Our Favorite Things from 2014

Welcome to the 4th Annual "Our Favorite Things." Today its all about Jenn and I's favorite things from the past year.  If you want to go back and read past years posts here are the links (2011, 2012, & 2013). So without any more introduction here are Jenn and my favorite things from 2014!

Favorite TV Show

Jenn - This one is tough, because I love so many shows for so many different reasons. I think my all-time favorite show this year is a surprise – it’s Last Week Tonight. John Oliver is incredible, he’s hilarious and he actually delivers the news! Not only am I fully entertained when watching his show, but I’m also genuinely learning about what’s going on in the world around me. I can’t think of an episode I didn’t enjoy – which is why it’s my favorite. Honestly though Newsroom and Downton Abby are incredible too and probably would come in as #2 and #3 respectively. In terms of other runner ups:

Comedy/Dinner Show Watching – The Daily Show

Drama – House of Cards

Comedy – Veep

Chick Watching – Mindy Project

Joel - This is always one of the toughest categories for me to choose from. Jenn and I love our TV time together. There's nothing better then going to bed and watching an episode of one of our favorite shows before turning in from the night. I'm going to cheat and mention a few of my favorites before picking a winner. I'll start with Game of Thrones which continues to be incredible. I've loved every minute of that show and it continues to be stellar. Next up was the final season of Newsroom which was out of this world good. I was so close to giving Newsroom the win but alas. And last would be The Daily Show / The Colbert Report/ and Last Week Tonight. All three shows are comedy news shows that have been a constant in our lives in 2014 as we eat dinner or just relax.

However the winner for 2014 goes out to House of Cards. We missed Season 1 and ended up binge watching the first two seasons of the show on Netflix and loved every second of it. I've never been the biggest Kevin Spacey fan but his work in House of Cards is out of this world. I love the touches of him just talking to the camera and giving you insight into scenes that would otherwise lack in punch. Its a great show and I cannot wait for season 3.

Favorite Reality Show

Jenn - This one is easy – love Amazing Race. It’s an all-around awesome show where I get to see so many cool places, smile on the places I’ve already been and check out other places I would want to go. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I always beat Joel with whoever I pick for my “team.”

Joel - I feel like the Emmy's as year after year this award is probably just going to keep going to The Amazing Race. We watched both seasons this year and each were equally fantastic. It was such a joy to see Jenn's team win the All-Star season earlier in the year. Its a truly fantastic show and I can't wait to keep watching. A quick shot out to Top Chef which continues to be a close second.

Favorite Movie

Jenn - I’m not that big of a movie person, so this category is always pretty tough for me. I think I’m going to go with two movies that we saw very early in 2014, Her or The Kings of Summer. I loved the concept of Her and thought the acting was incredible. I also loved the idea of Kings of Summer, because I think there is a rebellious and adventurous side in all of us, and it was really cool to see that come to life in three young boys.

Joel - Over the last couple of years my entertainment choices have shifted more and more into books, TV, and video games. I still love a good movie but I just don't feel like I see as many good movies as I used to. There were three contenders. The first is the most recent movie I saw which was Whiplash. I loved the movie. It was probably the best acted movie I saw all year. The fact that our theater got to their feat to applaud the movie should be enough reason to go see it. The second movie was Boyhood which just on the premise deserves to be on the list. The movie was filmed over twelve years and is about a family growing up together. Its a moving film and one that everyone should see.

The winner of this category for me is Interstellar. Its not a perfect movie but it was the most fun I've had seeing a movie all year. The mere spectacle of it is worth the price of admission alone. The space scenes were some of my favorite movie moments in recent memory. Christopher Nolan knows how to make a great movie.

Favorite Song

Jenn - Another easy pick and really the only one contender this year – Hero by Family of the Year. “I don't wanna be your hero, I don't wanna be a big man, I Just wanna fight like everyone else…” I could seriously play this song on loop all day long.

Joel - The music categories are always my toughest. Between listening to podcast and audiobooks it doesn't leave a ton of time to listen to music. Most of my music time is at my desk at work. Luckily there was one song that stands above the rest for me this year. Its Take me to Church by Hozier.  The first time I heard the song I was in the car with Jenn and I thought at first it was Elton John. And as the song played I realized it wasn't but Hozier has quite the vocals and I can't wait to see what's next from him.

Favorite Artist

Jenn - Hands down Of Monsters and Men. One of the few artists that I own their CD and love every song. Not only do I love the beats of their songs, but LOVE the lyrics. And I can’t believe I am saying this, but as I get older, I’m finding out how much I love old school music too. I’ve become a HUGE fan of Franky, Frank Sinatra that is. Just bought a whole bunch of his classics and listen to him and Dean Martin on my way to work and just love it. I know, so embarrassing

Joel - I know I'm late to the party but the last couple of Coldplay albums have been incredible, especially their most recent Ghost Stories. There are two songs on that album that I absolutely love. Magic and A Sky Full of Stars. Both have been on my playlist since their release in May of this year.

Favorite Video Game

Jenn - Hahaha, so my parents, especially my dad can attest to how much I LOVED car racing games as a kid, and I have found that that really hasn’t changed since I got older. Thus, Mario Kart 8 is definitely my fav video game. It’s seriously a ton of fun, and I can sit down and play it anywhere, anytime, and smoke Joel of course. “Burn some dust. Eat my rubber” as Chevy in Christmas Vacation says. 

Joel - As I wrote in my Top 5 Games of 2014, it wasn't a great year of video games. Among my favorites was Mario Kart 8, Child of Light, and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. But by far my favorite video game of the year was Far Cry 4.

Favorite Book

Jenn - So here’s the thing, I LOVE to read, but I never have the energy to read, so I’m really hoping I break that in 2015 and read more. I am so jealous and inspired by how much Joel reads that I really hope this category for me is robust next year. With that being said, my favorite books this year actually come from the Book Club I’m in! Favorite book is totally a chick novel called “The Wedding Game” by Amy Matayo. I seriously read that book in a day flat I loved it so much. It was a cute, funny and romantic twist on the Bachelor series and I just loved it. It actually just made me think I should look at the author’s other books. Runner up was a book called “While Beauty Slept” by Elizabeth Blackwell. What I liked about it was it was not a typical read for me, but it was a really fascinating twist on Sleeping Beauty and I ended up really enjoying it! And books that I read daily that I also have to mention – the Bible – will always be my all-time favorite book. I love reading Psalms and Proverbs and always hear something new from God when I do. Joel and I also started doing a nightly devotional together mid this year, and speaking for the both of us, we love it. I originally was doing the morning version by myself, and Joel asked if he could be included, but unfortunately with the mornings always being so rushed (and us being so lazy to get out of bed), evenings became more practical and it has really worked out! It’s only about five minutes worth of reading, and it’s been really nice to sit and read God’s word with Joel every night and get a good small message out of it.

Joel - I read 26 books in 2014 and only two of them would I consider for this category. The first is Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson which was a great take on a super-hero story. Its also the first super hero novel I've ever read. I can't wait for the next book. But far and away my favorite book of 2014 was The Martian by Andy Weir. Its a story of an astronaut stranded on Mars and his fight for survival. The audiobook was out of this world and I can't recommend it more. Its a book that I could see myself revisiting. Oh and its going to be a Ridley Scott movie in 2015 so that's going to be great.

Favorite Meal

Jenn - Ok, so it may not have been my favorite meal in terms of food, but it has to be at Jules Verne in the Eiffel. Don’t get me wrong, the food was awesome, but just being able to eat in the Eiffel Tower, the ambiance, Joel making me laugh so hard my stomach hurt, and just the whole experience, will definitely be a meal I will never forget. And honestly, although I can’t just pick one, I have to say anytime Joel and I try and make our own meal, “Chef Joel & Jenn” it’s always incredible. Trying new things, cooking with Joel, listening to jazz music, sometimes dancing, those moments I will treasure forever, and same with the meals, even if they were just OK. But luckily, overall we have made some pretty amazing dishes, thanks to Joel’s research, and I look forward to see what we are going to cook up in 2015.

Joel - I have two answers for varying reasons. My first answer is every Saturday night Chipotle run that Jenn and I did. At some point this year we started a tradition of going to Saturday Church service at Mariners and picking up Chipotle afterwards. I'm pretty sure we've done it 30+ times this year and its never once disappointed. My other favorite meal would be any meal in Italy. Gosh I love there food, including the one that Jenn and I cooked ourselves.

I can't forget Chef Joel & Jenn which were several Sunday nights this year where we tried new recipes. I can't wait to see what we cook next year.

Favorite Memory

Jenn - It’s so hard for me to write this category – in a good way – because there were so many great memories I had this year. So I can’t just pinpoint one memory in particular. I will just say that, for me, the best memories are coming home to Joel, who is usually cooking and I walk in and hug him and kiss him, have dinner with him, walk with him and then “cuddle cuddle” with him in the evening watching our favorite TV shows. I wouldn’t trade any of that for the world, and cherish them dearly. But I also will never forget all our special meals, our hikes and the wonderful conversations we have had this year.  There just isn’t enough space and time to capture them all, so I will just say this year was just plain beautiful and awesome.

Joel - Would it be cheating to say our entire Epic Europe Trip 2014? Oh well even if it is that's what I'm choosing. When we got off the plane in Istanbul the 10-day weather forecast said rain each day. I remember looking at Jenn and thinking we were going to have to make some changes in our plan. From that day until our last in Rome (the only day we had any major rain) we had bright sunny days. It was one of those trips that you can only dream of taking. Two months after the trip all I can think about is how quickly I can get Jenn to go back to Paris, Rome, and Istanbul again.

But if I was to pick one moment of that trip that was the best memory it was walking Venice again. I think because we had such limited time there that we cherished every second of it. That city is truly magical, I have no idea how I didn't see it my first time there in 2008. When can we go back Jenn?

Favorite Purchase

Jenn - So, I think this is pretty much the biggest purchase we have made to date, don’t think ever, but definitely so far – and it’s our house. I feel so dang blessed that I can say that (finally!). It has been a dream of mine to own a home with Joel for the past couple of years, and God answered my prayers this year and we were finally able to get a home in the neighborhood I have been eying since we got married. I cannot praise God enough for allowing us to be able to purchase this home. I cannot wait for all the wonderful amazing and new memories we will have in it, and I pray it continues to be a huge blessing for Joel and I.

Joel - There are two vastly different purchases that were my favorites in 2014. One of which I will talk about in the next category. So my other favorite purchase of 2014 is surprise, our house purchase. Its been such a long time coming and in future posts I will talk about it in far more depth. However I will say this although its been terrifying its so dang exciting to be starting this next chapter of my life with Jenn. Can we move in already!

Favorite Electronic

Jenn - My new iPad mini. I can’t live without it. It’s my companion when I wake up and go to bed, and with our house purchase it is my new best friend. If I’m not surfing on it for furniture, I’m making collections of photos on decorating ideas, or I’m planning out our lives (seriously) and tracking expenses. It’s the best thing ever.

Joel - Is this really going to be a surprise to anyone? In September of this year Jenn was nice enough to let me go big on my phone purchase. I purchased the iPhone 6 Plus with 64GB of space. I know sometime in the future I'm going to look back on this phone and laugh at its outdated tech. But in 2014 this phone is the top of the line phone and I absolutely adore it. I thought the big form factor might not be great for daily use but I was completely wrong and am hooked. I adore this phone.

Favorite Vacation Stop

Jenn - Hands down, Venice. Seriously every time I go to that city I fall in love with it all over again. Walking and mostly getting lost in the streets with Joel is the best thing in the world, literally. I can still see and feel every moment I had with him there. It’s like living a dream there, it’s so romantic, beyond words, and beautiful. And you definitely can’t beat the Italian food. It’s a place I will treasure forever. But can I just say, that pretty much everywhere and anytime we go to Europe it’s my favorite? I mean Istanbul was incredible, really hoping we can go back there and continue to explore and eat amazing food. Santorini is always breathtaking, Rome will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart, and always feels like home, and being able to toast to Mom in El Restorante was awesome, I hope we can do that again and again. And Paris? One day I pray we live there I love it so much. So ya, basically I’m saying when is our next vacation!?

Joel - Picking a favorite is tough. But when I think back on our Epic Europe trip this year I think the place that really resonates with me is Paris. There is something about that city that I absolutely love. One day I pray/hope/wish that Jenn and I have enough money to live there either part-time or full-time. I think Jenn and I would love living there. Its a gorgeous city and one that holds some of the best memories of my life. Jenn if you're still reading can we book a trip back there already?

Favorite Hotel

Jenn - Oh gosh this is tough. I think it has to be the  Hyatt Madeleine in Paris. Location was incredible (walking distance to Champs and the Arc and a tube), room was amazing (can you say view of the Eiffel?!) and it was just luxurious and modern which I love. But I have to say the Tom Tom Suites in Istanbul was a very close second. The room was gorgeous and spacious by European standards, and the staff were the nicest I have ever had! Gosh and then there’s Rome, the room was so romantic, and the location – right on Via Veneto is pretty much the best of the best…and I even have to give a shout out to the Phoenician – I have been blessed to go there many of times growing up as a kid, and to go back with Joel and still love it was so cool, I was stoked it didn’t disappoint.  AND just remembered the Broadmoor in Colorado when I got to go there for work with Joel! Seriously that hotel has the most beautiful grounds I have ever seen. Ok, so it was tough to pick just one. ;)

Joel - This is an easy one! Although we stayed at some amazing hotels (TomTom Suites & Hotel Majestic Roma) the best hotel we stayed at was the Hyatt Paris Madeleine. I'm anti-chain hotels for the most part. I like to feel like I'm part of the city I'm staying at. But the Hyatt Paris Madeleine was everything I like in a hotel. First off we got upgraded to an awesome room with views of the Eiffel Tower. The hotel was super modern with an incredible bed and shower. And its location was amazing. Jenn come on now we have to go back!

Jenn's Quick Year in Review 2014

It’s so hard to sum up 2014. It was an incredible year. Truly. It was also a year of “new.” In March I got a new car – which I love. A runner up to my favorite purchase actually. In April I got a new job – one that has been a great blessing for me and our family, and is a lot of fun to boot. Then in November Joel and I got a new home – our first home together that I am beyond words excited about. And then there is everything in between. Our beautiful hikes in Crystal Cove and the excitement we had purchasing our beach park pass. The lovely ten mile hike we did where we almost collapsed. To our dinner dates, movie nights, chef meals, and our walks around Fashion Island. Then there is our trips – from Scottsdale to Colorado to Istanbul, Santorini, Rome, Venice and Paris – well I couldn’t ask for more, out of this year and in life. I don’t want to recapture every moment, because I know Joel will do a much better job of that in a separate post, but I do want to say that 2014 has been a year that I will never forget. Sure I’m still trying to rebuild a life after Mom passed, and it will never be the same without her, but this year I finally felt more at peace, and feel her joy again in me. For a while there, there was a lot of stress and turmoil (even last year’s scare with Joel’s stomach), and I just feel so blessed to say that this year was a year that was beautiful and I finally felt like Joel and I were progressing forward, and life was moving forward again and it made me really happy. And with each passing year I fall more and more in love with Joel, and feel so blessed to have our family and be so close to all of them. I pray God blesses us with another great year in 2015 and I’m super excited to see what He has in store for us.