Top 10 Moments of 2013

Yes, dear friends, it’s that time of year when I’m scrambling to put up the Christmas decorations, running around like a madwoman at the office, holiday shopping till I’m dropping and cooking my way through an endless array of Pinterest recipes for one family gathering after the next. After all that, plus a bag of chips, I finally managed to get the Christmas cards purchased, printed and shipped. And in true Riley tradition, the cards are complete with our Top 10 Moments of 2013.

We’ve been doing these Top 10 lists for four years now. Click to see 2012 and 2011. Mikey and I have really come to like them. It gives us a reason to reminisce and compare this year’s successes to last. And I love being able to give people a glimpse into what life was like for us over the past 365 days.

This year, the Christmas cards were a little more hurried than years past. I usually enlist my photographer father to photograph the three of us, but with so many things going on during the weekends in December, I decided to use an iPhone photo of The Bear as our 2013 Christmas card hero image. Then, our home printer was giving me problems for a good week as I was trying to print the card stock for our Top 10 list. But not to fear… the cards and list made it out the door yesterday. And so, here goes. Our 2013 in review…

Mike, Larissa & Teddy Riley’s Top 10 Moments of 2013

10. After a few tries at brewing his own beer, Mike finally nailed his best beer yet, a small batch jalapeño saison. 

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Its been about a year and a half now that Mikey has been experimenting with different home brew recipes. This jalapeño saison from Brooklyn Brew Shop has proven to be his most successful. Not spicy or overwhelming like you might expect from a jalapeño. Well-balanced and full-flavored. We shared the wealth with friends, family and coworkers who were all pretty impressed. But I warn that this is not for timid beer drinkers. If you’re a tried and true Bud Light drinker or less open to trying new flavors, this will probably be out of your comfort zone.

9. Larissa wrote a food review on her blog for The Libertine, a new restaurant in St. Louis. The review was featured on The Libertine’s Facebook page and picked up by the Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch, a local online news source. 

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If you haven’t read the review, check it out here. And if you’d like to see the feature on the Patch, click here. Now it goes without saying that our experience at The Libertine was great. But it’s also worth mentioning that whoever is managing The Libertine’s social properties (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)  is doing it right. Since sharing my post on their social networks, I’ve noticed that they continue to keep their finger on the pulse of what other people are saying about them. That includes average joes like myself as well as local and national food critics. They’re being good listeners and creating conversations with current and prospective fans. So thumbs up to them. And if you’re in St. Louis, go there already!

8. This year marked five years of marriage for us. Seems like just yesterday when so many of you helped us celebrate our big day.

It was October 4, 2008, and the weather was absolutely amazing. Blue skies, sun on your face, temps in the low 70s. God did an extraordinary job orchestrating the weather that day.

We celebrated five years of marital bliss with dinner at Niche in Clayton. We hadn’t been to Niche since Chef Gerard Craft relocated the famed St. Louis restaurant from Benton Park to Clayton. Per usual, our dinner did not disappoint. Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of the great time and food we had. It was one of those occasions where I chose to be in the moment without a camera to document it. Again, if you’re in St. Louis and haven’t been, go there for your next special occasion. Craft has built quite a reputation in St. Louis. It shows. And it tastes incredible.

7. We enjoyed our fourth annual “Teddy Vacation” at the Lake of the Ozarks. Teddy still reigns as champion dock diver of the family. 

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I recapped this relaxing getaway in a previous post here. This yearly Teddy Vacation tradition is always something we look forward to at the end of the summer. For Teddy Vacation 2014, though, we’re thinking of switching it up and going to a coast!

6. We caught our first waves during a surfing lesson on a trip to Hawaii in the fall… and now we want to move to Hawaii. 

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I also captured the memories from this experience in a previous post here. Definitely an unforgettable moment. And if I do it again, let’s hope my equilibrium doesn’t screw with me again.

5. While vacationing in Maui, we visited the summit of Mount Haleakala and stood a jaw-dropping 10,023 feet above sea level.

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I still have yet to blog about this visit to Mount Haleakala. I’m not even a fourth of the way through documenting our Hawaii vacation, but it’s coming. I promise!

4. We visited a good friend from college in the spring during a trip to Arizona and saw everything from the red rocks of Sedona to the magnificent Grand Canyon. We even rafted the Colorado River! 

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I remember this trip proved to be so much more spectacular than we expected it to be. We left with a new-found appreciation for nature and the beauty it brings. Follow these links  to see how the whole trip unfolded — Scottsdale, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.

3. The Riley house underwent major structural repair this summer. The only fun part was when it ended. All is back to normal – until the next thing breaks! 

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To be completely honest, I never want to hear about this project again. But it was certainly worth mentioning on our Top 10 list, considering how much grief it gave us — followed by joy when it was over. Read all about the debacle here.

2. The recent trip to Hawaii allowed us some long overdue quality time with Larissa’s grandmother. It had been six years since our last visit.

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A visit to see Lola was long overdue. And it was nice being able to have real adult conversations with her now that I’m a full-on grown-up. I learned a little bit more about my dad’s side of the family. She told stories of how she and Papa met. How she left her family behind in the Philippines to meet Papa in Hawaii. Even how Papa moved to the Big Island, Hawaii as a youngster to work with his family in the coffee fields. Now the plan is not to wait so long to see her again. Six years is just too much.

1. Mike, Larissa and Teddy are now featured on Dog Chow Light & Healthy bags across the country. Look for us at the grocery store, on DogChow.com and in magazine print ads everywhere!

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We took this photo at a Safeway grocery store in Hawaii. Its been fun seeing our faces on shelf and online. (You can’t see it here, but Mikey is featured on the back of the bag as well.) Even friends who live far away from us write me on Facebook to tell me they saw me on a floor mat in Kroger or a print ad in People magazine. Pretty amazing that we now have a legit claim to fame.

There is no doubt that our little family has a lot to be thankful for, and we’re fortunate that we’ve been able to say that every year. As the holidays draw near, I hope your holidays are full of good food, family, friends and fun.

2013 Riley Christmas Card

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