Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Day After Christmas 2015

On the Day After Christmas, my True Love gave to me:

Sunshine :-) ...

with 77 degrees :-( 




One basement a drying...

'Cause all the previous raining

One Hundred (?) corns a popping

It's A Wonderful Life a viewing

Two naps a sleeping


Two espressos waking



Ten nails a painting



Three episodes a streaming...

America's Test Kitchen

And a Beagle on a Sofa!



Merry Christmas & Happy 2016 to All!

Cheers,
S

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holiday Bucket List: Christmas with the Atlanta Master Chorale

This past Sunday, in the very un-winter-like weather of 74 degrees (!!!!), we headed to the Emory campus for a performance by the Atlanta Master Chorale at the Schwartz Center


To say the talent represented was beyond amazing is an understatement.  The entire program was beautifully done - the production, lighting, voices, timing, selections, instrumentation, humor, & cheer.  It brought me to tears more than once - the kind of tears experienced when you are in the presence of beauty, keenly aware if it, & so grateful to be a witness to it.

The highlights for me: a wonderful & unique production of Jingle Bells & the Artistic Director sang Silent Night a Capella.  Put this concert on your list for next year, and if you'd like to hear them sooner, they have another concert coming up on January 30th.

Cheers,
S






Saturday, December 12, 2015

Make These: Cheesecake Strawberry Bites!

One of my favorite blogs, the Kitchn, shared these beauties last week:

The Last-Minute, Gluten-Free, No-Bake, Stress-Free Dessert That’s Going to Be What You Bring to Every Party

I made them this afternoon for our neighborhood association holiday party & they were a hit!  We had informal judging of the desserts & while they were a contender I lost out to some homemade turtle cookies (will have to get that recipe as well..)...next year, my friends, next year.

I was so happy with how they turned out:



Make these - they are so pretty, easy & affordable to make, & delicious.

Now, I am going to finish watching Elf with a sleepy Beagle - have a great one!

Cheers,
S

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holiday Bucket List: Atlanta Botanical Garden

Every year we drive past the Atlanta Botanical Garden & ooh & ah (OK, I ooh & ah) over the the sneak peak of beautiful lights for their Garden Lights, Holiday Nights & every year time gets away from us & we don't go.  It's in its 5th year & this year my husband bought tickets & we soaked it up last Saturday night.

We lucked out as it was cold but not unbearably cold & turned out to be a clear, pretty night.  Here are some of my favorites...

a cute frog:


Mother Earth/Madonna:



not the best shot (I need to improve my night photography!), but it was cool to a have a view of Midtown behind the lights:




corn - how cute is the corn?




the lights were just beautiful!



The Garden was filled with lots of families & has food & drink available throughout.  I loved the fact they had a s'mores station!  We split a hot chocolate & it was the perfect compliment to the evening.

If you live in metro-Atlanta or will be visiting Atlanta, take the time to see this - it's very family friendly & the gorgeous lights (& music) will get you into the holiday spirit! Expect crowds but again, the lights are totally worth it.

Cheers,
S

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

So this is a super-long post - if you are reading (hey, Mom!), I tried to also include lots of photos.  We had a fun-filled, packed Thanksgiving weekend!

One of the best things about having a husband from New Jersey is getting to visit his sweet family & friends in NJ & getting to hop over to New York City - this year Brooklyn to be specific.

As a kid, I dreamed & dreamed of getting to visit/live/see (anything!) NYC (remember Fame? I so wanted to be a Fame kid!!!) - I have always loved big cities & love how their energy holds me up & makes me feel so alive. Even in Atlanta, I have always found my way back to the city (to live & work) whenever possible.  So I am especially grateful that I'm losing count of how many times I've gotten to walk under NYC's lights & beautiful buildings.  I love how it's becoming more & more familiar to me & how it recharges me every time I come back home. I also love (sorry for using love so much, but...) how I could never exhaust the possibilities/sites/food/people the City provides.

We got up at 4 AM Thanksgiving morning & flew into Newark.  From the airport we took our rental:



                                 (guess who picked the rental!)

and made our way to Hoboken.  Here is one of the best things about Hoboken:





 - its amazing views of Manhattan! 

I can never get enough of it! So freaking amazing & beautiful!

We grabbed a "light" breakfast of pancakes from Stacks Pancake House and Smokehouse BBQ - how's that for a mouthful - located on Hoboken's main drag of Washington Street.  




Walking about the city was a great way to burn off those pancakes - if you've never been to Hoboken, go - it's a cool little city & Sinatra's hometown. Just across the Hudson from NYC - it's only a short train (the PATH) or ferry ride away.





We then met up with our Kiddo (OK, she's technically my step-daughter, but I claim her!) who recently moved to Brooklyn & headed about an hour away to see family in Lake Hoptagcong, NJ for a big Thanksgiving dinner.  I am so thankful for the wonderful hospitality & all the delicious food they prepared - it was like walking into Turkey-Heaven - we were hungry, a bit grubby from all the travel, & so happy to see everyone!

Friday morning, my sister-in-law & her guy made us all a wonderful brunch (again, thank you, guys!!!) - we were never lacking for food or wonderful company on this trip.

On Friday afternoon, we headed to Brooklyn:



Above is the view from our hotel - you can see the One World Trade Center on the left.

We also go to see the Kiddo's apartment - she & her roommates are lucky enough to have a little backyard:




Later, we had dinner at a pizza place, Rosco's - yep, so much food! Good thing we walked lots too!

We started Saturday with a really delicious late brunch at the Lazy Ibis (love that name):



I thought their espresso cups were cool (the espresso was great as well) - this trip was fueled by lots caffeine!

The weather was a bit rainy & overcast, so we then hit the Brooklyn Museum:



They currently have a very cool exhibition - Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008.





The whole museum is worth checking out:









The Brooklyn Public Library is next door.  We didn't go in, but what a thing of beauty:



Saturday night, we had dinner at Glady's Caribbean - some of the best Jerk chicken, Jerk pork, peppered shrimp, peas and rice, and plantains I've ever had. Check it out in Brooklyn!  I wish I had photos of the food, but we were all busy chowing down!

Sunday, we headed to Rockaway Township, NJ to attend our 2-year-old niece's birthday party.  

On our way out of town - on the Manhattan Bridge:




It was held at a great restaurant called Caffe Navona - how cute was her cake?



The Birthday Girl spent the 1st part of her party like this:



:-) Got to love her dress!  A 2-year-old needs her naps!


We then made our way back to Hoboken; some sweet friends let us stay at their super-cool condo:



I highlighted their condo in this post too.

They just got kittens - a bother & sister:



They were so cute & funny & SO hard to capture on film!

These cats have cool digs/scratch post:



Later, we all had dinner at the Elysian Cafe:



It's so pretty on the inside & the food matches!

Monday was our last day and we had lunch at Schnackenberg's Luncheonette - ya'll, they make their own donuts!  Go!  I might have eaten two...like a cider & a dulce de leche...the proof is long gone.



So with very full bellys & even fuller hearts we headed back to Atl.  
Until next time!  We love you!



And one more time:



Cheers,
S

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

+Fr. Linus DeSantis, OFM Conv.

An incredible priest I met through a retreat program (via the Archdiocese of Atlanta) passed away yesterday.  

I met Fr. Linus in my 20's & he had a huge, positive impact on my outlook on faith, friendship, & love.  When I bought my 1st house in a pretty shady neighborhood (that I loved anyway), he came over & blessed it.  That blessing saw me through 10-ish years of solo home ownership & beyond.

He had a wonderful sense of humor & always had a super-mischievous look in his eyes - always - he was quick to impart a smile, joke, laughter, & kind word to everyone.  He was beloved by many, many throughout Atlanta & I was so lucky to know him.  He made priests human to me in the best possible way.  

+Fr. Linus will be greatly missed & always loved.  

Please see here to learn more about him & his career of service.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!


I hope your day is filled with loved ones, beautiful weather, delicious food, & a little bit of doing this:
Cheers,
S

Monday, November 23, 2015

Saving $$: Smarter Smartphone Carriers



As we approach Thanksgiving and the Season-o-Shopping, here's a smart way to fatten-up your wallet.

In the Fall of 2013, many stars aligned that led me to a better path on saving money each month on my cell bill. 

First, I received a brand-spanking-new Galaxy S4 as a product test (see here for sites that offer product tests) & got to keep the phone after the testing was over.  For the past four years, I had been with At&t using iPhones & my most recent contract was finally up.  I had never used an Android phone & the Galaxy was light-years fancier than the iPhone 4 I had.  I held on to the phone & was able to easily switch over from At&t to the discount carrier Aio which then merged with Cricket Wireless

My bill went from about $85/month (& that was with an existing corporate discount I had) to $40/month.  

Win!

I loved the phone but it was big & clumsy in my small hands - so, it was no surprise when I accidentally dropped it on a tile floor at the gym.  

Fail!

I then needed to figure out whether to get it fixed or see if I could find a better phone (for me) & better deal overall.

Enter the blogosphere & the many personal finance blogs I follow:  I kept reading over & over again about two companies: Ting & Republic Wireless.  Both are mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs.

Ting lets you bring your own device (gsm or cdma networks - according to their website, that's about 80% of all phones out there) or you can buy a new or refurbished device.  Lots of phone options are available - both iPhone & Android. From there, you pick a plan size from XS - XL.  If you use less, you spend less.  Basically, you pay for what you use and nothing more.  Ting was a tempting option, but at the time (early '14), they only allowed cdma devices (At&t/Cricket = gsm) so I knew I would have to buy a new or used-new-to-me phone.

I then looked into Republic Wireless (RW):

RW is the only MVNO carrier that subsidizes the costs of their phones.  Meaning you aren't paying full retail for a new phone - with any other discount carrier, you pay for the full cost of the phone upfront (no upfront deals or paying per month for your new phone).  The only limitation is they only use Motorola phones, so if you can't imagine parting with your iPhone (& I totally get it) this carrier is not for you.   I decided to sell my cracked Galaxy via Glyde & used that money towards RW's Moto X. I love the Moto X & you can read all about it here.  I have the original version & I love that it's not a super-giant phone.

RW's model is that you run your phone as often as possible on wi-fi.  Most of us have access to lots of wi-fi, so it can be a great fit for many people.  The original monthly plan I had was for $30/month (tax included) for 3G access with unlimited text & data.  But they have recently switched up their pricing & now you are paid back for any available data you don't use each month. My bill averages $18/month.

Super-win!

They have responsive customer service (via email) & I've never had a problem.  When I'm not on wi-fi, my phone searches for nearby 3G or 4G networks (usually Sprint) & can switch back & forth without a hitch.  I have no immediate plans to change carriers anytime soon, but have been a bit tempted by the invite I got from Google for Project Fi.  It works in a similar fashion to RW but it currently only supports Google's Nexus phones.  I would love a beautiful, shiny new Nexus, but my Moto X is still going strong.

Going from $85/month to $18/month has been a huge savings - there is only one Apple app I miss on my phone (Day One - but can still use on an Ipad), besides that, my phone does everything a smartphone should do.  I will never go back to having a contract; there are too many great options out there these days.

If you'd like to learn even more  - checkout these links:

I Finally Switched To an Off-Contract Phone Plan, and It's Awesome

Republic Wireless Review

Five Best Pre-Paid Cellphone Carriers

Google Just Became a Cellphone Carrier with Project Fi 

The Cheapest Cell Phone Plan Worth Having

Happy Savings,
S
ps: when I was on the bus heading to our staff retreat a few weeks ago, the co-worker sitting next to me mentioned he uses Republic Wireless.  It was like we were long-lost-money-saving twins!  (cue the heavens parting!) Both of us sang Republic's praises - he is using their original beta-test phone & it's still works some three years later - his bill has never been more than $13/month.  Awesome!



Friday, November 20, 2015

Home Fri, Vol 4

Sometimes you just have to improvise!

We have great Rosenquist print (that my husband got years ago when he was an art handler in NYC) to hang in our living room.  The problem is it's large (see dimensions via the link), not yet framed, & will be expensive to get framed.


In our last place, I hung it with the ever versatile binder clip.  It was not the exact look we were going for, but it was fun, got the print up, & we could at least it enjoy it everyday.  Plus, I got a kick out of the fact a print called Paper Clip was hung on our wall with binder clips, somewhat appropriate, yes?  :-) But, hanging art from binder clips is not the best way to keep a piece protected - from sun, humidity, dust...life.  


So when we moved, it was rolled-up & has been rolled-up ever since. I am hoping we can get it professionally framed next year but I've been searching for some DIY alternatives like this and this too (plus it's fun!).

So here is my classy-perfect-awesome-one-of-kind solution to the blank wall we were tired of looking at:


wait for it...








Ta-Dah!


Jealous?  

Yes, I thought so.  

My husband got a huge laugh out of it.  It features a snapshot of our dog awaiting his 1st dog-sundae at the Bruster's drive-thru, a random sticker and pin I found around the house, and a photo of the Cheeseburger Taco from Taqueria del Sol (that taco, ALL their tacos are works of art!) - the taco photo was taken and sent to a friend out of state that also loves/knows said taco - these are important things in life!
And there you have it!

Cheers & Happy Friday,

S
ps:  the photos I used on the poster board are from a great app called Groovebook - you can upload 100 pics/month and for a few bucks have a book mailed to you.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

#stronglikeshawn

Earlier this year, my aunt Paula reached out to let us know that she and her daughters (my cousins Dawn and Shawn) and their kids would be visiting Georgia during the summer.  I was beyond excited to see them all together.  Paula and Shawn live near where I grew up in Florida, and Dawn lives near Paris in France - so it was a big, fun deal!

Although their July visit was short (they had plans to hit the mountains after seeing us), we all (I think there were 18 of us) had a cookout at my house.  I wish I had pics, but we were too busy preparing food, sharing stories, and laughing...there was lots of great laughing - the kind you can only do when you're around people you love and who have known you forever.   

The.
Best.
Kind.

It had been way too long since I had seen my cousins so all felt right in the world.  I knew this short moment together was a special time and place.


A couple of weeks later, my Mom got the call that Shawn had been diagnosed with Stage 1 or 2 breast cancer.  She would have to undergo a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and possibly radiation.


This is horrible, devastating news for anyone.  But for someone like Shawn it seemed impossible.  Shawn has been a vegetarian since she was a child; she has been an active dynamo her entire life.  As a mother of two, she's also a certified fitness instructor; her full time job is kicking people's asses in cycling, combat classes, you-name-it.  She's a great motivator/coach and if you asked me to offer up the most fit, healthiest person in my family, it would be her.  


Exhibit A: 
She went on a run recently - post surgery, after a second round of chemo - see?  Bad Ass!

So the amazing thing is, even while battling cancer, chemotherapy, and surgeries, it's still her.  She is still the healthiest and most fit person I know.  Her spirit is as strong as her muscles.  Which is saying a lot! And no matter what, that can never be taken away from her.

Her community has surrounded her with so much love and support it's been awe-inspiring.  The Go Fund Me page set-up for her exceeded its goal over and over again and is close to meeting its current one.  And the Facebook page set-up for her has been documenting her fight and keeping the support going - please follow along if you need doses of true inspiration. 


She has always been a beauty, but now I think she has even surpassed herself:




That my friends is spirit shining through and it's real beauty - the only kind that matters.


Please offer a prayer, good thought, any means of support for her, her kids, supportive boyfriend, her wonderful friends, her whole family.  We should all aspire to be #stronglikeshawn.


ps: updated - how I could I forget this pic ??? - this is all three of us way back when...
 :-)

Friday, November 13, 2015

#prayforparis

It's beyond words to see your cousin's Facebook status reflect the fact she and her family are unharmed. The fact that FB check-in's like that even exist, have to exist in this world.

She was offered tickets today to the France/Germany game (she and her family live just south of Paris) but opted out.  They watched the game at home regretting not going when the news came in.  


I am so relieved they are OK (thankful for FB/fast communication across the globe) but so heart broken for so many.  I know this post changes nothing but I am sending peace out into the world and hope it reaches the City of Light.  


I hope it reaches everyone.


Home Fri, Vol 3

I almost skipped posting this this week because of so much lack of sunlight...it's been raining for the better part of two weeks.  We are Southerners and we expect sunshine!  And with the shift in daylight savings time, it's been hard to take a decent, better-lit photo.  I promise they will get better, soon! In the meantime, please humor me if you're reading this and thank you for reading this!

Trivets!

 
As a wedding present, my Mom passed along a gift from my Godparents of these silver-plated trivets:


A bit tarnished above, but still really pretty.

I even love the vintage box!





So after being stored in their cool box for a long while and never having a huge need to use them for a dinner, I decided to polish them up - much shinier:





and hang them on our small gallery wall in the dining room.  I think they would look even better with fancier nails or knobs - maybe down the road...





I love my Godparents (seriously they are the sweetest, kindest couple on the planet and have ALWAYS been so loving and supportive of me) and I love having them on display and thinking of them often - irreplaceable.  The photo does not do them justice.  They are also in a very practical place in the house as we can take them off the wall anytime and use them as needed.


Recently, I was browsing at a local thrift store and found these trivets:




I love them both - but especially the elephant!  There were two other owl trivets and I am kinda kicking myself for not buying all of them.  If you live in Avondale Estates and grabbed them - bravo!


They were priced at $4.99 a piece and then lowered at the register by a store-wide sale.  The sweet guy that rang me up reminded me they were $4.99 a piece, not for the pair (which I was aware of and still thought they were a deal) and looked a bit disappointed at me that I was spending that much.  I appreciated him looking out for me and my wallet!


Like the silver-plated trivets, I knew I wanted to hang them up and display their cute shapes.  I decided to hang them backwards in my bedroom for some much needed jewelry space/storage.


The backs have four risers each (because they are trivets!) which I figured would work well:








Voila - pretty and very functional - a little crooked (might be my mad photo skills too... :-) but a great way to display some fun jewelry!  If I display my jewelry, I actually wear it - plus, it becomes art for you and your walls.  Now I need to find some more trivets...


Happy Friday,

S