, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you!

Ah! Beautiful

This week has been a week. Not even that it’s been tiring, mentally or physically, or even that a lot of things happened. But just. Interview on Monday, waiting on tenterhooks ever since, hoping to hear back. Worked a little. Daydreamed a lot about what my life might look like if I had a for-real income and maybe moved to the (widest possible extent of the) greater Seattle area. Tried without too much success to coalesce some thoughts around topics from the conference the other week. Read. Baked (just some simple soda bread, love a good no-yeast bread recipe).

Been trying to think about what to get people for Christmas. One gift is bought and one is chosen but not yet purchased. Everything else is still very much up in the air. Annoyingly, I’m the kind of person who prefers choosing the presents I receive (for the most part) in a desire to minimize waste and make everyone including myself happy. But when I’m shopping for others, I like to try and be creative and thoughtful. I recognize the dissonance (sorry, parents for whom that may be frustrating). But also, I’m not like oozing money at the moment.

I sometimes think I’d like to do something crafty and really unique. I did it a few times when I was younger (but not like, young-young). Don’t think it really went over super well because I’m not really skilled in any kind of crafty way. We’ll just have to see how things shape up this year.

Bleh, I’d rather not be thinking about how I still don’t know if I got that job yet. Here, have a picture of my rosemary soda bread (insufficient rosemary, for future reference).

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The thing about this job that I’ve applied for is that it’s like a six month temp position with no solid gateway into a full time position (though theoretically possible, not something to plan on). So even if I am hired at this place, guess what I’ll be doing yet again in just a few short months. Applying to jobs. Yech. Look, a distraction! My sister’s lovely kitties! They’ve been off the blog for too long.

 

In the midst of all of my nothing-really-going-on this week, I did have a few moments that stood out. A couple moments of friends reaching out. Just chatting. Feeling a little more connected than I have been lately. I like talking to my friends so much. If you are my friend, you can always talk to me. It will almost certainly brighten my day (as long as you’re not talking about how much you hate cats or some trash like that).


A while ago, I encountered a poem called The Republic of Poetry by Martín Espada. It’s a cute little imagining of a world concerned primarily with elevating the position of poets, and with propagating a love of poetry among the entire populace.

The final stanza indicates that the customs agent at the airport will not allow anyone to leave the country until they recite a poem for her that makes her exclaim, “Ah! Beautiful.”

What a gift it is to give one another something beautiful.

Store-Bought

It’s been a sec since I’ve updated you on my baking adventures. And, I’m happy to report, they mostly have been adventures rather than misadventures of late. I know I’m barely even amateur-level at this point but it’s fun and I almost always eat what I make, regardless of how it turns out. Plus, my love language is quality time so baking with people is doubly nice.

First, we have a first go-round with macrons–lemon with raspberry filling. Not spot on but pretty decent (made with the help of my step mom who later made a much better batch on her own). Next, I tried crackers for the first time and I would say it was an unqualified success though they weren’t particularly pretty. Then, for my niece’s birthday, a chocolate chip cookie cake, again made with my step mom who was in charge of the decoration, it was tasty but like super rich (and I’m not much one for frosting). And finally, a spiced pear-apple pie made with my mom, another unmitigated victory, it was wonderful. My first time making pie crust!

 

And then, in the time since I first drafted this, I baked some more with my step mom. Chocolate zucchini bread, orange cranberry zucchini bread, and cardamom zucchini muffins (the only one of the lot that didn’t turn out super delicious). We had a lot of zucchini, okay?

 

I bring this all up not just because I want to convince you that I’m not a failure at baking (not all the time, at least). It seemed relevant because I recently came across a cute little article about cooking and one of Ina Garten’s common phrases: store-bought is fine.

I don’t have a whole lot to add to what the author says. Two main ideas:

  1. Ina would never just use store bought, so she’ll always be a little bit better than us
  2. Cooking can be accessible, whatever your skill/motivation level

Sometimes, the first point is a little defeating but most of the time, actually, I feel kind of empowered by it. Knowing that there are professionals in the world. That some people are truly virtuosos at what they do. It makes me feel better, somehow, just knowing that skill and passion exist in the world.

And the second point is really what it’s all about. As one of my life mottoes says, something is better than nothing. If you don’t have the ingredients or equipment to make the recipe exactly as they do, that’s okay. If you don’t have the oomph to make it at all and instead just make a microwave quesadilla, that’s okay, too. And maybe that’s how growth happens–a little effort at a time, and not being too hard on yourself when a little effort is all you can summon up.

It seems to me that Yoda was all kinds of wrong when he tried to claim that there is no try. (Unrelatedly, it has always bothered me that he said that while others hold that only the Sith deal in absolutes). Trying is better than not trying. Store-bought is fine.

Anyway, that was the stray thought in my head this week. As the title of that series of posts says, “I think about this a lot.”

Such Sunrises as Have Not Yet Been Seen

Happy New Year! It’s 2019, for good or ill. I had a pretty low-key celebration but I’m all about that so it worked. I hope the year is off to a good start for you but even if you’re in a tough place, it’s only January– plenty of time for things to turn around. See what I did there? Best of both perspectives.

The past year, as I said a bit last week, has been a bit of a whirlwind. It didn’t usually feel like that–the pace often seeming to be more like molasses–but I was on three continents! Two of them for quite extended periods. Five countries. Two jobs. There was a lot going on. I don’t really feel the need to reflect on it all that much again but I couldn’t avoid having a bit of a new year look back.

And once again, not a particularly clear idea of where I’ll be this time next year but whatever. It’ll be fine.

Before I go any further, it is of course important to start this twelvemonth with some very cute cats. Taking advantage of their uncle and aunt cats’ tree gifted to them.

Now that you’ve gotten a bit of a kitty fix, I will also share my baking adventure. Didn’t do a whole lot this Christmas but I did, just on Monday, make my first Yule log. Simple conception, kinda tricky execution, wonderful finished product, if I may say so. The recipe told us not to worry about the cracks, they add character, and I concur. A definite snow-dusted log of happiness. Such a lovely, airy, seasonal kind of dessert. I’d strongly recommend giving it a try. So long as you’re game to get stiff peaks in your egg whites.

Yes, it was very delicious.

I’m flying back to Michigan tonight, ensuring an adequate buffer between my return and the return of students on Monday. Plenty of time to readjust to Eastern Time, reacclimatize to the cold, and mentally prepare for the next six months. Yech, let’s not think that far ahead yet. June, what’s that.

Anyway. I’ve said before that I’m not really into resolutions and, surprise, I remain uninterested. All I’ll say, I guess, is that I hope each day to love more people more.

And this title, what’s with that. I don’t know, it sounded kind of poetic at the time and you know I’m a sucker for the poetic. But it’s true: each day is a day that has never happened before. Every moment of a moment of fresh opportunities.

Even when life is pretty mundane and pretty monotonous–that precise moment has never happened before, if only by reason of the date of its occurrence. And shouldn’t that be something to savor? I’m no advocate for change in life because change is hard but newness, that’s something I can get behind. Not necessarily to do new things or go new places, though those are good as well. But to do the same things in the same places and still feel that they can be new.

It is good to cherish the new, I think, and good to recognize the new in the familiar. Value time itself; it will not come again.

The sunrise can be beautiful for its color and majesty, of course. And there’s something incredible unique about each one, from each place you may stand to view it, for each second it lasts. Not something that can truly be shared, even with the most talented photographer.

Time is a weirdo so we should probably live and love in the moment. Each one is precious and can take you anywhere. I’ve no idea what adventures may await me but I’m confident that they are indeed awaiting. I’ll keep an eye out and let them take me by surprise all the same.

My Cup with Blessings Overflows

Attitude of gratitude is a very annoying and trite hinkety-pinkety and even so, I have started this post with it. Because it matters, though saying it aloud makes me want to cringe into nothingness.

My last couple posts haven’t been particularly uplifting. And that’s okay, it’s not my job to be uplifting. But it is tiresome to be always serious and sad. This post will be neither serious nor sad. To prove it, I will share this with you:

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Such cuties.

Anyway. Winter is well under way here in chilly Michigan. We received around six inches of snow early Sunday morning which would have had me prancing with glee had I not had to drive to Traverse City–the first one off campus, little Pádraig doing his best to get us through and over and around. He performed admirably, no major mishaps  though the roads, even where I wasn’t the first driver on them, were having a tough time.

Putting the couple touchy moments aside, the snow has been lovely. No falls for me thus far, no spills, no outtakes of any kind. I’ve got my equipment and I’m ready to take it all on.

And I’ve got to tell you that, while Michigan nature isn’t my usual, it can still really do it for me.

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Cozy inside, snowy outside, contented all around. Or at least doing alright.

Tonight is The Feast, which I expect will be nice. Everyone at school wears their fancy dress, we have a meal together, and then there’s an cooperative arts performance. Should be good fun, hopefully.

And then, get this: I have a week off! I just had a week off in October! And I’ll have more in December and January! So much vacation! I don’t want to rub it in anyone’s face but after Korea, it feels so nice to have actual, for real time off!

I think I might take a day trip to Cheboygan because a) it’s very fun to say b) it’s on Lake Huron which I haven’t seen yet and c) variety is the spice of life. If you are a Michigan person, feel free to advise me on other places to visit. At some point, I’ll go up the the Upper Peninsula again so I can see Lake Superior. Not sure where else in Michigan I’ll end up seeing.

All this to say, as appropriate for this time of year: things are nice and I’m feeling very blessed just in my general existence. Not sure exactly what Thanksgiving plans will be but there have been rumors of a few other house parents sticking around and we might do something all together. I’d be all about that. Making friends and stuff, I guess.

Also. I’ve found a super-simple recipe for pumpkin pie (yes, even more simple than usual) and I’m excited to give it a go. Frozen pie crusts because let’s not get carried away (and also I don’t have a counter to roll out dough) but the filling will be all me. There’s maple syrup in it, so that’s fun. Yay baking!

Whether or not it’s Thanksgiving time for you, whether or not you’re feeling happy and blessed, I’m wishing you all sorts of good things because things just seem to be pretty alright for me.

In Which I Tell You about Sobekneferu

I believe in knowledge for its own sake. Learning does not have to be useful. Learning reveals to be how incredible this world is; sometimes incredibly awful but also incredibly beautiful. Also, just interesting and quirky.

In furtherance of that idea, I present you with this titular fact: Sobekneferu (whose name means ‘the beauty of Sobek [the crocodile god of the Egyptians]) is the earliest evidenced female pharaoh, ruling in Egypt’s Twelfth Dynasty from 1806-1802 BCE. Other women may have come before her, but she is the earliest definitely substantiated. The only statue of her with a head attached was kept in a museum in Berlin and was lost during WWII.

Sobekneferu is, as far as I have been able to discern, the first well-documented female ruler in history. I am certain that others came before her, matriarchal societies have long existed, and Egypt itself has some supposed queens before her. Even so, that is still quite a pedestal to occupy.

There’s our fun fact for the week.

I have very little else to report this week. The weather has returned to lovely, sunny days and so there has been plenty of reading outside. Very much been enjoying the summer weather, the leisure of the season. I have had occasion to try a couple new recipes, which were fun.

First, we made Earl Grey cake, flavored with the tea. Apparently bergamot is orange? Who knew. I don’t like the tea but had the cake somewhere (possibly New Zealand) and enjoyed it and since have tried Earl Grey ice cream and enjoyed that as well. There were three parts: the cake, with tea inside, then a syrup of tea between the layers, then a frosting between the layers and on the outside. The frosting was super difficult, involved a double boiler and meringue that never meringued, but it still tasted fine. The finished product was pretty tasty but probably won’t try it again.

 

The second was ice cream bread because why not. The recipe is: 1 cup melted ice cream, ¾ cup self-rising flour, bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. That’s it. We used butter pecan because they cautioned against using something with chocolate bits in it. I thought it tasted lovely and was great because it was super easy. Parentals weren’t impressed.

Both were accomplished with significant help from familials and I was quite pleased with both.

There’s really nothing else going on for me.

I’m just adding a little note here to reiterate how much I value knowledge. Never before have so many people had access to so much information. Two caveats: people don’t always deal with information well (ex. fake news ect.) and some areas of knowledge have been largely lost (ex. traditional history/culture, languages ect.).

Even so, I can’t handle it when people sometimes exclaim about people being on their phones and stuff all the time. Yes, there are problems with it. Of course there are problems. But imagine an average peasant on Hispaniola in 3 BCE and compare even to a dumb American today–without effort of recall, we can acknowledge entire continents that people in history didn’t even conceive of. This says nothing about how we deal with that information but still.

I don’t know really what I’m trying to say. Value knowledge, I guess. Count your blessings. The rising tide of enlightenment, if you will, truly does lift all ships.

When the Rest is Dust

Happy first day of autumn! The weather here has been sunny, which is nice, but also sort of disorienting. I’m ready to get back to sweater weather but the meteorological forces of the Puget Sound don’t seem quite inclined to give up summer yet. I don’t want to say I’m tired of the sun (because that’s definitely not the case) but I don’t think I’d complain if we got back to cold and rainy real soon. Anyway, whatever your weather is (I guess it’s spring for some of my readers), I hope you’re enjoying it.

Last Friday saw some actual doings to vary the otherwise generally placid habits I’ve developed since being home. A friend was kind enough to accompany me to a so-called Chocolate Garage Sale and we treated ourselves to some discount chocolate from a fun local company clearing stock for the holiday season. We then went to see another friend in a community theater production of Little Shop of Horrors which was a lovely conclusion to the day.

I also got together with some friends for baking-based fun in the form of muffins (banana-nut) and upsidedown quince tart. Somehow, baking things with me became a thing that some of my friends believe will result in good times. Which, I mean, the times are always good. The baked goods aren’t always… But it’s the fun that matters, right? I’m going with yes. And in the cases this week, the baked goods were both delicious and pretty simple, so we’re in the clear. I had never had quince before, but I wholly approve. They’re sort of halfway between apples and pears and they’re inedible raw. When cooked, they ‘blush’ and turn red, which is kind of fun. You should give them a try.

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Isn’t she precious, enjoying her little pool of sunshine?

In other news, there’s not much other news.

Some among you may recall a post from a few months ago regarding the state of no-news. That post mostly talked about the importance of keeping up with yourself in addition to keeping up with world news. Today, I have a slightly different angle on no-newsiness.

I have decided that I have, in fact, a great deal of news. It’s just baby news. It’s still incubating. It’s all tremendously exciting: I’m moving to a new town, I’m getting a great job, I’m making cool new friends, things are working out pretty well. Or, if not pretty well, they’re at least moving ahead. I know that I have all these thrills (and more) to look forward to, as well as the darker times and the difficulties these developments may well imply. They’re just coming attractions still chugging down the track toward me.

Here’s hoping they arrive sooner rather than later. But who can say? All that I know is that they’re on their way and, one way or another, they’re going to change everything. This is big news, people.

I think I’m finding this a more pleasant way to deal with the great void of nothingness in front of me. Instead of endlessly musing on all the unknowns and the unfortunate and continued silence from potential employers, I’m focusing on the someday. I don’t have all the details, our connection’s a bit staticy, but important somethings are on their way. For now, I think, that needs to be enough. The Do-Things-With-Your-Life wagon is a-comin’ down the street and I know it’s got something for me. Whenever it arrives, at least.

Anyway, there’s that. I’ll leave you with the penultimate playlist of the month. This week has rather a lot of variety, but I think all the selections are worth a listen and several of them I’ve been playing a little obsessively. I hope you at least give it a once-through.

  1. Plain Sight – Kita Alexandra
  2. I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James and the Shondells
  3. Out of Mind – Magic Man
  4. Love is Blind – Låpsley
  5. Run to You – Pentatonix
  6. Life Itself – Glass Animals
  7. Two Birds – Regina Spektor
  8. Paper Hearts – Tori Kelly
  9. Penny Lane – The Beatles
  10. Love and Us – Sam Tsui