Our Favorite Things From 2015

And welcome to the 5th annual "Our Favorite Things" post. That's right Jenn and I have been collaborating on this yearly post now for five years. Curious what our favorite things were from 2011, we have it (and from 2012, 2013, and 2014). So without any further ado here are our favorite things from 2015. 

Favorite TV Show

Jenn - Hmmm…..That’s a tough one, especially in the comedy category. I think I am going to have to go with Catastrophe for being an overall solid show. It was definitely an unsuspected surprise, and had me giggling at least during one point of every episode. And I love the concept, and the characters, and let’s face it, it’s based in the UK, so how could I not like it? I also would like to give a special shout out to Frasier. I just recently started watching the series. I don’t know why, but I have been really wanting to see it, since I only saw bits of episodes when it originally aired (I was a child then), and I have to say it’s pretty awesome and I’m really enjoying it!!

Joel - For me this has become such a tough category over the years. We've watched so many great movies this year that it's hard to come down to an absolute favorite. However unlike last year I'm going to come up with one. Before I get to it though I will mention a few others. Game of Thrones continues to be my favorite "series", although this last season was not its best. Master of None was absolutely superb in its first season on Netflix. But the show that I fell in love with more then any other show in 2015 was Catastrophe. I loved everything about the six episode first season. I haven't laughed as hard as I did on Catastrophe in a long, long time. 

Favorite Political Satire

Jenn - This is easy…without a doubt Last Week Tonight. John Oliver is the man, and his show is GENIUS. I love how he actually tells the news, and always inserts humor in the right way. His writing staff paralleled with his genius deliveries of some of the material is beyond awesome. I do have so say though, Jon Stewart will definitely be missed – he is a legend in this category and always will be.

Joel - Although the answer to this one is relatively straight forward I have two comments. First the world is a slightly worse place without Jon Stewart on the airwaves four days a week. At this writing he's been off the air for four months and although I think Trevor Noah is doing a fairly good job it's just not the same. However the easy winner here without Colbert and Stewart is unabashedly John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. That show even if Colbert and Stewart were still on TV is tremendous. Each week continues to push the envelope and I cannot wait to see what he has to say in 2016. Praise be, praise be! 

Favorite Reality Show

Jenn - I’m going to have to say Amazing Race, every time we watch it I get hooked and it always reignites the traveler within me.

Joel - This is a category that ten years ago was a big thing but we've all but stopped watching reality shows besides Top Chef and The Amazing Race. Out of the two although I love cooking I have to still give the nod to The Amazing Race. It's a show I always look forward to watching and I think they do the best of any reality show in picking their teams. I need a win one of these seasons. 

Favorite Movie

Jenn - This shouldn’t be a big surprise for me. I definitely have to go with Inside Out. Pixar is probably one of the best kid animation studios, the way they tell the stories, and the concepts they think of….if I had a fraction of their creative genius I would be sooo happy.

Joel - I've mentioned this a lot lately but we just don't see as many movies as we used to. This year my favorite movie choice for me came down to two. The Martian and Me Earl and the Dying Girl. For me as much as I loved Me Earl and the Dying Girl (which was an incredible story) I think I enjoyed The Martian more. Sadly even that isn't a full endorsement. The Martian is based on my favorite book from last year by Andy Weir and does a great job retelling the story. However I think the movie missed a couple beats that could have put it in "best of all time". Even still I can't wait to pick up the blu ray pop some popcorn and watch Mark Watney do science. 

Favorite Song

Jenn - I am going to have to say “Renegades” by X Ambassadors. I feel like this song really embodied how I felt this year and how everything turned out in Joel and I’s life, and it takes me back to the founding principles of what really makes Joel and I soul mates…. “Run away with me, lost souls and reverie…running wild and running free…two kids you and me…” Oh close second though is “Believe” by Mumford and Sons.

Joel - Although this song was released in 2014, I fell in love with in early 2015 and each time it comes on the radio I turn it up. The song is Cecilia and the Satellite by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and is quite frankly sublime. I just love this song. One day when Jenn and I were driving somewhere we heard the story behind the song which was written for his daughter. It's beautiful and I love it. 

Favorite Artist

Jenn - Easy. Mumford and Sons. I don’t know if this year they produced their new Wilder Mind album, but I love a lot of the songs, which is rare for me in one album. They are just solid artists.

Joel - The older I get the more I enjoy Coldplay. There have been a number of days at work when it has been a long day at work and I'll go on Spotify and just shuffle Coldplay music. There wasn't anything new in 2015 that brought me back to Coldplay, just their back catalog that I still absolutely love and think holds up beautifully. 

Favorite Video Game

Jenn - Well since I only played one this year I guess I am going to have to go with Game of Thrones. J Although to be honest, it was really fun, and probably would be a contender for favorite if I had played others.

Joel - Although Jenn's list will be a little lacking this year in this category (I think she has only played Game of Thrones) I have a ton of games to choose from. But there was only one game that stood out over the rest and that was Rise of the Tomb Raider. The game was brilliantly developed and from moment to moment was the most fun I had with a game all year. Close second was this year's Madden NFL 16 followed by a return to form for Assassin's Creed in Assassin's Creed: Syndicate. 

Favorite Book

Jenn - I am in this kick of reading a lot of women’s leadership books…they really inspire me, and I guess deep down it’s always what I strive to be, both personally and professionally. That’s actually thanks to my Mom for always instilling that in me. So for me, my favorite book this year was “How Remarkable Women Lead” by Joanna Barsh. It’s an incredible book that explores a groundbreaking model for women to achieve happiness and success in life and work. I think any somewhat successful women really struggles with finding that balance, and this book really shed some light on how to break that barrier. I also have to give notable mentions to “Leave Your Mark” by Aliza Licht and “The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay. I really hope next year this reading trend for me continues as I have really enjoyed it.

Joel - There were two books that were going for my favorite book of 2015. The first one was The Universe Versus Alex Woods which I thought was just a great story. It's an important novel that combines a coming of age story while opening up the continued dialogue surrounding assisted suicide. It's a brilliant novel that I think everyone needs to read. However my favorite book of 2015 has no agenda and is just a downright fun read, and that is Firefight. Firefight is the second book in the Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and made me feel like a kid again. It's a brilliant novel that I now have prominently displayed on our bookshelf. I really can't wait to see how he wraps up the series in 2016. 

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Favorite Meal

Jenn - Oh dear, I really don’t know. I don’t know if I can pick a specific meal, but I know there has been many times in our apartment, after one of Joel’s amazing home cooked meals, and a good bottle of wine, I have felt extremely blessed and happy. In terms of memory – I won’t ever forget going to Mastro’s with Joel and not tipping the bathroom attendant and giving her my towel instead…. OOPS!

Joel - I have two. For vastly different reasons. The first one was at Mastro's to celebrate six years of our incredible marriage and my promotion at work. It was an incredible meal and continues to prove why Mastro's is one of the best restaurants around. We of course splurged that entire night and it was easily one of my favorite days of the year. The second meal is really anytime we got Chipotle, but one time in particular stands out. I believe it was the first night in our new apartment (it might have been the second) where we picked up Chipotle and I just remember thinking to myself while watching one of Jon Stewarts last episodes "everything is going to be OK" and a wave of emotion washing over me. Chipotle has been our go-to takeout all year and continues to be one of my favorite meals and it was a great way to bring in a new chapter in our life. 

Favorite Chef Joel & Jenn

Jenn - So I love having the shredded chicken tacos as part of our weekly routines now, it’s a solid, classic meal. However, I am a huge pasta aficionado and have to say that the Bacon Asparagus pasta was pretty tasty. :-) Honestly anytime I can spend with Joel cooking, playing jazz music in the background on our Sonos and having some wine is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Joel - I'm still blown away that this is still a thing we do, and do often. I love it. I'm so happy about it. I look back on our fifteen or so new recipes in 2015 and most of them were really good. There is one though that is a new staple and I can thank Jake for it, it's the shredded chicken tacos in the crock pot. Three ingrediants, throw in the crock pot and eight hours later you have an incredible dinner. My close second was the Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken and the Bacon Asparagus Pasta. 

Favorite Memory

Jenn - Leaving the house, and waiting for the movers to bring our stuff to our new apartment. I have never felt more at peace this year than in that moment, and there isn’t enough words of gratitude and praise I could give to God for getting us out of that situation. I am beyond humbled by His grace everyday for that. I also want to say that it was a pretty awesome moment when Joel surprised me at work and told me he got his PM job and was promoted. I cried and screamed so hard I practically broke our car window. Another amazing gift by God this year…

Joel - Of any category I think Jenn and I will have the same answer on this one, if not a slight variation of the same thing. For me my favorite memory was the first night of sleep we had in our new apartment. After everything that happened in the house I'll never forget going to sleep and waking up the next morning and looking over at Jenn who was sleeping soundly and looking out at the beautiful view of Irvine and the sunrise. It was such a tough couple of months for both of us that finding a place of solace was the best memory for me of 2015. 

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Favorite Purchase

Jenn - Hahha it has to be our console table from West Elm, I think it’s one of the nicest and trendiest pieces of furniture we own, I’m just in love with it, and has really come to be a great focal point in our apartment. I do though also really enjoy my AppleWatch that Joel bought me for our anniversary, and what can I say, I love dishware so am pretty stoked with the Sur La Table glasses and dishes I got for Christmas. Oh! And I’m excited to try the Pasta Maker Dad and Joan bought us for Christmas too!

Joel - I've actually done a pretty good job in my lifetime in buying cars. I said pretty good, not great. My first real car purchase was a Chevy Malibu and that was a hunk of junk (same with the second one I bought). But the first two new cars I purchased (Hyundai Tiburon and Toyota Prius) were both great cars. Sadly I went cheap and got a Honda Fit and hated it. I mean absolutely hated that car. Luckily this year the stars aligned and I was able to purchase a 2015 Prius and have loved being a Prius owner again. Not only is the MPG great but its just a very comfortable and easy car to drive and makes my daily commutes just a little less terrible. 

Favorite Electronic

Jenn - Apple Watch hands down!!! Enough said honestly.

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Joel - Back in June when I purchased the Apple Watch I wasn't sure it was going to be the device for me. But now six months later and I'm absolutely in love with my watch. It's a device I don't use a lot during the day but at the times I do it can be invaluable. For me it's been an incredible tool to help take better care of myself and keep track of my progress. I've loved it and plan on upgrading to the new version the moment they announce a new one. Is anyone really surprised by that though?

Favorite Vacation Stop

Jenn - This year it would have to Petra Jordan. It has been on my bucket list for a while, and going through the iconic city was surreal. I will never forget that feeling for as long as live.

Joel - Because of the house purchase we only had one big trip this year. Only might be an understatement given that the trip was three weeks long. But needless to say that's is the only trip I can pick from. However my favorite stop on the trip was actually the one we had already been too and that's Barcelona. We had an absolutely incredible time in Barcelona and it completely changed my opinion of the place. And if anyone tells you tapas are amazing they are underselling it, they might be the best thing ever. 

Favorite Hotel

Jenn - Well we actually didn’t stay at very many hotels this year since we did the cruise, so I guess my favorite hotel would probably have to be the Sofitel in Dubai. It had a very nice ambiance, and I think if we were there longer we would have really enjoyed their amenities. And honestly you couldn’t beat our room and the view….although I have to say Joel and I had some extra fun nights in the Barcelona hotel…hahahha.

Joel - Hands down the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach in Dubai. Wow was this hotel gorgeous. Not to mention that Jenn upgraded our room to a suite which had an incredible view of the ocean and the Dubai skyline. The hotel was the perfect retreat after our two week long cruise. I loved that hotel and only wish we had more time to enjoy it. 

Jenn's Quick Year-In-Review 2015

This is genuinely hard for me to write. I ended 2014 with such hope…it was definitely a year for the books. We went on an amazing trip and had just purchased a house, a goal of mine for a long time. I am not sure why a couple months later what happened, happened, and maybe I will never know, but it shook me at my core. I won’t sugar coat it, besides my Mom passing five years ago, it was one of the worst experiences of my life. In a way I felt lost and without Joel, and God’s help I don’t know if I would have been able to climb out of it unscathed. I really can’t put it into words, and I hope no one else experiences what Joel and I had to go through during the first six months this year. It was emotionally, financially and physically taxing beyond measure. But I will say this, through it I realized three very important things. 1. God is good, all the time, and even when at times we are at our lowest points, he truly is there, holding our hands, and does bring beauty from our ruins. 2. I married my soul mate. Our marriage has been tested many times over the last six years, and this was no exception. But the situation only drew us closer, and really brought to life how at Joel and I’s core, our beliefs, our values, our dreams, has and always will be the same, and we will really be there for each other in good times and bad…. 3. Family is so important, and I can’t thank them enough for helping us get through that period in our lives. So again, thanks to God, we were brought out of a horrific time in our lives and were able to find a new chapter…which actually may be from a page that Joel and I have always wanted to “read” but never have because we were too afraid to try, because it wasn’t what was “expected” or was the “norm” for us.
 
And for the last six months of this year I have been able to find joy, peace and hope again, and appreciate the quiet moments in life like we did at the Colony where I would wake up in bed in the morning and listen to Joel laughing and playing video games in the background. And now I have an added bonus…I get to watch planes fly by as I do so. So in all, after everything this year, and a lot of reflection and prayer I learned a couple things. No matter how much we want to plan our lives, we can’t, God is the master planner and in control, and I need to accept the journey He has for me. And lastly, it’s OK to be different – to dream differently and pursue things that makes me happy. We only get to live life once, so we should make the most of it, right? If the American Dream isn’t for us, that’s OK, it’s OK to do what REALLY makes Joel and I happy…perhaps being “renegades” has been our destiny all along….