Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween "photo shoot" at the office

The talented and easily amused David N. took a few photos of our festive crowd today (both group and individual shots).

I introduce to you the Devil, Stepford Wife, Wicked Witch of the East, Go-Go Girl and 1989 American Gladiator.

2008 Costume Unveiled

2008 Halloween costume is... a late 80's American Gladiator. I'm still bouncing back and forth between Lace and Diamond, both admirable gladiators in their own rights.

I took a blue swimsuit and sewed silver, shiny fabric onto it then applied some felt stars with fabric glue. My jousting pole (not pictured) was fashioned from PVC pipe, pillow batting, grey duct tape and red duct tape. It's ideal for knocking the "contenders" off their pedestals during my favorite round of American Gladiation—the joust.  

I'll be wearing my suntan-colored nylons and clunky tennis shoes tonight and also plan to crimp my hair if I have time. This morning was not the time to be crimping hair.

(Forgive the photo, as I took it using Photobooth on my work Mac since I don't have a camera. I will post additional photos following the party tonight.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Celebrity Run-ins

I was telling a coworker recently that when I was visiting Charleston, South Carolina several years ago, I recognized the good looking guy who held the door open for me and my group as we exited a downtown shopping mall. It was James Marsden, who I later found out was in the area filming the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook.

Over lunch yesterday, we started talking about some of the awful reality shows so many of us are addicted to—on MTV, Bravo, the CW, etc. I told the girls at my table that I have randomly run into three different Real World cast members in my life. I met Julie ("the Mormon") from the New Orleans season after I got off a roller coaster at King's Island about eight years ago. I was standing next to Ace from the Paris season at a Georgia versus Georgia Tech football game about five years ago. My girlfriends and I spotted Mike "the Miz" from Back to New York at a now defunct nightclub here in Atlanta called Vision. 

... Actually though, when I do the math, my encounters aren't all that impressive. (Approximately 20 season of the show with seven to eight cast members per show means that about 150 people have been on a season of The Real World, so I guess we all have a good chance of running into cast members).

I saw Larry King at a book signing in New York (inside FAO Schwarz) and Ethan Hawk when I saw in the television audience of The View (different trip to NYC), though I don't really feel either of those count. 

I digress. These conversations got me thinking about what famous people my blogger and non-blogger friends have met or seen on the street over the years. 

Do tell!

UPDATE! My sister Anna just reminded me that I met yet another MTV personality when I was still in college. I heard a rumor that Bam Margera was in town for a skateboarding gig. I happened to see him and bought him a jager shot. And I guess my sister remembers more of my memories than I do. She also reminded me that Maria, Dan and I saw Andre 3000 in Publix near our house—buying three different types of trash bags, of all things!

That reminds me, too, that I left off another story. Megan hunted down Charles Barkley the night of Maria's bachelorette party. There are pictures to prove that run in.

Dave Ramsey's "Presidential" Commentary

One of my favorite talk radio hosts and personal finance experts wrote a great-yet-simple perspective on the upcoming election and how the new President will affect our every day lives. I'm going to try and stay apolotical in my blog; but I think the following is rather neutral and worth reading. 

This is from Dave's October eNewsletter, responding to a listener question.

Dave, which bozo should I vote for in this election? Who’s going to fix the economy? Who’s going to give me the most money?

Well, I’m here to remind you that you’re going to fix the economy because your personal economy is up to you. It's not Washington's job to fix what's going on with you. If you are waiting on Washington to change something, you've got a long wait!

You’re going to give yourself money as a result of your hard work and persistence. Waiting for money to be taken from others and given to you is a spirit of envy, and it's wrong.

I’m not here to tell you who to vote for. But I am here to tell you that the government doesn’t have the capacity to fix your problems. Washington is full of bozos, and I am doing my part to send a lot of them home!

This economic mess is a reality, but we can each only control one thing—our reactions. Does this stuff define you? Only if you let it. The weird thing about the economy is that YOU are the economy! I learned this the hard way. I got my real estate license when I was 18 years old. By the time I was 21, interest rates had risen to 17% fixed-rate … and I still sold houses. How? Because I worked hard.

As bad as USA Today meant a recent article to be about what we think of the suffering economy and upcoming election, I think it’s rather encouraging that no one thinks that President Bush or Barack Obama or John McCain can fix the economy!

This may be the beginning of the biggest level of prosperity this nation has ever known if we don’t look to a candidate to fix our lives. How about we say, "I’m going to vote for the candidate who’s going to fix the nation. I’m going to fix my life, so leave me alone and let me do my own thing."

Don't react based on fear or panic. Don’t look to Washington to fix your problems. Why would you do that? At what point did Bill Clinton fix any of your problems? At what point did he cause you to prosper? At what point did George Bush end your career or cause you to prosper? When did Ronald Reagan fix your problems? Guess what? I liked Reagan the most, and while he was in office, I hit rock bottom and filed bankruptcy—but it wasn’t Reagan’s fault. It was mine.

So when you go to the polls in a few days to cast your vote, don’t get caught up in following a political party or candidate without knowing the issues they support. Do your research so you can make educated decisions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Get Your Coca-Cola Taste On

So, I heard a few months back about this compact, yet highly functional, drink machine that's being tested by Coca-Cola North America. (See press release here). The machine takes up less restaurant real estate than your standard Sprite, Mr. Pibb, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Hi C, etc. machine but has the ability to make something like 100 different beverages. That's pretty crazy.

The most exciting aspect of this is that a machine is being tested right here in Atlanta. It may or may not have all the flavors loaded, as it's still in round one of testing, but it sounds cool to me. 

Go visit the Willy's Mexicana Grill just north of Buckhead (address is 4377 Roswell Road NE, Atlanta) and get your taste on. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vendor Reviews 4 and 5

photos taken by Cariad Photography

It seems only fitting to review Wolf Mountain Vineyards and the City of Dahlonega together, as they both played backdrop for our wedding weekend.

When looking through an Atlanta bridal magazine with Maria just a week or two after becoming engaged, I saw some information about getting married in Dahlonega. I made some kind of silly remark about how funny it would be to get married "up there" in Dahlonega. It wasn't until maybe two or three days later that I realized Dahlonega actually would be a neat place to get married. My sister goes to college there and has always boasted about the nice weather, great views and unique small businesses. 

Here's my logic (and luckily, Dan agreed). The majority of our family (and many of our friends) would have to travel for our wedding no matter where we held it; after all, they're spread out from California to Massachusetts. If we invited friends and family to an Atlanta wedding, it would be fun but maybe not as quaint as we pictured. We decided that Dahlonega's laid-back feel (and mountain views), more affordable lodging and relatively quick drive from the Atlanta airport (maybe an hour and 20 minutes) made it a great spot to host a wedding weekend.

We looked at a few different locations in Dahlonega. Frogtown Cellars was stunningly beautiful but not quite as well set up to host a wedding. We decided on Wolf Mountain Vineyards because of its fabulous covered pavilion (great for beautiful or rough weather), well respected food, amazing views and already beautifully-decorated winery interior. I must also give Dan credit for our choice, as he insisted we check it out after hearing a great review from his colleague Heather, who wed her husband there earlier in the year. 

While we thought we made a good choice, we couldn't have been more pleased with the wedding weekend settings. Dahlonega offered cute little restaurants, a karaoke bar, unique lodging options (from bed and breakfasts to boutique hotels—all about $165 or less per couple, per night), shopping and outdoorsy activities like hiking. We very much enjoyed our rehearsal dinner at Caruso's, too, with its casual atmosphere, good food, incredibly hospitable staff and room big enough to accommodate our approximately 100 family members and wedding party.

Wolf Mountain not only looked amazing, but the staff there was professional and accommodating. Lindsey Smith, hospitality manager and our "day of" wedding coordinator, was always easy to reach and full of helpful information. Lindsey also came prepared to every meeting with document templates to fill out or spreadsheets to fill in. There were no hidden costs and we felt like we received everything we paid for and more. Lindsey and her mother, Linda, made sure the ceremony and reception went as planned, even paying attention to little details like putting my grandmother's cake toppers on the cake and corralling people for activities like the toasts, cake cutting, bouquet throw and garter toss.  Lindsey and team provided reliable/recommended vendors and treated us very personally despite having likely 52-plus events like ours throughout the year.

I feel like both Wolf Mountain's pavilion and winery speak for themselves, but I'll talk about them both some anyway. The covered pavilion was the perfect balance of an outdoor yet safe from inclement weather location. Already simple and airy, the only real decoration we used were some flowers on the arch and petals down the aisle (thank you again, Aunt Vera, for the flowers).  The inside of the winery is breathtaking. Some style between rustic and mountain cabin chic, the craftsman-style building is decorated well and appropriately. We were able to choose our linens from some already in the vineyard's collection (chocolate brown satin on the bottom and a champagne-colored metallic fabric with some slight ruching on the top) at no additional cost. Decks with great views on every side of the building didn't hurt its aesthetic appeal either.

The food and wine were both very enjoyable. I'll admit that I enjoyed the vineyard's white wine more than its red, which worked out well since I was wearing an ivory dress, but both were enjoyable. The food. Wow. The food. We tasted some of the vineyard's food before, but never exactly what we chose for our wedding menu. I've heard most couples don't eat, let alone remember, their wedding food. Well, I distinctly remember how delicious that tilapia with lemon caper butter sauce was and how tasty the lyonnaise potatoes were. The salad was great, too, as were the roast, chicken cordon bleu and sauteed vegetables. Mmm mmm mmmm. It took a Michael Jackson song being played outside to pry me away from the table. 

I could go on and on, so if you have question, feel free to e-mail me. But for the rest of you, I'll end my review here. I am obviously biased, but I think it's insane that getting married at a beautiful and charming place like this is less expensive then getting married at, say, a Marriott somewhere in Metro Atlanta. 

If our experience is/was the norm, I give both the city of Dahlonega and Wolf Mountain A+++ marks. They helped make our wedding weekend especially memorable. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

In a post a few months back, I talked about how I asked my bridesmaids to pick out a solid, chocolate brown, satin, floor length dress for our wedding (versus assigning them all the same dress). 

I asked Steffi and Laura to take photos of all us girls together. I love the different shapes, cuts and personalities of the dresses—and I even think the slight variance in shades from dress-to-dress played out nicely! 

Dora, who handled my dress alterations, also told me about a neat and new phenomenon in choosing bridesmaid dresses. Some brides are purchasing several yards of the same fabric for their maids then leaving it up to them to have a dress designed with that fabric. What fun that would be, though it wouldn't be quick or easy to find the right seamstress and go through the multiple fittings.

Thank you to my gals for hunting down their dresses, as I realize this was much more work than just writing a check for the dress of my choosing. Also, an even more special "thanks" to Moeko, who battled having her dress lost in the mail before finding a beautiful (but more expensive—sorry!) dress at a department store.

Dogs Love Halloween, too

Like my coworker Ashley often feels, I felt I couldn't resist posting this adorable photo. Jay J (or is it "J Jay?"), one of our office dogs, tried on a pair of googly eyes from my stepmother's Halloween candy/gift care package.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Viva Italia Recap #1

So, I've finally gotten enough past forgetting my camera on Air India (partially due to Steffi Smith, one of the nicest people I've ever met, "donating" some of her Italy photos to us) to write my first Italian honeymoon blog post. I'm rather sick still over the loss of our photos, but reminders from friends and family that either that "things could be worse" or "at least you still have the memories" have reminded me we're still very lucky.

Because our 7:45pm direct flight to Rome on Thursday, October 9 was [thankfully] uneventful, I'll begin our trip with our first day in Italy.

We landed in Italy's capital city, Rome, at around 11:15am ("Italian" time) on Friday, following a direct Delta flight from Atlanta. Customs and passport control were both simpler and quicker than I'd imagined. While Dan was a little nervous about us making it to our driver in time, we grabbed our luggage off the conveyer belts and walked toward the arrivals area without incident. Yes, you read that correctly; the lodging Dan arranged through Cross-Pollinate arranged for a vehicle and driver to meet us at the airport. 

I wish I had a photo of the early 30's Italian gentleman holding a sign that said "Mallory" amidst probably a hundred other people lifting handwritten and professionally printed signage. (If you wonder why I don't have this photo, refer to my introductory sentence.) After feeling thrilled to find our driver, we made our way to a compact car parked just outside the baggage claim. 

What was likely a 20 minute ride felt more like an hour because of the sites and city life we passed by.  Views of the Colosseum and ruins blended with Ikea advertisements with Italian copy. Our driver spoke limited English, which was fine and expected, but knew where we were going, partially thanks to the Tom Tom situated on his dashboard. 

We were dropped off on what seemed like an alleyway. In retrospect, we understand that many of the "streets" are barely the size of alleyways because the city wasn't built for cars. I wish I could tell you the exact address of the place where we stayed, as it was in a lovely neighborhood—but I can tell you it was near a major street called "Nazionale" and was a short walking distance from the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and  the Vittorio Emanuele monument

After we jumped out of the car and paid our driver, we prepared to wait a few minutes outside of the bed and breakfast. After all, we'd arrived about an hour early. After about two and a half hours of being hesitant to leave the B&B's entrance to avoid missing our contact, Dan decided to find a phone and give a guy named "Benji" a ring. The public phone he tried was not so much really there—so luckily an Irish pub down the way let him borrow its phone. I tried to wake from my over-the-counter sleep aid-induced haze by sipping a sugar-free Red Bull while Dan hunted down a working phone.

Within minutes, Benji arrived and was apologizing for the wait. He mentioned that he'd been at the place earlier but didn't see us. He let us into the building, showed us our room, explained breakfast and reinforced the best practice of locking all the doors. Our room wasn't amazing and we couldn't access the elevator (thus braved the three floor commute a few times a day) but I wouldn't have traded it's simplicity and shabby chic-ness for anything; the neighborhood was quaint, safe, not particularly touristy, etc. We also didn't think 90 euros a night was anything to complain about.

Seeing in that it was about 2pm in Rome and our bodies were confused but hungry and curious, we made our way to a street that was home to several cafes and restaurants (or "ristorante" in Italian). Before finding the best place to grab a bite, we stopped by the Vodafone location Benji marked on a Rome map. Dan was smart to bring an unlocked phone, so we were able to purchase a SIM card and a few dollars' worth of phone credits. This phone came in handy later for calling Benji (he'd given us the wrong key to the B&B) and contacting the manager/owner of our B&B in Florence. 

We were surprised to find several of the shops were closed for two hours each afternoon, what seemed to be a normal and expected part of the personal and commercial parts of the culture. After walking only a few more blocks down toward Nazionale, we decided on this one little place because of its simple menu and outside seating. Our "snack" consisted of a shared thin crust pizza with artichokes, olives and prosciutto with a Peroni (Italian beer) for each of us. Upon the waiter's insistence, we shared a bowl of true, rich, mascarpone-enriched tiramisu. We thought an espresso each might help us pep up a bit, but this was to no avail. Our "snack" set us back 24 euros*, which we didn't think was too bad. Unfortunately, I think I took a photo of the restaurant name instead of writing it down. 

While we would have liked to have executed grand plans on our first afternoon in the "Eternal City," our bodies were struggling. A two hour nap gave us the energy we needed to go out and enjoy a nice dinner at La Taverna dei Monti (at Via del Boschetto), an approachable yet Italian-frequented restaurant near our B&B. We did something we did several times throughout the trip, splitting a pasta dish, a meat dish and a dessert. An affordable and tasty chianti was a good match for our fettuccine with porcini mushrooms, sliced (nearly rare) fillet (served with arugula, fresh parmesan and lemon-infused olive oil) and pineapple sorbet served in a frozen pineapple. Fifty two euros for dinner. Luckily for us, being neither picky eaters, we could rather freely point to menu items and say, "sure, we'll try that."

(Speaking of dinner, we were told later to be wary of handwritten bills and the specific amounts charged per item, as some shops to try to take advantage of tourists. We heard you can call out the "scam" to your waiter and they'll fix it. Luckily, we don't think we encountered this on our trip. We did have a few restaurants that charged "service charges" or "covers," but in each instance, the charge was plainly stated on the menu or on signage upon entering.)

Over dinner, we reflected on our first day of travels and how lucky we were to be starting the trip of a lifetime. Before heading "home," we navigated ourselves to the Trevi Fountain. It was here that I learned how gullible of a tourist I was. Dan warned me earlier in the day not to accept roses from street vendors no matter what they said. When a guy approached me then insisted I take the roses he was offering for free because I was beautiful, I felt so flattered. But then when we went to walk away, he demanded we give him some money. I decided a good compromise was giving him 2 euros and giving back two of the flowers, which doesn't make any sense now (or even later that night). It was at this moment that I realized seeing a tourist carrying roses is the same as spotting a sucker.

picture from Wikipedia member Hisham Besheer (April 2008)

I digress. Back to the Trevi Fountain. Wow! I don't even know how to begin the description. The incredible "water feature" was finished in 1762 and seems to be popular to locals and tourists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We sat for probably 20 to 30 minutes, admiring the craftsmanship and artistic vision of the piece. 

After walking back and before falling sleep, we pulled out our map and decided on a wake up time and travel route to ensure that we made it to our Vatican Museum tour in plenty of time. 

A great start to a great vacation... 

*During the time of our visit, the euro was converting to about $0.735 in American money. We took the advice of friends and online reading. Instead of exchanging American cash for euros, we found ATMs that accepted American bank cards (they should read "Cirrus"). This was less expensive than paying a conversion fee to change currencies. 

Google Coolness

I'm embarrassed to admit that my mother taught me this trick—but it's too cool not to share.

I had no idea that you can text GOOGLE (466453) a question and receive an immediate response to your query. This works best with trying to find out phone numbers or addresses for businesses. Say you're lost on Buford Highway and you're trying to find Mini Hot Pot. You can text GOOGLE the following: "Mini Hot Pot Chamblee, GA."

And whaddya know, you instantly receive a message back that says, "4897 Buford Highway Atlanta, GA (770) 458-8882."

How cool is that?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halloween Is Upon Us!

I have pumpkins and costumes on the brain!

(Maria and Kyle's pumpkins from last year)

On Sunday, I'll be partaking in one of my favorite Halloween activities—carving jack-o-lanterns. Then on Friday, the time will come to don a costume for an evening of witches brews and general Halloween silliness.

While I'm excited about my planned costume for this year, I though it would be fun to share a few costumes from years past. I get way too excited about brainstorming costume ideas and then doing my best to handcraft them. In fact, I don't think we Americans have enough reasons to dress silly throughout the year.

Too bad I can't find a picture of 2001's "tube of toothpaste."

2005: girl scout, pictured with a bad cop... back in the single days

Trashy Florida fan, circa 2006

2007: baseball player (Maria), jack-o-lantern (me) and 80's workout chick (Moeko)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Anger and Disgust (Sacrificed My Camera to Air India)

So, I would have already posted my first post about Italy by now if it weren't for a terrible misfortune.

When Dan and I were waiting for the last leg of our trip home from Italy (in the Chicago O'Hare Airport), he asked me if I had our camera. I said, "sure." When I went to grab it out of my purse, it wasn't there. A feeling of panic swept over me, then the tears came. I had out our new, Cannon Fine Pix camera on Air India's aged 747, the flight that was our transatlantic leg, taking photos of the wacky snacks we were served.

Dan tried to tell me there was a good chance we could get the camera back, especially if we told people it held our honeymoon photos. No avail, at least so far. Air India's representative assured me that two security sweeps found nothing on the plane. The Chicago Police Department that camps out at O'Hare didn't have anything turned into them either. The police sergeant said, "I bet you'd just be happy to get the card out of there, forget the camera." He's right. Hope is about gone.

We took 750-plus photos of the grandest vacation of our lives. The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum, Dumo, Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace, Grand Canal, St. Mark's in Venice and more... all the photographic memories are lost, at least for now. Maybe I'll muster up the energy to write about the trip, but for now, I'm a little too sad. Dan reminded me that it was still the greatest trip we've ever taken and that doesn't change just because we don't have pictures—and that the trip was for such a special occasion—but I'm not ready to deal with it just yet. I am reminded again of my clumsiness and why I shouldn't be trusted with nice things.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

viva italia

We are in Italy and having an absolutely amazing time. After we come back on the 18th and have a little time to recover, I plan to blog about the attractions we visited, the food we ate and the cities in general. I have been trying to take good notes... so we will see how that goes!

Rome and Florence have been wonderful and we head to Venice tomorrow for two nights. What fun this has been.

Check back soon...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

124... the number of bobbypins Molly put in my hair on Saturday to make sure it stayed put. 


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Most Selfish Review (Photographer)!

I feel that few words are needed to go with this review. The photos speak for themselves. Cariad Photography did a wonderful job capturing so many special moments. Our family and friends were also impressed with the photographers' professionalism and laid-back demeanors.

Even before the wedding, I realized Steffi isn't the kind of photographer who's out to rip people off—but was I ever impressed when she mentioned this weekend that ordering prints off her site only cost you a mere $0.39 each.

Plus, in this blog post, not only do I get "review" Steffi and Laura's work, I get to share a few photos from our nuptials with the world...

Thank you, Steffi, Laura (and Laura's "assistant" Ellen).

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vendor Review 2: Hair

Molly at Belle Avance really outdid herself. She was fabulous when Megan and I went up for my "trial run" in early September but somehow even managed to improve her craft (I didn't realize this was possible) for the actual wedding day. My wedding hair (including a trial run) ran me $119, which I felt was well worth it.

The four bridesmaids who opted to get their hair done were also very impressed with their looks. Anna wore her half half up, half down. Lauren chose down but voluminous. Megan and Moeko chose up-do's. My maids paid $59 a piece for their do's. Too bad I don't have photos of Anna and Lauren's "finished" looks.

I was also very impressed with Fate, who did my makeup. She kept my look gentle and fresh looking but gave me a little more "umph" in my eye makeup than I would have on a typical day. I think Megan said it best -- that Fate helped me look like "the best version of myself." ($35 for makeup)

Belle Avance Salon
232-A E. Main St.
Dahlonega, GA 30533

PH. 706.864.3013

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Officially Married (and Sharing Vendor Reviews)

It's official! Dan and I "tied the knot" Saturday night at Wolf Mountain Vineyards in Dahlonega, Georgia. I can honestly say the weekend was incredible in every way. The people (friends and family), weather, views, food, logistics, vendors and more were all absolutely amazing. It's rather surreal but Dan and I are thrilled to be Mr. and Mrs. Mallory.

I thought it would be helpful to my metro-Atlanta friends (and others) to share reviews of the vendors we used. Since it's been a long (and wonderful) weekend, I thought I'd start with a simple and quick one.

We bought our wedding cake from Publix supermarket in nearby Gainesville, Georgia. We went to a tasting there in early February with our friends Maria and Kyle. Wow! I wouldn't have guessed their offerings would be so great. We decided on carrot cake with cream cheese icing (with a sheet cake of vanilla on vanilla for our pickier guests). We paid for the cake (including delivery) that day and never worried about it again. At about $350, this cake was well-priced for our 175 guests—and very tasty. 

The cake was topped off with some silk leaves and faux berries from Michael's and a vintage bride/groom cake topper care of my grandmother, Bette Beck. 

I would highly recommend the Publix bakery to anyone looking for a sophisticated, affordable and delicious wedding cake. 

(Photo courtesy Ben via Megan's camera)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Wedding Weekend Eve" Playlist

What's better to accompany the excitement of "Wedding Weekend Eve" than a fun, energetic playlist for your morning commute? "Not much!" say I!

I enjoyed listening to some tunes this morning and tried to forget that those in cars surrounding me must have thought I'd lost my marbles.

A few of these are mainstream, a few less so; some are embarrassing while others basically (and happily) coerce fist pumping from any listening, warm body:
  1. "Shimmer" by Fuel
  2. "Desperately Wanting" by Better Than Ezra
  3. "CrushCrushCrush" by Paramore
  4. "Lose Your Love" by The Outfield (had to practice for karaoke tomorrow night!)
  5. "Face Down" by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
  6. "Too High" by Jump, Little Children (man do I miss them touring... sad face)
  7. "Hey Jealousy" by The Gin Blossoms
  8. "I Just Want to Live" by Good Charlotte (yes, I admit that I listened to it)
Eight songs. Just enough for a great, music-filled commute.