Year In Review: Favorites of 2021

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Just the highlights, please! Here’s all my favorite posts, home projects, books, and finds from the past year.

mug, tree, and snowflakes with stairways in background

Today I read an article that outlined the highlights of 2021. Let’s just say it was a short list. When the high point of the year is a lawyer accidentally zooming into court as a cat, you know it’s been a rough year.

That being said, this year did have some personal high points as you’ll see below. And I have YOU to thank for that; because of the amazing support of the Making Lemonade community I was able to homeschool my son (and virtual school my daughter with special needs), take care of my health, and run a business that grew more this year than ever before.

farmhouse kitchen

Parenting during a pandemic is not for the faint of heart, but this blog of mine allowed me to do so with plenty of room for grace. Juggling full-time work with schooling my kids was quite an adventure, and I know so many of you can relate.

boy in walking boot

But no matter the circumstances, the Making Lemonade community SHOWED UP. Every time you read a post or clicked a link, each time you bought a digital binder or enrolled in a course, all your shares of my posts by pinning on Pinterest or engaging on Instagram, whenever you signed up as a Making Lemonade Insider and opened an email… ALL of those actions, both big and small, support this blog and my small business. We had our best financial year EVER and it truly blows my mind!

Continued growth means we can offer even MORE of what you love and need. It also allows us to give back BIG TIME. I could not have done this without your support, and I wanted to let you know from the bottom of my heart how much it means to me, my family, and the rest of the amazing Making Lemonade team.

sunset at the beach

My mission has always been to save you time, stress, and money so you can do more of what you love. I hope to never let you down, and always continue to support you on your journey to streamlining your home so you can embrace and enjoy a fulfilling life!

Top 5 Favorite Home Projects

This year was a doozy with the kids in various school environments (homeschool and virtual), so I didn’t tackle as many projects as I’d hoped. And the ones I DID complete weren’t super exciting or sexy. However, they did make me so very happy… which is the whole point, right?

New outdoor couch on the porch.

This was a ‘click and ship’ type makeover, but we got a new outdoor couch we love and added an outdoor television too. With the warm weather we’ve had this winter, our porch has become a year-round space to entertain and hang out with the fam just about every night too.

outdoor couch on porch

outdoor couch // outdoor curtains

Fix the drainage issues in our yard.

Our yard has had drainage issues from the day they started building it. They were so bad that on our walk-through of the yard during closing the tears would not stop running down my cheeks. It had been an emotional journey with our builder, and the backyard failure was what finally pushed me over the edge. I had promised my kids a usable yard to play in since they’d endured the big move from Pennsylvania, and this space fell totally short of that by a long shot. Our builder promised to fix it, but of course they broke that promise. I will share more details soon but have to emotionally be ready to write about it to be honest.

We had to decide to move forward or push the builder, and since they’d failed so many times and it was going to be a fight I used that energy to hire it to be done right instead. There was a looooong wait to get on their schedule, but we had an amazing drainage company fix the situation and they did an incredible job. Our yard went from swampy sadness to usable space. Now that the issues are fixed, we have a BIG landscaping makeover ready to go as soon as the materials arrive!

BEFORE (note: this is a tiny portion of the problem and notice how muddy it was even though it hadn’t rained in over a week):

bad drainage job by Toll Brothers

AFTER (again, this is just a small portion of the yard but it’s the same section after being fixed; the grass will grown in during the spring):

north carolina backyard

Now that the drainage is fixed we can move forward with our HUGE backyard makeover! Patio, fire pit, landscaping… I’ll try my best to share it in real time on Instagram and in my newsletter, it’s scheduled to start in late January.

Paint the dining room.

Once I decided to paint the moulding AND the walls the same color, my dining room dreams came true! I just love the moody color and dramatic space where we can entertain, work on projects, and welcome new memories each season.

chair and wine tower in dining room

Update the entryway.

We have a two-story entryway and I’ve always loved the dramatic curved staircase. I finally found a rug I love that’s easy to clean, and added personality in the space with framed photos of my loves.

The next step is to add moulding and paint the entire space, we have lots of interior painting on the docket for this year.

entryway with office on side
chair and table in entrywayy
entryway with large frames on wall and boot tray

Update our dining nook.

This area is between our kitchen and dining room. It has to kinda blend in to both spaces, so it’s a tough one to decorate! We switched out the rug and changed the chairs from ‘farmhouse white’ to a more modern black. Small changes but it really updated the room.

white kitchen with marble backsplash

Homeschool my son.

I’m including this as a ‘home project’ because it took up the time and energy I would have typically used for home projects. Of ALL of the things I did last year, this was my absolute favorite. My son’s school was virtual due to the you-know-what, and it didn’t jive with the way he learns and was interfering with all of our mental health. I pulled him from school in November and homeschooled him instead. As a former teacher, it was easy to make the switch and we both LOVED it. I was able to target his unique learning style and teach in a way that he learns best and he absolutely thrived. I’m so glad I went with my gut on this one, and he’s so very grateful. It was not only an incredible learning experience, but a bonding one as well.

He’s was able to transition back into public middle school this fall, which is best for him socially. I sure do miss learning together, and know that if the road ahead gets rough again I can always do what’s best for our family.

homeschooling room with table and supplies

Favorite Blog Posts of the Year

Here’s the posts that made my ‘favorites’ list this year:

Homemade Paper Snowflakes

These gorgeous paper snowflakes make a huge impact and look great during the holidays and beyond.

Laundry Room Organization Hacks

Shhhh… I no longer hate laundry now that I’ve streamlined the process. These hacks are sure to whip your laundry room into shape to save you time, money and space.

How to Clean Pillows The Easy Way

When’s the last time you cleaned your pillows? No worries, I’m sharing how to do it the easy way.

No-Sew Homemade Heating Pads

Want to make homemade heating pads that are cordless and can be created in 5 minutes or less? Here you go!

Free Printable Cleaning Labels

We love our homemade cleaners around here, so here’s a set of FREE printable labels so your cleaners can look as good as they work.

Top 5 Favorite Books

Everyone has such different ideas for what they love to read, so I’m always reluctant to make recommendations. BUT. As an avid reader (I read about 10 books a month), these are the five that I most remember this year:

The Firekeeper’s Daughter

This is technically a YA book, but captivating even for an adult audience. It’s part mystery, part coming of age, and it thoroughly engrossing. The Ojibwe culture is woven throughout the story and it was wonderful to learn more about the traditions, problems, and joys of the Anishinaabe. If I had to choose, I’d say this was my favorite book of the year.

Firekeepers Daughter book cover

Project Hail Mary

While the category of science fiction is not my typical genre, I enjoyed this story from the same author of The Martian. Yes, there’s lots of physics and math mentioned but I did actually understand it which is a win in my book. Funny, captivating, and deeply human… even when it’s not.

Project Hail Mary book cover

Malibu Rising/ The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo/ Daisy Jones and the Six

All three of these books are by the author Taylor Jenkins Reid and are fairly quick reads. They’re entertaining and just what I needed at various points of the year– books that entertain and distract, that make me laugh and don’t require deep thought.

Malibu Rising book cover

The Man Who Died Twice

I’m a sucker for a great mystery, and this one involves a cast of unique and witty pensioners which made it extra delightful.

The Man Who Died Twice book cover

Such a Fun Age

This page-turner is funny, often uncomfortable and engrossing. As Vogue says, “This page-turner goes down like comfort food, but there’s no escaping the heartburn.” It’s unputdown-able, and truly a novel for the times. And if the subject matter turns you off, it’s all the more reason to ask yourself why and then go ahead and digest it.

Such a Fun Age book cover

I’m currently reading the thriller Little Secrets, and I’m not totally sure where it’s going so I’m not sure it’ll be a favorite– but it’s such a twisty-turny plot. I have a feeling I’ll be surprised by the ending… which is my favorite kind of book.

You can always find the books I’ve read, am reading, or want to read on my BEST BOOKS list right here.

Top 5 Favorite Things I’ve Bought This Year

St. Tropez Self-Tanning Spray

I naturally run on the ‘vampire’ side of pale, so this subtle spray makes me look much more rested and life-like than my typical shade of anemic.

Stanley Quencher Tumbler

There was SO much hype about this travel mug that I had low expectations and resisted buying it. Plus, they’re really hard to get and sell out in minutes flat (note: the metallic ones are currently in stock but I’ve heard they sometimes get scratched.) I finally caved and got a gray one, and y’all, I’m obsessed. I drink so much more water now because the handle allows me to carry it everywhere. It actually fits in my cupholder (unlike my Hydroflask) and it keeps the water so cold and delicious. It was pricey but I consider it a wellness purchase since it helps me get my daily hydration and water intake.

Lemon Print from Juniper Studio

I just love this sweet lemon print! It arrives unframed and printed like a photo, but I framed it and found the perfect spot and it makes me happy every time I walk by it.

bar cart with art

Maracuja Juicy Lip

I’m pretty low-maintenance when it comes to makeup, but I do like to put on a ‘5 minute’ face every day. I love these Juicy Lip glosses; the colors are neutral and just look naturally pretty.

Bissel Crosswave Floor Cleaner

This is still in my top 5 for a second year in a row, probably because my husband loves to use it on the floors which is SUCH a win in my book. Plus, I love anything that streamlines home tasks so the fact this both dry AND wet cleans your floors AT THE SAME TIME is such a bonus.

Bonus entry: this Go Ask Your Dad shirt. So far it hasn’t worked but it was worth a shot. (sorry the image is backwards but I was taking a selfie and am not good at it.)

t-shirt that says 'Go Ask Your Dad'

Year in review posts on blogs and news outlets are my favorite to read. I love looking back on the year and seeing everyone’s highlights and focus on the good to be found. While this year was less than ideal (to say the least), I can see that progress was made and we continued to move forward despite the circumstances.

Thanks for a successful year here at Making Lemonade. Your support means the world to me, and I hope 2022 is filled with blessings for you all.

I’d love to hear your highlights this year… your top moments, favorite finds, books you loved, and everything else. Tell me in the comments or share this post on social media along with your highlights!

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