2017 in 10 photos.

I know we’re over halfway through the first month of the new year, but let’s revisit 2017 in photos, m’kay?  Idea credit for this post due to Amanda!

Find a photo from the year’s greatest adventure – big or small.

Becoming a family of four!  Definitely an adventure.  That spica cast was an adventure as well.

 

Find a photo of a significant moment.

Ava’s first time in the chair-chair!  AKA the moment Kevin and I realized that we would in fact survive the experience with our sanity.

 

What photo makes you feel most alive?

We took morning walks together as a family all summer and fall.  Those walks were a highlight of the day for each of us.  Being outside, breathing in the fresh air, and chatting with Kevin and Ava as Owen kicked and punched in the womb made me feel alive and healthy and so blessed.

 

Pick your favorite photo of you and the people you love.

On Kevin’s birthday.  Ava said something that made us laugh.  I love these people.

 

Search for a photo of a morning you want to remember.

Taken at 6:06 AM on the morning of October 3, so Owen was seven hours old to the minute.  We were settled into our mom-and-baby room and Kevin got to do a little skin-to-skin.  Love that husband and that baby boy.

 

Find a photo that represents joy.

Zooming down the slide!  This little girl lives her best life and brings so much joy to our lives.

 

Locate a photo of the people that shaped your year.

Probably my favorite picture from 2017!

 

Find a photo of you trying something new.

Home alone with two of them!

 

Identify an image of something you are proud of.

These two!  So proud of how strong and smart they are and that, just by existing, they make me want to be a better person each day.

 

What is a photo that you’ll want to pass down for generations to come?

Father and son.  I mean, come on.  This one is a framer.  My guys.

 

You should do a post using these prompts!  Be sure to link to it in the comments so I can check it out. 

 

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Year in review: 2017 superlatives.

2017 was a roller coaster. I really, really hope that 2018 is going to be low key and downright boring. That’s more my speed than all the ups and downs that this past year included. Here are a few noteworthy memories from the year, high school yearbook superlative style

Biggest Surprise: Finding out Ava had hip dysplasia

Biggest Challenge: Ava’s surgery – out of our sight and in an operating room. It was horrible.

The Silver Lining Award: Focused time with Ava while she was in the cast

The Pleasantly Surprised Award: Labor and delivery of Owen – in a nutshell, quick and easy, but I still got my beloved epidural.

Best Vacation: Stay in hospital after having Owen. Granted, that was the only vacation of the year…  We did have a couple of staycations when Kevin took a little bit of time off of work (of course he was still putting out fires via phone and email on a daily basis by people from work, but at least he got to be home with us.) – one right after Ava’s surgery, after Owen was born, and during the Christmas holiday.

Best Hug: When Ava came to visit mama and meet Owen in hospital. Oh, how we had missed each other! Kevin set her on my lap and she hugged me so tight. My heart nearly burst with love for my sweet little girl.

Greatest Joy: Falling in love with Owen. Realizing there is not a finite amount of all-encompassing love that parents have for their children – your heart loves the second (and subsequent, I’m sure) child as much as the first. That was a hard thing for me to understand prior to Owen’s birth. Also watching Ava blossom into her big sister role with Owen has been a complete joy.

Best Date: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in January or Indigo Crow in September

Greatest Transformation: Master bath

Funniest Quote: One day Ava and Kevin were playing when she suddenly paused, rubbed her nose, and then extended her little hand toward him, saying, “Booger. Thanks.” We’re just over here, living this glamorous life.

Best Fiction Listen: Moon Over Manifest (Amy) and Treason (Kevin)

Best Fiction Read: All the Light We Cannot See (Kevin) and Queen Lucia (Amy)

Best Nonfiction Listen: Me Talk Pretty One Day (Amy) and American Kingpin (Kevin)

Best Nonfiction Read: Team of Rivals (Amy) and The Looming Tower (Kevin)

Best Watch: Billions season 2 (Amy and Kevin) and Daniel Tiger (Ava). Honorable Mention to Curb Your Enthusiasm season 8 – Larry made it worth the wait!

House Clown: Rue. Whether she’s stalking Kiki or annoying Ava by batting around one of Ava’s toys or showing a homicidal streak by abruptly flinging herself in front of Kevin or me as we walk down the stairs, she makes each  day an adventure.

Most Likely to be Remembered: Other than the Daniel Tiger moral jingles on constant replay in our brains? Goodness, right now the whole year was memorable! But long term, of course, our sweet baby Owen boy joining the family is most definitely the most likely to be remembered event.

Kevin and I feel blessed beyond belief to have lived 2017 together with our little family.  I heard a quote once that basically said some years are questions and some years are answers.  I think we had a combination of both in 2017.  Happy 2018!

Tell me a superlative from your 2017!  Was it a year of questions or a year of answers for you?

2016 Reading Challenge – final report.

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The 2016 Reading Challenge final list!

Allow me to begin with Ava’s current book total – she ended the year with just under 900 books.  She is so close to hitting the 1000 books before kindergarten mark and she’s not even 15 months old.  :)  We used to just read over her as she played – baby’s version of Audible.  Now she’s starting to get into books and she’ll pull out book after book and hand it to us with an urgent grunt.  “Please!  Read this now!  I must know about Brown Bear, Brown Bear!”  It’s really cute and we love that she loves books.  We’ll complete the 1000 books before kindergarten challenge and then take a break from recording her book count.  I want to do it again in a few years when she’s able to sit and understand and interact over the stories and pictures.

Now on to me, me, me…  Here are the categories and the book(s) I’ve read for each:

A book published this year.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – 4 stars
The One You Really Want by Jill Mansell – 3 stars
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – 4 stars*
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – 5 stars
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis – 4 stars

A book you can finish in a day.
Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic:  Lessons in Everyday Elegance by Jennifer L. Scott – 4 stars
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – 4 stars

A book you’ve been meaning to read.
The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty – 4 stars

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – 3 stars

A book you should have read in school.
There was nothing that I should have read in school that I didn’t read in school, so I decided to choose a book that is commonly read in school.  It actually wound up being one that I’d already read, but it had been many years and it was nice to re-visit Thornfield Hall.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 4 stars

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF.
Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides – 5 stars

A book published before you were born.
Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery – 4 stars 

A book that was banned at some point.
I just couldn’t muster up the energy to read a book in this category.  As a general rule, banned books deal in heavy subject matter and I just wasn’t up for heavy this year.

A book that you previously abandoned.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – 4 stars

A book you own but have never read.
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery – 5 stars

A book that intimidates you.
The Bully Pulpit:  Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin – 5 stars

A book you’ve already read at least once.
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson – formerly 5 stars; this time around I felt more like it was 4 stars
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – formerly 5 stars; this time I’d give it 6 stars if I could

Here are the books I’ve read that don’t fit into a category.  They are:

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead – 4 stars
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – 3 stars
We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – 4 stars
After You by Jojo Moyes – 3 stars
Baby Led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food by Gill Rapley – 4 stars
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – 4 stars
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella – 5 stars
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner – 4 stars

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – 3 stars
Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman – 5 stars
Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes – 4 stars
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer – 3 stars*
The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams – 4 stars
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani – 3 stars
Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin – 4 stars*
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris – 4 stars*
Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams – 3 stars

That was a total of 34 books for the year – far more than I expected to read, but a pleasant surprise in the end.  I just love reading and prioritize it over many, many other things that I could – and sometimes should – be doing.

I decided against doing a little synopsis and opinion of each of the above books because this post would be ridiculously long, but if any of the titles catch your eye and you want to know more, please let me know!  I’d be happy to share.

And to not leave Kevin out of this reading update, here is a list of the books he read in 2016 and his rating of those books:

The Opening Kickoff:  The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation by Dave Revsine – 4 stars
Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – 3 stars
Bit Literacy:  Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload by Mark Hurst – 2 stars
First, Break All the Rules:  What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham- 4 stars
The Personal MBA:  Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman – 3 stars
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson – 3 stars*
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan – 4 stars*
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Leading a Good Life by Mark Manson – 2 stars*
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to  September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll – 5 stars
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by James C. Collins – 5 stars*
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris – 4 stars*
Taliban by James Fergusson – 4 stars

*Denotes audiobooks rather than hard/paperback or e-reader

What was your favorite book in 2016?  What are you excited to read in 2017?

Snapshot {December}.

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Making: Lists in my 2017 planner.  I accomplish a lot when it is on a list and I know I’ll have the satisfaction of crossing it off when it’s done.  My plan is to write out in advance (like right now) five goals for each of the 52 weeks in 2017.  We’ll see how it works!

Cooking: Mmm, good food recently.  Yesterday we made the Pioneer Woman’s potato soup for dinner.  Tonight we made our favorite – pan seared chicken with balsamic cream sauce.  Tomorrow night will be our favorite beef stew and homemade bread.

Drinking: Water.  80 ounces each day.  Some days are tougher than others.

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Reading: Several books.  The Secret Garden on my phone.  Team of Rivals, slowly but surely.  Truly, Madly, Guilty, my current library book.  Kevin and I are listening to Duplicity as well.

Wanting: Ava to reach the end of her current teething phase.  The first set of top molars have been visible for a week and minimal progress seems to be happening.  Poor thing.  She’s also in a developmental leap which means she’s hyperaware and clingy and doesn’t go down for her regular bedtime as easily as usual.  Will I ever stop obsessing about her sleep habits and patterns and phases?  I certainly hope so.

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Looking: Forward to 2017.  A fresh year just feels so full of promise.  I don’t know how I want to capture each monthly recap on the blog, if at all.  I enjoyed this format this year and it allowed me to share my favorite five or six Instagram photos from each month.  But I don’t think I want to do another year of it.

Eating: Well.  See above under cooking.  :)

 Wishing: My parents and sister lived closer.  I know I’m very lucky that they’re only 2.5 hours away – some people are so much further from family.  But schedules prevent regular visits.  I wish Ava had the chance to know them the way she does her other grandparents.

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Enjoying: Some of Ava’s newest mannerisms.  She picks up books and holds them up to us, making this cute little grunting noise to indicate that she wants us to read them to her.  She’s also started dancing and girlfriend has rhythm on par with her mom, which is to say, no rhythm.  But it’s adorable.  I love how she pulls herself up on her little bear chair and looks so proud to be sitting there.  She knows where we keep the crackers and gets so excited anytime we go near it.  She’s a master climber of the stairs and has also gotten really good at going down them properly.

Loving: My new booties.  I thought I hated booties, but maybe I am just really, really picky.

Hoping: The weather allows us to resume our regular walks around the neighborhood.  It’s really so good for the mind, body, and soul to get that fresh air and leg stretch in semi-regularly.

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Needing: To remember this verse:  Ephesians 5:4 – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”  Amanda shared it recently and it really resonated with me as something I need to focus on myself.

Smelling: Lavender mist from my diffuser.  So soothing.

Feeling: Relaxed and happy.  I am so blessed.

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Wearing: Sweats and a t-shirt.  New Year’s eve party clothes.

Watching: Homeland.  We’re on the first episode of the sixth season.  Poor Quinn.

What are you wishing/needing/loving/eating right now?

To-do in 2015 – final recap.

Here I sit on the final eve of 2015.  My belly is full of beef stroganoff and there’s football on TV.  What a year it has been!  Ava wasn’t on the to-do list, but she ruled the year.  We love having her here with us and can’t wait to see what is in store for 2016.  I’m so thankful for my beautiful family of humans and cats.  And I’m thankful for you, friends.  Thank you for the kind words on my post about life now.  I have missed regular blogging (writing and reading) because I feel like my connection with all my wonderful blog friends has suffered.  Know that I think of so many of you so often.  Kevin can attest that I often start stories with, “My blog friend {insert name here} said…”  :)  This Desert Girl thanks you for a lovely year.

1. K & A:  Go to Europe.
Done!!  You can read about here.  And here and here.  And here.  Oh yeah.  And here and here

2. K: Read a classic.
Kevin read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – a classic tale of one man, two personalities.  He enjoyed it.

3. A: Do all Christmas shopping in local/independent stores or give homemade stuff.  Like crocheted scarves, vanilla extract (inspired by Tiffany, who gave me homemade vanilla extract for Christmas 2014!), or hot pepper oil (inspired by Allie, who blogged about it here).
I failed at this!  I wasn’t proactive and then had no motivation to shop around town close to the holiday.  I love the idea though and hope to accomplish it someday. 

4. A: Read 52 books.  (Bonus points if I manage to complete this 2015 reading challenge, which I think is only – ha! – 50 books….thanks, Tiffany, for sharing the idea!)
I read 54 or 55 books this year and finished the 2015 reading challenge.  You can read a bit about each book I read for the challenge here.

5. A:  Blog 104 posts.
I only blogged 71 times this year (well, 72 including this one!), so fell short of this goal.   

6. K & A:  Fund IRA’s for the year.
Done.  We take different approaches to funding the IRA’s:  Kevin takes the automatically-send-money-to-the-IRA-with-each-paycheck approach and I write a lump sum check.  But both methods get the job done!

7. K & A:  Complete at least one home improvement project. (New tile downstairs, master bathroom, shelves in the garage…)
We started the year with a new furnace (out of necessity), then we did our tile replacement in June.  Eight new windows were installed in July (and eight more are on the way!), we ripped out the wet bar and replaced it with built-in bookshelves and storage in July as well.  You can read about our renovation projects here.

8. K & A:  Run a 5k.
I was a lazy bum and didn’t run a 5K (or even work on training for one) at the beginning of the pregnancy or pre-pregnancy, so that didn’t happen.  But Kevin ran one for me on a random day in July.  And he ran a race for himself on October 10. 

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9. K: Smoke a rack of ribs or a brisket.
My mom gave Kevin a brisket (we get all our beef from my parents, who have cattle), and he had planned to smoke it in the fall.  But fall got away from us!  Maybe in the spring. 

10. K & A:  Take a road trip to a historic destination in New Mexico.
We’re counting our trip to my step-dad’s old school in Encino.  It was really so special to explore that beautiful building with my stepdad and his brothers and their families.  You can read about that here.

11. K & A:  Try 10 new restaurants.
We have tried 11 new restaurants.  We’d like to continue to broaden our horizons, but we fully admit that we tend to get into restaurant ruts.  Delicious though they may be…

12. K & A:  Try 15 new recipes.
We’ve tried 27 new recipes.  Several were hits and have made it into the regular rotation.

13. K:  Start and complete an entire workout program.
Kevin took up Crossfit in September and completed the boot camp program at the gym he attends.  He’s hooked!

14. K:  Take a golf continuing ed class or attend three golf lessons.
This one didn’t happen.  But maybe 2016 will be the year of golf! 

15. A:  Host a theme party.
I hosted a Favorite Things party and it was a lot of fun.  Here’s more about that!

Did you set some goals for 2015?  If so, how did you do? 

To-do in 2015: the halfway point.

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2015 is over half over, which is unbelievable to me.  It seems high time that I check in on the year’s to-do list that Kevin and I created for ourselves.  We still have plenty to do this year, but we’re making great progress on all fronts and have crossed off two of the biggest (and most expensive) items!

1. K & A:  Go to Europe.
Done!!  You can read about here.  And here and here.  And here.  Oh yeah.  And here and here

2. K: Read a classic.
He has a few in mind as options.  He’s in the middle of David McCullough’s Truman right now which is 900+ pages and quite the commitment.  But the classics are on his radar. 

3. A: Do all Christmas shopping in local/independent stores or give homemade stuff.  Like crocheted scarves, vanilla extract (inspired by Tiffany, who gave me homemade vanilla extract for Christmas 2014!), or hot pepper oil (inspired by Allie, who blogged about it here).
I haven’t made too much progress on this, but there are still plenty of shopping days to Christmas.  The problem is that there seem to be fewer crafting days to Christmas….  My goal for July is to start some mint extract a-brewin’ with the mint we’ve been growing in our garden! 

4. A: Read 52 books.  (Bonus points if I manage to complete this 2015 reading challenge, which I think is only – ha! – 50 books….thanks, Tiffany, for sharing the idea!)
I’m on track to finish this one!  I think I’m on book 40 right now (Pride and Prejudice – for the category “a classic love story”).  My most recent check in post is here, if you’re interested. 

5. A:  Blog 104 posts.
I’ve only poster 41 times this year and the summer fever blog hiatus is not helping.  I guess I need to step it up!   

6. K & A:  Fund IRA’s for the year.
In progress & done.  Kevin takes the automatically-send-money-to-the-IRA-with-each-paycheck approach and I write a lump sum check.  So he’s over half funded for the year and I made the contribution in April.

7. K & A:  Complete at least one home improvement project. (New tile downstairs, master bathroom, shelves in the garage…)
Boy howdy, have we ever!  We started the year with a new furnace (out of necessity), then we did our tile replacement in June.  Eight new windows are being installed this week, and we’re ripping out the wet bar and replacing it with built-in bookshelves and storage this week or next.  We also have some shelves for the garage and they WILL be installed this year so that we can get that mess organized. 

8. K & A:  Run a 5k.
I was a lazy bum and didn’t run a 5K (or even work on training for one) at the beginning of the pregnancy or pre-pregnancy and I won’t even pretend that it’ll happen this year after the baby is born.  So Kevin has selflessly volunteered to run two 5K’s this year and we’ll call it good.  He’s planning on one in September and maybe one in August. 

9. K: Smoke a rack of ribs or a brisket.
My mom gave Kevin a brisket (we get all our beef from my parents, who have cattle), and he’s excited to use the smoker attachment on the grill.  This seems like a good fall activity. 

10. K & A:  Take a road trip to a historic destination in New Mexico.
We have a few ideas on where to travel.  Some are day trip and some are overnight.  We’ll probably do the former, but that still leaves us with plenty of options.  There are so many cool historic destinations in this state!

11. K & A:  Try 10 new restaurants.
We have tried 4 new restaurants together.  Each of us have tried new restaurants separately this year as well, but we’re only counting the ones we go to together. 

12. K & A:  Try 15 new recipes.
We’ve tried 9 new recipes.  It’s hard to be motivated to cook in the summer!  I think we’ll finish this goal off in the fall/winter. 

13. K:  Start and complete an entire workout program.
He’s researching 5K training programs now, so that could count, but he has also been working his way through a strength training program. 

14. K:  Take a golf continuing ed class or attend three golf lessons.
Kevin has checked the schedule for CE golf classes, and that could be an option in the fall.  Otherwise, he’ll easily be able to attend three golf lessons at a club in town. 

15. A:  Host a theme party.
Leann and I are in the very early stages of planning a cocktail/mocktail (can you guess which part of that duo I’m in charge of?) party withthe “Favorite Things” theme. 

Did you set some goals for 2015?  If so, are you making good progress? 

The most delinquent holiday recap and etc.

Grab a cuppa something and let’s catch up, shall we?  Because I know that you have been anxiously awaiting my minute-by-minute holiday recap.  Cackle.

Don’t worry – I’ll be brief.

Christmas Eve in 15 words or less:
6 dozen luminarias ~ hosting family ~ posole & tamales ~ The Christmas Story

Christmas day in 20 words or less:
Kevin & Amy traditional leisurely morning at home ~ lunch at Craig & Sue’s:  prime rib, mashed potatoes, asparagus = gluttonous ~ nap

New Year’s Eve in 15 words or less:
Dinner & movie with friends ~ CPK & Unbroken ~ in bed by 10:30

New Year’s Day in 15 words or less:
Hearty, artery clogging breakfast of pancakes & bacon ~ football ~ reading ~ nap ~ pizza delivery

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My birthday marked the official end of the holiday season.  I turned 30, as you know from this.  Kevin took me out to my fav-or-ite restaurant on Saturday the 3rd.  We both had the lobster ravioli, split the chocolate mousse, and toasted ourselves nice and pink at a fireside table.

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Lisa was in town so she went to breakfast with the regular crew on the 4th.  I did absolutely nothing productive on my birthday except guzzle a peppermint mocha.  Dinner was at a favorite Mediterranean spot with Kevin’s parents, followed by tiramisu at their casa.

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Since then it has been back to work as normal.

Kiki and Rue are doing well and growing accustomed to each other.  Kiki watches Rue with fascination as the latter tears around the house at kitten speed.  Rue mimics Kiki’s behavior by sitting or lying down in an identical pose – classic little sister.  Kiki will play with Rue and then stop on a dime and hiss at her – classic big sister.   Rue tries to pounce on Kiki…and human feet under blankets…and any strings that catch her eye.  Especially the hoodie drawstrings around the neck/face and the PJ pant drawstrings around the private parts – it’s everyone’s favorite game.  And by everyone, I mean only Rue.

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In other news, our downstairs furnace isn’t working,so…there’s an expense to start off the new year real fine.  Real fine indeed.

In other other news, my mother-in-law had a knee replacement surgery a week ago.  She’s breaking in that new knee like a champ and we’re all super proud of her progress.

I’ve kept you long enough.  From my winter wonderland to yours, happy Thursday.  {If you’re local, you know this picture is from a few days ago – today brings bright sunshine and frost, but no snow.}

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Have you seen or read Unbroken?  What’s the weather in your neck of the world?