Best of 2023

26 December 2023

I hope you’ve all had wonderful holidays, friends! Our days have been full – hosting family, traveling to see family, and squeezing in some favorite traditions. Still, I’ll always make time for the two posts I have planned for this week: today’s best of and my traditional final post, our year-in-review. They help me count the fruit from another precious year, and that’s an opportunity I’ll fight for even in the midst of these full, chaotic, slow post-holiday days. I hope they can serve as an opportunity for a little reflection on your own 2023, if you haven’t had a chance for it yet! In the comments, please share a few of your best memories, finds, and favorites from 2023, if you’d like. As always, I can’t wait to hear!

Best adventure, travel, or trip: Though there was a lot of superlative travel in 2023, two weekend trips rise to the top in my memories: our Father’s Day trip to Beaufort, NC and our fall break trip to Boone. I’d repeat both of those any day. Though I love to travel with extended family, John and I still find it a bit thrilling to structure a trip around our immediate family’s culture. They feel like a chance to live out what matters to us in a concentrated way. (Yes, cinnamon sugar donut moments included.)

Best trend you tried: Though I maintain a dark skinny jean is still the best and most versatile bottom, I have branched out – particularly with these cropped wide leg pants. The green (“olive oil”) goes with a surprising amount and they’re fun to wear. I take a S.

Best new podcast listen, newsletter subscribe, or blog follow: Even though I’ve admired his work since 2018 (when I first read The Coddling of the American Mind), Jon Haidt’s Substack was a new follow for me this year. If you’re interested in what we’re going to talk about at The Connected Family, you’ll likely want to hit subscribe on Jon, too.

Best book: This was a banner year of reading for me! I read 44 books, significantly more than in the recent past, including 22/24 from my reading list. (Last year, I read 21 books total.) The Maid, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and The Lincoln Highway took top billing for fiction and Habits of the Household won out for nonfiction. (I shared a few of my takeaways here.) A special honorable mention to the first four books in the Vanderbeekers series, which June and I passed back and forth over several months. Adore!

Best TV show: Slow Horses on Apple TV. We watched three seasons this year! (They’re only six episodes each.) It’s a bit of an acquired taste, what with a central character who gives the word “slovenly” new meaning, but the plots are fantastic. “What makes the series better than virtually anything else on television right now [is] its ability to be both a riveting espionage drama and an absurd workplace comedy, without ever flubbing the mix.”

Best movie: Mission Impossible 6, continuing our tradition of going to the movie theater (almost) only on opening nights for Tom Cruise films.

Best album, song, or artist: If our Spotify Wrapped is any indication, it’s Seven by Brooke Ligertwood all the way.

Best kiddo milestone: After seven years, we finally removed the baby gate at the bottom of our stairs. It’s the end of an era!

Best friend memory: Rewinding to the first month of the year, the first annual Articles Club weekend retreat was, well, a treat. We ate delicious meals, laughed until we cried, and built another layer on our 7+ year friendship. Biking the American Tobacco Trail (twice!) while discussing one of my favorite books of the year with a favorite friend is a sweet memory, too!

Best beauty purchase: My cheeks got a glow-up this year! After being taught the proper order to apply bronzer, blush, and highlighter, I put my newfound knowledge into practice with this, this, and my discontinued BeautyCounter blush. Love them all!

Best faith grower: This doesn’t feel like the “holiest” answer, but I’m going with it: watching the first two seasons of The Chosen, the historical drama TV show based on the life of Jesus. By telling the story through the eyes of those who knew him, layering in prophecy and present, it truly brought the Gospels to life in a way I’d never seen before.

Best new tradition: I’m not sure if this is a tradition or a habit or a little luxury, but I’ll drop it here. Our Sundays really settled into a restful rhythm: for most of the year, we’d attend church, go out to eat, head home so everyone could take a nap (except June, who would read), then tennis lessons for me and June, the easiest and most crowd-pleasing dinner (frozen meatballs, Rao’s, pasta), and finally a little light prepping for the week ahead.

Best habit you created: Driving 20 mph in the neighborhood. After a tragedy struck too close to home earlier in the year, I committed to driving under the speed limit in our neighborhood whenever possible. This feels like the kind of vow I might have made in the moment and then forget in the bustle of life, so I’m grateful to have stuck with it.

Favorite blog post written: This is always so fun to look back on (and hard to narrow down!). Two of my favorites: our keys to marriage happiness and this whole series. Two of yours, judging by the comments: a few things on my “decide once” list and moving away from family.

Most surprising goal progress: I set a goal to reach 5,000 minutes on Peloton this year and am shocking even myself by rounding the corner to 8,000 this week – a big jump from last year, when I logged just shy of 4,000! I was helped by Peloton adding tracking for outdoor walks and cycling, but I significantly upped my stretching and strength classes, too.

Best mama moment: There were so many favorite moments, remarkable in their ordinariness and preciousness, but reading the first Harry Potter with June is a particularly sweet memory. And, of course, our weekend together at camp!

Best home improvement: Our green bathroom cabinets make me happy every single time I round the corner!

Best little luxury you’ve enjoyed: Hear me out: getting places on time (or even with time to spare). John has many incredible attributes, but getting places on time is generally not one of them. Add in three children, and our default is often a late arrival. When I transitioned from working four days to three days at the beginning of this year, I suddenly found myself arriving places five or ten minutes early on my two weekdays off, and it truly felt luxurious.

Also, these.

As always, I’m ending the year so grateful for the delights, big and small, that filled our year. I’ll be sharing more in my year-in-review post soon, but in the meantime, please do share: what are some of your “bests” from 2023? Can’t wait to hear!

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December 26, 2023 7:54 am

So many meaningful milestones and blessings—I smiled from ear to ear reading this! Praising the Lord with you for many sweet moments. Love you!

December 26, 2023 11:03 am

Happy Holidays! Your yearly recaps always encourage me to look back on my own year, which is not that easy surprisingly! I find myself initially responding like children when you ask what they did at school and they say “Nothing” lolol It truly takes effort. Anyhoo a few bests. Best book(s): Nothing to See Here and The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Best movie(s): if you read 44 books I think I watched 44 movies hahaha But I loved Past Lives, Maestro and Barbie. Best trip/kiddo/mama moment: Seeing the joy on my daughter’s face at Disney.

And your little luxury is inspiring. The only things I’m on time for are zoom meetings and flights. Lol

December 26, 2023 8:35 pm

Love this! I’ve been eyeing the black cropped flare pants from Spanx and I love your green pair. I also need the details on proper brush, bronzer, and highlighter!!

December 26, 2023 8:47 pm

Cracked up when I saw your linked little luxury. SO good! Also deeply loved Tomorrow x3 (it was my top read of 2022 and my MIL and I just talked about how much we both loved it today). My favorite book this year was Hello Beautiful! Also — can’t WAIT for Camp Clurb 2024!

December 28, 2023 9:58 am

Love that you take time in such a busy season to reflect! ❤️
Certainly rides on the ATT! A few other favorites- making the decision to let my hair be its natural color and watching Isaac learn to read and ride his bike and then all the family bike rides that came as a result! Watching Laura learn piano has been such a joy!
Best laugh- sweet Samuel’s VBS “performance” 😂
I also think of all that I let go or said no to that made 2023 so sweet- postponing a decision to lead a community group and countless trips to the salon- both gave me more time and energy with those who matter most.

December 31, 2023 12:10 am

My first time to read your year end reflections…found them very encouraging. Some of my ‘bests’ from 2023…Best Book – The Well Watered Woman…Best Moment – an ‘all clear’ from the doctor after my husband’s cancer treatments…Best Learned Practice – that Surrender = Freedom.

January 1, 2024 8:38 am

Always love these end of year reflection posts! So much to be grateful for.
My „best of“ is on my blog now, too :)