January 1, 2017

New Beginnings: Our 2017 Goals & Resolutions

Laguardia Airport floor, December 2016

The start to January is a classic time we take to sit down, reflect on the previous year and begin putting our minds to what we want from the year ahead. While these posts tend to be more wordy and robust, they've become some of our personal favorites to scroll back on and see where we were at the time — along with what we were thinking, planning and dreaming of for the year ahead.
In the past year we've made headway with many of our previous plans and enjoyed exploring the unexpected paths that have come our way, leading us off-plan. Isn't that what life's about?

2016 brought us indispensable time with our family as we embarked on a journey to Budapest this summer that had not only been on our bucket list, but in the works for years in the making. We celebrated my 50th birthday, our 3 year wedding anniversary, 5 years in this home and Basil's 6th birthday (which we cherish a little more since identifying & having a mast cell tumor removed from his hind hip). Stephanie moved to the beach, began a teaching career and graduated with her Masters in Special Education from VCU — and Brandon is halfway through his final year at JMU with a focus in Integrated Science and Technology. We tackled several home projects, many from the list and others that took away from our list out of necessity, and we're getting to know what works in our little urban garden better, bringing a few new perennial plants into the mix.

Celebrating my 50th birthday at Mamma Zu's last January

This time last year we gave ourselves a bit more leeway than in past years, fully realizing that with big plans, also come surprises that may veer us in one direction or another. Approaching our goals in this format proved really successful for us...

< + < + < A LOOK BACK AT 2016 > + > + >

We'd had big plans of crossing a big ticket bucket item off the list by visiting Hungary with my parents, children and extended family. This turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. Both Mary and I were sick during the vacation, however the experience of seeing Budapest with my children and Mary's family through my Dad's eyes was indescribable. I'm so glad we made plans to do this trip and had this time together. 

Riding the Funicular this summer in Budapest

As a Christmas gift, my son shared the edited version of all the go-pro clips he captured from our time there and it was so fun to re-live these moments. We have yet to go through all the photos we captured for an assembled recap or photo book, but hope to share some of our favorites here on the blog when we do.

At home we'd named a few specific projects like rearranging our family room, starting to strip and refinish our pocket doors, painting the exterior of our home and re-doing our master bedroom including bringing the laundry upstairs.

Our master bedroom makeover in-progress

I'm happy to report that looking back on this list, we accomplished (or are in-progress) with everything here other than the laundry portion of our master makeover. One of those unforeseen but necessary expenditures in the form of a new heat pump arose this year, which cut those laundry plans short once more. That being said, we're really happy with how the rest of the master is shaping up. While we attempted stripping a pocket door on our own, we quickly realized this may be a better job for a professional and will be looking into someone to tackle this endeavor. We look forward to sharing photos and updates from each of these projects and more in the coming year.

In terms of mindful eating, we wanted to bring more fish into our regular diets and a bit less focus on meat in general. Subscribing to Plated, a regular meal delivery service, has tremendously helped us with both of these goals and has gotten Mary in the kitchen more often (insert praise hands here) — we're happy to report we're going to keep that up again this year!

Side note: when researching and evaluating the best meal subscription service for us, a lot of factors went into the decision. If this is something you're curious about or in the process of, feel free to give us a shout if you have questions about why we ended up where we did!

One of favorite ways to cook fish, in parchment paper

We also strived for a better work/life balance by unplugging more from work at the end of the day and planning a few more long weekends together throughout the year. I have to give credit to Mary on this one in that for the most part she unplugged from what we consider a typical workday when that proverbial day was over and we did make room for a few out of the blue long weekends in addition to our our bigger trip to Hungary and regular travel.

Here on the blog, we wanted to pair down the noise and focus on sharing in less quantity and more quality. We did this by discontinuing a few relationships with ad services that didn't quite feel inline with how we'd like to explore and discover content and in general paired down on the overall number of posts we published on the blog. Doing so has allowed us to understand the types of posts we're most passionate about writing (family, lifestyle, DIY, home decor and our all-time favorite, Basil) along with what feels like a reasonable schedule as it relates back to work/life balance.

< + < + < 2017 GOALS & RESOLUTIONS > + > + >

Looking ahead to 2017, the possibilities feel endless. In the same spirit of giving ourselves leeway, we've mapped out the following goals as a starting point and look forward to seeing where it takes us — or what forks in the road may lead us down a different path. 

Finding our Roots — There are a few activities we'd like to lean further into or back into. For example, growing up I enjoyed exploring my grandparents' backyard garden and dabbled in planting vegetables in my Father-in-Law's large backyard this past growing season. This year I'd like to expand further outside of what our urban plot currently allows by cultivating a larger spread this year. Similarly, Mary grew up competitively swimming and regularly talks about wanting to get back into the pool outside of our yearly trips to Mexico. She also used to play guitar and is just recently talking more about wanting to pull hers out from storage to get back into recreational playing. Sorry, no world tours in the immediate future.

Getting Moving — Speaking of swimming, we'd like to move more in general. Both working from home with ample computer time means there's room for more movement. We're good about regular neighborhood walks with Basil, but considering Mary's interested in swimming, we're toying with the idea of an alumni membership at the VCU rec center.

Home — At home, we have lots of projects we'd like to tackle in the coming year. Knowing "life" may get in the way or more unexpected things may arise, here's what we're shooting for:
  • Waterproofing the cellar: completely clearing out the space, painting the walls and flooring, then bringing in new organizational systems for better storage.
  • Downstairs ceilings: When we moved into this house 5 years ago, the majority of the ceilings were textured or left with large cracks. Some of that can be chalked up to character, but in the last several months we've had portions of our upstairs and downstairs ceilings sheet-rocked and loved the outcome. This year we'd like to complete smoothing over the remainder of these areas across the downstairs of our home.
  • Master bedroom: Putting the finishing touches on our recent bedroom restoration and dare we say looking into bringing the laundry upstairs?
  • Kitchen: replacing our kitchen island and perhaps installing matching countertops.
  • Landscaping: The gardenias we trimmed down summer before last actually grew back, albeit in patches. This spring we'd like to remove the plants completely and replace with a hearty perennial herb like lavender. I'd also like to investigate how to get our grass a bit thicker out front and possibly looking into sod. Any advice on that front?
  • Back deck: Ripping out the old wooden stair structure in our back patio from when the house used to function as a duplex. We're not sure we'll be at a stage where building a new deck is in the cards, but as a first step we'd like to open up this space.
  • Carriage house: Giving the facade of our garage a makeover using the same paint colors we recently updated the exterior of our home with.
Blogging & Creative Endeavors — As mentioned above, in the past year we've dialed down the so-called "noise" by streamlining some of the ad networks we program into the blog and paired down the content we've published to be more intentional. This year, we're planning to release a fresh layout on the blog to help with better navigation, discovery and reading our latest entries when visiting the site. Some of this work is already underway and we'll be eager to share more of the behind-the-scenes details once complete. Outside of the design, we'd like to bring more of the projects we're working on into the mix and real-time progress for many of the home updates that have been evolving over the past year.

While speaking of new focus and our creative endeavors, I'd also like to place some new energy into our Etsy Vintage shop and Mary's planning to develop an Instagram page dedicated to the Jewelry shop. Stay tuned!

View of Richmond from the new T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge

...And now, back to the bucket list!
Three 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? As you now know, we've crossed one of our bullets off the list by visiting Hungary with our family this year. We also made some headway at looking into what it will take to restore the Karmann Ghia (details below) and are beginning to talk about concrete plans for a future trip to Greece!

The Greek Isles: Mary and I have always 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. Well, we're coming up on our 4th wedding anniversary in 2017 and are thinking that a bigger trip like this just might be well suited as a celebration for year number 5!

The Ghia:
  • Background: Mary's first car was a 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia — you read that right. We still have it, though it's in rough shape and wasn't 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.
  • Update: Over the summer we paid to have the Ghia towed to an antique car specialist down here on the Boulevard in Richmond. We were relieved to hear the frame and pan were in good enough shape to restore the car if we want and opted to have a new carburetor installed in order to get the engine to turnover — it was the first time I'd ever heard it run and a great memory for Mary. That being said, given the extensive body damage we've decided to garage the car as-is until we have a better grip on the overall investment. For now, we've started a joint Pinterest board to collect ideas and inspiration for when that day comes.
Towing the Ghia down to the Boulevard this year

Machu Picchu: Ever since Mary took a Pre-Columbian art history course at VCU, she's 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.

With that, it's hard to believe another year is behind us, and we're feeling optimistic looking forward to all of the plans and unknowns that may come our way. It never fails to humble and inspire us that you take time to check in on our little corner of the world — if you made it this far, we'd love to hear what goals and plans you're making for the year ahead!

Discover More Goals & Resolutions: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

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