When Wendy and I sat down to write our obligatory "year in review" post, you know, the one where we're supposed to gush over how we completed every single one of the items on our resolutions list and more, how our lives are more full and richer for having done it, how we are going to aim even higher in 2014, and nobody can stop us! That's about when we both realized something very important:

We didn't finish a damn thing this year!

Oddly enough, we're quite all right with that.

However, for a moment the denial crept in and we thought, "How is this possible? How had we gone an entire year without finishing a single home project?" We thought back on 2012 and about the several things we knocked out, like the kitchen and basement "coat closet", but what about 2013? More importantly, how had we blogged for an entire year without actually having anything to show for it? Are we a disgrace?

At this point we began to see the likely truth to our realization. We hadn't mysteriously forgotten about an addition we put on, hadn't blocked from our memory a basement renovation, hadn't neglected to realize a mystery project house in who knows where we'd been secretly working on, hoping to reveal it in some grand year end gesture. Nope, not at all, we'd not done any of that.

I do wish we were talking about the house above that I'm still in love with Sure it's creepy and without plumbing, but it's AMAZING! For some reason Wendy just won't buy with me. I've tried everything.

Truth be told, we were damn busy this year. We were busy living our lives, working on projects, maintaining our home (sometimes it takes a village when your home is 125 years old), and working towards bigger goals. One of us (ahem, Wendy) undertook the tremendous personal and emotional risk of a major career change from marketing to real estate, which brought with it many difficult decisions and soul searching moments. In retrospect, those choices and decisions have undoubtedly been for the best.

It's also very important to realize that, in spite of not finishing a single major item, we've been working almost non stop on the parts and pieces of projects that will some day result in a dramatic before and after master bathroom reveal. We just need to temper our excitement, work on things one step at a time, and remember to also work on things we are good at and can knock out in a night, like wine and beer consumption. It's important to remember that, like Rome, our home wasn't renovated in a year. I think that's pretty much how the saying goes, right?

For the purposes of determining exactly what it was that we did do this year, let's take a quick look back on some of the noteworthy elements of our year. Rather than attempting to triumphantly pat ourselves on the back, this look back is more for posterity as we categorize the items into our three favorite topics, home projects, vacations, and recipes/parties.

Home Projects

Even though we didn't really "finish" any major projects, we knocked out quite a few items on our lengthy to do list. My favorites for the year involved:

The process of learning how to repoint historic masonry using the right tools and materials. This will come in very handy in a few upcoming projects.

Outlining the steps necessary to achieve a perfectly smooth skim coat when patching/repairing old plaster or going for the older look when applying drywall.

Finally fixing a roof leak that had apparently been an issue for many years.

I made a major dent in our long overdue storm window construction, but those are still in the "as yet completed" column of our life spreadsheet.

We took you on the roller coaster ride of our wainscoting doubt that ended up looking pretty darn good once installed.

And though it happened in a different year, we gave you all a rundown of the efforts we undertook in replacing our home's siding on the wood frame portion of our house.

However, there are two items on our list that stand out as not even really started, but I'm itching to get moving on these elements:

  1. Removal of the old oil drum from the basement.
  2. Selection and install of a gas front light.

Maybe next year? :-)


Wendy and I love to travel and 2013 was no exception. (How sickeningly cliche and pretentious is a statement like that, no matter how true?) Throughout the year we took several very enjoyable trips.

Kicking off the year we returned to New Orleans for a fun long weekend wandering around the historic streets. We'd been once before so our return trip allowed us to really take in the city without the need to learn the ropes. It's definitely a city I could see visiting more often in the future.

A little while later, for Wendy's birthday, we returned to one of our favorite places in the world, California's central and north coasts. With stops in Napa Valley, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and San Francisco, we had an absolute blast visiting friends and loving life. 

We capped our major travel with a bucket list trip to Germany that was better than we ever could have imagined. We spent just over a week driving around Bavaria and enjoying all the country of Wendy's ancestors had to offer. From the castles to the picturesque medieval towns, we were constantly blown away by just how quaint and comfortable almost all of our stops ended up.

And no trip to Germany, especially to Munich during Oktoberfest, would be complete without consuming giant beers as big as your head! I assure you, a good time was had by all.


Through two major parties throughout the year and many small gatherings, Wendy was able to whip up quite a few delicious and delectable food offerings that are sure to be in her repertoire for many years to come.

We kicked things off in late spring when we threw a baby shower for our friends Sarah Kate and Mike. The theme was a sophisticated and gender neutral garden shower. No games, lots of food, and a fair amount of good booze. To us, this is the ideal baby shower celebration.

From that event sprung several awesome recipes. One of the highlights was a true crowd favorite, Apricot and Brie bites. They are a quick and easy recipe that we, as well as many people on Pinterest, have enjoyed quite a bit.

When fall rolled around we kicked off our 11th annual Halloween costume party. Once again, we went all out. I grew a mustache and Wendy donned prison orange so we could go as Pornstache Mendez and Piper Chapman from Orange is the New Black. Our costume was pretty spot on and I'm proud to say that I made a very convincing "Pornstache." My mom should be proud.

My birthday in November brought my favorite recipe of the year when Wendy put together a special request of peanut butter and jelly cupcakes. It was a childhood fantasy fulfilled.

Our year wouldn't be complete without our annual attempt at a prize winning gingerbread house. This year we went with a Life cereal shake roof approach that turned out pretty great. It may not have been our best house ever, but we still loved the way it turned out.

Overall our year, as with any year, was full of highlights and lowlights. We were fortunate to experience wonderful people and places, and were lucky enough to enjoy a unique ability to pursue what we both enjoy. We met a few new blogger and Internet friends (does that make us sound weird?), both in person and online, and got together with some old ones. The year wasn't free of drama, difficulties, and disappointments, but those were largely tempered by the success and enjoyment we were able to gain through our many activities.

Best of all, as we look back on a year in which we technically accomplished nothing from an "end goal" perspective, we both accomplished a tremendous amount to be very proud of. We have our goals for next year, and we absolutely hope we are able to check each and every one of them off of our list, but life is life, and if we're unable to accomplish one or more of these self inflicted milestones, those are the breaks and that's how the cookie crumbles. But you can count on us to share our journey and hopefully provide some good reference material if you want to follow in any of our footsteps for the future.

How has your year fared? Brutal honesty here. Are you like us and completed nothing but started many things, or do you have quite a few completed items to show for your efforts? Either way, Wendy and I both would like to wish you a very happy and healthy new year!

Comments 17


12/31/2013 at 12:33 PM

We are much like both of you for 2013 - no big house projects fully completed but plenty of fun travels! We have many house projects in process, but it seemed to be a year of small bits of progress here and there with no big completions. And, I'm ok with that. Living life and traveling can trump to-do lists for right now.

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year to you too, Heather. Here's to making 2014 the year of completed house projects.Alt smile

12/31/2013 at 2:44 PM

My 2nd year following your blog. Love you guys - your adorable Lulu and Mel - your home and your beloved Alexandria! Reading your posts educate me, enlighten and calm me and always make me smileAlt smile Happy New Year!


I can't thank you enough for your thoughtful comment, Cathy! We really appreciate hearing that, and hope you have a wonderful New Year!

12/31/2013 at 5:59 PM

We finally started home renovation this year after 17 years of saving and other distractions. Fixed up the kitchen, put hardwood down in the dining room (other rooms have hardwood--this one had vinyl tile under the carpet!), attacked the grungy outside light fixtures with oil-rubbed bronze Rustoleum. And just this weekend, we got a new area rug for the family room and cleaned and polished the random-width pegged pine floor. No travels, though Alt frowning Happy new year!


Wow, we're so impressed! You're on a roll...keep up the great work!

12/31/2013 at 6:50 PM

Not only do I love the thought and precision of your renovation work, but you've inspired me to visit Oldtown when I come to the USA for the first time next year. I am hoping it is possible to come down for a couple of nights from New york, and visit DC from Oldtown. Can you recommend any places to stay (and in New Orleans)? Happy new year


Thanks so much Kerrie, and we're so excited you might come to Old Town for a visit! We hope you love it as much as we do. Not knowing your budget, I'd recommend the Hotel Monaco or Morrison House here in Alexandria, and although expensive, the Ritz Carlton in the French Quarter of New Orleans is the most fantastic place we've ever stayed! Feel free to email me (wendy@oldtownhome.com) and I can give you more detail.

1/2/2014 at 4:30 AM

For me, it was the year I discovoered your blog, thus giving me more courage to try my hand at DIY and to keep being obstinate about things getting done in a thorough manner. I am very grateful for that!
Happy New Year! (Insert Auld Lang Sing as a sound track)


We're so happy you discovered us this year, Diana. Thanks so much for reading about our crazy antics and we're so proud of you for diving into the DIY deep end.Alt smile Happy New Year!

1/2/2014 at 9:48 AM

The Great Basement and Attic Declutter began in 2013, but is ongoing. I can only manage a box or two at a time, especially now that I've hit a vein of my late husband's things and end up weeping more than sorting a lot of the time. I can be ruthless with my old college papers, but just seeing W's handwriting is enough to set me off with the tears. But the basement needs to be done before the furnace can be replaced, so it will be done. I'm just trying to be gentle and gradual with myself.

On the house projects front. I got started on the windows and was able to replace all the glass that was broken. I plan to tackle the one corner with rotted wood come spring and hopefully by then I'll have your 'how to fix the ropes, weights and pockets' tutorial so I can get the bedroom and dining room windows restrung. No window work in the winter, especially since it's -2F here BEFORE you factor in the windchill!!!


Good for you for tackling the attic and basement clean ups! Sifting through boxes is tough on a good day, and encountering meaningful items that belonged to loved ones must be heart wrenching.Alt frowning

We wish you all the best in 2014, Karla!

1/3/2014 at 7:24 PM

I find it funny and odd that now that 2013 is done, a lot of people were saying it was a generally unproductive/crappy year. When I saw your headline, I kind of laughed, but I knew you both hadn't been slacking either.

I don't really think I got too much done this year either. For half the year I had no job and no money (and thus no money to work on any projects either), but I managed to get as lot of small projects done: ducts, floor repairs, drywall, painting, hanging art, etc.


So true! Good for you for tackling a project list, even when you had an "adjusted" budget. Here's to making 2014 the year of completed projects!Alt smile

1/7/2014 at 7:51 AM

My year was about 5% as productive as I'd hoped.
I like to think that the reason you guys didn't "finish" anything (unlike many bloggers) is because you're taking time to do things Just. Right.

Wendy, you deserve huge congrats for following your dream and changing careers!

Also, I just read that post about the farmhouse. I am in love. I have always wanted to rescue old farmhouses. Oddly enough, Ryan doesn't seem to share my affection for unappreciated structures.

1/11/2014 at 5:37 PM

I agree with Jane; the way you guys do things to perfection doesn't make for instant gratification -- not disagreeing with your approach at all! Your care and diligence is a real inspiration.

We didn't do anything much on our house except spend a bunch of money on new awnings and new gutters -- the latter was a real budget buster but we finally have the substantial half-round, period appropriate ones that should last awhile (hopefully a lifetime!).

We did a lot outside -- put a two story addition on our outdoor cabin/guesthouse that my husband's been building for years. This included a half bath which is great to have when we're out in our large backyard. "My" backyard project was installing a new path made from old bricks we dig up from our yard. So we feel pretty good about the outdoor accomplishments, anyway.


Wow! We're so impressed. It sounds like you were able to accomplish a ton in 2013. The cabin/guesthouse project sounds like it's a lot of work but a lot of fun!

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