A Look Back on an Epic 2014

I've been looking forward to writing this look back on 2014 since I finished typing up the 2013 year in review. Writing this post is one of my favorite things to do every year. It's an opportunity to look back on the last 365 days and recount the many blessings that have been bestowed on Jenn and I. And boy were they plentiful in 2014. It's hard to even know where to start. So lets begin where any good story begins, at the beginning.

The year started off really well. We both jumped right back into work even if I got pretty sick in January with some sort of throat infection. In late January we pulled the trigger and booked the first version of our Epic Europe Trip 2014. I'll never forget the pure joy of booking three weeks in Europe. We both got the time off approved at work and were all set to head off to Istanbul, hop on a 12-day cruise, and end the trip in Rome and Paris. Is there a better feeling then booking a trip?

In early February we finally made good on Jenn's constant desire to be spontaneous and go to Universal Studios. We've been talking about going for years and something always got in the way. We had such an incredible day at Universal Studios. It was only the second time I had been there in my life and it was a lot of fun to experience it with Jenn. We had a great time riding all the rides and enjoying a beautiful day in Los Angeles.

This spurred Jenn and I to start pushing ourselves to get out of our comfort zone more and explore the world around us. A couple of weeks later we drove to Crystal Cove and finally tried out there amazing hiking trails. Our first hike was completely on a whim and we ended up doing the hike almost twice (we got lost). We probably hiked a good six miles that day and were both exhausted. That didn't deter us from going back at least a dozen times during the year. Including the time during Memorial Day where we did the full 9+ mile hike. 

In March we had a huge life altering month. It wasn't something we planned but sort of just happened. Jenn was loving her job at PIMCO but stumbled into an opportunity at Taco Bell that was to good to pass up. It was a huge life decision for Jenn but one that with now nine months under her belt it absolutely was the right decision. I've been a proud supporter upping my Taco Bell consumption by 500% in 2014. You can't beat a Quesarito or their Bacon Crunchwrap for breakfast. With the new job meant Jenn was going to have to commute to work so we purchased a brand new white Toyota RAV4. For the longest time we thought we'd lease a Mercedes or BMW but at the last second Jenn decided to go for a RAV4 and so far its been a great decision. 

April was all about us getting used to the new schedule and life without Jenn being able to walk to work. At the start of the year we started doing less and less take out for dinner and cooking more. In May we started a new feature on WorldofJoel called Chef Joel & Jenn where we showed off a bunch of new recipes we tried. Our first go at it was in May with a Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Pasta (which now that I think about it we should make again) and followed with nine more recipes through the year. Our favorite or the one we did the most was the Oven Chicken Fajitas

In June, Jenn found what will probably become an annual tradition for us, the Great Wine Festival in the OC Great Park. They had at least fifty different wines to try a couple of beers and a bunch of food. It was a great event and one that we both really enjoyed. We do love our wine. That wasn't our last trip to the OC Great Park because later in the summer we went and saw Back to the Future under the stars. A couple of weeks later we ended up seeing A Midsummers Night Dream at a Newport Beach park as well. That's right we were out and about a lot over the summer.

One thing Jenn and I haven't done a lot of since getting married was go on mini-trips. Our motto has been go big or go home (original I know). Although we ended up going big (I'd say epic) with our Europe trip we also added on a mini vacation to Phoenix over the July 4th holiday. We spent a night at the Hilton Squaw Peak and then three nights at the gorgeous Phoenician in Scottsdale. We had a great relaxing break with good food, great wine, and just an overall relaxing experience. I'd be fine doing a couple of these a year. 

When we got back from our Phoenix trip the news was not favorable in the Middle East, specifically Israel where we were supposed to cruise into. By late July several cruise lines had cancelled their stops to Israel and Celebrity (who we were cruising with) refused to comment. With only a couple of weeks until our full deposit was due for the cruise we cancelled our cruise and re-booked time in Istanbul, Santorini, Athens, Rome, and Paris

In late August Jake and I went on a trip up to San Jose to see the 49ers play there second game at Levi's Stadium in the pre-season against the Chargers. We stayed in walking distance from the stadium and loved our time up there. The new stadium was state of the art. It was too bad the 49ers played horribly. I know Jake and I hope to make this an annual pre-season tradition.

In September Jenn and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary. Can you believe its already been five years? We had an incredible time celebrating the last five years at The Melting Pot in Irvine. Its hard to put into words how much Jenn means to me and how truly spectacular the last five years have been. 

A couple of weeks later Jenn and I boarded a plane to Denver to go to Colorado Springs for a Taco Bell conference. That meant Jenn had to work for a lot of it and I was left to enjoy the beautiful Broadmoor. What I tough life I live. Jenn did a fantastic job and I even got to attend the big gala at the end of the conference which had David Blane give a magic show. 

October was all about prepping for our "Epic Europe Trip". Once the 22nd finally rolled around and Jake dropped us off at LAX we were ready for three weeks of pure bliss. Without recounting all of the tales of the trip I will just say that those three weeks were easily the best three of the year. Whether it be the amazing sights of Istanbul to the gorgeous views of Santorini, to the great food of Rome and Venice to the bliss we felt in Paris I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

I'm even more glad that we took the trip as when we returned from our Epic Europe Trip it was all about getting down to business. We met with our realtor for the next couple of weeks looking at houses all over Irvine. As I'll recount in a later post we had some tough decisions but by the grace of God a house that we only dreamed about came on the market. On Thanksgiving we put in an offer and by the Sunday following Thanksgiving we had an offer that the sellers accepted and our dreams of homeownership were in sight. The rest of our year revolved around the home decision. From signing our name to a thousand documents to reading the fine print of all the different decisions we had to make. It was a pretty stressful end of the year.

Luckily that didn't stop Jenn from decorating the entire apartment once again for Christmas. Although most of our time was spent doing something for the new house we had by far the best and most decked out apartment for the holidays. Jenn was a master at work yet again. The last two weeks of the year slowed down tremendously on the new home front, right when we needed it. We had a great Christmas, and spent New Years eating Chipotle and watching Titanic. I wonder if there is a cruise in our future? I sure hope so, as long as it does't sink. 

As I sit right now I'm staring at a couple stacks of moving boxes, as we're only two weeks from getting the keys to our first home. But that's for next year's post. Because right now we're focusing on 2014 which might have been the best year of our lives. Jenn got a new job and a new car. We traveled the world, celebrated five years of marriage (eleven together) and closed off the year buying a house in a neighborhood we only dreamed about living in. And every step of this journey was with my best friend and the love of my life, Jenn. Goodbye 2014 I'll never forget you, and hello 2015 I feel like we just met but count me in.