Thursday, November 28, 2013

11 Times the Thanks

Tomorrow is the official 11 month mark for Alex and I's marriage.  Just yesterday he commented about how exactly 11 months ago we were enjoying an evening with family and friends at Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar in Lafayette, followed by Cajun dancing lessons and a night filled with shenanigans (cue bachelor/ette party memories).  The following night, we enjoyed a delicious Cajun dinner at Prejean's Restaurant, and the night after that, know.  So much greatness packed into one extended weekend!

In honor of this Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it was appropriate to make a quick list of 11 (for 11 months) things I'm thankful for in this first year of marriage. 

1. Alex - Do I really even have to explain this one?  Without him, this list wouldn't exist!  Really though, it's been a fun year, all the way from opening gifts and putting together our house, to repairing what seems like monthly fix-it's around said house, to finally spending holidays together.  He's a good one and I'll leave it at that.

2. Our Home - I mentioned this above, but I'll expand on it.  Since we didn't live together (or even in the same state, for that matter), it's been a special experience to build our home together.  It's the perfect size for us, and nestled in a quaint little neighborhood with just the right amount of space for our trio of furbabies.  Regardless of where we settle or how many times we move between now and then, our first home will always hold special memories for us.

3. Our Jobs - I whine about these a lot, but ultimately we are really very blessed in this department.  Alex is one of the youngest in his position for comparable programs across the country, and I am SO proud of him for working his tail off to make that happen (while moving across the country for me, I might add).  In my heart I dream about the day where I can stay home with a growing family, but in the meantime, I have landed not one but two (think my previous job in AR) jobs I once only dreamed of.  It's fun to work for an organization that has been in my life for nearly 20 years, and we are very blessed to have the resources to live comfortably at such a young age. 

4. Proximity - Again, after spending two years (the entirety of our pre-marriage relationship) doing the long distance thing, it is soooooooooooooooo nice to be past that season of our lives.  Seeing each other almost daily, enjoying meals together, and just sharing our lives in person is a-mazing.  In this category, I include the joys of proximity to my family.  Living where we do now has cut my travel time to home in half, and as a result we have been able to see my family on a much more regular basis.

5. Furbabies - Animals are really not "my thing," especially dogs...but I did inherit a "stepdog" when we got married.  Including my beta fish and the two kittens we adopted in April, these days our "wee" count is up to four.  The wees, as we call them, provide daily entertainment as well as that always-appreciated unconditional love.  In this next year, we hope to grow the family even more with another wee...of the human variety, that is.

6. Photos/Video - Thanks to our photographer and videographer, we have some awesome footage from our wedding season.  It's pretty incredible to look back over everything and relish in those moments we shared with our closest family and friends.  Sometimes we find ourselves watching video footage on repeat for an entire evening.  And you know what, I'm not embarrassed to admit that either.

7. Visitors - Expanding on another topic mentioned previously, but I'm going with it.  Since we have so few friends in Monroe, having visitors is very special for us.  Mad props to my parents for visiting several times, as well as Dawn and Jen/Logan. We love our house (see above, lol) and enjoy hosting others; unfortunately, we don't get to do that on a regular basis so come visit us, people! 

8. Travel - Alex and I both travel for work regularly, but it's not the same as when we are able to travel together.  In this year, we have visited his family in North Carolina twice with another trip in the works for Christmas.  We went to Dallas in June, and if all goes well, we'll be back there again next weekend to visit Dawn.  Now that a bowl game for ULM is out, we're also looking at doing a road trip through western NC and TN or GA for our anniversary.  We definitely have the travel bug and I hope it stays that way!

9. Mexican food - Random, and just a little silly, but it's kind of ridiculous how often Alex and I eat Mexican food of some variety.  Tortillas heated with shredded cheese (we call them "quesadillas"), enchiladas, fajitas, chips and guac...the whole deal.  We are Mexican-eating machines!  So maybe I need to branch out a little, but hey, it works. 

10. Smart phones - It seems I was the last person on the planet to get a smart phone, but I totally love having one now.  More specifically, I love the android platform and Google Play is so easy to navigate.  Of course, we all need to take a break every now and again but I am definitely grateful for finally having an accurate built-in GPS system, and picture messaging has officially taken me out of the dark ages. 

11. Blogging - These days, blogging gets me really excited.  It's a slow process for me but I am really interested in soaking up all there is to know about graphic design, building a page, and increasing marketability/readership.  I won't claim to be the next big thing, but I would like to continue learning an toying around with all things blog-related.  It's really become a fun hobby for me and I hope to keep it up for many years to come. 

Okay, so much for a "quick" list...sorry about that.  I really should quit pretending that I'll ever be able to write concisely.  Ah well.  In any case, ya'll eat a lot, pray a lot, and make a lot of memories as you enjoy this turkey day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Game Day Mug (Part 2)

Friday, November 15th was Alex's 29th birthday; this entry is Part 2 of 2 describing a weekend filled with fun events celebrating his big day. 


On Saturday, we awoke excited and ready to continue our leisurely weekend with a very rare day off for both of us.  Wanting to take advantage of having some free time in Monroe, we decided to check out the Gumbo Festival at the RiverMarket downtown.  The weather was not promising with gloomy, overcast, and misty skies, but we ventured out anyway in hopes of scoring some yummy seafood gumbo.  Of course, being the "Authentic Cajun" that I am, I was a bit skeptical of the promise of delicious gumbo in north Louisiana.

Once we arrived, my concerns were confirmed - not only was the RiverMarket practically deserted compared to its usually sidewalk-lined vendor booths, but in fact there were only four (?!) vendors selling gumbo.  (Truly, I think there were only three, but Alex swears there were four so I'll go with it.).  What the.....?

After standing in line for a minute, I looked at Alex and asked if he really wanted that gumbo.  I mean, what were the chances the stuff would actually be decent?  We had hibachi leftovers sitting in the fridge at home, and knew we would be out for dinner again that night.  Needless to say, it didn't take long for us to rethink the gumbo idea, and instead retreated to the car after making a quick walk through of the craft booths.  North Louisiana, you should be ashamed of yourself!  

That evening, we coordinated dinner/drinks at a local sports bar (Fieldhouse Bar & Grill) with a group of Alex's coworkers.  Per usual, fewer showed up than committed earlier in the week, but we went with it.  Everyone decided to participate in the weekly college football promotion, where patrons purchase a Game Day Mug filled with your choice of draft beer for $5.  With this purchase, patrons select a college football team to cheer for, and each time that team scores a touchdown, the patron receives a free refill or top-off of their beer.  Sounds like a good deal, right?  Oh but it only gets better...

Happy Birthday, Alex!  Yuuuum!

To really "get it," you have to understand that this group of guys does sports for a living.  I mean, they are professionals, people.  Knowing Baylor has consistently put up 70 points on most teams, and realizing the team they played this week (Texas Tech) had little to no chance at stopping them, the boys all chose to root for Baylor with their mugs.  I let Alex pick my team, and since I was the designated driver, he chose Texas Tech thinking I might get one or two refills out of the deal (which is all I really wanted anyway).  And still, going the mug route meant paying less in the long run than getting a second or third beer over the course of the night.

Ironically enough, Texas Tech scored the first touchdown of the game, and two after that before Baylor even made it on the scoreboard.  The boys were wailing and wriggling in their seats, starting to worry about their choice (not only for their dry cups, but for the driver sitting across the table).  I couldn't (and wouldn't) drink three beers in such a short time frame, so I did end up sharing with everyone anyway.

As the night wore on, Baylor found their groove and the Bears put a good beating down on TT.  At one point, the boys filled an overflow cup (formerly used for water) with their excess beers in order to receive their free refills and not waste what they already had.  This "community cup" was later passed onto another coworker who arrived late from working the volleyball game that evening.

The bartender told Alex his cup had a hole in it; hence the second layer.

The final score was 63-35 (Baylor), which meant that for just $10, Alex and I "earned" 14 beers between the two of us.  Seriously - you can't beat that!  (No, I didn't drink 6 beers.)  We also played skeeball and darts during halftime, which made for some fun entertainment.  A couple of other coworkers happened to be there that evening, and one even bought Alex two shots towards the end of it all.

Me:  "Show me the football move."

Going into the night, I didn't really know any of the guys very well, but they welcomed me with open arms and I didn't feel awkward, comfortable, or bored as I expected.  For the first time since we moved here I almost felt like we had an actual group of friends.  It was so strange but refreshing.  Looking back, I still say I need some girlfriends around here, but the guys were nice enough and maybe there is some potential after all...

It's a start.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

:29 Gifts (Part 1)

Friday, November 15th was Alex's 29th birthday; this entry is Part 1 of 2 describing a weekend filled with fun events celebrating his big day.


I like to joke that it's unfair for Alex to be on the receiving end of three gift giving "holidays" in a span of six weeks.  (His birthday is 11/15, then there is Christmas, quickly followed by our anniversary on 12/29.)  In preparation for the big event, I did some searches online looking for ideas on making the day a special one despite the fact that we feel pretty isolated from any network of family or friends here.  There were many interesting ideas, but it was just a matter of figuring out which were most feasible and then planning the execution.  For example, I liked the idea of throwing a kid-themed party (in honor of his "final year of youth"), but it didn't seem practical without a solid group of people to invite or share in the celebration.

After sharing gift ideas for his birthday with family, I was left with the boring stuff, which was mostly things he needed but weren't very fun or exciting.  One of the ideas I found online involved the concept of hourly gifts, or opening a gift each hour on the minute that corresponds with a person's age.  This idea worked really well with my lack of a singular gift option, and evolved into me moving forward with buying several "little" (practical) gifts he could open at intervals throughout the day.  While the original concept suggested 12 hours worth of gifts, as I prepared for Alex's day of gifts, his eventually involved into a 16-hour gift marathon.

Without further ado, check it out!

6:29 a.m. - Good morning/birthday kiss!  (Ok, we say "Good morning, I love you," with a kiss every day, but I still think it counts!)

7:29 a.m. - [I left earlier than usual to be sneaky in preparing for another surprise...] Alex opened his card, the outside of which read, "Open this at exactly 7:29 a.m."  The card explained the "hourly gift" concept and served as the first tangible gift for the day.

Meanhile, I conspired with an intern in Alex's office to decorate his office before he arrived that morning.  I was *almost* caught in the act as I saw his vehicle parked outside the building on my way out.  Whew!


8:29 a.m. - A box of his favorite pop-tarts.  (These are delicious, by the way!)

9:29 a.m. - Fresh baked double chocolate chip cookies.  (After decorating the office, I rushed home to work on these.)

10:29 a.m. - Taking a break from food, his next gift was a reversible brown/black belt.  This was one of those "needed" items that seemed like a boring gift on its own.

11:29 a.m. - This assortment includes fun dip, a huge lollipop, a can of Cheerwine, and toothbrush holders.  The toothbrush holders were needed, but at one point I thought I was short a few gifts, so I prepared the other assorted items and then later found out I had more gifts than planned, so these were combined.

12:29 p.m. - It just so happened that we (finally) received our wedding album a few days before Alex's birthday, so it seemed the perfect choice for his 12:29 gift, seeing as how we were married on December 29th!  Apparently the bow from this gift wrap was also a nice...neck tie/boutonniere?

1:29 p.m. - No birthday is complete without cake...pudding!

2:29 p.m. - New undershirts!  Alex has plenty of white undershirts, but black ones were requested recently, so this little assorted pack was thrown in the birthday gift mix.

3:29 p.m. - Recently, Alex brought home several bottles of red Powerade from the training room, so I figured this (cheaper) version would be greatly appreciated.

4:29 p.m. - This gift crossed time zones!  Again, at one point I worried about being short a few gifts, so I contacted Alex's best friend, Justin, to see if he would be interested in serving as one of the gifts.  Though I would have loved to have flown him in for a big surprise (he lives in NC), a phone call was the more practical option.  It worked out for Justin to take a break from work for a few minutes to give Alex a call and wish him well.  Note:  This one *almost* had to be improvised, because Alex asked me for the gift at literally 4:29 p.m., but Justin didn't get to call until 2 minutes was a close call!

 5:29 p.m. - On our way out the door for dinner, Alex gleefully tore this gift open.  Peanut butter M&Ms are our favorite!

6:29 p.m. - Designed to be opened at dinner, this gift was delayed for about 30 minutes since we decided it would be awkward to open gifts while sitting at the hibachi table with random strangers.  I will say we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of this CD, and we would definitely recommend it to others.  Very funny!

7:29 p.m. - Thinking fresh breath after dinner would be important, a pack of Stride sweet peppermint gum was the next gift.

8:29 p.m. - Three gifts in one came on this hour - cards from his mom, dad, and stepmother were opened.

9: 29 p.m. - I thought we were through, but after a phone call from his dad, Alex checked the front door and to our surprise, a package awaited!  One of our kitties, Ash, thoroughly enjoyed helping Alex open this gift, and she even got a chance to test out the new ladder golf set.  ;-)

Looking back, I'm very pleased with how everything turned out.  For a while there, I was worried that somehow I'd get something wrong, or the gifts wouldn't be available at exactly the right time, but in the end nothing major happened.  And really, if something had been just a little bit "off," the day would have still been just as special because Alex knows I care and put a lot of thought into preparing something unique for him.

I will say that little gifts add up quicker than one might think.  None of the gifts were huge or costly, but they were all needed or little "splurges" for us, as we don't buy any of those things regularly.  Ultimately, that was the whole point anyway...instead of one "big gift," smaller, special moments throughout the day.  We definitely had fun with it, and even I was excited watching the minutes tick by between each gift.  Overall, I think it was a great success!

There you have it, :29 Gifts!

 P.S. Alex thought he was clever, capturing this screen shot on his phone - 11:15 a.m. on 11/15.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Remember how I mentioned a fun project Alex and I were working on together?  That project was spearheading a collaborative event between ULM Athletics and 4-H in the Northeast Region. Agricultural/4-H Night and Tailgate at ULM!

Now, before I go too far, I should say this idea is definitely not original.  LSU has been hosting a "4-H Night with the Tigers and Tailgate" for the last several years (I think it began in my junior year of high school, so... 10 years ago?).  This event started small but has exploded over the years, and for good reason.  LSU is one of the land grant colleges in LA (ULM is not), and there are a whole heck of a lot more Tigers fans than Warhawks out there.  So, why ULM?

Well, the most obvious reason here is that Alex works for ULM and I work for the LSU AgCenter (4-H).  But deeper than that was an idea I had to create something 4-H in Northeast Louisiana could really be proud of.  Often times, 4-H in north Louisiana is the considered the redheaded stepchild of wildly popular and involved programs from the southern part of the state.  In fact, I'll be the first to admit I've been on the other side of that coin.  On this end, though, it's understandable that the poorest parishes (counties) in the nation just cannot drum up resources or participation to support a five-hour drive to many of those big time events such as the Tiger Tailgate in Baton Rouge.  

But people here in north Louisiana are just as wild about their football as anyone else (or even more, sometimes).  [Prime example:  Schools in my parish here are closed on Friday because the high school's football team is in the first round of state playoffs.  Yes, seriously.]  To collaborate with ULM in hosting a 4-H Night and Tailgate seemed like a win-win situation for everyone.  Let me present to you, an A-MAZING flyer designed by my lovely and talented husband, Alex:  

You might have to click the photo to read the text.  
Once we got all the parishes on board, everyone chipped in to gather supplies, games, give-aways, and other fun items for this event.  I was super impressed to see how well we were able to pull it all together in such a short time frame.  Oh, did I mention the plans for this event started just 3 weeks out!?

Search "#4H4WARHAWKS" to see a few submissions from the contest.

Mainly, I served as one of the liasons between the two groups, a task I gladly accepted considering, Alex was the primary ULM contact for the event.  It definitely made things easier on getting speedy responses from both sides of the spectrum.  Plus, we really enjoyed working together and collaborating on this project was something special.  I also took the lead on the Instagram contest, which was designed to be an avenue for distributing give-aways.  

Day of the event - I spent the morning in Bastrop coordinating a small group of my Jr. Leaders who were scheduled to volunteer at a local food pantry.  On the way there, I noticed the skies were unusually overcast, and it even sprinkled for a bit.  I thought, "oh no, please, no rain..."  But, all week the forecasts called for sunny mid-60s, so what was going on?

I don't know what happened, but Mother Nature surprised us all (even the weathermen).  A torrential downpour moved in over the region and sat there for most of the day.  With it came cold temperatures and wind - definitely a miserable combination for tailgating.  

Everyone huddled under our expanded tent set-up, taking shelter from the rain.  If you look closely, you'll see the underside of one tent is printed with LSU graphics - a biiiig no-no in Monroe.

When the rain slacked for a bit, we did see some kid traffic at our "backyard bass" game.

There were also some major issues on the part of ULM and following through with their commitments.  I won't say too much (ask me if you like) but Alex was nearly out of his skin in frustration with his coworkers, and the poor guy took the brunt of it as the primary contact with the 4-H group.  Thankfully, I think most of the other 4-H agents realized he went above and beyond to pick up the slack from everyone else.  

All in all, this event really does have some major potential for our region, and even for the state.  A "come to Jesus" meeting is necessary with ULM, but the 4-H committee is already making notes for planning next year's event.  I'm glad they didn't write it off after the failure of this first time.  Hopefully, we'll be able to revisit everything and start fresh with plenty of time to get it right in 2014.  

Here's to hoping for better luck next time,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Homeward, yo!

This past weekend, we were *finally* able to go home for the weekend.  And by home, I mean to my hometown of Abbeville.  The last time we were home was for Memorial Day weekend, so needless to say it was long overdue.

Thankfully, we have seen nearly everyone at home over the last few months, even though we haven't been there to visit.  My parents have visited us in Monroe almost every month, and I saw my mom and brother a few extra times with my work trips to Baton Rouge over the last few months.  You'll remember that even my grandmother and great aunt visited over the summer.

In any case, we were excited to head out of north Louisiana for a few days of relaxation with family and friends.  I was able to squeeze in a haircut in Lafayette on our way in, and rather than fighting Lafayette traffic for dinner out that evening, my parents decided to grill some Sammy's steaks (the most delicious kind you could ever imagine) to pair with stuffed potatoes and rice dressing.  Yum-o.  Nanna and Austin (my brother) were also able to join us, which made things extra special.

Saturday was a full day.  We began with a huge breakfast at Nanna's house, then headed off to Magdalene Square in downtown Abbeville for the Omelette Festival.  (Side note:  Consider reading about this international festival that culminates with a 5,000 egg omelette prepared on a 12 ft skillet right in the center of town!  It's super unique and interesting.)  There, we met Victoria and Seth, our long-time good friends, and their son, Carter.  (Those who attended our wedding may remember the bridesmaid with the two week old baby...yep, that's them!)  We wandered around the craft/art/food/music booths for a while and then decided to walk over to Riverfront Restaurant for dinner on their deck which overlooks Bayou Vermilion.  It was a little windy (chilly) on the covered deck, but overall a beautiful day for being outside.

Late that afternoon we went over to visit my cousin Laurie and her three-year-old triplets.  Some of you may remember they were our flower girls and ring bearer for the wedding.  Drew is my godson, so I try to visit he and his sisters every time we're in town.  I grew up being especially close to my Nannie (godmother) but it was sometimes years between visits for my Parrain (godfather), so I want to try my best to avoid that with my own godson.

As always, the triplets were delightful.  Typically shy and skittish when we first arrive, the girls eased up and came over to play with me after a little bit.  Sophie had me pulling stickers off their toy plates and Emma wanted to play dress up.  Poor Drew didn't seem to be feeling well, so he spent much of the time on his mom or dad's lap while we were there.  To this day, I say those kids are some of the most well behaved I have experienced in my life, especially for multiples.

Sunday morning we relished in the extra hour of sleep and then got up for 8:30 mass at Our Lady of the Lake in Erath rather than the usual 11 a.m. one because I didn't want to feel rushed packing up or enjoying the rest of the day with family.  Nanna hosted us all (my family and my aunt's family) over for Sunday dinner, which was has been a tradition for as long as I can remember.  My dad and two cousins may have been absent on this particular day, but it was still Sunday dinner and special moments I will always remember.

Around two o'clock, Alex and I loaded up the car for our four hour drive back to Monroe.  Usually, the trip is just 3.5 hours, but I missed a turn in Alexandria so it took a little longer this time.  It's exciting to think we will be back to visit again just a few short weeks at Thanksgiving.  For 90% of the time, Alex's sports assignments are inconvenient at best, but there is the occasional moment when it works out and playing football at ULL on the Saturday after Thanksgiving this year is one of those times.  Yippie.

I think that's all for now.  Take a look at a few pictures from our Saturday outing with the Richards (which are the only photos I took all weekend).  Enjoy.

Seth took nearly 10 photos of Victoria and I, and this is the best we got.
My "fake boyfriend" (inside joke from WAY back) with his almost one-year-old son. 
You can't tell from this photo, but Carter has the most adorable little smile.  

Later, alligator.