A Look Back on an Incredible 2013

One of my favorite things to do every year is to sit down and write this post. Its an incredible journey to look back on the year that was and to look ahead to the year that could be.

The year started with Jenn starting to get into a groove with her new job while I continued to pursue improving Darkstation. In fact the start of 2013 was a big for Darkstation as it was when we launched a brand new layout for the site. The layout was a modest improvement, streamlining some of our bigger traffic areas of the site (news, reviews, podcasts) while maintaining 10 years of content. I'm super proud not only of the redesign but for what we were able accomplish on the site in 2013.

In February Jenn, Jake, Ally and I made a trip down to Las Vegas. This is the third year in a row that Jenn and I have gone to Vegas in the early part of the year and this trip once again did not disappoint.We spent the weeks leading up to the trip trying to figure out which hotel to stay at and finally landed on the Vdara with a Panoramic Suite. The highlights of the trip were definitely the last dinner we had at Jean Georges Steakhouse (Jake and I went big with a 5-course tasting menu with caviar) followed by the incredible show Love at the Mirage. It was a great time and a perfect way to get the year rolling.

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In late March we decided to finally take a Caribbean cruise together. I took a few with my family when I was in High School but Jenn and I have never taken one together. We booked a couple of Caribbean cruises in years past but for various reasons have had to cancel them. 2013 was the year to make it happen and I know we are both glad we did. We made our way from LAX to Miami on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection. Along with always wanting to take a Caribbean cruise we've also always wanted to try out Celebrity as a cruise-line and I can tell you we were convinced. It probably didn't hurt that we upgraded our cabin to Aqua Class which entitled us to priority checkin, afternoon hors d'oeuvres, a private dining room, and full access to the ships Spa. The ship was by far the nicest we've ever sailed on and combine that with great food and an awesome wine bar and Jenn and I were sold. The best parts of that trip were just sitting on the balcony with no cares in the world just taking in the beautiful ocean and caribbean breeze. Oh how I wish I was on our balcony right at this very moment.

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April might have been one of our busiest months of the year. Right after we got back from the cruise Jenn got Invisalign (invisible braces) to correct some of her teeth movement after braces. Neither Jenn or I wore our retainers after braces and we both regret it in a big way. Jenn luckily was able to use our insurance to pay for most of her Invisalign and at the time of this writing is only a month away from being done and it looks amazing.

In mid-April I got the good news that I was successful in getting a promotion to a Business Analyst III. Its a nice bump up from the Business Analyst II position and comes with a bigger bonus and the move from being an hourly employee (which I hated) to a salaried employee (which is much better). To celebrate Jenn and I had a really nice dinner at Flemings and saw the awful movie Oblivion after. Luckily the bad movie didn't dampen my spirits and it was a great celebration regardless.

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What might be ironic is with the raise from my promotion we decided to make a move to spend less money rather then more. With Jenn being able to walk to work everyday the necessity of having two cars was gone so we ended up selling Jenn's BMW 328i to Carmax and put us down to one car my lovely Honda Fit (sarcasm). It was one of the best financial decisions we made all year and our bank account has reaped the benefits ever since we made the move.

After all the excitement of the promotion, selling the car, and Jenn getting Invisalign we had a pretty back to normal May. In late May we did go to the St Regis with Jake and had an incredible brunch. The only other time we had brunch there was the day after we were married so it was great to go back there and enjoy an incredible meal.

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2012 was the first year I'd ever attended an E3 press conference. Even though I've been invited for a long time it just hasn't worked out with my schedule to be able to attend. 2013 was different because I took the day off and attended all four (Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony) conferences for the first time. Every year I watch all the press conferences but to be able to actually be there in person was surreal. I drove all over LA going from press conference to press conference and enjoying all the new “next-gen” games that were shown off. By far the highlight was being at the Sony press conference when they announced that they would be allowing used games on the Playstation 4 and the crowd went bananas. It was a moment I'll never forget.

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Last year I noticed we had two pictures of Jenn and I in hospital garb, one for Jenn's broken toe and one for my rhinoplasty. I was really hoping 2013 would be a year without any such pictures but unfortunately that just wasn't meant to be. In mid-July I thought I came down with a pretty bad flu. I had a fever that refused to go away and after three days of it Jenn took me to the emergency room. They too agreed it was probably just a bad virus and sent me home after giving me an IV and some medicine. The next day I started feeling worse and to add insult to injury my stomach started to really bother me. Needless to say that night my fever didn't improve and I was taken back to the emergency room and this time everyone seemed a lot more nervous. Long story short I ended up being admitted to the hospital and had a colonoscopy the next morning and found out a couple days later that I had salmonella. I took some heavy duty antibiotics and was back feeling better a couple days later. Lets hope this time next year I don't have to post any more hospital pictures.

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Once I started to feel better it was time for Jenn and I to make a decision on our lease at our apartment. We absolutely love living in Newport Beach and having Jenn walk to work. It's been an incredible blessing to our family and changed our lives for the better in more ways then we expected. We now cook almost five nights a week, walk every night, and Jenn has time to read her Bible every morning and make herself smoothies before taking the 5 minute walk to work. So making the decision to renew our lease was an easy one and we are locked and loaded in our apartment until early 2015.

We had great birthdays in early August and even took a weekend trip down to Beverly Hills in late August. Its funny we both have lived in Southern California our entire lives and have never been down to Beverly Hills or the Griffith Observatory. So we headed out early in the morning, walked around Rodeo Dr., had an incredible lunch, and then headed to the Griffith Observatory. It was such an incredible day and to me the best part was feeling like I was on vacation only 50 miles away from home.

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Our big trip in 2013 was to Beijing, China and Bali, Indonesia. Jenn since I've known her has always wanted to go to the Great Wall of China. I remember Jenn and her mom spending weekends looking at different options to go to China whether it be a cruise or a tour of China. Jenn and I even looked at doing a cruise through China in years past but most of them were either too long or just didn't hit the stops we wanted to go. Then we started looking at Australia cruises which hit Bali as well and decided to combine the two and go to Beijing and Bali.

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It was an incredible trip filled with memories that I'll never forget. By far the highlight was the Great Wall of China. We went on a gorgeous Sunday morning, blue sky’s, 75 degrees, and almost no one at the wall. It honestly felt like we had the place to ourselves. We must have hiked the wall for three or four hours and loved every second of it. We made our way to Bali and barely made our flight but enjoyed our five days in paradise. Whether it be riding elephants or lounging by our private pool sipping pina coladas it was a great time. Unfortunately we had major problems with our flight getting home and ended up being delayed a day and ended up flying to Sydney before flying home. However when we look back on this trip it won't be about the bad flights but instead the amazing journey.

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After the trip we were exhausted and spent the next several weeks trying to recover from the trip and get back into our routine. Only a couple of weeks later I was invited to go to a three day review event for Call of Duty: Ghosts. Legally I'm not allowed to say anything more so I will just say it was an opportunity of a lifetime and I hope to get invited to more of these sorts of events in the future. A week after the review event Jenn and I did our annual pumpkin painting weekend in anticipation for Halloween and I think it was our best one's yet. We decided to use extra props this year on-top of painting it and I think they turned out great.

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November was the month of video games. Two Fridays in a row (November 15th and 22nd) were the release of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One respectively. Each of those two nights Jenn and I did an unboxing video and I spent two late nights digging into the new consoles. Have I mentioned I love video games?

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For Thanksgiving this year we decided against driving all over Southern California in favor of doing our own Thanksgiving. As I mentioned earlier Jenn and I have started cooking a lot more and were feeling adventurous and decided to cook a Thanksgiving feast. Our entire menu included turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, corn bread, and rice crispy treats. The meal turned out amazing and was one of the best turkeys I've ever had. We had so much fun in the kitchen it will be a Thanksgiving I'll always remember.

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Then came the holiday season. Jenn went crazy with Christmas decorations and it was by far her best year of decorating yet. We took a lot Jenn's moms Christmas decorations from her dad and Jenn utilized them beautifully. I sat back in awe of the amazing work that Jenn did to bring the holiday spirit to our home. We got most of our shopping done Thanksgiving weekend which allowed us to just sit back and enjoy the season. We even went down to Mario's Place in Riverside to renew an old tradition we used to have with her family. We got a beautiful window seat with views of the Mission Inn and had another amazing meal.

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Christmas was another superb day. Jenn and I celebrated on Christmas Eve, went to my parents on Christmas morning, and her Dad's for Christmas evening. It was a lot of traveling but it was a nice day and we got so many great gifts I don't even know where to begin.

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The year ended with us back at work and getting back into our normal routine. Its funny though I say normal but I really mean great. One of the best parts of 2013 was the average Tuesday where I would get home at 4:30 start cooking dinner, Jenn would get home at 5:30 and we would eat our dinners, watch The Daily Show, take a walk around Fashion Island, and finish the night with a TV show and hit the sack. Those days make me so happy its hard to even put it in words.

We decided to have a quiet New Years Eve. We got Chipotle, had some Bailey's and watch To Rome With Love and Midnight in Paris. I only hope that those two movies are foreshadowing something for 2014.

2013 was one of the best years of my life. We took two amazing trips and made memories that will last a lifetime. I thank Jenn so much for all she does for our family. She's my best friend, the love of my life, and I wouldn't want to be on this journey known as life with anyone else. Bring it on 2014 I can't to see what you have in store for us.