2013: A year in review

31 December 2013

Friends! John and I are back from an extended week of Christmas celebration — a few days in Minneapolis with my family (and the new niece!), a few days at home, and a few days in Connecticut with John’s family, the highlight of which was celebrating 41 years of marriage for my in-laws. Even though the new year officially starts on Wednesday, I’m looking forward to a few quiet days before things really pick up on January 6th — time to reflect, organize, clean, prepare, plan, and dream. My first order of business is to take a look back at 2013, because it was a truly marvelous year.


We kicked off the year with some unseasonably warm weather which allowed us to get out and explore (and eat some delicious food along the way!). I also made my first loaf of homemade bread, and published the first four posts in my Marvelous Money series, something I’d wanted to do for a long time. To be continued in 2014! I also posted our first house search update.


In February on the blog, all of my posts except one were devoted to telling the story of our wedding (you can find them all here). Thank you again for giving me the space to do that! We celebrated Valentine’s Day with dinner at home and a first viewing of our full-length wedding film. In between, we enjoyed lots of golf course strolls (sometimes even in the snow!) and scheduled inspections on our contracted house (number two, for those counting).


March brought house guests from the North and the first magnolia blooms! We celebrated Easter with chocolate peanut butter cheesecake and dyed eggs; I gave you a second house search update.


We did a few other things in April (started our garden in pots, went for a few hikes), but by far the most notable was our honeymoon to Nevis. We spent a week on that blissful Caribbean island, first at Montpelier


…and then at Nisbet Plantation. A perfect getaway! Also worthy of mention: I wrote one of my favorite posts of 2013, Pet Nicknames :)


Oh my May. I traveled for work three times and we finally closed on our house (final update here).


In between packing boxes and painting walls we squeezed in strawberry picking, a drive to Saxapahaw, and a camping trip with friends. I then wrote a post about our tips for these sorts of everyday adventures.


In June, we finally said goodbye to our first apartment and hello to the farmstand directly across from our new neighborhood. I also took a magical trip to the Biltmore for a work conference and we saw Zac Brown Band in concert.


We also spent a weekend in my favorite place on Earth (the island in Maine where we have a cottage) for my grandmother’s memorial service.


In July we celebrated John’s birthday as well as that most famous of Southern holidays, Cow Appreciation Day. We also went blueberry picking twice!


The highlight of our month was a week-long trip to Michigan over the Fourth of July. I shared many more photos from our wonderful week of hiking, biking, kayaking, s’more-ing, and water skiing here!


In August we got to partake in many of our favorite outdoor activities, including a Durham Bulls game and lots of hikes. We also hosted a particularly adventurous dinner party, which was a highlight of our year!


We also took a ten-day trip to New England, stopping in Boston to stay with dear friends from college and attend the wedding of another college friend and then on to Maine for a stay at our island. So fun that we got to host Meredith and Michael at our special place! I shared a few more photos here.


Just a few weeks later we were back North for another friend’s wedding. It fell on the same weekend as our first anniversary, which we celebrated a few days later with a quick trip to the beach. We also welcomed my sister-in-law and future brother-in-law down South for a weekend in Asheville over Labor Day!


Gosh, we don’t slow down, do we? Our second giant balloon of the year marked the spot outside my sister’s baby shower in Minnesota (yay!). We also made ham biscuits at our church’s Fair booth and explored a corn maze with visiting friends from Massachusetts!


Our garden continued to impress us even as we left it behind for a weekend trip to the Crystal Coast with John’s parents and aunts. We finished the month by carving pumpkins with friends and welcoming 109 trick-or-treaters to our door (wow!!).


My parents came to visit for the launch party and to baby me after I got my wisdom teeth removed. We celebrated a year of monthly tennis dates with dear (and very pregnant) friends. Beautiful fall hikes were taken and an amazing experience was had at Hillsong with other dear friends. To cap it off, we brought home our very own and long-awaited Bucky just in time for the Christmas season!


December was especially sweet, between meeting Tegan and Perry and all the Christmas traditions we’ve come to love down here and up North.

2013 was a great year.

I loved working through Lara’s goal setting steps last year, and am doing the same this year! Part 1 involves taking an honest look back, so in that spirit, here are five things that did NOT work for me this year:

1. Between my busiest year at work and by far my busiest year in my shop, too often I felt like I transitioned directly from my commute to my craft table to my bed, with a brief stop at the dinner table in between. I am exceedingly grateful for the extra income (in fact, it helped us tick off some major financial goals), but I don’t want it to come at the expense of what matters most.
2. Out of all my daily habits for 2013, exercising was one of the ones with which I had the hardest time. I sit far too much and it’s just not healthy.
3. I did a better job with reading and absorbing the Bible this year but have been feeling listless in my prayer life.
4. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress at responding to personal emails promptly. I love and value my long distance friends but did not show them this through my response time.
5. Perhaps because I had less free time this year than in the past, too often I caught myself saying “hurry up!” or rushing on to the next activity or moment for no particular reason.

And now, ten things that worked for us, or that we made happen, in 2013:

1. We bought a house! We persevered through a challenging process and worked together with patience. In the months since, we’ve supported each other in new responsibilities and expectations.
2. We ticked off some other major financial goals this year. We paid off all of my student loans, six years ahead of schedule, and are on track to pay off both of our car loans in the first half of 2014, leaving us with just our house payment.
3. On that note, I am really proud that I finally started my Marvelous Money series. Financial literacy is one of our biggest passions and it has been a delight to share with others.
4. I have a long way to go, but I became bolder in sharing my faith this year. We were able to realize a big goal we set for ourselves on our journey to greater sacrificial giving.
5. We continued making strides in healthy eating. Small changes like adding a spinach salad to every meal and switching whole wheat flour and brown rice for white made us feel good about what we’re putting in our bodies.
6. 2013 was marked by adventures big and small. We are pretty good at creating our own fun and loved sharing that joy with others.
7. I was so happy to continue in a job I love. It is an enormous blessing to know the work you’re doing every day matters.
8. My shop! I was able to be a part of so many sparkly celebrations this year, it kind of blew my mind.
9. For living so far apart, we saw a LOT of our families this year. We are exceedingly grateful that they come to visit us, and grateful that we have the resources to visit them.
10. Our marriage continues to be our greatest treasure. We know how lucky we are to have each other, and we don’t take each other for granted.

Friends, it has truly been a delight to be a small part of y’all’s lives this year, and to have you as a part of mine. I’ll be back tomorrow with more on my plans for 2014!

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December 31, 2013 4:54 pm

Happy New Year’s Eve Emily!! I rejoice in seeing how many blessings you had this year but also the wonderful things you made happen! Always such an inspiration to me, and your financial literacy “marvelous money” sharing tips help me nerd out on my passion. The combination in your blog of practical and pretty is always so refreshing!

Cheers to 2014!

Laura Bitler
January 1, 2014 10:25 am

I continue to be amazed at your thoughtful a deliberate reflections and goals. You inspire me to do the same! What a fun year you had and a wonderful summary to be able to look back at in the future. Happy New Year!

January 1, 2014 2:38 pm

This is such a wonderful & fun post, and I love looking back to see all of the good (because it often far outweighs the negative) from the past year. Thanks for sharing your year, including what did and didn’t work. I, too, often have little free time and find myself racing from one activity/event to the next without slowing down, and I’d definitely like to practice more patience. Cheers to an excellent year!

January 1, 2014 10:46 pm

What a great year. You were definitely on the go! I hope 2014 is full of many blessings for you. I just love your house. It’s soooo charming and cute!

January 2, 2014 10:39 am

This post brought me so much happiness, Em! I’m so thankful we had a chance to experience a bit of your marvelous year right by your side, and being able to keep up with your blog regularly makes me feel that much closer to you guys in NC. I wish you both the very best in 2014!

January 2, 2014 2:54 pm

Love this post, Em! It’s always so inspiring and helpful to hear what others succeed/were challenged by each year. I hope you know that your Marvelous Money posts truly helped change the way I interact with money and were one of my favorite series this year (of all the blogs I read! Which is a lot…..). Cannot wait to keep reading more here in 2014, thanks for sharing!

January 2, 2014 4:34 pm

Wow, you guys have had a really splendid year with lots of big (and small) joys! We’re so glad we got to share in some of your fondest memories from 2013. We sure did enjoy our times with you and John this past year and look toward 2014 for more fun moments. Thanks for sharing your highlights!

January 2, 2014 4:45 pm

Happy New year, friend!! Love this recap :) So well put. Love your goals, too! I did mine today. Woo! You were right. Last year mine were way too intense!! I think between you, John, Steven and I we probably covered the majority of the country in all of our travels this year. ha!

[…] Lara also posts about this in her amazing Goal Setting: Part 1 blogpost.  Inspired by my friend Emily and her 2013 recap post, I wanted to share with you some lessons learned in my personal and business life in […]