Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Year in Review

As 2009 draws to a close, I wanted to do a recap of the highlights of my year.

January - Bridesmaid in a good college friend, Sarah, and her husband Tripp's wedding (Charlotte, NC)

April - Cooper River Bridge Run 10K (Charleston, SC)

May - NYC for my best friend Annie's bachelorette celebration

June - Bridesmaid in my best friend from growing up, Annie, and her husband Greg's wedding (Georgetown, SC)

July - Quarter-century birthday (eek!)

August - Spent a week lounging on the beach with my family (Kiawah Island, SC)

September - Started volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a Wish Granter

October - Hosted a Halloween party in my tiny apartment

November - Out with the old, in with the new...quit my job and started a new one (I downgraded from my own window office with a door to a tiny cube - yuck!  The job itself is definitely an upgrade, though!)

November - Jackson had surgery, and now is a healthy guy again!  (See his front legs where they had to shave the middle part for the IVs?  It looks like he's wearing Uggs!!)

December - Ran my 1st half marathon in Kiawah Island, SC

I can't wait to see what 2010 has in store! What is your favorite memory from 2009?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my blogging buddies!  I know I've been MIA for the past month, but I promise to be back in the new year with regular posts!

May your holiday be filled with peace and the love of those around you!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend Recap

This weekend was a busy one!  My parents were in town to visit, so I spent a good bit of time with them, which was nice.  I also took the plunge and got one of the new Motorola Droid smart phones...I LOVE IT!  I debated back and forth between the Droid and an iPhone, but since I'm already on Verizon, I decided to go with the Droid instead of going through the hassle of switching carriers for an iPhone.  It's got some really awesome features.  And best of new company will be footing the monthly bill.  Woooooo!

This morning, I had planned to go on an 11 mile run - the 2nd to last long run before my 1/2 marathon in December.  It was a total FAIL.  I ended up going 9 miles, and I'd estimate that I ran about 5 of those 9.  Something was messed up with my knee and it was killing me.  My feet were hurting too.  It was pretty terrible and I'm worried about the 1/2.  We'll see how next Saturday's run goes (planning for 12 miles).

As an update on my fluffy man...he ended up back at the emergency vet last Wednesday night, and after talking it over with several vets, it seems the best thing to do is going to be for him to have the surgery.  Jackson is scheduled to have surgery to remove his boy parts (OW!) next Wednesday (and when I say boy parts...I'm not talking about what's removed when they get neutered...that happened a long time ago).  He's been doing great this weekend, and I hope he can hang on and stay out away from the emergency vet until his surgery date.  It's tough to make the decision to go ahead with the surgery, especially when he seems to be feeling good, but I think it's for the best in the long run.  We went in for a "surgical consult" Friday morning, and they were ready to do it then, but when the nice surgeon saw how I was stressing about the upcoming week and the Thanksgiving holiday where I'm supposed to travel (but obviously couldn't with a post-surgical cat), he suggested trying to hold off until Wednesday when I head out of town, and then they can keep him and care for him over the holiday until I get back on Sunday.  It was such a relief to come up with this plan - I had not thought about this as an option.  So, it looks like I will get to travel down to South Carolina to see all of my family this week as I had planned and stuff myself silly with yummy food, and Jackson will be in good hands after his surgery (honestly, I'd rather them keep him for a few extra days, because apparently it's a pretty rough road for a little while after the surgery, with the first few days being the worst).  I'm very thankful for this plan.

Also - the new job is going well!  Everyone seems really nice and I'm going to be working on some interesting stuff.  I'm ready to start feeling settled in though - I hate those first few weeks where you're trying to learn the ropes and everything feels a bit uncomfortable.

Hope you had a good weekend....have a great Thanksgiving week!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Clothes Finds!

Ok, so here are some of the things I bought this past weekend!  I had a 30% off Old Navy / Gap / Banana coupon that was burning a hole in my pocket, so I was able to get 30% off everything at Gap and Old Navy, which always makes things nicer!  Unfortunately, that coupon was only good through Sunday.  BUT...there is a Gap discount for 25% off your online purchase, valid through now through November 22nd if you're in a Gap mood!

Reg. $49.50, on sale for $20 (I got two...)
Use this coupon now through Sunday to get 30% off your entire Ann Taylor or Ann Taylor Loft purchase, including sale items!  This would make the cardigan only $14!!!  I also bought a couple of Loft clearance t-shirts with pretty fabric detailing at the neckline that will look good under this cardigan when wearing it open.

Reg. $44.50

Reg. $69.50, on sale for $49.99
This was super comfy and I thought it would be good for bumming around with jeans on the weekend.


I also got a couple of cute longer-length turtlenecks from New York & Company that I can't find on their website.  I think they'll look good paired with a thick belt like this one that I have in my closet:

Have you found anything cute lately??

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fall Reading Challenge Update - The Postmistress

Book two of my Fall Reading Challenge was finished this weekend while I was watching over Jackson during his recovery.  I finished up The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake.  This was an Advance Reading Copy that I got through Barnes and Noble's First Look Book Club.  It's a story about love and loss during World War II.  I was pleasantly surprised with the book - I don't normally choose wartime reading.  The author intertwines the lives of a young American reporter covering the war in Europe with the lives of those in a small Massachusetts town - a postmistress, the town doctor and his new wife.  It's a story on fate, and the way that the smallest actions can postpone - or completely change - fate.  All in all, a good read.  The final version will be published in February 2010 if you're interested in reading the book.

My Fall Reading Challenge List
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
Sag Harbor, Colson Whitehead
Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs
Julie and Julia, Julie Powell
The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
The Postmistress, Sarah Blake
The Christmas Box, Richard Paul Evans

Five more to go before December 20th.  I'm moving on to Julie and Julia now...should be a pretty quick read, I think.  I'm hoping to get this one and at least one more read (if not two) by the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  I'm determined to meet the challenge that I set for myself!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

First Day of Work Outfit

My first day at the new job is tomorrow...eek!  Here's what I plan to wear:

I did a little shopping this evening (um...retail therapy from the stress of Jackson's emergency situation this weekend?) and found some cute things at Ann Taylor Loft, Gap, Old Navy and New York & Company...I'll share some of my good finds later this week!

Jackson is doing much better tonight, and I feel ok about leaving him alone tomorrow.  He's back to his old spunky self.

Have a great week!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Not The Weekend I Had In Mind...

I came home from work yesterday - my last day at my (now!) old job, ready to have a relaxing evening - perhaps some wine and a movie, and then I had plans to spend time with friends tonight before diving into my new job on Monday.  When I got home and opened the front door yesterday after work, I immediately knew something was wrong because Jackson didn't greet me at the door.  He ALWAYS greets me at the door.  I came inside to find him sitting in the doorway to my bedroom, and even when I called to him, he didn't move.  I bent down to pick him up,and he cried out...not a good sign.  I called my veterinarian's office, and they told me to bring him in right away so that they could take a look at him - they told me that this sounded like something that couldn't wait until the morning.  Thank goodness they are open until 6pm.

I won't go into all of the gory details, but it turned out that he had a complete urinary blockage, which is a very serious condition.  He wasn't able to urinate at all, and when this happens, it causes the toxins in the urine to back up into the bloodstream and kidneys, which will kill the cat if it isn't fixed quickly.  After spending about an hour at my vet, they sent me down the road to the emergency vet so that they could continue to work on him and monitor him overnight.  They told me that there was a possibility that he would need surgery (a very expensive one...) to fix the problem, but it would all depend on how he did overnight.  I left him at the vet for the night at about 9:30pm.  I barely slept a wink because I was so worried about him (and also because the vet called at 1am and again at 7am with updates, which I of course appreciated).  He did really well over the night and started to *tinkle* on his own, so they said that he wouldn't need the surgery.  I was able to bring him home this evening, and I'm currently camped out on the bathroom floor with my laptop and a book so I can keep an eye on him.  Sweet Saturday night, huh?

I'm so relieved that he seems to be ok.  There's a pretty good chance that this will happen again at some point (could be tomorrow, could be years from now), and that he will need the surgery if / when it happens again, but I feel more equipped to deal with the situation now if it arises.  I had no idea what was going on yesterday, which made everything that much more scary.  The nice vet tech who discharged him today told me to look around and find a vet who does the surgery so I would know where to go if he has to have it in the future, because she said it would probably be $1,000 cheaper if I got it done at a regular vet clinic as opposed to the emergency clinic.  $1,000!  That is crazy!  I can't even go into how much I spent on this incident in the past 24 hours.  Vet expenses, especially in emergency situations are outrageous.  I'm seriously wishing I had opted into the pet insurance back when he was a kitten.  I'm seriously considering it now, even though it probably won't cover this condition in the future, since it would be considered "pre-existing" at this point, but holy geez if anything else happens, I don't want to be hit with thousands of dollars in vet bills!

Do you have pet insurance?  What are your thoughts on it if you do?

I'll leave you with a pic of my little patient.  He's recovering nicely :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's The Most Wonderful Time....

OF THE YEAR! Why? No, not because Christmas is finally within sight (although that does make me giddy, because I absolutely love Christmas). It's the most wonderful time of the year, because it's time for THIS:

Yep, college basketball season has officially begun.  And my Tar Heels have kicked if off right this week by beating Florida International on Monday and NC Central last night.  (For those of you who don't follow college basketball (are you crazy?), that's UNC's coach, Roy Williams.  Love that man.

I am a die hard, down and dirty Carolina basketball fan.  I've been known to throw couch pillows at innocent nutcrackers by the fireplace when we lose in triple overtime.  (Yes, this actually happened once when I was home for Christmas in college.  My parents were a little taken aback.)

I was lucky enough to be a student at UNC when the Tar Heels won the national championship in 2005.  It was so much fun to be a part of that.  I can still remember watching the last seconds of the game tick down (it was a close one), and then we popped some Andre and ran up to Franklin Street where we became a part of this crowd:

And saw people jumping through bonfires in the street...

 It was such a fun night and one of my favorite college memories.  What about you?  Any favorite memories from when you were in school?


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bag Love

As a reward to myself for my new job Since I'll be doing some traveling for my new job, I'll be needing a good bag that I can carry on the plane and to the meetings I'll be attending (which means it will need to be big enough to accommodate a laptop).  I've been doing some hunting on eBay, and this is what I've come up with.  Except I can't decide.  Black or brown??  I tend to like bags in the brown / neutral family more than black, but most of my work clothes, including my suits, are mostly in the black and gray family.  And when I travel, I'll be attending meetings where I'll need to wear a suit.  So black seems like it would get more use, if I want my bag to coordinate with my clothes.

What do you think?  Please forgive the not-so-great photos.  They're swiped from eBay and since these are past season bags, I can't find a better picture online.

Black Coach bag?

Or brown Kate Spade?

Don't judge me, but I'm considering getting both.  Or maybe buying one now and asking for one for Christmas...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tasty Tuesday: Baked Ziti

There isn't much more to say about this recipe other than it is THE BOMB. I absolutely, big time heart it.  It's a recipe that I found on AllRecipes several years ago and modified a little bit to improve on the original, if that is even possible.

I made it for a group this weekend, and everyone asked for the recipe. It makes a TON, so if you're cooking for 5 or less people, I would half it. This recipe easily feeds 10.

Baked Ziti
1 pound (1 box) ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef
(2) 26-oz jars spaghetti sauce
6 oz. sliced provolone cheese
1.5 cups sour cream
6 oz. shredded mozzarella
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease 9x13 baking dish.
Boil a large pot of water and cook ziti according to box instructions (about 8-9 minutes); drain.
In a large skillet, brown ground beef and chopped onion over medium heat.
Add spaghetti sauce; simmer 15 minutes.
Layer ingredients in baking dish as follows (listed in order of bottom to top layers): 1/2 of the ziti, 1/2 of the sauce, provolone slices, layer of sour cream (spread over provolone slices), remaining ziti, remaining sauce, shredded mozzarella.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Cover and bake in preheated oven 30-45 minutes, or until cheese is melted and all ingredients are warmed through.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ice Baths...I'm a Believer

In my blog hopping, I've seen a number of people post about taking an ice bath after a long run to help with recovery of the leg muscles.  My initial thoughts were that an ice bath sounds absolutely horrible.  Why would you want to do that to yourself?!?!?  I did the requisite googling to find out more about it, and had to admit that the theory did sound convincing.  But the thought of actually doing it...not so much.

I went for a run yesterday and did 10 miles.  My legs were feeling pretty sore in the last couple of miles of the run, and I could tell I was going to be feeling it for days.  When I got home, I thought...what the heck.  Let's give this a try.  If it's horrible, I don't ever have to do it again.  But.....IT. WORKED.  I'm a believer.  I now completely understand why people will subject themselves to this torture.  I felt like a new woman after spending 10 minutes with my legs submerged in freezing cold water.  I'm not going to lie.  It wasn't the most fun I've had in ages.  But honestly, it also wasn't that bad, once you get past the initial shock.

My method was to crank up the heater so the air around me was warm, and wear a sweatshirt to keep my upper body warm.  I filled the bathtub about waist-high with cold water, sat down and submerged my aching legs.  Then...I added a big bag of ice.  Painful, but necessary.  I set the timer for 10 minutes and read a book to try to get my mind off the fact that the lower half of my body was freezing.  When the 10 minutes were up, I gladly drained the tub, took a hot shower and was no worse for the wear.

I'm telling worked WONDERS.  Usually, when I run that far (not that I've done it all that much!), my legs ache for days.  Within an hour of finishing the ice bath, my legs felt great.  They were a little sore last night, but much better today than they normally are the day after a long run.  If you run longer distances and get sore when you do it, try this.  Just once.  I don't think you'll be sorry you did, once it's all said and done.

If you want to learn more about the theory behind how the ice bath helps with muscle recovery, there's a good explanation here.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Show Us Your Life - Thanksgiving

I'm linking up to Kelly's Korner for her "Show Us Your Life - Thanksgiving Recipes and Traditions".  Thanksgiving is one of my FAVORITE holidays!!!

I think I've mentioned it before, but my mom's side of the family has been going down to Kiawah Island, SC for the past 21 years.  It's a tradition that my mom's parents started when they lived in Charleston and wanted their three grown kids (my mom and her brother and sister) and their families to all get together for Thanksgiving.  We decided to rent a big house at Kiawah (which is about 30 miles outside of Charleston), and the rest is history - we've done it every year since, and even though my grandparents are no longer alive, the tradition stands and it is because of them that this wonderful Thanksgiving vacation happens every year.  It's a time filled with golf for the guys, a spa appointment for the girls and lots of good laughs and great eats for everyone! 

Our Thanksgiving menu is the same every year:

Turkey and gravy
Creamed spinach
Baked cheese grits (don't bash 'em until you try the recipe below!!)
Cranberry sauce
Sister Schubert rolls (YUM)
Homemade jello salad
Lemon Tea Bread and Pecan Pie for dessert

I'm going to post the recipes for the baked cheese grits and the Lemon Tea Bread.  Grits are a southern thing, but if you're from the north and have never tried grits, I will love these.  People generally think of grits as a breakfast food, but we serve it with our Thanksgiving dinner and BOY! are they good!

The Lemon Tea Bread is a recipe that has been passed down through several generations.  It is so yummy.  The recipe makes one loaf, but we always make three because it's so popular with our family.  I have to be honest - I probably consume about a loaf all by myself in a matter of a couple days.  It's not the most healthy recipe, but it's worth it.  I'm just keepin' it real.

Baked Cheese Grits
1 1/2 cups Quick Grits
6 cups boiling water
8 oz Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheese, grated

1 stick butter
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp salt
3 tsp seasoned salt
Dash of Tabasco sauce

Add grits to boiling water.  Cook for 5 minutes (covered) and remove from fire.
Add cheese, butter, eggs, salt, seasoned salt and Tabasco sauce, stir well.
Pour into baking pan and cook at 250 degrees for one hour, uncovered.  If desired, sprinkle paprika on top for pizazz.

Lemon Tea Bread
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened

1 lemon (1 tbsp grated lemon peel (2 tbsp if you want a more lemon-y taste) needed, and the juice from the lemon is also needed)

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cream sugar with butter in large bowl.  Add grated lemon peel.  Beat in eggs.  Mix dry ingredients together in a 2nd bowl.  Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture, alternating with the addition of the milk.  Pour batter into a greased 9x5x3 loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
After removing from oven, while bread is still hot, mix 1/4 cup sugar with the juice of one lemon.  Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves.  Pour warm glaze over bread and let cool.


Are there any special Thanksgiving traditions that you and your families have?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Job!

Well, this week has kind of gotten away from me.  I think I'm going to forego the Halloween recap because, well, Halloween has passed us by.  (The word "forego" makes me think of The Bachelor every time I use know, forego the individual rooms and stay in the fantasy suite...)  But it was fun, my party was good, and my DIY decorations were super cute!  I will post one pic of the jack-o-lantern jars I made using this tutorial:

Cute, right!

SO!  The past week has been a bit of a whirlwind.  I've been on the job hunt for awhile now, but I will admit, until the past couple of months, it was a sort of half-&*$ search.  I finally reached a point where it really was just time to move on.  Without going into details, my current company has had some struggles in the past year due to the economy, and morale is really at a low.  Combined with the fact that I've essentially maxed out in terms of growth at my current company, it's just time to move on.  So I kicked it up in the past couple months, polished up my resume, and stalked  I actually got two offers in the past month, and accepted one of them last week.  I put in my two weeks notice last Friday!  Yowza!

My last day at my current job will be a week from tomorrow.  There is SO much to do before I leave...I have to get all of my work transitioned to the people who will be taking it over, and there are a lot of things that I've had on the back burner for awhile that I really should tie up before I go.  Ugh, the pains of having a conscience.  Some people would just leave a lot of loose ends, but not me.  I want things to be in order before I leave.  So needless to say, this week has been a busy one, and next week will probably be even busier.

I'm excited but nervous about my new position.  It's in the same industry (pharmaceutical research), but it's a big step up in terms of responsibilities.  I am going to be a Project Manager for a company that has several different technolgies that are used to collect data in clinical trials.  I'll spare you the details!  I'm excited because I'm going to be the one in charge of everything on my projects, which is great but scary too, because I have to make all the decisions - people will be coming to me for everything, and I can't pawn off the tough stuff on anyone else like I can in my current position!!  I know I'll be fine, but anything new is a bit unnerving.  I'll also get to do some traveling (including international), which is exciting for me.  If I'm ever going to be able to travel, it's now, before I have a family, etc.  And why not see the world on someone else's dime??

I start on Monday, November 16th, so I will definitley be posting updates as I get rolling!

Oh, and major sad part of this - right now, I have my own big office with a window (I know, who gets that when they're 25?) which I love, and I'm going to be moving into cube land.  UGH.  It's going to take some getting used to, that's for sure.

And, is it bad that one of my biggest fears is that Gmail will be blocked at my new company and I can't Gchat during the day?  Pathetic, I know.

Monday, November 2, 2009

5 Quick Things

It's been a few days since I've posted, so just wanted to do a quick post to prove I'm still alive and kicking!

So 5 quick things:

1. I hosted book club on Friday night (The Glass Castle was the book of choice - host gets to choose) and a Halloween party on Saturday- pics to come later this week!  I was a fairy :)
2. I GOT A NEW JOB!!!!!  Details to come :)
3. I have a bum neck.  I was doing some last minute shopping in Target on Saturday before my party, and I got a weird pain in my neck, then within a couple of minutes, it hurt so bad that I couldn't even hold my purse on my shoulder on my right side.  I STILL can't turn my head to the right.  When I change lanes when driving, I practically have to do the robot to see if anyone is over there.  It's a pain in the neck.  Literally.  I've got a moist heat pack on it now as I write this.  Not cool.
4. I've totally slacked on my running in the past couple of weeks and I'm worried about my upcoming 1/2.  After my impressive showing a few weeks ago where I ran 10 miles, I have only run a peasly couple miles twice.  WTF?  Not ok.  This needs to stop.
5. I'm hating the time change.  Being dark prior to 6pm is really not my cup of tea.  This is not going to help the running issue in #4.  It's not so much fun to run in the dark (and cold).  I will say, though, that it does make my nights feel longer, which I enjoy.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bedroom Lust

I really want to make a few updates to my bedroom.  Nothing major (reminder...I live in an apartment so I can't do anything paint), but I'd love to get a new duvet set and a new fluffy down comforter to snuggle up in this winter.  My down comforter is probably about ten years old and at this point, it barely has any fluff left in it.

The main color scheme in my bedroom is green, and I want to do something that will work with the green so that I don't have to change out my curtains, accent pieces, etc.  My current duvet cover is green, but I'm considering a change to brown, with cream, brown and green accent pillows.  Any thoughts on brown?

I love love love this look (bedding by Restoration Hardware) - even though it's not really green - and it's even on sale right now for a somewhat more manageable price, but...:

I already have a cream bed skirt and matching Euro shams that I'd like to keep, and the bedding above has white in it, not cream (as does most two-tone bedding). I think I'm going to have to go with a solid color if I want to keep the bed skirt and shams that I have now.

I also am loving this lamp for the bedside table:

Crystal lamps with white shades seems so fresh, light and airy to me.  Me want.  Even though I guess the white shade wouldn't really match my bedskirt and shams, either...

What about you?  Anything you're looking to spruce up at home right now?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tasty Tuesday: Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I went to a get-together this past weekend and everyone was supposed to bring a dish.  I've made this spinach and artichoke dip in the past and it always gets rave reviews, so I thought I'd share the recipe here!  There are a few things you can do to make it a little healthier, but if you want to go all out, then by all means, do so!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, partially thawed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of Worcestershire 

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Mix in garlic.  Stir in spinach and artichoke hearts.  Cook for approximately 5 minutes.  Mix in cream cheese and sour cream.  Add salt, pepper and Worcestershire to taste.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes.


It's a super easy recipe that takes very little time to prepare, and it always draws a crowd.  Last night, I made it with neufchatel cheese, which is basically a lower-fat cream cheese.  I also used reduced fat sour cream.  I guess you could do the non-fat versions of both, but I think it's ok to have a little fat :)

After cooking it, I transferred it to my handy little crock-pot and it stayed warm all evening.  If you don't have one of these baby crocs, I HIGHLY recommend getting one.  If you're only cooking for one or two people, it's great for crock-pot meals, but it's also great for keeping dips, etc. warm at a party, like I did this weekend.  I think this is the newer version of what I have:

I like that it not only has low / high settings, but it also has a "keep warm" setting.  Think on won't regret it!