Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Goals - How did I do?

On this last day of 2013, I wanted to check back on how I did on my 2013 goals. As you see, I posted three goals. Here is how I did!

(1) PHR exam - I did not complete this goal. I even bought some study guides. However learning a new job quickly took over as a 2013 professional goal. I'm recommitting to this goal for 2014. So much so that I listed it on my self-appraisal at work. Yikes. Nothing like telling your boss that lights a fire under you!

(2) Attend a fundraiser - Check! In March, we attended a fundraiser for the Second Harvest Food Bank.

(3) Be more intentional/acts of kindness - Check! I think this will always be a goal of mine. This was a continuation from 2012. Here are some of the things I did to meet this goal:


    • Volunteered to edit and revamped several friends' resumes (Both IRL and Twitter friends)
    • On being intentional with my time - I joined the Junior League of Jacksonville in August. I have really enjoyed learning about the organization, spending time with other women who have a spirit of giving back to the community and participating in various volunteer activities.
    • Baking for my co-workers on their birthdays
    • Helping out a busy friend by wrapping her family Christmas presents
    • Participating in a Seven Project bible study - The food, possessions and media areas were big lessons in intentionality for me.
    • Started blogging on fiscal responsibility, helping me to be more intentional about where our money goes
    • Increased philanthropy, which I shared here
Still finalizing my 2014 goals. Nothing like a little procrastination to start the year!

Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Planning for 2014

My Twitter timeline is currently filled with memories of 2013, wishes for a better 2014 and excitement over new planners. Planners really have evolved over the years. I remember when I was fresh out of college, I took a Franklin Covey Productivity class as part of my training at the consulting firm where I had my first grown up job. I wish I remembered more about the class, but some of the details that stuck with me included:


  • Breaking down goals into practical implementation steps with measurable outcomes
  • Prioritizing and coding tasks to note what could be delayed (marked with a -->), in-progress (IP) and completed (a checkmark)
We received a FC Daily planner as part of the class. In researching for this post, I was amazed to see that the pages still look the same!


Now, there are so many choices. From Erin Condren to Whitney English to Momgenda, there are various stylish ways to keep your life in order.

So which one do I use?

None.

I think these planners are so pretty and lovely. I really do! The main reasons I don't use them are: (1) I hate my handwriting and (2) I need a way to share my calendar with Jeff.

So we use Google calendar for now. Since joining Junior League, it has been especially important to have a way to share with Jeff as those JL events generally require him to be home with Jack. Some of the other events (JL and otherwise) may be ones where we both attend. I name the appointments using the following naming convention:

Nat - JL - Volunteer at Instrument Zoo
Nat/Jeff - JL - Whale of a Sale preview party

In the notes, I'll include where Jack will be (if not with Jeff).  If it is during the work week, I'll indicate if Jeff needs to pick up Jack from his Gammy or if I will prior to my meeting/appointment. I'll also set the reminders for both pop up and email. 

If anyone has any tips on smarter ways to use Google calendar, please let me know! Also if you use a paper planner, let me know which one!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our First Family Christmas Card



I am never organized enough to get Christmas cards out. However, I managed to get it together enough to get one ordered and mailed out. Being that this was my first time at this, I was not anticipating the cost of cards. I decided to only send cards to family who did not have Facebook. That is around 25.

The picture is courtesy of my sister, who took it while we were on vacation in Asheville. I was going to do family pics, but again, not organized enough to get that scheduled. Plus, the whole car expense thing reared its ugly head! I would like to get them done at some point in 2014. Resolution?


Monday, December 16, 2013

Mommy/Jack Day!

Last Friday, Jack and I had a Mommy/Jack day. Jack normally stays with his "Gammy" (J's mom) while J and I  are at work. She had an appointment on Friday, so I took the day off from work to stay home with him. I had read about a few fun kids activities at the St. Johns Town Center. We had to head out that way to visit an old boss of mine and the weather was ideal for fun!

Wolfson Children's Hospital opened up a new children's play "shore" aka as a playground. There were lots of sea themed toys for climbing and exploring. It had a very nice canopy covering it, ideal for super sunny Florida days. We ended up crashing a playgroup. All the kids were right around Jack's age! He spent the first few minutes shyly peeking from behind my leg. He warmed up though and it was no time that I was chasing him around the play space. 

We headed to Barnes and Noble next to find the train table. I'm thinking that we will get one for Jack on the 2nd birthday. Till then, I've been finding places that have them to see if he's interested. This time was the first time he was captivated by it! It made me realize what a big boy he is now :(

After picking up some pajamas (he is a 2T now due to height), we had a fun lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. I'm always a tad nervous when we go out to eat. What if this is the time he decides to dump his food on the floor? We lucked out as he did great!!

By the time lunch was over, it was back home for us. It took about 15 seconds for him to fall asleep for his nap.

When he woke up, his Auntie (my sister) had arrived. After numerous repeated Sesame Street YouTube videos, we walked to the park. We always try the swing each time. It's not that he hates it. He just seems ambivalent! He smiled for like 30 seconds then he was over it. He's more of a slide kind of guy I guess!

All in all, it was just a wonderful day. I wish I could take more days off to have these Mommy/Jack days! It always feels a little more special when it happens during the work week. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Choosing to DIY


It's Fiscal Friday! Today is about my choice to DIY.

I am a big fan of traditional Christmas cards. I don't mean the photo ones (love those too!), but the ones you buy from Hallmark or your local CVS. Wanting to capitalize on my Extra Care bucks, I decided to purchase cards from CVS this year. I buy parents cards, grandparents cards, husband etc etc. I probably picked up 10 cards. After throwing in a couple of gift cards and a bottle of allergy pills, I go to the register and someone in a matter of minutes, I've spent close to $150 bucks.

I get home and resume the daily nighttime activities (bath for Jack, dinner, bedtime). In the quietness of a home with a sleeping toddler, I review my receipt from CVS. I wanted to throw up. I'd spent just shy of $50 on GREETING CARDS. 10 Greeting cards. I felt so sick.

It was in that moment that I decided that we'll be making cards this year. Something with Jack's handprint. I've got a stack of construction paper already. I just need some washable paint! They won't be Hallmark, but I think my family will appreciate them a bit more.

And the $50 worth of Christmas cards? I returned them the next day.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Year of Giving

In 2013, giving back to the community was a theme. In the past, we have donated clothes to charities for resale and participated in food drives during the holidays. This year, we did our best to give year round. Here are the organizations we have supported and the reasons why we did.


The Second Harvest Food Bank provides food to numerous community agencies in the North Florida area. These community agencies then distribute to individuals who are struggling to provide food for themselves and their family. In March, we attended the Great Chefs Competition, which was a fundraiser for Second Harvest. 100% of the ticket sales went to Second Harvest. It was a fun event for a wonderful cause.

I also led the food drive for my work this year. It was a rewarding experience to deliver 351 pounds of food to their main warehouse!

Why did we choose Second Harvest? Bottom line? Food is really important in our home. We show love through food. And I am super cranky when I don't eat. Seriously though, the thought of families not being able to eat breaks our heart. For so many kids, their main meal comes from their school. We love being able to contribute in some way to reduce the number of hungry people in our community.


BEAM stands for Beaches Emergency Assistance Mission. Their mission is to help keep families in their homes as well as help them become self-sufficient. Among their many services include job/interview assistance, a local food pantry (including gardening boxes for people to grow their own veggies), and assistance with utility bills.  They also organize a Holiday Gift Program to help play Santa for hundred of local Beaches children.

Why BEAM? Their focus is helping people in our local Beaches community. They help folks who could be my neighbor or someone I see in the grocery store. You never know. I'm hoping to spend time in 2014 assisting people with their resumes and interviewing skills.


The Church of Eleven22 is my home church. They organize numerous mission trips each year. This year, we were able to support friends who were embarking on their first Mission trip as a married couple. They are a Godly couple who live their faith out loud.

Why support? Because the work they will be doing is important!!


Wolfson Children's Hospital is our local Children's hospital. Rather than each community hospital having in-patient facilities, our local hospitals refer all the pediatric patients to Wolfson. We've had good friends whose children have been admitted in the past. The staff is nothing short of amazing. Being a non-profit, they depend on development relationships for a lot of their funding. 

Why Wolfson? First and foremost, supporting them is a way to thank them for all the great care they have provided to First Coast children for many years. Since becoming parents, it is even more important that we do what we can to help their mission.



I learned about Friends of Jacksonville Animals (a.k.a FOJA) from my friend LL. She is very active in advancing their mission of raising funds to benefit the lives of shelter animals. They are heavily involved in adoption events around the city. The dedicated volunteers of FOJA give a voice to our animal friends.

So why FOJA? Our dog Truffle is a rescue. We adopted him from another family who no longer could care for him. They adopted him from a shelter. He had been found abandoned with his brothers and sisters in Central Florida. I could not imagine our lives without Truffle. He's not the most polite dog, but he is ours. Period.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. These organizations are all doing something important for our community!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Life Less Styled

I love social media. Like, I LOVE it. I love reading and writing blogs. I love keeping up with friends on Facebook. I love meeting people from all over on Twitter.

In my opinion, one unintentional fallout from social media is the propensity for a highly styled life.

The rich and famous have had personal stylists for years. Stylists existed in retail shops and magazines, not in the every day home. Professionally decorated homes were for the well-to-do.
With the advent of mediums such as Twitter and Instagram, more and more people were able to share multiple aspects of their life at the click of a button. Their clothes. Their food. Their kids. Their daily lives. Even their red cups :)

Family pictures no longer consisted of setting the self-timer and running to jump into the picture. We hire professional photographers. We coordinate our outfits, but don't want to be too matchy. We pick out our location to convey a message (I live at the beach! I love nature!). We are posed. We hope that our special moments are captured, so we have the perfect picture for our Christmas cards. Believe me. I've been there. So many of us have been there.

Even our "candids" are styled. A pair of stunning high heels or logo'd flats are precariously tossed at just the right angle. They fall next to our shopping bags, with the logos that just happen to be showing. Or we show our red cups and just happen to capture a new piece of jewelry or the logo on our car steering wheel within the shot.

Is it bad? It's not. It's not hurting anyone (from my point of view anyways). But what saddens me is the loss of true candid shots of life. Will there not be pictures of family members wearing cheesy matching t-shirts anymore? How about pictures of friends who just got in a frosting fight at a 16th birthday party (ahem...)? Or worst, skipping out pictures all together because you don't look the way you want. Andrea shared this post and it really resonated with me.

Just food for thought.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fiscal Friday: The Christmas List


For this week's Fiscal Friday post, I'm discussing my Christmas list. Not a "My Favorite Things", Oprah style list. Or even a "What I Want for Christmas" list (I keep that on Pinterest--it's how J knows what I want!). This Christmas list names who I'm buying for this year.

Aside from immediate family, I feel this list changes every year. Some years, I only buy for immediate family. Other years, I include all of my friends' kids, cousins' kids, etc etc. There was no rhyme or reason really to why I did or did not include someone.

In the spirit of fiscal responsibility, I am really giving serious thought to who I am buying for and what is purchased. In past years, we've been extremely generous. Previous gifts to immediate family members have includes a David Yurman bracelet, airline tickets, iPads etc etc. That list is not meant to be a brag, as part of our remaining debt includes those purchases. Debt: The gift that keeps on giving!

I really do want to give presents to my cousins or at least just their kids. They are always so generous with Jack. Even though we didn't have a big 1st birthday party, they still gave him presents. So one thing I'm contemplating is a family present. Both of my cousins' have kids between the ages of 3-10. Wondering if a restaurant and movie gift card combo would work? Or a Target or Walmart gift card? Or a game night themed present?

Don't even get me started on what the heck I'm going to purchase for my immediate family...

Join in on the conversation by commenting or tweeting me @natylite78, using the hashtag #fiscalresponsibility


Friday, November 1, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Perception


Most days, I think I am a fairly confident person, unencumbered by others' opinions of me. However, there are days where I completely disappoint myself.

Wait, isn't this supposed to be a "Fiscal Friday" post?

It is. I promise! Just hang for a minute.

While on a business trip, my coworker and I went to Nordstrom. Somehow, we found ourselves in the Prada boutique. Then someone who sounded just like me, proceeded to inquire about the cost of a Prada bag. Not only did I  the person who looked and sounded just like me inquire, but also walked around with the bag. What did I (let's be real here) do, but pretend what it would be like to carry an expensive bag. Then I started telling some cockaninny story that maybe I would ask my husband to buy it for me.

Um...NO.

Who was this person saying this crazy business to the Prada salesperson?

I know me. The real me. The one who wouldn't ask for that because it isn't fiscally responsible. The one who knows that would pay for several months of pre-school.

But the words were falling out of my mouth at a rapid pace. For some reason, it MATTERED to me that the salesperson and my co-worker would even remotely think that this bag would be a viable option. Their perception of me mattered.

And that, my friends, is why being fiscally responsible will always be at the forefront for me. Becoming complacent may mean I'm one glass of champagne away from a big and unnecessary purchase. Because when I least expect it, someone else's perception of me may be the reason why I say "yes" to the Prada.

Have you ever felt the need to spend for this reason? Join in on the conversation by commenting or using the hash tag #fiscalresponsibility on Twitter.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Two Steps Forward. Two Steps Back

When I was writing the title to this post, I couldn't help but think of this guy:


Picture courtesy of www.ugo.com


While I was on maternity leave, I used my sick and vacation time to continue receiving a paycheck. After some calculations, I determined I only needed to pay myself around 60% of what I normally made to pay the bills. It was during this time that I landed my current role, which paid more than my old job. So when I returned to work, the increase was not only the difference in salary between the old and new job, but I was used to only 60% of my old salary.

J started a new job as well and we committed to not get used to the increases. Instead, we would pour it all into debts: credit cards and car payments. We paid our cars off and paid off a large amount of debt. Things were progressing better than I anticipated!

That's when things took a turn. While we were in Asheville, J's car went kaput. His car was around 8 years old. The money we would have had to pay in for repairs just didn't make sense financially. Long story short, we got a new car. Eight months of blissful (aka zero car payment) had ended.

It is a setback for sure. However, I am positive we will continue our progress. We just have to stay on task.

It's Fiscal Friday and I'd love to hear if you've ever experience a setback in your road to #fiscalresponsibility! Join in the conversation by commenting or using the hashtag #fiscalresponsibility on Twitter.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Multigeneration Family Vacation in Asheville, NC!



J, Jack and I along with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend traveled to Asheville, NC for a lovely, albeit too brief vacation in a lovely mountain home (found on Homeaway.com - message me if you want the exact listing!). As I wrote here, a multigenerational vacation is a different ballgame than a couples' getaway. There is much more downtime and true relaxation, a big difference from my previous trips. 

The home itself was a perfect location for our needs. We had 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, with each bedroom/bathroom on a different floor. This provided privacy if needed.  The common areas were not large, but were great for playing games and hanging out. The main level deck was simply amazing. Aside from the wonderful western views, the deck was fully screened. For this momma, that was a plus as my fears of Jack jumping off were tempered. 

I mean, look at this view (forgive the screen!)




Here are some of activities:

Asheville Gray Line Trolley Tour - I actually did not plan this one in advanced. My sister brought it to my attention. She thought it would be a good way for my dad to see Asheville without having to walk. She was right. We all had a good time. Jack had a blast riding in the trolley. It allowed J and I to get a good overview on the lay of the land, especially since we were going out to dinner sans Jack that evening.

Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway - J discovered that if we continued up the mountain where we were staying, we would end up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even though the faciilties were closed due to the government shutdown, we were able to enjoy the natural beauty of the Parkway. Again, this did not require my dad to walk. He could relax and enjoy the views like we all did!

Grandad's Apples - A trip to Western NC would not be complete without a visit to an apple orchard. I did quite a bit of research to pick where we would go. I wanted a place where there was a good variety of apples (already picked) and a pumpkin patch, fun kids activities, and finally, apple cider donuts. We were all really pleased with Grandad's! They had some fun props to take pics with Jack. There was a little animal section, where we fed a llama and a baby goat. Jack had a blast in the pumpkin patch. My parents' enjoyed the rocking chairs on the porch. And yes, I did get my donuts!



Asheville is a wonderful town! I highly recommend it as a great location for a family vacation!

In my next post, I'll share details on our date night in Asheville!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Coming Clean


Before I get started, does this blog post title make you think of the song by Hilary Duff??

For this week's Fiscal Friday, I'm inspired by C's post from a couple of weeks ago.  Just how did I get into debt?

I'm going to be as honest as I can deal with. :)

Girls' Weekends

In the late 1990's and early 2000's, I went on a lot of "Girls Weekends". Usually, my friends and I would head to Orlando to see a concert (ching ching), stay at a nice hotel (ching ching), eat at Macaroni Grille (hey, we were young!), and shop at the Florida Mall. I'd say every other trip would include going to Pleasure Island.

Do the math.

I don't regret the concerts, just the money! I think we saw N'Sync at least 5 times. Then 98 Degrees. Savage Garden. Enrique Iglesias, BB Mak, Christina Aguilera, Britney....and on and on. Oh, I also saw Dave Mathews Band, Barenaked Ladies (at least 3x), Billy Joel, etc etc. HOw crazy to even recall any of that!


Shopping

I'd say it started when I lived in Chicago. I was going out all the time (well there goes the money) and feeling like I just HAD to purchase a new top, earrings, jeans, etc etc for those occasions. I've always had a small case of the wants, but it really blossomed in Chicago. I also got introduced to the makeup counters at Nordstrom. Help me!!!

Long Distance Relationship

I did a lot of flying when J and I were in a LDR. I believe this was money well spent. However, it definitely added up. Investment with an emotional return?

This is the first time I've written these reasons out. This was not as scary as when I added up my debt for the first time a few years ago. But still.

Do any of these reasons sound familiar to you?


Be sure to follow our conversation on Twitter by using #fiscalresponsibility !

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fiscal Friday: Short and Long Term Financial Goals


It's Fiscal Friday!

As I mentioned before, I tend to to get the "wants" more that I care to admit. However, I have found one way to keep me on track to be fiscally responsible. Like many people, I love to make lists. This particular list is of my short and long term financial goals. My hope is that I can divert my desire to shop for things I don't need by thinking of the goals I want to meet.

Short Term

October 2013 vacation
Pay off last credit card (8 more payments!)
Make Christmas shopping list for family including a budget

Long Term

Save for my kid's school (pre-school then college)
Go to Italy for J's 40th birthday

Looking over this list, I know I need to add things like grow an independent retirement fund. I do contribute to my company's 401k plus we have a pension plan, however it isn't enough.

So when I look longingly at a new handbag or shoes, I hope this list will continue to keep my on track.

Do you have short and long term financial goals?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Just what does #fiscalresponsibility mean?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may see me use #fiscalresponsibility on some of my tweets. What does that mean? I suppose each person I tweet with has their own specific definition. Here is mine:

Fiscal Responsibility - Practicing sound and purposeful spending. Paying down debts.




I started using this hashtag when tweeting with others about not shopping. Then it evolved to tweets on "smart shopping". Then we started tweeting about paying off debts (student loans, car, credit cards). 

It had become a support group!

But why?
Let me backtrack. I've always loved shopping. I loved the thrill of the hunt. However, my case of "the wants" really went nuts when I started reading more blogs and tweeting. I was seeing daily posts of the newest Lilly Pulitzer dress, Tory Burch shoes, Kendra Scott earrings...and I WANTED IT ALL. Deep down, I wanted to feel the excitement that I saw in the dozens of comments from other people on these purchases.

Then I had a crazy month where I had no clue what I was really buying.

So enough was enough. This group of tweeps provides positive reinforcement when I meet fiscal milestones. They can talk me off the ledge of buying a ridiculous want. Really--it is the same excitement I would get more buying something new.

Let me be clear. This is not to say that shopping is bad. Or that we should be judging people who shop a lot. Everyone has the right to spend their money as they see fit. But I've found a group that helps to encourage me to make sound fiscal decisions for me and my family.

So feel free to join in on Twitter when you want to chat on #fiscalresponsibility !


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Planning a Multigenerational Family Vacation

I really enjoy vacation planning. Before I met J, my vacations were with friends. Honestly, I didn't contribute much other than my share of whatever hotel was selected as well as my transportation costs. When J and I started traveling together, I started to love the whole planning process. From accommodations to dining to activities, I enjoyed the research and selection. I even liked planning the transportation once we got to our location.

Planning a romantic vacation for two is a snap compared to planning a family vacation. Yes, I'm planning our first trip away with little Jack....and my parents! I'm really excited by this trip (Hi Mom--if you are reading!) as I know my mom has really wanted to travel to this part of the country. We have as well! But it does present a different set of challenges.

Accommodations

While the majority of my experience has been traveling within the Marriott family, J and I have taken several trips where we utilized HomeAway.com. A friend of mine had booked a month in a farmhouse in the hills of Virginia. It sounded amazing! The first time we opted for a vacation rental was during a trip to Boston. We rented a charming 2nd floor apartment in the North End. It was cheaper and bigger than any of the hotel rooms available. We've also rented in Charleston and Chicago, both were fabulous (feel free to contact me if you want the specifics). Space was never an issue. It was always about location for us!

For this trip, we knew that we needed a house with at least 2 bedrooms and enough space to feel like we all have some room to breathe. The place had to be baby friendly. As well, we needed all the amenities (mainly TV/cable for my dad). J and I wanted to be close to town to enjoy some of the local dining and breweries. We lucked out and were able to secure a great property (I'll be happy to share with you where we are staying---AFTER our trip!!)

Transportation

We definitely need to rent a vehicle for this trip. Not only do we need room for the adults and baby (carseat), but we need room for luggage, medical supplies for my dad, and Jack supplies. If it were just J and I, we would have used one of our own cars or perhaps flown and rented a car upon arrival. I am not brave enough to fly with Jack yet. I'm in awe of all of you who have done this!

Activities

Activities that heavily involve walking are not good choices for this particular trip. For both Jack and my parents, it just won't work. However, I've found some really great opportunities for us to see the natural beauty of the area with minimal walking. I found a few waterfalls that can be seen from the road and have areas where you can pull over and take a picture. I also found some local apple farms where you purchase from the store rather than pick your own. Also, we will be traveling in the fall so I hope there will be some leaf peeping opportunities.

Our trip isn't for a few months, so please share any other tips you may have! Thank you!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Meeting Chef Kevin Gillespie


I used to love "Top Chef". I wouldn't miss it! But then it was too much drama and not enough food, for my taste anyways. Then we cancelled cable, so I can't watch it anyways!

But when I did watch, Season 6 was my favorite. Aside from the tasty Voltaggio brothers, this season featured fan favorite, Kevin Gillespie. Known for his wicked tattoos and even more wicked beard, he is REALLY known for winning the most Quickfires and Elimination rounds! His food was always so inventive yet accessible. And he was never about drama--just great cooking skill and a passion for food.

When I saw that he was going to do a demo at my local Publix Cooking School, I quickly snatched up a pair of tickets for J and me.

It was one of the best events I had attended!

Kevin is extremely laid back, funny, unpretentious, and honest. He demonstrated four recipes, featured in his new cookbook "Fire in my Belly" (it is awesome, by the way). During the demonstration, he would shared stories from his family, his career (he turned down a scholarship to MIT to attend culinary school), and whatever else people wanted to ask him. While he may have had some idea on what he would talk about, it felt very real and unscripted. It felt like we were hanging out in a friend's kitchen.

Back to the food. Well, it was just fantastic! He prepared:

Marinated Turnip Salad (The first time I had something purposely raw food diet compliant!)



Crispy Green Beans with Salsa Fresco


Tomato stuffed with Savannah Red Rice, topped with Creamed Shrimp


And dessert, which was a mash-up for Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee and Peach Melba

It was so delicious that I ate it before I remembered to take a picture :)

After the demo, he answered more questions, including where did he have the best meal in the US (Eleven Madison Park in NYC).

He took the time to sign books and take pictures. It was great as he did not rush us and we got to have a nice conversation with him about food magazines.

Kevin was already a favorite "cheftestant" of mine. After this event, I really gained a new level of respect for him. He is a man of integrity who cooks food that his family can enjoy and be proud. He is extremely articulate and engaging. J and I definitely plan to make the drive up to the ATL to dine at his new restaurant, Gunshow.

And the beard and tattoos are even more epic in person!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Childhood Summer memories



For the past few weeks, J and I have been taking Jack to the park on the weekends. We live very close, about a 15 minute walk/stroll. Jack has tried the baby swing (he's ambivalent) and the slide (assisted by us....he loves it!). During these walks, I started to reminisce with J about childhood summer memories. Here are some of my favorites:


  • Picking honeysuckles and tasting them.
  • Catching grasshoppers.
  • Bikes rides from afternoon to dusk.
  • Running through the sprinklers.
  • Building forts on rainy days.
  • Chasing the ice cream truck down the street
  • Hanging out at my friend's "clubhouse", aka her parents' shed. Pretty sure we would pretend to be the Babysitters Club!

I hope walks to the park will be one of many memories for Jack one day!



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rooster Update

Remember this guy?


He showed up at my in-laws at the beginning of April. And he never left. He was adopted by their cul de sac. Neighbors left food out for him. My in-laws named him Brew Roo. He was friendly--even eating chicken feed out of my mother-in-law's hand.

On Monday, my father-in-law reported that he had not heard Brew Roo crow since Sunday. He feared that foxes had gotten to him. On Tuesday, his neighbors went on the hunt and unfortunately found him about a quarter mile away, an apparent victim of a hit and run. A kind utility man helped them place Brew Roo in a box and added flowers on top. THEN he said a few words in memoriam! The neighbors brought Brew Roo back to the cul de sac. The utility guy stopped by the neighborhood and asked if could dig the hole for his burial. He was buried under an oak tree, next to the pond by my in laws' house. He was truly kind.

At 8pm that evening, the cul de sac held a memorial for Brew Roo. THIRTY PEOPLE showed. It was amazing! One neighbor even went to Publix to purchase a cake with a rooster. The Publix bakery staff was able to make some adjustments to an existing cat cake and turn it into a rooster. They are awesome.

One of the neighbors is a local morning radio show host. She's been giving regular Rooster updates on the air. This morning, she recounted the whole story. Even though I knew it, it was crazy to hear someone telling it.

While Brew Roo's life was short, he really won the hearts of many. He will not be forgotten.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Lee Bros.



I have shared before that I love the Publix Apron Cooking School. Aside from offering an array of classes, they host guest chefs for cooking demonstrations as well. I was over the moon excited when I saw that Matt Lee and Ted Lee, aka as The Lee Bros. were on the schedule! The Lee Bros are Southern food historians, in my opinion. They have done a lot of researching and interviewing on the Southern food heritage. They grew up in Charleston, SC on Rainbow Row, no less! They regularly contribute to Southern Living, Food and Wine and other esteemed food publications. They have also been on No Reservations, The Best Thing I Ever Ate and more. Oh, and they have won a James Beard award for their cookbook. No big deal.

The event was a cooking demonstration and tasting of their recipes, framed in a multi-course meal. The format was such that they would discuss a recipe, demonstrate how to prepare, answer questions, and then we would eat! Our meal consisted of Henry's Cheese Spread, Frogmore Soup (pictured above), Shrimp and Grits (pictured above), Matt's Four Pepper Collards (pictured above), and Syllabub with Strawberries (inhaled before a picture could be taken). Each course was paired with wine as well.

Matt and Ted are highly entertaining and approachable. They are not restaurant chefs, but home chefs who really take the time to reach into the Southern food history and adjust the recipes for modern day cooking. As expected, all the recipes were delicious! They were very welcoming to all our questions. My favorite was the shrimp and grits. They were so good that J even said he'll need to start making them at home!

If you ever get a chance to attend a cooking event with Matt and Ted, just do it!!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Touring the 2013 HGTV Smart Home

The 2013 HGTV Smart Home is located a hop, skip and a jump away from our home in Jacksonville Beach. When I heard there was an opportunity to tour the home in person, I jumped at the chance! The tour also served as a fundraiser for the Beaches Area Historical Society, which is a wonderful organization aimed at promoting and preserving historical areas of the First Coast Beaches area.

My good friend B and I decided to make it a Mommy's Day Out with the tour and lunch at Poe's Tavern. We braved the rain and it was definitely worth it! I took many pictures to serve as design inspiration for that future dream home of ours. I picked out a handful of favorites that I wanted to share on here.



I love the mix of textures and patterns in the living area. And yes,  those are three tv's on the wall! Each TV can be covered by a painting that is retractable! There is also a separate sound system for the deck, so one could be in the pool watching one show while the people inside are watching another. Pretty smart!


I just about squealed when I saw this anchor. The anchor is comprised of starfish. The background is the actual wall with a shadowbox placed over it. So fun.


I really loved the arrangement of these oversized frames. The entire wall was very striking. I love the teeny bit of aqua that you see between the pictures.


The color palette of this second bedroom was a nice departure from all the aqua. The decor was fresh and modern. I didn't capture it in this picture, but the bed had a lovely linen headboard.


This was the Master Bath. The tub and shower are both enclosed by glass. You would be hard pressed not to be able to relax in that tub!

I am really glad we had the opportunity to see the home in person. The Smart Home elements of recycled and reclaimed materials were impressive. The iPad technology used to control all the aspects of the home was amazing! While coastal decor is not normally my cup of tea, I love the way the designer infused coastal living with modern elements. I love the use of tension wires on the staircase and window treatments. The home could have easily been too theme-y, but it wasn't.

You can still enter to win. And I think you should!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The April 2013 Shopping Budget that wasn't

So this post is where I would share what I purchased in the way of clothes and accessories in April 2013. But I'm here to explain why I won't be posting it this month.

Confession: I was out of control.

I bought what feels like triple what I would normally buy.

A Lilly skort from consignment.

A seersucker dress off eBay.

2 non-sale dresses from Lands End.

A maxi dress from a boutique.

White Cropped pants from JCP.

And I don't exactly know what else!

I use one word to describe this: UNACCEPTABLE

Mindless buying is extremely dangerous. So in light of that, I'm doing a no-spend May.

Believe me. This is necessary. Luckily I have a good Twitter friend who will be joining me.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Anthony Bourdain


J and I are big fans of Anthony Bourdain. When I heard he was going on tour, I figured there was no chance that he'd come to Jacksonville. I was pleasantly surprised to find out we were one of the stops! I was even more surprised to discover there was a VIP reception. I lucked out and was able to purchase VIP tickets.

Anthony Bourdain is as entertaining in person as he is on television. He shared stories of how "No Reservations" was created; how his life has changed since becoming a dad; and of course, Paula Deen. There was no censor, which was definitely entertaining as well!

The reception was terrific! We got a chance to talk one on one with Tony. I shared with him that one of my "tweeps" suggested that I show up naked. He laughed :) J talked with him about "Treme" and "The Wire".

I highly recommend seeing Anthony Bourdain live if you are a fan!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Orlando/Winter Park Anniversary Weekend!

We are around a two hour drive from Orlando. It has become a favorite destination for J and me over the past few years. Do we go to Disney? Nope. There is a whole other part of Orlando outside of the theme park world!

Our favorite areas of Orlando include Winter Park, Audubon Park, and Thornton Park. All of these areas are a stone's throw from Downtown. This post is focused on Winter Park. I'm hoping my tips will entice you to give the other side of Orlando a chance for your next weekend trip.



Picture courtesy of Unlocked Orlando

I attended my first two years of college at Rollins College, a small liberal arts college in Winter Park. I love revisiting the campus. However, my favorite activities in Winter Park are shopping and dining. 

Shopping
Shopping skews on the preppy/resort side as far as clothing is concerned. There is a Lilly Pulitzer (of course). However, there are some other boutiques that carry lots of preppy/resort wear. Here are two of my favorites.

Siegel's Clothing Company - Siegel's has been around for over 30 years. They carry both men and women's clothing. As far as brands, they carry Jude Connolly, Gretchen Scott, Fornash, Southern Tide, Lesley Evers, and many more. I love the selection of fun graphic dresses!

Cerise Boutique - I actually sought out Cerise Boutique, as I learned that they carry Escapada, a resort brand based out of Charleston, SC. They have a great selection and they also carry Jude Connolly. The sales clerk was so helpful. She helped me find every thing in the store in my size!

Dining

When it comes to food, I will completely admit that I'm a snob, especially when we are dining out of town. I will specifically look for restaurants that have James Beard nominated or winning chefs at the helm.  If I had more time, I'd branch out to discover the next great hole in the wall. But when my time is limited, I tend to go with proven winners. 

Photo Courtesy of Ourlando.com

Photo Courtesy of Cask & Larder

Luckily, Winter Park has dining that is right up our alley. Our absolute favorite is The Ravenous Pig. The Pig is a all about local food done in accessibly, but flawlessly. No foam or essence here! It is run by a husband and wife team. They have a new restaurant, Cask & Larder, which is a Southern Public House. We dined there this past weekend for our anniversary. I usually don't order chicken in restaurants (eat it so much at home), but J and I shared a plate of their fried chicken. It was INCREDIBLE!!

Photo Courtesy of Luma on Park

We also tried a "new to us" restaurant called Luma on Park. Style wise, it is the complete opposite of The Pig. Where The Pig and Cask & Larder embrace rustic elegance, Luma is very modern and sleek. Their food is much more "composed". We ordered several small plates to share and each one was flat out phenomenal. At the end of our meal, I was reading the Chef's bio. When I saw he used to work for The French Laundry (and Chef Thomas Keller), the meal totally made sense. Perfection on a plate is what Thomas Keller is all about!

Other favorites include The Briarpatch for breakfast/brunch and great people watching. For sweet treats, I love Croissant Gourmet and le macaron.

Hopefully you'll get a chance to see the other side of Orlando soon!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

On Personal Style

I am 35 years old. It is only in the last few years that I've really liked what clothes I wear. I still make mistakes, but for the most part, I like what I wear. Here are some of my lessons learned. Note that style is seriously personal! When something doesn't work for me, I guarantee it is effortlessly beautiful on someone else.

(1) Full skirts are my friend. Pencil skirts are not.

(2) Oxfords with crewneck sweater are not flattering on me. I need an open neckline because my neck is short (no, not insulting myself. Just how my neck is!)

(3) I am more Doris Day than Audrey Hepburn.

(4) Even if they aren't the height of style anymore, I actually like my Revas. This is why I was so sad when they broke. They actually helped me survive pregnancy feet! I know people love the Cece J Crew flat, but they didn't work for me.

(5) I like beachy/coastal style in the summer time. Perhaps it isn't the most sophisticated, but give me a coral print tunic anyway.

If you have any of your favorite style lessons, I'd love to hear/read them!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Over the weekend- to catch a rooster

This past weekend was filled with lots of family time with both sets of grandparents.

And brainstorming on how to get this guy to leave my in-laws front yard!



Ideas included using an old cat carrier and enticing the rooster with food. My mother in law thought we should leave a trail of food to the nearby woods. My brother in law had a blanket at the ready to try to catch the rooster.

I called my parents to ask for advice. First thing my dad says is " Don't feed him. He'll never leave" Yeah. Too late on that!

The rooster is still there as of today. The dogs are going nuts. We think he came from a neighbors' farm, but no one can get a hold of them.

The funniest part of this is that my mother in law loves roosters! Her house has rooster decor throughout. The little guy must have figured he was welcomed!

Monday, April 1, 2013

March Fashion Budget

March 2013 Budget

March 2013 Budget by natylite78 featuring a red jacket

I continued my trend of adding to my work wardrobe this month. Honestly, I won't know how much I spent till I finish writing this post. Not very fiscally responsible, right? Yikes.

1. Tahari skirt suit - $25.00 via eBay - I adore this suit. It has a fun pleat at the bottom of the skirt. Tahari fits like a dream too!

2. Charter Club Shirt Dress - $58.00 via Macy's. This is the first time I have tried a dress from Charter Club. I loved J. McLaughlin shirt dresses, but they are not very budget friendly (average $200). This one has a similar feel and the print is classic.

3. Green shirt dress with white chain link - $40.00 via Stein Mart. Stein Mart is very hit or miss for me. I've seen some pretty awful clothes there. However, this green dress was a diamond among them all.

4. Merona Linen Cropped Jacket - $30 via Target. I had a $5 off coupon on any Merona purchase. I found this darling little jacket and have already worn it to work. It pairs well with navy and luckily, I own a lot of navy! I'm hoping this will get a lot of wear during Spring and Summer.

Grand Total: $153.

Yikes, that's a bit much! Going back to work is costing me money! Good thing I'm planning to sell some of my clothes to make up for this spendy month :)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Date Nights

Our date nights are pretty typical. We'll go out to dinner either alone or with friends. Once in a while, we'll go to a concert (Symphony/Pink Martini/Death Cab for Cutie). However, we've been mixing it up a tad! Food is still central, but the events themselves are mildly less ordinary.

Most recently, we attended a charity dinner that benefited Second Harvest Food Bank. It was a cooking competition with 4 chefs from the Beaches (my part of town) and 4 chefs from the City. Each course was comprised for 2 dishes, one from a chef from each team. Wine pairings were also available. The diners/audience would pick their favorite of each course. Highest number of votes win. The food was delicious from start to finish. We lucked out in being sat at a pretty entertaining table. I even saw my wedding musicians there (how random is that!) It was a great event for a wonderful cause. This was our first charity dinner, so I was actually a tad nervous. Would we be the youngest ones there? Ha, glad my worries were dashed quickly.

Confession: I go gaga for chefs. Sometimes they are ones that I've seen on TV (Hello Chuck Hughes). Sometimes they are James Beard award winning chefs. I'm just in awe of people who create delicious food (my husband included!)

In light of my confession, it comes to no surprised that our next several date nights will feature some well known chefs!



Next month, we are seeing Anthony Bourdain! Before we cancelled cable, we watch "No Reservations" and "The Layover" regularly. J and I both love his love of divey places and appreciation of food culture. So, not only are we going to the show, we are also going to a VIP reception so we will meet him! What to say to Anthony Bourdain?? I'll let you know.

Next month is also our five year anniversary. We are going to Orlando to eat and drink around Winter Park and Downtown. Several restaurants were recognized by the James Beard Foundation  this year, so it is exciting to see Orlando coming into its own in the food world.

This summer, we are attending two different cooking demonstrations (yes, you also get to eat) . First up is The Lee Brothers, who are regulars in Southern Living magazine and have several cookbooks featuring Charleston's finest. In June, we are seeing Kevin Gillespie, who was one of my favorites from Top Chef!

Funny to have date night planned so far in advanced, but I'm looking forward to it all!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Three moving tips


If you follow me on Twitter, you know that we recently moved from our condo to a single family home at the beach. Truffle gets a yard! We don't have to worry about Jack tumbling down our stairs! We don't have to smell the cigarette smoke from our neighbors anymore (the biggest reason we moved)!

The last time I moved was from Chicago to Florida. It was pretty painless as I didn't have much stuff. I lived in a 495 sq. ft apartment! Also, I didn't have a dog or baby (or husband) to concern myself with.

I wanted to share the three tips that helped us in this move.

(1) Put toilet tissue, soap and a plunger in the bathrooms before move-in day.

(2) Pack a set of bedsheets/pillow cases plus your new shower curtain (don't forget the curtain rings!) in a separate bag that stays with you. Make yourself take a break early in the unpacking to make your bed/hang. Clean sheets plus a hot shower will never feels as good as they do after a day of moving!

(3) Arrange for your pets/children to stay with family on moving day. Truffle stayed at J's parents. Jack was with my parents. If you have the opportunity to make this happen, it will help. I promise!

Aside from our movers showing up 5 hours late, it was a great move. We have a few random boxes of books left to unpack, but everything else is in its place!

P.S. Lesson Learned: If you have asthma, probably a good idea to wear a face mask when the movers are actually moving stuff. Dust will be in abundance. And I highly recommend you know where your inhaler is. Wish I had done both!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

First Job

I remember being so excited to find my first job.The most coveted jobs were at our local mall. This was the early 1990's, after all! I knew I didn't want to work in food service. That is funny to me now as I waited tables and bartended my way through college!

My first job was at a Hallmark store. I started when I was 15. Not only did they sell greeting cards and gift wrap, but they also sold every tchotchke known to man. Precious Moments. Cherished Teddies. And so on! I was hired as a sales clerk. Because of my age, I could only work around 15-20 hours a week during the school year. During the school week, I worked one to two days for 3-4 hours. On the weekends, I would work either Saturday or Sunday. When I turned 16, it was less strict and I started closing the store on Friday nights. Thinking back, I can't believe my store manager let me and another 16 year old sales clerk close and make the bank drops! Ha!

Working at the mall was a blast. I had friends who worked at the Barnie's coffee (no Sbux in our town for many years) and Chick Fil A, so I'd get to chat with them on breaks. Of course, there were always a few creepers at the mall. We would have a couple of older men (come to think of it, they were probably in their 30's LOL) who would ask us out. Obviously, they'd back off once I'd disclose that I was 15/16/17. If they came around too much, we would call security on them!

I have great memories helping customers find the perfect card or gift. At least once a week, we would have a male customer asking where the "I'm Sorry" cards were located. Some would completely unload on us and I did find that helpful when finding cards for them. At Valentine's Day, you always had a guy coming in at 8:59 p.m. (Mall closed at 9 p.m.). One year, I had a guy offer to buy our last box of Russell Stover chocolates. The thing is, the candies were display (i.e. WAX) only. We had to convince him it would be much worst to bring those home than to come home with only a card. Crazy!

I worked at Hallmark during the Beanie Baby phenomenon. I remember wearing the Beanies on my shoulder to help promote them. It wasn't long before we had grown ladies waiting for us to open so they could buy way more Beanies that any one person possibly needed. Little did they know that one of my co-workers was obsessed with them and had an extra large bag filled to the brim with all the good ones. Opps!

This was truly a wonderful first job! I resigned when I went off to college. They always worked around my band schedule or exam schedule. Twenty years later and one of the ladies STILL works there and remembers me!

What was your first job? I'd love to know!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

That one time where my shoes broke: A timeline



February 25, 2013 - I discovered that my Tory Burch Revas, purchased at Nordstrom in Chicago (Michigan Avenue) in October 2011, were split in the sole. Cue intense anger.

February 26, 2013 - I tweet the following message:

"So my husband's wallet does not appreciate what happened to my  Revas. I've only had them for 1.5 years!!"

Within two hours, I received a DM from @toryburch:

Please email inquiries@toryburch.com, attention Gloria, and she will help you.

I sent an email to the above address, explaining my situation. I received a reply on the same day from "Gloria", requesting I send an additional picture, proof of purchase and my contact information.

February 27, 2013 - I received an email response with an apology for the damaged shoes as well as a offer of the cost of the shoes in the form of a gift card. Honestly, that was more than I would have expected! I would have been pleased with free repair to my shoes. TB provided a UPS label for me to use to ship the shoes back.

March 7, 2013 - I received an email stating that my shoes were received and routed to the appropriate department. The email also noted that I would receive my electronic gift card within 7 days.

March 19, 2013 - I had not received my promised gift card yet. I sent an email to follow up. Within a couple of hours, I had my gift card plus an email apologizing for the delay.

Same day, I send an email to the Chief Talent Officer at Tory Burch (who I just happened to have worked for in Chicago at a large media/advertising company). I let her know my positive experience.

All in all, I'm satisfied with the resolution to my issue. I don't know what I'm purchasing with my gift card yet, but I'll be sure to share at that time! Going the social media/customer service route worked for me! I suppose I could have contacted my old boss/contact and complained, but I trusted the system!





Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On Judgement

Everyone judges. Even the nicest, non-"Mean Girl"person judges. We judge each other on values, clothing choices (our own and our children's), food, drink, friends, marriage, pretty much everything
stationery choices, grammar, etc.


Social media has given us an opportunity to expand the range of our judgement. Not only can we judge people we know in real life, but we can judge people we've never met! We can cast upon our harshest words and sit smugly on our virtual thrones.

You may be thinking...I don't ever do this. Perhaps you don't outwardly, but admit it, deep down. You do this!

As I've read through my Twitter timeline over the past years, I've seen the direct judging, passive aggressive jabs, the #nojudgies but I'm still judging you inside. I'm totally guilty of it too.

But if you are anything like me, you are judging yourself the worst.

I worry that if I post a picture of my son wearing a onesie that says "I Love Mommy," those of you who have said you hate cliched kids clothing will think that I'm a bad Mom.

I worry that if we're not making 100% of our babies food and I mention buying those pouches, you'll think I'm a bad mom.

I worry that because I leave my baby with my in-laws or parents overnight sometimes, so J and I get a date night or sleep, you'll think I'm a bad mom.

Unreasonable? Ridiculous? Absolutely!

But I'm doing it anyways.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Living in a small screen world

I have to give it up to the CW. They manage to air shows that feature fake towns where I want to live! Here are my favorites.


Capeside, MA - "Dawson's Creek" was a favorite from the late 90's. Hands down, it had the best soundtrack. I suppose that ages me, yes? Oh well. I've been rewatching the series, thanks to Netflix. While the fashion leaves much to be desired, the idyllic small town of Capeside is still appealing. The series was filmed in Wilmington, NC. My friends and I used to talk about taking a road trip up the coast to see the real Capeside. Oh, youth.


Stars Hollow, CT - Stars Hollow, how I love thee? The quaint stores. The quirky residents. The Dragonfly Inn. Luke's! As a Florida girl, there is not much around here that is quaint and charming. It was nice to escape to Stars Hollow once a week! Sadly, Stars Hollow only existed in a Southern California film lot.


Bluebell, AL - Doesn't this gazebo look familiar? Good to know that the old Stars Hollow lot is finding a new life as the set of "Hart of Dixie". They take a page from the Amy Sherman-Palladino world and filled Bluebell with some quirky characters. However, I find HoD's characters a little more believable -- Southerners are just a touch odd in the best way possible :) I'd die to live in the Mayor's house. I dig the vintage Southern style as well.

Do y'all watch any of these shows? Let me know if you'd be my neighbor!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 2013 Fashion Budget

Feb 2013 Purchases

Feb 2013 Purchases by natylite78 featuring colorful jeans

As you can see, February was about adding to my professional work wardrobe. Now our official dress code is business casual (i.e. suits not required daily), however my department highly encourages jackets worn when attending meeting outside the department. So I've been scouring eBay for jackets and suits (because a suit does make it easier to get dressed in the morning!).

Side note: I find is so hard to find suits that are age appropriate. I am turning 35 next month. Most suits are skewed towards the over 50 group (in my opinion). The suits that are age appropriate are so expensive! I've had luck with Talbots, whose done a good job of appealing to the 30's demographic in recent years.

So here is how I did!

Purchased and Wearing!
1. Old Navy Pop Color Jeans - Obviously NOT for work! - $19
2. Black Ponte Knit Ruched Blazer - This is not the exact one I purchased. I purchased mine from  Ross Dress for Less - $19.

Purchased and Returned

I wanted these dresses to work out so badly! But the fit was just wrong all the way around. Waist too low, chest too big. My body was not meant for them!

Purchased on eBay, not yet received
5. Talbots Khaki Blazer - $0.99 (add $7.50 for shipping)
6. Le Suit Grey Suit - $42.99

My original grand total was $142.46. After I returned the dresses, the total was $89.48.

I would like to add another shirt that will work under suits. I'd also like to add a cardigan or blazer in a spring appropriate color. Wish me luck!