For the first time in my life I’ve kept a journal. I have repeatedly tried and with great excitement I would carefully select a fabric bound notebook with hundreds of blank pages and infinite possibilities. I dreamed of the words that would fill those pages with images of an older me reflecting on the memories and my poignant words that would turn those memories into lessons that shape who I am today. I would painstakingly choose a pen with a black point – not too thick, not too thin – and begin to fill the pages. Closing the book with a sigh eagerly anticipating what the next entry would hold. Returning to the journal I re-read the entry and push aside the book with embarrassment as to what I wrote. This is why I have stacks of journals with hundreds of empty pages and a few torn pages marking where the single entry once lived.


This blog has become my first journal to extend beyond the first page. Truth be told I have done the equivalent of ripping out some of the pages but many have remained despite my deep desire to not ever have to look at my images from the first four or five years.

I imagine you readers don’t view these pages as journal entries as they often don’t go beyond our dinner the night before but I look through them and each entry, each meal, each photo marks a place in time that I can now draw from because I recorded it here. Little pudgey fingers that enter the frame as I’m trying to photograph cookies and eager eyes peering over my set, words that hint at our days and the reality of what life looks like in those moments. There is a part of me that feels selfish for including all of that. The words that are found in many how-to writing books instruct to think of the audience but the truth is many times I’m thinking of myself.

I’m imaging myself scrolling through these pages after years have passed recalling every sense that the images provoke and laughing over the stories scattered throughout the pages. Remembering the times that were hard, appreciating the good and trying so hard to refrain from deleting the entries that no longer meet my standards.

In no way do I dare discredit your part in all of this, dear reader, but when I think of my audience many times it’s my family and me, much older.

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During the days leading up to Christmas my husband and I looked through images from the Christmas a year before. And while it seems it was only yesterday the images tell a different story. My baby girl was actually that – a baby. One that lays content on the ground and where her smiles are still so new to us. The boys were both a bit more round containing the last little bits of baby pudge and now they are boys; tall and slender, strong and tender.

The years pass more quickly than I ever thought possible and yet in their pages are hundreds of memories and the evidence that much changes in a year.

So forgive me while I have a moment and read through my journal over the past year. It’s been a great one, hasn’t it?

2011 exceeded my wildest expectations. We started the year off with lofty and well thought out goals. Many achieved, some were tried only to find that a better option was prepared for us, and some I’m still working through.

In the midst of it all we ate well.

There were quick meals and lingering date nights.

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Quick Garlicky Noodles


Dating My Husband: Peanut Butter Pie

There were birthdays and cakes. Lots of cake.


Gradient Cake. For her 1st.

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Poppy seed cake with mascarpone and strawberries

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Lego/Pirate party

And oh the sandwiches.


Ham, gruyere, and arugula

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Pork meatball Banh Mi

And then there were opportunities that I never dreamed would become a reality.

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I’m on TV, whee!

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Shot for

I was reintroduced to film.


Of course there was chocolate. There’s always chocolate.

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Cadbury Eggs at home


Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars

And a few incredible trips.

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A coffee tour of Portland

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Thanks for reliving these moments with me. Such a blessed year. So much to be thankful for, so much to learn from and make me stronger.

If at the end of the year you can say you’ve laughed, cried, and became a bit wiser than I consider it a successful one. And if there was chocolate, there must always be chocolate.

Happy Goodbyes to 2011. Hello 2012.


53 Responses to “Goodbye 2011”

  1. Sarah Caron

    Congratulations on such an amazing and beautiful year! I’ve been reading off and on for a few months and am always taken by your posts. Your photographs are breathtaking, by the way.

  2. Katya

    Sometime this past spring I came across this blog. Now, I cannot imagine life without it. I am a college student who loves to cook and bake, and while I rarely find the time to do so, I have been able to create the most magnificent of meals and deserts thanks to you. Thank you for cooking, baking, and, most importantly, writing! Happy new year!

  3. Kathleen

    Following your blog was one of my food highlights for 2011. It has blessed me and my family tremendously. Actually, just this morning my toddler asked me for coffee and then eventually got out cake, too. It took me a while to connect it all but I think he was requesting more cocoa nib coffeecake like we had at Christmas! Thank you for all your hard work, beautiful words, inspiring recipes and honesty. (I feel the same way about journals. I threw all my old ones away. Now I rely on my blog and pictures, too.) Here’s to a great 2012! And more chocolate.

  4. MikeVFMK

    What a journey it’s been for you. By that account you accomplished more than most people do in years stacked together. Always love visiting your blog and looking forward to what the next year offers you.

    Happy New Year to you and your husband and children!

  5. Amber

    Happy New Year! I’ve really enjoyed following your blog this year. Thank you for your honesty, creativity, and inspiration. Best wishes to you and your family in 2012.

  6. Keyonna Renea

    I’ve only been following your blog for a couple of months, but I love it. Thank you for sharing in the Dec. 2nd post. That one stuck a cord with me. I hope you continue to share and grow. Happy New year! 🙂

  7. sara

    yes! what a year! So many good things, loved looking through the photos. I was seriously just thinking this morning how I don’t journal anymore, as I find a way to work most of my thoughts into my site. Of course I worry, “have i said too much? is it too personal? i don’t even really write about food!”… and then I remember that is why I enjoy doing, because it is mine. This blog is yours and I love following along because I enjoy following YOUR life! So proud of you and glad to know you, ashley.

  8. Sarah

    Finding your blog was definately one of the highlights of my year! I have read your journal from day one and have admired every last word and picture you posted.
    I am for sure looking forward to peeking into your home and kitchen some more this year! 🙂
    Happy New Year! Sarah

  9. rachel schindler

    I was watching TV the other day and I saw your commercial. I got so excited, and told my husband, “I read her blog”. He just looked at me with that blank stare…Men! Congratulations and Happy New Year!

  10. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    A truly beautiful recap, Ashley. It’s been a fantastic year for you.

    I can so relate to your words on journaling. I’m so grateful to blogging for helping me document my journey.

    2012 holds….our baby girl. Exciting!

    All the best to you and yours for the New Year.

  11. Baking is my Zen

    I was watching tv today, (12/30/11), and saw a commercial with you in it. I believe you mentioned you were a blogger. I did a double take. I thought…how cool is that!! Read your story. Spago’s must have been such a great place to work. Your blog is full of great recipes and beautiful photography. I look forward to following your blog.

    Have a wonderful New Year! ~ Carmen

  12. Caitlyn

    just saw the commercial with you and your blog on it. I am glad I found your blog, your pictures are gorgeous and all the food looks amazing!

  13. katiecrackernuts

    What a wonderful year to look back on. I am a writer of journals and I’m currently reading a book put together from the writing of journals. It’s made me think more about what I write, even here in my little blog space. A friend described my blog as a journal just last week and do you know, after nearly four years of blogging, it’s the first time I’d thought of it as such. Strange, I know, because it is indeed what it is, but I’d never matched it in my head to those hand scribed pages.

  14. Greta

    I’ve been lurking on your blog for a while, reading your posts and trying some recipes, and your writing is just beautiful. I get excited whenever you post anything new, and this one was really a gem. You’re awesome. I wish you a great 2012!

  15. Stephanie

    A beautiful year indeed and this one will just as gorgeous…if not more so!

    p.s. that gradient cake for I is one of the prettiest cakes I’ve ever seen in my life. I need a personal tutorial 🙂

  16. Susan

    Ashley, I think you’re very generous, rather than selfish. You allow all of us to share in your life, to experience your struggles and your joys, and we grow a little bit ourselves because of that.
    Thank you.
    Happy New Year!

  17. Brandy

    I absolutely think of my blog as a journal. I’ve never liked journaling, so it surprises me how much I like blogging. I think it’s because rather than feeling alone as I write in a journal, I feel like I’m part of a community when I blog. It’s a great way for expression. And I really like your blog! 🙂

  18. Kimber

    What a year it has been? Congratulations on all your accomplishments! I was watching TV today and was fast forwarding through the commercials until I saw a screen shot of your blog and I was like “Wait a second!” That was so cool, I have been following your blog for awhile now and I felt like “Hey I know her!” when I saw you on TV! So cool!

  19. Monica

    Hi Ashley. I discovered your blog a few days ago from your commercial on TV. ♥ it! I can’t wait to follow it more in 2012 and totally relate to the empty journals!

  20. Megan Gordon

    Ashely! It’s such a telling sign that as I read over this looking at the images from posts of this year, I smiled with recognition of so many of my favorites (that cake!!) I agree with you about how the blog becomes a little chronicle of your life. I actually didn’t set out to have mine function in this way, but now it’s the main reason I continue to keep it up. It was a true pleasure reading your journal along with you this year….look forward to a little face-to-face in 2012 🙂

  21. Kelly

    Hi, I know this is absolutely off subject of this particular post… but I just made your homemade marshmallows and I have to tell you they are BEYOND delicious!… I was so nervous to make them because, in truth, I am by no means a talented cook or baker or candymaker…. in fact I’m usually quite awful!…. My resolution this year, among many, was to start a blog of my own… and I have.. (clearly, not one about food) and I only hope mine is as thoughtful and enjoyable to read as yours.

  22. merry jennifer

    As I began reading your post, I found myself smiling to myself. I, too, have stacks of partially filled journals – beautiful books in all sizes (but generally smallish) with the first 5 to 10 pages filled with words, and the last hundred or so completely empty. My blog is the only place I’ve ever stuck to my goal of journaling. Why is it easier to share it with the world, on the internet? Crazy.

    I hope your 2012 entries are just as beautiful and satisfying for you as the 2011 entries were. Also, maybe we’ll get the opportunity to meet this year? I’d love that.

  23. Paula

    Ashley, I just wanted to say thank you for a fabulous year of beautiful photographs and delicious recipes. I very much look forward to what 2012 will bring!

  24. Adeline

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog and I hadn’t heard of it until I saw the commercial you made. I could have sworn it was a fake ad, until I read your story! You are so inspiring…I love that you cook, photograph and write! Is there anything you can’t do?

  25. Andrea

    What a beautiful recap of your year. Thanks so much for your stunning photos, delicious recipes and being so open and honest with us readers.

  26. Nadia

    Hello Ashley and your family!
    I found your blog probably a year ago, and even though have been a silent reader, I somehow connected with you through your food, photos, round kiddy chicks and just through stories and trips (while visiting Seattle last August, I had print outs of the places you visitied with your hubby and the amazing coffee places you introduced through your pages).
    I don’t know if we ever meet in real life, but just want to tell you thank you!! for being here for us – readers, for taking your precious time away from your family and creating these stories, recipes, and just simply memories for us and with us.
    Happy 2012!

    p.s. I actually met you on TV the other day 🙂 through a commercial.

  27. Maia

    What a lovely way to look at the personal function of your blog in your life.

    I read recently that keeping a private journal can actually be a negative thing for the kind of person who worries. Committing anxious thoughts to paper (for this personality type, at least) doesn’t release them into the ether – instead, it just cements them more deeply into the psyche of the author, causing them to dwell all the more on their worries!

    Anyway, happy new year to you and your beautiful family – wishing you more adventures, tasty gorgeous foods, and smiles in the year ahead!

  28. Jack O'brien

    Your photography is breathtaking. I wish that my photos looked half as good as this. Do you use any sort of light box/tripod setup or is this all just your natural light from your house and such? All of your pictures are so vibrant I can’t stand it!

  29. Jacqui

    I like to think of my blog and my photos as a type of journal, also. Have you ever done Project 365? I did it in 2010, and though I often got sick of trying to take a meaningful photo every day, I love looking back at them. Even the boring ones. Happy New Year, Ashley!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Jacqui – I haven’t but I’ve been tempted. At this point adding anything else to my plate I fear will cause me to drop everything. So much to juggle. But I do love the idea of intentionally creating photos on a daily basis. Maybe next year. 🙂


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