Best of 2021 (with Friends!)

I’m so, so excited that my wonderful friend Emily (along with Lisa & Sam!) invited me to share some of my “best of 2021” superlatives again this year! I’m divulging a round-up of some of my very favorite things, moments, and memories from this past year, and I would be so intrigued to hear yours, too. It’s so sweet to dig deep to find the little joys of life and to remember the every day, big, and little moments that make up the last 365 days. I adore reflecting upon our year (I even keep a Note on my phone, broken down by month, of the highlights and milestones and best memories from our years so that I don’t forget them in the moment!) and look back on this one with great fondness and happiness, at least in our little corner of the world. Celebrating the everyday joys doesn’t diminish the hard circumstances around us in the world but reminds us to be grateful for what we do have and to look for the good. And these are some of our most memorable anecdotes from our 2021!

a few “best of 2021” superlatives:

best travel/trip: Can I have a top three?! My three 2021 trips to NYC, our winter beach getaway, and our fall Blowing Rock getaway stand out the most in my mind as my favorite trips of the year! After a year of very little travel in 2020, it felt so, so good to get to do a bit more traveling and adventuring this year. I LOVE visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and two adorable (!!!) nephews in NYC and was wildly grateful to get to drive there three times this year (once to help them move, once when our second nephew was born, and once with Rob to have fun & play with our nephews)! Our getaways to the beach and to the mountains stand out as some of the sweetest and most special moments of our year; they were both just the best.

best book: It is SO HARD to narrow this down, y’all. I somehow managed to read over 100 (!!!) books in 2021, which is far and away the most I’ve ever read. And narrowing them down is no easy feat! Some of my very, very top fiction books for 2021 include Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (I finished it this week & think it’s my top for the year!), The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, One Two Three by Laurie Frankel, The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, The Rose Code by Kate Quinn, Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. My very favorite non-fiction reads are Prayer by Tim Keller, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella, and Generous Justice by Tim Keller (PS: You know I’ll be sharing my annual Books of 2021 blog post soon, as it was an incredible year for reading. I can’t wait to share even more soon… I just love reading so much.)

best TV show: Ted Lasso, Only Murders in the Building, and New Girl (which I’d never, ever seen til this year!). We LOVE all three. Ted Lasso is a must!!! (We also adore Survivor and are loving Season 41!)

best date: We love planning special date days & date nights (by going out or kicking things off a notch at home), but some of the ones that are tucked away in my memories as the most magical dates together include our recent year-end Christmas date night at the Angus Barn, when we sat outside in the sunshine at a local brewery & then went on a long walk, and our 4th anniversary date where we returned to our wedding venue for dinner, champagne, and cake. All of our dates are amazing, but there are a few that are even more special and memorable than others!

best marriage milestone: Every single year of marriage has been SO wonderful in a myriad of ways, and this past year has been incredibly sweet. Rob and I have enjoyed so much time together and really connected, and we’ve had so many conversations about our dreams, future family, and hopes. I love that we’re on the same page. This year has brought us together even more, which I didn’t know was possible, and our marriage just keeps getting better and better. I’m eternally grateful that I get to share this life with Rob and can’t imagine a more loving, thoughtful, hilarious, generous, goofy, and wonderful person to love!

best faith grower: I’ve been prioritizing my morning routine and quiet time (reading the Bible, daily devotionals, prayer, and writing in my gratitude journal) for many years now, but this year’s mornings felt particularly holy and sweet. I’ve enjoyed waking up earlier to savor this time by myself… curling up on the couch, watching the sun rise over the lake, drinking a warm cup of coffee (or iced in the summer!), and setting aside this sacred time has been even more fruitful than ever this past year. Even on my busiest days, I know how much my heart and my mind need this time, and it’s become such a priority and such a beneficial constant in my days. I don’t mind waking up earlier and really crave beginning my days in this way. It’s grown my faith so much to be in the Word daily, to expand my prayer life, to continue writing in my gratitude journal (going on a decade now!), to immerse myself with wise authors, and to set aside dedicated time to read, too. I’ve never regretted the time it takes to begin my days this way and know I’m a better wife, daughter, friend, aunt, and business owner/wedding planner for it.

best trend I tried: Hmm… maybe large velvet bows & hair ribbons (again/still)?! Or smocked dresses, though I’ve been wearing those for the past couple years? Oh and I finally joined the modern world and received AirPods as an early Christmas present, which have been so wonderful for all of my walks with audiobooks (when not with Rob or a friend, of course)!

best beauty purchase: Skirts and dresses perfectly tailored and utterly custom for me, from Rob. You read that right! Rob has taken it upon himself to work with a clothing designer/sewer that he found on Etsy (thank you, Snoog Designs!) to make some gorgeous bespoke skirts and dresses for me, which has got to be one of the most thoughtful and meaningful gifts I’ve ever received! Rob has picked out several different fabrics/patterns/colors, given this talented designer my measurements and preferences, and then they collaborate to surprise me with the most stunning skirts and dresses (a tartan pleated skirt, overall dresses, a navy suede skirt, a blue & white buffalo check skirt, a white pleated tennis skirt with black grosgrain ribbon trim, and so many more)!! So not only do I have perfectly fitting dresses and skirts that I adore, but they’ve been chosen and designed for me from the world’s most thoughtful, creative husband!! 

best family memory: Getting to SEE our families so much more this year!! We got to be together in New York a few times, got to travel to Ohio a few times, were able to attend my cousin’s wedding in Pennsylvania, and were able to celebrate my Grandpa’s life and memorial service with all of my extended family in rural Ohio. It was so special to all be together again throughout the year, and that’s just the sweetest feeling. 

best habit I created: Completing a whole YEAR of daily walks outside!! As of today, I’m at 349 days in a row and am so close to hitting a full year on December 31st!!! I’ve shared a lot of thoughts here, and I’m sure I’ll do a recap at the end of the year. I’m really, really proud of myself, and I also really, really love my daily walks outside, rain or shine, hot or cold, busy or not. This habit has been utterly transformative in a plethora of ways, and I cannot imagine not going on a 3-5 mile walk every day now!

favorite blog post written: my 2021 non-fiction book list, a marriage Q&A, my Grandpa’s legacy & oatmeal applesauce raisin chocolate chip cookies, six years of articles club, & our annual year-end date night

best new recipe: Anything and everything Half-Baked Harvest, of course! Her cookbook (and new one coming out so soon!) is far & away the cookbook I use the most, and I’m forever scouring her website for new recipes: hot honey mustard chicken & Brussels sprouts, sticky apricot chicken, & creamed feta salmon. We also loved this arugula & wild rice salad and made it many times for us and when delivering meals to friends; it’s a big hit. Whipped feta with honey has also been a new and utterly delicious addition this year; perfect for girls nights or any party!

best aunt moment: Becoming an aunt again!!! Have I mentioned lately just how much I LOVE being an aunt?! There is hardly any other greater joy in the world, and we are so blessed by our three nephews and one niece whom we adore with all our hearts. It was one of the highlights of my year to get to travel to NYC three times this year to see our nephews, and I’m counting down the days til we see our two nephews again over Christmas. From Facetimes to lots of giggles and laughs to silly faces to hide & seek to spending time together in person, it’s all the best and a total highlight of my year.

best home improvement: Our legacy gallery wall! It’s my absolute favorite and makes me smiles many times literally every day. We love our families so much and love seeing their smiling faces on our walls!

best little luxury I’ve enjoyed: My answer is a little different that what you might expect, but it’s one I’m really proud of and have loved: I’ve been my own boss for 6.5 years now (which is still crazy to me), and I figured it was past time to slightly adjust my work hours and turn off my computer at 4:30pm instead of 5:00pm. One of the biggest perks of being my own boss is setting my schedule and doing what’s best for me and for us (while working hard and serving my clients well, of course)… and this slight modification has been a-ma-zing. Minus the summertime when it’s still super hot and humid at 4:30pm, many of our daily walks start around 4:30pm, and shutting down my computer and turning off my work brain then has been so good for me. I feel a lot of pressure (I’m not even sure where from?!) to work 8:30 – 5:00pm every weekday, and slightly adjusting my end time has been very revolutionary and very rewarding.

I’m nothing if not concise – ha! I hope you enjoyed a peek into some of my “best of 2021” superlatives, and I’ll definitely be sharing much more very soon about our year as a whole in my annual 2021 Year in Review post (here they are from 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017). Despite all of the hard and discouraging and challenges in the world, there is still so much goodness and joy in the big moments, little blessings, and everyday living. I consider us very, very blessed and fortunate in countless ways, and I’ve never felt such gratitude and appreciation.

What are some of your “bests” from 2021? I can’t wait to hear yours!

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7 thoughts on “Best of 2021 (with Friends!)

  1. Love hearing about your year, Steph! And can I just say Rob’s gift of custom dresses/skirts blew me away — so thoughtful! Excited to read your thoughts on your daily walks next! Love you!

    1. Thanks so, so much, Sam!! The skirts and dresses are SO wildly thoughtful and also so beautiful – I’m a little speechless still. And I’ll definitely be sharing more about my daily walks, which has been the most transformative addition to my year/my days. xoxox

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