June 21, 2013

Earning my Southern Citizenship

In my email today I received a cute article from Bourbon and Boots. It was a "completely fabricated test to find out how Southern someone's roots were so I figured I'd take it. Below are my answers.

As some of you may, or may not know I'm a northern transplant. I am originally from the great state of Maryland (most Southerners call me a Yankee, which to be 100% honest, I love it even though technically Maryland is SOUTH of the Mason Dixon line). Bottom line I moved here over eight years ago, and frankly I've adapted myself quite well. My brother-in-law calls me "Southern Yankee" and I've often had friends remark that they are shocked how well I fit in. I guess all those years of reading my mother's Southern Living magazines really paid off, huh?

We’ve had a lot of border states claiming the South lately, and we’ll admit, Southern-ness is largely a state of mind. So how can you know for sure if you’re a Southerner? Take our completely fabricated Southern citizenship test, and see if you make the cut.

You’re a bona fide Southerner if you answer yes all of the following statements. 

If you answer “yes” to all but two or three, don’t worry, we’ll still let you on the porch.

1. Buying alcohol on Sunday is a royal pain in the ass.
YES! It really and truly is. If your religious beliefs make you feel like you can't purchase on a Sunday then by all means DON'T. Let the rest of us sinners have our fun, ok? There's nothing more annoying then drinking a bit too much on a Saturday night and then realizing you left yourself two beers to enjoy on the creek on Sunday.

2. I once parked a car in the backyard for a week, and it was nearly overtaken by kudzu.
No. However I bet if I did, it totally would. Kudzu is no joke, but man is it pretty. [See below one of our engagement shots we are thick in the kudzu.]

I'm really glad I wore boots for our engagement sessions!
3. When it comes to real estate, a pecan tree in the yard is a valuable selling point.
Yes, I can see this being SO true. Either a pecan tree or a magnolia. I'd go for the Magnolia, personally.

4. If everyone is driving very slowly, it must be Sunday.
YES! Or frankly every, single, day of the year! Life is much slower here.

5. My state has a team in the SEC.
ROLL MUTHA' EFF-IN TIDE!!! (That's a yes).
You literally feel the need to join a side when you move to the state of Alabama. I'm just happy I went with my gut and chose according to color and my favorite movie of all time (Forrest Gump). I chose a winner, FO-SHO! And yes, I just admitted how I became loyal to The University of Alabama... I love red, and Forrest Gump played for the Tide. Yes, a fictional character. Hey at least I can name most of the starting line-up in real life people!

6. Gambling. We all do it, we just don’t talk about it.
No. I frankly think gambling is really stupid, but that's probably because I don't have a ton of disposable income and I have no clue how to bet on anything other than the usually "I bet you a dollar I can do this....".

7. If you’re over the age of 7, sugar does not belong on grits.
YES! I agree with this. I like my grits salty and with butter or cheese (or shrimp). Now I'm hungry, great.

8. At least once in my life, I have been the deserving victim of a “whipping” with a “switch” of my own choosing.
No. My mother always used a wooden spoon, must be a "Northern Thing"

9. That fizzy sweet drink is pronounced “coke.” And so is that one.
No. I will stick strong to my northern roots here. When I want something fizzy, I will say "I need a soda." However, if I am wanting a specific soda I will say "I want a Coke." or "Man I could go for a Ginger Ale." Soda is my go to word.

10. At least one member of my household regularly hunts.
No. Now my extended family has a few hunters in the group, [Three brother-in-laws and a father-in-law] but no one in our immediate home does.

11. I have ridden in the back of a pickup truck … as a young child.
YES! But actually I was probably about 22 or 23. The bouncers of a local Country Bar offered to give myself and a few friends a ride back to our hotel after our cab didn't show up. Gotta love it! (And this was in Maryland, thank you very much).

12. There’s unsweet tea, and then there’s regular tea.
Sort of yes. I grew up on sun tea which is not really sweet unless you make it that way which my mother didn't. Sweet Tea was reserved for summers spent in North Carolina. Now you can get it everywhere and it sort of makes it less special. But no one makes sweet tea as well as my Mother-in-Law.

13. I do not live in Oklahoma.
True. And my Northern roots have no idea what this implies.

14. I have seen numerous episodes of “Hee Haw.”
Yes, does it count that I watched them in Pennsylvania? It was always on TV at my grandmother's house and that is the only place I watched it. I was also an avid fan of The Duke Boys.

15. At least one thing in my home is monogrammed.
Yes. However none of these items are ones I purchased for myself. Most were gifts and one I requested that my husband get me for Christmas (my necklace). I truly only love monograms on jewelry, so yeah, you can revoke my "Southern Belle in Training" card for that comment right there.

16. Banana pudding is a requirement at any potluck dinner.
YES! Love the stuff, I would learn to make it but my southern husband hates it so... no need. Again my MIL makes a mean banana pudding.

17. St. Louis-style barbecue does not count.
No. I think all BBQ counts. I'm not BBQ-prejudice in the least, however I'm a "Yankee" what do I know. We make pit beef which is amazing and you have no idea now much it knocks your socks off. I will say though I've learned a ton about BBQ living in the South. Carolina Tangy BBQ Sauce is still my favorite though. Sorry, it's true.

18. The car in front of me has its blinker on. It probably won’t turn any time soon.
Yes! That is if they even use a flipping blinker. Seriously.. it's like one of the FIRST things you learn in drivers ed. Why is it SO hard to use it people?

19. There’s a very important difference between cornbread and hush puppies.
Yes! Both are amazing but totally different.

20. I have seen Graceland, and it was good.
No. I have never been to Graceland. I hear it's amazing but while I appreciate Elvis I can't say I'm gaga over him. I know, Strike 2 with the "Southern Belle Training Card" thing.

SO there you have it... 13 YES's out of 20 Questions - I'm fitting in well but not losing my roots too much. Just ask my husband when I say "Crayon" it comes out as "CROWN" he loves to tease me about it but I beg him to let me keep some of my Maryland roots and how I say things. It's who I am dammit!

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June 20, 2013

Our Wedding: A Link-up

I wanted to link up today with Holly and Melanie they are hosting a link-up party since it's wedding season and have asked everyone to share their special days! And let's be honest, what former bride doesn't want to talk about the wonder of their wedding day (or the horror) right? So here goes, follow the link and link-up if you have some great wedding wisdom you'd love to share with newly engaged girlies!


I've shared a lot of my wedding details and photos on here (if you're interested click on the OUR WEDDING tab or go here). My husband, Mike and I had dated for quite a while before we got engaged. We didn't mean to necessarily plan a quick wedding, I always thought I'd plan for a full year, instead we planned it and made it happen just six short months after he proposed. I figured we'd been together this long, we're not getting any younger AND I wanted a fall wedding so engagement in April meant having a October wedding.

We were married on October 22, 2011. Ten. Twenty Two. Eleven. The date really wasn't significant other than wanting a fall wedding, in October, and it was the only week available at the venue we chose. We later discovered that in fact the date 10/22 is actually Pearl Jam's anniversary of their first official show. Being HUGE Pearl Jam fans, we were floored when we found this out while watching their PJ20 documentary. It was meant to be. [We spent our first wedding anniversary celebrating at a Pearl Jam show, obsess much?]

We wanted an outdoor ceremony, from the moment we discussed a marriage and wedding that was our plan. I had always wanted a beach wedding but quickly realize that due to the nature of our outdoorsyness (totally a word) we were much more suited for the wilderness vs. an ocean front wedding. We settled on a great Lake lodge in Alabama with water front views and foliage as our back drop.

Um, it was huge. Way larger than I would have thought I'd originally want in my wedding party. That being said, Mike has a huge family so most of them are his siblings and our friends sprinkled in. I was very happy to have so many friends from so many phases in my life. I had my oldest and closest friend from 7th grade until graduation and beyond, another dear high school friend, my maid of honor and I didn't get a long in high school and becomes the best of friends in our 20's, a dear friend I met in my late 20's and became close to, my future sister-in-law, my hubby's best friend and my dear friend, and my junior bridesmaids both daughters of two of my maids. The party is filled out on my husband's side by three brothers, a brother-in-law, and two best friends. His father also jumped in this photo, which makes me chuckle. Our flower girl is my youngest sister-in-law and our ring bearers were Mike's nephews. Did you get all that? It was huge but I'm really happy to have so many dear friends from all the different parts of my journey in life to find my husband.

Olive or Fern Green and Chocolate Brown were the main colors but we also went with lots of oranges and golds for the flowers. I simply wanted as many fall colors present as possible. As you can see the girls all wore green dresses, junior bridesmaids wore brown and I allowed them all to pick a dress they loved on their body. Oddly enough four of them in different locations picked the same dress. This concept BLEW their minds. None of our shoes match either. The girls all got gold heels, different styles. I also told all the dudes to simply pick a pair of shoes they loved, as long as they were brown, they were good by me. We had cowboy like boots worn and torn, we had Vans (worn by my husband), nice loafers and even TOMS on the little boys. I loved it. I wanted each person to be able to express themselves. My husband purchased special ties in green for the guys with a tree screen printed on them, and he got a brown one with a gold tree on his. The little boys had brown too and I nearly died when they little clip ons came in, SO cute!

We had our first dance to GnR's "Patience" The song has special meaning for our relationship because for me, I knew from the moment I met him I wanted to be with him. And while he was really fond of me too, he wasn't sure if he wanted to start a long distance relationship (for new people to my blog I am originally from Maryland and he lived here in Alabama where we currently live. Yes, after 5 months of dating I hauled my cookies to AL from MD and never regretted it for a single minute). If we hadn't chosen Patience and if the song "Longing To Belong" by Eddie Vedder had been released in time for our wedding THAT would have been our first dance song. Our videographer knew Mike's love for PJ and when he did our "teaser video" for the wedding he used that song in the beginning so I still feel like it was a special impact to our day. I can't listen to the song without picturing our wedding video so it's a great compromise.

We went to Cozumel, Mexico. It was poised to be an epic vacation but was dampened by Hurricane Rina. Dampened as in... we had to leave our resort and travel inland to safety and stay at a $45/night hotel with a few of the other hotel patrons we befriended while there. It wasn't horrible but a bit scary. Needless to say we spent maybe 2 days in our 5+ day trip relaxing total, and that was only in bouts of 2 hours at a time. The rest of our honeymoon was spent flooded with text messages, emails and panic from our parents. We plan to have a do-over eventually. We made it safely home and we have an exciting tale to tell to everyone. However, I would have traded having a boring story about eating until we popped, drinking until we passed out and woes of sunburn instead.

I really wouldn't change much about my wedding. I might have gone with a different dress. While I loved mine, it didn't have the free flowing bohemian vibe I thought about having. I also would have said eff the padding for my boobs - I didn't need padding I looked REALLY top heavy. It was a bit crazy. I thin the dress was a bit of my biggest issue. I ate, I drank, I was merry and we partied well into the night.  And I would definitely change the fact that we rented chairs for the event. The resort supplied chairs but I didn't love them, so I rented chairs for the ceremony, half of them were busted, and dirty and Mike and my father spent the AM stressing over that to get it right without me having ANY knowledge of this. It was a waste of money, and I should have gotten over my "has to be perfect" moment because the chairs the resort had were just fine. I got pretty much everything I wanted for my wedding day, and all within reasonable prices. My biggest splurge was photography and it was worth EVERY penny. They are the memories I have the most.

We forgot one item so a checklist is vital. I forgot to purchase things to cut the cake and serve it with and the hotel didn't have any available by the time we cut the cake (9PM) so I would have cut the cake sooner but I guess I saved myself embarrassment right?

Everything else went well. We had signature cocktails, we purchased our own booze for the event so we got to keep all the left overs and had a blast with all our friends and family. I might have changed one thing and that's the honeymoon destination - I'm usually really in the know about hurricanes and I'm not sure why it slipped my mind that it was still PRIME hurricane season over there. OOPS! Live and learn!

HEAD OVER AND LINK UP!!!! I want to hear everyone's stories!!!

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June 11, 2013

Let's Hit The Creek!

Summer has finally reared it's brutal head here in the South. I guess I shouldn't say finally, that makes it sound like I wanted it here. Those that know me well know I get really excited for warmer weather, in the past that meant beach trips, and being outdoors. Now that I'm living in North Alabama, summer weather means extremely hot temperatures, and lots of sweat. I'm all for a good sweat session when I workout, but when I'm dressed up, my make-up is fixed and it's 104+ degrees outside, I'm miserable. Give me a kayak, and a cold beverage and let me float, otherwise I will be a beeotch to deal with.

One of my favorite bloggers, Miss Erin over at Living in Yellow shared what she called "The Best and Worst Day of her Life" to me, it looked like an amazing weekend on the lake with 40 of her friends. They do an annual canoe run. They even made commemorative koozies. How cute is that? Her post made me think a lot about how many times I've been out on the creek in my canoe, or kayak with my husband and friends and how even when you're wanting to have a great time, you must always put safety first.

I thought I'd take a moment and feature some safety tips, and items that are must haves for a float down the river or creek. Be it for 2 hours or a full day. So here are my personal must haves for a fun creek run!

I can't stress this enough. If you burn easily, or are a bit like me (OCD about burning and causing damage to my skin for cancer and vanity reasons) you must bring sunblock. I usually put some lotion on 20 minutes before I head out the door. Asking Mike to get it all over my shoulders and back. I recently started bringing spray sunblock with me for re-application. Just because it says SPF 120+ doesn't mean you don't have to reapply. Say it with me people, REAPPLY. If you aren't a freak about SPF, then by all means bring your tanning oil, I like to smell you as you float down the creek and pretend I'm at the beach.

2 // HAT
This one isn't a NEED, but more of a suggestion. Again if you worry about your face burning, or the sun in your face, or just want to sport a fun accessory, the hat is the way to go. Be it a cowboy hat made of straw, a fun trucker cap, or just your favorite old ball cap. Rock it out. I'd suggest bringing one you aren't head over heels in love with. Better yet don't wear anything you couldn't bare to lose. Mike still has regrets of losing a Pearl Jam tour shirt he can't replace once while canoeing. Hats are very handy incase you encounter a storm as well. They make it easier to see through the rain. Trust me on this one.

Who doesn't want to keep the sun out of their eyes. Bonus, when you can't wear full make-up on the creek they hide your tired eyes. If you wear full make-up on the creek, I have to ask, what's wrong with you? Ain't no body got time for dat! [I usually put on some cover up for my dark circles and some mascara, otherwise, it's SPF and sweat baby!]

Are you sensing a trend? The sun is brutal people, and your lips are fragile. Pucker up those puppies and coat them with some protection. If you must wear lip gloss fine, but don't cry to me when your canoe tips and you lose your most favorite shade that cost you $7.00! Get some cheap lip shit, and if you lose it, no big - get some more at the gas station next time you get ice for your next trip down the creek.

I can't stress this enough. If you are going on a big lake, or gentle waters while kayaking or canoeing then by all means sport some flip flops, or cure sandals that show off your pedicure. If you are however going on a creek that is often times rough, ever changing and there's a good chance you will either have to walk through the creek bed, pick yourself up after falling out of a canoe, or do some moving IN the water with rocks - get some good shoes with a closed toe, preferably with a reenforced toe. Keen's are great. The pair shown above are just like mine and I've had them for 3 years now. I literally only want new ones because mine have become so old, and dirty (love you creek water). You'll pay a lot up front but they will last. Other sandals will work, most will stay on your feet but some will slip, and it's hard to walk in the water when your feet are slipping. There is also the fear of stubbing your toe on rocks mid flip, no one wants that. Just a safety tip from me to you.

No one wants ticks, or bites from other random bugs while kayaking. So if you are one of those people that bugs seem to LOVE, get yourself some spray for the trip. Take it with you (put it in the dry storage bag - see below).

IMPORTANT ADDITION: LIFE JACKETS My husband, Mike added in the comments the importance of having a life preserver / vest in the canoe / kayak at all times. And he's SO right, and I'm sorry I forgot to mention that. You don't always have to wear it but most state laws will insist you have one in the boat. Better to be safe, than sorry OR finned for not having one. Mike and I usually strap our vests to the back of our kayaks (with the cords on the boat), when we canoed we would strap and clip the vests to our seats and have them within arms reach to show cops on the creek, or incase the water got too rough. Side note, ladies if you get a chance to lay back and relax in the canoe while your partner steers (or gents) the vest makes a really comfy butt cushion for the bottom of the boat.  Also, one more note - if you leave these in your car after a long trip on the creek your vehicle will smell to high heaven the next day. Always remove them, and let them air out!

You've got your cooler, and your hands full of all the crap you want to take with you. So let's load up the cooler with beer, food and ice. If you're kayaking it will be a small cooler, think lunch box or 6 pack size. If you're canoeing, you can bring a HUGE cooler and carry more stuff for yourself and your friends. Don't be rude, carry stuff for your friends, seriously. Besides they might even share some beer and snacks with you. You might also want to bring one of the canoe straps you used to tie your canoe to your vehicle. If you rented a canoe, maybe invest in a strap or two to bring with you. Belting the cooler to the canoe center seat will ensure you keep most of your drinks and snacks if you should flip. (You can strap the lid shut if you get close to rough water). No one wants to lose precious brews on the water.

These are great and come in a ton of different sizes. There are some big enough for you to bring a dry tshirt, some towels etc. Usually we haven't had a need for that, but these bags will double as a great way to take along all the items listed above and keep them dry PLUS if you get smaller versions you can put your cell phone and wallet inside. I URGE you to invest in a hook that will attach your car keys to your belt loop, or your partners. That way that if you flip the canoe you don't lost your keys to the car you are supposed to be riding home in.  If you have a small cooler, feel free to put some snacks in the dry bag that don't need to be kept cold. This is also a great place to store your toilet paper. You never know when you're going to need to pee. (Or you could just hang your booty in the water, just saying.)

Depending on how long you are out on the water it's always a good idea to carry a few bottles of water or hydrating drinks. Beer is great but when it's very hot, and you're sweating a lot you're only making your situation worse by dehydrating yourself further with alcohol. It's great to party. I've been there - 3 beer bongs deep and countless numbers of vodka shots on the creek - no problem. Thankfully I always carried some water too, and had a husband to care for me. Come to think about it he was my boyfriend at the time and I'm really lucky to be married to him now.

To drink or not to drink on the creek, that is the question. The answer is only if you can hold your liquor and don't put others in danger. It's hard to make a canoe with one person, it can be done but it's sort of a dick move to leave one person piloting the boat while you sleep it off. Drink responsibly. My other suggestion is try to find drinks that come in cans vs. bottles. Bottles can shatter, and also take up a lot of space in a cooler, and in a bag when you are finished drinking them. Cans can be smooched, and won't break. Ladies, I have the best thing for you. Bonus points if you pick small brewery made Craft Beers.  If you love frozen drinks, go a head and get some of the pirate bay or whatever brand the make now (Mike's Hard Lemonade) frozen pouches. Put them in the cooler and get some LONG STRAWS. You can treat them as your adult Capri Sun's going down the creek. Cool and refreshing. Just make sure they don't melt too much.


10 // SNACKS
For short trips, or folks that are always hungry (like me) bringing some snacks on the trip are a must. Try to pick snacks that don't need to be chilled, and that are sturdy. Think Pretzels vs. chips. Chips will get all broken if they get shoved in dry storage and bounced around. Granola bars or Clif Bars are great snacks to take. Both are dense, keep you full and are really, really good when they have the suns heat baking them, trust me, so good. You could also bring beef jerky or anything else your heart desires that won't perish outside of the cooler.

11 // MEALS
If you're going on a longer trip, think 3-4 or more hours, you may want to think of a meal. Your meal could be as simple as a sandwich with your pretzels or as extravagant as hamburgers. Yes, I said hamburgers. Let's start with the sandwiches. Pick a sturdy bread, you don't have to do this, plain old white bread / wheat bread is fine but keep in mind the longer it sits the longer your condiments are going to soak into the bread. Again be sure to keep your sandwiches cold, especially if you are using mayo. Nothing ruins a float more than a rancid sandwich except maybe a drunken boat buddy.

Now I say hamburgers because once Mike and I went canoeing for an entire day and he made a makeshift grill using the grate from our grill and some charcoal and branches. I pre made the patties with all the ingredients we needed and we kept it chilled in our cooler. They turned out amazing but it was one hell of a thing to do. Mike is a grill master. If you are a bit nervous brats and hot dogs work well too. Easy to tote a long and the hot dogs cook up in NO time. Just remember to keep your charcoal dry during the trip.

12 // KOOZIE
While this isn't a necessity, it makes for a fun addition to your snacks and refreshment. Mike figured out a way to use a kooz as a drink holder on our kayaks and I love it. Besides keeping your drink cold, it helps you to grip your drink if you have to set it between your legs while you paddle. Even better are the koozies that go around your neck, but I always feel silly wearing those. If you're a mixed drink kind of person a drink around the neck jug with a straw is perfect! Just try to remember to search for a plastic bottle for your booze and your mixers!

So you survived the creek/lake/river. Your muscles are screaming, you're head might be aching and for some reason eating 4 Clif Bars suddenly has you feeling a bit queasy. No worries, once you've loaded up your boats, tossed away your trash in the PROPER place you can climb into your vehicle and head home. Hopefully you'll remember when I say this, stash some towels in the pick-up car, or your car if you rented a boat. Your car seats will thank you. I always forget to bring them and I'm sure my leather seats hate me for it. Sometimes you get off the creek and you're burning up, other times you're freezing. Having a nice, car warmed towel after a long trip is heavenly. And they make your car smell fresh if they were just washed and dried.

So what to do now? You can go home and pass out (like a bitch), or you can invite your friends over for some grilled food and drinks. Usually this is exactly what Mike and I do. We are usually planning our dinner as we float down the creek. I don't know about most people but after a long day out in the sun, paddling left and right, I crave one thing - CARBS! Usually in the form of mac n' cheese or mashed potatoes.

After you shower you'll realize how much sun your skin has taken on. For the reddest spots you might want to dab on some Aloe. It helps hydrate your parched skin and sometimes even helps from having too much peeling happen later down the line. I swear by this stuff.

COMFORT IS KEY! You've been on the water all day, taking in the sun, the water and the elements. You've been suck in a swim suit that's been tied around your neck, or your manly jewels and you just want to feel relaxed. I always toss on my favorite comfortable pants, or shorts, a loose flowing tank-top or long sleeved t shirt (depending on how much sun I've had) and a pair of super easy flip flops. Doing your hair and make-up at this point is truly optional. I mean these people have seen you all day sweating and they still love you, forgetaboutit.

Now all you have left to do is bring a side dish to the hosts house, sit back relax, chat some more, laugh a lot, stuff your face with grilled goodness and give those muscles in your body a rest.

You can still enjoy the water, just swap the kayak/canoe for a beach chair. Gather your friends, their kids, your dogs and head to the nearest creek, or water way. Set up a day picnic and bring all the stuff I mentioned above. You don't have to float to enjoy the water, although some floats to put in the water, with cup holders would be excellent. Relax and enjoy the rays and your FREE Stay-cation afternoon.

Be mindful of Snakes, Turtles, other wildlife - RESPECT NATURE!!!! They are everywhere. Study up on your poisonous varieties and also double check your knowledge on poisonous plants.

All in all, be safe, have fun and keep your skin protected! I hope this helps anyone wanting to try kayaking or canoeing. I think my next write up should be about camping, what do you think?
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