I love new starts. My mind reels with possibilities of what to do, what to accomplish and how to make that happen.

I’ve always been a big dreamer. I adore and loathe this about me. I’m very rarely content as I am always striving for something new but my life is also far from boring and continuously changing – which I like and have come to realize, I need.

So as a new year begins I take this opportunity to establish specific and identifiable goals. Some are simple others are lofty and risky.

This year my husband and I are each taking a day off from work, family and whatever else fills our normal day-to-day in order to refocus, pray and dream for the coming year. This is essential as we are a team and it is vital that we are on the same page. If our goals are separate and different we wouldn’t be able to get much accomplished. He is my biggest supporter and my greatest asset. With him by my side I don’t feel like there is much I can’t do.

Okay with that mushy gushy albeit sincere stuff aside these are some of my personal goals I have thought of. And let me preface this by saying that by choosing to read the following list you are taking on the responsibility of helping to kick my butt. Feel free to comment, email, tweet and say “hey Ashley, stop watching Glee and work on your goals.” I am sharing these with you in order to have your accountability. That’s a big responsibility – you up for it?

1. Read 30 books

I have one under my belt already. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. What an incredible book to start off the year. In it Donald Miller writes about creating your story. What do you want it to look like? And how can you make your life a story worth telling?

I have also started to read Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference. Another great book to begin the year as I plan out goals for my family and I this book helps to remind us of what’s truly important and what sort of life will enable us to leave a lasting legacy and a better mark on this broken world.

This goal has a sub-goal of reading more fiction. I am notorious for only sticking to non-fiction and I know that I am missing out on some incredible writing, stories and knowledge that these books have to offer.

Other books on my list to read/re-read

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life The School of Essential Ingredients Treasuring God in Our Traditions Bringing Up Boys The Private Lives of the Impressionists The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism A Lineage of Grace: Five Stories of Unlikely Women Who Changed Eternity

Help me. What else should I read?

2. Write a book proposal

Eek. I want to write/photograph books. This might not come as a big shock but really it’s the first time I’ve admitted it here. For some reason admitting this goal makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. Partly because now I’ve put it out there and if you do your job well you will hold me accountable to this.

For a long time I’ve simply sat waiting for this opportunity to arise. I’ve sort of figured that if I’m meant to write a book(s) someone will seek me out. But now that just seems silly and prideful. I’m done with being a passive participant in my life. If I want something and feel as if this desire is godly and valuable then I’m going to seek it out and work extremely hard to make it happen. Because really something that is fought for and hard to attain is so much more valuable than one that simply falls into your lap.

3. Date My Husband

A couple weeks ago I introduced you to a new series that involves my husband and I cooking together at home after the kids have gone to bed. I am notorious for thinking up an idea, starting it then letting it fizzle. But this is a good one. In this crazy life of kids, messes, bills, dreams and whatever life has in store for us next year one of the most important things is my marriage to my best friend.  So this year I want to continue to date my husband and fall deeper in love with him.

4. Support a Mission

This world is broken and I can’t fix it but I wouldn’t mind living a life trying.

There are are endless supply of causes to support and I really find it so beautiful that God fills us with compassion for different needs. Right now my heart shatters and I instantly well up with tears as I read through the IJM website. “IJM’s staff stand against violent oppression in response to the Bible’s call to justice (Isaiah 1:17): Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

I also can not stop thinking about some of our family and friends who have recently moved across the globe and /or are using their resources to assist those in need. Their stories are both heartbreaking and filled with hope as they tirelessly work to make a difference and share the love of Jesus in a very real way.


5. Find a mentor

I’m finding raising young kids to be hard. Of course there is a lot of joy, smiles and wonderful memories being built but the day to day is flat out hard. I’m constantly questioning myself and our parenting decisions and wondering if we are completely ruining these poor children.

For years now I’ve wanted a woman who is a bit older than I to meet with and learn from. To share stories and to hear the wisdom that she has gained. She could offer a perspective that comes from having a few years on me.

I’ve prayed for such a person to be a part of my life but I haven’t actively been seeking nor have I asked. So once again I’m going to put my passive nature aside and going to ask for what I want.

6. Take an art class

I studied art and education in college and I’ve been missing my paints. I’ve made many excuses for why I no longer paint or do much art of any kind but I’m sick of excuses.

Specifically I want to take this course by Mitch Albala with my incredibly talented dad but any art class will do.
7. Create art

Along those same lines I’d like to actually create 3 pieces of art that I’m fairly pleased with – you know what, I don’t have to be pleased with it I just want to create it. Be it drawings, paintings or whatever I want to have 3 pieces that I planned then executed. Now this may seem like a fairly small number but considering I haven’t done more than create a few doodles in my sketchbook in the past 5 years I’d say it’s enough.

8. Homeschool

After many months (years, actually) of discussion and prayer we have {most likely} decided to homeschool next year. Our oldest is going to be 5 in May which puts him in Kindergarten in the Fall.

For a number of reasons (that I can expand on later if there is interest) we have decided that for him and our family, homeschooling is the best option.

In this also I have the goal of setting up some sort of co-op in order to shoulder the responsibility with a couple of other parents.

I am both nervous and excited about this. I nearly have a degree in education so the idea of creating lesson plans makes me giddy. But had you asked me a few years ago if I would have considered homeschooling I would have laughed in your face. It just didn’t seem to fit me. Let’s be honest, I’ve been dreaming of having a few hours a day to myself since my baby was first born. But things change, priorities change and my heart has changed.

Homeschooling is not right for everyone but for us it feels right. So I’m going with it. I mean really, most of what you need to know in life can be taught through baking right?! – fractions, chemistry, patience, persistence and the importance of using good chocolate.

9. Blog

And of course there’s you and my little Internet home. I don’t have real specific goals regarding the blog but I do want to continue to commit to creating thoughtful, engaging and beautiful posts. I want to always be growing, improving and offering you more insight, lessons and drool-inducing photos. I have no plans of leaving this space and I am going to strive to make this the best year yet.

Happy New Year to you all. Dream big and make it happen.


33 Responses to “new”

  1. Kamille

    what great ideas. I too being a dreamer find the myself in the clouds a bit too much than actually doing (it’s bittersweet). My husband just called me up yesterday to tell me he planned a family retreat in the next week (similar to what you & your husband will be doing–cast vision & set goals).

    Can I recommend a book that is a quick read and very applicable to obtaining goals for a family–The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni. I’m in agreement with so many of your thoughts (mentoring, missional living, finding our story and figuring out what it looks like). Love your blog for both the food & photos and the heart you write from:)

  2. Laken

    Beautiful list, Ashley.
    You’ve definitely inspired me to create a list full of bigger dreams and stop selling myself short.
    I wish you the healthiest and happiest 2011!

  3. MG Atwood

    Oh sweet Ashley, you dream big! Go girl…you CAN and will do it. As a side note, I have PHD in butt kicking, so just give me a jingle if ever you feel you need the push of this large foot. Might I recommend A Thousand Sisters by Lisa Shannon. Lisa is a Portland woman who found inspiration and gave it all up to help women in the Congo. Really an inspiring story, and we are having her speak in Salem on May mark your calendar, this may be the time you need to come for a visit…I can kick your bootie and you can kill two birds with one stone!

  4. Jill Anderson

    Fabulous post Ashley! So thoughtful , so sincere, so heartfelt! Thank you for sharing and we’re going to hold you to these (well, at least some of them!). Happy New Year!

  5. Vera

    Love your plans for 2011 except for one…
    I was home-schooled for 3 years and it utterly ruined my life. I also know 4 other people within my close circle of acquaintances and they also have serious problems dealing with certain aspects of their life. I will never forgive my parents for having taking that decision. I struggle daily with personal issues concerning my social life, shyness and a string of other problems. I would seriously recommend that you reconsider as this will have such a huge impact on your child’s adult life. A child’s formative years are meant to be spent with other children, in a normal educational environment.

    I hope you will have a very lovely 2011.

  6. Shiloh Mae

    Fiction! Read something by George Elliot (alias of Mary Ann Evans). They are intimidating, but she is my favorite. Silas Marner is classic, but I last read Middlemarch. Other good ones: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte), Persuasion (Jane Austin), Till We Have Faces (CS Lewis)… oh, there is a world of possibilities.

    As for Homeschooling–Good for you! I know will will be twice blessed for your decision. I am sixteen, one of nine children, and have been homeschooled my whole life. For your sweet young children, I have a recommendation! Look up “Five in a Row,” a curriculum of sorts for classic childrens literature. My mom did it with my younger siblings and I think it is the best tool for young kids. 🙂

  7. Kendra

    Great post, Ashley. I’ve read Bird by Bird. Really great. Some other ideas? Varied indeed. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – his best in my opinion, often overlooked, and totally by favorite book of all time. Loving Your Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk – fabulous book on parenting. Anne of Green Gables – should be read every year or so in my house. Sex God by Rob Bell – really interesting look at love and sex and God. White Oleander by Janet Fitch – quick read, great story, and a great go-to book when you just want to read without thinking too much.

    Also, rock it out on the book proposal, girl. Rock. It. Out.

  8. Michelle

    Bird by Bird is a fantastic book. I couldn’t put down. Enjoy! I recommend “will write for food.” It is a great read, very inspiring and motivating.

  9. heather

    i love how your entries are so honest & heartfelt. thank you for sharing so authentically with us…it challenges & encourages me. a few great book recommendations are ‘everything belongs’ by richard rohr & ‘cold tangerines’ by shauna niequist. i can’t wait to see how these goals unfold over the year. you are an inspiration!

  10. Nicole @cookingafterfive

    Such a thoughtful post. Some great book recommendations, too. I read Bird by Bird recently and loved it. Especially if you’re itching to write, it’s very inspiring. And I completely identify with your goal of supporting a mission–it’s one of my goals for this year as well. Happy New Year!

  11. Kara

    Go you. The “if you build it they will come” thing rarely happens in real life. If you’re meant to do something – be it write a book, build a business, be an artist – then you’re MEANT to pursue it with all your heart. And like you said, something you work for an earn is much more fulfilling than something that is handed to you.

  12. Winnie

    What a beautiful list of goals. I hope to get a book proposal completed this year, too, and honestly, if that’s all I got done this year, I’d be pretty happy…the rest of your goals are truly inspiring, though. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Susan

    Ashley, I think you should consider writing a book about dating your husband, cooking together, the friendship you share. I’m sure it would be inspirational.
    I loved what you said about baking being the source of so much knowledge! It really is true.
    Happy New Year to you and yours.

  14. Jason


    I was very moved by the vulnerability in your post. I was just telling my wife this morning that I don’t like making New Years resolutions, but yours have inspired me. Also, I’d love to hear more about the home school co-op – your thoughts for that and eventually how it goes. I currently teach middle school math and science at a classical Christian school and my wife does ESL (English as a Second Language) work; my wife and I have considered eventually doing a co-op with some friends (she is 18 weeks pregnant with our first).

    As an addendum, we’ve been baking your chocolate chip cookies over the holidays and have just fallen in love with them:

  15. Shannon

    A smile came across my face today as I had some time to check in on your blog. I have for some time now counted your site as a favored one…your writing, photography, etc. But today seeing more of your heart in books of interest, mission opportunities, and raising your children under a banner of godliness filled my heart with joy. Thank you for your boldness and testimony. It has convicted and motivated me to press in to what God has also called me to do in my own stage of life.

  16. Lynn

    I love your book list – I would add Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and The Circle of Seasons by Kimberlee Conway Ireton. I also want to encourage you to do the date thing! My husband and I started a “Friday Night Date” when our first child was born. We almost never go out, but that night is dedicated to us. We’ve been married for 28 years, my boys are 17 and 21 now and they know better than to mess with Friday night!

  17. Melissa

    Hi Ashley,
    I love your book list too! I am starting with Will Write for Food and Best Food Writing 2010. Not sure what I will read after that! I know what you mean by being passive and waiting for things to happen. That is what I do. I would love to write a book one day but I need to remember that I have to put in the effort. Its not going to just happen on its own. Thank you for reminding me of this!

  18. Deliciously Organic

    Thank you for being so open and honest about your goals. You’ve set your standards high! I like that! Go for that proposal…it’s a pain to write, but so rewarding. I will be first in line to buy your book! I hope to meet you someday. I think we hava a lot in common. 🙂 Thanks for the book list too!

  19. Axon

    What a fun post! I love keeping up with your blog…I too have a sweet little baby girl and an amazing two-year-old boy…I love to cook and read and date my husband…I want to learn to sew (how is that going?)…and I am working on a preschool/homeschool coop with some friends at church. I was homeschooled myself and am very excited about the adventure. I’m glad you are considering it. I am reading a couple of books by the Pipers, as well as The Forsyte Saga and some good old Dickens. For modern novels, I loved Olive Kitteridge, The Poisonwood Bible, and anything by Kazuo Ishiguro. I am also terribly addicted to mystery novels…

  20. Ashley Rodriguez

    Thank you all so much! Your words are so encouraging to me. I’m adding your book recommendations to my list. I’m on my 3rd book so far and loving my reading time. It’s amazing how much time there is when you are intentional about it.
    I can’t thank you enough for your support.

  21. The Fromagette

    Happy New Year Ashley!!! RATIO should be on my doorstep today- I’ll let you know what I think. So cool that you have such defined goals. Mine are a bit vague this year. I’ve done a lot of research on writing a book query, so if you’d like help I’d be happy to assist you. Re:home schooling – I really respect that someone in a previous post had the guts to be honest about her negative experience. I know others who feel the same way- and moms need the few down moments while kids are at school to recharge. You know I am not a mom, so maybe I am not entitled to an opinion- I appreciate your selflessness in devoting your time to homeschooling, but I too urge you to rethink it…

  22. Leanne

    I love having a book list!
    Francine Rivers’ Lineage of Grace books are some of my favorites, they made me get excited about reading the OT more. I can’t wait to meet those women in heaven! 🙂
    You would also love “Faitfhul Women and Their Extraordinary God” by Noel Piper:
    Don’t know if anyone else suggested The Hunger Games, or The Help, but they are amazing books as well 🙂 yay for reading.

  23. Annalisa

    I don’t do resolutions, just because I usually already have too much that I want to do and am working toward! But yours is a great list. Loved looking over your book ideas, and am going to add Bird by Bird to mine based on so many recommendations. Here’s a few I’d throw out there for you to consider: Keeping House: the Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Petersen. Helped me some with putting the hard day-to-day messes of being a mom you mention into perspective. Also Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Metaxas. Engaging read and a great mix of history, culture, theology and example of “missional living.” I’d second Noel Piper’s book–I skimmed some parts but found her overall thinking very helpful. Also, Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts is good and I’ve borrowed Gospel-Powered Parenting to read soon based on a lot of recommendations although I can’t vouch since I haven’t read it yet. Enjoy your quiet moments!=)

  24. Sara

    Hey ashley,
    I have to recommend my favorite book about writing–“Writing down the bones” by Natalie Goldberg. I also just read and loved one of Anne Lamott’s other books, “Operating instructions: a journal of my son’s first year.” She’s a great writer. Hope things are well. -Sara

  25. Carrie

    Ashley, Thank you for sharing your 2011 goals with all of us. I have been working on mine this past week. Trying to get it all written down in the hopes of actually achieving them and your goals added more inspiration to what I have going. Appreciate you so openly writing yours down. Cheers, Carrie

  26. Heather

    Hi Ashley!

    I love your blog! Gabe took some engagement photos for us a few years back, and I’ve been faithfully reading your blog ever since but for whatever reason failed to introduce myself…

    …anyways, if you are interested in any other books on writing (I loved Bird by Bird and A Million Miles) then I also love Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water, and Stephen King’s “On Writing” is hilarious and has definitely had an impact on how I write.

  27. Melissa

    Just wanted to say good luck on your goals. I have decided that this is the year for me to realize my more creative aspirations as well. Regarding homeschooling: I was a homeschooled child. I loved the freedom. I wonder how my mom did it with 5 of us, but for me, I loved that we had Monday ‘Farm Days’ at my grandparents and that we had the option for beach days during the warm season if we got extra work done on the other days. Often this meant 3 day school weeks with lots of fun to be had the rest of the week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  28. Mrs. B.

    Hi Ashley (from another Ashley…there are lots of us out there aren’t there?) 🙂 It seems we have a lot in common. I’m going to be homeschooling my three babes – whom I call my “piglets” – and I love gleaning inspiration from books.
    I wanted to give you a few to look for…
    Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison is my very favorite (although she’s not a homeschooler)
    Anything by Sally Clarkson – especially her books The Mission of Motherhood and The Ministry of Motherhood.
    Of course there’s always C. S. Lewis who is a master at the art of writing.
    And if you’re looking for an especially fabulous fiction (I LOVE fiction) you should read The Birth House by Ami McKay.
    Okay, I’ll wrap it up now…don’t get me started on books. 😉


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