Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Traditions

In case you haven't heard, our family is big on holiday traditions. As the years go by and the family grows, some have been added, and some have had to be adjusted to accommodate the many different lives and schedules. But there is always time for fun with family. Here are a few of my favorites:

On Christmas Eve, the whole family gathers and my grandparents' house. Granny has the tables set with the fine china (no surprise there!), and on each place rests a Christmas popper. Right before dinner everyone pops their popper to find a prize and a paper crown, which must be worn throughout the meal. They make everyone a little more colorful...

Christmas Bread
For Christmas morning, Granny makes her famous Christmas Bread, a sweet, delicate bread topped with sugary glaze and red and green maraschino cherries. It's wonderful with a little bit of jelly or just some butter. Last year she didn't make it, and it was quite the controversy! But everyone can calm down - she's making it this year.

My mom started a new tradition last year. On Christmas Eve everyone gets the gift of new pajamas. Now everyone can look cute on Christmas morning.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Sweet Treat

On Thursday I made some yummy Halloween Candy Bark. You can find the recipe here.

Toppings ready to go... love my pumpkin prep bowls... :)

Ready to chill and set...

The final product!

I love this candy bark because it's so colorful and festive. But a couple of warnings: it's yummy, but veeery rich, and it makes a lot. So unless you're sharing or looking to send your system into sugar shock, I recommend halving the recipe. Luckily, we had some friends over for the weekend so we were able to unload some on them. Did I mention that next to Christmas, Halloween is my favorite holiday??

Friday, October 15, 2010

Goodwill Hunting

Like a box of never know what you're gonna find...

As I've said before, I love going to thrift stores and finding things I can give new life to. It's like a treasure hunt. I hadn't been in a while, so the other day I went to Goodwill in Buckhead. It was probably the nicest, most organized Goodwill I've ever been to. This is my loot:

A really beautiful set of vintage-looking lace placemats and matching napkins in excellent condition:

A cool iron/wicker plant stand to which I gave a makeover. Before:

You could use it for wine, but it's great for holding magazines. It also goes perfectly with my red dress picture.

I got a big stack of books. Seriously, $1.50 sure beats Borders or Barnes and Noble. And you can keep your Kindles - there's nothing like a real live book and the feel of the pages between your fingers. I got some cooking/instructional...

And some for pleasure reading...

Which should I read first??

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Update

I apologize for once again having gone off the grid. It's not that I don't have time. It's not that I have nothing to write about. I really don't have an excuse, I just haven't done it. So I'm hoping to make blogging more of a habit...

The Latest:
We've moved to Atlanta, and have pretty much settled into our new apartment (which I LOVE). I promise to post pictures soon, but we are still waiting on a few pieces of furniture and I want to show the final product. The location is great - Mark loves being close to work, and I love having a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's about a mile away.

Mark is loving his job, and the firm is keeping him very busy. As for me, I'm a happy housewife, unemployed by choice. :) Now I'm focusing on getting my event design business with my mom up and running. We have our business license, an almost website, and a paying client - so we're easing into it, but it's really happening!

We've been attending ChristChurch and have been really enjoying it. Great music, great teaching, and a lot of people our age. I'm looking forward to getting more involved there.

I think I'm really going to like living in Atlanta. There is definitely no shortage of things to do and food to taste (I have a long list of places to try). The only thing is that I'm ready to make some friends. We've met people, but we haven't really gotten to know anyone yet. Mark keeps telling me it takes time. I know he's right, but it was so much easier to make friends in college and even when he was in law school. I keep thinking, "Who can we convince to move down here?" Any takers?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Wow, I realize I have not posted in a while. The past few months have been a WHIRLWIND. I am still breathless from the marathon of events that has had my schedule locked up every weekend. And I’m still running! Between graduations, weddings, and baby showers, I am swamped! So I’ll recap the summer so far:

My wonderful husband Mark graduated from USC School of Law on May 7th. I'm so proud of him. I’ve seen him work so hard these past three years, diligently studying, writing, and becoming actively involved in extracurricular activities such as the Law Review and Moot Court. His dedication to academics allowed him to graduate second in his class. I could go on, but I’ll spare you my bragging.

After graduation, we took a lovely weekend trip to Hilton Head Island. We rode bikes on the beach, relaxed in beach-side hammocks, ate room service breakfast on our balcony, and picked out which beach houses we wanted to live in someday. Oh, and I had one of the best dining experiences of my life at The Studio. It’s a small, chef driven half restaurant, half art gallery. Everyone was extremely pleasant, and the food was incredible and very artfully presented. Candles and mellow live music created a romantic atmosphere, and the hostess was also an artist that had an easel set up in front of our table and painted between helping the diners. Definitely my kind of place.

Baby Fever is in the air! So many of my friends and coworkers are sporting the bump, but the mommy-to-be I am most excited about is my dear friend Kathryn. She is going to have a precious baby girl, and I was so happy to host a baby shower for her. It was so was great to see all the girls and celebrate the upcoming arrival of McKenzie.

My brother Cameron graduated high school on the last Friday in May, which ended up getting rained out and (after 2 hours of the administration's disorganized attempt at decision making) moved to the gym. Because of limited space, I didn't get to see my brother graduate. But I did get to wander the halls a bit for the first time since I graduated, which was WEIRD. I thought about all the awkward moments and how the little things I worried about then don’t even matter anymore. I wondered what I would say to 16 year old Kara if I saw her walking down the hall. It doesn’t matter, she wouldn’t have listened anyway.

The next (EARLY) morning we jetted off to San Diego for my cousin Ingrid’s wedding. She had one of the most beautiful receptions I have ever been to. It was held at her great aunt’s fabulous house on top of a hill. It was an incredible site for a reception. Some of my favorite highlights were the sun setting in the background, a fire pit, and at the end of the evening a surprise hot dog and soft pretzel stand as the guests trickled off the dance floor. For pictures, see my facebook album.

We took a few extra days and had some fun in San Diego. We did some sight seeing, went to a Padre's game, and had some AMAZING food (think fresh fish tacos and some of the most beautiful sushi you've ever tasted)!

Wedding events continued with a bridesmaids luncheon for Tiffany the beginning of June, and Tiffany and Jamey's wedding on June 12. Another beautiful wedding reception!

Mark and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary the last weekend of June that started with a French cooking class here in Columbia and ended with a lovely stay in Asheville, NC (with more good food, of course - it's kind of our favorite hobby).

What's going on now: Mark is neck deep in bar study, putting in 14+ hours a day. So that's yucky. BUT - the very very exciting news is that he got a job! This year has been the toughest year for graduating law students - only about 20% of his class has a job. Firms just aren't hiring in this difficult economy. After neither of his summer clerkships resulted in a position, we were so disappointed. The next several months were even more discouraging as more opportunities seemed hopeful, but the thud of rejection letters on our doorstep knocked us back down. But, as I already knew, God had a plan for us all along, even if we couldn't see it yet. Mark got a call from Nelson Mullins (the firm he interned with over the summer in Columbia) saying that they had an open position at their Atlanta office. He interviewed, they offered, he accepted. It is an incredible opportunity, one that we were definitely not expecting a couple months ago. Needless to say, we are extremely thankful to God for providing, and are excited about starting a new chapter in the big city. Now we are in the process of packing and looking for an apartment. So there is more race to be run with no end of the busy craziness in sight, but I love it.

On a totally random note, I really don't understand these hamster KIA commercials...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why I Stopped Coupon-ing

I’ve come across a lot of blog entries on coupons lately – narratives of successful conquests using “southern savers” or marathon CVS extra care trips. In these economic crunch times, several of my friends have become “extreme couponers,” and I applaud them – I’m all for saving money.

I tried it for a while. I clipped coupons from the Sunday paper and looked for the weekly deals online. I organized my coupons in my little accordion folder and put stars next to the corresponding items on my shopping list. I saved some money. But then my house started to get cluttered with newspaper inserts, and I felt pressured to go through every one to look for potential savings. I felt compelled to plan out my strategy before every shopping trip. I came to the realization – coupons, which were supposed to be alleviating financial strain, were STRESSING ME OUT!! And when I added up the time spent clipping, searching, printing, and planning, plus the cost of the newspaper (which we don’t read anyway), printer paper, and ink, it didn’t turn out to be a huge benefit for me. I figure I’m willing to pay that $5-10 for a no-hassle shopping experience.

So I broke FREE! And it feels great. Now I have more time to spend on things I enjoy, like hanging out with my husband or reading an interesting magazine article. I’m not against deals – I will still save a coupon if it is for something I buy on a regular basis, or I will google coupon codes if I’m buying something online, but I couldn’t be happier to be emancipated from coupon slavery!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Friday night as I made the hour drive up I-26 to my parents’ house, the sun was setting in front of me the entire way. All I could think was how beautiful a scene I was being treated to - the sky filled with a rainbow sherbet glow, the thin clouds silhouetted against it like strokes of charcoal, orange light dancing through the rapidly passing trees. As much as I love being with my family and friends, I love these moments alone. I love driving down a long stretch of highway by myself. I love blasting the music. No one to judge what I listen to, how I sing, and no one to question my erratic taste in tunes. I can shift from Smashing Pumpkins to belting out “Strawberry Wine” at the top of my lungs, and no one cares. Sometimes I even listen to a song twice, just because I want to sing it again. And even though I said I didn’t feel like making the long drive, as I near the exit I slow down to let my “me” time last a little longer.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


One of my favorite hobbies is giving new life to found items. I love finding treasures at Goodwill or yard sales to revamp or repurpose. Getting my hands on something and becoming completely engrossed in a project is relaxing to me. I'm always looking for the next thing to "transform." Here are a couple of my creations:


What a mess! I'm a jewelry nut, but how could I find a matching pair of earrings in this disaster?


I found this broiler pan at Goodwill for $2. I hung it in my closet wall, and BAM! Instant earring holder! Now I don't have to waste precious time searching for a match. Plus, I get to see all my earrings laid out neatly, so all I have to do when I'm getting ready is a quick scan of my collection.


We got this dresser for free, but it definitely needed some TLC. We also had a problem in our kitchen - we had very little counter space, and only one drawer in the whole kitchen! We had virtually nowhere to store our plates, pots, pans, and silverware. And so an idea was born...


This is probably my favorite piece in the house. I painted the dresser a lovely rich brown color. I also removed the bottom drawers and lined the resulting "shelves" with some adhesive drawer liner paper to create a space for our dishes and pots and pans. I switched out the hardware for some more modern pulls and handles. The drawers hold our silverware and other kitchen tools. Finally, I had a piece of plexiglass cut for the top, which allows more counter space for our small appliances and for food prep.

Mark's spring break is this week, so I took tomorrow and Friday off for a "staycation." Maybe I'll use the time off for some more makeovers...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This Week

This week has had it's ups and downs.

Sunday Mark's parents came down and took us to the zoo, where we saw a cute baby giraffe and witnessed the mommy and daddy giraffe trying to make another. Awkward...

Then Amanda joined us for burgers at our place, and I served the awesome sushi cake I made for Mark's birthday.

On Monday I wore a cute baby-doll top to work, and TWO clients asked me if I was pregnant. That's depressing.

On Tuesday I tried not to laugh when a girl walked in the bank gabbing on her phone so loud the whole lobby could hear. She said she was so mad, she was going to "murderize someone." So I learned a new word.

On Wednesday I did nothing productive. But I did watch "American Idol." So far, my favorites are Crystal, Lilly, and Andrew, but I don't see an Adam Lambert this year.

I FINALLY got back on the elliptical on Thursday. It's been hard to get motivated after being sick, but I decided there are NO MORE EXCUSES!

On Friday, I had a customer BURP in my face. Like seriously, he burped and then BLEW it right in front of me. I felt the air, and I knew not to breathe again until he was gone. Gross.

And today, we're at my parents' house. My mom and I have been talking wedding stuff for my sister's December wedding. Now we're going to eat hot fudge sundaes and watch "Where the Wild Things Are."

And that's my week!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Crafty Valentine

I guess I'm a pretty festive person. I love decorating for all sorts of holidays. I didn't go all out for Valentine's Day, but here are a few of my creations...

This is what I spent a Saturday afternoon doing... I layered buttons and tied them with wire to create some whimsical "flowers." It took a lot longer than I anticipated to get it just right, but I like the result.

I sprinkled leftover white, red, and pink buttons around some candles and potpourri sticks on a cake plate for a coffee table centerpiece with a little vintage flair.

I made some paper roses that added some simple accents around a vase.

Since Valentine's Day falls smack in the middle of my birthday and Mark's birthday, we opted not to go out for dinner. Instead we cooked a nice romantic dinner at home of scallops with lavender and basil, and for dessert some delicious chocolate croissants. It beat the heck out of fighting the crowds for a mediocre meal at a pricey restaurant!

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Life Right Now - Marriage

I’ve been married over a year and a half. On one hand, I guess we still qualify as newlyweds, and sometimes I think,” Wow…I’m a wife!” On the other hand, it feels like we’ve always been married. It’s weird to think there was a time in my life when we weren’t together, when I didn’t even know Mark, when all my pining over silly boys was a big fat waste of time. But I know that was the time when God was preparing me for my future husband.

In July 2008 we had been married for a few weeks, and I came down with a mild case of the “honeymoon-is-over-blues.” I had spent nine exciting months planning a wedding, coordinating every detail and enjoying every moment leading up to the most fabulous celebration of my life. Then the wedding day came, and it was all a blur. It was over. Just like that. Some weeks later we went to another wedding, and as I looked at the beautiful bride, in my head I was pouting, “It’s not about me anymore…” And though I already knew it, the truth didn’t hit me until a little later, “DUH!” – it was never about me. It was about US starting our lives together as husband and wife. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the wedding and ignore the obviously most important piece, the marriage. The wedding lasted only a few hours, but we have an entire lifetime of excitement ahead of us.

I'm not going to say we have the perfect marriage - who does? We do things that drive each other crazy - I forget to turn off the lights when I leave a room, and Mark keeps all his clothes in piles on the floor - but we learn to live with it. We argue a lot more than we ever did when we were dating, but somehow we always wind up laughing at the end of it. We discover that our selfishness become more apparent in marriage, but we pray that God will give us the grace to consider the other. The challenges of marriage (which I’ll save for another post) are very real. But I love my husband, I love being married, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day - the Value of a Dollar

In honor of tomorrow, I want to share something that really touched me...

Last year I was working at the bank on the Friday before Valentine's Day. A man, probably in his late 60's, came to my window to make a cash deposit. The stack totaled just under $2000 in mixed denominations, and all of the currency was of the older design, dating mostly in the 80's and 90's. I was curious - maybe he was one of those that kept money buried in a tin can in his back yard. I made a comment like, "Wow, this is some pretty old money." He kind of half-smiled and shrugged, "I guess."
I could tell he didn't want to talk, so I didn't press any further. In my mind I was judging him as just another grumpy old customer. He stood quietly as I continued to count his money. I finished the transaction and handed him his receipt, "Is there anything else I can do for you today?" He stood there for a second and then said, "Well, since it's Valentine's Day, I'll tell you a love story. My wife died seven years ago, but the whole time we were married she charged me a quarter for each of my shirts that she washed and ironed. That money is all the money that she earned from me and kept in her trunk."
I don't know what made him decide that today was the day to part with it, but I knew that the love and memories attached to the currency far exceeded its cash value. His story touched me so much that I had another teller swap one of the bills so that I could buy it. Now I keep it in my dresser drawer as a little reminder to enjoy the simple and sweet moments in my marriage that I sometimes take for granted. Because someday when we're a grumpy old married couple, those are the moments I want to remember.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Life Right Now - Work

"I’m a bank teller (Ryan told me to always tell women you work in finance).” – Michael Scott

Every time someone asks what I do, I always answer, “I work at a bank.” I secretly hope that he will not ask the next question, “What do you do there?”, so I don’t have to say that I am a little peon at the bottom of the totem pole cashing checks and taking deposits. Ok, there is actually a lot more to being a teller than that, but either way, it’s not my thing. People get really weird when it comes to money. They are rude, impatient, and smelly (I keep a can of Lysol and a big supply of hand sanitizer at my window at all times!). And the attitudes – is it really so hard to smile? A couple of things that particularly irritate me:

ID’s – I will never understand why people get upset when they have to provide identification for receiving cash or information on their account. People seem to take offense to requests for ID’s – as if I am accusing them of something. Or maybe they think I should automatically know who they are. After all, they have a lot of money in this bank, so shouldn’t every single teller in every branch across the state know their face?? Personally, I am grateful when I get asked for my ID - it lets me know that my privacy and finances are being protected. And it doesn’t take THAT much effort to pull out my driver’s license.

Cell phones – I think it is incredibly rude when someone walks up to my window yapping away on his or her phone. How do you expect me to provide excellent customer service when all that I can interact with is vague facial expressions and a quarter of your attention?

Aside from the unpleasantness of dealing with the general public, the monotony of the job is wearing. I am a creative person, and I like having a physical product to show for my efforts. How wonderful it would be to get paid for doing arts and crafts all day, but unfortunately my search for a “Martha Stewart” position on turned up no hits.

Lest my superiors read this and think I’m complaining, I AM GRATEFUL TO HAVE A JOB! I know a lot of people are not as blessed to have a job that pays the bills, provides health insurance, etc. As long as I am at this job, I will be cheerful and work my hardest. I just know that I am meant for something else in the long run…