Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Legendary 10 Year Class Reunion

So I miss high school from time to time. Don't we all? Did we realize how good we had it back then without many responsibilities and getting out at 3:00 each day? Um, no.
While it seems really hard to believe that it's been 10 years already (as my 20's seem to all run together), I was actually really excited to both help plan and attend my reunion.

I was not an officer in school but being yearbook editor and a planner for a living, I guess I just got roped in to the planning for it, which I can honestly say was really fun and rewarding.
Give me ample amount of time to think and research about decorating and planning for it, I'll go slightly overboard. But in a nutshell, here's what it consisted of:
1) Setting the location, date and time
2) Getting the group made and inviting people on Facebook
3) Developing a killer playlist (my favorite part). I can't tell you how much I love 90's music
4) Adding little details like photo booth area, banner, memorabilia, centerpieces, etc.
5) Developing a hashtag #Boaz05Reunion
6) Reminding people to RSVP
7) Getting there early to decorate
8) Take a group photo
9) Make it a mission to talk to every single person there
10) Have fun and enjoy it!

We had it at the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge, which I was ever so shocked to hear people say that they either had never been before or hadn't been in years. Wuuutttt?! It's in your backyard people and it's gorgeous!
A big thank you to Jessica, Anna, and Caitlin for helping!

So anyway, it was way easy and just perfect! We had plenty of room, it was a sunny day, and we got to see and catch up with people that we hadn't seen in 5-10 years. Some people traveled a great distance to be here and some just a few minutes.
After dinner, we went across the hallway to the Hickory Bar. John Pate was the Selfie Stick Master, which provided us with photos of funny pictures of everyone that attended. We looked at the yearbook, and just had a good time. After that, a few of us went to John's for more fun at the pool. Everyone kept saying that we all needed to hang out more. Isn't that the goal? Just because high school is done doesn't mean you can't see these people again? You make time and just enjoy being together as former classmates.
Cheers to the next reunion--happening in 1, 3, and/or 5 years. Proud to be a Pirate.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Coon Dog Cemetery, Rattlesnake Saloon, Ave Maria Grotto & more touristy fun!

Each year, my mom, who is also my best friend and the best mom a girl could ask for, forms an itinerary we like to call "Daughter's Day Weekend." It varies in location, but it always includes a fun time, good food, and memories made.
This year's weekend was no different as we traveled to Florence, AL. My sister Lauren had never been before, so we had a lot to cover in a short amount of time over the Memorial Day Weekend.

We began our adventure by meeting at our glorious hotel for the weekend, the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa. It does not disappoint.






We ate lunch at one of the best Italian restaurants you'll ever find, Ricatoni's. Usually I get the brick oven pizza, but I tried the grilled chicken sandwich and it was great!
We shopped downtown and went in the famous Billy Reid, but didn't see anything we could afford! ha!

Next stop, Una & Leo, on the campus of The University of North Alabama, which is within walking distance from downtown.
 Here is Una getting some loving by her caretaker.

 And Leo snoozing in the shade.

They were having an extra lazy day but they are so fun to watch! We asked what they eat and it's a special diet of ground up beef from Colorado!

We needed to cool off and what better place than this pool at the hotel?!

After a refreshing dip in the pool, we threw a frisbee outside on the back lawn and walked around.

By this time, we were getting hungry and we had reservations (required) at the 360 Grille, atop the Renaissance Tower at the hotel.
What a treat this place is. From the moment we stepped out of the elevator, we heard the soft live music playing, and beheld the views at the top of the 22 story revolving restaurant.



 





I chose to get the Farmer's Market Special--which all ingredients from the spring vegetable salad to the mushroom gnocchi, to the finale, the mint strawberry shortbread were all purchased that morning at the local farmers market!
 
 
On Sunday, we began the morning with brunch at the hotel and then packed up and headed on another road trip. The destination was the Coon Dog Cemetery in Tuscumbia. It took about 45 minutes to get there from Florence on winding roads out in the middle of nowhere, but we finally made it.

 
Founded in 1937 when the beloved coon dog, Troop, passed away, his owner buried him at the spot, and it soon came to be a burial remembrance ground for other owners of the breed to do the same. Today, over 185 coon dogs are buried there and it is the only cemetery of it's kind in the world, thus making it a tourist attraction.

There is a sign in book and on the grave sites/markers you will see pennies laid from others who have come to pay their respects. Is there really anything like the special bond between a dog and it's owner?

If you're ever in the area, you should make the trip up to see this one of a kind memorial. But prepared, it's rustic (no restrooms, vending machines, cell service).


Next on the adventure was the Rattlesnake Saloon, also located in Tuscumbia and only amount 10 miles from the Coon Dog Cemetery.
We pulled in to the dirt gravel lot and waited at the shuttle stop to then climb up on the bed of a pick up truck that would carry us down to the Saloon, which is a large cave opening with restaurant inside and outdoor seating on plastic tables and chairs. Opened to the public in 2009, it is another tourism gem, and although we didn't eat because of the large wait time, the food looked and smelled amazing!
We ate a quick lunch back in downtown Tuscumbia before we had to say our Daughter's Day Weekend farewell!
On the return trip, Mom and I decided to complete our tourist day by stopping off in Cullman at the Ave Maria Grotto. I had never been before and yet it's only an hour from home! Dedicated in 1934 by Benedictine Monk Brother Joseph Zoettl, the Grotto, which means cave in Latin, features over 125 miniatures, reproductions of famous shrines, churches, and buildings throughout history.



 We even spotted a rat snake--not a reproduction (OR A RATTLESNAKE) thankgoodness!

 It took about 30 minutes to walk through outdoors, but is something everyone can appreciate all the time and detailed work that Brother Joseph constructed out of materials sent to him from all over. This included colored glass, marbles, cold cream jars, punctured commode floats, wrecked marble, broken bathroom tile, costume jewelry, gifts from every state in the union and from many foreign countries.
While we were walking through, a large tour bus with about 50 people unloaded and began touring alongside us. They were a group of Roman Catholics from Chicago and chanted many Catholic prayers aloud along the way. Mom and I were surprised at first but found it really contributed to the feeling of being in another country and seeing all the biblical replicas. 

Living Out the Plans:
This special Daughter's Day Weekend makes me reflect and be thankful for my family. I am blessed with wonderful parents (who celebrate their 40th Anniversary this month), a sister who is also such a great friend, and to live in such a great state. Let us not take our culture, our upbringing, southern hospitality, values, and traditions for granted. I know that people in other parts of the country and world would love to have and experience the everyday things like talking to our family on the phone, celebrating special holidays and occasions and taking trips together. It also brought home just how much our State has to offer. Such a wide variety of unique experiences to see and do all in the matter of a few hours driving. A good mix of city, country, contemporary, history, music, culture, and cuisine.
One thing I am ashamed to say I didn't know, but the Alabama Motto is "Here We Rest." How simple, yet fitting. Alabama has a lot to offer in the way of "rest," from the beaches, the mountain tops, trails, lakes, and everything in between. It reminds me of this scripture: "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken." Psalm 62:1-2

Happy Summer everyone! I would love to hear from you if you've been to Florence, Coon Dog Cemetery, Rattlesnake Saloon, Ave Maria Grotto, etc.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Just in the Nick of Time

So here's the monthly blog! Just in the nick of time!

I feel like I use the word busy too much. Aren't we are all guilty of TBD (Too Busy Disorder)? I don't mean it as a crutch or excuse. The thing is--you always make time for what's important to you. Whether it's your family, friends, job, church, hobby, etc. It's what you look forward to when all the other parts of your life are mismatched and hectic---we all have that reward.

One of the highlights of the past few weeks is getting to see a good friend of mine, a writer, and fellow blogger, Elizabeth Mozley McGrady. I had the pleasure of meeting her about this time last year at a book signing and then getting to read her beautiful words about our shared love of NYC in "We Share the Same Sky." Please check out her blog: http://wesharethesamesky.com/.  What a sweet friendship to have when you know when you get homesick more than anything for your favorite city--you know you can talk and share memories with that person because they love it just as much! We met for dinner at Mater's in Gadsden and had the best time talking about so many things...but to sum it up--LIFE! How beautiful! Forgot to get a picture but we did get this photo sometime last year--she's a wonderful person & friend!

Early this month, I met my sister in Birmingham for the Mat Kearney concert. We ate dinner at a place called Slice! It was love at first sight of this upscale pizza joint! Their salads had gotten rave reviews so it was a must for us--the house was perfection in every way. The sugared pecans, the honey dijon dressing. We split the Very Veggie--and it was that! So yummy!
And then there's dessert--quite possibly my biggest weakness, tiramisu, and then you say tiramisu cheesecake?! Done & Done.


The concert was a favorite for sure! Parachute and Judah & the Lion put on a great show too!

 Side note: a guy at the concert asked me if my dress was chevron. Anyone who knows me close, knows that is the ONE print I CANNOT stand! Taken aback, I immediately fired back, "I don't know what it is but I hate chevron!" and walked away. Geez. Micheal Kors wouldn't do chevron print!

 
My cousin Kase turned two on April 1st but we celebrated on Saturday with a Thomas the Train theme party!
He had a boucey house that he adored & got a little jeep to drive around just like his Dad's, among other toys and goodies, mostly Thomas the Train!
 
Mom & I went for a hike at Noccalula Falls Park! So much fun!
 
April showers sometimes bring one of my favorite things--Rainbows make me so happy! God's beauty in nature is just perfect---He doesn't have to do any of this but He chooses out of His love for his children!

  
 It's garden time!

One of the biggest events at work happened April 9-12--the Bassmaster Elite tournament!
It was a lot of work and planning but also a lot of fun and great for Marshall County! Skeet Reese ended up winning the tournament with over 90 lbs of fish for 4 days! Here my coworker Beth & I took a minute out of the craziness to pose for a magazine cover, ha!

Mom and I went to Tuscaloosa last week for the NEEDTOBREATHE Compadres Tour! Can't say enough about the venue, the band, the night, etc. The new Embassy Suites Hotel downtown is super nice and within walking distance to the Amphitheater!

 Priscilla Shirer is an awesome Woman of God! I love her style of teaching and girl did she bring The Word on Saturday in Huntsville! She talked about putting on the full armor of God in every part of our life! Amazing time spent with some of my favorite ladies from church!

 My cousin Kase wrote the book on cool, y'all! He calls me "Enshey" and it's precious.

Living Out the Plans:
I'm preaching to myself when I say it's time to SLOW DOWN and appreciate what is in front of you--don't get so busy you start neglecting your time with The Lord, your family and friends, and the things that truly make you happy. I don't want to be always caught just in the nick of time when it comes to what matters. May we seek God's beauty and promises each day, rest in them, knowing they are sound, secure, and our Rock in whatever we face.

One of my favorite hymns is "Standing on the Promises." Did you know how many promises we have in God's Word? Over 8,000 are offered up from The Lord! That should give us such hope for whatever we are going through! We must grab hold of His promises and not be hindered in fear.

"Standing on the Promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit's call.
Resting in my Savior as my all in all.
Standing on the promises of God."

Until Next Time...
                                                                      Take it easy!
 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Heart NYC...let me count the ways

New York City...
It's been ever on my mind--as always but especially this week. On a scale of 1-10, I'm about at a 15 on being homesick.
My uncle is visiting for school/business. He ate Shake Shack, got in the same elevator with Gus Malzahn--(how random), and is getting quite the education on all things business, culture, and atmosphere I'm sure. I keep begging him for photos and can't wait to hear about his trip.

Several of my favorite bloggers have been on point this week with posts that speak to me, as well as the Instagramers posting all the spring photos in Central Park, etc. http://annaosgoodby.com/ http://newyorkcliche.com/  http://www.tracysnewyorklife.com/
 
And then just this afternoon, a fire broke out in the East Village, causing a building to collapse! My heart goes out to this neighborhood! See news story here.
 
And these new series:


Thus inspiring me to finish a blog draft I've had for 6+ months or more (I have lots of those on standby.)

Books, music, movies, fashion, the history, icons, and memories made in this city are endless. It haunts you as you crave more of it. Or it does me. When I need my NYC fix, I gravitate to books, tv shows such as Friends and Seinfeld and movies.

Here is my personal list of movies that I LOVE all set/filmed in Gotham (in no particular order):
1. Ghostbusters (can you really even mess with not giving this the #1 spot?!) "I love this town!"
2. One Fine Day--can I just add that the filter on this movie was incredible.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany's--Classic chic
4. Big--One of Tom Hank's best! If I lived in the city, I would want a trampoline, too.
5. Hitch
6. Sex & the City--ohh the fashion, the library scene!
7. Working Girl
8. 13 Going on 30--it's like "Big" all over again!
9. Scent of a Woman--wonderful acting...a young Philip Seymour Hoffman
10. Bed of Roses--one of my favorite movies ever--warning: it's corny and cheesy but it has Christian Slater, so all is forgiven.
11. Home Alone 2 "Guests of the New Celebrity Ding Dan Dong stay at the world renowed Plaza Hotel"
12. Splash--Mermaids in Manhattan..named Madison.
13. Three Men and a Baby, Three Men and a Little Lady
14. Sleepless in Seattle--who can forget that last scene at the Empire State Building?
15. The Money Pit
16. Serendipity--one of the best Christmas movies
17. When Harry Met Sally--worth a trip to Katz Deli
18. Baby Boom
19. You've Got Mail---I wrote a whole blog about it
20. After Hours--lesser known, freaky, Martin Scorsese movie.
21. Scrooged--Bill Murray---every Christmas. Must watch!
22. The Devil Wears Prada--ohh that fashion!
23. Barefoot in the Park---CLASSIC!
24. The Nanny Diaries--Super Cute!
25. Romancing the Stone
26. Annie--the 80's version!
27. The Secret of My Success
28. Raising Helen
29. The Pick Up Artist--Great cast- Molly Ringwald and Robert Downey Jr.
30. Hello Again
31. 27 Dresses
32. Unfaithful--creepy & instense Richard Gere and Diane Lane duo
33. Begin Again--Kiera Knightley and Mark Ruffalo
34. Maid in Manhattan--JLO as a housekeeper falling in love with a politician...filmed at my fav hotel, The Roosevelt!
35. Men in Black--who could forget Frank, the pug, with the I heart NY sweatshirt!
36. An Affair to Remember--again, too classic for words!
37. Something Borrowed--great book by Emily Giffin and decent movie--lots of Shake Shack!
38. Manhattan---another Woody Allen film, also staring Diane Keaton
39. Hannah & Her Sisters---must see this movie STAT!
40. Elf
41. The Secret of My Success
42. Beaches--grab the tissues
43. Look Who's Talking
44. Curly Sue
45. Uptown Girls
46. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days--that love fern tho.
47. Meet Joe Black
48. August Rush
49. Kate & Leopold
50. Sweet Home Alabama

What are your favs? Which ones did I leave off that are a must on your list??? Comment below.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

14 Thoughts on Life, Love, and Other Mysteries

 
So..how is it already mid February? I have been a major slacker but also majorly busy, and thus neglecting one of my favorite things---the blog. So here it is, with lots of random thoughts on life, love and other mysteries.  As always, thanks for reading!  
 
1) This was New Year's Eve---Fabbbbbbulous bash at my church with my adorable Mom! Love her!
 
2) I made lots of goals for 2015--not resolutions because who sticks to those? ha! I began a Grateful Notebook--not a diary. What is it about diary that sounds so 6th grade? So I write one thing each day I'm grateful for. It's been the most random things, y'all. Everything from umbrellas to my church family to some of my favorite artist's playlists being available for a listen on Spotify to my daily coffee...it varies but by the end of this year I will have listed 365 of the most random things that I'm thankful for.

3) So I'm expecting big things for this year...it just feels right. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with life. Some things looming might be the fact that my 10 year class reunion is upon me this year! AH! Where did time go?! Yikes! I'm excited though! But it makes me question what I've done with my life in the past 10 years. Sure, college was fun and a great experience and I'm blessed with my job, but I want this year to be a year that I focus on some things I've been neglecting in the past. I'll be 29 later this year and I'm such a different person than I was when I was 19. I know more of what I want, but still feel very green in life.
10 Year Class Reunion THIS YEAR!

4) Did you know that NEEDTOBREATHE is coming to Tuscaloosa in April? I'm excited to see them for the third time, second of which is in Ttown! They are an awesome band if you don't know them. Take a listen. Now. And Mat Kearney is coming to Birmingham, also in April! :))))






5) My job allows me to serve in many capacities and one of which is doing some volunteering for my favorite causes. The 10th Annual Hospice Race to Remember is coming up on March 7th. Oh, and it's a COLOR RUN! I've loved getting to help in the planning. I would like to encourage you to either have a team with your church, businesses, family or friends. If you would rather not actually run or walk in the race, please consider being a VOLUNTEER! And contact me because I'm the Volunteer Chair and am seeking willing and able bodies to be there the day of event and make it a true success!

6) World Nutella Day happened. Last week. I considered making a cake, brownies, fudge, a tart, etc. with the wonderful hazelnut cocoa crack, but when it came down to it--all I wanted was this:
                                    Just a pancake + gobs of Nutella (because it's free calories and fat on World Nutella Day) + raspberries + a banana nose. It was perfection. I'm in favor of everyday being World Nutella Day...
 
7) February is Heart Awareness Month---my goal is to do at least 30 minutes of cardio every day. Miracles can happen, right? Let me tell you one huge motivation: those FitBit Daily Challenges!
 
8) It seems like there are times when I never watch TV because there is NOTHING on! Lately, however, I'm loving early "Modern Family" reruns, the new VH1 series "Hindsight" which is set in the 90's, making it totally rad, and "The Bachelor." Who will Farmer Chris choose? My favorite is Becca. She's just real and stands up for her beliefs.  What are your favorite shows right now?  
9) I'm thinking of making lamb. And risotto. It might be my next blog post adventure. Stay tuned and PLEASE send me any tips if you've tried cooking either of them!
 
10) Wishing and hoping for snow next week---I just miss it and this is probably our only hope in Alabama this year to see ANY. PPPPLEASE Mr. Weatherman, get it right! It's sooo beautiful--no ice or power outages, please. Just a pretty snow to build funny snowmen in, make snow cream, and play in!


11) So my family and I did something kind of strang last weekend---we practiced our shooting skills on some of my aunt and uncle's land. It was kind of comical and fun to have most of my cousins and relatives out there shooting guns at a target. I guess it's not so strange for families in the south, but it was a first for me and my family. My dad is a pro at hunting/target shooting, etc. I have a long way to go, but hey, the family who shoots together, stays together, right? Anyone else out there have friendly family shooting practices? Anyone?
 
12) So the last few thoughts are some blog drafts I've been saving for a while...I've fought this for as long as I've been blogging...but it's almost Valentine's Day so here it goes:
The fact is that while I love both reading blogs and writing my own blogs, to be honest, the blogs I read the most are those of girls who are similar to my age write about their dating experiences, fails, etc. Isn't that what we are most drawn to? To live vicariously through someone else's experiences is thrilling. I never saw myself opening up to the idea of writing about such personal aspects of my own life but then it hit me that it too is a part of living out the plans God has for me. It's as much part of the journey as my travels, what He is teaching me in my quiet time, through my friendships, etc. So, here it is...a very raw description of the struggles of the single life. But it's also all in how you see it.

Relationship/Marriage trends are different for everyone. My parents got married young, as did my sister and some of my closest friends. That's great those who knew then, as I've heard you just "know when you know!" And then, for others like myself, you also know that you're just not ready to settle down just yet, or "the right opportunity just hasn't presented itself yet." I have my set routine and hobbies and even my Friday night ritual, which doesn't usually involve getting dolled up after a week of work, etc. Then there's that phrase "You're just not putting yourself out there." Aren't we all doing the best we can? I have been set up on more dates than I can count now. I think you learn something from each of them and try to not to get jaded. It's all part of the process and I get that. Can I also tell you, America, that is a true struggle to date, not just in the year 2015 but especially in a small town. CMT is launching a new series called "Single in a Smalltown." I may or may not have been intrigued about this series, but in looking at the questions for participants it asked you to submit a 5 minute video answering the following questions:

1. Name, age, where you are from & what you do
2. Tell me about your town and population - "My town is so small..."
3. Describe town- what is there to do and etc?
4. Describe your personality
5. Describe your relationship status and history?
6. What is it like dating in your small town?
7. What do you like to do on date?
8. What is your image in town? Have people tried to fix you up?
9. Who have you dated in town?
10.What is the best and worst part of dating in a small town?
11.Tell me about your best and worst dates?
12. Describe your ideal type. Looks and personality.
Cuddles says it all: The struggle is real.
 
13. What country star do you most relate to? Which do you lust after?
14. Where do you see yourself in five years--family, dog, and etc?

I honestly don't think I could go on camera with any of this info with a straight face, much less actually apply to be on a reality TV show with that title. It makes me laugh but also brings home the point that yes, single America...the struggle is real.

I don't care if you're in small town USA or a thriving metropolis with speed dating and everything in between. As if adulthood didn't have enough pressures of it's own then you throw in the "get married, buy a house, have kids, etc." AHH!

13) Dating sites are a million dollar industry. I am not too proud or unashamed to admit I have tried it for a matter of days and got somewhat weirded/grossed out by the concept, and could write an entire blog all about dating horror stories...will save it for when I have writer's block. I know it works for some and in today's society, it is convenient and trendy. I can truly appreciate that. Maybe someday I'll give it another go if I'm feeling really brave. Until then, I am content to just be in the present. I've always heard love finds you when you least expect it. So I'm not going to expect it by any means, but I'm always going to be open to it.

So, society, don't think of my late twenties single self as odd because maybe I still enjoy the freedom I have by not being tied down to a relationship...to go and do and see the world as a single in this season of my life. If it's God's will, hopefully in the future I will have someone to do life with, to build a life and family together, but until then, let me be.

Ok, I'm done with this rant. And those who find yourself in the land of single OR married bliss...let's just embrace it and not judge those who are not in the same boat. Everyone's life PLAN is different and that's the beauty of God deisgning each of our lives uniquely. There is no perfect script or blueprint. It just happens as it's supposed to, when it's supposed to. We all are in control on a daily basis how we react, respond, and choose to accept or change the way things are going in our life.
14) Happy Valentine's Day (weekend)! Make it a great one & make sure you tell everyone how much you love them! And...these Bojangles Boberry biscuits are a good way to say it! Just sayin...
 
"We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19