2011 Year in Review: Picking Up the Pieces

I remember sitting down to write my year in review in 2010 and wondering how I could possibly put into words the ups and downs of the year. There were a number of great moments but also many that if I could would never think about again. 2011 on the other hand was more about picking up the pieces of 2010 and trying to figure out how they all fit together again.

Jenn has this thing about New Year’s Eve; she thinks that there is a direct correlation between how the evening goes and the year to come. So we spent the day with Jake and Amy at the Newport Beach Marriott, enjoyed a great meal, had a few drinks, and just had a great time the entire evening. It must have done the trick because even through the pain of 2010, 2011 turned out to be a pretty incredible year.

Jenn Getting Her Ears Re-Pierced on New Years Day

Jenn Getting Her Ears Re-Pierced on New Years DayWe knew early on in January of 2011 that Jenn and I were going to need a change of scenery. Our main rationale for moving to a town-home in Irvine was for more space and better environment to raise a dog. Since having Bentley didn’t work out we decided that it was as good as time as any to start looking for a new place to live. We looked everywhere but our search ended abruptly when we set our sights back on The Colony. Since moving out in March of 2009 we had missed the close proximity to the beach and Fashion Island. With very little hesitation at all we made an appointment to view the available apartments, had a quick talk and signed a 15 month lease to move into a two bedroom apartment.

We got the keys for our new apartment on Saturday February 12th and were fully moved in the next day. I distinctly remember the feeling like I had arrived back home on the day we got the keys. I could even see it in Jenn’s eyes as we looked around our empty unit and unlike our Irvine Town-home we knew we had made the right decision. Moving in was a breeze, we ended up buying some new furniture, and Jenn managed to really make the place look incredible.

At the same time we were moving Jenn’s Dad also decided to take the plunge and move down to the Newport Beach area. After looking at a few different complexes he decided on Newport Ridge nestled in the hills of Newport Coast. The first few months of 2011 did involve a lot of moving around but we did manage to plan it out well enough to where it didn’t totally drain us.

During the first few months of 2011 Jenn and I used our Disneyland Annual Passes probably 5 times. Either going for the day, a couple hours or one ride we made use of our passes more in 2011 than any year previous.

Jenn and I Riding Splash Moutain Alone

Jenn and I Riding Splash Moutain Alone

In April we surprised Jake with an early birthday present. In fact we didn’t even give him a hint of where we were taking him just to meet us at our apartment and we would go from there. We ended up getting him tickets to go see Rain a Beatles Tribute Band at the Pantages Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Obviously not being old enough to see the real Beatles perform this is really the next best thing. It was an incredible concert.

On Our Way to the Pantages to See Rain

On Our Way to the Pantages to See Rain

In late May things started ramping up for Jenn and I. We ended up renting a Ford Mustang Convertible to drive up to Sonoma, California for Ally’s College Graduation. We drove up to San Francisco on Friday the 27th in the morning to stay the night in San Francisco. We spent some time walking around the city eating a few good meals and turning in early.

Driving Up to the Bay Area for Ally's Graduation

Driving Up to the Bay Area for Ally's Graduation

Saturday we drove from San Francisco to Sonoma for her graduation. For the last four years I had heard so much about Sonoma and the surrounding area where Ally lived but never made the trek up. Maybe Sonoma just didn’t want Jenn and I to visit because as we made our way to her graduation it started to rain and didn’t stop until well after her graduation ended. We all tried our best to stick around for the entire graduation but it got to the point where we couldn’t see anything and all made our way to the car for some shelter from the downpour of rain.

Up in Sonoma for Ally's College Graduation

Up in Sonoma for Ally's College Graduation

We ended up going out to dinner as a family and Jenn and I were left with a decision. Did we want to drive home from Sonoma (8 hour drive) or stop somewhere along the way for the night? I drove the first 4-5 hours down and we quickly realized at that point that we wouldn’t be able to stop until 2 hours outside of home so we pushed through to the end. Looking back it was not the best of decisions; we were both exhausted and should never have driven that far being that tired. Luckily the story had a happy ending and we made it home safe and sound.

It was only a week later that Jenn and I along with her Dad went on a 9 day trip to London England. Jenn’s parents had won the airline tickets on a radio giveaway the previous year and we needed to use them before they expired so we all after much debate decided to go to London.  Since we all have been to London before we decided to rent a car and see what the surrounding area in England was like. I drove us to Stonehenge, Bath, Dover, and Windsor in our rented VW Golf.  It ended up being a fantastic trip and we got to see a lot of sights we really never expected to be able to see.

Jenn and I at Stonehendge

Jenn and I at Stonehendge

One of the highlights of our new apartment is that instead of looking at other units (which was the case in our past two units) we have an open landscape of Newport Beach and Irvine. One of the highlights of the year was being able to stand our balcony and literally see 5 or 10 different fireworks shows in all directions not to mention one only a few blocks away.

Fireworks From Our Balcony in Newport Beach

Fireworks From Our Balcony in Newport Beach

For most a nine day excursion to London would be enough traveling for one year, but not for Jenn and me.  After years and years of debate, Jenn finally got me to break down and we took a week trip to New York, NY. I can’t even begin to count the number of times Jenn has wanted us to go and somehow this year was the year she convinced me, and boy am I glad we went.

Dinner at Chef Ramsey's London Restaraunt

Dinner at Chef Ramsey's London Restaraunt

It was some of the most fun we have had on a trip in a long time. From eating at Chef Ramsey’s London restaurant to going to the top of The Rockefeller Center at night, to walking the streets of New York there were so many great memories made during our week vacation. You would think with temperatures reaching the mid 90’s that it would slow us down but we literally saw all of the sights and did everything we wanted to do while still saving time to relax and take it all in.

Jenn and I On Top of the Empire State Building

Jenn and I On Top of the Empire State Building

After New York it seemed like the rest of the month flew by and we were already at our 2 Year Wedding Anniversary. We had a really incredible celebration dinner at Flemings and just really enjoyed a nice weekend together.  It is amazing how fast time has flown by. It feels like just yesterday Jenn and I started dating and now we have been married for two years and together eight.

One of the big kicks I have been on this year is buying Groupon, Living Social, Travelzoo deals. Basically they are deals on food and services that you buy online. My focus has been buying these deals for restaurants. My favorites are the ones that you buy for a flat price and get a 3, 4, and even 5 course meals for two. In 2011 Jenn and I have tried out probably fifteen new restaurants because of these deals. Not all of them are winners but a lot of them have been amazing date nights. In early October we ended up using our free night at the Marriott and a Living Social deal to a restaurant called The Bungalow on PCH. It was such a relaxing and incredible evening of great food and even better company that it just stands out as one of those great moments of the year.

October came and went and in late November Jenn and I went on our last adventure for the year. Jenn got invited to go to the BECC conference in Washington DC for work and being the supportive husband I am I agreed to come along for the ride. I ended up flying in a day later then Jenn and met her at the Hyatt on Capitol Hill where the conference was taking place.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather, it was cold, but crystal clear. During the day Jenn would be at her conference and I would lounge around and in the late afternoon to evening we would head out and explore the city. We did have one full day left to sightsee around the city. We ended up seeing a play (Much Ado About Nothing) touring the city using the double decker tour bus, and walking around the city.

Jenn and I In Front of the US Capital Building

Jenn and I In Front of the US Capital Building

We flew home from DC on Sunday and came straight home to decorate our apartment for Christmas.  Each year Jenn gets better and better at decorating, she definitely has a lot of her Mom in her who was notorious for decorating each room of the house with its own Christmas tree. Jenn hasn’t gotten to that point yet but she definitely stepped up her game this year. Needless to say in a few hours our apartment was literally transformed and looked gorgeous. From the dangling lights on the balcony (which I was unable to do) to the two beautiful trees the place just said we were ready for the holidays.

December as it normally does flew by with all of the normal holiday activities. Since Jenn and I spend Christmas with our families we have designated Christmas Eve for the two of us. This year we went to a local restaurant Pizzeria Mozza which is new this year and is a place we have wanted to try for a while. We split a pizza and wine and came home to watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas (a yearly tradition) as well as Christmas in Connecticut. Our original plan was to stay up until Midnight to open gifts but by 9PM I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make it so we got up at 5AM instead. All in all it was a great Christmas; we had far too many gifts for the two of us but I guess that’s also what makes it so much fun.

Jenn's Beautiful Christmas Decorations

Jenn's Beautiful Christmas Decorations

Going into 2011 all I can remember praying for is that things would somehow get better. I didn’t know what that would look or feel like, but I knew it was possible. When I look back on the year I can’t help but smile, we accomplished a lot, and did a lot of things we wanted to do. I can’t help but be excited for what is to come in 2012 because from my perspective it may be one of the best years ever.