Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you are well rested after the holiday break. Slav and I went to Poland and spent Christmas with his family. While we were there, we travelled around by train and visited the Malbork Castle, the largest castle in the world. We enjoyed every minute of it.

In late 2022 I took a long break from the blog. It was a much needed rest after the kitchen renovation. But we did not stop renovating. Since the inside of the house was mostly updated (the kitchen was the last room renovated), we turned our attention to the backyard, and completed several landscaping projects before the winter hit. These projects largely changed how we utilize our backyard in the future. I cannot wait to show you these projects here on the blog.

I certainly did not document 2022 as much as before. It has been a weird year to remember. Hopes were high for returning to normal at the beginning, and we kinda did at the end, just not the live we had before. The first big impact to our lives in 2022 was Charlie’s passing. It was just the beginning of February, the second day after Chinese New Year, Charlie went to the vet and never came back. We were all heartbroken for weeks, including Roxie who became very inactive and was visibly depressed.

We knew the only way out was through. So while giving lots of attention to Roxie, we threw ourselves into work and renovation projects. The kitchen renovation started in March and kept our minds occupied for months. In early July, as soon as we wrapped up the kitchen reno and put the first floor furniture back to place, we knew it was time to bring a new dog to our pack. It did not take long before we welcomed Banana peels, a hound/Labrador mix from Soul Dog Rescue to our home. We renamed him Charlie to remember our old friend, and the new Charlie has kept all of us active, busy, and happier since.

Besides losing and adopting pets, we’ve seen more from the circle of life in 2022. In Spring, our best friends welcomed their first baby to the world, a sweet little girl. Slav became a Godfather and attended the baptism. Since then, we facetimed with her often, and had such a joy watching her grow. Unfortunately there was loses as well. Just before Thanksgiving, Slav lost a good friend, who was about our age. This accident shook us. We spent so many nights talking about him, his life, and reflecting on ours. We felt so grateful to have each other, and nothing like losing someone you love makes you reevaluated your own life choices.

2022 was an extra challenging year at work. The good part is that we both made big strides at our respective workplaces. We both took on management roles and became more involved in decision making and strategic planning. But at the same time, new responsibilities resulted in more fragmented time schedules, more stress and anxiety, and urgent demand for new skills. These was more pay and more excitment at work, but also more trial and error which definitely flared up my inner imposter syndrome. We did our best, barely kept up, and communicated as much as we could (not enough!) with each other.

We had a busy year at home. The first half of the year was devoted to the biggest house project to date – the kitchen gut-renovation. It was definitely the most complex project to us, but we managed to produce a splendid result without much chaos. We then finished several big projects in the backyard, which included some labor-intensive hardscaping and planting the last bare spot in our yard. It was however, very satisfying to finally put our touch on every square feet of our property. It felt like such a splendid ending on this multi-year project.

I’m proud of us for the year we’ve worked through. But I also believe that we could do better in the new season. 2023 will be our year of evolving. We will establish a new work-life balance, develop new social circles, and improve our relationship with each other as the circumstance changes around us. We will be married for 10 years this summer. And for a large part, we rely on each other as collaborators – supporting each other’s career, co-managing the dogs, and partnering in house tasks and renovations. Now, we have created a life and a home filled with the people and the things we love. 2023 should be the time we start enjoying it as hard as we were working on it. Maybe 2023 will be the year we become friends again, just like when we first met, to explore the great outdoors we moved here for together and to make new memories. Maybe 2023 can be the year for new hobbies and experiences, in which we spend more time on what is fulfilling, but not out of necessity.

2023 also marks six years on this blog. Always and forever, thank you for being a part of our lives. Sharing our stories has been a joyful journey and an important outlet for me. I hope it brings you happiness and comfort in watching our growth as well. I want to wish you a happy, healthy, and hopeful 2023. We will be here, and I hope you will too.