Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Luck of the Draw

From my morning ritual of reading everything on MSN and attempting to do anything but work while I'm at the office, I stumbled across an article that discussed the "New Years Good Luck Foods" you should eat to start the new year off right. Being the ever-optimist that I am, I think I can ALWAYS use a little extra luck through my daily life- maybe you should try some of these- who knows, maybe you'll win the lottery in 2009... doesn't hurt to try and most are yummy anyways, so what's another excuse to eat?? (even though this definitely deviates from my earlier post about my new year's resoutions-oops!)
1. Noodles: In many Asian countries, long noodles are eaten on New Year's Day in order to bring a long life. One catch: You can't break the noodle before it is all in your mouth
2. Black-Eyed Peas: A common good luck food in the southern US, black-eyed peas are thought to bring prosperity, especially when served with collard greens (I'll leave this one to friends- no thank you on the peas OR collard greens)
3. Cabbage: In Germany, Ireland, and parts of the US, cabbage is associated with luck and fortune since it is green and resembles money
4. Lentils: Thought to resemble coins, lentils are eaten throughout Italy for good fortune in the New Year
5. Pomegranate: Long associated with abundance and fertility, pomegranates are eaten in Turkey and other Mediterranean countries for luck in the New Year (these are one of my favorite fruits, especially since you have to work so hard to get to eat them- and this time of the year they are actually ripe!)
6. Fish: In the US, Asia, and Europe, people eat fish to celebrate the new year. In some countries, people associate fish with moving forward into the new year since fish swim forward

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

This time tomorrow, Rory and I will be headed to Tunica, Mississippi to ring in the new year with some of my most favorite people... Matt and Jenna Vaughn. Matt and I have known each other since our freshman year in college and when he began dating Jenna a few years ago, her and I became instant friends. Last December I was one of Jenna's bridesmaids in their wedding and got to share in their very special wedding day. They are such a sweet couple and I know Rory and I will have a great time celebrating our 2nd New Year's Eve celebration with them at the casinos. Even better news is that we lucked out from some very well-connected people and got a FREE (Yes I said free) room at Harrah's Tunica- not only is this hard to come by, but on NYE even more so, so needless to say we are happy we'll get to spend more of our hard-earned money on slots, roulette, and craps (my dad will be so proud-haha).

I've also decided exactly what my New Year's resolution(s) will be... drumroll please!! I know I will be needing some assistance from my friends and family on these so any help you'll be happy to supply will be much appreciated, as well =)

1. Become Debt Free: put it this way, I have a credit card and I'm not afraid to use it, but 2009 is going to mark my year to get out of debt FOR REAL! I have already paid off one and am working on my Express card so I can finally close it, but I need to work on my Spain/Cruise debt from this past summer- and all those other miscellaneous purchases "I just had to have." I'll be combining Dave Ramsey's living on cash and Oprah's debt diet into an individual plan I'll call my own and I think with the proper budgeting on my part, I'll be able to get most of it taken care of... just make sure to tell me NO when I ask if I need to buy a new outfit if and when I'm out shopping with you one day soon. I will also be putting all that "extra" money into my savings, not only because I need to, but you never know what may happen- wedding and baby showers, spur-of-the-moment weekend trips, and car problems are EXACTLY what this is all about

2. Read my Bible: to this day, I have never been able to get all the way through any of the bibles I own, and this Christmas my grandparents gave me a new bible which I think will make it easier on me to understand and really learn about God's word. I am going to make it I just know it and I have already promised myself that this IS the most important resolution I have made, not only for me as an individual, but for me to grow as a christian. So if you ask me if I'm reading anything this next year and I say no, you have free reign to give me a pinch or do something just as hateful- like steal my Starbucks or other yummy treat =)

3. And last but certainly not least... get healthy: yes, I work out on a frequent basis, but what good does that really do my body when I consistently fill it back up with french fries and desserts on the weekends. I have started keeping a food and exercise diary, which breaks down day-by-day what I eat and how much I workout and I have to be honest, it really does make you think twice about what you're scarfing down that day during lunch or those "late-night after party sessions" I tend to frequent on the weekends. My goal is this- to workout AT LEAST 3 times a week, avoid eating dinner after 8 PM (this means no more 3 AM Taco Bell feasts), and limit myself to my indulgences (i.e. desserts, bread at restaurants, and sweet tea)
So blog friends, please pray that I can make 2009 just as successful as 2008 has been: personally, professionally, and sprirtually. I know I can't do it without the support of those closest to me and your prayers and well-wishes mean more than you could possibly imagine. I'm thinking really positively right now and know in my heart I can make it happen
"Now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been"


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

As this will most likely be my last post this week before I leave work to celebrate the holidays with my family, I just wanted to take a moment to tell everyone "Merry Christmas". I hope your holiday is a very special one filled with those you hold dearest to your heart. For those of you traveling, I hope your trip is a safe one especially with all of the treacherous weather that seems to be sweeping across the country right now. I plan on having lots of good food to eat, indulging in some of my grandmother's infamous divinty, going to candlelight church and Ruth Chris on Christmas Eve with my parents and Rory, and relaxing as much as possible. I love every minute of Christmas and I'm so happy it's finally here!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Right Down to the Last Minute

If you're like me, you tend to wait until the very last minute to finalize all your Christmas shopping. I find that I save a lot more money, and get better deals on most presents, especially when you look for online specials, too. Just this morning, I came into work and checked my Gmail account just like I always do only to be bombarded with emails out the wazoo for even better deals- here are a few I decided to check out for myself:

1. New York and Company- always a great retailer for work clothes, EVERYTHING in their store (online, too) is 50% off- NO EXCEPTIONS! Doesn't get much better than that

2. Express- Sweaters, Tops, Jeans, and Pants up to 50% off with an additional 30% off already reduced clearance items... and by looking online, they have great holiday party wear, too!

3. Banana Republic- up to 60% off their sale items, and this stuff is GREAT! lots of warm winter sweaters and plenty of coats, which I am hoping for this Christmas =)

4. The Gap- since my beloved roomie works at the Gap during holiday season so she can spoil herself with all those discounts, I usually get a daily reminder about all the items on sale when she brings them home as presents for her family- trust me, they've got some fantastic gifts for those on your lsit- I always love their winter floor sets, and most items are 40% off or more this weekend... in-store and online!

5. The Limited- FINALLY, they started an online shop you can buy from, and this weekend, everything on their site is 40% OFF- you also get free shipping with $100 purchase (which we know isn't hard to get to)

6. Old Navy- up to 60% OFF ONLINE! gifts starting at $5, 10, and 15 for the whole family, and if you order by December 21st, your order will be delivered by Christmas Eve (just in time!)... in addition, accessories start at $2- you can find something for EVERYONE (even your family's beloved pet here)

Happy Shopping this weekend- and make sure to watch out for all those crazy people out there! I am sure they will be ready and waiting to take you down if you try to scoop up the last Nintendo Wii out there (my shout-out to someone who FINALLY got one- haha!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch

I finally made it... for the past 3 years, The Grinch has been featured at Opryland's ICE exhibit, and I, after must negotiating, persuaded my entire family to enter Who-Ville for some major fun in the freezing cold. Needless to say, we were all sniffling by the time we left, as they have to keep the indoor environment a frigid 16 degrees to keep the ice from melting, but we had a great time slipping and sliding around. My only complaint is the royal blue parkas they make you wear- they swore to me that they "clean" between uses, but I'm still a little skeptical... bring your antibacterial gel and you should make it out alive =). Here are some pictures from our fabulous time- if you haven't visited yet, there is still time!

Me in the Igloo (I know, the jacket is AWFUL)

My Mom and Dad (yes she LOVES the camera!)
Me inside the Candy Cane... yes this is for kids, but I fit, too

Monday, December 15, 2008

Celebrating the Season... A Christmas Party

As part of my Rec Team obligations this year, I was responsible for planning the R. W. Beck Nashville Christmas Party- we always rent out a place that speaks to the heart of everything that is "Nashville"... last year we rented out a private room at the infamous Wildhorse Saloon, complete with line dancing, buffet-style food, and live music.

This year, we stepped it up a notch (so all us girls could find another reason to get dressed up) and rented out the top of Merchants Restaurant on Broadway. With an exciting menu including Jack Daniel's encrusted sirloin, asparagus wrapped in bacon, shrimp and lobster fondue, pineapple glazed ham, and chocolate dessert fondue, we had a great time - and the open bar didn't hurt, either! Afterwards, a big group of us headed out to The Stage for some more music city madness- needless to say, the party was a success and I can't wait to do it all over again next year

Ladies at the Party All Dressed Up!

My Favorite Ladies... Jacqueline, Courtney,
Random Guy, Me, and Jennifer
(Oh how I wouldn't survive at work without them)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Tie That Binds

Brad Pitt, eat your heart out... I saw the new GQ Cover the other day on People and I have to admit, I was shocked at how revealing it is, but more in awe of just how great Jennifer Aniston looks - she is 39 years old and with this new magazine cover, I'm sure she has men AND women everywhere oohing and aahing about just how AMAZING she looks.

From day one, I've been a "Team Aniston" supporter... homewrecker Angelina Jolie came on the scene and that was pretty much the end of the beloved Pitt's =(. I know it takes two to tango as they say, but I'll always love "Rachel" and I am happy to see she is doing so well. She's had a pretty rough couple of years as far as breakups are concerned, but her career is going strong, she looks happy with John Mayer back on her arm, and her unbelievable body says it all... She definitely puts a whole new meaning to the Red, White, and Blue.. congrats Jen- you win Most Photogenic for sure!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Crazy Christmas

This past weekend, Meg and I hosted our 2nd Annual Christmas Party at our apartment... we were a little worried about spacing issues because we had invited SO many people, but it turned out perfectly and I think all of our guests had a great time. Needless to say, we had lots of cleaning to do on Sunday once our great shin-dig was over, but we both love to entertain and were fortunate that so many of our great friends gave us the pleasure of their company during this special holiday season. Hope you enjoy our pictures!

The Hostesses with the Mostesses...
(AKA the Poinsetta and the Toy Soldier)

Me and Jenna (even tacky, she looks adorable) Me and My Christmas Tree Rory

Amber and Katie
Candice, Dirty Santa Adam, Rory, and Me

Monday, December 8, 2008

Big News... He Engaged Her

The Soon-To-Be Mr. and Mrs. Luke Graves
So this past Friday after work, I was strolling through Opry Mills doing some Christmas shopping when I got a call from Rory. He said he had just gotten off the phone with Amber and that Luke had just "engaged her"... of course I was quick to remind him that what he actually meant was that Luke had "proposed to her", but the news was just as exciting and the specifics weren't that important.

Rory and Amber have been best friends since he moved to Nashville in 8th grade, and both of us couldn't be happier for the newly-engaged couple. Amber and I had become friends through Megan Hurt and now we've grown really close because her and Rory live together. Amber is such a kind-hearted friend and I think Luke and her are absolutely perfect for one another... the celebrations kicked-off Friday night with a get together at the Dales' (Amber's parents) and you could tell they were both so very excited to begin this exciting next chapter to their lives. I am so happy for them and wish them many years of happiness!
Rory and Amber Showing Love for their Auburn Tigers!
Amber, Me, Meg, and Hurt at our Favorite Place

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Saving Money... One Dollar at a Time

So I completely stole this post from The Nest , but I think with our current economic state, we need to start thinking about small ways we can cut back and start living on less. I for one am trying to get out of debt, and I'm trying to save more, too. They published "10 Ways to Save Money Now" and I highly recommend this for those deliberate spenders out there just like me...

1. Trade Starbucks for, well, more bucks. If you’ve already spent $6 on a beverage alone and it’s not even lunchtime, you’ve got a bad breakfast habit. If expensive coffee drinks are draining your funds yet you can’t give up the caffeine, brew your own or give the old deli coffee a try. At less than $1, you’ll be able to save up to $25 a week and a whopping $1,300 a year!
(I guess those grande non-fat peppermint white chocolate mochas really DO add up)

2. Don’t get taken to the cleaners. If you’ve ever been to the dry cleaners, you’ve no doubt scratched your head at the diabolic pricing structures. How can it really cost that much? Spare yourself the bitterness and reevaluate your dry-cleaning needs. Try to cut your bill in half by laundering some items at home. (My roomie bought one of those Dryel systems and she said it works great- or you can wash all dress clothes on gentle and air-dry)

3. Brown-bag it. If you eat lunch out five times a week and spend about $5 a clip, you’re looking at about $1,300 a year in sandwiches, soups, and other fast foods. But bringing your lunch doesn’t have to suck. If you stock up on readymade items you can save up to $2 to $3 a day. The only thing you need to do is remember to bring it with you!

4. Dine in rather than out. Craving that Indian spot you love to hit on Friday nights? Try making that at home. By digging up your favorite recipes online and then heading to the store for the ingredients, you’ll save money and have leftovers for the next day. (try having a fun night in at home- we do it all the time- cook a nice dinner and relax by watching a movie and drinking a bottle or two of wine!)

5. Ditch the brand names. We’re not just talking about Coach and Polo; we’re talking about Tylenol, Hellmann’s, and Charmin too. Whenever possible, choose the generic store brand over your favorite label. Most of the time, the formulation is exactly the same; you’re just paying for the packaging. A dollar or two here and there adds up! (I buy generic when it comes to medicine, trash bags, and cleaning prodcuts, but if you're like me, there are some things you can't do generic.. also clip those coupons- it REALLY adds up!)

6. Give the horse a rest. If you’ve been called a “shoe horse” or a “clothes horse,” this message is for you. If you’re known for buying clothes, makeup, pillows, or home decor in excess, it’s time to cut back. Reigning in mindless spending -- and wearing what you already have -- can save you hundreds, if not thousands, a year. (this has me written all over it)

7. Jump on the wagon. Alcohol can be a diet-wrecker and a budget-buster. When you’re drunk, you think nothing of buying a round of Grey Goose shots for your nearest and dearest friends (and the awesome dudes you met 10 minutes ago). Later, you go home and wash the booze down with eight slices of pizza and a side of wings. When you control your drinking, you’ll have more money in your pocket and less flab around your waist. (ding, ding, ding- I need to tape this on my forehead when I go out on the weekends)

8. Carpool. A year or two ago, we would’ve laughed this idea off. We’re all down with saving money, but carpooling? Doesn’t sound very easy! Fast-forward to 2008 with gas prices climbing higher and higher; suddenly, saving money is no laughing matter. By splitting the drive and cost of gas with just one other person, you can reduce commuting costs by half -- add another person and save more!

9. Watch at home. With the average price of a movie ticket at almost $7 per person, a night out at the movies is no longer a cheap date. Why invest your hard-earned money in what could be a Hollywood flop? Instead, consider a service like Netflix for less than $10 a month. If you hate the movie, you’ve only spent a dollar or two and you can ship it right back to where it came from. (or if you have a Red Box in your area, it's only $1 to rent a new release for 24 hours- WE LOVE IT!)

10. Indulge yourself at home. If manis and pedis have become weekly must-haves, it’s time to cut back. Extend the life of your mani/pedis by repolishing rather than running back to the spa for every chip or smudge. By investing in the tools of the beauty trade (remover, polish, and a manicure set), you can save a good chunk of change a month. Now that’s beautiful.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back to Baking...Dream Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Since I like to bake more than say "cook", this Thanksgiving I was assigned by my lovely mother to bring a dessert to the big family celebration... wanting to think out of the box and prepare something that wasn't necessarily a seasonal/holiday dessert, I decided to try my very 1st pineapple upside down cake. Leave it to the folks at Kraft to come up with a recipe that is simple, yet looks quite impressive when you're finished.
Here's the recipe and my finished creation:
3 cans (8 oz. each) pineapple slices in juice, undrained
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
6 maraschino cherries, halved
1/2 cup Chopped Pecans
1 pkg. (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
1 envelope DREAM WHIP Whipped Topping Mix (you'll find this in the baking aisle)
4 eggs
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350°F

  • Drain pineapple, reserving 2 Tbsp. of the juice; set aside
  • Mix brown sugar and butter in 13x9-inch baking pan (I used a round pan to make it look more presentable on a cake plate)
  • Arrange pineapple slices in pan, cutting slices if necessary to evenly fit onto bottom of pan
  • Place cherry half, cut side up, in center of each slice
  • Sprinkle with the reserved pineapple juice and pecans
  • Beat dry cake mix, dry whipped topping mix, eggs, and water in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed 2 minutes and then beat on medium speed 4 minutes
  • Carefully spoon into prepared pan
    Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until top springs back when lightly pressed (I only cooked it for 4o minutes because the pan was smaller)
  • Let stand 10 minutes and then invert onto serving plate (I let it stand a lot longer and edged the pan with a knife to make it easier to get out)
  • Let stand 1 minute and remove from pan -serve warm or cooled

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Thanksgiving Holiday...

This year for Thanksgiving, my parents and I got to host our family's celebration at their house (my aunts, grandmonther, and mother rotate each year so it's not a burden on the same person every year). It was so great to be home in my bed and in my room and hanging out with my parents Wednesday night and all day Thursday- we finally got to play with the new family toy, Nintendo Wii, and we are officially hooked- my dad practically bought everything at Best Buy because he said we "needed it". Let's put it this way, at this rate, my parents and I will be rock legends of Guitar Hero- it was my first time to play, but we couldn't stop- we stayed up til 2 AM playing it because we kept trying to get better... I wouldn't say we'll be playing at any local venue just yet, but we've improved just the same.

The next morning the family and Rory came to dig in to lunch. The house looked beautiful and the food was amazing... makes me happy and thankful to be so blessed with a family who is so close. That day we watched the Titans kick some Lion butt, played even more Mario Kart on the Wii, and then went to bed because Mom and I had some major shopping to do on Black Friday...

Here is my dad carving the beautiful turkey

And I had to get a close-up of our 24 lb. massive bird!

Our festive fall table all ready to eat on

We were out the door at 6 AM and had to make a pit-stop at Starbuck's to get our energy jucies flowing and then we headed to Target. We definitely did some damage in the DVD department, but it was hard not to because EVERYTHING was on sale. I racked up with some new releases, too! We also went to The Avenue and got some great deals on shoes... for ourselves of course! All in all, it was a great holiday and I got to spend some much needed alone time with Mom =)

Then we traveled to Auburn to visit Roy's family and celebrate his grandmother's 80th birthday- we had a great time visiting with his family and friends, and watching some football (although I know he wouldn't want me talking about it because Auburn most definitely didn't continue their Iron Bowl streak- we'll leave it at that). We also went to the movies with his aunt and uncle and saw Four Christmases with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, which was hilarious and I highly recommend light-hearted comedies like that during the holidays just to take your mind off the stress and hustle-and-bustle of the season.

Rory and his best friend Patrick out at 1716 in Auburn

Rory and I out with his hometown friends

Pool Time at the Bar

Happy Birthday Britney...

It's official... it's Britney's 27th birthday, her heavily anticipated CD "Circus" was released today, and Ms. Britney herself confirmed live on Good Morning America this morning that she will indeed travel around the world ON TOUR in 2009... can today get any better? Yes it can... she will also be on this month's cover of Glamour (the pictures above are taken from her photo shoot). Seems like all is falling into place for the pop star and I couldn't be happier- I am like a teeny bopper all over again and I'm not ashamed to admit I am a huge Britney fan (like my friends don't already know this)... with her announcement of the World Tour I went to her website for all the details - she may not be coming to Nashville, but on March 5, 2009, she will be at the Philips Arena in Atlanta and I assure you I WILL BE THERE (Mom/Roy, if you are reading this, WOW- what a GREAT Christmas present that would be!)
Also, if you want to see a list of her complete tour dates, click here
P.S. Please go pick up her new album- of course I got mine this morning promptly at 8 AM when my Target opened- haha! It's on sale for $9.99 and I promise it is well worth the money... Congrats Britney!
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