‘Tis The Season To Be Fall-y

There was one day in August, just a few weeks ago, when I felt it.  The air blew cooler, that smell was in the air… it was fall, and I could just feel it coming my way.

Every September 1st, I begin to unpack my fall decorations, and place them strategically around my house.  I light the flame of my favorite Yankee candle and wait as the scent of spiced pumpkin drifts into each room.

I.  Love. Fall.

Fall brings with it cooler temperatures, which means my favorite wardrobe comes out of hiding, and I look forward to those few short weeks when the leaves are aflame, and the yards below them are glittered with a golden hue.

I admire trees… they have seen so much, and their final act before winter sets in is magnificent.  Last year I watched this particular tree line transition from a dark hunter green to the perfect fall medley of red, orange and yellow.  This year I have decided to catch the transition on film.

Beginning on September 1st, I took a photo of the tree line.  I have, and will continue to take photos of the same tree line as it performs its final magic act; changing color right before my very eyes.

Stay tuned!

~ Lauren

Recent Reflection

I recently had a telephone interview; it was nerve-racking to say the least.  I think the most stressful part about the interview, beside the fact that I was being put on the spot, was that I hadn’t interviewed for a job in five years.  Stress can always be found hanging around the fear of the unknown, and being out of practice did not help to ease my uneasiness.  After I hung up the phone I felt a weight was somewhat lifted, but then I began replaying every single word that came out of my mouth, and I began hoping that the recruiter liked me.

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Simple DIY housewarming gift. Flour sack dish towel (these are awesome), Mrs. Meyer’s, Lavender scented kitchen hand soap (love!)

Later that same day, the Coastie’s duty section had a cookout.  Spouses, significant others and children were all in attendance.  I would be fibbing if I said that I had been looking forward to the cookout as I am a shy person who can’t seem to utter a word until I feel comfortable in a situation.  So, needless to say getting together with the Coastie’s co-workers and their family members- most of whom I had never met- was anxiety inducing.  We showed up with a small housewarming gift (the hosts arrived to the station just two months ago), and a vat of baked beans.  We were trying to put our best foot forward so we’d be accepted by the crowd.

In the beginning the co-workers talked amongst themselves as did the spouses and significant others who already knew one another.  For me, it was uncomfortable and I’m not ashamed to say that I ‘hid’ behind my daughter- absorbing myself in what she was doing.  As the afternoon went on and the drinks started flowing, so did the conversation among “strangers.”  One of the Coastie’s co-workers introduced himself and his girlfriend to me.  They were very friendly, and during our conversation I found out that they were both from Michigan- see, we had something in common that I wouldn’t have known from staring at them from across the room.  I am embarrassed to admit that I rarely walk up to someone and introduce myself.  I have been told that my shyness comes off as being aloof, and that is a nice way of putting it.  Simply put, this is something that I need to get over.

The cookout went well, and I actually ended up enjoying myself.  Later that evening, when we were relaxing at home I got to thinking about my day.  The interview, the cookout… maybe I wasn’t as out of interview practice as I had thought… we all participate in informal interviews all the time.

When I was on the phone with the recruiter, I wanted to shine.  I wanted her to like me and I wanted her to want to talk to me again- so I owned it.  When I was at the cookout, I wanted to stand out in the crowd.  I wanted the other Coasties and their significant others to like me, I wanted them to want to talk to me again.  It took me a bit of time but once I got comfortable, I think I ended up doing just fine.  Sadly FIRST impressions are just that and many people do not offer a do-over.  I went into both scenarios prepared for get-to-know-you questions.  In a job interview the recruiter is gathering background information to see if you will be the best fit for the company.  In an informal setting, the small-talk can also be quite revealing.

Whether you are formally interviewing for a job position or informally interviewing for a position as a new friend, as odds have it, not everyone will make the cut, but it is still important to put your best foot forward and make a good impression.  I have decided to challenge myself… the next time I meet someone for the first time, I am going to try to approach the situation as if I was about to interview for a job.  I am going to introduce myself first and hold a strong presence.  As usual, I will treat that person with courtesy and respect and I will be the person to engage in a meaningful, in-the-moment conversation.  Wish me luck getting out from behind myself.

~ Lauren


 

Creative Cards for Little Cash

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Wedding greeting card purchased at TJMaxx for $1.99. Look at that detail- there is real lace on the front of the card!

Take a second to think about the number of greeting cards you purchase per year.  Well, right off the bat, you will most likely purchase at least a card or two for the major holidays, and, we are all bound to celebrate a birthday, wedding, baby shower, confirmation, graduation or two!  I have a quick, thrifty tip that will up your greeting card giving game while at the same time being kind to your pocket book.

I used to have a love/hate relationship with greeting card shopping.  I always wanted the card to relay the perfect message AND, I wanted the card to look pretty.  With regard to my own personal taste, a lot of the cards out there were lacking… something.  Usually, the greeting cards that I found pleasing to the eye were upwards of $6-$7!  Now, I am a card lover.  I am actually that person who saves the cards she receives, so I take greeting card purchasing seriously. However, most people read the card and toss it with the wrapping paper so spending $6-$7 seems a little much.

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Simple and sweet. The caption inside reads, “Congratulations to a special couple.”

One day, as I was headed to the check-out at TJMaxx, I spotted a display of greeting cards.  I checked out the selection, and purchased a cute little birthday card made of brown, recycled-looking paper with a simple birthday hat on the front.  The birthday hat was colored with soft, pastel colors, and looked as if it had been drawn on the paper by hand.  The hat was completed with a bright red, 3D pom.  It was adorable and the perfect card for my girlfriend’s birthday.  The second best thing, it only cost $1.99!

After that day, I was hooked!  When it comes time for me to purchase a greeting card, the first place I head is either TJMaxx or Marshalls.  Both stores always have a varied selection, and like most of their inventory, their selection changes weekly.

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A little 3D beading sets this card apart from the others.

As I mentioned in a previous post, summer is wedding season.  I am actually attending a wedding this evening and will be selecting one of these cards to hold our gift for the bride and groom.  Unless there is another wedding guest in attendance who knows my greeting card shopping secret, I would bet that my card will not be a duplicate!

Happy writing.

~ Lauren


Nothing To Do With Anything. Really. Part 2

IMG_5995In the words of Full House’s Stephanie Tanner, “How rude!”

Well, the raccoon came back but this time I did not catch it in the act.  Instead, I only saw the remnants of his or her visit.  I find it interesting that it has been so long since its last visit, and I find it even more interesting (read annoying) that it managed to stop by once again while the Coastie was on duty.  It is quite creepy, actually.  I hate that feeling- the feeling you get when you know something or someone was where it wasn’t supposed to be but you figure it out after the fact.

I have made one observation about this raccoon though- I think it practices portion control.  The bag in the upper left of the photo is a bag of stale Puppy Chow.  For those of you who don’t know what Puppy Chow is, it is rice or corn chex covered in a chocolate-peanut butter mixture and then coated with powdered sugar.  It is very tasty and sometimes I cannot control myself when I am eating the sugary goodness.  Well, this raccoon seemed to exhibit no such problem as it left most of it behind.  Now, that is either a testament to the raccoon’s portion and self-control abilities or, a reflection on my cooking abilities… I hope it isn’t the latter!

~ Lauren


 

Adventures In Haircutting- Military Style

Well, I am now an (unofficial) beautician, with an expertise in Men’s Military-style haircuts.

It all started about 3 years ago when the Coastie and I took a step back to review our finances.  We like to do that from time-to-time, and I happen to believe that it is a good habit to get into.  Plus, I have always prided myself on being “frugal,” (even though I know my family would choose a different adjective to describe my penny pinching ways).  During our self-guided audit, we found that we were spending hundreds of dollars per year on haircuts.  Nope, it wasn’t the total cost of haircuts for the family per year, but the total cost of haircuts for the Coastie and the Coastie alone.  Knowing that we had no choice in the matter- the Coastie’s hair is actually part of his uniform and it needs to be within regulation- we were just going to have to accept his need for frequent haircuts as fact.  I guess you could think of it like income taxes; you have to pay them, and if you don’t you won’t get away with your delinquency for long.

So, in order to save a few hundred dollars, we decided that I would start to cut his hair.

Bad idea.

In the beginning, I found the process quite humorous, and so I giggled a lot.  Call it a nervous reaction if you will, but, whatever the reason giggling with hair clippers in your hand is not smart.  In fact, during one of my giggle fits, and while holding the clippers (at level 0- meaning really, really short), I accidentally brought the Coastie’s hairline (at the bottom of his neck) up about an inch.  It wouldn’t have been so bad but I did so in the middle of the bottom.  Basically, if you looked at him from behind, his hairline looked like an upside-down pitchfork.

So, you live and you learn, right?  Wrong.  I tried cutting his hair a few more times and each time we got into an argument.  Mostly because he kept telling me he needed the back and the sides of his hair to  be “faded.”  “I’m not a magician!” I’d tell him.  We finally decided that for the sake of our marriage he should probably just go back to getting his hair cut by actual professionals.  He went back to salon cuts for about a year.

I honestly can’t recall why we decided to give the home haircutting another try but we did.  The second time around has gone fairly well.  I am learning as I go (scary, right?), but get better with each cut.  I have a system now and usually remember it.  The Coastie did ask me to watch a YouTube video or two to maybe “pick up some techniques in fading.”  Damn that fading!

I still haven’t watched those videos.

~ Lauren


‘Tis The Wedding Season

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My mom, sister (yes, the bride helped) and I crafted these adorable bridal shower invitations.

Summer is wedding season which means that it is also bridal shower season!  Technically, I suppose every season is wedding and bridal shower season but you know what I mean.  I wanted to share with you a beautiful, sophisticated and rustic bridal shower our close family friend, Gail, threw for my sister last year.  I was lucky to be able to assist and learn a thing or two from this event planning guru!

To begin, my sister not only hit the jackpot with her “Mr. Right,” she also hit the jackpot with regard to event planners. Gail is an expert when it comes to throwing a great party and creativity runs through her veins… let me just tell you- you wish you were friends with her!

 Theme: Lavender and Lace

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Dried lavender centerpiece

We decided on the theme Lavender and Lace, which brought together calm and beauty; two things my sister embodies herself.  The bridal shower was held in the evening for a more relaxed atmosphere- you could say it was a cocktail party to honor the bride and celebrate her upcoming nuptials.  

It’s All About Setting and Décor

The rustic yet historic setting in which we hosted the shower was absolutely perfect.  We rented the newly renovated, 1927, Calf Barn at The Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.  The Calf Barn and grounds of the farm were the perfect backdrop.  In fact, many wedding ceremonies, reception and other events are held on the grounds each year.

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Gathering table under grapevines lit by twinkle lights. Highboy cocktail tables were scattered throughout the room to provide more space for guests to mingle.

In case you were wondering, yes, that is a tent set up inside of the Calf Barn!  Gail envisioned an atmosphere where the guests felt as if they had taken a trip to an elegant vineyard rather than had to attend yet another tired, mid-day bridal shower.  The tent’s metal structure was used to weave grapevines over the large dining table.

This time, the table was not a rustic farmhouse table but instead we used three long folding tables and pushed them together to create one large, continuous table.  We added the following to dress the tables up a bit:

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    Gathering table

    Neutral colored table cloths
  • Burlap with lace table runner
  • Small mercury glass candle holders with tea light candles- these helped to add a soft glow to the table
  • Bouquets of dried lavender which were placed inside small, white metal buckets.  The metal buckets had scalloped edges and cutouts which mimicked the look of lace.  The lavender bouquets added a hint of color and a calming scent to the air.

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Pots of fresh lavender seated on top of old wooden boxes added a little more rustic charm.


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You can dress up any regular potted plant by adding a burlap wrap to the pot and tying a pretty tulle bow in the middle.


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We added burlap sashes with lace bows and a few sprigs of dried lavender to some of the chairs seated around at the gathering table.


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A chandelier hung overhead pulling the entire dining area together. It always amazes me what lighting can do to an area.


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A crystal chandelier is always a yes! You can make your own by finding a plain brass chandelier and adding crystals. You don’t have to break the bank by purchasing real crystals either. Crafting stores sell high quality plastic crystals that sparkle nicely when the light catches.


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This large “I Do” sign hung on the barn door and was the first thing the guests saw as they entered the party.

To make this “I DO” sign you will need:

  • Large cardboard letters
  • Mod Podge
  • Fine glitter
  • A long piece of burlap
  • Lots and lots of tulle!

Food Fit For A Queen… Or A Bride… Same Thing!

If there is one thing Gail does better than event planning it is catering.  She used her imagination, and her taste buds, to plan a complimentary menu.  The hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and desserts spread was grand!

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Cheese, veggie and fruit platter


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Red wine for some, lemonade for others. There was even a signature drink which included a lavender infused simple syrup.


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Beautiful, bite-sized desserts


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Chocolate dipped strawberries…


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… why I don’t mind if “I do!”

 

 

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Cupcake bridal gown

Making the cupcake bridal gown was so much fun- it may look complicated but it was actually quite easy!  I baked 3 dozen cupcakes, and arranged them into the desired bridal gown shape.  Once arranged, I iced each cupcake individually, then I filled each gap with more icing (yes, please!). I finished off the cupcake bridal gown with a handmade jeweled belt.  I’ll be honest… there was one problem with this cupcake bridal gown… none of the guests wanted to touch it!  They said they felt bad taking a cupcake because they didn’t want to ruin the dress.  Leave it to us women- always sacrificing in the name of fashion!

You Gift, I Gift, We All Gift

We set up a separate sitting area for gifts.  When it was time to open the shower gifts, the guests had the option to watch or continue to mingle and munch on goodies.

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Separate sitting area for gifts


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“From Jenna’s Shower to yours.” The guests were given homemade lavender infused sugar hand scrub which was made by none other than… you guessed it, Gail!

At the end of the evening, the guests were encouraged to return to the gift sitting area to pick up their special thank you from the  bride-to-be.  The guests returned home with homemade Lavender infused sugar hand scrub.

We had a wonderful time planning this bridal shower and an even better time attending.  It was a lovely evening, I hope yours is, too.

Happy planning!

~ Lauren