Friday, December 30, 2011

Making Plans

I bet you thought I was gone for good, didn’t you?  Ah ha BUT I’M NOT!

For the record, I really dislike starting almost every blog entry with some sort of explanation or apology regarding my lengthy absence. But, I feel like I have to acknowledge the fact that I don’t regularly post. Then again, I guess you guys are used to it (or SHOULD be by now), so you and I have an understanding about the way this works: I think about posting all the time. I only post when I can. Sometimes I start a post only to scrap it because it makes me feel like a narcissist always blabbing on about myself…and then sometimes I follow through with posting because I accept my narcissistic tendencies and just go with it. You, on the other hand, are foaming at the mouth, anxiously awaiting my next update. That’s how it goes, amiright?

Moving on…

There is SO MUCH to share with you guys right now. Lots of changes, lots of positive vibes and good feelings, happy things. First, let’s celebrate the end of Christmas and GET ON WITH OUR LIVES already. Sheesh. I don’t know about you, but I’m not buying a single damn thing for another 12 months. Not for me, not for anyone…unless it’s wine. And it's important to note that all wine should be bought for and consumed by yours truly. Speaking of drinking, it’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow night! I’m very much looking forward to having a few close friends and family over for a fun night of games. We’ll don our favorite lounge clothes/pajamas and do whatever we can to stay awake until midnight. Then, assuming I still have my wits about me, I’ll make Midnight Breakfast for our guests.

So what else is going on? LOTS. The new year is always exciting to me. I look forward to new beginnings and making plans. I have a brand new planner that currently has NO PLANS in it, so I’m working on making a few things happen. It’s time for a little Listy-Lu (I couldn’t wait for this. This list was practically the whole reason for my posting in the first place.)

2012 – The year of…
- - A new master bathroom
-  - And, as a result of the new master bath, probably new d├ęcor for the master bedroom as well (they need to flow. Duh.)
-  - More yoga classes for Stacey. This is a MUST in order for me to stay calm and keep a healthy, positive outlook on things.
-  - More flying for Sean – and hopefully an instrument rating!
   - Stacey turning THIRTY. Blech. But, in order to cope with old age, I will treat myself to a fun trip. I’m thinking Vegas! Who’s coming with?
 - More travel. You see, we're DINKs. Not only that, but we're DINKs in Small-town, Tennessee. Seriously, the most exciting opportunity we have in Franklin is running into Ben Folds getting FroYo at Sweet CeCe's on a Thursday night (true story).  I'm really not complaining, but the truth is that life here can get pretty boring. So, if I'm going to be bored, I'd rather be bored on the beach or in a new town that I can explore. Then plan is to visit our friends who moved far, far away from us, and hitting up a few places that we've never seen before.
  - Staying matched with my Little Sister. It's complicated. Her life isn't shiny and bright. In fact, it's kind of crappy. Hanging out with her isn't always fun (not her fault), but I think it's important for me to stay with her. I have no reason NOT to stay with her. We haven't really formed a close bond (not by my standards, anyway), and the truth is that we may never have a close bond. But as long as she wants to keep seeing me, then I will be there. This relationship is unlike any other, but I keep reminding myself that different is good. Getting out of my comfort zone will help me grow. Staying committed to something that doesn't benefit me is an act of selflessness, and Lord knows I need to be more selfless. He also knows I need to be better about keeping my mouth shut and quit bossing people around. ah, but it's so fun..
-- And finally, using my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I vow to do more cooking and baking for fun (not just out of necessity) because I really do love being in the kitchen. 
So...I guess this list should keep us pretty busy throughout the year! I look forward to sharing new happenings with you guys. You know, whenever I get around to it. MWAH!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's NOT New Joisey

The week or so prior to Thanksgiving, folks around the office were asking me, "Soooo...what are your plans for the holiday?" (as if they actually cared.) My response was, "We're going to visit Sean's family in New Jersey." And I'm not kidding you - every single person expressed sadness and pity saying something like, "Oh you poor thing - it's going to be so cold! Is it snowing there yet? Oh, that's awful...New Jersey?...that's like the armpit of America, right?"
No, friends, it's not snowing there yet. I realize that my fellow Southerners believe every state above Kentucky is the Great White North (and they're kinda right about that). But you may be surprised to learn that their weather is very similar to ours here in Middle TN. New Jersey trades out the tornadoes for quite a bit more snow in the winter, but that's about it. The day after Thanksgiving I was jogging outside in a t-shirt.

Secondly, it's NOT "New Joisey." I know you enjoy dusting off your 1920's mobster accent, but not all residents of NJ are from Hoboken.  Yes, the folks in and around NYC (in North Jersey) carry the "Joisey" accent, but not the rest of the state. South Jersians have more of a Philadelphian/Delaware valley accent. Mind you, it's still a funny accent, but it's just not "Joisey."

And finally, what makes NJ the armpit of America? When did The Garden State get such a bad wrap? I'll be honest...the state of NJ wasn't on my radar until I met Sean's family, but I certainly didn't think it's residents carried the plague. I'm here to tell you, dear readers, that New Jersey is not all that gross. I can only speak for South Jersey (I hear North Jersey is a completely different place...)  South Jersey is spread out and rural for the most part. There are lots and LOTS of pine trees. We drive along winding highways, passing lots of land, trees and beautiful old homes. The shore is full of quaint Victorian-era coastal towns that remind me of Downtown Franklin.

I feel rather sorry for residents of NJ, having to bear their scarlett letter known as Snookie and all things Jersey Shore. Sure, the Snookies are around if you know where to look (and SO fun to watch), but there aren't enough Guidettes ruin the entire state.
Once Sean and I hit the lottery, we're going to buy a vacation home in Stone Harbor. Or maybe even the Utz house in Avalon. It's rather cute, don't you think? All 14,000 square feet of it...

And in case you're wondering what it looks like in NJ during Thanksgiving - it's just like the rest of the country. Turkey carcus, full plates, and dad falling asleep at the dining room table...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Five Years

Five years ago I stood here as a newlywed. Venice, Italy - the most magical place I've ever seen. I still can't believe we were here...

At the crack of November, weeks before Turkey Comas and Black Friday Fever set in amongst the rest of the country, Sean and I toast to a private celebration - our wedding anniversary. This date is a wonderful pause to the hustle and bustle of our suburbanite schedules, fall birthday celebrations and our annual Halloween party. And, it's the perfect excuse to treat ourselves to an expensive meal. He makes a reservation (which I think is adorable), and I try to remember to buy a card. He ALWAYS outshines me when it comes to the card. Sean can be very romantic when he wants to be, and his sweet words melt my heart.

We savor a slow meal together and say things like, "Can you believe it's been ___ years? Seems like just yesterday we were sharing our vows..." and " you want to have sex tomorrow night instead? Because I'm still really full from dinner..."

We went for fancy cocktails at The Patterson House this year. I guess "fancy cocktails" is an understatement - more like "Works of Art." This elusive establishment has made quite the name for itself in Music City, and we were excited to see what all the fuss was about. NO WONDER! The ambiance of the bar is executed perfectly - intimate without being claustrophobic, warm and inviting like an old English library balanced with elements of high glam and shimmer. It's a nod to the 1920's speakeasy without being kitschy at all. Our seats at the bar gave us a front row view into the craftsmanship of their stunning cocktails, and our tongues were equally impressed with the taste (Sean is still raving about his Bacon Old Fashioned). But don't just take my word for it:

Our evening wrapped with dinner at The Standard, and...let's just say we won't be going back. It was a total bust. The hummus and grilled bread from The Patterson House was more impressive than my filet at The Standard! But, a bad steak will never stop us from having a lovely date night. I was still making memories with my most favorite person in the whole world.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mini Post: Tablecloth Traditions

Even though I'm not hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year (Thank God), I still wanted to add a bit of festive holiday flair to the dining room. And here's what happened:

The table cloth you see was my Mimi's, and it was the backdrop for every holiday meal she and my Papa hosted throughout my childhood. I snatched it up last year and saved it from being sold in the estate sale. I absolutely LOVE the floral details, and I can't believe how well it blends with my modern tablescape pieces from Pier1.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reflections on New Seasons

I believe October marks the10 year anniversary of my Great Trip Out West - my move to Seattle (which, for those of you who don't know, only lasted a couple of months). I was 19 years old, working as a full-time bank teller, not in school...and I found myself facing an interesting life transition, but felt incredibly directionless. My good friends and mentors Vicki and Rick suggested I take the opportunity to explore life outside of small-town Tennessee, and I jumped at it.

Three days, 10 states, and 2,500 miles later I arrived in Seattle and felt more out of place than I ever had in my entire life. What am I doing here??? No, seriously...What am I doing?
I had just made my first real-life grown-up decision: Moving away from home with little-to-no parental consent. My folks wanted to be supportive, but at the same time had reservations about my choice to leave. And who can blame them? I had no plans other than to secure a job (which almost didn't happen). Boy, what I would give to go back to the days of being fearless and not planning for my future...

But what I didn't realize at the time is that I WAS actually planning and preparing myself for my future. That single decision to move away from home for 2 months - as silly as it seems now - really shaped who I am today. It helped me spread my wings, and I learned some very valuable lessons about myself, my friends and my family by choosing to leave.

Lesson #1 - Each of us should explore life from a different point of view for an extended period of time. Get out of your bubble! Break your routine! Challenge yourself.
Lesson #2 - You can always come home again
Lesson #3 - The boy you're talking to is never worth it (and you know it)
Lesson #4 - There's no such thing as the right way or the wrong way - we're all just carving out our own unique paths
Lesson #5 - To everything there is a season...

...and here's where I start rambling about seasons...
I vividly recall sitting with Vicki and Rick and explaining that I needed to move back to Tennessee. I felt that my grand idea to move out west was a big giant failure. I had absolutely nothing to show for my time in Seattle (other than clothes from the Gap and a ton of knitting needles). I made no friends, I had no full-time job, no place to live, and most disappointing of all, I did NOT meet Dave Matthews! I didn't see a future in Seattle, and running back home seemed like the smart thing to do. After all, I had a little brother who would soon be growing into a kid and starting Kindergarten. I had friends and family who missed me. I had the option for in-state tuition.

Yes, moving home was the path of least resistance, and I guess there's nothing WRONG with that...but Vicki and Rick did their best to encourage me to stay. Rick made reference to me staying in Seattle "through the season." I took his words literally and thought he meant for me to stay through the winter season, but he continued by saying that each of our lives has its own seasons...its own time to develop and mature, to ebb and flow, and eventually come to an end. Rick knew my season in Seattle hadn't reached its peak. It had nothing to do with the changing of the leaves or the temperature outside, but my 19 year old brain couldn't grasp this concept. I dismissed his wisdom pretty quickly, and within a couple of weeks I was back home eatin' biscuits and drinkin' sweet tea. MMMmmmmm MMMMMmmm

Hearing this bald, musician, wool-sock-wearing granola man (I LOVE YOU, RICK!) tell me that my life had seasons that weren't weather seasons because they were abstract seasons, seasons of change, of emotions and experiences, was crazy talk.

Thankfully, I grew up. I matured. I'm now very familiar with this concept of abstract emotional seasons. I even accept the fact that I might experience several different seasons at once, all with their own impact.

Sean and Murphy
Fall in Franklin

Murphy P. Carroll

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Things

Today I'd like to share a few new things going on in our wild and crazy suburban lives. HA! Who am i kidding? our lives are plain jane and often mundane. I guess that's why I find these new things so absolutely exciting.

The first is an item I've been eying at Yarrow Acres - one of my favorite shops on Main Street - for quite some time. My sweet mother-in-law Ann gave me a gift certificate for Christmas...last year. Okay, so it took me 10 months to go shopping, so what!?! I was thrilled to purchase this adorable birdcage. We're using it to display a pretty fern and an African Violet in the corner of our den (sorry the lighting is so dim).

Next in the "new" category are some extra awesome HALLOWEEN decorations. Woot woot! I love love love Halloween. In years past I've gone a bit overboard when shopping for new ghoulish decor, but this year I've been pretty strict on myself. I think spending less than $100.00 on new decorations is strict, don't you??? I'm so enamored with this new arrangement in our dining room that I sort of want to leave it up all year...

Okay, you caught me...Murphy isn't new by any means, but I still wanted to post an update. He's been living with doggy lymphoma for a little over 2 months, and his health is degrading a little bit each day. We're keeping him as comfortable as we can and spoiling him rotten in the meantime. Sampling bits of delicious people food has become a regular occurrence, and he LOVES it.

I saved the best New Thing for last...the PERGOLA. Sean, Trevor and Jeff busted their behinds this weekend to make this happen. Isn't it pergolicious? Sean will be doing more pergolating this coming weekend to finish the job. I'm ecstatic about our new outdoor living space!!! And unlike this guy, these posts aren't going anywhere.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


When we saw Downtown Franklin completely blocked off by police cars last night, Sean and I  suspected widespread criminal activity. Had we owned a 12 year old girl, we would've known it was an actual case of Bieber Fever spreading throughout town.

Bieber filmed a Christmas video on Main Street causing 10 million screaming tweens (and 3 adult homosexual males) to flood the DTF in layers of scarves and skinny jeans. Video evidence of the plague can be seen here:

Legend has it, high pitched squeals from the crazed fans were heard for miles around. Decibel levels reached 165-170, the same as a space shuttle launch.

News of last night's Bieber invasion came to me via text message from my "Little."

Hey watz up u can c dat im not @ skool cuz i went 2 c justin bieber last night n i stay intil 1 this mornin
im bout 2 sent u some pics n some video it was alsome
it waz nice like a every christmas present so dat waz gud

At least she knows how to spell Justin Bieber's name correctly...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Picture Pages!

I present to you, dear readers, a showcase of some recent snapshots.

Here I am with ONE THIRD of my basil plant. That's right - there are 2 more outrageously large branches still hanging out in the garden. This bunch here made 4 jars of yummy pesto. I almost forgot to mention my pesto is vegan gluten free organic pesto, retailing at Whole Foods for just $99.99 per jar.

Sean's cup overfloweth with excitement about the start of football season. Specifically college football. We invited John & Bethany to watch the 2nd UT game of the season at our place (Sean and John's Alma Mater), and Sean got in touch with his Martha Stewart side. He iced these cookies on his own. Aren't they sweet?
Sean's allegiance to The Volunteers has been shaken up a bit by his new employer (a much more prestigious university with less tacky colors). We spent a recent Saturday afternoon cheering for the Black & Gold, and cheering for new jobs.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

C'mon Get Happy

August was great and then, not so great. Kind of all at the same time. Does that make sense? It was crazy, busy, fun, good, happy, bad and sad. I realize regular life includes all of the above, but August felt incredibly intense. Come to think of it, so does September.
Some August Highlights:
.I resumed weekly visits with my "Little Sister"
.New tenants at the Yellow House, which involved lots of cleaning and a mild amount of stress
.Wedding showers, dinner with new friends, visits with my grandmother, traveling for work, daily sessions at the gym in preparation for our trip to The Beach...

...and then, of course, there was the actual trip to The Beach itself.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, Sean received a long-awaited job offer, I was awarded Employee of the Month title, and then we found out Murphy has doggy lymphoma. We celebrated with each other, and cried with each other. The highs have been high, and the lows...well, they're a bit stinky.
Here we are at the end of September, and I now have a big case of The End of Summer Blues. The browning of leaves, the freezing 70 degree temperatures, and football - they grab my heart, rip it out, and stomp its ass on the ground. Each year I try to fight it, and fight it HARD. I'm seriously considering the purchase of a sun therapy lamp. Now more than ever I have to make a conscious effort to stay focused on the positive - things like making a giant pot of chili, a new season of Parenthood, date nights with Sean by our fire pit, and my favorite holiday Halloween.

I can't help but shed a small tear as I vacuum pack my bathing suits into the storage bag. And I'll be shedding actual tears when it comes time to say good bye to our sweet pup. I guess the fact that I'm here on earth to experience sadness and cry a little bit is a Good Thing. It means I'm real. Means I'm alive, and I can't complain about that.

Flying into Fall

The series premier of Pan Am just aired its first 5 minutes, and of course, we are tuned in. Would you expect any less from Mr. Sean P. the Pilot? I don't know if I'll be able to get past the cheesy dialogue, and I'm not sure the rest of America's viewers will be able to either...

Speaking of flying, though...Sean is eager to return to the cockpit. I expect he'll be back in the air in a matter of weeks, continuing towards his instrument rating.

Back on the ground, we just returned from our annual visit to St. Louis to see our friends The Jensens. It couldn't have been a more beautiful weekend weatherwise. We welcomed the first days of fall relaxing with good friends, which is exactly what I needed to help combat The End of Summer Blues. Sarah planned a special TV Themed costume party to coincide with our visit. I just so happen to love parties AND costumes. It was so much fun, and I especially enjoyed meeting the rest of their St. Louis friends.

Thurston and Lovey Howell

Marge Simpson and Jimmy Neutron

and Dr. Who

I'm already looking forward to our next encounter with these crazy kids. See you in the Spring!!!

It's back to work tomorrow, and back to our normal routine. Only, this Monday will be a Fall Monday instead of a Summer Monday, and I'm not so thrilled about that. As part of my battle against the End of Summer Blues, I have plans to treat myself to some retail therapy. I'm also working on plans for the halloween party. My copy of this year's Martha Halloween has already been skimmed and tagged! I really want our guests to enjoy it, which means I need to keep the fun coming, and add new and exciting elements each year. But no pressure, right?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Update: Project Pink Chair

I purchased this pink chair for $10.00 in January, and vowed to turn it into something beautiful. I still have high hopes for this chair. Unfortunately, it looks the same as it did 8 months ago, only it's in a different spot in my house (hiding in a dark corner of the bonus room).

I feel just awful about this. Somehow this poor chair earned a permanent position at the VERY BOTTOM of my to-do list. It's down there next to "learn to speak fluent Spanish" and "go back to school for a real degree."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Becoming a BIG

You guys remember me telling you that I joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, right??? Despite my lack of posting about it, I most certainly HAVE been continuing the program. I thought it was high time I share some thoughts about my role as a "Big" with you.

Let me take you back to where it all started...
If you know me well at all, you're probably aware that I'm not one of those kid-crazed "let me hold your adorable baby" types. (gag. sorry, babies.) At one point in my life I vowed to never have children, but much to my mother's delight, I've since retracted that statement. I'm now warming up to the idea of eventually becoming a mother. Hanging out with my friends' children helped me realized that they aren't all diseased ridden brats...they're actually kinda cool.

I struggled with some pretty tough things throughout my own childhood (like depression), and there were people in my life that helped me along the way. They spent time with me, listened to me, and simply cared about me. Most importantly, they were good women who allowed me to partake in their lives and be influenced in a positive way. Just inviting me to hang around them helped keep me going, and helped keep me out of trouble. Looking back I realize that these ladies were my mentors. They didn’t solve my problems, but they somehow made me feel like tomorrow was worth living for...just because they were THERE. I hope to have the opportunity to do that for other kids.

I considered signing up for the foster system, but it didn't seem like the right fit for Sean and me. Then an email came through one random afternoon asking for a donation to BBBS. I contributed, but then started searching the site for more information. It seemed like something I'd really enjoy - 1 to 2 hours per week of one-on-one time with your "little." They encourage free or low-cost activities, and even provide a free pass to the YMCA during the weekly visits.

Just one week following my orientation, I was matched with my "Little" - a 10 year old girl who lives less than 2 miles from my home. I was STOKED to be located so close because I knew it would allow easy access and more opportunities for us to spend time together.

The Getting-to-Know-You stage has been moving rather slowly. Most kids are skeptical at first, so it's to be expected. She doesn't say much at all and hasn't yet opened up to me, but I do think she's enjoying our activities. I suspect some of the silence is her trying to feel me out and figure out how to interact with me. The other part is being a 10 year old girl, going through the crucial tween phase under less-than-desirable circumstances. There's also been a slow down in communication since she and her mother went back to Chicago for 2 months. They returned home just this week (in time for the new school year) so our weekly visits will resume.

Over the next few weeks we'll be painting pottery, going to a Nashville Sounds baseball game and visiting the county fair. Things we've done in the past include: walks in the park, visiting the Parthenon at Nashville Centennial Park, drawing/crafting, making dinner together, watching movies, painting nails, and rollerskating. (And yes, that was scary.) She also taught me how to hula hoop!

For her sake, I do wish that she were a happier kid. It's hard watching her struggle with enjoying life. It's hard watching an innocent kit be jaded and bitter at such a young age. I wish that I could show her that life is a gift and it's beautiful even though there are hard times. I want to be silly with her, sing along to the radio while we drive, goof around and laugh together. Despite my trying, she hasn't let those walls down yet. Or, maybe that's just not who she is or who she wants to be. Regardless, it's not about what I want out of the's about what she needs. And even though it feels as if we aren't really connecting, I have to believe that our time spent together isn't a total waste. I hope that I'm helping her in some way, like the women in my life helped me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


For the past 4.5 years I've been confined to a dreary cubicle for 40 hours a week.
That's about 2000 hours of dreariness each year. YUCK.

This week I had the opportunity to upgrade to a window seat. AHHHHHHH, it's bliss. Check out those rays from the SUN and the rolling hills and the TREES! I feel so alive. And yes, that's Kate getting a sun bath. She loves the new digs, too.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Practically Perfect

'Maters are growin' in the back yard. Must be summer for sure.

After a couple of 100-degree days, we were pleasantly surprised by last Sunday's weather. I stepped outside with Murphy around 7:30 a.m. and realized it was going to be a GORGEOUS day. Sure, it was probably 85, but that's considered freezing during the month of July.

We sipped coffee and enjoyed a light breakfast on the patio while reading papers and magazines. Sean declared it was a bit too warm for his liking, but I was basking in the sun. We ended up taking a drive out to the "country." It's actually just 15 minutes away, but Leipers Fork is a small (very small), rural-ish community that's sure to remind you of a simpler time. Green rolling hills, fences and farmland, away from all the McMansions and over-crowded developments...

This is what greets you as you enter Leipers Fork:
Don't ask why. Because I have NO idea. It's not like either of those shows were filmed here or based on this community. I guess it's just some "bling" for their street?

Murphy joined us on the Sunday drive and LOVED catching new smells as his head hung out the window.

We rode back into town for a late lunch at Puckett's. BLT's on the patio, and Murphy managed to find a few leftover cornbread crumbs on the sidewalk to snack on.
Now it's Saturday. A full week has passed, and we were greeted by another beautiful weekend day. Score! "The Boys" (as I like to call them) and I went to the P-A-R-K, and then headed over to the farmer's market for a stroll. Okay, who am I kidding!? We weren't strolling - we were on a mission. We went for one thing only, and it wasn't fresh produce. We were there for DONUTS. A good friend tipped us off to the best donuts that ever existed (thanks, John!), and he was not lying. They were amazing. If I try really hard I can still taste them.
Freshly fried donut, fresh air, a nice breeze, and sense of community...perfect.
And I'm already planning another round of BLT's for lunch today.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 seen in South Jersey...

I should've shared these with y'all a long time ago!
Pictures from our trip to South Jersey (NOT to be confused at all with North Jersey).
This is Sean's hometown. Where the roots are. Where there's lots of love, lots of charm, and the occasional greenhead. *more on greenheads later

Sean spent some Q.T. with his father. In between all the man-to-man talks and trips to Home Depot, they played with dad's new toy...

...a full refurbished 1956 Dodge Power Wagon. Ain't she purdy?

And in between all the fence building, there was also little of this...

One of the best things about being on the shore? Fresh crabs! This place was amazing. Just a little shed located on the dock in one of the inlets. They steamed us a bucket full of fresh crabs with loads of seasoning. I may or may not have licked the top of my crab shells clean before cracking them open....

MMMmmmmmm MMMMMMMmmm...
Dear Colonel Sanders,
Now THIS is what we call finger lickin' good.

Emily was able to coordinate a visit home, too, so we could all be together.
Sharing some sisterly love at The Lobster House

The parents treated us to a big feast.
When visiting The Lobster House, you must remember to deploy the patented Tom Carroll method of "super speedy seating and eating." To purchase an instructional guide, please e-mail:

Our view of the shore, Whale Beach.
Somewhere between Strathmere and Sea Isle City, I think.

It's known for being less crowded.
Yes, you've got privacy from crowds of Shoobies and shore goers, but you pay the price in greenheads.
Greenheads are giant flies with green heads. They'll bite you and drawn blood. We call them horse flies in the south. These suckers are giant, mean, blood-sucking machines.
note: the item in the photo above is NOT a greenhead. It's a seagull. But they're almost the same size.

When you visit Whale Beach, you have to park here:

It's a research station, better known as "the paint chips."
I think they're kinda cool.

No trip home would be complete without a visit to the boardwalk...and some Mack & Manco's pizza...and hot Johnson's caramel popcorn...and Kohr Bros. ice cream...
Yes, we ate them the same less than 2 hours...Don't judge!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Remembering to Dream

I need to remind myself to dream. No, not the kind of dreaming you do at night - the kind that is supposed to motivate you and keep you striving for more.

Hi, I'm Stacey, and I'm in a rut.

Dreaming is challenging for me. Sure, there are fantastical places I'd to see and experience, and there are accomplishments and careers that I'd like to explore. But, I don't allow myself to think about those things. I shut them out of my mind as quickly as possible because I believe it's a waste of time.

I used to, a lot. It was called high school. I spent countless hours dreaming about escaping my small town and seeing the world, living on my own, finding my freedom and finding myself, starring in movies, finding happiness, opening a bakery, falling in love, becoming a photographer for Rolling Stone or National Geographic...

...but somewhere along the way I became jaded. Too jaded. Girl, get your head out of the clouds! Life just started happening, and jobs happened, and mortgages happened...

Don't get me wrong - I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far. My life is wonderful, and I have so much to be thankful for, but I can't help mourning those days when I felt like the sky was the limit. Nothing is easy anymore. I know too much about the bad things that can happen in life, the consequences. I have responsibilities to uphold. I went from being fearless to completely fearful. I guess reality sank in and I grew up.

Still, there are times like this - like these "rut" times - where I need to unleash my mind and let my spirit soar instead of locking myself down into the dark rut places.

So what if dreaming is a waste of time? Today I will try to dream. I will try...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reflection: sisters

Mom was pregnant with my baby sister in 1985. I was a mere 3 years old, but still aware that I would soon be playing the important role of Oldest. Big Sister. The More Mature One. The Favorite. And according to my mother, I wanted to exercise my new responsibilities by choosing the baby's name.

"Mom," I asked, "when the baby is born can we name her Rudy?" You see, much like everyone else who was living and breathing in 1985, The Cosby Show was my favorite.
"No, honey," she explained. "I'm not sure that name fits."
"Then what about Trudy?" nice rhyming skills, younger self!
"No, I don't think Trudy will work either."
"Okay..." I pondered for a moment. "If she's black can we name her Rudy?" Fair compromise, I thought.
Mom came back with, "If she comes out black, we'll have to find a new place to live because your dad will kick us out!"

My mom, as it turned out, had remained faithful, and my sister came out white. We also got to stay in the house. But wouldn't that have been a fun surprise?

My devout readers are aware that I recently took a trip to NYC with my sister. I posted about our adventures in sightseeing and our whirlwind 3 day tour of the city, but I failed to say anything about our quality time spent together as sisters. Mostly I figured y'all wouldn't want to read all the mushy gushy stuff I have to say about her. It's also very difficult to write about someone I've known my whole life, someone with whom I'm so close, and someone so similar to myself. She's just "sister" to me, and if you have a sister of your own, then you know how I feel about her. Of course, I love her! I admire her ability to take on anything and kick its ass. Her desire to always do the right thing, even if she doesn't agree with it 100%.

When we were kids playing Barbies, making up silly dances and almost killing each other over the last Capri Sun, it didn't occur to me that she'd one day be living in a different city with a Big Girl Job, 2 cats and a driving a responsible Toyota Camry. I mean, who moves away from home? Why would anyone do that? Sister did. Because she's fearless.

When sister was in 8th grade she got the most horrid haircut of all time. No, seriously. It was. (I'll spare you the pictures.) As if 8th grade weren't awkward enough, here she is walking the halls with a gnawed up mop on her head! Two years later she was on homecoming court as one of the most beautiful girls in the school. She never lets anyone keep her down.

Just recently, I told someone that my sister " a lot like me, except more tender hearted. She's like a nicer, more compassionate version of me. A little taller, blonder hair and a better butt." But don't mess with her or she'll whoop up on you with a wooden necklace or a butcher knife...or maybe just her bare hands.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Empire State of Mind

Writing a blog about a long weekend in NYC is almost as intimidating as the city itself...
My first trip to New York was in 1998 for a high school band trip. The Marching Rebels were selected to be the lead band for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade that year. Every detail of our trip was pre-planned and pre-paid.

I had the amazing opportunity to march my way down the center of Times Square, see Les Mis on Broadway, run around F.A.O. Schwartz, snapped pictures of the Twin Towers and saw The Statue of Liberty herself...but for some reason I've always felt cheated out of a legitimate trip to the Big Apple.

I never say the subway, no slice of greasy pizza, no night life...Perhaps part of my problem is that there's no way truly experience the city in one short visit. That, and the fact that I was too young to appreciate what I was seeing while I was there.

Here we are, thirteen years later, and I'm older, wiser and most importantly, legal. It was time to go back to (as Jay Z puts it) the concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
Now that my sister and I live in different cities, we came up with the idea for an annual meet-up between our birthdays (hers in April and mine in May). Only one condition: we must know someone who lives in the city so we can crash for free. NYC was chosen for the first annual sisters weekend because of Sister's college roomie. We were so lucky that Anna agreed to let us stay, AND that she helped us get acclimated to the city. phew! big help.
Three nights in NYC for $924.77, and this is the breakdown:
- $283.90 Direct flight from BNA to LaGuardia (would've been $20 cheaper, but I paid for Southwest's automatic check-in to ensure A Boarding)
- $14.10 Airport lunch. A veggie wrap and a water. seriously!?!?
- FREE! Getting lost at LaGuardia and unable to locate sister for 1 solid hour. Who knew the terminals were completely separated? Not us...
- FREE! lots of frustration because no one in the city explains anything or gives directions. UGH!!!
- $2.00 bus ride from LaGuardia to the Upper West Side
- $5.00 (about) dirty Chinese food dinner, General Tso's chicken
- FREE! THREE nights in a cute apartment at 102nd and Broadway, one block from the 1 Line
- $24.10 Breakfast food for the weekend and poster supplies for the Today Show
- $29.00 7 day unlimited metro pass. Probably overkill, but more convenient that buying a pass each day
- FREE! Standing in line on a sidewalk at 5:30 a.m., getting my poster on TODAY and seeing Matt Lauer and Al Roker
Walking The Mall of Central Park and enjoying beautiful weather on a Spring morning

- FREE ! Walking tour of Upper East Side ***included 5th Ave, Madison Ave, wealthy Carrie Bradshaw-like ladies with the own drivers and a slew of private school students with mannies. Totally. Surreal. I ain't never seen nothin' like that whur I come from.
- $11.88 lunch at Rockefeller Center's 'Whichcraft. Spicy Pork Sandwich with a side of marinated chick peas - so yum!!
- $36.00 Experience New York - access to Top of the Rock (priceless views!) and the NBC studio tour. ***Included watching a live rehearsal of SNL, host Ed Helmes of The Office and The Hangover, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, and passing Seth Meyers in the Hallway

- $72.45 a little shopping detour to H& what? we don't have one at home!
- FREE! Naptime at Anna's cozy apartment because we only got 4 hours of sleep the night before
- FREE! Private tour of QPrime's NY management office in Midtown near Time's Square plus dinner recommendation from a QPrime executive
-$169.13 a delicious meal for sister and me at Trattoria Dell'arte @ 7th and W. 57th - breads, pastas, veal piccata, wine, tiramisu, and excellent service! Our server tossed us sweet chocolate to munch on and made suggestions on which bars to visit after our show. He was really surprised that we were tourists because this restaurant is typically for locals. At least that's what he said...
- $170 Excellent seats for the hit Broadway musical Wicked
- $11.76 two drinks during the show. AND  we got to keep the Wicked-themed travel mugs
- $6.05 an everything bagel with lox spread and coffee at Absolute Bagels
- FREE! unable to interpret anything the locals said
- FREE! Walking tour of Upper West Side and Riverside Park (where some of You've Got Mail was filmed)
- FREE! Central Park's Strawberry Fields and Belvedere Castle
- $15.41 awesome burger, fries and giant milkshake at Shake Shack on Upper East Side (86th Street)
- FREE! using the bathroom at The Met and realizing we never made a donation at the entrance oops!
- FREE! Alexander McQueen exhibit at The Met. Y'all, this is the most amazing exhibit I've ever seen in my entire life. I wish I could share it with all of you. The collections were inspiring and the exhibit was breathtaking. It's all sister and I could talk about for days!
- $48.99 giant coffee table book of the Alexander McQueen Exhibit so I can re-live the experience over and over
- FREE! walking tour of Chelsea ***included cobblestone streets, Chelsea Market, quick detour to Anthropologie, and Chelsea's beautifully renovated High Line Park.
I could've spent hours up there, but we had places to go, people to see...
- FREE! Dinner with friends at Eatery NYC (sister owed me one)
- FREE! Walking tour of Times Square - photo op!
- $20.00 Drinks and laughs with friends at McGee's pub, which happens to be the bar that inspired the writers of How I Met Your Mother. Big pours from the bartender upstairs!

- $5.00 at 1,2,3 burger shot beer
-FREE! Singing country music while walking the streets of NYC
- FREE! shouting expletives at the locals for stealing our table