2015 in review

2015 is drawing to a close, and it has been quite a year. I’m not going to sit here and tell you how fast it went, or that I can’t believe it’s over, because you already know and everyone says the same thing. I said a year ago that 2015 was going to be a year of commitment and stability, and I was right: I’m writing to you now from the same Brooklyn apartment, where I live with the same roommate (plus one!) after a long day at the same job. It was a good year, don’t get me wrong – but I’m looking forward to some excitement in 2016. Before that, though, here’s a glimpse of the past 12 months in this delightful life of mine.

 

Winter Storm Juno 2015 in Manhattan

January & February

I’m clumping these two together because they were frankly the same: Work, schlep home in the snow, repeat. Before winter began I joked about hibernating from first snow to my mid-April birthday, and it ended up being a little more real than I anticipated. My friend Nicole did visit in February, and we ate our way around Manhattan for two days, which was a nice way to break up the monotony of the coldest New York February in nearly a century!

Also: I lead my first community group at Liberty Church, spent a day on the Upper West Side, prepared for a blizzard that never came, and went 21 days without social media.

The suburbs of Cleveland

March

In March I finally snapped out of my Brooklyn routine and flew to Cleveland for a girls weekend with my family! It was just the spark I needed to snap out of my winter funk: I reunited with my mom, sister, aunt and cousin – and remembered just how cool my birthplace can be.

Also: I celebrated one year in New York City with the best friends I could ever ask for.

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

April

With April came the spring we had all been waiting for. I spent the month cherishing the opportunity to be outside, venturing to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to soak up the sun and admire the cherry blossoms. April also brought my twenty-fifth birthday and all of the reflection that comes with such a milestone.

Also: The first-ever She Is Free conference, and Becca and I welcomed our third roommate, Faby!

One World Trade Center on a foggy day

May

May was supposed to bring a vacation, but I couldn’t get my act together in time and ended up with a New York staycation, one of my favorite things! Unfortunately, I got hit with a pretty bad head cold in the middle of it, and May got boring, but at least I wasn’t out of town when I got sick – and didn’t have to use sick days at work. Before I became bed-bound, I did see Mamma Mia!, visit One World Observatory for the first time, and pop by the Whitney – one of my favorite museums.

Also: I picnicked at Prospect Park for Memorial Day, and welcomed a slew of friends to my neighborhood as Crown Heights suddenly became “cool.”

Boston as seen from the Prudential Tower

June

In June my long-planned vacation finally fell together, and I headed off to Boston on my first solo trip. I had an incredible few days doing whatever the heck I wanted: Basically a dream come true!

Highlights included going to the top of the Prudential Tower, walking the Freedom Trail, and catching a game at Fenway Park.

The Venice Canals of Los Angeles

July

I kept up my summer travel streak by hopping over to the West Coast to reunite with some of my favorites:  I crashed with my college bestie Kathleen (also my unofficial blog adviser) met up with my aunt and uncle, and took a vow to never ever go two years without visiting California again!

Highlights of my LA trip include seeing the Venice Canals, visiting the Getty and hanging out in my favorite LA neighborhood, Santa Monica.

New York City as seen from the Top of the Rock

August

I kept still in August, but the excitement found me! My sister Ally came to visit over her nineteenth birthday, and we had adventures including a picnic dinner, a trip to Top of the Rock, and as much junk food as I could shovel into her health-conscious body. Hosting visitors is one of my favorite parts of living in New York (seriously, come visit), and I cherish getting to show off “my” city to people who have only seen the touristy parts before.

Also: I took a cruise around New York Harbor with my besties, started using Vimeo, and celebrated one year of A Genuine Delight!

New York City as seen from One World Observatory

September

The beginning of fall brought more visitors, with my parents and cousin overlapping their visits – and my best friend Jordan following shortly thereafter! There was a lot of sightseeing, including a one-day whilrwind, and catching up with loved ones. Bonus that I didn’t have to leave New York to make it happen!

Also: I launched my delightful guide to NYC!

A giraffe at Kruger National Park, South Africa

October

October was the defining month of my year: I took my first trip to Africa, mainly to do missions work with Children’s Cup, but ended up having the most transforming week of my entire life. From hitting the plains on a safari to getting to know my sponsor child in person, I am absolutely not the same person I was when I left, and I have a suspicion this trip was really only the start of a journey for me.

No “alsos” here. Africa defined October – and 2015 – and that’s perfectly fine by me.

Santa Claus at the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

November

I was worried November would feel like my life screeching to a halt, but luckily I fell right back in love with New York City – and even with fall! I spent the month jumping in piles of leaves, eating tacos in the neighborhood, and celebrating Thanksgiving surrounded by loved ones – even if we don’t share blood.

Also: I checked “Go to the Macy’s Parade” off my bucket list, and tricked my travel bug into thinking I’d left the city by trekking out to Queens County Farm.

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza

December

December has been blissfully, blessedly uneventful. I spent lazy days with friends, had some freelance work published for the first time in years, and celebrated Christmas in Brooklyn for the second year in a row. I really cherish getting to slow down when it feels like the rest of the world is going crazy!

Also: I ate my weight in snickerdoodles and saw a lot of Christmas trees.

Other highlights of 2015 include reading 38 books (on a goal of 30!), having my photos featured on Instagram by @travelmail and @nypost, and becoming a little more comfortable with commitment (to the city, to my job, to a blog). Tomorrow we’ll look to the year ahead – but for tonight, I hope you have the loveliest time celebrating all we’ve done in 2015.

Happy new year, friends!

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The Getty Museum

In all my trips to Los Angeles, the J. Paul Getty Museum never even crossed my radar. This time around, we only really ventured out there because it was a good middway point between Kathleen’s neighborhood, and where my aunt and uncle live. So we drove out to Brentwood on a Saturday, and can I just say – I was blown away. The architecture, the gardens, the views – I could have an entire day of fun here without even setting foot in the museum itself. The best part is that it’s free, aside from the $15 parking fee – completely worth it, especially if you carpool!

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The architecture couldn’t have been more stunning on a sunny summer day.

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The garden isn’t at its best this year, thanks to the infamous California drought, but I was impressed even by its design. I can’t wait to go back in the future to see it fully in bloom!

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The sweeping views of Los Angeles rival those at the Griffith Observatory (which I visited back in my pre-blogging days). It was a little smoggy so we couldn’t see out to the ocean, but it was still great to look out.

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As for the museum itself, we saw some pretty cool exhibits, including some ancient bedding that child Leigh Anne would have loved. For the most part, though, the best parts of the Getty were outside.

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Special thanks to this guy and his wife for always making time for their nieces.

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And thank YOU, Los Angeles, for yet another incredible visit. I assure you, I’ll always be back.

Santa Monica

My favorite neighborhood in Los Angeles, and the one I know best (unless Disneyland counts as a neighborhood) is Santa Monica. My friend Kathleen lives not far, in West LA, and I tend to spend my vacations as close to the beach as possible. This most recent trip West was no exception. Santa Monica can be a little gimmicky – the boardwalk, the promenade – but it’s popular amongst tourists for a reason.

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Views from the promenade. In the third photo you can see out to Malibu!

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The famous pier at sunset during a summer concert series.

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Saint Monica’s church – I’ve attended services here twice now!

Do you ever find yourself visiting the same touristy spots again and again?

My new favorite thing in LA: The Venice Canals

When I booked my flight to Los Angeles earlier this summer, I honestly figured Kathleen and I would enjoy a quiet week revolving around brunch and beaches. I’ve spent a lot of time in LA over the years and this trip was to be way less about sightseeing and way more about quality friend time after two years apart.

With that said, I did have one special sightseeing request: visiting the Venice Canals. This neighborhood has canals instead of roads, designed to mirror those in its much more famous counterpart, Venice, Italy. On a sunny Friday, Kathleen and I wandered the pathways, snapping photos and trying to decide which adorable home we would want to be ours. Because, you guys – if I’m ever a millionaire, I’m moving here.

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I couldn’t be happier with my decision to be touristy for a day! Which house would YOU choose? I’m going with the boxy orange one, of course.

My week in Instagrams: Los Angeles Edition

I’m back from another fab vacation! This time I jumped on a westbound plane and spent five days with friends and family in Los Angeles, California. It was, I believe, my eighth trip to LA – but my first in nearly two years!

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Upon arrival, I dumped my bags and jumped in an Uber to the beach, because obviously.

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On Day 2, I spent some time with my mom’s brother. We always have such a blast! He took me to lunch at The Grove farmers market, shopping on Melrose Ave, and strolling along Rodeo Drive to the Beverly Wilshire hotel.IMG_4969

OF COURSE I wasn’t about to visit LA without tacos and margs at Don Antonio’s. Best tacos in America!

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On Thursday nights there are free concerts at the Santa Monica Pier! Such a great excuse to picnic on the beach. Check out that sunset view.

The one and only thing I especially wanted to do on this trip was visit the Venice Canals! They were built in 1905 and are absolutely gorgeous. Many more photos to come!

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After the canals, we hopped on beach cruisers and rode to Malibu and back. I’m not much of a biker, but it’s always a good time once I get rolling (last time I rode was in the Netherlands over a year ago!)

On Saturday we ventured to Brentwood to visit the Getty Museum with my aunt and uncle. Check out those views!

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Probably my favorite activity on this trip was picnicking and watching Willy Wonka at Hollywood Forever Cemetery! There are movies in the parks in NYC, but this was truly a unique experience.

Thanks to my college bestie Kathleen for letting me crash with her, and for driving me all around and buying me brunch! Can’t wait to see you in NYC sometime soon.