Monday, January 4, 2016

A Fresh Start: Our 2016 Goals & Resolutions

Though getting back into routine after taking an extended holiday break, we're peering into the New Year this Monday morning with bright eyes and a fresh outlook (case in point). January is a classic time we like to take a deeper look back into the year behind us and make plans for the year ahead.

Fonti del Clitunno, Italy

Over the past year we traveled to Mexico, London, and Italy. We continued to frequent New York and were in the big city to take part in Etsy's opening day this past April. We celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary and Basil's 5th birthday. We sold our second home, had the entire front gutter system properly repaired on our current home, and went from driving a single car to bringing home a second vehicle. We cheered from the sidelines as Richmond welcomed the UCI Road World Championship Bike Race and crossed a personal milestone by public speaking at 2 events this year. We continued to cultivate our little city garden and tackled new home projects around the house. Best of all, we made new memories with our family and friends — the most we could ask for.


While life always happens and not everything gets checked off with a perfect mark, it's those little surprises that crop up and take us in new turns or paths we may have never imagined. Today we're excited to share a look back at what we set out to accomplish in 2015, how we stacked up against those plans and how we're thinking about 2016 as we embark upon the brand new year.

< + < + < A LOOK BACK AT 2015 > + > + >

This time last year we had big ambitions of my cooking once per week, Tim eating breakfast everyday, posting more recipes here on the blog and a handful of very specific home projects we wanted to tackle (read the full post with all the details right here). We even gave ourselves a little leeway on some of the prior goals we'd set and liked being a bit softer on ourselves as we set out with new aspirations.

So, how did we stack up against our 2015 goals? I'm going to give us a solid B+. I indeed began the year cooking once per week, every Wednesday, using primarily ingredients we had on hand in the freezer. This consistency quickly broke away from the rigid Wednesday format and as our daily work routines evolved, so did my once per week plan. I'd say I nailed a solid 26 meals in 2015 (out of 52 weeks) — which has been an incredible lesson in expanding my knowledge in the kitchen and given me a much greater appreciation for the incredible chef of a husband I married (not to mention those out there planning and cooking every single day). About 3/4 into 2015 we decided to subscribe to Plated, a twice weekly food delivery box. We are able to choose which meals we want to cook from a menu of 9 chef-designed recipes, which come in the form of perfectly portioned ingredients each week. So far we've loved it — it's made us push our boundaries in terms of the types of meals we'd cook and takes a lot of planning, purchasing and leftovers completely off our proverbial table. In terms of our other food goals, I can now say Tim will happily welcome breakfast in the mornings, and with 8 posted recipes here on the blog in the last year we technically shared more than in previous years, with room for improvement.


When it came to home projects, we accomplished everything on the list except the loftiest one of redo-ing our master and relocating the laundry upstairs. As we set out to research what it would take to repair the wall damage in our bedroom, we quickly learned there was unfinished gutter work on the front of our home that would need to come first, which we whole-heartedly agreed was more important as a first step. So! We now have a fully functioning gutter and beautiful copper downspout, but that's where the attention went in order to take the next, more fun step of re-doing the master. That being said, we did update the track lighting system in our upstairs hallway, build and install bookcases to complete our front office and take on a handful of smaller decorating projects like these wooden side tables and entry bench.

In the garden we worked hard to cultivate more perennial edibles we can enjoy for seasons to come. We added lavender to our front herb collection of rosemary and sage, planted asparagus and rhubarb in containers out back, we're trying to grow a wisteria plant after our trip to Italy and completely pruned down the dying gardenia hedges out front, which interestingly are now growing back quite nicely.


Work has continued to ramp up and evolve for the both of us. Merchandising at Etsy continues to be something that keeps me continually challenged and learning; and Tim's work continues to shift from full time blogging into more freelance writing and food photography, which has also been a fun evolution to navigate. You may have noticed his signature style across the likes of Furniture.com, Lot18, Relay Foods and website photography for La Paloma Foods, Tom Leonard's Market, Nettie's Naturally & Milton's Local to name a few from this year.

< + < + < 2016 GOALS & RESOLUTIONS > + > + >

Looking ahead to 2016, we'll celebrate Tim's 50th birthday this year, we're excited to travel to Hungary with our family over the summer and are looking forward to all the surprises that life may bring our way. At the start of the year, here's what we're hoping to achieve:

1. Hungary: As highlighted in last year's bucket list, we are planning a family trip back to Budapest, Hungary with both sides of our Hungarian families this summer. Tim and I share Hungarian heritage and made the same trip with his parents early in our relationship, back in 2007. Now that Stephanie and Brandon are both adults, we'd love to introduce them to all the sights and memories we've made, and have Tim's dad show them where he grew up. The Hungarian portion of my family will be joining in too — we're so excited to be able to visit with Steve, Tim's Dad, since he's still fluent in the language and has such raw memories he'll be able to share everywhere we go. If we're getting super specific — a day at a bath house, copious amounts of walking, fruit soup, the Budapest market, blood sausage and a trip to the countryside to see the Vidra family are all on the trip #goals list.

2. Home: The house is in a state of constant evolution — I'm not convinced it will ever be something we're "done" with if that makes sense. We have plans to rearrange the furniture layout in our family room, swapping out a few key pieces in order to open up the space while offering more seating at the same time. This will probably happen in phases, but we're excited to start making shifts in this space sooner than later. We have 3 sets of pocket doors in our home that have been painted many times over — we'd love to try our hands at stripping & refinishing at least one set of these doors in the coming year. Speaking of painting, the front of our house could use a new coat. And finally, we'll recycle last year's goal of updating the master bedroom, which includes bringing the laundry upstairs onto this year's list <--- wish us luck with that one!

3. Food: With each new year we seem to find re-motivation to strive towards more sustainable eating. Early in our relationship we were learning about the benefits of organics, which evolved into looking for more local shopping options. Last year we found inspiration in Sean Brock's Heritage Manifesto and this year we're drawing motivation from the newly released In Defense of Food, a documentary based on Michael Pollan's novel. The general idea is eating for wellness: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." Tim and I center our worlds around food (one of the reasons we get along so well), and while we're not perfect by any means we'd like to try and incorporate more fish in our diets this year and perhaps we will lean into making meat less of the main star in every meal moving forward. Case in point — I'm slowly mastering the art of avocado toasts in the mornings :)

4. Work/Life Balance: Is work/life balance possible? I think Tim is probably the best living example of this if it does. In a better effort to strive towards the ultimate goal, I'm aiming to unplug better when spending time with family, complete a scrub of our collective inboxes to keep the noise down and make time to take a few unexpected long weekend getaways this year.

5. Blog: While the blogging world is an ever-evolving environment, this space remains a corner of the world we enjoy archiving in and love the friends we've made near and far from doing so. Our goal this year is to pair down "the noise" in this space too — you may notice a sweep of multiple ad structures, and a better recommendation system in the works. In terms of content, we've got a slew of new projects up our sleeves and have been hearing more feedback that photos from travel are of interest to you, so we'll keep it up.


...And now for the bucket list!
Two years ago we began tracking a bucket list of the "pie in the sky" dreams we'd like to do someday when the time/finances/flexibility is right. We like to think that by creating an actual archive that we're holding ourselves accountable for making our aspirations into reality.

The good news? We've started making concrete plans on the first one — Hungary with the family is happening in 2016!
  • Budapest with the Family: See #1 above, happening this summer!
  • Machu Picchu. Ever since I took a Pre-Columbian art history course at VCU, I've been convinced we need to see this hidden city among the clouds in Peru. Taking a shorter trail to get there where we could actually camp along the way would be amazing.
  • The Greek Isles. Tim and I originally thought it could be fun to honeymoon in the Greek Isles. Our honeymoon week near Hatteras turned out to be exactly what we needed and we wouldn't trade it for anything, though we've decided that one of these days we'll take that extended trip to Greece together. Someday.
  • The Ghia. My first car was a 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia — you read that right. I still have it, though it's in rough shape and not running. We often talk about how fun it would be to repair over time and have as a garaged car to pull out on nice days.
With that, our annual reflection is feeling good. As always, it brings us incredible joy that you care to stop in on our corner of the world to see what we're thinking, doing and dreaming. We'd love to know what you have in mind for the year ahead!

Discover More Goals & Resolutions: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 

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