Happy New Year! I am lucky enough to still be off work for the holidays — I took two full weeks off, meaning I have 16 straight days off from Slack notifications, work emails, and Zoom meetings. Unlike the past few years, I decided to stay home for NYE, and it has been so nice to have this extended time at home to truly relax + recharge for what I am sure will be a busy year ahead.
The first week of my vacation was very much dedicated to the holidays — I spent the days leading up to and Christmas with my family, then did a one-night staycation at the St. Regis with my friend Molly, then spent an entire taking down my Christmas decor and deep cleaning my apartment (why does Christmas decor have to have so much glitter?!), and then had a wonderful cozy New Year’s Eve at home, cooking a sun-dried tomato pasta and enjoying a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. The second week of my vacation has been very much dedicated to the things I wanted to do during my time off — I’ve reorganized my closet and kitchen, made a huge stack of clothes and accessories I’ve wanted to sell on Poshmark, gotten back into a consistent workout routine, and have been able to spend a lot of time working on my creative projects, like this blog.
By the end of the year, I was very much ready for this break, but I think overall, I did a much better job creating a sense of work/life balance in my life in 2023 than I have in more recent years. At my day job, it truly was a banner year — my teammates and I were able to work on so many high-visibility projects that I am so proud of. But, I also had a great life outside of work, too — and, as much as I could, really tried to leave the stress of work at work. I stayed on top of my health, took vacations, got outside nearly every day, spent quality time with friends and family, read before bed every night, enjoyed my creative outlets, and worked towards my own personal goals. If 2024 continues down the same path I took in 2023, I will be one happy and lucky gal.
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 — 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016. Putting this post together was such a good reminder that the days are long and the years are short — it’s amazing how much can happen in a year. So, without further ado, here are my top 10 moments of 2023, in no particular order!
A Holiday Weekend at The Greenbrier
Over MLK day weekend, my sisters and I checked into one of my favorite resorts, The Greenbrier! While summer is definitely the resort’s high season given their golf course and outdoor pool, I personally think it is an amazing spot to visit during the winter months — there’s so much to enjoy inside The Greenbrier that you never have to go outside! Located about three and a half hours from the DC area, it’s the perfect spot for a weekend trip. We checked in for two nights and felt it was the perfect amount of time — we were able to thoroughly enjoy the resort before heading home refreshed from a break from daily life. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been before given the Dorothy-Draper-designed interiors — every room is seemingly more beautiful than the last! In addition, the hospitality is excellent and the food + drink are also great.
Driving up to The Greenbrier is magical — the resort is huge and we were thrilled to see they still had their Christmas decor up, including a huge tree on the main lawn! We checked in and enjoyed the free glass of champagne they offered us while introducing Lindsey to some of the gorgeous decor in the lobby. After, a super kind bellhop helped take our luggage to our room and we popped a bottle of bubbles we had brought while taking a ton of pictures of our gorgeous floral room. Each guest room is decorated differently — and to the nines! — so it was fun to see what ours looked like.
We also enjoyed some cocktails at The Lobby Bar — which is one of my favorite bars ever, a delicious steak dinner at Prime 44 West, brunch in the Main Dining Room — complete with the breakfast buffet and mimosas, Afternoon Tea in the Lobby with the most delicious cookies, the Bunker Tour, and plenty of walks around the beautiful, historic resort. It was such a great way to kick off our 2023 travel adventures, and I loved being a ‘Greenbrier gal’ with my sisters.
Four Days Spent by the Pool in Paradise at Sanctuary Cap Cana
In March, my sisters and I spent an amazing five days at Sanctuary Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic. This is truly one of the best trips I have ever been on — and we almost didn’t make it because of flight delays! We had to run through the Fort Lauderdale airport to make our connection, and I am forever thankful for Southwest to holding the plane because there were essentially no backup options if we didn’t make it. We also learned the important life lesson that you should always book direct flights when possible.
Hands down, what made this trip stand out above others was the staff at Sanctuary Cap Cana. Everyone was so nice, hardworking, and went above and beyond to anticipate and meet our needs so that we could have a truly relaxing vacation. Months later, we still talk about all our amigos and amigas — the bartenders at the pool, to Felix who taught our poolside salsa and Zumba classes, to the nighttime entertainment team who made sure we had fun at the “club” and Saturday night beach party. The staff often work 12+ hour days and spend several weeks away from their families at a time, and their effort certainly didn’t go unnoticed by us. To exemplify how awesome the staff was, Jennifer loves telling the story about how the first full day at the resort, we showed up on the later side to the pool — Manuel found us pool chairs immediately, and when I asked for an umbrella, he had one over to me within 15 minutes. It was delivered at the exact same time as Reyna delivered my poolside mimosa — which Jennifer said made me look like a queen.
I loved spending four days in the Caribbean sun with my sisters — reading by the pool, trying a variety of tropical drinks, and ordering quesadillas to our room for a late afternoon snack. We loved this trip so much that we already have another all-inclusive tropical escape booked for this winter — we are heading to Jamaica in February, and I can’t wait!
A Spring Afternoon Enjoying Wrightsville Beach
At the end of April, my family went to Wilmington, North Carolina for my cousin Caroline’s wedding — and we had the best time. To get ahead of the terrible traffic on I-95, my sisters and I drove to the Richmond area on a Thursday night after work and stayed at a hotel right off the highway. On Friday morning, we got up, grabbed Chick Fil A, and hit the road to arrive to the Wilmington area by lunch. Because we didn’t have any plans until Friday evening, we decided to head straight to Wrightsville Beach to spend the afternoon — and I am so glad we did as we had the best time.
You know those days or moments or experiences where you go in with absolutely no expectations, and walk away with a new favorite memory? That’s exactly how this afternoon in Wrightsville Beach was because, other than knowing we wanted to have lunch by the water, we went in with no plan. We hadn’t looked up the restaurant menu, we hadn’t extensively Googled the destination – we just wanted to enjoy a few hours of time at the beach before checking into our hotel and figured we would just see where the day would take us.
Following the recommendation of my cousin, we decided to head to Oceanic for lunch and it turned out to be a great decision. Though it rained most of our drive to Wrightsville Beach, by the time we arrived, there was nothing but sunny skies on the horizon. We were able to get a table on Oceanic’s back patio, that was built out onto a pier right over the ocean. The views and breeze could not have been better! We also really enjoyed the food at Oceanic. Because we were on vacation, we started with a round of drinks and loved the complimentary hush puppies every table got as a complimentary appetizer. For my main, I did one of their salads with fried chicken on top and it was heavenly. A nice cold glass of wine, a delicious salad, and an ocean view? Sign me up any day of the week. After we dined, we spent some time out on the public section of the pier, enjoying the beautiful blue water and watching the many surfers that were out catching a wave on a Friday afternoon. We weren’t quite ready to head over to downtown Wilmington for check-in though, so we decided to keep the party going.
So, we headed over to Dockside! Located right on the Intracoastal Waterway, we loved this bar! It was a very chill spot, with a huge deck patio right on the water and plenty of tropical cocktails on the menu. We posted up for about an hour or so with frozen margaritas and enjoyed watching all the boats go by. We arrived around 2:30pm or so, and by the time we left at 4pm, it had really started to fill up for happy hour — and everyone, us included, was in such a good mood!
A Charlottesville Weekend Celebrating 10 Years Since Graduation
In early June, I headed back to Charlottesville for my UVA reunion — I can’t believe it’s been ten years since I graduated. Y’all, I had the absolute best time. It was so much fun seeing so many of my friends in one of my favorite places. I left the weekend feeling so full of joy — and so happy that I made the decision to go to UVA all those years ago. It truly is one of the best decisions that I ever made, and I am so lucky our alumni association does such a wonderful job of hosting these reunions. I’m already excited for our fifteenth reunion in 2028, hah!
The official programming for the reunion began on Friday, but I headed down to Charlottesville on Thursday afternoon to spend an extra night with my college bestie, Molly. We treated ourselves to a happy hour at Keswick Hall, and then headed over to Marigold, the Jean-Georges restaurant at the resort, which has quickly become one of our favorite restaurants in the area. We had a delicious dinner, and it was nice to spend some one-on-one time reflecting on all our favorite college memories before we dove head first into the weekend.
On Friday, Molly and I checked in at Alumni Hall and then headed out to King Family with some Take-It-Away sandwiches and bread ends in hand (if you know, you know!). Jackie met us out there for lunch and we enjoyed the views with a bottle of wine. After, we headed over to The Corner to check in our hotel and refresh before the ‘All Comers’ dinner on The Lawn. It was beautifully set up right in front of The Rotunda, and they had a delicious southern-style bbq spread.
At this Reunions, Molly had the fabulous idea to rent a Lawn Room for us to use as a “hospitality suite” and party pad throughout the weekend, which was so much fun! So after dinner and checking out the silent disco, Jackie and I enjoyed a nightcap at the Lawn Room. We loved having this space as a place for our friends to meet up throughout the weekend, and this is definitely something we’re going to do at our next reunion!
On Saturday, we kicked off the day with brunch at The Virginian, followed by some shopping on The Corner. Class rings at UVA at a big thing — they are a classic signet ring — and when I ordered mine ten+ years ago, I had very different taste in jewelry than I do now. Back then, I selected a petite face in white gold, and while it still fits and is very special, I no longer wear it every day. For the past few years, I’d been thinking about purchasing another class ring that’s more in line with my preferences now, and decided to go for it while at my ten year reunion. I ordered a gold ring with a larger face size and am really excited for it to come in and become a part of my everyday jewelry.
I spent the afternoon catching up with friends outside our Lawn Room and eating Bodo’s bagels, and then got ready for the Class of 2013 dinner. We hosted a little pregame for friends at the Lawn Room prior to dinner, which was so much fun as I got to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while! We then made our way down to the dinner in front of the Homer statue on the Lawn, and after, over to the band party in the amphitheater. We capped off the night at The Virginian, followed by some late night pizza at Christians. Needless to say, we were very tired for the drive home on Sunday morning — but it was so, so worth it for an amazing weekend in Charlottesville!
A Summer Night on Sullivan’s Island
Over 4th of July weekend, I went to visit my sister Lindsey in Charleston, where she was living at the time. It was one of the most fun trips of my year — we spent a day at Folly Beach eating at one of our family’s favorite restaurants, Rita’s, before spending a day on the beach and closing it out with dinner at Taco Boy. We went to Post House Inn for burgers + mimosas, before walking along Pitt Street Bridge and doing a bar crawl along Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. We explored downtown Charleston, shopping on King Street and grabbing drinks at Little Palm and The Blind Tiger.
But, one of my favorite memories from that trip was the night we spent out on Sullivan’s Island. When Lindsey got home from work, we did a little happy hour at her apartment while getting ready, and then made the scenic drive from downtown Charleston over to Sullivan’s Island. We parked near the lighthouse and walked on the beach during golden hour — it was pure magic. (When I win the lottery, count me in for a house on Sullivan’s Island — there are so many gorgeous beachfront properties!) We then headed over to Fish Camp for dinner — it’s a sister restaurant of Post House Inn, and one that has been on my bucket list since it opened a few years ago. The decor was so well done — nautical and beachy without being overly touristy — and the food and service were great. It was the perfect way to end such a fun trip with my sister — so much so that I cried before bed that night to Lindsey because I didn’t want the trip to be over. I am so lucky to have made such good memories with my sister in one of my favorite places.
A Roadtrip Through Four “Fly Over States”
My friend Emma and I try to take one big trip together every year. We’re both on a mission to get to all 50 U.S. States, so earlier this year, as we were brainstorming where to go, we decided we needed to head to the heartland and cross off some of the “flyover states.”We initially were looking to fly into North Dakota and make our way down to Oklahoma, but after looking at flights, the driving routes, and the amount of time we could take off work, we determined it was too much ground to cover on this trip.
So, after taking another look at trusty ol’ Google Maps, we landed on the following plan:
- Thursday: Fly into Omaha, Nebraska and spend the rest of the day exploring.
- Friday: Eat breakfast on Friday in Council Bluffs, Iowa, right across the Missouri River from Omaha, before driving the five hours to Wichita, Kansas, where we’d spend the rest of the day.
- Saturday: Enjoy breakfast in Wichita, Kansas before driving the two hours to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where we’d spend the rest of the day.
- Sunday: Fly home from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City.
While we had a lot of ground to cover, we ended up spending ~24 hours in each of the cities we visited — except for Council Bluffs, Iowa, which was more of a bonus stop that allowed us to cross off another state! — and it felt like we had enough time in each to hit the highlights in each place. All of these cities, however, definitely had enough to do that you could make a weekend trip out of each of them if you wanted to spend more time in one place instead of make it a road trip like we did.
From an incredible steakhouse dinner following a happy hour at a French wine bar and discovering the best used bookstore in Omaha to exploring a pioneer town and the ring of fire ceremony in Wichita to enjoying the National Cowboy Museum and an incredible speakeasy in Oklahoma City — plus countless hours on the road enjoying country music while eating garden salsa sunchips — I am so glad I was able to take a quintessential American road trip this year.
A Dockside Happy Hour in Ocean Isle Beach
In August, my family went to our happy place, Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, for a week. While in the past, we’ve stayed in condos, this time, we splurged for a house right on the canal, a few blocks from the beach, so we could all be together. On Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early and drove down. Our first stop once crossing the bridge onto the island is always Sharky’s for a happy hour. It’s a tradition that got accidentally started when Jennifer and I arrived to the beach early once and our condo wasn’t ready — and we had so much fun, we’ve been doing it every year since.
This year, once we wrapped it up at Sharky’s and unloaded everything at our rental house, we all poured ourselves one of our favorite drinks and took it out to the dock to enjoy the sunset. We brought out a bluetooth speaker, and ended up spending several hours together right on the water, watching the boats go by, and singing some of our favorite songs — everything from Taylor Swift to Kenny Chesney to Oklahoma the musical. The rest of our trip was so much fun, too, but I remember telling my family that even if we had left after that first night, it still would have been a great trip.
Hanging My Gallery Wall with My Dad
In late August, my dad helped me hang the gallery wall in my bedroom that I have been dreaming about and scheming up since the day I moved into this apartment back in 2020.
While I’ve admired gallery walls for a long time, up until now, I’ve never curated or hung one in my own space. The way my bedroom is laid out is perfect for this kind of installation as there’s one long wall opposite my bed that’s not conducive to placing furniture against it. And, because I rent, I didn’t want to paint or hang wallpaper in my bedroom, so a gallery wall was a great option to bring in color and visual interest without making any permanent changes.
I am very picky about art — I like to buy pieces that really speak and are meaningful to me, so curating and framing everything (which can add up so quickly!) was a years-long process. I initially was going to do a mix of gold and white frames, but as I began to collect and frame everything, I realized I was gravitating towards gold frames — and so I made the decision to do only gold frames and love how it turned out. There are 18 pieces in the gallery wall — with space to add more as my collection continues to grows overtime.
I love, LOVE how it turned out — and I love even more that my dad helped me bring my vision to life. He came over to my apartment, well prepared as always — with all sorts of nails, picture hangers, and measuring tools, and painstakingly worked on it with me for nearly three hours. He didn’t make a single mistake, and I would have put 1,000 extra holes in the wall, so I admire his patience and math skills. It is always fun to spend 1:1 time with my dad, and we had a good time catching up in between all of the math calculations. The gallery wall still brings me so much joy every time I walk by it! And, good news for my dad, I’m dreaming up another gallery wall in 2024 ;).
An Afternoon in Nashville Cheering on the Hoos
I was able to close out the summer with my best friend, Emma, down in Nashville, Tennessee! We decided to head down to Music City for Labor Day Weekend to cheer on UVA as they took on Tennessee in football at the Titan’s Stadium. It was my first time cheering on the Wahoos on the road, and was such a great trip — it was the perfect mix of fun activities and relaxing downtime with a great friend.
The night before the game, Emma and I went over to Acme Feed & Seed for a ‘Wahoo Welcome Party’ that the UVA Office of Engagement hosted to bring together Wahoos who were in town for the game. They rented out a floor of the bar and had an incredible live band playing. It was a really fun way to get excited for the game and talk to fellow UVA alum who were also in town to cheer on the Hoos against the Vols.
On Saturday — game day! — we were up bright and early to head to the UVA vs. Tennessee game! I have never seen so much orange in one place. Prior to the game, we stopped by the UVA tailgate that we had bought tickets for. It was right outside the stadium and was so well done! They had a huge breakfast buffet, multiple open bars, and ample school spirit — the cheerleaders and Cav Man were both on hand. It was a great way to talk to fellow Hoos and get pumped for the game before we went into stadium. Our seats for the game were on the upper deck, so it was very hot, but we had such a great time watching the game and made a lot of friends with the many Tennessee fans sitting around us ;). We stayed until the end of the third quarter, and then headed over to Broadway to find some lunch and some much-needed air conditioning. We ended up at Ole Red, which is owned by Blake Shelton, and it was the perfect place to cool off — I had one of my favorite meals: a salad with fried chicken — and we enjoyed the live music they had going. After that, we capped off the afternoon at The Second Fiddle, and then called it an early evening because we were exhausted!
A Christmastime Dinner at Martin’s Tavern
When I turned 30, instead of gifting me a physical object, Jennifer took me out to dinner to celebrate. We loved the tradition of an experience and time together so much that we’ve been doing it every year since. That first year, I asked her to take me to Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, a DC classic where JFK proposed to Jackie — and enjoying a meal there at Christmastime was magical. So much so that we’ve gone back every year, even though there are more than enough restaurants to choose from in DC!
This year, we went the first Friday in December and had the best time. Jennifer came over to my apartment for a little holiday happy hour before — we drank champagne out of my Spode flutes and watched home videos of Christmas past before making our way across the river. If you’ve never been to Martin’s at Christmastime, definitely add it to your list for next year — they have decorations everywhere and the best playlist going. We sat in a booth, enjoyed the clam chowder to start, and then finished our delicious meal off with a rousing rendition of happy birthday sung to me by the staff with spoons. It was a great way to celebrate 33!
As I close out this year’s post, I wanted to leave you with a quote that I have been coming back to ever since I came across it earlier this year:
However you choose to live your life,
just know one thing for certain:
someone is going to be disappointed.
So the choice before you is ‘who’?
And here is the whole truth of it:
it really shouldn’t be you.
One of the best things I started doing in 2023 was choosing myself over other people. Whether that meant skipping out on certain invitations to protect my own peace, not over-scheduling myself even if I technically had “free time” on my calendar, not feeling pressure to text back right away, or saying no to things that weren’t a “hell yes,” I am really proud of all the progress I made in this arena as a recovering chronic people pleaser. The quote above has been such a good filter for me — and so I wanted to remind you, and me, to not disappoint ourselves in 2024.
Here’s to the year ahead! x