Thursday, March 26, 2015

Another Inside Look: GBB Vol. 3

I hope you are not totally hating this monthly insider perspective from Mr. Alex, because I am totally loving handing the blog over to him on a regular basis.  It also gives him something fun to do during long bus rides (RE: 15 hours to Boone, NC), and I happen to learn a little more about him each time, as well...

1 // Do you have a good luck charm or ritual (like a lucky coin, or you always used to listen to a certain pump-up song when you played sports in high school?)
I don't really have a charm or a ritual, but being a baseball SID, I will tend to be somewhat superstitious - whether it is wearing a certain shirt, using a lucky pen, or for example at Appalachian State - we lost the first two games, so I sat in a different seat in the press box for the series finale (and we won!!).   

Bubble Pizza at its finest.
2 // What is your favorite dish that your wife makes for you?  Do you have any fun memories of a time when she tried to cook and it totally flopped, or does she get it right every time?  
Well, typically the wife and I cook meals together so it is hard to say a favorite dish that she "makes"...But I am a fan of tortellini; I realize that is a simple meal, but it is really good and I am a fan so that's what we are going with.  The only time I really recall a meal flopping was from early on...back when we first started dating.  We tried to make bubble pizza, however the dough never really cooked, and we had to keep putting it back in the oven until we finally got it somewhat cooked.  It turned out okay, but we never tried it again.  (Funny, I was thinking about that bubble pizza not too long ago...what a disaster.)

3 // What did you want to be when you were growing up? 
Growing up, I wanted to do something banking-related.  I thought the people that worked at the bank got to keep all the money they were given so I figured everyone was really rich and I wanted to have lots of money too!  (Oh the imaginations of children!)

Hey, at least he didn't want to be pipe smoking firefighter...
4 // Which of the five senses is your strongest?
Easy question!  Hearing...just kidding.  Lauren knows that is not the truth.  I have an awful sense of hearing, so that is out.  My eyesight is also terribly poor, so that is out too.  I like food, so let's go with taste...does that count?  

5 // Would you ever run for President of the USA?
No, politicians piss me off and I would likely punch someone on the campaign trail or on Capitol Hill.  So no, not for me.

It's all a facade. ;)
What an interesting conversation!  I had no idea banking was in Alex's  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, March 25, 2015

Bon Voyage - A Travel Themed Bridal Shower

Throughout the wedding process (and for the last 11 years we have known each other), Dawn has been my right-hand-woman.  Not only was she my Maid of Honor, but she is one experienced chica when it comes to wedding planning... This girl has been in more weddings than I can count, and as you'll see soon, her tendency toward attention to detail has really paid off.

Dawn originally wrote this post for Ultimate Bridesmaid (which happens to be authored by Dawn's cousin, Caitlin).  However, the post was never published there, so Dawn shared it with me to publish here with you.  With that being said, read on!


A love of travel was one of the things that brought Lauren and I together and we have experienced numerous road trips and conferences in Washington D.C. over the years. When I was asked to be her Maid of Honor and tasked with planning her bridal shower, a travel theme immediately came to mind. Planning a travel themed bridal shower was as much fun for me to execute as it was for Lauren to experience. Lauren and her now-husband, Alex, lived long distance from each other throughout their entire relationship, living as much as 700 miles apart at times, so the travel theme was also representative of their relationship.

Since I was helping host six showers and serving in two weddings in a five-week time frame (between Thanksgiving & Christmas), to cut down on cost I enlisted the help of my friends and family to make this event a success. Lauren’s aunts/grandmother offered to take care of the majority of food and with a large southern family many hands made light work. The other bridesmaids took care of paper products and flowers. With the help of my mother and sisters I took care of the invitations, decorations, guest book, and favors.

The invitations were handmade on cardstock. The phrase “Lauren and Alex are set to depart on the adventure of their lives” was printed on the front of the card with details inside on how we were to “send them off in style.” Scrapbook paper was placed on the front and a luggage stamp was used to set the stage for an elegant and classic travel-themed shower.

My father collected many guidebooks from his international travels so those books, maps, and several language dictionaries helped to set the ambiance. I flew home the day before the shower and made friends with the lady at the ticket counter who provided me with numerous luggage tags and ticket sleeves (thanks Southwest). A globe and a few mini national flags worked well as table centerpieces. The year before, I had gifted Lauren with a frame highlighting the various places where she has lived and it was prominently displayed. Instead of classic confetti I mindlessly cut stamps out of a *free* stamp collector’s magazine to sprinkle around the room. I used those same stamps to decoupage a small chest, which Lauren eventually used to collect cards at her wedding reception.

The cake was as much a centerpiece as a delicious treat. We selected the design of a traditional suitcase and highlighted places they lived and honeymoon destinations. Lauren loved the cake and we all loved how well it came out!

Guest Book:
While I considered a travel diary to use as a guest book I wanted something more unique, hence the travel case guest book. I provided a large collection of common, small travel items and tags so each individual could write down their name and why they thought that item could not be left behind. Most of the items I already had and I was able to supplement with items found at the local discount store. Most people wrote very witty comments that Lauren (and I) enjoyed reading at the end of the shower. Lauren was left with all the items (except a few like my international cell phone that I needed to take back) and she was able to use many of them on her honeymoon.

Some items: shampoo/conditioner, sunglasses, tissues, gum, chap stick, massage oil, shower cap, band aids, razor, nail file, cell phone, lotion, soap, deodorant, headache medicine, and toothbrush/toothpaste.

To stick with the travel theme I enlisted my mother and sisters to help me make luggage tags for the favors. Using fabric remnants and leftover batting reduced the cost and we only had to purchase coordinating ribbon and clear vinyl to complete these favors. Each guest received a matching circle and square luggage tag. The circle tag had a ‘thanks’ card with Lauren’s wedding date, and the square tag had the classic traveler info – name, address, and phone number. These were displayed in a old hat box. I know that some of the guests are still using these on their luggage, since the large variety of patterns meant everyone could find one that matched their style.

Although this DIY shower required a lot of work leading up to the event, with help it was easy to manage. I thoroughly enjoyed the shower and I know Lauren appreciated the hosts’ hard work. The extra effort required to pull off the little details of this shower were totally worth it in the end because the personality of the shower matched the personality of the bride. There are so many ways the ‘travel’ theme can be adapted and incorporated for other brides, so Bon Voyage!


It's totally true, this shower did require a ton of hard work and effort on the part of many, but especially of Dawn and her family.  At one point, I wasn't even sure I'd have a shower, and then this jewel resulted.  I am so grateful to have such generous family and friends who care enough to prepare something so special for me.  I will cherish those memories along with these gorgeous photos and detailed reminders of that day for years to come.

Thanks, Dawn!
-Lauren (AKA:  Moo Face)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 11)

I's not Friday anymore.  The DVR and Netflix leprechauns were a little overzealous this weekend, so I'm just now getting around to posting.  You'll forgive me...right?

I just realized that this week's "Wedding Wednesday" post never got published.  I picked the date/time and everything, but I guess I hit "save" instead of "publish" so it never went live.  No wonder there were no comment e-mails coming in, lol.  Never fear, the post has been rescheduled for next Wednesday (3/25), so be sure to check it out.

As I have said many times before, Alex is great.  He knows I feel pretty lonely around here and in an effort to help me feel loved by far-away friends and family, he convinced several people to record their birthday wishes and assembled them into a hilarious video just for me.  In the 8 minute video, I laughed, cried, and beamed with happiness over the kind words sent from all over the country.  I had every intention of sharing the video here this week but Alex has been out of town so we haven't gotten a chance to edit and upload it just yet.  I promise, it will be worth the wait!

As promised (maybe just a few days late), I'm giving away a Free 1/2 Sheet of Jamberry Nail wraps to one lucky lady who commented on my "Three/Twelve = Giveaway" aka birthday post.  Drum roll please....The winner is.... AMY S. of All for Heavens' Sake!  Congrats, Amy!  Since you live in Canada, I can't sell you Jamberry, but I can hook you up fo-FREE! (I'll e-mail you to discuss the details.) Wahoooo. Thanks to those of you who shared your unique/memorable birthday stories. I had a blast reading them!

Speaking of Jamberry, it's been a while since I've said much about it here.  Things kinda of died down for me late in the Fall, but I see them picking up again very soon.  And because this is my space, I am going to go ahead and give a shameless plug announcing a really awesome Mother's Day gift set that will be available starting Wednesday (3/25).  The last few gift sets we offered sold out almost immediately, so if you're interested, I'd suggest snagging them up ASAP.  Our typical Buy3/Get1 offer is generally awesome, but with 8 items in this adorable collection, these gift sets are a steal!

We may be a little late to the party but after seeing lots of positive chatter over Parenthood, Alex and I decided to give it a try.  Our year long "friendship" with One Tree Hill ended around mid-February, so we took a few weeks off from binge TV before we started Parenthood via Netflix.  It took Alex a few episodes to get into the show, but I was pretty much hooked by Episode 2.  Are there any other Parenthood fans out there?

So how do your #MarchMadness brackets look these days?  I thought this might be my year...but then my alma mater (NC State) decided to pull one out their you-know-what and beat both LSU and Villanova to reach the Sweet 16, and my National Champion (Georgetown) fell to Utah in the second round so this girl is O-U-T of the running for anything interesting.  Maybe next year I should go back to picking winners based on their team colors/mascots...

Somehow, I found the opportunity to cook a few things from scratch lately - thank goodness because I am sick(!) of salads.  I had some left over sour cream from chili I made when my family was in town a few weeks ago, so I put it to good use by trying out Patty's sour cream enchilada recipe.  You'd think we were Hispanic for the frequency we consume tortillas and chips.  Anyway, the enchiladas were a great alternative to a traditional version.  In my post about shopping the perimeter, I also mentioned throwing together some banana bread with overripe bananas.  I really need to buy some baking soda, because that bread wasn't exactly the best texture and I could really be baking a lot more fun stuff if I had some of that to throw in the mix.  And since Alex was out of town this week, I finally got around to making a batch of red beans and sausage for the freezer.  Thanks to Jen's suggestion, I threw in some onions and bell pepper this time around...definitely added to the deliciousness.  But, I used too much water so it was more like a soup/gumbo/gravy...the taste was just as great as ever, though!

Okay, enough rambling...for more Takes, be sure to visit This Ain't the Lyceum.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

#16: Shopping the Perimeter

Is it possible to make a post about grocery shopping fun or interesting?  I'm not so sure... but, I'll give it a try anyway.

About a year ago, I began to make a conscious effort to avoid the center aisles of the grocery store...also known as "shopping the perimeter."  If this is a foreign concept, the idea is that all the processed foods are located in the middle of the store, whereas fresh produce, meat, and dairy products are located around the edges.  By avoiding the inside aisles, we are purchasing whole foods instead of processed junk.

In order to hold myself accountable, I added this goal (#16) to my 20 in 14 list and tried to make a habit of staying out the center aisles.  Now, we all know life happens and this isn't entirely practical for 100% of all grocery store purchases or visits.  However, I have photographic evidence of at least a few successful trips to the store.

My only complaint about this whole thing is the outrageous cost of whole fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products.  A boxed dinner may cost $3, whereas making the real deal from scratch could be four times as expensive.  I realize we spend a much smaller portion of our income on food than other world nations do, but it's flat out stupid that real food costs more than processed food does.

I distinctly remember taking this photo because four items cost $20!
Sometimes I also found the produce at grocery stores to be less than ideal.  The selections weren't always at their optimal stage of freshness, and they were always so gosh darn expensive.  In an attempt to cash in on fresher produce at lower costs, we recently became members of Sam's Club.  The local store also happens to be located just about as close to our house as other grocery stores, and it's always a safer place to be than the run down areas of this town.

I really like shopping at Sam's - there isn't as much variety in their produce section, but what they do have is always fresh and longer lasting than what I typically purchased at other stores.  Not everything at warehouse stores is cheaper than other stores, but if you know what you typically pay elsewhere, it's not difficult to make a judgement about whether something is a good buy.  

Using whole ingredients has inspired me to make other things from scratch too - a few weeks ago, I made homemade peanut butter cookies for the pressbox using only three ingredients (eggs, sugar, peanut butter) instead of baking something from a box.  This week, I even managed to make banana bread with some overripe bananas we had laying around.  Also, my mother-in-law bought me a solid 12-in-1 blender for my birthday, so I am itching to crank that baby up and concoct something awesome!

With all that said, the results of these efforts have been increases in consumption of fruits and vegetables in our day-to-day diets.  We haven't experienced weight loss, persay, but I have to believe we are having more nutritious meals on a more regular schedule.  At this point, however, I am starting to become bored with our same-ole menus, so if anyone has some simple/easy recipes (using fresh ingredients) to to offer, please share away!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Three/Twelve = A Giveway

Please tell me I'm not the only one whose birthday parties were the highlight of their childhood experience? I'm not talking lavish, expensive parties, but the fun, unique ones that created special memories for years to come.  A few of mine that come to mind include designing a float and riding in a rural Mardi Gras parade with all my best friends, borrowing a covered wagon and hosting a Western-themed shindig, and setting up backyard tents to sleep out under the stars.  Good stuff, people.

Personally, I believe birthdays are a big deal.  It's the one and only day of the entire year that is absolutely yours (unless you share it, of course...but still, yours)!  It may be the unique birthday parties my parents entertained for me all those years, but my love for birthdays hasn't waned with age.

So today, as I inch closer to the big 3-0 (NOT YET!!!!), I invite you to party with me.  Share your favorite, most unique birthday story for a chance to win a FREE 1/2 sheet of Jamberry nail wraps from my very own personal collection.  For a bonus entry, visit my website to check out the new 2015 Spring/Summer Catalog and tell me which design is your "must have" this season.

Feel free to share this post with friends - I'll throw in a double bonus entry if your friend leaves a comment saying you referred her.  ...Yes, I am most definitely in the giving mood today!  In the mean time, I'll be admiring those beautiful flowers from my sweet husband and savoring surprise cupcakes from coworkers. Comments (entries) close Wednesday, March 18th, and winners will be announced thereafter.

Leave some love, ya'll!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Lineup

Continuing my "Wedding Wednesday" series, it seems like a good idea to start with an introduction of the people who played an important role in our wedding.  We jokingly refer to this group as "The Lineup" because of Alex and his friends' ties to working in the sports industry.  Our D.J. for the reception was an actual P.A. Guy, who Alex met while working at USC-Upstate.  When he provided introductions for the group, he performed it as if we were an actual team was hilarious!

Lauren Nicole was born in south Louisiana, on March 12, 1980-something.  She grew up in Abbeville, LA, with her parents and younger brother, Austin.  In 2000-something, Lauren graduated from high school and went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Child, Family, and Social Services from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA.  She completed a Child Life Internship at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital in Boise, ID (2008), and worked as a Program Assistant for Wonders of Washington in the greater Washington, DC area (2009).  She then moved to Raleigh, NC to further her studies at North Carolina State University.  After completing a Master’s degree in Extension Education in 2011, Lauren moved to Arkansas to begin her work as the Volunteer Coordinator for Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock.


Alexander Blake
 was born in southeast North Carolina on November 15, 1980-something.  He was adopted in December of that same year.  He attended elementary school in the Benson, NC area, before moving to Dunn, NC at the age of 11.  In 2000-something, Alex graduated from high school and went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Parks & Recreation Management from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  In 2007, he moved to Greenville, NC to further his studies at East Carolina University.  After completing a Master’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science with a concentration in Sport Management, Alex went on to begin an unpaid internship at Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC (2009).  Then, Alex moved to Spartanburg, SC, for a paid internship at USC-Upstate.  In 2010, Alex was promoted to Assistant Media Relations Director, taking on the role of primary contact for women’s soccer, men’s basketball, baseball, and tennis.  In 2012, Alex made the big move west to northeast Louisiana after accepting the position as Director of Media Relations for a local university.  

Dawn – She (Maid of Honor) and Lauren met through 4-H at Louisiana Co-Op Camp in 2004; they’ve since shared countless state and national-level 4-H experiences over the years. Dawn was working toward a Master’s of Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, at the time of the wedding.  These days, Dawn works as an Occupational Therapist at The Emerge Center in Baton Rouge, LA. 

Alyssa – Alyssa is Lauren’s first cousin; they grew up together, sharing a love for family and Nanna’s good cooking.  At the time of the wedding, Alyssa is in her Senior year of high school. 
Currently, Alyssa is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Lendy – Lendy and Lauren were classmates and fellow Graduate Assistants in the Agricultural Education Department at North Carolina State University (2009-2011).  Lendy is currently employed by the North Carolina Farm Bureau, based in Raleigh. 

Kara – Kara and Lauren were introduced by mutual friends while both were students at North Carolina State University (2010).  At the time of the wedding, Kara had recently received her degree in Agricultural Education and was actively pursuing employment opportunities. Since then, Kara married the love of her life, Peyton, and they built a log home together.  She currently works for an agriculture company based in RTP (Raleigh, NC). 

Victoria – Victoria and Lauren met at a local 4-H event when the girls were in middle school.  At the time of the wedding, Victoria was pursuing her Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Since then, she and her husband, Seth, gave birth to a son (Carter, Dec. 2012), and have another child on the way (Sept. 2015). 


Bill – Bill is Alex’s Best Man and wonderful father.  He lives in southeastern North Carolina and is currently employed by Sampson Bladen Oil Company.

Christopher – Chris and Alex met in 2009 during Alex’s internship at Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC.  Chris is an Agricultural Education teacher at a private school in eastern North Carolina. He recently became engaged and has plans to tie the knot in December 2015. 

Justin – Justin and Alex were cabinmates at Camp Caraway in 2006.  At the time of the wedding, Justin worked as an armed security guard for North Carolina Detective Agency. Now, Justin is employed as a firefighter in Wilmington, NC.  

Scott – Scott and Alex were coworkers at USC-Upstate in Spartanburg, SC (2009-2012). Currently, Scott serves as the Associate Director of Athletics at a private university in Texas. He and his wife, Marla, have two sons (Cade - 9; Reid - 7).

Austin – Alex met Lauren’s brother, Austin, on his debut visit to Louisiana in Summer 2011.  At the time of the wedding, Austin was a Junior at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. Austin has since received his Bachelor's Degree, and is now currently pursuing a Master's Degree at LSU-BR.  

Ring Bearer & Flower Girls:

Drew (Lauren’s godchild), Sophie, and Emma are Lauren’s four-year-old cousins (two, at the time of the wedding).  They love reading books and are enjoy attending preschool.  The triplets live in Scott, LA. 

There you have it - our wedding party.  Of course, there are other people who were integral in this whole process (namely family, but also other friends, and of course vendors), but let's just keep it simple and stick with these "first string" players.  Thanks for visiting!


Note:  "The Lineup" was originally written in 2012 featured on our wedding website, hosted by Shutterfly.

Also featured in the Wedding Wednesday Series:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#s 11-15: Faith Category

I'm back for Round Three in updates for the category-by-category summary of my 20 in 14 goals list.  Click here for Goals 1-5 and Goals 6-10.

And here's the snapshot of Goals 11-15 (Faith Category):

11. Designate a person-a-day in prayer.
12. Rest in faith with practicing NFP as we TTC.
13. Receive the sacrament of reconciliation quarterly (at least).
14. Register as members of a church parish. 
15. Tithe to church (instead of non-profits) more regularly.

Overall, I think the items in this category went pretty well.  Excluding #12, the goals were very specific, and pretty typical of what would be considered S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented).  Achieving these goals also didn't cost any money or require me to go outside of my comfort zone (except maybe #13).  So let's break them down:

11. Designate a person a day in prayer.  I'm really glad I included this one on my list, even if it did take longer than planned to implement.  (#oops) Click here to read a detailed summary of this experience.

12.  Rest in faith with practicing NFP as we TTC.  This is a bit of a touchy subject for us right now. Obviously we're not pregnant and we haven't moved forward with becoming a certified foster/adoptive home, but we have put thought and discussion into both.  I think one day I will write more on this topic, but for right now it just feels too personal and I'm not ready to talk about it here.  (Prayers are always welcome, however.)  Update (8/8/15):  Read here.

Designed by Kendra
13.  Receive the sacrament of reconciliation quarterly (at least).  I started out pretty well with this, and then sort of fell off the wagon.  Thinking back, I received the sacrament in March, June, September (I think), and November.  You'll notice that does include Lent, but not Advent.  One random weekend, the priest at our church gave absolution to everyone during his homily (I forget what the reason/occasion was), so that was unexpected.  But...then time totally got away from me and I didn't make to Confession during Advent.  Boo.  Now it's Lent again, so I need to make that happen sometime before Easter on April 5th...

Designed by Kendra
14. Register as members of a church parish.  I actually wrote about this back in April, asking for input on criteria for finding a "church home" (as I often hear Protestants refer to it).  Fast forward to today, we have settled on which local church will be home to us while we live here.  Mostly it came down to being located 3 minutes down the street versus almost 30, but that's neither here nor there.  These days we only attend other churches when the Mass times at our regular one don't work for our schedules.  Technically, we still haven't registered as members, but I keep telling myself to e-mail or call the office so we can figure out exactly how to go about doing that.  (A carryover for 2015, maybe?)

Just because it's funny.  (source)
15.  Tithe to the church (instead of nonprofits) more regularly.  Can I just say that I LOVE tithing?!  (Ok, maybe I'm weird?)  It's so fun to decide where to give our money too each month.  At certain times of the year, it's even more exciting to know I am supporting friends or family who have a particular cause/event that is close to their hearts.  I have gotten better about dividing the funds evenly between church and other organizations, even if that sometimes means everything goes to the church or other organization one particular month, and switches the next time.  I don't know what else to say except that I truly do get giddy feelings when writing those checks every month.  #callmeaweirdoifyouwant  :)

So there you have it, folks!  I committed to recapping 20 in 14 and it will happen!