As New Year’s Eve approaches, we wanted to take some time to share the highlights of our year with you! What were we up to in 2015?
First, we celebrated New Year’s Eve at the delicious Amsterdam Cafe in Auburn, AL. It was a really fun night, just the two of us, enjoying one another’s company and making plans for a great year.
Sadly, the merriment did not last. We found out from Luke’s mom that evening that his Grandma Reid wasn’t doing very well. She passed away hours later, and we knew 2015 would be such a darker place without her. The next weekend was the Memorial Service/Celebration of Life to honor this very special woman. I will always be grateful to have known her and that Luke introduced us early in our relationship so that we got to spend several weekends together.
This photo was taken in 2011 when we left our Florida vacation a few days early to drive up to NC and surprise his parents and grandparents at Outback!
January picked up pace after the funeral, and we stayed busy with work and Amanda’s master’s degree homework. We had a mini college reunion for Luke and his buddies and former roommates at our place and enjoyed the time to catch up with them and unwind!
This is one of the most fun groups you will ever encounter, and we are blessed to have them in our lives!
We did spend a wonderful weekend in Savannah, GA toward the end of the month to attend the St. Barbara’s Day Ball with some good friends from Luke’s unit.
February brought Luke’s brother Samuel in town for a weekend visit; so, I got to spend Valentine’s Day with two handsome Bradshaw men this year! We had such a great time watching the Columbus Cottonmouths’ hockey game and exploring downtown Columbus.
I (Amanda) also tagged along with my friend on a road trip to Tuscaloosa to take advantage of the opportunity to visit my younger brother Ethan! It was just a quick trip, but it was so much fun walking down memory lane to all the famous campus landmarks and visiting with friends and mentors from the College of Journalism.
Then, we celebrated Luke’s 25th birthday with Cookie Cake and a casual dinner with friends. It was more low key than some years have been per his request, but still a good time.
Amanda spent most of March studying as she worked to complete her Master’s degree coursework. Here is what most weekends looked like:
But, we still made some time for a little fun on a weekend getaway to Chateau Élan, a winery and resort in northern Georgia. We enjoyed a wine tasting, fancy dinner and couples’ massage there! They had delicious food and it was the best “break from reality” that we so desperately needed, just the 2 of us!
With April came Easter fun! Amanda’s dad and grandmother came down to visit us, and we cooked a delicious Easter dinner to enjoy in our own home after a church service reminding us what Easter is really all about–the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In addition to dinner, we went up to Callaway Gardens for a walk to enjoy the blooming flowers. We got engaged in the Azalea Bowl at Callaway right on this very bridge, so it was fun to go back and get a picture in the very same spot!
And, what would a month be without a little girl time with a couple of best friends/Army wives? Here’s Jenae, Rachel and I at the movies!
We kicked the summer off right with a Memorial Day weekend trip to the beach! Ever since we have been together as a couple, we have taken Memorial Day weekend trips somewhere, so we are kind of making it a family tradition! This year, we spent Memorial Day with Luke’s cousins in Florida!
Paige and Ben had just welcomed a new baby, so it was lots of fun to meet him and to spend time with them and their other two little ones! We got to be part of baby’s first beach trip, which was pretty special! Luke’s cousin Natalie is also an amazing hostess and we enjoyed a cookout and pool party at her house as well. A little fun and sun never hurt anyone but the best part was catching up with these special relatives!
This was one of my favorite months of the year! My mom and I took an 18-hour road trip up to my grad school, West Virginia University in Morgantown! We really made it into an adventure and had so much fun on the way up to my conference- the one on-campus component of my online program. We got in some sight seeing, ate at some yummy local places like Pies and Pints, and even met up with Luke’s cousin Frank and his sweet wife Barbara, who live in Morgantown. Go Mountaineers!
One of the best parts of the trip was taking selfies with WVU President Dr. Gordon Gee.
A sadder part of June was saying “see you later” to one of our favorite couples, Nikki and Lonnie! They were a big part of our lives here, and it was bittersweet that they were moving across the country to pursue another year of ministry school. Luckily, we have social media and cell phones to keep in touch!
We wrapped up June with a successfully orchestrated surprise 30th birthday party for our friend
Cpt. BRAD Wilson. 🙂 His wife Katie planned the whole thing at the Cannon Brew Pub downtown, and even got his parents in on it! We had a blast at this dinner and are grateful that we have found such good friends here in our new home.
(Interestingly, the guys aren’t featured in this picture! Picture taking is not their favorite pastime to say the least! So here is Amanda, Rachel and Katie striking a pose!)
July began with a weekend bash in Atlanta with our best friends, Jess and Will. Atlanta is close to the middle for both of us, so we met up for lunch, a tour of the World of Coke, and the Atlanta Braves’ game and fireworks show. The weekend was so needed, because we miss them being part of our every day lives! The experience was very memorable as it is the very first 4th of July Fireworks show I have ever watched in the rain! We finished off the weekend with brunch (Mexican food, of course!) and a visit to IKEA.
Later in July, Luke’s mom, dad, brother and sister came down to visit us and spent a weekend at our place! We made it an adventure by visiting the Infantry Museum, cooking out hotdogs and hamburgers (and French fries using Luke’s pride and joy: our new deep fryer!) It was warm enough for some R & R by the pool, and we ended the weekend with church and lunch together that Sunday. We never seem to get enough time with family these days, but this weekend was so perfect to catch up with each of them!
The month wrapped up in the most glorious way with 7 days and nights at an all-inclusive resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with Amanda’s brother and Dad. Our uncle has a timeshare there, so we jumped on the opportunity to use it for a week! The resort was so nice that we didn’t do much outside it. We really just ate, lounged by the pool (complete with poolside food and bar service) and relaxed. We each finished 2-3 novels and just enjoyed one another’s company after a long and stressful few months. Luckily, Amanda’s grad school wrapped up for the summer right before the trip, so she could truly enjoy it. The best part of the experience was not connecting to Wi-Fi the whole time. I’m serious–no phone calls, texts or emails AT ALL. And, no social media. It was so rejuvenating to spend time together as a family without worrying about external influences. And, the all-inclusive aspect was so nice because we weren’t worried about ANYTHING. It was all right there for us. Here are a few highlights for you!
August began with one of our “famous” cookouts that we like to host every few months for our local friends. We love getting everyone together and hosting parties, so it works out perfectly! We can’t tell you how many times we’ve enjoyed having this same group of people in our home over the course of the last couple of years, and this Cook Out was filled with joy and laughter as we shared our plans for the Fall. Plus, my friend Michelle and I went to a paint party at ADOOR-IT, a local door sign making place, to get our doors ready for Fall also. I love the pumpkins we made!
Luke and Manda also participated in the Amazing Marriage Chase, an annual event that puts couples through an Obstacle Course/Treasure Hunt to try to gather the most points during a timed event. We had a blast! (All credit goes to Jenae Young for this stellar idea!) We made each other pancakes in a sporting goods store, discovered our “money languages” complemented one another perfectly, said vows in front of a priest holding homemade popsicles, went on a brief whitewater rafting ride through rapids where Manda tried to drown the boat and Luke played Superman, and finally led each other around blindfolded. We were nowhere close to winning, but it was some of the most fun we had as a couple all season.
Finally, Luke took a solo weekend trip home to NC to commission his brother Jacob into the military. We are so proud of all of his accomplishments, and Luke was so grateful to get to be there on his big graduation day. Unfortunately, Manda was stuck at the office, but such is life sometimes. She celebrated with them from afar.
September always kicks off with 2 important events: the 1st is our wedding anniversary (2015 marked 2 years!) and my mom’s birthday! This year, we celebrated our anniversary back in Savannah, GA, the same place we took our honeymoon! This was our second year in a row celebrating someone else’s wedding on our anniversary, and truly nothing brings back the magic of that momentous day better than watching another couple say those same vows. It really reminds you what it’s all about! We are also fortunate that our good friends Lauren and Casey got married at such a nice beach destination so it could become a mini vacay for us too! We even got to see our friend Bill while we were in town. That was part of Luke’s anniversary surprise! This was the cotton anniversary, so we splurged on the trip and then surprised each other with lots of practical (totally married gifts!) like socks and pajama pants. I will say I got a pretty cool new laptop though to finish out my graduate degree since my poor little Mac book wasn’t making it much longer. Sure enough, she died just three weeks later. RIP.
Funny story about this weekend in Savannah: I forgot my purse, and Luke was in between debit cards since his wallet killed his last one. We had both forgotten to go to the ATM before we left. Thus, we spent all weekend with only an AMEX card in hand. You’d be surprised at how many places do not take AMEX. It was an interesting/very memorable/slightly frustrating experience that is hilarious looking back. Note to self: Never travel without proper preparation. Maybe that can be a resolution for 2016!
After our anniversary trip, we made it down for a weekend in Tuscaloosa to visit my brother; it was pure luck we got tickets at face value to a home game! Unfortunately, that game was Ole Miss and not only were we in the nose bleeds, but the Crimson Tide didn’t exactly fare well…It was still nice to be back at my alma mater for a bit and to spend time with family. We got to meet my mom for a birthday brunch on our way home too! It’s always fun when you get to celebrate special days with family!
This year, my grandmother turned 70! I absolutely could not let such a momentous occasion pass without a little celebration, so we road tripped it to Tupelo, Mississippi to visit some extended family and throw a little birthday party/dinner for her. It was too much fun, and although she knew about the trip, we think she was really surprised and touched by the effort we put in for her birthday. I’m so grateful Luke was up for the trip! He got to spend more time with our relatives, especially my great Aunt Teen. All in all, it was a wonderful trip.
Unfortunately, the rest of October wasn’t so fun. At the beginning of the month, I started having trouble with my eyes again. After 4 previous surgeries and lifelong problems, I wasn’t taking any chances, so I scheduled an immediate appointment with my ophthalmologist. She doesn’t live locally, so we spent a lot of October following her around to neighboring towns for appointments and finally settled on surgery the day before my 25th birthday. It was scary and stressful to be very honest. We thought this problem had been corrected before our wedding 2 years before. However, we trusted in God and in my surgeon, Dr. Irene Ludwig, who is one of the very best in the country for my particular issue. Well, it would appear 5th time’s a charm! The issue is fixed, at least better than it ever has been before according to the latest follow up reports. So, despite an uncomfortable birthday, we are truly blessed.
Our bosses were both very supportive and gave us all the time we needed. Because my surgery was in my hometown, my Mom was able to be there every step of the way, along with my best friend Jessica. So grateful for them! Additionally, my mother in law and brother in law came down to visit the moment we got home, and my MIL stayed for several days, chauffeuring me around because I still couldn’t drive and helping me with housework and errands. I don’t know what I would have done without her and am so thankful she made the trip down to help us. Plus, I got to rock my shades for about 3 weeks and not wear any eye makeup! I call that a lazy girl win.
The month ended well though with our very last party for this group of friends; and what better way to end then on a Halloween Party?! We really went all out, dressing up in costumes, decorating and making enough food for a whole Army. We even played a Halloween-themed Werewolf game; it all made for an unforgettable evening.
This year we had 3 Thanksgivings, which was simultaneously amazing AND turkey’d us out for the next decade! We got to visit my side of the family this year, and enjoyed the first holiday with my extended family in two years. It was definitely one for the memory books!
Oh, and who can forget our little “Friendsgiving” at the Melting Pot? Good times!
Despite all the awesome family/friend time we got this month, we did have to say two tough goodbyes to our friends Amy and Sean (Boston bound) and Rachel and Kevin (Kansas bound). They each made up big chunks of our life here, and we so value the gift of their friendship, near or far!
We started the month off with going to see The Beauty and the Beast with the Youngs at the Springer Opera House. We all sprung for box seats and had so much fun feelin’ fancy for a night!
The next weekend, Luke and I bought our Christmas tree and went to see The Nutcracker ballet together, just us as a date night.
FINALLY, I FINISHED GRADUATE SCHOOL! I earned an A+ in my final class, which put my GPA at 3.9. I was so, so excited to finish this journey 2.5 years in the making! Just waiting on my diploma in the mail now.
Last but not least, we had a laidback yet wonderful Christmas with my Mom coming down to visit us. We cooked A LOT; Luke grilled steaks one night, I made my Aunt Lisa’s world famous sweet potato casserole, and we got some other sides and things from Honey Baked Ham, which made the holiday so much easier and stress free. It was just the three of us this year, so we didn’t need too much quantity-wise. It was 80 degrees and flooding most of the time, so we spent a good bit of it indoors, watching Christmas movies, cooking and playing games. The day after Christmas was balmy and sunny though, so we took a walk and I am wearing a tank top and shorts and even stuck my feet in the water! It was definitely Christmas in the South, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We were really thankful to have the time together off of work.
These pictures may not show it with all the travel and relaxation, but 2015 wasn’t all fun and games for us at all! Luke worked really hard all year at his job, and my grad school took up a LOT of time. I am so excited for more time to just be together in 2016.
Cheers to a Wonderful New Year to you and yours! Thanks so much for following our story.
Luke and Manda