showered with love

last weekend our crew had the privilege of showering our close friends kyle and liz with love and gifts in anticipation of their baby girl, due in just a few short weeks!  the day was perfect with friends, family, games, delicious food, and refreshing beverages.  with kari, kyle, and phillip by my side, i learned about the key elements you must have for a successful baby shower.  in no order of importance, they are as follows:

#1 – choose a theme.  if you’re short on inspiration, asking the mom and dad to-be for decor ideas they have for the newborn’s room is a great place to start.  you don’t have to get too specific (even a color theme will do), but i’ve found a general theme of some sort helps put you in a good direction for other parts of the party you’ll be planning.  i myself am dying to throw, attend, or be given a winnie the pooh themed shower some day.  just saying!

#2 – pick out and send the invitations.  now, on this one i personally went a little overboard and designed some custom invitations on vistaprint.  i know it’s so easy these days to do electronic invites and rsvp’s, but i still think there’s lots to be said for hand-addressed envelopes with personal greetings.  but hey, maybe that’s just the old soul part of me talking.  also, it’s hard to resist invitations when they’re this cute – just look at those squishy little animal faces!

#3 – decide on the menu and beverages.  of course this part of the planning depends on the time of day and how long you expect the shower to last.  will folks already have eaten lunch and not be hungry?  do you need to fire up the grill for a cookout or will finger foods do?  regardless of how much you do/do not do, i’d recommend making/getting the mom and dad’s favorite foods if you can find out what they are.  doing so adds a personal touch and will really make them feel special.

#4 – figure out how much decorating you’ll need to do.  this one will depend greatly on the space you are using to host the event.  if you’re having a “destination” shower at a local shop or venue, there might be enough natural decor or beauty that you don’t have to do much.  or, if you have a blank slate, you might want to get creative.  of course, all of this also depends on your budget (kari was the pinterest queen on this one!), but believe me that whatever you are able to do, the parents to-be will be overwhelmed simply by the gesture of the shower itself.

#5 – get all the help you can!  putting on a baby shower might not sound like it is a lot of work, but believe me, the to-do list tends to grow quickly and kind of sneaks up on you.  knowing that, i highly encourage delegating and making the event a team effort.  that’s what fiances and husbands are for, right?

#6 – make sure you make it easy for your guests to find your house (or wherever you are hosting the shower).  for example, darling balloons that match colors of your theme, wrapped sweetly around the mailbox.  believe me, there’s nothing worse than driving circles around a strange neighborhood while squinting to read street numbers in a place you’ve never been and all the while sweating through your cute shower outfit because of the humid georgia summer.

all credit goes to phillip on this one!

#7 – i think we’d highly recommend planning for at least one game.  it’s a great way to bring the crowd together, especially if you have guests from different areas of the parents’ life (you know what i mean, work friends and then the college friends and then the high school friends and then the family).  the game doesn’t have to be complicated or even last that long, but it brings some variety to the party.

#8 – take a bundle of awkward photos of the guests of honor as they open every single gift.  and then!  upon revealing each gift, gush over them all with “ooohs” and “awws”.  i think this is actually a baby shower law, and we do not apologize for all these pictures.  🙂

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and just like that, once the tissue paper settles and the toys are toted away, you will be done throwing the baby shower of the year.  but, i have good news for you – the joy doesn’t end there.  soon enough, there will be a whole new life to be thankful for, and i suppose that’s what all of it is about after all.  🙂

#carveyourpath

i have been looking forward to writing this post for a long time now.  the reason i’ve had to wait such a while is because i couldn’t get the product i want to write about until just recently.  you might be wondering how that is possible since everything you could ever want is available with the touch of a smartphone or by quickly visiting a website to place an order.  well, the reason i couldn’t just summon this product to my doorstep is because it’s only available in florida for the time being, and now that the suspense has built up greatly, i’ll tell you that what i’m writing about today is jacksonville’s first craft vodka carve.

vodka?  yes, vodka.  if i’m being honest, i wouldn’t consider myself passionate about vodka in really any way, but the reason this vodka is so interesting to me is because a former classmate of mine at uga is the founder!  paul grey and i had a handful of classes together for our mis major, and although i doubt he even remembers me among a sea of faces, i recognized his face immediately once he started promoting carve back in 2014.

i had reached out a couple years ago, asking if online ordering was available for the product, but the answer unfortunately was no.  they weren’t that big just yet, so i’d have to wait until my next trip to jacksonville to give the drink a try.  but, in a fortunate turn of events, my boss ended up moving to fernandina beach and so sweetly brought back a bottle just for me!  thanks, clinton!

after letting the carve chill in the freezer, phillip and i busted out the lemonade to make ourselves a perfectly refreshing drink in this hot, humid georgia july.

the smooth carve with the tart and sweet lemonade was just what the doctor ordered.  easy to drink and no burn, phillip and i happily sipped them down with no trouble at all.  now, i’m sure there are all sorts of distilling buzz words i could throw out there so that it sounds like i know what i’m talking about, but i’m not going to try and fool anyone.  carve was a great mixer for our summertime drink, and i would be happy to purchase another bottle again if it means i get to support a fellow uga alum.  go dawgs!

phillip <3s #carve!

when in philly…

do as the philadelphians do and eat a cheesesteak!  this past week i spent a couple days up in the city of brotherly love for work and decided to, of course, make the most of it.  although the weather wasn’t too welcoming upon my arrival, thankfully the friendly faces at geno’s steaks were.  i’d been to the rival pat’s several years ago and decided it’d only be fair to give the competition a try as well.  plus, a friend of a friend had recommended it, so i was happy to oblige.

i hopped out of the uber and tried not to look too much like a tourist.  well, that approach didn’t work really at all in my favor because there aren’t any instructions anywhere on where to order or how.  i didn’t want to rustle the feathers of any locals by taking an absurd amount of time, so i fessed up and told the employee i was from out-of-town.  he smiled when i shared the news and was happy to make a recommendation that would be sure to please.  he even gave me a pen as a souvenir!  awww.

i plopped myself down at a nearby table and, upon unrolling the sandwich, realized i may have made a mistake by ordering the sandwich and cheese fries.  that cheesesteak was huge and probably enough on its own!  i would never myself eat a sandwich that big with that much filling, much less with a heap of cheese-smothered french fries, but i was sitting right next to the order counter and felt the employees’ eyes peering through the glass, eager to know if i liked their famous sandwich.

i could do nothing else but roll up my sleeves, grab a mountain of napkins, and get to work.  the first thought i had as a bit into the cheesesteak was that the bread was insanely fresh; that i could not deny.  i also couldn’t deny that the rib-eye was sliced perfectly thin.  however, i have to confess that among the fresh bread, savory steak, onions, and cheese, i wasn’t getting the flavor punch i had hoped i would get.  perhaps instead of the grilled onions i should have gone for fresh onions, if that is even an option?  i don’t know, but i eventually powered through messy bites of cheesesteak and slathered french fries to the near end as best i could.

as i finally admitted defeat with a hunk of bread and a few fries remaining, i relaxed a moment to take in the atmosphere of this well-loved (and long-loved) philly establishment.  it’s clear that locals and non-locals alike have a special place in their hearts for the beloved cheesesteak.  open 24 hours a day, geno’s has earned its place as a traditional icon of the city, satisfying hungry wayfarers’ tastebuds no matter the time of day.

the juice you chew

okay, before you go running for the hills about a post called “the juice you chew”, i implore you hear me out on this one.  this past saturday i was at orangetheory with our coach alana, and after a sweaty 55-minute endurance class, we were stretching when she said she had a treat for us.  ooh, there’s nothing better than a hard-earned treat!  well, i couldn’t quite hear everything she was saying about this chuice stuff, but the bit i did hear was something along the lines of “you take a sip, you chew, take a sip, chew, so on and so forth.  it’s only 150 calories per bottle and it is healthy!  the chewing process helps you digest your food, and having something in a bottle for on-the-go lifestyles is perfect.”  out of respect and intrigue i figured i had nothing to lose, so i made my way to the front of the class to grab a bottle for myself.

now, i’d be lying if i said i wanted to chug it down right away.  the thick texture and very green color had me a little worried that i might not even be able to choke down a swallow of the stuff.  however, i’m usually down for trying something new at least once, so i went for it.

i cannot even begin to tell you how pleasantly surprised i was, but i shall try!  first, i enjoy kale, so getting to chomp on it along with some crunchy pine nuts didn’t phase me at all.  and, along with all the other fresh fruit and vegetables, it was quite a flavor explosion.  also, i don’t usually have a texture aversion when it comes to what i eat, so that was something i didn’t really have to get past.

i will say that drinking (or maybe eating?) chuice isn’t the most graceful of acts, in that sometimes you’re slurping up a piece of vegetable while also trying to sip.  just imagine that while trying to drive home.  oh, and here’s a pro-tip when enjoying chuice:  be sure to shake after each sip to make sure the thinner liquid actually mixes in with all the more solid ingredients.  the reason i say this is because if you do not you’ll end up with a big clump of vegetables and fruits at the bottom of the bottle that you cannot get out, which is a shame because all those vegetables and fruits are so tasty!

now, you might be thinking “eh, that evergreen flavor doesn’t look like my cup of tea.”  well, have i got news for you!  they also have one called heart-beet!  seriously!  i cannot make up this stuff, and you all know how much i love beets, so i am convinced it is fate.  you can purchase chuice online or, if you got to their locator page, you can find a store near you where you can indulge.  lucky for me there are plenty of nearby whole foods that carry them, so i just cannot wait to stop by.  do your body something new and good and give chuice a try!

santa barbara & sara’s wedding

I’m back and better than ever!  It’s Kelsey’s dad with a blog about our recent trip to Santa Barbara for my niece’s wedding.  None of the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

FRIDAY

Unlike the trip that Kelsey and I made out to San Pedro for my brother’s birthday a couple years ago, we left plenty early to drive to Hartsfield airport.  While on the way, I serenaded Kelsey and Phillip with a few powerful renditions of “Phillip The Man”.  Fantastic if I do say so myself.  Anyway.  We got to the airport and parked in extended parking row 63 (in tribute to 1963, the year that John F. Kennedy was shot).  Kelsey, Phillip, Kyle, Kari, and I all flew out together – a train wreck just waiting to happen.  We got to the gate and I began to chat it up with a lady sitting near us.  The lady loved my Chinese proverb “Humor is the passport to success.”  What can I say?  The flight itself was long and bumpy, but four and a half hours later we landed at LAX.  Victoria and Clark picked us up and we were on our way to Santa Barbara.

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Clark did a terrific job driving and also helped put together a specially requested “SoCal” playlist, a playlist only with songs about California or songs by artists from California.  We hit massive traffic going up Highway 1/PCH.  But eventually the traffic broke loose and we stopped at Neptune’s Net.  Neptune’s Net is a classic beach-front dive and we enjoyed their food and beer.  Some would say the highlight of Neptune’s Net were the two seagulls who were “doing the wild thing.”  Some would say this “doing the wild thing” was disgusting.  Anyway, just nature.

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We finally got to Santa Barbara where, guilty as charged, it was sunny and 72.  We found our hotel, The Inn at East Beach.  Only stay there if you DO NOT want air conditioning and DO NOT want an elevator.  Otherwise, it was okay.  Lucky for us that the Swedish girls’ volleyball team was staying there also.  😉

We rested and then were on our way to Dargan’s for a reception-type activity for those who were from out of town for Sara and Christian’s wedding.  Needless to say, the “Alabama Rednecks” traveled the furthest.  Anyway, Dargan’s was a huge hit.  All the Rednecks wore Hawaiian shirts, and I thought they looked great.

OMG.  While leaving Dargan’s, Victoria mentioned she was hungry.  Great idea and, even better, there is an In-N-Out in Santa Barbara!!!  Clark did another terrific job driving and got us there safely.  I ordered a double-double, animal-style for both the burger and the fries.  Heaven!!!

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fabulous fabletics!

okay, loyal readers.  today i am finally going to bring you my uncensored, unbiased, and absolutely honest review of kate hudson’s fabletics.  it all started, actually, a long while back when kate began advertising on tv her activewear, fitness, & workout clothing line.  the commercials were and still are completely adorable and fully focused on the product.  and, something that’s even cooler now is that her commercials and website are promoting the clothes for larger ladies, aka real-sized ladies.  can i get an amen?!

so, after watching cute little kate run around with her besties commercial after commercial, i couldn’t resist.  the kicker that really convinced me to give in was their latest promotion, which is two pairs of leggings for only $24.  yes, you read that correctly.  usually one pair at a local athletic store costs at least thirty bucks.  so, two for even less than that seemed like quite a bargain.  plus, i’ve been wearing the same three workout outfits for longer than i’d care to admit, so the timing seemed perfect.

with that i signed up for my vip membership last week and had a fun time picking out which prints, lengths, and cuts i liked most.  and, of course, after you pick out your leggings you get special pricing on all sorts of other items.  so, it was easy for me to throw a tank top into my cart as well.  i mean, when the deal is too good to pass up, you must act on it!

i placed my order, shut my laptop lid, and waited with high anticipation for my package to arrive.  it took about a week to be delivered to my condo stoop, just in time for my 10:00 a.m. class at buckhead orangetheory.  for this morning’s workout i decided to pair my new aventura tank with the polly capri (i also can’t wait to try out the cherise legging, which was my second legging choice).  i loved the polly print on the website and, will confess now, that i also love it in person.  perfect for summer workouts!

polly print up close.

before i hustled out the door, i made the saddest attempt at a mirror selfie.  i mean, look at that awkward smile.  i honestly don’t know how people do this…

and then i asked phillip to take a more flattering photo that, with an undesirable upward angle, ended up being a little bit of a mess, too.

don’t fear, though!  my post workout pics are gnarly!

but, before we get to those, let’s talk about fit and performance of these two pieces.  first, the tank.  i ordered the aventura tank in an extra large (i usually wear xl tops and am bra size 36/38) and was quite thankful it fit just fine.  when i had taken it out of the packaging i was worried it was going to suction itself to every nook and cranny of my torso, but it actually fell on my body in a very comfortable way.

next, i also ordered the polly capri in an extra large.  after i snipped the tag off and began wiggling myself into them, i was quite worried they were going to be too small.  however, once i got them up and on, they felt secure and snug and in control.  the only concern i had was that as i sat to slip on my socks and shoes i heard the tiniest little tears, and my guess is some of the seam stitches were popping.  well, isn’t that nice.  let’s just blame this on the fact that they’re brand new and need to be worn a little bit?  sure, let’s go with that…

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the humble beet

folks, this post is dedicated to the humble, the delicious, the underrated and widely unknown beet.  i’m not sure i could pinpoint in time for you when and where my beet obsession began, but it feels like such a natural pairing to me and it’s almost as if i can never get enough!  i think if you were to ask my friends about my love for beets, they’d probably say the same thing.  i mean, it’s so known among my personal circle that whenever beets are on the menu at a restaurant, everyone immediately hollers, “kelsey!  there’s beets on the menu!  are you going to get them?”  and, i always and happily reply, “of course!”

i love my beets cold, cooked, or now, as i recently discovered, in cracker form!  that’s right, it’s the cracker i’ve been waiting for my entire life.  i was just doing my weekly shopping at the local disco kroger when i moseyed into the cracker aisle, trying to make a snack selection.  i could always go with the traditional cheez-its or ritz crackers but then a beacon of light shone directly in the right spot and called me to the good thins beet crackers.

i squeaked in excitement, left my buggie in the middle of the aisle, and rushed over to the shelf.  i could hardly believe what my eyes were seeing!  i immediately threw them into the cart and rushed home so that i could give them a taste.  now, as a beet-lover, i had high expectations for these crackers.  as i began to munch away, i was waiting for the classic beet flavor to hit me like a ton of bricks but it didn’t quite happen.  it really is more of a hint of beet after you take a few bites and, if you didn’t know they were beet crackers, you probably wouldn’t be able to identify them as such.  however, i am still ecstatic that the cracker industry is trying to raise awareness about this incredible root vegetable that really has so many health benefits and is quite versatile in the kitchen.  from gold beets to red beets, just cook ’em up, pour on some balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkle on some goat cheese and you’re good to go!  #beetsforlife!

the wedding chronicles | decision #2

THE BUDGET

one evening last week i was going through my wedding bag, getting things sorted and paperclipped, when i started to wonder what my next entry for the wedding chronicles would be.  with such a plethora of things i could start planning and describing, i thought it might be hard to choose where to go next, but as i looked through the many piles of carefully categorized ideas, it dawned on me that i had perhaps completely (albeit unknowingly) mistaken the venue as decision #1.  decision #1 truly, i think, should be…that’s right…the budget.  cue the dramatic music!

it’s my general opinion that no one really likes to talk about money, unless they have a lot of it.  i mean, i’m talking millions on millions, and since i’m not in that position, i don’t often bring it up in conversation.  am i the only one?  probably not, so maybe because we don’t usually talk about money i seem to have forgotten to mention it as one of the largest factors when planning your big day.

there are oodles of articles and books written about how to portion the money you have in the most sensible way.  for example, everyone these days says to not skimp on the photographer.  eh, that’s pretty understandable.  i’ll give them that.  however, the different percentage breakdowns you see online or in magazines should, i think, really just be a guide for how you and your fiance/fiancee decide to spend the money.  people also say that you should identify those aspects of your wedding that are most important to you and make those purchases worth your while.  for example, if you want live music over a dj on your big day, be prepared to spend a little more and cut back elsewhere.  or, if a five-course plated dinner is your style, understand it likely won’t come cheap.  i think that if you go into things understanding that wedding services are in high demand and, because of this fact, can charge a premium, you may not be as sticker-shocked as you would be otherwise.

and that brings me to a very honest realization i had early on in this planning:  the typical american wedding is expensive.  let’s say you’re feeding around 100 guests at your reception.  if you go on the more conservative end of the menu, you’re probably spending about $50 per person.  that meal, that one meal right there, is $5,000 of your budget.  yeah, it goes that quickly.  and that might not even include booze!  assuming that’s your thing.

regardless of what your budget is or is not, we must all keep in mind (brides, grooms, and guests, too) that even though the wedding is a large celebration of the vows you exchange with your husband or wife, it truly is a single day in the beginning of a long journey together.  yes, getting married at a castle might be your dream, but it might not be reality.  you might even glow the tiniest bit green with envy as you flip through magazines and shows, seeing couples with unlimited budgets.  however, try not to fret, because at the end of the day your satisfaction with what you can/cannot do will be largely influenced by your perspective on it all.  for phillip and me, we understand that we are spending a lot of money for this event.  we also know we could go over budget and spend more.  and, if we do go a little above, we’ll practice forgiveness because it really is the most special day in our lives so far.  however, i think the way a couple handles their money during wedding planning is a large indicator of how it will be handled in the marriage, and getting off on the right foot, happy with and thankful for what you could afford, seems like a pretty good way to start the rest of your life.

the wedding chronicles | decision #1

THE VENUE

although other couples may take a different approach, i suspect most wedding planning begins with either a date or a venue or perhaps both.  some people want to get married during a specific time of the year; others have had a vision of the ceremony and reception occurring at a certain venue for quite some time.  if either of those factors is at play, you and your betrothed might easily be directed to a specific set of choices to fit into that picture.  however, phillip and i didn’t fall into either of those categories, and here is what our experience was.

first, phillip and i live in atlanta, ga.  known as “the hollywood of the south,” atlanta has grown into quite a diverse and large city.  as one can imagine, atlanta really became an oyster in that we had nearly endless options to meet whatever style and feel we want for our wedding day.  we could easily go urban and modern and luxurious in a high-rise hotel with a view, we could have something more casual at the local brewery, or we could even have a shabby chic celebration in a restored barn just outside the city limits.  do you see where i’m going with this?  in a city like atlanta, having so many options can be inspiring but can also lead to indecisiveness.  so!  my first piece of advise is this:  do your research and decide on your top ten venues to tour.  you might be thinking that ten sounds like a lot, but something to keep in mind is that the pictures you look at online don’t always actually represent the space.  you might come upon a venue that looked like a ten on their website but turned out to be a dud.  or, the flip side, the pictures you saw were only somewhat interesting but then the venue was even better in person.  the takeaway is that giving yourself enough variety but not too many options will hopefully lead to a venue that is a good representation of what you all want.

second, you actually may not know what you want or don’t want until you see it.  unless experienced, this is probably the first wedding you are planning, and as such you likely have no idea how you are going to feel as you go throughout the process.  for example, phillip and i had narrowed down our top option to have the ceremony and reception at the same location but then realized that having the ceremony at a church instead was paramount to us.  we reevaluated our options and ultimately changed our plans.  however, when we signed those contracts and wrote the check, we and our families were elated that we were picking places that would make us both happy.  my advice here is to be flexible, patient, and respectful of one another as you explore your wants together.  you don’t want to rush a decision as important as this one, and choosing a venue is one of the many things that brings you closer as a couple.

something else i have learned, even this early on in the process, is that nearly every decision you make during wedding planning is going to be emotional.  sure, from the outside looking in some choices might seem logical (either option a or option b), but in the couples’ minds, hardly anything is that simple.  considering the fact that your wedding day is probably the most important day of your lives thus far, it’s understandable that you want everything to be perfect.  although i encourage you to fight for what you want, i do see the sense in also not overthinking things, especially the “smaller” things.  maybe i need to write this down and keep it in my wedding binder as a reminder for future decisions…!

finally, as far as choosing where and when to plan your nuptials, i say this:  the space you choose may require you to compromise on other aspects of plans you have for your big day.  for example, the reception site we chose isn’t conducive to serving dinner family-style, something that was originally extremely high on my priority list.  however, as you come across this kind of situation, ask yourself what will be worth it at the end of the day.  did i want us to keep looking for a venue just as close to the church that would also do family-style?  or was i willing to “give that up” for a gorgeous building inspired by the town of glendalough, ireland?  well, the latter ended up being the case, and when this happens, it’s okay.  remember, as they all say, sometimes compromise is part of being married.  what better practice to get than when planning your wedding?  😉

the wedding chronicles

as many of you know, phillip and i have been engaged for about four months now.  not wanting to rush the engagement excitement, we didn’t seriously begin forming wedding ideas or plans until about february.  now, i am not the typical bride in that i wouldn’t say i’ve had a dream wedding in mind since my childhood.  however, i would say i have a pretty strong sense of design and personal style that i would ideally incorporate into our big day.  among all the things every couple wants for their wedding day, in the end a celebration that equally represents phillip and me is certainly the goal.

now, in an effort to begin sourcing ideas that might fit well with our style, i must admit that i have already done my fair share of magazine perusing.  i think my mother, kari, and i went through about ten over the Christmas break just ourselves, and i know for certain that i have two editions of the knot:  georgia sitting in my shoulder bag at the moment.  as i looked (and continue to look) through these glossy pages full of tips and tricks and diy secrets, one thing became glaringly clear to me:  planning a wedding involves nearly a countless number of decisions.  from the venue to the caterer to the photographer and hotel, just thinking about all the things to be done can cause a couple to feel overwhelmed.

beyond the pressure that the modern wedding industry has forced on us (particularly the brides), there is the added sense of anticipation from those who will attend the big day.  we’re all guilty of gossiping about a wedding afterwards (or even during it).  for example, “the colors she picked are so out of season.”  or, “this fish is dry, and the green beans are rubbery.”  or, perhaps, the worst of them all, “this dj is trash!”  yes, we all do it and will continue to do so because, like many other things in life, we often think we can do better on something we have no involvement with whatsoever.

now, i’m not staying i’m excluding myself from the wedding gossip cycle.  we’re all human and it’s something that comes with the territory.  however, this desire to please a large crowd of people whose opinions you value greatly only adds more stress to something that is already so stressful in nature.  although i’d like to put myself above the fray on this one (because i tend to be pretty organized and confident), i know there will be moments when i am subject to it all just like every other person in this position.

so!  where am i going with all of this, you ask?  i’ll tell you exactly where all of this is going.  i am going to document (and count) each decision phillip and i have to make to plan this wedding.  this adventure is two-fold:  first, we’ll be able to quantify, in some way, just how much work is required in planning a wedding these days.  second, i’ll get to celebrate a small victory with each choice we make throughout this process.

i think it will be a joyous, exciting, and unpredictable journey.  so, strap yourself in and let’s see where this road takes us!