Here we are — the final quarter of the year! Honestly, I am ready to tuck 2023 into bed and gear up for the new year. Q4 2023 was a challenging one, comprised of minimal rest, plenty of work, and lots of hands-on learning. Our deck re-build dominated the majority of this quarter, though Brian and I were able to successfully enjoy a handful of our 52 Experiences in 52 Weeks.
We cleared the entire month of October for us to complete our deck project. Unsurprisingly, it took twice as long to go from demolition to installing new joists, deck boards, and railings. Brian and I ultimately decided to press pause so we could catch our breaths. We’ll finish up with the project once we install the deck skirting later on.
Our project has reaffirmed that life is not a race to be won. No matter how numb we were in brisk 30°F weather or mentally exhausted from the work day, we would not force ourselves to rush the process. We wanted to do things our way, correctly, even when that meant slowing down or starting over when necessary.
This sentiment spilled over from our project and into how we spent Q4 2023. We did all that we could this year, but not everything on our 52 Experiences list. Brian and I could have rushed it all (especially during the month of December), but…where’s the joy in that?
Here’s how we spent the last quarter of the year:
1. Book an out-of-town Mid-Century Modern Architectural Tour
Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL holds the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the greatest American architects of the 20th century. He is well-known for his mid-century modern designs and is frequently referred to as the father of American modernism.
Brian and I booked the guided Basic Tour, which offers incredible insight into the history and design of Wright’s 13 campus structures. This includes an interior tour of two Wright-designed chapels and his Usonian Faculty House, which was intended to be the first of twenty faculty housing units. It was a fantastic experience, especially since no other guests joined us on the tour. We unexpectedly enjoyed a private tour!
2. Make Coq au Vin
I can’t say that I’m all that crazy about chicken. It’s fine, but definitely not my favorite. Coq au Vin, though, has always intrigued me. I’d come across the recipe here and there over the years, and I thought it looked tasty enough to try. So Brian and I tried it. It was our first attempt, so let’s just say we are looking forward to trying again.
We had an okay enough time with the recipe, but we didn’t allow the skin to crisp enough and could barely get it to flambé. It tasted fine, but we think we could do better next time!
3. Create an Eastern European meal
Nom nom noms. Did we successfully create an Eastern European meal? We sure did! Our Ukrainian snack in Vancouver had us itching for pierogi. Brian and I decided to whip up:
- Pörkölt (Hungarian Beef & Onion Stew)
- Kapusta (Polish Slow-Cooked Cabbage)
- Potato and Sauerkraut Pierogi (Polish Dumplings)
- Mixed Greens with Pickled Beets
We’ve only made pierogi together once before. I am happy to report that this second attempt was better. All of the food was delicious, and it fed us for the next three days.
4. Try new-to-us food
We tried our hand at Maafe, a Senegalese Peanut Stew. It was delicious! Brian and I had never had West African food before. We made our stew with beef, though it’s so versatile that it could be made vegetarian or with a number of different proteins, such as chicken, goat, or lamb. We also added in carrots and celery. Neither one of us has ever tried a savory dish with a significant amount of peanut butter before, so we were curious how we’d like it. We’re happy to say this recipe will be in our rotation!
5. Attend well-being webinars
Check! We attended a handful of well-being webinars focused on topics ranging from personal loss, workplace stressors, finance, and more.
6. Complete a free online course together
Brian and I signed up with Coursera, an online platform for online learning and career development that offers thousands of free courses. We successfully completed Life 101: Mental and Physical Self-Care, a 15-hour course through the University of California, Irvine. Brian and I had a lot of fun and enjoyed learning something different together. We look forward to taking more courses in the future!
7. Watch more foreign films
I sincerely appreciate how accessible foreign films are nowadays. In my mind, it wasn’t that long ago that the library served as one of the only places that I was able to seek out international movies. Though, when I think about it, that was nearly 20 years ago!
The very first foreign film Brian and I watched together was in a small, independent theater in 2010. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made its debut in the US with a limited release, and I excitedly asked him to join me as I had just finished the book a few months prior. I’d never seen a Swedish film before then.
In addition to the library and independent theaters, we now have access to streaming platforms, which have proven to be an excellent source of browsable and entertaining international media. This year, Brian and I finally watched The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, the last sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
In the last three months, we also watched:
8. Research and attend local seminars
This one was actually more difficult than I thought it’d be; I used to come across local lectures all of the time. For whatever reason, I had a tough time this year finding interesting seminars that were accessible, affordable, and relevant to us. We did attend one workshop and seminar on mindfulness, so I’ll count that as a win!
9. Rebuild our deck
Our decking has been completed! Brian and I replaced 500 sq. ft. of old, decaying pressure-treated wood with supremely gorgeous and durable Brazilian hardwood. It was a pricey project, but nowhere near as pricey as it would have been had we hired others to do the work for us. I am really proud of us; it took us nearly sixty days and about half of that with headlamps, but it was worth every minute and every single cent.
I will share additional photos and behind-the-scenes content in a future post. For now, here’s a before and after shot of our deck:
10. Complete a creative woodworking project
Though we didn’t intend for our deck project to double as our creative woodworking project, that’s what happened! Decking was a new kind of project for us, as was working with Cumaru, a natural Brazilian hardwood. There was a bit of a learning curve working with hardwood, but we think we mastered it pretty well by the end of the project.
One specific creative aspect of our decking came in the form of resolving a spacing issue. We laid our deck boards from the outside in, with the last row being against the brick. At this point, we discovered a huge spacing issue for that final row, which went from a three-inch gap to more than a six-inch gap from one end to the other. We realized right then and there that the previous owners had cut a custom piece of wood for the entire length of the last row. I don’t know why we didn’t pay attention to the custom piece before we removed it; maybe we were so focused on just tearing it down that we completely missed it?!
Brian’s solution was to rip a deck board near the end to create two smaller pieces for a more seamless look. He also learned how to use a router to keep the cut edges along the brick nice and smooth. It looks great!
11. Have breakfast on our balcony
It took us until the final quarter of the year, but we finally enjoyed breakfast on our balcony! Brian and I have had coffee, tea, and lunch on our balcony before, but not breakfast. It was a chilly, quiet morning, with only the sounds of falling leaves and singing birds. What a way to start the day.
12. Donate to local causes
Our donations went to support a local chapter of the Covenant House, a nonprofit organization that provides safe housing and supportive services to youth experiencing homelessness and human trafficking. We also donated to We Love Buford Highway, a local charity with a mission to preserve the multicultural identity of Atlanta’s Buford Highway, a 10-mile stretch of more than 1,000 immigrant-owned businesses and a thriving multi-ethnic community.
13. Venture to international night markets
This one can be counted as a half-win. We visited the Richmond Night Market when we were in Vancouver. I didn’t highlight this experience in our Vancouver post because we didn’t think it was worth mentioning. The Richmond Night Market was an overrated mishmash of cheap carnival food and knick-knacks. It just wasn’t for us. Truthfully, we were trying to redeem our night market experience with a different one but haven’t been able to visit one since.
14. Check out local artists and musicians
I’m happy to share that Brian and I ventured out to support a good friend who performed in a musical. It was held in a community theater, and it was a great experience. We also enjoyed listening to a local jazz duo as well as holiday songs sung by our community choir.
15. Mail handwritten letters
I sent off handwritten cards and letters to strangers and friends. Snail mail is an underrated treasure; it’s a lost art that I intend to revisit more.
The last three months taught us to hold onto our patience. Of course, patience does not discount feelings of frustration, which both of us experienced at different times and in different circumstances. As we navigated tiring days and deck railing aggravations, along with the anxiousness of wanting to fit everything in, we ultimately decided to slow it down. After all, life is not a race. Q4 2023 marked the end of a busy, constructive year. Brian and I took our time and appreciated 42 out of 52 experiences.
With good faith and good energy, we plan to include the last 10 on next year’s list of experiences. Here’s what’s waiting for us in 2024:
- Head up north to hike through fall foliage
- Cozy up overnight in a quiet, secluded cabin
- Discover new music & create personal playlists
- Brush up on my Italian
- Hike with a friend
- Have “nothing to do” days
- Journal stream-of-consciousness before bed
- Limit screen time before sleep
- Seal up our bedroom return vent
- Repair basement drywall
I hope you did your best to navigate the last quarter, if not the entire year. I’m grateful that 2024 is around the corner. While we can all move forward with hopes and dreams of great experiences to explore next year, let’s not forget that life is an experience all on its own. There are moments that enter our doors both expectedly and unexpectedly, and all we can do is greet them with grace, patience, and adaptability.
Stay tuned to see what experiences we have in store for next year!