Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Favorites

Friday is the perfect day for a little randomness, so I've thrown together five of my favorite things from the past week!

1. Getting pictures of my nephew:)


 I am starting to scare myself with how obsessed I am with the little guy.

2. Watermelon sherbet.


The perfect summer treat! It's so much better than I thought it would be, but it's still easy to contain myself enough to not eat it all in one sitting.

3. St. Ives coconut milk body wash.


I love trying different soapy products. This body wash is deliciously creamy with just the right amount of a refreshing coconut scent.

4. S'mores Goldfish mixed into coconut Greek yogurt.


A tasty, filling afternoon pick-me-up!

5. My Samsung Galaxy S5.


Yes, I finally own a smartphone! Yes, I already spend more time on it than I should.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Something worth celebrating

Last week I had an awful, sudden reminder of how short life is. I also had my birthday to remind me how fast it goes. 
I've always loved celebrating birthdays, and every year I try to convince Jared the celebration is supposed to last the entire week of my birth date. One day is just not enough time to celebrate my awesomeness. 
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The past few years, though, I've been somewhat reluctant to acknowledge another year has passed. I don't feel this old, I definitely don't look this old, and I haven't come close to my younger self's vision of me at this age. 

I'm obviously not alone in these thoughts, considering the amount of "birthday humor" products that exist and the number of times I hear statements like, "Birthdays just aren't exciting for adults." We all seem to eventually adopt the mindset articulated so well by Jason Bateman's character in The Switch
 
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"Getting old sucks. Most people don't accomplish what they'd hope to, and they realize that they are most likely not going to. They end up living these quiet lives of denial, and brushing birthdays under the rug just becomes a part of that."

Then something terrible happens—to us, someone we know, someone on the news. It doesn't matter. Someone is diagnosed with cancer. Someone loses a child, a spouse, a parent. Someone loses a job. A relationship ends. Someone loses a home to a fire. We learn someone has never had a home. 

Then, suddenly, my life is not so bad. My husband's annoying habits are not so annoying when I realize I am lucky to just go home to him and hug him as long and tightly as I want. My jiggly thighs aren't so depressing when I realize I'm lucky to have legs healthy and able enough to run and bend and move, taking me anywhere I want to go. My commute isn't so frustrating when I realize I'm lucky to have a car to take me to a job every day. 
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My tiny apartment isn't so pathetic when I realize I'm lucky to have a comfortable place to sleep every night. I start to have a little more patience when dealing with others because I realize I have no idea what they might be going through. Do you see where I'm going with this? And can you guess what eventually happens?

I start to squeeze my husband a little less tightly. I groan when I look in the mirror. I grumble to myself in the car going to and from work. I complain about my humid, cramped apartment. I go from tolerant to completely irate in seconds when dealing with strangers. Until the next bad news bomb is dropped.

Why this never-ending cycle? Why do we so easily forget the simple and truly wonderful parts of life we experience every day? It shouldn't take a tragedy to remind us that our lives are worth celebrating every day—and that birthdays are worth celebrating every year. You've just completed another year on Earth! What a blessing you have been given that so many other people will not be able to experience. What a sad thing to downplay and take for granted.

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We forget that our lives and the lives of those we love can be over in an instant. Shouldn't we do everything we can to make these lives worth living, whether they end tomorrow or 20 years from now? Life itself is worth celebrating. And whether you're turning 5 or 75, birthdays are worth celebrating. It's up to you (your perspective included) to determine just how much worth there is.

What difference would it make if we lived every day the way we live those few days after tragedy strikes, remembering to appreciate what we have, striving to make the most of our situations, treating others as though each day is their last? I dare encourage you to find out.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! Today I'm sharing some of my favorite recent eats!

1.Dark chocolate nuts & sea salt Kind bars.
This is definitely the best Kind bar flavor. Perfect for a snack or breakfast!

2.Jack Link's small batch jerky.
I l.o.v.e. jerky, but I hate how tough it can be. These small bits are perfect—packed with delicious flavor and easy to eat!

3.Woats.
If you hate hard, crunchy granola, this is for you! I love eating it with peanut butter and a banana, mixed in with yogurt, or all by itself. There are other flavors, but I've only tried these two so far.

4. Yogurt with blueberries.
 I have weeks where I can't get enough yogurt, followed by weeks where I would be happy to never eat it again. Filling a yogurt cup with as many blueberries as possible completely changes things. Key lime yogurt is by far the best flavor to use!

5. Nelson's ice cream.
 We used my birthday as an excuse to finally try this place, and it is definitely my new No. 1 spot. Those cones are "child-size," by the way.

Have a good weekend, and make sure it's filled with a few of your favorite foods!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A glimpse into the life of. . .

             LAURA CANNON 
Laura, right, with The Orange Spot co-owner, Julie.
Photo: ALICE KEENEY PHOTOGRAPHY
It's been a while since the last glimpse, and this one is most definitely worth the wait. 

Of the many wonders (take that word how you will) Facebook provides, one I have appreciated the most is reconnecting with special people from the past. Today I bring you a very dear childhood friend I eventually lost touch with, only to be digitally reunited a few years later.

I went to elementary school with Laura in the little town of Valley City, ND. We, along with another amazing young woman I have also reconnected with in recent years, were inseparable—until we were separated. At the start of seventh grade, I was 30 miles away in Jamestown, Laura was across the country in South Carolina, and our third musketeer was right where we left her. It was heartbreaking, but we moved on, and I eventually slacked pretty bad at the whole keeping in touch thing. 

I'm not the least bit surprised Laura is exactly who and what I pictured at this age: sophisticated, successful and every bit as beautiful inside and out as she was as a child. Always wiser and kinder beyond her years, she was a wonderful example to me when we were young, and she remains so today.

Photo: JONATHAN BONCEK
Her latest endeavor (on top of a full-time day job) has been partnering with a friend to open a coffeehouse: The Orange Spot,which officially opened in June, 2013, in Park Circle, North Charleston, SC. 

Laura's co-owner, Julie, came up with the idea while visiting Thailand, where she fell in love with cha yen, a Thai tea that  has an orange color when poured. She often referred to it as her 'orange spot,' and upon her return to the US, decided to provide an orange spot to everyone. After meeting Laura in 2011, she knew she had found the perfect business partner and friend. Not even two years later, their dream came to life. Read on to learn the joys and challenges of running your own (new) business.

Current job: Sales coordinator at Charleston City Paper and co-owner of The Orange Spot.

First job ever: When I was 13 I began nannying for our neighbors' children. My first "on the books" job was at Starbucks. I started on November 25, and my first task was standing at the pastry counter, putting cranberry bars into bags. We were slammed because of the Thanksgiving Day shoppers.

First job after graduating/first "grown up" job: Lo and behold, I was still at Starbucks after graduating college. My first management job was at a Charleston bed and breakfast named The Governor's House Inn. I was the assistant manager there for about 19 months.

Dream job: Owning a coffeehouse to supplement some sort of writing career. Slowly but surely...
 

What experience did you have that made you confident in your abilities to pursue this? As you might remember, my mom and dad love their coffee! Because of that, I have been brewing it by the pot since I was really young, and as a result feel very comfortable with many of its elements. However, there is a lot to learn about the trade. Even though I have a little over eight years professional experience in this, I intend to continue learning about the craft for a long time.
Photo: JONATHAN BONCEK

What did you have to learn? Opening a small business is no joke! I am sure it is always a challenge, but a recovering economy makes financial funding even more of a hassle. I am fortunate to have a wonderful business partner through this. 

Together, we have learned a lot about the numerous aspects required to run a successful business. This includes everything from managing the social media to crafting the drinks, to planning events and staying as close to the projection numbers (finances) as possible. It is a pursuit of passion; that's what keeps us going!

What was/is the biggest obstacle? Time. Time is always short these days. We said at the beginning that family and friends would remain a priority, so I am thankful to say we try our best to take a day off here or there to spend time with loved ones. (We are also really lucky to have people who come visit!) There is a never-ending list of "to-dos," which makes me extremely thankful for an unlimited caffeine supply.

What has been the biggest reward? Seeing the success of the business in its first year. Hearing the customers' responses to it. It is one of the best feelings I have ever had.
Photo: JONATHAN BONCEK

What makes your coffeehouse unique? Our signature drink comes from Thailand, so that's new and different for a lot of people. We brew it right there at the shop. 

We also have ongoing seasonal creations. With a nice, big herb garden in our backyard, we've been able to do fun things like freshly-squeezed lemonades with basil or mint. Living in Charleston is a great challenge of how to create refreshing, iced drinks that people will love (it is really hot and humid here).

What are your specialties? Our top sellers are the cha yen and cold press coffee (that is a brew method for iced coffee that creates less acidity and more chocolatey notes). We also use a wonderful roaster out of Illinois. Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co. is a micro-roaster that rotates its offerings frequently. They are wonderful! For our cold press we used locally-roasted Coastal Coffee Roasters. Their beans make a delicious drink.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing the same career path? Do not go into coffee if you wish to make lots of money. With that said, by all means, go into the coffee business! You will meet the best people, it will be a relatively stress-free environment, and you have the opportunity to create a space that is welcoming and inviting to all walks of life. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

When you are 50, what do you want to be able to look back and say about your life right now? I would hope that I seized every opportunity to live and live well without sacrificing time with those I love most. 
Photo: ALICE KEENEY PHOTOGRAPHY
 How do you define success? Success is continually striving to treat each individual you meet with dignity, respect and love. No amount of financial security can give you that kind of peace.

Who has been your biggest influence, professionally or personally, and why? Professionally, my last boss at Starbucks, Raegan Powell, was an inspiration on how to handle the inevitable workplace conflict. Personally, I've got to say that of course, my mother. I've also made a wonderful friend named Nina Flinn. She is in her 80s and lives like she is in her 20s. I want to be like that as I age. She has done it beautifully.

What hobbies and activities do you enjoy in your spare time? I love to come home and walk my dog and think. I enjoy cooking, too. And good foodbut who doesn't love that? Writing is always in the back of my mind. I think I'll have to start waking up earlier to accomplish my goals with that.

What is number one on your bucket list? I would love to go live with my husband in a countryside cottage in Ireland for one week.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Ben and Jerry's Creme Brulee. You would love it, Holly! (Oh, I do:)

Thank you, Laura!
 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

America, the. . .

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It seems as though America the Beautiful has become America the Disaster if you pay attention to any headlines or overhear almost any conversation. We certainly have our share of problems, and I find myself embarrassed, frustrated, baffled or saddened daily by something done or said by one or several of my fellow US citizens. Let's just say there is never a shortage of things to complain about.

I could never in a million years call myself a political expert, so let me just get that out there right now. Sure, I have a few strong opinions on certain topics, but other than that, I don't possess nearly the amount of knowledge I should to speak on many issues (something I'm not proud of). Unfortunately, in addition to that flaw, during any history class I took, I always just memorized whatever facts I needed to get by and sort of left it at that.
 
Last week I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC for the first time, and it was quite a humbling experience to be in our nation's capital learning about (and actually paying attention to) our country's birth and history. 

 

From seeing the actual Declaration of Independence to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to the spot Martin Luther King, Jr. stood while he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the Lincoln Memorial steps, I was overwhelmed with conflicting feelings of awe, sadness, pride, hope, confidence, fear and gratitude.

With this experience fresh in my mind and heart, and Independence Day just two days away, I feel the need to remind myself, and anyone else who needs it, that there will always be something to complain about or be outraged at, no matter where we live. I'm sorry to report the world is run by imperfect humans, and as long as this is the case, there will always be conflict, struggle, and, to be frank, just plain idiots making a lot of unintelligent decisions. 


The good news is we actually have a lot to appreciate and be grateful for living here, and as imperfect humans ourselves, we take way too much for granted.  Our country was founded by fighters, and time and time again, strong, sharp, relentless Americans have stood up and fought for themselves, us and our country, continuing to do so today. We may have hit a few too many stumbling blocks and been too slow to recover from some of them, but we remain united even if we sometimes don't want to be.

Take a moment to think back to the spirit of those who preceded us and to that same spirit that lives in the wonderful people doing both small and large acts of bravery and goodness today. They're out there, I promise, even if the not-so-wonderful actions dominate the news. If each of us ignites a little bit of this spirit within ourselves, we could all play a little part in shaping our country back toward its vision of freedom and justice for all.

Monday, June 23, 2014

10 Things (but starting with 8)

8 - The number of times per day I say "sorry" when I have absolutely no reason to be. Why do so many women do this? Watch this commercial by Pantene, showing how ridiculous it is and why we need to stop! We have nothing to be sorry for, ladies!
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7 - The number of days until my next blog post, as I'll be frolicking in the land currently inhabited by my two BFFs. 

6 - The number of times I ate ice cream last week. The majority of my meals were nice and healthy, but ice cream tastes at least 10 times better during the summer, making it that much harder to resist.
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5.5 - The number of hours I'll be willing to stand in line for my first Shake Shack experience.
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5 - The number of times I laughed per minute watching 22 Jump Street last week.
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4 - The number of points the US World Cup team currently has. Good luck on Thursday! You can DO it!
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3.5 - The number of weeks until my nephew is due!

3 - The number of times, on average, I wake up during the night–and two of them are usually because Ladle thinks it's fun to yowl as obnoxiously as possible during the early morning hours. No wonder I'm so tired all the time!
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2 - The number of weeks until my birthday (plus one day)!
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1 - One very good reason to get to know people in your apartment building: so when you're locked out at 12:30 AM, approaching them as a sweaty, blubbering mess begging to be let in, they don't look at you like you're insane and they're a little afraid of you and of letting you inside. Just FYI:)

Happy Tuesday!