Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Famous Cousin

If you are close friends with me then you have definitely heard me talk about my cousin Carter before. For those haven’t heard me talk about (or had the opportunity to meet) Carter here is a little background.

Carter is my 1st cousin (the son of my dad’s sister). He is 23 years old and is currently working as a pastry chef in Kansas City. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and is uber talented at what he does. He is a bit of a local celebrity in the city and has been featured several times in the Kansas City Star newspaper with his creations and has also appeared on local morning shows doing cooking demonstrations. For the past several years he has competed in a national cake and gum paste competition and has always managed to finish in the top three. I know for certain that at least one year he has taken home the grand prize.

At one of these competitions he was approached by the Food Network and was asked to “audition” for a potential filming opportunity by doing a taped cooking demonstration. Carter has always been quite the showman and so of course he knocked the audition out of the park. A short time later he was called to compete on the Food Network Food Challenge television program and was on National TV for the first time last July. Since then, he has been called again and his latest Food Network Challenge will air this Sunday, July 3rd, on the Food Network at 9pm. I think the challenge is for the chefs to do a Star Wars themed cake.

My brother, sister, and I with Carter at my sister's wedding last year

The cake Carter and my aunt did for my sister's wedding
A gingerbread representation of Union Station in Kansas City
that Carter did for a competition

Carter always manages to make a Thanksgiving turkey look amazing

Carter's gum paste creations (did I mention he is self-taught??)

Don't they look real???
Needless to say I am so excited for Carter! He is so talented and has worked very hard. I hope you all will watch and cheer him on. My family is very proud of him! Go Carter!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Little Bit Here and There

Happy Monday everyone!

Hope you all had a great weekend. Besides my power going out for many, many hours on Friday night (apparently I was not alone--strong storms put 59,000 people in GA in the dark) it was a pretty good weekend. Among some good food and pool time at Erik's parent's house I was also finally able to muster up some energy to get some things done around the house.

Among the routine weekend cleaning (kitchen, bathroom, laundry, etc), I finally hung some more pictures on the wall. So without further ado:

I found these 2 wall sconces at Goodwill and am very happy with
them in the boudoir.

I picked up this handmade piece of art at one of my favorite
stores in Newnan, GA called the Vintage Flea. It was definitely
a splurge but I loved it so much. There is a little saying on it
that may be hard to read that says: "A sparrow symbolizes
happiness and fulfillment." It's perfect with the cute little
houses in the corner.
My college diplomas--Bachelor's and Masters Degrees in the office.

I picked up this fun print at TJ Maxx on clearance for $8
and thought it would look nice in the guest room.
Here's a close-up.
 So there you go. More artwork on the walls and the house is feeling more and more like home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

You Monthly Dose of Etsy Courtesy of Yours Truly

It's time for some Etsy love! A couple of weekends ago I went to this Indie Craft Festival that is held a few times a year in West End Atlanta. The festival is lots of fun--it's held in an old Warehouse and they usually have music, drinks,a photo booth, and plenty of cool arts and crafts. Last fall was my first time attending and I went with some of my girlfriends. This last time Erik was kind enough to accompany me (in my defense the place really isnt that big and maybe takes an hour to walk through--it wasn't like one of those endless craft festivals) and waited patiently as I oohed and ahhed over jewelry, pottery, soaps and hand made baby clothes. Although there were many things I would have loved to have taken home with me, I ended up with only one item which Erik purchased for me (so sweet)--a necklace that I absolutely adored.

The Infinity Necklace Erik bought me
The necklace came with a business card for the shop which is called Foamy Wader. I decided to look them up on Etsy and lo and behold found them with no trouble. They have many, many, pretty things but here are some personal favorites that I wanted to share:

These are the "Lady Godiva" earrings

 I like to think I am like this "Golden Fleece" necklace--pretty and delicate but with a little added fire : )

What can I say? This necklace appeals to the Irish in me

Beautiful, right? And the prices aren't too bad either. If you want to check out Foamy Wader's Etsy store click here. If you live in the Atlanta area and want to know more about the Indie Craft Experience festivals click here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Saving and the Rule of Three

Have you ever heard the saying that bad things happen in threes? My mom says this and in my experience it seems that more often than not it’s true. Case in point: I break up with my boyfriend of 8 years, my grandmother is diagnosed with breast cancer, and I am forced to leave my long-time gym and friends all within the span of a few months. This is why you never, ever, say things like “things can’t get any worse” because oh yes—they can.

I know that maybe this isn’t the best way to look at the world and some may call me pessimistic but you know what? When the sh*t goes down I am going to be the one who is prepared (at least I hope) and not freaking out about an impending crisis. I just call it being smart.

When Erik and I were only a few months into our relationship and I had just moved into the house I went shopping to buy a new bed. We get to the mattress store and I tell the guy my budget. He takes us around and shows us some mattresses, has us lay down on a few and test them out. There were definitely some good contenders but my eyes kept straying to the Tempur-pedics in the corner of the store. Finally (fully knowing the potential consequences of my actions) I asked to try the Tempur-pedic bed even though it was way beyond my price range. The salesman was more than happy to oblige and of course once I tested it out I never wanted to get back up. Against my better judgment I had the sales guy run the credit check and once everything was okay-ed he told me I could own this super fantastic bed for around $75/ month to be paid for the next three years.

Now, I know the importance of sleep. We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping (it’s true, I googled it). So what price do you pay for a good night’s rest? My answer: what you can afford. I think I surprised even the salesman when I refused the Tempur-pedic and went with a traditional good-ole pillow top (which was still not cheap I might add). He even asked me “is there anything I can say to change your mind?” I think I said something like “No. This is why so many Americans are in debt—they buy things they can’t afford.” (And this is when I have that out of body experience where I look at myself and think who are you???)

So why am I telling you this story? I didn’t buy the Tempur-pedic and get myself into more debt because I knew that I would have to use that $75 to save for other potential house related disasters. When I had my home inspection the inspector pretty much told me that I would need to replace my A/C unit, my furnace, and my water heater in the next 5 years. With my luck (and if the rule of threes holds true) all of those things will go at the same time and I figure I might as well be prepared and even if I’m only putting $75 away each month it’s better than nothing.

That being said, sacrificing luxury for practicality is definitely not easy—especially for me. For the last two weeks I have been having issues with my car. Its 10 years old so it’s getting to the age where every few months its making some new weird noise or the check engine light is coming on. In the last year I’ve had to replace both oxygen sensors, gotten new spark plugs, faced a leaky radiator, new brakes, new tires, and just last week replaced the serpentine and the A/C belt. With all that work I am getting to the point where I have to decide whether I want to continue taking the chance at making repairs or suck it up and buy a new car. The worst thing is that my car is paid for and I don’t really have a whole lot of extra money to make a car payment. Two years ago I started throwing a little money into a savings account every month because I knew I would be needing a new car sooner rather than later (I told you, I try not to take chances). In retrospect I’m glad I did this because I do have a little stash of cash for a down payment but it’s definitely not as much as I had hoped to have saved before I had to buy a new car (I was praying my little car would hold out for at least another year). But even with that “extra” money I have come to the realization that I’m just not going to be able to afford the car I really want which totally sucks.

I had hoped to get another SUV—something along the lines of a Honda CRV or Nissan Rogue but even used models run around $20,000 (I’m trying to look for a newer used car--2009 or later). I want to keep things under $15,000 so I am checking out the Hyundai Elantra, the new Ford Fiesta (which actually looks pretty cool), the Nissan Versa, and the Honda Fit. I also might check into the Toyota Yaris or Mazda 3.

So even though I’m sure any new car will be exciting it still sucks that I have to choose between  what I can afford over what I really want (and based on my mattress experience you can rest assured I’m going to be choosing practically). But I guess I should be thankful that I can at least afford a car and that I have a job to pay for said car (which I am by the way). My problems could be a lot worse.

Oh wait—did I really just say that????? <knocking on wood>

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Feeling Guilty

Lately I have been feeling a bit guilty because I have this mile long list of things that need to be done at the house and I can’t motivate myself to do any of them. Maybe this is what happens when you buy a home—you go crazy for a few months painting and settling in and then you just get so burned out that you decide you just can’t do anymore (at least for awhile). I guess you could say that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t feel like doing anything—even simple things like hanging up new pictures I bought. So instead of spending perfectly good Saturdays and Sundays  doing what needs to be done around the house I end up laying on the couch reading or watching TV.

I try to blame it on summer and the fact that I don’t have money to do half the home improvement stuff I would like to do, but these are all just lame excuses because there are plenty of the things I could do with materials I already have at the house. For example I could paint the trim in the living room and hallway. I have all the materials and Erik to help on the weekends so why not just knock it out? Or I could hang the pictures I mentioned above. I do own nails and a hammer. Simple, right? Or I could clean out the shed in back (although I am utterly terrified of this because 1) I am pretty sure the spiders in there are on steroids and 2) I absolutely loathe spiders). I mean I have two hands and the willpower to get rid of things to Goodwill so this should be a no brainer. I could even spend a morning pulling weeds in the flower beds in the front yard and getting some inexpensive mulch to pretty them up a bit. Easy peasy.

So why can’t I just find some motivation?? Has anyone else run into this problem or am I just lazy?


Maybe this will be the weekend to get some things done. Maybe writing this post is what I needed to do to spur me into action. After all there is nothing like kicking your own self in the butt. Right?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lawn Mower Days

This past weekend I accomplished another homeowner first: I bought my first lawn mower. With the rain we got early last month and the hot, hot, weather we are getting now in the ATL the grass was going nuts and I figured I had better go ahead and bite the bullet and get things under control. So last Friday night Erik and I headed to Lowe’s to pick one up. I found there were really only 2 big decisions I needed to make when choosing a lawn mower: price and style. I knew I wanted to keep things as close to $200 or less as possible and as it turns out there were some decent options in that range. The next question I had to answer was what style lawn mower to purchase. At Lowe's they had the old school reel mowers like this:

 Electric mowers (the kind you plug in) like this:

And gas powered mowers like this:

Even though my yard isn't that big and I probably could've survived with the simple old-school reel mower (at $99 the price was hard to beat),  I decided to go with a gas powered mower with a bag that would mulch as it mowed. I figured for $100 more it would be better for the grass and less work to have to try and bag up grass clippings afterwards. Thankfully that was the end of my decisions because there was only one of these mowers available in my price range, a Troy Built, so Erik and I loaded her up into the car and took her home hoping she would get the job done.

On Saturday morning Erik and I both woke up early and he very graciously offered to mow the lawn while I headed off to the gym to get in a quick workout (have I mentioned what a lucky girl I am?). By the time I got home he had both the front and back yards finished and they looked great. He said the mower worked well too which was a big relief to me.

So although there is still much more work to be done with the yard (Im pretty sure all Erik cut in the backyard were weeds and very little grass) I'm glad to at least have this one hurdle behind me (aka purchasing the lawn mower). And while it was phenomenal to have Erik there to do the hard work for me this time, I guess I should probably suck it up next time and at least learn to use the mower myself--you know, woman power and all that stuff. : )

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Cat’s Outta the [Closet]

Last week I wrote about my fantastic Memorial Day weekend—lazing by a pool, getting out of the city for a few days, a wedding, etc, etc. However, I purposely left out one story that put a little damper on all my vacation bliss. I left out the story for a couple of reasons: 1) I didn’t want to look bad to all you readers and 2) I felt terribly guilty and about what went down. So after that introduction I’m guessing you all are dying to know what happened so today I’m coming clean.

The short story: In the process of hurriedly trying to get out of the house for the wedding at 7 am on Saturday morning I accidentally locked one of my cats in my guest room closet where the poor girl was trapped for almost 3 days before being rescued by a good friend. Naturally, the poor thing had to go to the bathroom while she was in there which resulted in me having to clean out the entire closet when I got home and spend $117 on a dry cleaning bill. Ouch.

The Long Story (if you care to read on): My cat Jezebel is notorious for hiding in closets, under sheets and blankets, behind pillows—wherever she can find that it is likely no one can see her. This is not the first time she has been accidentally trapped in a closet (albeit the other few times it was only for the 8 hours or so I was at work) so you would think she would eventually learn her lesson and stay away from the closets. But no. The little stinker continues to sneak in when nobody is looking and doesn’t make a peep when she sees you coming to close that door.

Exhibit A: Jezebel "hiding"

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Needless to say when I was in a rush to leave on Saturday morning for the wedding I didn’t even notice her sneaky little kitty body curled up in the closet nor did it even cross my mind to check if she might be in there—after all I had just fed both cats breakfast so I naturally thought they were both out roaming or lounging in my bedroom (which is where they usually spend the day). Erik and I’s plans to stay at his parents over the weekend were kind of last minute and I wasn’t expecting to spend the full 3 days there but I put out plenty of food for the cats just in case. Cats are easy like that—leave out some food, water, and fresh litter and they are good to go for a couple of days.

However, when we decided to stay the whole day on Monday I called my friend David to see if he could stop by the house (he lives in the ‘hood) to check on my babies because I was worried about them. I just felt something might be wrong (ah that woman’s intuition!). Naturally, I was horrified when I got a text message from him a little while later informing me of Jezebel’s imprisonment. Even though he said she was okay I still felt terrible. What kind of mother was I? I tried not to worry about it too much for the rest of the day (after all she wasn’t trapped anymore and was getting plenty of food and water) but I was anxious to get home. I hoped she wouldn’t be too mad at me

Luckily when I got home she was her usual cuddly self and even though she forgave me of my oversight I think she got me back in her own way with the ridiculous amount of money I had to spend to get the urine smell out of several nice dresses that had been hanging in the closet (let’s see if you’ll ever accidentally lock me in the closet again mom!). So yeah, needless to say I learned my lesson: always check the closets before going out of town.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Bliss

Whew! This week has been Cuh-razy ya’ll! I hope everyone had a fantastic Memorial Weekend. I was so looking forward to the 4-day weekend and it did not disappoint. Erik and I went to a beautiful wedding and partied with some wonderful people. We also spent a couple of days with Erik’s parents at their awesome house in historic Monroe, GA. I have to brag on Erik’s parents because they completely renovated their house in less than a year (Erik’s dad doing much of the work) and it is absolutely gorgeous. It's an old Queen Anne Cottage and they did a phenomenal job with the restoration--keeping the original flooring, fireplaces, etc. and updating in the right places. They even have a pull chain toilet in one of the bathrooms. Fantastic!  

(For those who don't know I have a master's degree in historic preservation so my professional opinion is very important--haha)

Oh and did I mention they have a pool too? We barbequed, played, relaxed, and swam for two days and it was just what the doctor ordered. Definitely the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.

So now it is back to the grind at work and the waiting begins for my little nephew to make his appearance (my sister is due at the end of this month). I can’t wait to meet him and get in a little family time down in the Big Easy. Seems like time is flying so fast!

And because I know everyone loves some pictures, here are a few from this past weekend:

Erik and I all gussied up before the wedding
Erik and his mama, Sande

Erik's sister Kimi and her husband Paul with baby Aiden

The bride and groom
Baby Aiden taking his first cruise in the pool