2020: Our Year in Review

I have heard this so many times from so many people this year: 2020 should just come to an end. And here we are, finally at the end of such a strange and unique year. I felt it was appropriate to take a look back at the past year.

2020 - Garies Girl

Happy New Year – Welcome 2020!

I looked forward to this year with so much hope and optimism. 2020 – Twenty Twenty. It had such a nice ring to it, didn’t it? It sounded full of promise. My teenage daughter and I were home alone to welcome the new year. We had a small celebration, had the fire going and generally spent a quiet evening at home. Thinking back, it should have been a sign of all the “quiet” evenings to come.

The first couple of months flew by. Winter for us is a slower time and spent mostly indoors. Pieter was still living and working in Austin, Texas and the kids were busy with school, friends and their part time jobs. I kept busy with work, the house, the kids, the pets and generally “staying ok”. Spending the Holidays far from my side of the family is always tough and definitely affected my general mood. Life of an immigrant, right? I didn’t even contribute to the blog as I originally planned! I was just here.

By the beginning of March I was feeling better and got started again with writing and projects (and writing about projects). I started with What Happened to Garies Girl? and went on to my first project: Stenciling a Wall in my Closet. It turned out it was what I needed to get my head back in the 2020 game.

Stenciled Closet Wall


And then THE VIRUS arrived in the United States. And just like that Staying Home was the New Normal. Instead of a surprise trip to Venice, Italy, I flew out to Austin and helped Pieter move back to Atlanta. We were all under the same roof again. As scary as all the news coverage about COVID-19, the temporary shut-down and digital learning was, it didn’t feel too strange to all be home together. We were healthy, got along and made the best out of a tough situation.

We tackled some projects around the house, starting with fixing basement damage from a mini flood in our kitchen. I gave an ugly light fixture, an even uglier shoe shelf and a brown chair mini makeovers. I worked on my 10 item fix list (no, not done with that yet) and we did some cleanup in the garden. Staying Home – The Summary covers a lot of these projects.

Chair Makeover


By the end of June, I even got around to updating Pieter’s dresser. That project gave me my first DIY injury, even if in an indirect way. I did learn a lesson though – it is okay to make an extra trip up and down stairs. I had the biggest bruise ever on my butt from falling on the stairs while carrying one too many drawer down to the garage for painting. I couldn’t sit properly for more than a week! Let me know if you want to see the pic – not for the faint of heart, lol.

Painting the dresser was inspiration for staining the deck, which in turn lead to new outdoor lighting on the deck. We also gave our outdoor table a mini makeover. Staying Home – The Conclusion will get you caught up on all our summer projects. I even tried baking some new treats, to the family’s delight.

By the end of summer, we made more updates to the deck with some shade sails and later some outdoor string lights. We didn’t have any big outdoor events to celebrate the updated and improved deck, but was able to have a couple of barbeques with some close friends while the weather was still nice enough to safely be together outside.

Deck Shade Sails


By end of September, we felt the need for a quick getaway. Our plan was to get to the ocean and we picked Saint Simons Island on the Georgia coast. The teenagers didn’t want to join, so we invited Ilse and David to come along. We drove down together, played board games, enjoyed the local views from a golf cart and had way too much to eat. Have to say, loved the cocktails at Iguanas Seafood Restaurant. So much so, that we visited them twice in one weekend!

As soon as we returned from our weekend away, it was time to gear up for Halloween. I know, a bit early for most, but we needed a fun project that would cheer up neighborhood kids as well. Our HOA decided to go ahead with Trick-or-Treating, as long as it is done safe and people practice social distancing. I saw some candy chutes online and immediately started building one for us. Well, it involved less building and more painting and gluing actually. We came up with a yard decoration plan and executed a trial run early October. Most of the lawn decorations came down that same day and only went back up on Halloween itself. It was a lovely evening around the firepit out front and everyone that came by loved the decorations and our idea for candy delivery. Halloween 2020 was in the bag.

Halloween 2020

Earlier in October, we decided to host some South African friends for dinner. The weather didn’t approve of our barbeque plans (thunder, lightning, tornado warnings) and our only option was to move the grill to the garage. After dinner, the party moved downstairs to the basement bar and started falling apart not too long after that. Let’s just say, it is never fun to have to call the cops to your own house in the early morning hours and to scrub blood out of a carpet after no sleep whatsoever… Moving on.

Of course Georgia got caught in the path of a hurricane (it’s 2020, remember?) and we experienced some very strong wind gusts during the early morning hours. Two large trees came down between our house and the neighbor’s, but luckily, missed our house and only grazed the edge of the deck. What followed was three days of chain saw work, heavy lifting and finally renting (and hauling) a chipper to clean up the mess. We were very fortunate indeed, since other neighbors had to deal with much bigger messes and experienced much more damage than we did.

Downed Trees


November passed without any issues (wait, what?) and by the beginning of December we got our first snow flurries of the season (!!) along with below freezing temperatures. Very strange for the South, but not so strange considering it is 2020 after all. My Christmas decorations went up mid November (sorry, not sorry) and looked really festive with a fire going in the fireplace. I will never regret painting the fireplace stone white.

Fireplace - Christmas - GariesGirl
Whitewash a Stone Fireplace

I worked in another quick project, the last one for the year. I covered up the side of the deck that faces the road, to hide our new wood collection. This project has been on my possible list for a while and turned out so much better than I expected. The most time consuming part was painting the wooden boards – putting them up was easy (right, Pieter?). And while I was busy with the final touchups, Pieter completed his trash to treasure project and turned his old grill into a nifty outdoor grill table.

Covered Deck Underside

Repurposed a Grill into a Mobile Table


My family decided to go ahead and have my parents travel from South Africa to Atlanta for the holidays. Not a light decision to make in the middle of a worldwide pandemic but much needed for me and my parents. They already had valid passports and tourist visas and it felt like a good opportunity to spend time together. For the first time in many, many years, they were here when Sidney turned 18 and two weeks later for Christmas. They will also be here when Simon turns 19 (!) in January.

Christmas 2020 - Garies Girl
Family Christmas 2020

Overall a much quieter trip than their 2016 version, but we are trying to stay safe and away from crowded places and large groups of people. Just being able to have them with us at home has been a great privilege.

And here we are in Hilton Head, NC excitedly waiting for 2021 to arrive. Nothing like a quick trip to the beach to ring in the new year. Let’s hope for good health and many new projects in the new year! Cheers!

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