Merry Christmas! This post of my top ten moments from the year is always my favorite to write, and has become a little tradition of mine since I first wrote one three years ago. (You can read the ones from year’s past here—2018, 2017, 2016!) Writing these posts is always the best way to look back on the year and pick out those really high points that bubble to the top—and much of my immediate family now go through the same exercise and it’s really fun to compare everyone’s top moments. While obviously every moment of the year is not great—and many are far from it!—I always feel extra grateful when I take a step back and reflect on all the good there is in my life. I am very, very lucky.
This year was my first full year in DC, in a neighborhood I absolutely love. This was also my first full year at my (no-longer-new) job, and as a result, a year of so much professional growth, challenges, and wins. I spent 40+ nights in a hotel this year, and so desperately wish I could get a month of rent back for those nights (hah!). I went to New York City more times than any previous year, have more Amtrak miles than I’ll ever be able to use, and made an effort to see friends in town every time. I went to three new states, bringing my state count up to 32. And, I still found time to read over 70 books.
I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. I so appreciate you reading A Touch of Teal this year. I started this blog five years ago, and it’s brought me so many friends, memories, and opportunities along the way—and been an amazing time capsule of my life.
As N’sync once said, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! x
AN IMPROMPTU BRUNCH AND A DAY OF SCOOTERING AROUND ATX
Over Presidents’ Day Weekend in February, my sister Jennifer and I went to Austin, Texas to enjoy the long weekend. I’ve long been a fan of Texas and Austin had always been on both of our travel bucket lists. This was my first time ever having Presidents’ Day off, so I wanted to take full advantage, and we booked the trip about a month or so in advance. If you’ve been reading here for a while, y’all know how much joy I get from planning trips, but since this one came so soon after starting my new job, I didn’t have as much time to do my research as I normally would have. So, Jennifer stepped up to the plate and planned us an amazing weekend in the Texas State Capital.
While there were so many fun moments of the trip, the part that stands out in my mind is an impromptu Sunday brunch we had at Moonshine Grill. Most of our Saturday was planned with activities, but we woke up Sunday with no agenda, other than we wanted a mimosa or two. We hopped on Google Maps and found Moonshine grill was within walking distance of our hotel and had so many five star reviews. When we arrived, the wait was about an hour and a half, so we went to the bar to grab a drink. Within five minutes of us arriving to the bar, two seats opened up—we were so lucky! And, even luckier since mimosas were only $5 and the restaurant had a delicious breakfast buffet. We stayed for close to three hours!
After brunch, we were feeling a little more bold, and decided to try the electric scooters that were everywhere in Austin. We figured them out pretty quickly and had the best time riding around town—including to the Yeti flagship, the Greetings from Austin mural, and the South Congress neighborhood. The scooters allowed us to cover so much ground, take advantage of the nice weather, and play in a way I hadn’t since childhood. We were seriously giddy with joy over the scooters.
You can read my full post about our trip to Austin, Texas here.
MY FIRST FINAL FOUR & UVA BASKETBALL WINNING IT ALL
Turns out, my second work trip with my new job was probably the best work trip I’ll ever be lucky enough to staff. Though I always knew I would be working Men’s Final Four, which was exciting enough, the trip was made even better when UVA punched their ticket to join me in Minneapolis!
I was in Minnesota—a new-to-me state, too!—for six days, and while it was a lot of work, I was lucky enough to attend both nail-biting games, and be there when UVA cut down the nets for the first time. My favorite redemption story in all of sports! I was also lucky enough to take a back-of-house tour of the stadium, which included the opportunity to walk on the court, hold the championship trophy, and tour the UVA locker room. It’s a trip I’ll never forget, and even if I make it to another Final Four, I’m not sure any will live up to this one.
You can read my full post about my Final Four experience here.
A SUNSET BOAT CRUISE ON VIRGINIA’S NORTHERN NECK
I really wanted to go on a Memorial Day trip, and ever since I went to St. Michaels, Maryland last year, I’d wanted to explore more of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. My coworker had told me about Tides Inn on Virginia’s Northern Neck, and so it had been on my radar for about a year. Given it was within driving distance of DC, I figured it would be the perfect spot for a long weekend, so I reached out to my sister Lindsey to ask if she wanted to join me. She was in!
Our trip turned out to be one of my favorite of the whole year—we ate lunch at a really cute crab shack right on the water and then arrived at the Tides Inn, which was absolutely beautiful. The highlight of our trip was the sunset boat cruise we took that lasted about an hour. We almost didn’t get to go because it looked like a thunderstorm was going to roll in, but the storms moved away from the area, and we were treated to an amazing sunset and golden hour over the water instead. Lindsey and I don’t spend as much one-on-one time together since she is killing it down at Clemson, so this was a really fun sister bonding trip. We then had an amazing sunset happy hour on the dock together.
You can read my full post about our trip to Virginia’s Northern neck here.
FIVE DAYS SPENT WITH MY SISTERS IN QUEBEC CITY, CANADA
In June, I went back to a place I fell in love with years ago—Quebec City, Canada. If you’ve never been, make it a top destination for 2020. It’s the most beautiful, historic town that is walkable, filled with great restaurants and fun things to do, and gives you those European vibes without having to cross the Atlantic. My sisters and I knew we wanted to go somewhere just the three of us this year, and we picked Quebec for two main reasons—1) I went in middle school and had been dying to go back and 2) we wanted to go somewhere that Lindsey could legally drink. We found a decent flight and hotel deal, and combined with the fact that the US dollar was a lot stronger than the Canadian dollar when we went, we all could make it work on our respective budgets.
We were in town for five days and four nights, which felt like the perfect amount of time. While we were there, so many memories stand out—an evening boat cruise that turned into a party with a wedding-like dance floor, a fun afternoon with a pitcher of sangria at a beach bar, a fancy brunch at the nicest hotel in town, some of the best burgers of the year, and the unique experience of ordering Mexican food in French. And even though it was stressful at the time, I’m even grateful for the memory of having 30 minutes to run through the airport and make it through customs in time to board our flight home.
You can read my full guide to Quebec City, Canada here.
A LONG SOLO WALK ON A SUNNY DAY AROUND THE VENICE CANALS
In July, a work trip brought me out to California for half a week, and so I decided to take a couple of days off work to extend my trip and explore LA. I’d been to LA once before, over ten years ago in high school, and was excited to have the opportunity to check out more of sunny California. I spent my first day to myself in Venice Beach, and once I checked into my hotel, I took a nice long walk around the famed Venice Canals. Because I Said So is one of my all-time favorite movies, and if you’ve seen it before, you know the Canals are the backdrop of a lot of the movie, so it was so cool to see them in person.
I loved the Venice Canals and the beautiful homes that line them so much that I ended up walking around for nearly two hours. (Next time, I’d definitely wear more sunscreen than I did—I ended up getting really burned because I didn’t realize how much stronger the sun is in Southern California!) After my long walk, I took myself down to The Venice Whaler, an institution right off Venice Beach, and treated myself to one of the best burgers and margs I’ve ever had.
You can read my full post about my trip to Los Angeles here. (I also loved, loved, loved my lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel—when I was outlining my top 10 moments, it was hard to pick between my walk around Venice or that lunch!)
MY GRANDMA’S 90th BIRTHDAY
On July 31, my Grandma turned 90! A few days after her actual birthday, my whole family went to Durham, North Carolina to celebrate the occasion with a big birthday bash. My Grandma didn’t think my Aunt from Arizona was going to be able to make the trek for her big day, but she had arranged to fly in for a big surprise. My sisters and I went to pick her up at the airport—my Grandma thought we were going on a Target run!—and when we returned, we told her we picked her up a little something from the store. Then my Aunt walked in and I think everyone shared a tear or two.
The following evening, my Grandma’s two living siblings, all four of her daughters, many of her grandkids, and a slew of family friends threw her a birthday bash. Most of us went around the room and gave a toast to my Grandma and it was really special. My Grandma has always been really involved in my life, and I love her so much. She’s my last living grandparent and I am so glad we could all be there to celebrate her big 9-0!
A DAY SPENT IN NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI WITH ONE OF MY BFFS
My friend Emma and I have been talking about going on a road trip through the south for years, and this year, we finally made it happen. We took an extended Labor Day weekend and visited Jackson, Natchez, Oxford, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Atlanta. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, and I would love, love to do a road trip again next year.
While our whole trip was amazing, my favorite day was the one we spent in Natchez, Mississippi. It was pretty darn close to my idea of the perfect day—we woke up and had breakfast at an amazing bakery in Jackson, and then made the two-hour drive to Natchez with an amazing country music playlist. When we arrived in Natchez, we toured two beautiful antebellum mansions, and then went to a restaurant right on the Mississippi River that had the best fried pickles ever. After lunch, we checked into our gorgeous hotel—a historic antebellum mansion that was converted to an inn. We spent the afternoon walking around the beautiful grounds and then had an amazing happy hour, dinner, and night cap at their restaurant and bar in the study.
We only spent 24 hours in Natchez, and I am dying to go back! It would be an easy place to spend a long weekend. You can read about our road trip through the south here, here, here, and here.
WHEN MY SISTER MOVED TO ARLINGTON AND WE LIVED CLOSER
My sister, Jennifer, has been back in the Northern Virginia area for a couple of years now, but in the summer, she moved to Arlington and I have loved having her closer to me. She lives with our cousin, and now that we all are closer in proximity, we hang out together a lot more. From the first night when she moved in and we watched Fresh Prince while drinking wine to just two weeks ago when we went to the Chase Rice concert and sang out hearts out on the way home, it’s nice to have my built-in buddy closer by.
In the new year, I am looking forward to having even more wine nights, cooking more meals, and re-watching many more episodes of Fresh Prince together. (This is our favorite scene from the show!)
THE FIRST YEAR OF DINNER CLUB
One of the greatest joys of my year was my monthly dinner club. We had our inaugural dinner last year in December at The Smith, and every month since, we’ve met up for a Friday night dinner to try a new-to-us spot. Julie and I met in college on The Cavalier Daily and Taylor and I were in the same sorority; they also met at school, and now, they are roommates! A couple of years ago, Julie and I reconnected on treadmills next to each other at Orangetheory, and after walking home from class together often, we decided to meet up for dinner with Taylor and it just became a thing that took on a life of its own.
Because of dinner club, I was able to try some restaurants that had been on my DC bucket list for years and try some spots I would have never given the time of day. When we had our December dinner club meeting, we took a vote on our favorite meal of the year—and it was a unanimous vote for Maydan! So, if you’re looking for my number one restaurant rec in DC, dinner club has spoken.
You can see all my posts about dinner club here.
CONQUERING THE FIRST YEAR OF A NEW JOB
This year, probably more than any year in at least five years, I really feel like I pushed my comfort zone nearly every day—and a large reason why is because it was my first year at my new job. I started last December, right before the holidays, and then returned to work in January, hit the ground running, and it never really stopped. I learned so much at work this year, and had the opportunity to work with some really amazing people. I worked on a lot of projects, events, and launches and am so proud of all the work I did this year. Without a doubt, this past year at work is the hardest I’ve ever worked at a job.
While I loved my job this year, I am also relieved to have the first year done. Getting adjusted in a new office was stressful as I had to rebuild institutional knowledge and trust, and I am looking forward to having a better gut about things again. I’ve already got some really fun projects lined up for the new year, and I am sure this time next year, I’ll be amazed at everything I was able to accomplish.
I feel like last year, 2018, was a year when I was asking a lot of questions — and 2019 answered in a big way and brought amazing opportunities I would have never even imagined this time last year. I’m excited for 2020 since I think this year put in motion so many great things that will continue to play out next year.
and so, i’m offering this simple phrase
to kids from one to ninety-two
although it’s been said, many times, many ways
merry christmas to you
I hope you have a safe and happy holidays with those you love most! x
You have had such a fun year!! So many exciting trips. Have a great holiday and cheers to 2020!
Thank you so much! Cheers to 2020!
Congrats, Katie! You are CRUSHING it. I love reading your blog. I love the personalized, yet TOTALLY relatable content. I definitely teared up when I read about the surprise for your grandma’s birthday! I also started a new job this year (last spring, while 7m pregnant – insane), and while it means new opportunities, I always liken starting a new job to taking a math test while smiling the whole time… #worthit Cheers to 2020!
Thank you so much for the kind words, Kate! I am so impressed you started a job while 7m pregnant. It looks like you are ROCKING the motherhood game. Hope you’re doing well! Hoya Saxa!