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2019 Year in Review + 2020 Goals

2019 was an extremely eventful year for me, so I thought it would be fun to look back on it and reflect on the high points. I honestly can't imagine another year having so much happen. I also know there will certainly be years to come in which there are low points.

At the same time, I'm looking forward to 2020 and putting some goals into place, particularly for my blog. Below I discuss my 2019 year in review + 2020 goals.

2019 Year in Review

one // We adopted Lilly!

Tony and Julianne with Lilly
Me and my husband, Tony, with Lilly on the day she came home to us

My mom does "trap and release" work for cats in her town and, around Christmas last year, she kept talking about a really sweet black and white kitten with a spot on her front left foot. Over Christmas, we met her and thought she was really sweet. She even laid on my husband's chest, despite being an outdoor cat.

We already had one cat, Minnie, who I have had since 2008, and to be honest, Minnie's behavior wasn't always the best and she didn't usually play nice with others either. However, I wanted my husband to have the opportunity to have a cat that was "his" since I brought Minnie to the relationship.

So, we just went for it! Lillian (aka Lilly) came home to us in February 2019. Below are some pictures of her first day with us.

The adjustment period was tough. We had to keep the cats separated for the most part and ease them into getting to know each other, which made home life a bit chaotic. I would take time every day to do little group "therapy" sessions where they could slowly acclimate to each other. They also made it hard for us to get any sleep at night. I never knew I would lose so much sleep by bringing home a kitten!

After a few months, things got so much better and our two girls are getting along pretty well now. Minnie's behavior has actually dramatically improved, and Lilly is a sweetheart who loves to eat, watch squirrels and cuddle. They bring joy to every day, and we are so thrilled we adopted Lilly this year.

two // We got married!

Audrey Hepburn wedding dress
Photography by Sarah Canning

After almost seven years of dating, we finally sealed the deal on May 3, 2019! I told you this was a big year.

Up until the very last moment, we thought it may rain, and our ceremony was scheduled to be outdoors. So, the last-minute planning was pretty stressful, but it all actually ended up working out perfectly. It was about 80 degrees and cloudy at the time of our wedding.

Our wedding was held at the William Penn Inn, just outside Philadelphia, and it exceeded all of our expectations. The Inn was originally visited by William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and is over 300 years old. My husband had gone there with his grandmother as a child and so, it was the only venue we even visited. It was also right by his parents' home and easy for all of our family and friends to access.

The William Penn Inn is very classic and traditional, as are we, so we tried to maximize those themes with the decor, style and music. I wore an Audrey Hepburn-inspired dress from BHLDN, which I actually purchased before I even tried it on, as it was on a clearance sale and exactly what I was looking for. The bridal party wore silver and navy, which looked great with the greenery outside of our venue. As for decor, we focused on the colors silver, gold, green and white, with lots of candles and greenery. I kept the florals simple, especially with my small lily of the valley bouquet.

Lastly, we ended up having a lemon theme for the food. By coincidence, we picked a lemon salad and lemon cake, so we decided to round out the theme with a lemon signature drink. This theme also foreshadowed our honeymoon in Italy.

Our first dance was "Cheek to Cheek" by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. I love this iteration of this song, but my husband forgot that it got fast after the first few beats and froze on the dance floor. It ended up being a sort of embarrassing part of the wedding for us introverts, but honestly, it was such a beautiful day and I wish I could re-live it!

That being said, I couldn't be happier that the planning and tasks are OVER. As for married life, we have been together for so long that we don't feel like newlyweds! It seems so odd that our wedding was only a few months ago.

I do think, though, that life has been different and better since the wedding. We are saving money on things like insurance and contributing to a joint bank account now.

You can see more photos from our wedding on my Pinterest board:

And, if you are getting married or know someone getting married, you can also check out my best stress-free wedding planning advice and how to save money on your wedding.

three // We honeymooned in Italy!

Julianne in Sorrento
Me at the Grand Excelsior Hotel in Sorrento
Tony in Positano Coast
My husband, Tony, on the Positano Coast

Two months after our wedding, we embarked on our biggest trip together, and my first trip outside the USA! We had talked about going to Italy for years. My husband's extended family is from the Positano Coast and Capri, where they have several restaurants (and the best gelato ever). I also love Italian food and wine, as well as the beauty and culture in Italy! It was the perfect time for us to splurge on a big trip.

We visited Venice, Florence, Sorrento, Rome, Positano and Capri. They were all special and fun, and we ate the most delicious food there. Everything was so fresh. Some of the best foods were the simplest -- like a Caprese salad. I enjoyed the culture and small-town feel of Florence the best, but my husband enjoyed the relaxation and beauty of Sorrento the best. The only bad part about the trip was how very hot it was.

I did an extraordinary amount of planning for our honeymoon, and we really felt like it paid off. I have so many notes and tips that I hope to share on the blog in 2020. Seriously, I will probably write ten posts on Italy, including my favorite books set in Italy (part of the planning process!)

four // I started a book blog!

After the wedding and honeymoon, I was yearning for something creative to do with my free time. Blogging was something I had thought about for a long time, as some of my favorite hobbies are photography and writing. I felt like I had so much in my head that I wanted to place in a permanent format that was easy to share.

At the same time, I was thinking about how I could use my personal talents as an act of service to improve my community.

I struggled very much, however, with how inauthentic social media can be, and not wanting to promote myself that way. I thought very long and very hard about how to shape this blog and my social media presence in a way that felt right to me. Long story short, thus began this book blog with a sprinkle of lifestyle mixed in.

I spent a ton of time learning the ropes through books and podcasts and just dove into the technical side of things. Starting a blog is the type of project that seems completely overwhelming, but when you do a little bit every day, it adds up fast.

At first, it was very difficult as an introvert to post on a public blog and public social media -- I was actually terrified and my heart would race every time I got a like or follow on Instagram.

My strategy, however, was to simply not allow myself to dwell on anxious thoughts. Every time I doubted myself, I stopped thinking and did something in pursuit of my goal instead.

What an amazing lesson to have learned. I would offer this tip to anyone facing fear. In the end, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. The community of book lovers online are genuine, engaged and kind, and I have interacted with so many amazing people over just a few short months.

I also feel so incredibly fulfilled to be pursuing my favorite hobbies on a regular basis. It's a ton of work, there's no question about that. And you have to wear a ton of hats: photographer, writer, marketer, IT specialist, accountant, lawyer, strategist ... the list goes on and on. But I love every second of it, so it doesn't feel like work to me. I have never felt more like myself, and that's a great feeling that anxiety shouldn't have power over.

At the end of the day, I firmly believe that reading more books can change the world and it's so enthralling to see that belief in action through the blog I created in 2019.

five // I was on The Today Show!

Read with Jenna on The Today Show

One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2019 was that strange things can happen when you have an open online presence. The strangest thing of all was when I commented that I liked a quote posted on the Read With Jenna Bush Instagram page, and her team reached out and asked me to be on The Today Show! I mean, holy cannoli!

That experience was a whole story in itself, but I would be completely remiss to not mention briefly here that 2019 was the year in which I had five seconds (literally five seconds) of fame by appearing on national television.

Click here to watch The Today’s Show segment in which I asked a discussion question.

2020 Goals

In 2019, I did really well with eating healthy, budgeting and creating a more sustainable lifestyle. Reading books always help with such goals, and I hope to post some book options and tips about those topics in 2020 and continue to work on them.

There are a few areas, however, in which I know I can do better and/or grow in the next year.

one // Exercise more.

While I was an extremely active child, I have struggled to maintain fitness as an adult.

And as the years go by, it becomes harder to make it through workouts when I attempt them, especially after I had my appendix removed over two years ago. I went for a two-mile walk while we were in Tampa a few months ago and experienced consistent pain in the area of my appendix for an entire week thereafter.

I do enjoy yoga, and I know how important it is for my long-term health to exercise more frequently. My goal is to start with ten to fifteen-minute workouts online and take it from there. There's really no excuse when it's only ten to fifteen minutes!

two // Wake up earlier.

I have also always struggled with waking up early. Even when I go to bed early, I still struggle to get up earlier than 7 a.m. I'm thinking what may work for me is to get up earlier, but to stay in bed for a few minutes, doing tasks like emails and catching up on Instagram messages. It may ease me into waking up earlier if it's a bit slower of a process. I also want to do the short workouts mentioned above during this time.

three // Start an email list.

This is my biggest blog goal for 2020. I have an idea for a specialized weekly email newsletter and I really want to get it off the ground in 2020. I also think it will be easier to reach more people via email than social media, especially when something major is going on, like a great book deal (you know I love those!). I know it will be a lot of work to get it started and to continue to work in it, but I know I can do it!

four // Discuss books more deeply.

When I started this blog, one of my main goals was to foster deeper, more authentic discussions online that what I was tending to see -- highlight reels and things you should buy. Quite honestly, I think I can do better in this regard in 2020 to be more mindful and thoughtful about how I write about books and what questions I am offering up for discussion.

I'm going to make a sincere effort to go beyond, "Did you read this book?" or "What's your favorite book this month?" For example, perhaps I will instead post a quote and ask whether you agree or disagree and why.

I want to get us all thinking more deeply because books affect us deeply and can help us grow in so many ways.

five // Catch up on my to TBR book list and blogging do list!

The tasks of blogging can be endless! The more I learn, the more I have to improve from the technical side of things. Also, I still have so much to say!! I have a list of about 100 posts I want to write, and I have about 30-50 posts written already, from back when I was writing only for myself as a way to get my thoughts out of my head or to keep track of a list. I would love to feel like I am really tackling my to-do lists in 2020!

Thanks for catching up with me on my 2019 year in review and my 2020 goals! Be sure to let me know what happened for you in 2019 and what you want to accomplish in 2020!

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Chelsea Espinoza

Sunday 19th of January 2020

Congrats on such an exciting 2019! Wishing you all the best in 2020. ❤


Thursday 2nd of January 2020

Love this! 2020 will shape up to be a great reading year! I’m so glad I found you via Instagram. I’m loving your content! I’m looking forward to your posts on Italy. Italy has been on the top of my list forever! We are choosing Vienna as our honeymoon destination in June (we wanted to choose a place neither of us has been to so we can explore something new together). Also, your wedding looked gorgeous! We were also worried about weather at our wedding—we planned a New England wedding on the water in November ?. It ended up being sunny and warm-ish (in the 50s, which was definitely warmer than we thought). 2019 was a big year! Cheers to a wonderful 2020–I’m looking forward to your posts!

Julianne Buonocore

Thursday 2nd of January 2020

I'm so happy to have found you via instagram as well! My in laws said Vienna was the prettiest city they ever visited -- prettier than even Paris! I am dying to go there. Italy is definitely a must too though - the culture and food are impeccable. Looking forward to your posts in 2020 as well! I'm glad your New England weather worked out well. We both had a big year!


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