2016 Year In Review

I know, I know. It’s only March and I’m supposed to wait until the end of the year to do a Year In Review post, but so much has happened already this year, I just can’t wait until December to share them!


My goal in starting over with blogging here at annasjoy.com (after a wildly successful attempt at being an infrequent blogger over at annasjoyblog.blogspot.com) was to post something at least every month. I’m obviously not the one you come to to learn how to accomplish your goals, but I’m still so glad you’re here!

We rang in 2016 at a vineyard overlooking the mountains in South Africa. It was exactly as amazing as it sounds. We had an amazing three-week vacation in Cape Town over Christmas and New Years. As you know, December is during their summer, but it’s not too hot because of the constant wind from the ocean currents on all sides of the Cape. It was perfect and dreamy there and I want to marry Cape Town when I grow up.

Christmas Day on Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town, South Africa
New Year’s Eve at the Grande Roche in Paarl, South Africa

While there, my friend Shannon tagged me in a call for submissions to a magazine I had never heard of, Thryve. I was intrigued, but wasn’t really planning to write while on vacation, so I tucked it away. Dern idea kept resurfacing until I took a closer look, spent some time in prayer, then in true Anna fashion, wrote my piece the night of the submission deadline. Aaaaaand, (drumroll) I just found out it was accepted!

I wrote about fear and anger and how we try to control our own lives, but can’t. You know, the fun, light stuff I’m known for here. The magazine doesn’t come out until June, so you’ll have to wait until then to read it. I’m praying it will be timely and meaningful to at least one person!

Immediately upon returning to the big desert in the Middle East we call home (at least for the next few months), we fought the post-vacation blues by going on another vacation! This time, we drove to Dubai with two other families who are some of our dearest friends in the world. Between us we have 7 kids, and 4 of them have stair-stepped birthdays in the span of 2 weeks. So, instead of having 4 separate parties, we combined forces last year for a “1, 2, 3, 4” party (If not for creativity, we at least earn points for clarity in our theme.). It was such a hit, we decided to do it again, just in an entirely different country this time.

Hanging out At The Top (of The World), Burj Khalifa, Dubai

We went to the tallest building in the world, Ayla learned how to ice skate, Judson never let me put him down and we had amazing Emirati food. This is a real thing and if you ever get the chance, you should try it. It’s similar to Turkish and Lebanese cuisine, but with a deliciously unique take on the locally available ingredients. If you’re ever in Dubai, you must go to the Seven Sands Restaurant. You’re welcome.

Back at home finally after almost a month on the road, I started a home cooking business. It’s called Anna’s Home Cooking. (Remember, clarity not creativity here!) I offer three to four fresh (meaning not frozen) meals a week, portioned to each diner’s needs. I do three dinners and an optional breakfast dish. They pick it up once a week, and the idea is that they can just pull it out of the fridge and heat it up when they’re ready to eat it.

A pretty salad. No excuses when it’s all chopped and ready for you!

I’ve had fun with it; planning each week’s menus, learning how to cook en masse, and knowing at least someone will enjoy the food I’ve made–and is even paying for it with money! I’m also using the business as a development/sharpening tool of my communication and marketing skills. My resume has a pretty big gap from the past five or so years, so it will be nice to have something tangible I can say I’ve done (other than keep a couple of really cute people alive). If you’re interested in what I’ve been cooking, I link to the recipes I use and give honest reviews about their ease of use and the end results here on a Facebook page I set up for the business.

I’ve also taken over the reins of the weekly Women’s Bible Study I’ve been blessed to be a part of for the past few years. Our group has been through a lot together, and now most of us are getting ready to launch out to new assignments in different parts of the world this summer. I couldn’t think of a better book to get us ready for that than the book I helped launch last year, Jen Hatmaker’s For The Love: Fighting For Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. 

Since my last at bat here, my kids turned two and five years old. #muststopblinking

“P is for Pajama” day at Little Llama Preschool (our homeschool co-op) (my kids are on the right)

I’m still doing the homeschool pre-school co-op I’ve probably forgotten to write about at all so far. Some friends and I started it last year out of frustration at the lack of any part-time preschools available to us here. We grew from three to five moms, and enjoyed the time we had “off” while our children rotated around three days a week to different houses for three hours of semi-structured play with a little bit of teaching thrown in. This year, we’re back down to three kids, but they are so much fun. They were all together last year, so this time around the going is pretty smooth.

When we were preparing for this assignment, I only knew one thing about it. Ok, two things. I knew I’d have a baby while we were here and I knew that it would be hot here. I would’ve never imagined I’d be home schooling and running a little business, too!

You just never know what life is going to bring. Like I said, it’s only March!

(For those who subscribe by email, I’m publishing this now to get it done, but will add photos tomorrow. Come back soon to see them!)


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