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.

marvelous-january

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.

marvelous-february

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).

marvelous-march

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.

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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

nisbet-nevis

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

marvelous-may-1

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

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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.

marvelous-june

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.

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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.

marvelous-july

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!

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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!

marvelous-august

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!

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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.

marvelous-september

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!

marvelous-october

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!

marvelous-october-2

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!!).

marvelous-november

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!

marvelous-december

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!

Christmas cards 2013

23 December 2013

Friends! Thank you so much for your kind input on my first Christmas card post. You guys are just the best. I loved hearing about your plans for your own cards, and about how much you love Minted, too! Here’s how the voting ended up this year:

minted-christmas-card-voting

I could easily have seen us choosing any of the three top vote-getters. However, we ended up going with a late-breaking photo, and then choosing a totally new design to complement it!

minted-christmas-card

It’s the Winter Pines card by Alethea & Ruth. We really liked this design because it communicated well what we wanted to wish our loved ones — peace, love, and joy. The photo is by Bryce Covey, taken at our friends’ wedding. (By the way, that’s one of my best tricks for getting a good photo if you don’t have the budget for an individual session — wedding photographers are usually happy to take quick couple or family portraits during cocktail hour when not much else is going on, and everyone’s already dressed up!)

newsletter-christmas-card

Here’s a peek at our second annual family newsletter. Many of you asked whether it would be back, and here it is! By the way, I COMPLETELY forgot to follow up after this post, but we are indeed an aunt and uncle!! Tegan was born on December 12, and she’s so cute — we just got back from spending the weekend with her and the rest of my family!

One other thing I wanted to mention — it’s important to us that our Christmas cards are not all about us. We send them out at Christmas to share our joy at the birth of our Savior with the people we love the most, and we want to remind people of that in a personal way. That’s why we include a few thoughts on what Christmas means to us. It’s also good for us to stop and put it into words!

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Each card got dressed up with an address and some washi tape. I had the perfect mint, jade, and kelly green rolls already in my stash!

Not one of our cards goes out without a personal note (probably a holdover from my childhood — I can remember sitting around the kitchen table with my siblings and parents, signing what seemed like hundreds of letters from a very young age!). Here’s one for y’all:

christmas-cards-with-help

Yes, I had some help sending these out :) Hope you love them!

Gifts for Em

17 December 2013

As has become something of a tradition, a few gifts I wouldn’t mind receiving this year…

girly-home-gifts

A. A second magnolia print for our guest bedroom – it already has a frame waiting for it! ($30)
B. Vintage modern bunting to hang over our bed ($48)
C. New leopard flats to replace my sad, bedraggled pair ($60)
D. The most beautiful canvas print ($350)
E. One of these beautiful pillows for our sofa ($65)
F. A pair of these striped hand towels for our powder room ($10)
G. A vest for layering ($120)
H. One more sugar/flour jar to match the others we received as wedding gifts ($10)
I. A pair of these stools for our breakfast bar ($100 each)

What’s on the top of your wish list this year?

P.S. It’s fun to see how the things I’m wishing for have changed over the years! Here’s 2012 + 2011.

2013 Em for Marvelous Gift Guide: Littles

12 December 2013

As I sit here adding the final details to the last gift guide of 2013, my sister is in labor!! It’s only appropriate, since these gifts are all for the littles. The number of babies and kids in my circle has seemingly grown exponentially this year, which is giving me a chance to indulge in all the adorable goodies for the under-ten set. Some of them are more expensive, but all are beautiful and built to last for years.

Littles-Gift-Guide

A. Wooden state teether ($12) | Handmade in Utah from Hard Rock Maple, a wood that’s naturally antibacterial, non-allergenic, and non-toxic.
B. Great Day plate ($25) | Adorable design to start a fun family tradition from my friend Emily Ley.
C. Wooden block set ($49) | The colors of these blocks make them pretty enough to leave out on the coffee table full time.
D. Pluck carrot memory game ($36) | We recently bought this for a two-year-old, and it is SO CUTE in person! The detail is fantastic.
E. Travel tic tac toe ($14) | Love this handsome wood set for games on the go.
F. Knitted jacket ($32) | Anything with ears automatically moves to the top of my shopping list.
G. Memory game ($20) | Choose twelve of your favorite photos to build this custom memory game. A perfect way to remember and talk about far-flung family members!
H. Knit garland ($64) | Perfect colors for a boy’s room.
I. Noah’s ark ($108) | Adorable, and beautifully made. Layla Grace often runs discounts, so sign up for their email list before you buy!
J. Livingroom lanes bowling set ($59) | Since my first niece or nephew will live in the frigid land of Minnesota, this awesome indoor game will likely be a future present.
K. Melamine bee plate ($6) | Dinnerware for kids has come a long way, friends.
L. Soft fox ($38) | Foxes are my favorite, and this one is extra cute. I also love the Bla Bla fox.
M. Print teaspoons ($38) | Since these acrylic, dishwasher safe melamine teaspoons are smaller than usual, I think they’d be perfect for little hands!

Not included in this gift guide: books. Books are one of my favorite gifts to buy for little friends, but I’ll probably write a whole post on my favorites one day!

Am I the only one who sometimes wants to buy things for her future children, even if they’re years away?? Please say no. Kid things are just so cute!

2013 Em for Marvelous Gift Guide: Gents

10 December 2013

This year’s first two gift guide installments offered up many lovely things (and many I’d love to give and get), but I think I’m most proud of today’s. I’ve never done a gift guide for the gents before, largely because I think men are more difficult to shop for, in general, and also because I think the best gifts for men tend to be more specific (whereas, in general, a lot of gals would be pleased with a lot of the same things). I probably won’t be able to come up with this many male gift ideas for another five years, so enjoy! :)

Gents-Gift-Guide

A. Clean bottle ($10) | There probably should be a “brought to you by Shark Tank” disclaimer on this post. The Clean bottle was an ST discovery, and I think it’s brilliant — a water bottle that’s super easy to clean because it unscrews on both ends!
B. Wrought iron fire pit ($40) | We bought my brother in law a fire pit last year, and I must say, it was one of my more genius gift ideas. S’mores for all!
C. Light n’ go bonfire log ($10) | We also got Cormac this nifty log thing — it’s like a self-contained bonfire!
D. Flavored chili salts ($12) | These salts (flavored with different chilis) are perfect for the gent who loves to cook!
E. A Walk in the Woods ($8) | I would recommend Bill Bryson books to anyone, even those who don’t consider themselves readers. He’s laugh out loud funny and smart; A Walk in the Woods is one of our favorites.
F. Junior travel bag ($54) | Handsome dopp kit made from genuine Pendleton wool.
G. Red chambray tie ($16) | We bought John this tie a few weeks ago, and we both love it! It can be dressed up or dressed down, and is always casually cool.
H. Gosling freaker ($10) | Yep, you have Shark Tank to thank for this one, too. It’s a koozie (handmade in the US!) that fits any bottle! You have to check out this episode — the founder is a little nutty. Beep bop!
I. Sunglasses case ($12.50) | A manly (and safe) home for your gent’s specs.
J. Salsa Collection Gift Box ($36) | Cherry Republic is an awesome small business in Michigan (I wrote about them here and here). John is a salsa fiend, and highly recommends this sample box!
K. Nest thermostat ($250) | This one is more of a major gift, but it’s a good one! The Nest thermostat learns your habits and automatically adjusts your thermostat accordingly, plus you can control it from your smart phone. John’s wanted one for years!
L. White Whale mixers ($13.50) | Made from exotic juices and garden-fresh herbs in Durham, NC!
M. Tell The Ones I Love by the Steep Canyon Rangers ($15) | Have a bluegrass lover in your life? This CD is one of our favorites.
N. Leather dopp kit ($78) | Handsome and embroidered. I love the custom-stained antique caramel color!
O. Bezl iPhone case ($20) | I have my friend Will to thank for this last one, which just might be the most minimal case ever invented. Watch the video — it’s pretty neat.

Whew! I hope that gives you a few good ideas for the gents in your life! I’d love for you to share other suggestions in the comments — I’m always on the hunt for tried and true options!