It’s that time again: when we look back at our last lap around the sun and look forward to the next one. I started making Year in Review lists several years ago, first as a handwritten list on a single sheet of paper, and more recently as a longer blog post (here is last year’s). I’ve found that this practice is helpful for celebrating what we accomplished and inspiring gratitude for the experiences we’ve had. There’s no doubt that 2017 was a year filled with big life events: Nick turned 30, we celebrated 10 years of dating, we gained a step family, we made it through our first full year without my mother-in-law Penny, and we became landlords for the first time. UNC won a basketball National Championship! We continued loving our condo after 5 years of it being home, though we briefly considered buying a house on Atlanta’s Beltline for about a week. Nick got closer to his goal of a single-digit golf handicap, and I think I finally started enjoying playing golf after 6 years of it. My little brother, Graham, moved to Atlanta to attend Georgia State University, and we’ve loved having him nearby. All-in-all, there was a lot of good in 2017.


Here are some other highlights of where we traveled, what we ate, what I grew in my garden, what we watched, what we read, and the ways we worked in the last year:


We Traveled


We traveled as much as ever this year–including our longest trip to date, spending the last ten nights of the year in Europe (I wrote most of this on the plane home!). My car finally hit 100,000 miles–many of which we drove between Georgia and North Carolina–and Nick’s 2001 Mustang that he got in high school is miraculously still running and under 100,000 miles. Our adventures included creeping on OJ Simpson’s Rockingham homesite in LA, sliding down a sand dune waterslide in Northeast Brazil, spying on the Vatican Embassy in Buenos Aires from our hotel windows, hiking an ancient volcanic gorge, and planning two separate trips with only a week’s notice (a big deal for us because we’re usually crazy spreadsheet-wielding planners).


By the numbers:


3 continents

5 US states

6 countries

8 beaches

11 airports

16 flights

3,000+ travel photos



Photo highlights:


Andaz Papagayo Costa Rica
Andaz Papagayo Costa Rica
Wrightsville Beach North Carolina
Wrightsville Beach North Carolina
Asheville North Carolina
Asheville North Carolina
0031 Boutique Hotel Cumbuco Brazil
Cumbuco Brazil


Feb | Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica for my birthday (read about our stays at the Andaz here and here)

Feb | Wrightsville Beach, NC for my last visit to my grandparents’ beach house (it sold to a developer in October)

Mar | Asheville, NC for a quick trip to see my dad and visit my dear friends the Aiellos (see my Asheville guide here)

Mar | Fortaleza & Cumbuco, Brazil with the Hill family to memorialize Penny and her mission work in Brazil (read more about the meaning behind the trip here & about our beach bed & breakfast here)


Rosemary Beach Florida 30A
Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel California
Kannapolis North Carolina AL Brown graduation
Monarch Beach Golf Links
Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel California
Chicago Illinois
Chicago Illinois Cloudgate the Bean


April | Rosemary Beach, FL for the Weil-Butler wedding

May | Los Angeles & Orange County, CA for a last-minute 7th wedding anniversary trip (see my LA recommendations here & read about the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel here)

June | Kannapolis, NC for my baby brother’s high school graduation (read my letter to him here)

July | Chicago, IL (get my city guide here)


Chattanooga Lookout Mountain Tennessee
Montreat North Carolina FPC women
Winston-Salem North Carolina
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club Florida
Winston-Salem North Carolina


Aug | Chattanooga & Lookout Mountain, TN to visit our friend Richard visiting from Australia, plus the Mutter family & Wakefield family (read about our Airbnb here)

Aug | Black Mountain, NC to visit my dad and attend a women’s conference with my church at Montreat + (at the same time) Charlotte, NC for Nick to visit the Perry family and attend the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow

Sept | Winston-Salem, NC to visit my dearest friends from high school, Kaitlin and Kelly, in lieu of attending our 10-year reunion (Winston-Salem recommendations here)

Sept | Ponte Vedra & Jacksonville Beach, FL for our friend Tyler’s surprise 30th birthday party


Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires Argentina
Intercontinental Park Lane London UK
Ritz-Carlton Abama Tenerife Canary Islands Spain
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
St. Paul's Cathedral London
Ritz-Carlton Abama Tenerife Canary Islands Spain
Masca hike Tenerife Canary Islands Spain


Oct | Buenos Aires, Argentina (read about our stay at the Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt BA here)

Nov | Raleigh & Chapel Hill, NC for family Thanksgiving

Dec | London, Canary Islands (Spain), & Madrid for Christmas through New Years (more on that soon!)



Hotel Superlatives:


Favorite overall hotel – Palacio Duhau, Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

Favorite hotel lobby – The Westin Palace, Madrid

Favorite hotel bathroom – Andaz Papagayo (open-air waterfall shower!)

Favorite hotel gym – (tie) Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel + InterContinental Park Lane

Favorite hotel breakfast – Ritz-Carlton Abama

Favorite hotel pool – (tie) Ritz-Carlton Abama + Andaz Papagayo (both adults-only infinity pools)

Favorite hotel room view – Fairmont Chicago (Millenium Park + Lake Michigan views)

Favorite hotel amenity – Ponte Vedra Inn & Club golf club, racquet club, and surf club access



I Grew Things


Balcony garden


As much as we love traveling, we’re incredibly grateful to have a home that we love coming back to! One of my favorite things about home is my balcony garden. On a whim, I started sharing weekly updates about my garden in my Instagram stories during late spring. I unexpectedly got a lot of positive responses to the updates (in addition to plenty of commentary about my hair, haha!), and I looked forward to sharing each week. I especially loved knowing there were people cheering on my garden plants! The watermelons were definitely the stars of the show. Here’s what I grew in 2017:





Serviceberry bush (no fruit yet)



Veggies & herbs:






Golden beets


Mustard greens




Thai basil









Rose-scented geranium


We Ate


a.o.c. wine bar Los Angeles
Alvear Palace afternoon tea Buenos Aires
Chocolateria San Gines Madrid
Hole Doughnuts Asheville NC


It’s no secret that we prioritize eating well–at home, in Atlanta, and on the road. We finally got around to trying some Atlanta hotspots (Kimball House, Boccalupo) and went back to some favorites (Atlas, La Grotta, Milton’s). We ate our way around the world, too, from Michelin-starred meals to hole-in-the-wall empanada shops. We unknowingly ordered the largest beef filets we’ve ever seen at Don Julio steakhouse in Buenos Aires (we’re talking 18+ ounces!). And as always, we ate plenty of chocolate and baked treats. Here are some of our best meals and favorite dining experiences of 2017:




Kimball House, Decatur

Atlas, Buckhead

Eat Me Speak Me, Candler Park (now moved to Decatur)

Boccalupo, Inman Park

La Grotta, Buckhead

Milton’s, Crabapple / Alpharetta

The General Muir, Emory Village

Sushi Hayakawa, Buford Highway

Varuni Napoli, Midtown


While Traveling:


a.o.c., Los Angeles (pictured – scallops)

Boka, Chicago

Topolobampo, Chicago

iLatina, Buenos Aires

Palacio Duhau afternoon tea, Buenos Aires (pictured – tea pour)

Alvear Palace afternoon tea, Buenos Aires (pictured – tea table)

Massimo, Corinthia Hotel, London

Intercontinental Park Lane afternoon tea, London


Bakeries + Treats:


8ARM, Atlanta (pictured – mural)

French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Asheville, NC

Bang Bang Pie Shop, Chicago

Chocolatería San Ginés, Madrid (pictured – churros)

Alpine Bakery, Alpharetta, GA

Little Tart Bakeshop, Atlanta

Hole Doughnuts, Asheville, NC (pictured – doughnuts)

Xocolatl Chocolate, Atlanta


We Watched



OJ: Made in America (ESPN 30 for 30)

The Defiant Ones (HBO)

Class Divide (HBO)

The People v. O.J. Simpson (FX)


TV Series:


Master of None (Netflix)

Friends from College (Netflix)

Billions (Showtime)

Veep (HBO)

Silicon Valley (HBO)

Homeland (Showtime)

Ballers (HBO)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

The Sopranos (HBO)

The Deuce (HBO)

Last Week Tonight (HBO)





The Big Sick

We Read


My Life In France hammock reads in Brazil
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up




* The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo

My Life in France, Julia Child

* Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg

* Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, Rachel Held Evans

* The Glass Castle: A Memoir, Jeannette Walls




* Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

* The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, Michael Lewis

* Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, Philip Tetlock

* Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard Thaler

* Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, Richard Thaler

* What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow, Frank Gallinelli


We Worked


Professional highlights look very different for Nick and for me. One of us is on a very defined path (hint: it’s not me), and the other is figuring out the best way to use her gifts and find fulfillment. Nick continued to grow in his role as a 5th year associate at King & Spalding, where he specializes in representing large companies in disputes with their insurance carriers. I did a variety of things, as usual, though I felt like I found more of a rhythm in 2017 than I have in the past. The most telling thing for me professionally is the way I introduce myself to new people (and/or how I respond to the “what do you do for work?” question). This past year, I usually said, “I’m a photographer, I teach cooking classes, plus I write a blog and paint.” My word for 2018 is focus, so hopefully I’ll make that introduction a little more concise in the near future. Anyhow, here are some of the highlights of our professional lives last year:









  • Became a sponsored blog partner for The Home Depot and was featured in their national holiday catalog!


  • Published 47 blog posts on kenanhill.com!


  • Led farmers market tours and taught seasonal cooking classes at Bellina Alimentari; catered a workshop dinner for Amanda Jewel Floral + Design.


  • Designed wedding florals including bouquets, boutonnieres, and large-scale installations.




  • Started an intergenerational women’s mentoring group that met monthly.


  • Finished the first painting and nearly finished a second in my Farm to Canvas / Plant Portraits series (name yet to be settled on) that I first envisioned almost 5 years ago. Started a separate instagram account for my painting work–@kenanpaintsthings. (Focusing more on this in 2018!)



There you have it, folks… our virtual holiday card and long-winded life update. Cheers to you if you made it to the end. (I’ve always loved sharing lots of details–ask my mom). As we look forward to a new year and new adventures, know that I’m grateful you’re here and following along!


Xoxo, Kenan



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