What a YEAR! I say this every year, but this blog post is always my favorite to write. (You can read the ones from year’s past here—2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016!) It’s so fun to reflect and take stock of everything that happened over the last 365 days. It’s also a good reminder to see how far I’ve come since the last ball drop—as someone who always seems to be looking ahead to the next accomplishment or focusing on the challenge to overcome, I often forget to take a step back and celebrate the wins of each year.
While 2021 had some really great moments, generally speaking, I was ready to say goodbye and have a fresh start with 2022. For me, 2021 was a much harder year than 2020—the isolation from another year of the pandemic combined with a really intense six months at work made for one of the most stressful periods of my life. I was really burnt out by the time I closed my laptop for ‘adult winter break’—the slightest inconveniences would send me over the edge, I was thinking about work even during non-working hours (I’m usually much better at boundaries!), and I cried a lot.
I took two-and-a-half weeks off over the holidays—I go back to the “office” on Thursday—and it’s truly one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I’ve had time to completely disconnect from work, catch up on a ton of personal to-dos, sleep in without an alarm, spend lazy mornings reading in bed, try new recipes, spend time with my family, and travel with one of my best friends to one of my favorite places. It’s been so restorative and I am finally at that place in vacation where I am ready to get back into a routine and head back to work.
As we started to approach the new year, I was really beating myself up about the past year and focusing on the negatives about 2021. After we finished our delicious Christmas feast, my family went around the dinner table and talked about the highlights and wins of our year and that really helped to remind me how many great times this year held. I’ll also say that I had a really hard time narrowing this post down to just 10 moments of the year, which goes to show that even though I was focused so much on the negative, there’s still a lot of positive to remember about the year—and I am sure, as time always does, my view of 2021 will soften in hindsight. But for now, I am so excited to see what 2022 has in store, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a really great one.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 moments of 2021:
A WINTER ESCAPE TO CHARLOTTESVILLE
Last January, I did a girls’ weekend to Charlottesville with some of my best friends, Emma and Jackie, and since another one of my best friends, Molly, lives in town we were able to hang out with her, too! Things last January pandemic-wise were pretty bleak—there was a vaccine in the works, but we had no idea how quickly it would be rolled out and most Virginia + DC restaurants still had a curfew of 10pm with indoor dining capacity limits. This trip was a much-needed change of scenery from my apartment and one of the first times I had true, unbridled fun in 2021—it gave me a lot of hope for what was on the road ahead.
We drove down to Charlottesville after work on Friday and en route, we stopped at a Sheetz on Route 29 to pick up some White Claws for the hotel. We stayed at The Draftsman, which is a gorgeous Autograph Hotel in town that we were able to get a great deal on because of the pandemic. Once we arrived, admired the cute hotel, we decided to walk to the Downtown Mall for dinner. We drank a White Claw en route—flouting the open container laws—and ended up at Whiskey Jar for dinner. We sat outside on their patio, which while heated, was still a little cold. BUT, we had one of my favorite meals—fried chicken sandwiches, mac + cheese, and champagne. They were supposed to take our alcohol from us at a certain point, but gave us another round in to-go cups and let us sit on their patio longer than I think they were supposed to. When we got back to the hotel room, we had a really fun dance party. It was just such a fun night, and one that was much-needed.
The rest of the weekend was filled with Take It Away, King Family, The Virginian, Bodo’s, my first trip to The Clifton, and lots of laughs with the best people in the best college town in America.
A NIGHT AT A SPEAKEASY ON THE UES
For Presidents’ Day in February, I went to visit in New York City. We had a very low key Friday night when I arrived—we got Shake Shack, drank champagne, and watched You’ve Got Mail. It was such a perfect, cozy evening, especially because it was absolutely freezing in NYC. (It was also my first time arriving to the new Penn Station—such an upgrade from the old one!)
The next day, we took the ferry over to Brooklyn, a part of NYC I haven’t spent a ton of time in, and had a fantastic day at brunch and playing tourist. After dinner though, was really the highlight of the trip for me—we went to a speakeasy behind The UES ice cream shop called the Storage Room. They had it all decorated for Valentine’s Day with balloons—very similar to that famous scene in Sex and the City—and had the best yacht rock wedding type of playlist going. After a round of cocktails, we took advantage of a they had a special going on Moët & Chandon Brut Rosé that came with commemorative glasses. Because of NYC laws at the time, we also had to order food—so we indulged in some dinosaur chicken nuggets. Because their establishment wasn’t visible from the street, they sneakily stayed open past NYC curfew and let us hang for an extra hour or so. It was just one of those magical nights you would never be able to recreate if you tried.
A DAY AT THE BILTMORE ESTATE IN ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
For Memorial Day Weekend, my sisters and I took our annual “sisters trip” to Asheville, North Carolina. We had never been before, despite two of us being native North Carolinians, and it was really fun to explore a new town together.
A highlight of our trip and the real impetus for going was to visit the Biltmore Estate, which had been on my bucket list for years. We chose to go on Friday, the first full day of our trip, given we figured it would be less crowded than the weekend—and while it looked like we might have a rainy day, we really lucked out with the weather. We arrived to the Biltmore Estate right after the gates opened at 9am, mostly because we wanted to ensure we could reserve the complimentary wine tasting that came with our tickets, which we couldn’t do until scanning a QR code once we were on property. One of my favorite moments from that day is me driving up to the gate to check us in, with Jennifer in the front seat ready to scan the QR code to reserve our tasting. We were given the brochure and asked the docent what page it was on, and Jennifer flipped to that page so quickly to get us a time! In hindsight, we had no reason to panic or move that quickly because all the time slots were left, but we were laughing at how dedicated we were to this free wine.
The way we structured our day at the Biltmore was really perfect for us—we got there with enough time before our tour to snap some photos, get a lay of the land, do an initial cruise of the gift shops, and grab some water before hopping on the mansion tour. The tour itself was really well done, with audio headsets giving really informative overviews of each room, and docents on-hand to answer any other questions we had. While touring, Jennifer and I both fell in love with a painting called The Waltz and after our tour, we went back to shop at the gift shops to see if we could find a replication of it for our apartments. We initially didn’t see one, but I asked the clerk and she realized they were out of the poster copies they normally stock, so she was able to bring up two from the storeroom for us. We were so excited!
After making our purchases, we walked around the gardens a bit and then decided to make our way back to the car to drive over to Biltmore Village. Just as we got to our car, it started to drizzle slightly, but it stopped by the time we got to Biltmore Village for lunch, a little more shopping, and our highly anticipated free wine tasting. It couldn’t have worked out better!
We left the Biltmore around 5pm and it was truly one of the best days—it’s always so fun to check something off your bucket list that’s been on your wish list for years, and I am glad I got to do it with my sisters, who love learning about history—and free wine—as much as I do.
A WEEK SPENT AT OCEAN ISLE BEACH, NORTH CAROLINA
Like summer of 2020, my sisters and I knew we wanted to spend a week at the beach. Last April, I texted Jennifer on my lunch break that I needed something to look forward to, and within an hour, we had a condo at the beach booked for a week. We got so lucky, too, because we snagged one of the last units in the development where we like to stay. It’s a block off the beach and super affordable—I am so glad we found it last year! This year, we convinced our cousin, Mikie, to fly in from Arizona to join us and Lindsey’s best friend from college, MK, to drive up for a few days.
While we had an awesome week, two moments from the trip stand out that I wanted to highlight specifically. First, we fell in love with a restaurant called Inlet View Bar & Grill that my dad discovered on a whim back when we visited in 2015 and we returned in 2020. On that visit, we discovered they make fresh orange crushes using the industrial juicers—and they were just so good. This summer, we knew we wanted to get back to Inlet View Bar & Grill and when we were planning out our meals for the week, we decided we should just go twice if we love it so much and it’s a once-a-year thing.
So on Saturday night, the first night we got into town, once we unpacked at the condo, we headed out for Inlet View. It’s always kind of packed since it’s a popular spot, and the wait is half the fun since they have such good views and drinks. When we arrived, there was a long line for the bar, but we knew there were several others on-site. So we took a divide and conquer approach—Lindsey would go to one bar and Jennifer would go to another, while I was on standby to help whoever got to the bar first. They both got to the top of the line at the same time, so we ended up with six orange crushes instead of three—everyone got to double fist their first round! We definitely weren’t complaining though. It was a great way to kick off our week at the beach, and we went back on our last night in town for a few more orange crushes, too.
My other favorite moment from the trip was our “booze cruise” to Sharky’s, which was actually Mikie’s brain child. Earlier that day, we had gone to get burgers for lunch, followed up by an early afternoon margarita at Ocean Isle Fish Company and he suggested that night for happy hour, we ride our bikes up to Sharky’s for a round of drinks. So that’s exactly what we did—we rode around the island for a bit and then made our way up to Sharky’s back porch for some margaritas. After we were done with our drinks, we did a cruise through the gift shop to get some new Sharky’s merch and then went back to the condo where Mikie cooked us a delicious Mexican feast. It was just such a fun evening and a highlight of our week for sure.
I don’t like this living, I love it
Sweet magnolia blue skies up above it
I don’t call Carolina just a place I visit
I call Carolina home
I don’t like drinking beer, I love it
On the back porch swinging with my honey
Life’s too short just to like it so you better get to loving
This living before it’s gone
Life’s too short
Better get to living if the beer’s ice cold
You better get to sipping if the song’s in the air
Get you out a lighter if the party’s rocking
You pull an all-nighter cause life’s too short
A HARD-EARNED WORK PROMOTION
One of my big goals last year, that I didn’t really share with anyone, was to get promoted. And on a random Tuesday in July, that goal was accomplished! My boss called me first thing in the morning to tell me and it truly made my day—I was so excited and jumped up and down around my apartment.
I had always wanted to buy myself a bottle of Veuve Cliquot brut rosé and decided that a promotion was the perfect excuse to buy a bottle. So between afternoon meetings, I ran out to Target to buy one and have it chilled by happy hour time. That evening, Jennifer and my cousin Kara Marie came over to celebrate with me—we did takeout from Courthaus Social, one of my favorite places, and wine on my balcony. I was so glad they could celebrate with me, and it was such a fun impromptu evening.
A WEEKEND SPENT AT WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA
In August, Visit Winston-Salem invited me down for a weekend and I jumped at the opportunity! I lived in Greensboro for a couple years as a kid, but had never spent much time in nearby Winston-Salem. When a few of my friends were at Wake Law, we’d visit for a weekend here and there, but we never explored much beyond the local bar scene or the apartment complex pool. Jennifer came along as my guest and “faux-tographer” and we jokingly called it the TOT company retreat.
We drove to Danville, Virginia on Thursday night after work so we could get to Winston-Salem first thing Friday morning. That day, we spent it at Reynolda Village, the former home of RJ and Katharine Reynolds. We also got to tour their home, Reynolda, and if you know me, you know there are few things I love more than a historic home tour, so this was right up my alley. I walked away with so much appreciation for the history of Winston-Salem and how much the Reynolds family shaped it.
We then spent a lovely evening at Spring House Restaurant for a really fun food festival, and ended up sitting outside on their patio long after the sun went down. The following morning, we had an amazing breakfast at Lavender & Honey Kitchen, followed by a great day of antique shopping and brewery hopping.
This is a bold statement, but I think I enjoyed Winston-Salem more than Asheville! The latter was just a little too hipster for me, and Winston-Salem seemed to have so many great things to offer—rich history, a burgeoning food scene, and plenty of local pride. I would jump at the opportunity to go back.
A DINNER AT THE WAVERLY INN
Over Labor Day Weekend, I went to NYC for my friend Laura’s bachelorette party! We stayed at the Nomo Soho and Kristyn, my roommate for the weekend, and I really lucked out with our room— we had a corner room that had an incredible view of the city. I especially loved it at golden hour. We could have sat in the hotel room all weekend and been super happy.
However, we did venture out—it was a bachelorette party, after all! On Sunday night, the party had slimmed down to about seven gals, and we had one of the best meals of my life at The Waverly Inn. I had never been before, but now I am dying to go back. Next time you’re in New York City, definitely make sure it is on your itinerary. It is such a cozy, warm vibe with amazing food—and because we were a larger group, we were able to try a lot of different dishes. I still think about that truffle mac + cheese we splurged on, and the amazing steak I had as my entree. Whether you’re with girl friends, parents, or going on date night, this would be a perfect spot.
MY CHIPOTLE BIRTHDAY PARTY
In November, I turned 31! Last year, I invited a small group of my best gals out to a vineyard and had the best time. Since 31 isn’t as much of a milestone birthday, I wanted to do something a little more low key, but still celebrate with my friends to mark another year around the sun.
I’ve always wanted to get Chipotle catering, and I decided this would be such a fun idea for my birthday this year. It was so easy, too! About a week before, I went online and ordered enough Chipotle for 15 people from my favorite Chipotle—there are several different catering options, but I did the one where you get to pick the meat and the salsas/toppings you want—and then the day of my party, I went to pick it up about an hour before. My order was all boxed up and ready to go with bowls, utensils, and napkins. When my friends arrived, the wine started flowing and everyone got to build their own Chipotle bowl. I also had leftovers for days—which I am not complaining about at all!
I had such a fun night celebrating with my friends and cousins—I am so lucky to have the best “home team” around.
AN AFTERNOON AT THE LUCKETT’S HOLIDAY DESIGN HOUSE
One of the highlights of my holiday season (and year!) was the day my sisters and I spent at the Luckett’s Holiday Design House. It was our first time going and we already know we want it to be an annual holiday tradition.
Since the Old Lucketts Store is about an hour from DC, the drive out listening to Christmas music really got us in the spirit, and when we arrived, we instantly fell in love with the charm of the property. And then who doesn’t love to shop a 50% off sale while sipping champagne? They had so many unique holiday pieces and it was fun to shop not only for myself, but to talk my sisters into things I knew they wanted to buy. For instance, Jennifer found this really cute serving platter we convinced her she should get, and then we talked her into the matching plates and bowls.
After we were done shopping and enjoying all the fun photo moments around the property, we went and got burgers and beers at a restaurant nearby. It was the perfect way to cap off the day and really get me in the holiday spirit.
A TRIP TO CHARLESTON FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE
Long story short, I was supposed to work Capital One Orange Bowl and Emma was going to come as my guest. When those plans fell through, I was so excited Emma was on the same page as me—we still wanted to get out of town for NYE and preferably, go somewhere warm. We started looking literally a week before we were to travel and after scoping out different flight and hotel prices, we kept coming back to Charleston. It’s one of our favorite cities to visit, the weather forecast looked amazing, and the flight prices were right. When looking at hotels downtown, they were all in the $400-500 range per night because of the holiday, but we found a Marriott Courtyard in Mount Pleasant for less than $150 a night while we were there. We had never stayed on that side of the bridge before and were excited for a new adventure and to explore a new-to-us part of town.
So much about this trip felt like divine intervention. For instance, we had a loose itinerary going in, but didn’t necessarily have a strict schedule outside of some dinner reservations. So, the first day, we decided to happy hour on Shem Creek and caught the most unbelievable sunset, but had we gone the following day, we would have had to deal with a downpour. Then, when we were shopping on King Street, we noticed a storm coming our way and ran to cover at the Hotel Bennett. We got to the hotel around 3:50pm and the champagne bar, Camellias, we wanted to try opened at 4pm—it just worked out so perfectly.
I think the universe just knew I needed this trip—and what better way to cap off a wonderful year of great meals than with my favorite meal of all time: a cheeseburger, French fries, and a glass of bubbly.
(PS—I’ll have a full recap of this trip to Charleston up on the blog soon + will update this post to include the link once it’s live. In the interim, you can read all about my past trips to Charleston HERE!)
If 2020 taught me that nothing is promised about tomorrow, 2021 taught me that I need to be better at prioritizing what’s most important in my life. My main goal for the year ahead is to create a little more balance in my life—still working hard, but also making sure I am cultivating a wonderful life for myself outside of the 9-5. I have a really good feeling about the year ahead, and can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. All waves must eventually settle, and I am hoping for calmer seas for all of us.
next year all our troubles will be miles away
once again as in olden days
happy golden days of yore
faithful friends who are dear to us
will be near to us once more
someday soon, we all will be together
if the fates allow
until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
Happy, HAPPY 2022! Here’s to the year ahead! x