2015: A year in review

31 December 2015

Of all the posts I’ve written on this blog (more than 1,200 over the last seven years!), the ones I most love to look back on are these year in review posts. John, too. Seeing all of these beloved memories and people in one place laid out so neatly never fails to make me feel like helium is filling me up inside!

I am really grateful for this year, and know it will be one I’ll always look back on with joy. Here are a few of the highlights of the year on Em for Marvelous and in our lives!

january-2015

We started off the year by celebrating Christmas with my family in Connecticut over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend! The highlight was roasting marshmallows over the smoldering coals of our beloved childhood playground. We slowly added several new pieces to our home over the year, starting with this pretty vintage rug. Best of all, we celebrated our ten-year dativersary by recreating our first date: ice skating!

february-2015

We got our annual dose of snow in February, which meant, much to his chagrin, John’s year once again included shoveling. I wrote about our strategy for replacing paper towels (one of the small things that made me happiest this year!) and preparing financially for a baby.

march-2015

March was a great, full mix of some of my favorite things! John and I flew to NYC for an extended weekend so I could do a speaking thing for work and we both could visit with his family. We got to worship at Hillsong. Then we squeezed in a camping trip with friends, I flew to Austin and Houston for work, and I hosted a baby shower for Nancy! I also posted a few of my thoughts on camping.

april-2015

We really maxed out our travel budget in 2015, which both at the time and in hindsight, I am grateful for! We visited Savannah and Beaufort, SC over Easter weekend. We also planted a blueberry bush in our yard, and finally ordered our wedding album!

may-2015

Another month, another weekend trip, this time to Wilmington and Bald Head Island! My Dad also came to visit, we did projects around the house, picked strawberries, went to an outdoor concert and a Bulls game, and I traveled to Charlottesville and Charleston for work. I also wrote about my water drinking game, which is still holding strong! AND, we found out I was pregnant!

june-2015

Good golly, June! The highlight was without a doubt our trip to France – our first trip to Europe, and one I covered in five posts (Paris, Versailles, Provence, Cassis, and the Côte d’Azur). I also flew to Connecticut to see my family and help my parents clean out our attic, my younger sister came to visit us, and I traveled to Richmond and Kentucky for work!

july-2015

In July we threw a baby shower for Natalie and Joe in NYC, and got to tell the Thomas side of the family our happy news! I also spent the next week working remotely and hanging out with my Mom in Connecticut, which was really wonderful.

august-2015

We had one of our best weeks ever in Maine in August, where, among other things, we got to tell my side of the family our news! At the end of the month we took a weekend trip to Greenville, and found out we are having a baby girl! I also wrote about deciding to have children (one of the most popular posts of the year) and our car fund. Also took my first bump photo at 18 weeks! :)

september-2015

In September we flew to Nashville to visit my younger sister, and we did a lot of good eating :) Also took another bump photo on one of our runs – 22 weeks! I wrote a post about the best way to reheat pizza, and if you haven’t tried that tip yet, you are missing out.

october-2015

In October we headed to the mountains for a weekend trip with John’s parents and aunts. Took another bump photo (26 weeks!), made some biscuits at our church’s Fair booth, traveled to Charleston for work, my Mom and Dad came to visit, hosted the third annual pumpkin and soup party, shared nursery plans, and posted a third trimester update!

november-2015

Bump’s getting bigger (33 weeks here!). I was lucky enough to have three baby showers in November, one of which we traveled to Connecticut for and one for which my Mom and sisters flew into NC. We celebrated Thanksgiving with dear friends and finally pulled the trigger on new dining room chairs!

december-2015

And finally, December. We were so happy to host John’s family for Christmas at our home, something I’m considering a little gift from our baby girl since it wouldn’t have happened without her due date aligning!

Friends, thank you for reading. I just love y’all – sharing with you, hearing from you, getting your opinions, and seeing what you’re up to. It is a joy to write here, and I can’t wait to see all the adventures 2016 will hold!

2014 year in review
2013 year in review
2012 year in review

Goal setting for 2016 with PowerSheets

30 December 2015

Over the last few years, I have set goals in many different ways. For two years I’ve posted my monthly goals on the blog, I’ve completed two 101 in 1001 goal sets, I’ve worked on daily goals, and I’m in the middle of a 60 Before 30 set of goals. Surprisingly, I have never really set yearly goals, although I think that is going to change in 2016!

powersheets-workbook

No matter what form my goals take, however, my goal setting process always starts ten steps back, with some serious time spent reflecting, evaluating, and refocusing on what matters most to me. Besides our celebration dinner and my annual year in review posts, my favorite tool for this is the PowerSheets. They are really thoughtfully made, and this year seamlessly guided me to come up with a cohesive picture of where I’ve come from, where I am now, and where I want to be in the future. I thought I’d share a few favorite pages from my workbook in case you’re working on your own!*

initial-goal-ideas

One of the first exercises you’ll come to in the PowerSheets is the “Initial Goal Ideas” page. While it might seem strange to have this so close to the front, I think of it as a release valve, giving you a space for the ideas that are likely bubbling over now that you’ve started thinking about goals. This page was actually very telling for me, as I noticed I used words like “continue” and “stay” over and over.

what-fires-me-up

I’m skipping over the “what has and has not been working” pages, as we’re discussing those topics tonight and I’ll likely share more in tomorrow’s year in review post! I always love filling out the “what fires me up” page — it’s a pretty easy one for me (though some people say it’s one of the hardest!), and a good reminder of what I want to fill my year with.

the-big-picture

I also really loved the “big picture” page this year, though it’s one I’ve struggled with in the past. The two questions that resonated with me most were, “If you could envision your most fulfilling year yet, what would it look like?” and “Why do you want to live on purpose?”

my-most-purposeful-year

Similarly, I also found the “my why” page more meaningful than I have in the past. The last one I wanted to share with you, though, is the “my most purposeful year” page. I do love a good mad lib :)

If you’re working through the PowerSheets, too, I’d love to hear which pages or exercises were most meaningful for you, or if there were any you got stuck on! I’ll be back tomorrow with my 2015 year in review, one of my favorite posts of the year :)

*The PowerSheets workbook is sold out for the year, but you can preorder six-month undated sheet sets, which walk you through the same steps! They will ship in the spring.

Our end-of-year celebration dinner

29 December 2015

Hello, friends! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!!

Yesterday we waved goodbye to John’s family after several days together at our home. When planning for this visit several months ago, I have to say, at the same time as I was completely gung-ho (I will almost NEVER say no to loved ones coming to visit us!) I was also a little nervous, because I didn’t know how tired I would be at 37 weeks pregnant or how eight adults and two littles would feel about sharing a house for several days. I’m happy to say, however, that despite the lack of sun (but with the bonus of balmy temperatures in the mid-70s!), our time together was really special. John and I loved seeing our niece and nephew, we loved getting outside every day (our crew walked eight miles on Sunday!!), and it was very sweet to have so much time to just chat with our wise siblings and siblings-in-law as we face down baby girl’s due date.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 6.37.23 PM

Clearly we need to clean our windows… but this one was too good not to share! Nephew was a big fan of Uncle John :)

I usually feel a bit blue after we say goodbye to family, but this week holds so much promise and potential that it’s hard to feel down. I have most of the week off work and am planning to use the time to 1) relax and 2) prepare for the new year. I’m excited to get ahead on an exciting EFM series that will be debuting soon, share where I am with goal setting, finish up a few projects for our girl’s room, and place a last big Amazon order for the supplies we want to have before she arrives. And best of all, tomorrow night John and I have reservations for our end-of-year celebration dinner!

This dinner is a fairly new tradition for us: we just started it last year, inspired by several couples we love. Everyone seems to have their own take on the concept, but we keep things fairly simple. We choose a restaurant with a quiet atmosphere that lends itself to a leisurely dinner. (Bonus points for choosing a spot you don’t go to often, so it feels like more of a special occasion!) You certainly could have your celebration dinner at home, but I find that it’s easier to concentrate, have a deeper conversation, and get into dreaming mode when I’m out of my normal environment.

We bring a notebook and a pen and a few questions to guide us as we reflect and look forward. A few we used last year or will be trying tomorrow:

— What did our family do well this year? What went well for us?
— Where did our family struggle this year? What went poorly for us?
— Where do we want to travel in 2016? We brainstorm possible locations, and start to plot out general months for each trip as we narrow things down.
— Where should we give this year’s charitable grant?
— What are our goals for 2016?
— What new things do we want to try, what adventures do we want to have, or what traditions do we want to continue or start next year?
— How will we define success next year?
— What about our life now do we most want to preserve and carry with us into the new year?

That last question has especially been on my mind and will be informing my goals in a big way with our girl due to arrive very soon. It’s good to have a few different questions, though, as you never know which will resonate and spark the most conversation! Some of these could easily keep us talking for an hour.

And that’s pretty much it! Nothing too complicated, but I think there’s something really important about setting aside time to cheer each other (and your union!) on, to mark progress, and to put the brakes on things that are frustrating you before they become problems.

Do you do your own version of an end-of-year celebration dinner? I’d love to hear!!

P.S. I plan to be back on the blog every day this week, with my PowerSheets progress tomorrow, my 2015 year in review on Thursday, and my 2016 inspiration board on Friday! 2016 goals will go up on Monday.

Christmas cards 2015

22 December 2015

I loved our five Christmas card finalists so much that I would have been thrilled to send out any of them, but in the end, we went with the design that y’all loved best, and that was so undeniably perfect for our upcoming year:

minted-christmas-card

It’s the Wonder Filled design by Baumbirdy from the geniuses at Minted. Our photo was taken by the talented Perry Vaile!

newsletter-style-christmas-card-2

Since our card design was simple and black and white, we didn’t add any color to the newsletter, either. It’s crazy to think of all the milestones we’ll have to squeeze onto the 2016 version!!

newsletter-christmas-card-2

I love that many of our news items aren’t news to y’all, like our dativersary, Articles Club, pumpkin and soup night, and of course, our trip to France! It really is a joy to share with and learn from you all, and, in turn, to be invited into your lives! Which brings me to your very own handwritten note, because no Thomas Christmas card would be complete without one:

christian-christmas-card

Thomas Christmas cards are also not complete without recognition of why we send cards at Christmas in the first place. Though sometimes it seems unavoidable, we don’t want our cards to be 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. So, we’ve taken to including a few thoughts on what Christmas means to us, and a favorite piece of scripture. We went with a classic this year :)

I’m not sure if I’ll be back between now and my annual year in review, as we have lots of family arriving shortly for an extended visit (YAY!). But, I’m already so excited to share a look back and a look forward to what should be a very interesting year… I’ve been working on my goals with the PowerSheets, and I can’t wait to discuss!

P.S. Our cards from 2014, 2013, and 2012!

Gifts for Em

17 December 2015

I’ve been feeling the pressure of the last-minute gift crunch the this week, just wanting to get our loved ones things they will LOVE and need or want, not things that will simply take up space in their lives. Sometimes I’m at a loss for ideas, sometimes I’ve got great ideas but they’d require doubling or tripling our gift budget, and sometimes (sometimes!) I come up with a good idea and it actually fits within our budget. I don’t have any gift guides to share this year, but as I work on checking off the last few folks, here are a few things on my own list! Maybe it will inspire a gift for someone you love :)

Gifts-for-Em-2015

Clockwise from top left:

— My “fashion sneakers” are reaching the end of their life. I think these blush ones would be a welcome replacement!
— We’re always looking for new recipes, and I’ve heard great things about this cookbook.
This vest would be a perfect layer for our mild North Carolina weather.
— Over the last few years I’ve definitely embraced the idea that a bold lip color can transform a basic outfit. This one looks beautiful (I first saw it here), and as a bonus, all the ingredients are organic.
— I’m thinking this style of PJs will be helpful for nighttime feedings in the months to come. My favorite pattern is actually Jetsetter, but the photo was more scandalous! :)
— John and I are all about adventures, and it would be so fun to have this beautiful canvas to record our travels. Plus, the colors could not be more perfect for me – they’re basically the same as the EFM logo!!
— I also love the colors of this happy little garland, and think it would be so fun to bring out for each family birthday in the years to come!
— I’d put this retro board somewhere on our first floor (maybe in the entryway?) to spell out favorite quotes and fun welcome messages.
Hunter boots are, of course, a total classic, and one I hear is worth the investment. I think I’d go with navy.
— Bonus! After a year of searching, I actually bought these booties on Black Friday, but I had to include them here because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH! John teases me because I’ve worn them almost every day since they arrived, but they are a dream – comfortable all day from the first wear, a fantastic color, and they go with everything. With the low heel, I like to think of them as my stylish mama booties. I’m already picturing myself wearing them to chase a little one-year-old around the playground :)

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