2017: A year in review

30 December 2017

What a year, friends. I’ve shared along the way, but it has been an interesting one – probably the hardest of our life together. We weathered major change; we had an unprecedented string of large, unexpected expenses; we got yeses when we wanted nos and nos when we wanted yeses; and most bitterly, we lost our beloved cat Jack.

But as I sit here, I can only end the year feeling richly blessed — a daughter of the King who has been given good things in abundance. To start, my husband is healthy, my daughter is healthy, and our families are healthy. I could stop right there, and that would be enough. It really would be.

But there is so much more, and it is one of the delights of my life to share it with you all. So here we go – some of our favorite moments of 2017, in our lives and on the blog.

In January we celebrated June’s birthday with a kitty-themed party for family and friends! Her birthday prompted a post that meant a lot to me, reflections on our first year together. John and I also celebrated our twelfth dativersary. I plowed through books this year and began including what I was reading in my monthly goals posts. On the blog, I shared June’s buffalo check nursery and the first Marvelous Money post of the year, on making trade-offs.

In February I stepped outside my comfort zone and invited ten neighborhood ladies over for a Favorite Things party. It was a success, and kicked off a year of settling into our community and gaining friendships, for which I am so grateful! I shared one of my favorite posts ever this month, as well as 31 ideas for winter meals (I’ll be referring back to this list in the chilly weeks to come!). I turned 30 and shared 10 hopes for the next decade.

We broke ground on our long-awaited backyard renovation in March! We picked berries and enjoyed being outside, including on a beloved hand-me-down set of wheels. I shared about taking ballet again and paying off our mortgage early.

In April I spent my first night away from June, on a work trip to Alabama and Mississippi where I got to hug two familiar faces! We celebrated the resurrection of our Savior as a family and June was a natural at her first egg hunt. I am SO pleased that I finally got it together and posted my first of several Triangle guides: Durham!

Our backyard project wrapped up in May and we have been enjoying it ever since! I know I owe you an official reveal – hopefully coming this spring! :) At the end of the month, June got to travel with me to Charleston for another work trip, and in June, we logged our fifth camping trip with the Rays!

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wrapped up the first installment of my Marvelous Mama series with the best addition yet — my own Mom. We also filmed June in June: Volume 2 (even cuter than Volume 1, somehow!), and I shared our five must-have baby registry items, a simple trick for developing habits, and wisdom from my Dad.

June participated in her first parade – our town’s Fourth of July celebration – the next month, and we of course also celebrated one of our favorite summer holidays, Cow Appreciation Day! I shared seven tips for new college graduates, a post I loved writing.

The highlight of July was without a doubt our trip to Michigan. We visited John’s family cottage near Traverse City along with 25+ other Thomas family members, and it was the most fun. We were on the water all day, and the cousins (young and old) had a blast!

Just three short weeks later, we made another epic road trip, this time to my family’s cottage in Maine! To be honest this trip had its challenges (ahem, someone I won’t name inexplicably waking up for 2-3 hours every night…), but we were so grateful to be with family in such a treasured place! I wrote about a simple but impactful house contentment hack and John’s 30th birthday book.

September was a full month! We rendezvoused with my family again in Asheville over Labor Day weekend, then celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary with a day at the zoo and a dinner out, just the two of us. I made apple cider scones to celebrate the first day of fall, and we flew to Providence to celebrate one of my best friend’s weddings! I wrote another favorite post from the year: five intentions for our next five years of marriage.

Our ray of sunshine completed a successful first round of trick-or-treating in October (and I congratulated myself on my first semi-homemade costume!). In November, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Southern Weddings, the anniversary of June’s baptism, and John’s Christmas present (early!) by getting away to Charlotte for the night to see Jim Gaffigan! Our first night with both of us away from her, thanks to my parents :) I shared 26 ways to save money, 10 great dinners for new parents, and all of the articles we read in Articles Club this past year.

We returned just yesterday from our Thomas Christmas celebration in California, and now have a few quiet days at home before going back to work in the new year. We’re heading out for our end-of-year celebration dinner soon, and I’m looking forward to finishing up my PowerSheets prep and setting my goals for the year over the next few days. I’ll be sharing more on Monday, so keep an eye out :)

I am so grateful for this year we’ve had, friends, and I am truly so grateful for all of you. I often stop to think how crazy it is that such smart, kind, thoughtful people come hang out here and have stuck around for so long. It is one of the biggest blessings of my life to share with you, and I am SO excited to continue doing so in 2018. I think it’s going to be a good one :) In fact, I know it is, because in the second week of January I’m kicking off a nine-week series with Nancy. It is centered around the most-requested topic from my 2017 blog survey, and I think you will love it!! Can’t wait to share :)

2016 year in review
2015 year in review
2014 year in review
2013 year in review
2012 year in review

Christmas Cards 2017

25 December 2017

Merriest Christmas, friends! Since I can’t hug all of you in person, I’m sharing our Christmas card here today…

Minted Christmas card

He brings joy in all circumstances, and it is our joy to celebrate that in this card!

photo Christmas card

There were just too many cute snaps of our little JBug this year, so we squeezed a few more on the back :)

2017 Christmas card

One change this year? In the craziness of the last two months, I decided to let go of printing and sending our annual newsletter. It was a tough decision, because I already had it designed, but in the end I’m glad we chose simplicity. There’s always next year! And as a consolation prize, y’all can enjoy it here! :)

I’m writing this post a few days early, and by the time you read it, I’ll be celebrating the holidays with our beloved family! I am sending you all lots of love and wishes for a cozy Christmas filled with delicious food, comfy pajamas, and laughing until your cheeks hurt with the ones you love. I will see you back here on Friday for my year in review – one of my favorite posts of the year!

Gifts for Em

12 December 2017

Hi friends! Argh, I was hoping to have written a couple posts between my goals post and this one — so much good stuff to talk about in December! But, life calls, and here we are :) My family arrives for an early Christmas celebration today (YAY!!), so I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for another post until next week — but hopefully we’ll be able to catch up then, because I still want to talk about generosity, how I’ve done on my 2017 focal areas, our Christmas cards, and our home’s Christmas decor. Plus, of course, there will be my annual year-in-review post post-Christmas!

But today, I thought I’d share a few things on my personal Christmas wish list. I was so honored when my friend Victoria gave me a sweet gift guide shout-out last week. If you’re still shopping, hopefully you’ll find something fitting here or on a previous guide!

For Sisters, Moms, and Best Friends
Kind-Hearted Picks
Parents, Grandparents, and In-Laws
Your Favorite Kids

gifts for em

A Patagonia | The time has come for a new fluffy fleece. I think I like this one, but I haven’t tried it on in person yet! Anyone have personal experience with this model?
Colorful magnets | You can never have too many! Love these colors. Perfect stocking stuffer :)
A Christmas pyramid | This is totally a sentimental pick! My family had one of these growing up and they bring me right back to sitting around our kitchen table at Christmas. Full disclosure: my parents have already gifted this to me and June is OBSESSED :)
Salad serving bowl | A big salad bowl is one thing we missed out on from our wedding registry. I’d love one for bigger friend gatherings or family dinner parties!
Liberty spreaders | These could not be sweeter! I wish they had better reviews, though!
Holiday plate | Future cookies for Santa plate? :) Every family needs a few Christmas plates, yes?
Bamboo dish rack | I feel like this would be kind of a strange gift, but I really love this to clean up our counter a bit, so it’s going on the list!
More plates | If I collect anything, it’s probably china, and I’d love to add these beauties to the crew.
Blush napkins | We use cloth napkins every night, and I’d love to add these into the rotation!
Gift stickers | My preferred present palette – hard to find!
Scalloped baskets | I think these would be just as fitting in an adult space as a kiddo one! I’m not sure yet where I’d use them, but I know I would find the perfect spot :)

What’s on the top of your list this year? I always get inspiration from what others are wishing for!

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December 2017 goals

1 December 2017

Well, I knocked my hardest goal from November — abstaining from dessert — out of the park. YEAH! Other than that, though, my progress was pretty dismal… two weeks of sickness plus two different family visits plus Thanksgiving will do that to a girl!

Instead of rolling over the goals I didn’t finish to the next month as I usually do, I’m tabling most of them until January. I want my schedule to be as free as possible to focus on my most important goal for December: loving people well in the name of the tiny baby who came to love all of us two thousand years ago, the one who taught us to love others. Amen!

P.S. On the subject of goals, I love using the PowerSheets to track my professional goals (and sometimes personal ones, too). You’ll be hearing a lot about them on my Instagram next week as I begin to go through the prep work, and I’m planning to post here with some progress, as well!

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars

My brother-in-law’s book!!!

What I read in November:
Prayer (By the one and only Tim Keller. Loving it so far!)
— Books I’m reading throughout the year: The Power of a Praying Wife and The Lifegiving Home

Revisiting my goals for November:
Organize our pantry (No… moving to January!)
Cozy up our guest bedrooms and upstairs bathroom in prep for Christmas visitors
Sort through all the “to be framed/hung” pieces in the loft and DO SOMETHING WITH THEM (Half check – sorted!)
Find general practitioners for John and myself and make appointments (Half check – found them, haven’t made appointments)
Post gift guides before Black Friday
File all paperwork in blue room (This actually will get done in December in prep for our guests!)
Abstain from dessert
Start a life list book (Bought the book on Black Friday and waiting for it to arrive!)

December goals:
— Finalize Christmas decor and execute (I haven’t done ANYTHING yet! Yikes!)
— Plan my family’s early Christmas visit (including a surprise mini birthday party for my niece!)
— Set our 2018 budget
— Go out to dinner with John for our 2017 review and celebration
— File all paperwork in blue room
— Finalize and print our Christmas newsletter and send out our Christmas cards with love (and personal notes!)
— Decide on a plan for June’s second birthday
— Love on our trash and recycling guys, our vet, and June’s teachers
Give away as much as we spend on Christmas gifts in our church’s Christmas Eve offering

I’d love to hear, friends: What are your goals for this month? What are you most looking forward to?

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