Thursday, February 26, 2015

He's Baaaack - GBB Vol. 2

Alex enjoyed his first takeover here so much that he asked to do it again...and whattaya know, Betsy made it a regular thing, so here we are.  The Guy Behind the Blog, Volume 2.

1 // If you could write a book, what topic would you write about and why?
Well I love sports, so that is probably a topic I would write about - maybe my journeys around the country as an SID, things I have seen, and special student-athletes I have worked with, etc.  However, my book would probably be shorter than the average 250- to 300-page book, since my wife doesn't allow me to watch sports at home.  :)  (I'd like to object to this's true...)

2 // What is one thing on your bucket list, or one thing that you'd like to do or accomplish in your lifetime?
I have always wanted to visit London, Rome, and Paris, but with all of the terrorism BS we have to deal with, I think I will just keep myself planted in the U.S. for the time being. As far as something I would like to accomplish, I have always wanted to own rental property - you know, enough of an income to where I don’t have to have a 9-to-5 job.

3 // If you could look out your window and only see one view for the rest of your life, what would you want to see?
Water – whether it be ocean, river, lake, etc.

4 // Imagine you're opening a shop.  What are you selling?
Whatever makes me the most money – I don’t know, something trendy, but something that I also know about, so I can make the most sales possible. (If we knew the answer to this one - we'd already have the shop and be working that business instead of for The Man.)

Yes, we know this is the tiniest fish on the planet - it's a goof photo.
5 // If you could have 50lbs of anything other than money, what would it be?
Live crawfish…that would stay alive until I could cook and eat them all.

6 // Time to brag on your girl...tell us one thing that makes you proud of your wife!  
I am proud of how passionate she can be about certain things… It may not make sense to you, but to me it does – so there you go.

Okay, so these questions weren't quite as fun as the last set, but I do always enjoy sitting back and letting Alex take over.  Is there a man in your life?  If so, you should totally consider handing over the reigns every once in a while (or month, heh) and linking up with Betsy for lots of fun.  

Until next time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Us, According to Him

Since I took a seven month hiatus from the blog before/after we were married, I never really took the time to say a whole lot about our wedding or the details that went into planning it.  As the cliche "engagement season" (December to February) winds down, and the resulting "wedding season" (April-August?)  gears up, I would like to take the time to recap of the features from our wedding.  Now, I know not everyone gets excited about wedding stuff on blogs, but I really do want to have this to look back on years from now...just in case some of the details fade from memory.

Allow me to present... the first installment of Wedding Wednesday.

Today's post is kind of a long one, but it takes a little bit of a different approach - Us, According to Him.

Our Story
(Shared from Alex's perspective)
The First "Date":
We both agreed, at the time, and to this day, that our first meeting was an awful experience.  I was in the Old North State for the USC Upstate / NC State basketball game on Dec. 11, 2010.  The "meeting" took place on Dec. 10 and it well, was not something to remember. I drove to Raleigh from my mom's house (Dunn) and met up with Chris and Kara and we drove to Lauren's apartment complex before going to Krispy Kreme. Very few words were exchanged between Lauren and I, it wound up being more of me interacting with Chris and leaving Lauren and Kara to enjoy each others company. The quartet went and looked at Christmas lights in downtown Raleigh before calling it a night... and before it was over, Lauren made fun of my car and in her mind really made me angry. Lauren went back to Louisiana for the Christmas holidays while I returned home for a few days before returning to Spartanburg.

The Next Step:
A few days after the less than spectacular meeting, I decided to contact Lauren and just say it was nice to meet her. We conversed here and there and I figured it was worth a shot to schedule another "date", just the two of us and see if it went any better.

I really don't like dogs, but C.J.'s pitiful "please love me face" melted my heart.
The Second Date:
I left Spartanburg early on the morning of Jan. 9, 2011 and drove to Raleigh for lunch and bowling with Lauren. We ate lunch at Crazy Fire, a Mongolian place. It was really good minus the slightly undercooked calamari. (Haha) After lunch, we went to the bowling alley and bowled two games. Neither of us did well - I barely cracked 100 and that was the first game. After bowling, we went back to Lauren's apartment and watched the movie "Heavyweights" before I got back on the road and headed back to the 'burg. Date two went tons better than number one, so that was a plus.

A week later:
Lauren came to visit me in Spartanburg and told all of her friends my phone number and address in case she went missing - I guess she thought I was some crazy person. I had just gotten back from a basketball road trip, so we just hung out and watched movies and enjoyed each other's company. That was the same weekend Lauren became my girlfriend (on January 16, 2011, to be exact) - pretty bold, yes I know.

3 months into dating, March 2011
~Insert 15 month interlude involving Lauren's completion of her Master's Degree, her move to Little Rock, AR for employment, and the resulting long-distance relationship that continued to develop between us.~  

Fast forward to Easter Weekend 2012:
I arrived in Little Rock on April 4th to spend Easter weekend with Lauren and her family in Abbeville, LA. On April 5th, Lauren had to work so I just ran errands around town and etc.  While out and about, ULM (my new employer) called to set up a phone interview and restart the search for the Director of Media Relations Position. It started a crazy week of 6 phone interviews and at the end I had a on-campus interview set up for April 23-24th.

Back to the previous story, Lauren got off work at 5 pm, so I went to pick her up and then we had a picnic on a big rock at her apartment complex. Lauren and I talked about her day and I knocked the lunchbox off of the rock and jumped down and got it. While continuing to talk I reached inside and pulled out the wedding ring and asked Lauren to marry me... It took her a few moments but she screamed, "YES," for all to hear. I also had her neighbors hide and take photos. Afterwards we made the usual phone calls and then went out to dinner to enjoy being with each other.

We went down to Louisiana on Friday and it was a great weekend showing off the diamond and telling everyone about how it happened and begin Lauren's favorite part - the planning.

If you stuck around for the whole story, mad props to you!  What can we expect in future WW posts?  Oh, don't worry, there's a whole laundry list of ideas, including The Lineup (people involved), a shower I didn't expect to have, creative gift ideas, traditions, etc, etc.  Additional "guest" posts may even appear at some point. Cheers.
Note:  "Our Story" was originally written in 2012 featured on our wedding website, hosted by Shutterfly. 
Also featured in the Wedding Wednesday Series:

The Lineup

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What I Am: 200th Post

Guess what, people!  THIS IS MY 200th POST!!  Woop woop!

After sharing here for almost seven years, thinking of how to recognize this milestone was a bit difficult.  I've made every list in the book at this point, including the recapping each year on my BLOGline (check it out if you haven't yet).  However, I wanted to make this point special in its own right, so I enlisted the opinions of a few of my fellow blogger friends.

Then I came across this post by Kaelene at Unlocking Kiki and it inspired me to think about what I am as a blogger, and what I am not.  For one, I am not a "Magical Blogger," by any stretch of the imagination.  And really, I agree with everything Kiki listed on her post, but in the interest of avoiding plagiarism, I created my own lists, as featured below.

Original photo by Katie H. Photography
What I'm Not
- perfect // I don't know everything about HTML, my graphic skills are (mostly) self taught, my stories are never concise yet always personal, I rarely schedule posts, and I don't always share the bad and ugly with the good or pretty.
- popular // I don't have hundreds, or even tens of followers, I haven't been nominated for awards, and I'm fairly certain others don't share my page with their blogger bffs.
- performer // My primary goal is not entertainment; I don't search out sponsors or offer solicited giveaways, I'm not going to show off the latest gadget or advertise products to gain followers.  I won't be doing back flips to hold anybody's attention just for the heck of it.
- photographer // I don't have a "fancy" camera, I'm not classically (or self) trained, and my blog is never going to be considered a work of ark.

What I Am
- me // I am Lauren.  I grew up in south Louisiana and am extremely proud of my Cajun roots.  I'm married and enjoy time with my husband as we navigate life together.
- average // Sometimes I execute creative or interesting outings; most of the time I don't.  Sometimes I travel to new states or fun destinations; most of the time I don't.  Sometimes I experience something really interesting or fun at work; 99.985% of the time I don't.
- busy // I work outside of the home (including lots of in-state travel), my husband travels for work on and off 8 months out of the year, neither of us live near our families or friends, and sometimes posting on the blog can be on the bottom of the to-do list.
- interested // I want to learn from the best of the best - how can I be a better wife and friend? Are there new hobbies I could learn, ways to be happier or healthier, more efficient, or frugal?  There are kind, generous, amazing bloggers out there, and I want to meet them...become friends with them...learn from them...become a better person because of them.

They say a blog should be the kind you enjoy reading, and the honest to goodness truth is that I enjoy reading blogs written by real people - people who share the exciting and the mundane.  People who write about throwing together dinner, watching television, discovering life hacks, and spending time with those they love.  It's like unscripted reality television (however boring that may sometimes appear)...

That's the way I like it.  And, (I think) that's the way it will stay!

So, if you're new here, leave a comment introducing yourself.  Tell me who you are as a blogger (and, if you like, who you're not).  What inspires you to blog, and what do you enjoy (or dislike) reading in other blogs?


Friday, February 20, 2015

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 10)

Today I'm linking up for the first time with our new host of 7 Quick Takes, Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Baseball Weekend #1 was a looooooooooong one.  I think my rear end was actually sore from sitting on a hard chair for such a long period of time.  My scoreboard skills were definitely rusty in the first game, but things got a little better by game #5 for the weekend.  And of course, my cupcakes were "the talk of the town," as they say.  I'm thinking it's much more reasonable to plan on one batch of sweets for the weekend, rather than something new every is Lent, after all.  ;)

Early this week I was supposed to travel to south Louisiana for the State Livestock Show (for work).  However, I was realllllllllllly dreading the trip because the university Alex works for was closed for Mardi Gras and I really thought it was super unfair that he would get days off at home while I had to go freeze my butt off at the smelly old barn.  The weather also called for some pretty sketchy wintery stuff, that may or may not have included snow at some point.  Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled when the lady I planned to carpool with decided we shouldn't chance it and we cancelled our plans.  Then, since I had already planned to be out of the office on Monday and Tuesday, I decided to just take the days off Alex and I actually got to spend an unexpected "weekend" at home together.  Three cheers...amen!

It's the best we can do in north Louisiana. 
The Carnival season is over, Mardi Gras has passed, and Lent is here.  I have to give mad props to my friend Jen for this post on why Louisiana is particular, at this time of the year.  And if you haven't read Jen's story yet, take a few minutes to check it out.  She and I were college roommates (we actually shared a room, not just living space...though we did that too at some point) and we have followed along with each other's blogging journeys since the very beginning.

Speaking of Lent, I'm not all about public posts regarding voluntary sacrifices, BUT I am doing something that may be worth noting for the sake of others who read this blog.  What I mean to say is that I have decided to give up Facebook, indefinitely.  Alex has already deactivated his account, and I may do the same eventually.  At this point, I still need access to the page for various reasons, but I am being diligent about only signing on with a purpose in mind, and signing out as soon as possible.  What this means for you, readers, is that your best way to contact me is via e-mail.  As for my reasons and such, I'm not ready to talk about that here on the blog just yet, so that's all I have to say about that. Oh, and this related link could also be worthy of reading.  (Granted I have a public blog, but you get the idea.)

Courtesy of Kendra
And in the interest of sharing (what I think is) another interesting idea for voluntary Lenten sacrifices, Alex and I plan to borrow Rosie's paper chain concept.  Back when I wrote my 20 in 14 list, I really wanted to do a better job of praying more intentionally, for specific people and things.  As you'll see when I (finally) address that item on the list, I never got into the habit even though I really wanted to.  SO, this Lent we will be adding specific intentions to our daily prayers, and this paper chain will be the tangible indicator of how well we're doing.  Can't wait to see how it goes!

P.S. I had every intention of sharing a post with actual content on Wednesday, but then I realized it was Ash Wednesday and figured we were better left reverently absent (can that be a thing?) than sharing about light-hearted, fun things.  :)  Coming soon though...lots of fun new stuff (including MY 200th POST!!).  I may or may not have 3-4 posts/week planned through the end of March.  Now, who's going to take bets on whether it actually happens?!

It's looking to be a gross weekend.  From Friday to Saturday, the temperature will climb 13 degrees, then drop 25 on Sunday, and finish off (if you call it that) with a high at the ripe ole 28 degree mark.  Once again, they're even talking about the possibility of icy, sticky, white stuff...maybe.  I definitely wouldn't bet on too much excitement - we do live in Louisiana, after all.

Whiplash, anyone?

Stay warm, ya'll!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't the Lyceum!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

#s 6-10: Relationships Category

I'm back for Round Two in updates for the category-by-category summary of my 20 in 14 goals list.  For Goals 1-5, click here.

And here's the snapshot of Goals 6-10 (Relationships Category):

6. Keep a one-line-a-day journal.
7. Respond to e-mails more frequently.
8. Make an effort to reinvest in old friendships.
9. Host a girls' weekend.
10. Become a volunteer.

So how did it go?  Of all the categories on my list, I feel this one fared the worst.  Overall, I am feeling really disconnected from people these days, and it's been quite a struggle to find ways to feel loved, supported, or encouraged by people other than my husband.  For this reason, I truly mean it when I say that I have enjoyed "meeting" those of you in blogland.

6. Keep a one-line-a-day journal.  This one was really fun, and I'm glad I included it on the list.  Click here to read a detailed summary of this experience.

Victoria and Dawn, June 2014
7. Respond to e-mails more frequently.  Other than e-mails for work and those coming in response to comments I leave on other blogs, I really haven't been receiving as many e-mails (also, texts/Facebook messages, etc).  Messages related to my Jamberry business have also dropped off dramatically, but that's better left for another day.  For this simple reason, I don't have very many "outstanding" messages to contend with.  Overall, I'd still say I put off responding immediately because it generally means I'll take better care with crafting my thoughts in response to said messages.  Vague, much?

Reconnecting with Megan and Richie, July 2014
8.  Make an effort to reinvest in old friendships.  I think I started off the year doing pretty well with this; I sent several hand written cards, made regular phone calls to catch up with girlfriends, and even had a few daily Voxer  buddies. (Don't know about Voxer?  Check it out - heck, send me a message because I love that thing!)  As the year went on, these efforts fell by the wayside, on others' parts, and mine too.  A huge part of this probably has to do with some struggles I'm dealing with emotionally.  When I made this goal, I hoped that if I committed to making the effort then I might be able to work through some of those struggles and find myself happier in the long run.  I hate to say it, but I feel more disconnected than ever and I don't know if I actually want to make the effort right now.

Scrapbook pages for Kara's wedding book, July 2014
9. Host a girls' weekend.  Unless travel fork work counts (which it doesn't!), this definitely did not happen.  Back in August, I experienced my first panic attack, and that has resulted in my lack of desire or ability to do any kind of independent traveling. People are busy and getting a bunch of folks together for any length of time is really difficult at this stage of life.  A girl's weekend would be super fun (and much needed), but I just don't think it would work for me to coordinate something like that right now.  But hey - if a bunch of you show up on my doorstep next Friday night, I'll crack open a bottle of wine and we'll dig out the chick flicks...come on!

Having a ball with Jessie, August 2014
10.  Become a volunteer.  This got added to this list (again) in an effort to become more involved with the local community, hoping to build some friendships.  I was also required to start volunteering as part of my annual performance evaluation at work.  Well, as all things have gone for life here in this locale, I didn't find success in becoming a community volunteer (in the way they wanted me to) or in making new friends.  BUT, I did find a way to volunteer (and enjoy it) with Alex's work, and you can read all about it here.

Hosting Victoria and Seth, October 2014
Aaaaaaand now that we're all depressed reading about my lameness, here's a small a pick-me-up:

Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!  Do something fun, eat all the food, and celebrate to you heart's content!

Monday, February 16, 2015

(Dog) Parking for a Cache

As you know, baseball season started this past weekend.  The weekend before, it was sunny and upper-60s outside so Alex and I decided to take advantage of our last free Saturday afternoon (Note: I worked 5 hours that Saturday morning) and spent some time soaking up the sunshine.

We invited C.J. (the dog) along for our adventure at the park.  Poor guy hadn't ridden in a vehicle since he moved to Monroe over 2 1/2 years ago. Kiroli Park in West Monroe has a huge dog park with two sections - one for small dogs, and one for large.  C.J. had so much space to run around, that he didn't know what to do with himself!

It had been a while since we let him interact with other dogs, so we were a little nervous about how he might behave.  As it turned out, he mostly refrained from inappropriate behavior, and even made a few friends out there.  It was so fun to see him enjoying the freedom to run as far and as fast as he wanted.  If we had any time off during the nice-weather-months (which we don't), we would definitely be bringing him back there again.

After playing in the dog park, we harnessed C.J. back up and decided to explore some of the trails.  Then I had the bright idea to check out the geocaching app and see if we could find a few caches while out and about.  We made a full loop through the park before we located the only cache we could access, and then the hunt was on!

The cache was just slightly off the paved path, and in a huge box, so it didn't take too much searching to locate it.  Since it was placed by a Cub Scout troop, the coordinates were on point, and that helped a ton, too.  We didn't take anything from the box because we didn't have anything to place in return.  Ah well.

For both of us, this was our first cache in the state of Louisiana - yay!  If you haven't tried geocaching yet, get on it - it's so much fun!  Seriously!

...or just come visit us and we'll take you on a dog park/geocaching adventure (schedule permitting) ourselves!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

How Baseball Ruined Valentine's Day

I'm no stranger to whining about our ridiculous work schedules here on the blog, so it seems only fitting to write about giving up Valentine's Day for the sake of collegiate baseball.  Plus, Sarah at Venus Trapped in Mars challenged me to create a post that combined sports + Valentine's Day.  I figure I give her enough crap by trolling her "sports for girls" posts - it's time for me to (wo)man up and play along too.

Did you know...NCAA Baseball opening day for every team starts on the same day - usually the second Friday of February. The season is a grind of 56 regular season games that runs until the middle of May. After that for the fortunate ones, there are conference tournaments, NCAA regionals, NCAA super regionals, and the NCAA college world series....which basically means no life for 4 months, got it.  (Okay, I may or may not have added the last part for dramatic effect.)

With those kinda stats (thanks, Husband Dear) I think I deserve a few minutes to whine, yes?

So what's a girl to do?  Well, Alex is the bestest of all (duh!), so we celebrated early with a nice dinner on Thursday night.  He pointed out how at least I'm "lucky" he's still in town for Vday...he could be on the road traveling for away games.  Okay fine, Husband...fine!

Anyway... I'm kind of known around the local press box community for my cupcakes.  Cupcakes, you say?  Yes, cupcakes.  (Nevermind they're always out of a box...cupcakes! ...Pretty sure as long as it's edible, the press box people will swoon.)

What better way to bow down to the baseball inevitable than to make team-color-cupcakes?!  (And on Saturday, pink/red cupcakes...then maybe Mardi Gras colors on Sunday?  Yes, I think so.)

You win, win.

So instead of inhaling a huge box of chocolate hearts, admiring beautiful red roses, or gorging on fine wine and delicious seafood...this girl will be pressing buttons on the scoreboard as ULM hosts the Warhawk Classic (4 teams, 6 games...a whole lotta baseball) all.weekend.long.  At least I don't have to work the other 13 sporting events on campus this weekend.  Geesh, people.

And if you're looking for some true romance (obviously you won't find that with me on the baseball field), check out the story of this lovely couple.  Married for over 40 years, the husband writes a love letter to his wife EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.NO.MATTER.WHAT.  Now that's the kind of love that makes this world go round.  #swoon

For others in the romantic mood, I encourage you to link up with Sarah as she hosts her annual You're Sweet but I Prefer Chocolate link-up...

Venus Trapped in Mars

...OR, her weekly Fan Friday link-up if you're instead feeling sporty.

Venus Trapped in Mars

Thanks, Sarah, for hosting (and letting me bug you on the regular)!

Happy Valentine's, everyone!

P.S.  Please excuse the poor quality photos; it is what it is and I have no excuses today.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

TBT: Our Honeymoon Cruise

In an effort to dig my way out of this rut, I'm going to feed Amy's request for stories about my adventures, starting with a recap of our honeymoon cruise.  Apparently winters are tough for me around these parts, because I went a whole seven months without blogging (Oct-May) before/after our wedding.  By the time I returned, there wasn't time or space to hash out the details of our adventure.

7-day cruise aboard the Carnival Conquest

Departing from New Orleans, Louisiana
with ports of call in Isla Roatan, Honduras; Belize Citiy, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico 

December 30, 2012 - January 6, 2013

- 7 days in a row...alone, together!
- Our balcony.  I'd cruised twice before, but never with a private balcony.
- Ringing in the new year with 3,000 of our closest friends (ha).
- Alex won $100 in a "claw-like" machine thingy.
- Splurging via our onboard wedding registry.
(Definite WIN.  Bet ya didn't know those were available.)
- Food.
- FREE room service!
- Excursions.
(Zip-lining in Honduras, hiking the Mayan ruins in Belize, and taking a salsa-making class in Mexico)

- Being sick (both of us, at different times) on vacation.
- Fights with shady tour guides. (Ask Alex about that one day.)
- Did I mention being sick?
- Oh and, returning to real life, moving, and starting a new job a week later...

Next time:
- New ports!
- Someday, Alaska.
- Friends...everything is more fun with friends!

Yeah, so I'm pretty much convinced cruising is THE way to do vacation.  Who's in for the next one?


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

#6: One Line a Day

Did you know, the traditional first anniversary gift is paper? Yeah, sometimes I wonder who came up with that stuff because WHAT KIND OF ANNIVERSARY GIFT IS MADE OF PAPER?!  And then, I ate my words.  Who was I kidding, there are lots of options for paper gifts - tickets to a sporting event/theater performance/concert, books, framed prints, the list goes on.  (Cotton as the second anniversary gift - that one gave me a run for my money.)

Some of you may remember we mailed a notebook back and forth to one another during our two years of dating long distance.  That notebook was featured in some of our engagement photos, and truly became one of my favorite keepsakes from our dating story.   Once we got married, I realized we got out of the habit of documenting our relationship as closely as we did while we were dating.

Photo by Katie Hoffpauir Photography
In an effort to solve this "problem," I purchased a Custom, 3-Year One Line a Day Journal from Uncommon Goods as Alex's 1st Anniversary gift last year.  I was a little nervous about whether he would be excited about such a gift - I mean, it was essentially just an overpriced notebook of sorts.  However, we started writing in it on January 1, 2014, and over a year later we are still at it.

Sometimes, we miss a few days (or a week) and have to go back to fill things in, but I can say that we have only forgotten one day in its entirety and had to fill in with "Free Space - See you next year!"  Now that we are on Year 2 (3, really), it's super fun to read back over what we were doing at this time last year.  In some cases, we're remembering things that were fun or special, and other cases, we realize we're still struggling with things we hoped we'd be past at this point.

Either way, it's nice to know we will have a record of our second, third, and fourth year of marriage to look back on for years to come - and maybe even some wisdom to share with (God-willing) future children.  It won't be long before I'll start thinking of how to document Years 5+.  Ideas, anyone?

- Lauren

For more from my "20 in 14" list, click here.

Note:  I was not compensated in any way for reviewing products featured in this post.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Invasion of the Moos

Now, I realize Thanksgiving seems like it was ages ago, but November 27, 2014 was kind of monumental for us, so I want to reach back into the vault for a few minutes and relive those moments for all of blog eternity.

Because Alex was scheduled to leave town for work on the 28th (Black Friday, if you will), months earlier we decided to go out on a whim and invite our extended family to do Thanksgiving with us this year.  Two years earlier (the year we were married), it was a similar situation, so while we were able to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family, he had to leave that afternoon, driving 3.5 hours to Monroe in order to be there when the team left the next day.  Needless to say, we really didn't want to do that again.

Anyway, we thought it would be a tough sell to get my immediate and extended family all the way to our house for the holiday...but it wasn't!  Several of them had not yet visited our house, and most people in Cajunland are off for the whole week anyway, so people kind of jumped on the idea.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that my parents, brother, grandma, great aunt, aunt/uncle and two of their kids were all committed to spending Thanksgiving with us.

An empty drink/dessert table.
Once that was settled, we agreed to extend the invitation to Alex's coworkers who were from other states and too far away to travel home for the holiday.  There were so many times over the years (Boise, Raleigh, etc.) that people welcomed me into their homes on Thanksgiving; I really wanted to pay it forward by hosting other transplants in our home.  With that, we planned to host people from Chicago, Miami, Memphis, and Michigan.  Cajuns meet Yanks - sure to be a great time!

A few days before Thanksgiving, my great uncle gave us a scare - he texted us on Monday and said they would be arriving later that night.  Wait, what?  No!  We had plenty of house cleaning and garage organizing left to do - we were certainly not prepared to welcome guests!  False alarm - they were just kidding with us.  Whew!

Balloons make everything more festive, right?!
Thankfully, my grandmother is THE BEST COOK, and her assistant, my great aunt, totally took over with every bit of the cooking.  We even offered to order a turkey from a local restaurant - but they had it covered.  Some of those out-of-staters were worried there wouldn't be enough food...obviously they have never been to a Cajun gathering.  As to be expected, the food was delicious, and there was plenty to go around!

Over the course of the week, we had 13 guests and five people (plus the two of us) staying over at our 3-bedroom house. It was quite the whirlwind.  All in all, though, the event was a great morale booster for us.  The last visitors we had were my parents in August, and a friend in October, but it really does get lonely around here without any local friends or family.

I don't know that we'll be able to convince everyone to do it again in 2015, but it was a nice experience overall.  We continue to dream of the day where we'll be close enough to friends and family to host gatherings on a more regular basis.  Until then, we'll just have to make do.


P.S. Yes, I know the photos are very lackluster, but with the exorbitant amount of text in this post, I had to include some images and pray they made things at least a tad more interesting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

#s 1-5: Blog Category

Now that it's practically February (who am I kidding, this will be posted in February, even though I'm writing it before then), I really need to get my butt in gear on recapping my 20 in 14 list.  I think it will evolve into a couple of posts that lump some items together by category - because, let's face it, I can't write an entire post about how often I posted last year.  Still, I fear these posts will prove mostly boring, so I hope to spread them out a little, with some fun stuff thrown in the mix.


I'm definitely a sequential person, so of course I'll be starting with the first category on the list: Blog.

For those who are new here, here's a snapshot of the Blog category.

1. Write an average of 1x/week (or more!).
2. Practice telling my story in fewer words.
3. Use a real camera (not my phone) more often.
4. Increase readership.
5. Learn more about the bigger picture of blogging.

So, how did I do?  Not too terribly...I don't think anyway.

1. Write an average of 1x/week (or more!).  I actually thought accomplishing this goal would be much more of a stretch than it turned out to be.  Realistically, I thought I would end up with somewhere around 40 posts for the year, but somehow I managed to publish 56 posts.  To be quite honest, I'm pretty proud of myself for that one; in the end, I published more posts in 2014 than any previous year, including my inaugural year (2008).  I think that's pretty great!

2. Practice telling my story in fewer words.  Well, I didn't necessarily ace this one, but I do think I improved in this department.  Throwing more pictures (see #3) into the mix, helped to make things a little more visually appealing, but I probably should have reigned in the word count every once in a while.  Honestly, using lots of words is just who I am.  I'm a girl, girls talk a's just how life works.  So I'm still a work in progress here.

3. Use a real camera (not my phone) more often.  As it turned out, I ended up having to spend three months using the dumbest phone on the planet, which means my access to a camera phone greatly diminished for a significant period of time.  One would have thought this would do wonders for tackling Goal #3, butttttttt it didn't.  Instead of taking better pictures, I ended up with no pictures (or photos taken on my husband's phone and then sent to myself, lol).   The fact of the matter is that camera phones are just so much faster and more efficient...and taking photos with "real" cameras in public can really draw quite a bit of nerd-like attention to yourself.  I always feel awkward and tourist-y pulling out the digital camera.  In other words, I didn't do so hot on this one.

4. Increase readership.  I don't know how much extra foot traffic I'm getting around here (sometimes more than others, anyway), but I do feel more connected to the blogging community than I ever have before.  I've been reading quite a few more blogs, and reaching out to others more often.  I will say that I have really enjoyed "meeting" others, especially you, Amy and Ace! ;)  If you're new here, leave a comment sometime so I know you've stopped by.  I'd love to meet you!

5.  Learn more about the bigger picture of blogging.  I wrote this goal after receiving a blogging book for Christmas; the book was quite interesting, but I didn't really end up focusing a whole lot of time on actively building my own blog like I thought I would.  It was nice to better understand the inter-workings of it all, but ultimately I want to do this for me, and blogging for "the man" really wouldn't be very fun or authentic.  I still find "bigger picture" to be quite interesting, but I think I'll be staying true to myself rather than making an effort to be someone or something I'm not.

Bonus:  While on the subject, I should also note that the blog underwent a major facelift in 2014.  We went from "Breaking the Mold" to "Here We Geaux," and the entire design/color scheme changed, as well.  (And in case, you were lost in the shuffle, Follow my blog with Bloglovin.)  The changes made things a little fresher around here, and better reflect who I am and what this project has become.  :)

So of course I should be eating words here, per #2, but it is what it is!  Stay tuned, more updates will be coming your way...eventually.  ;)