Thursday, July 31, 2008

Friends in High Places

Today  I have to brag on two talented and generous individuals. 

Greg Vaughn, a former coworker and current friend, is an incredibly talented graphic designer and artist. He's done everything from installation-type art in his home and packaging design to funky chicken wire-covered party invitations and marketing brochures. He's versatile with design and so much fun! Greg is also an amazing home stager, but I will leave that for a future entry.

Since Greg's eye and artistic touch are so incredible, I asked him if he would design our wedding invitations and other collateral. Not only did he accept, he acted excited about it! Now, thanks to Greg, Dan and I have an array of personalized wedding collateral items, such as a blank piece of stationery, the invitation, directions, the response card and so forth. 

In hearing about Greg's work, Cara Kass of Hi Tech Imaging said she would print all these items for us. Cara was one of my favorite vendors when I was at Rock-Tenn Company (her company's  presses printed our employee newsletter/magazine).

The three of us got together a few weeks ago and we've just had the most fun time. I can't wait to see what everything looks like in finished form... and I am so thankful that work contacts turned into so much more, as I truly adore Greg and Cara. 

(Above image is of the response cards Greg crafted. Click to see a larger version and note our subtle initials in the background and the custom wine glass look to go along with our vineyard wedding. I need to add an "h" to the end of "eight" - but after that, we're good to go!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

So Much Drama in Our Lives

If you know me, you know I like to keep my e-mail very organized.

In gmail, I have about 25 e-mail "labels" (like folders but e-mails can get more than one label, where as in Outlook, you can only put an e-mail in one folder). These labels range from "Moeko's Wedding" and "Job or Career Related" to "Honeymoon Planning" and "Recipes/Craft Projects." I've had my gmail account for about four years, so I've made quite the science out of keeping it tidy and organized.

Dan was looking over my shoulder the other day and laughed at me (one of those nervous, slightly concerned laughs) for having a label called "Drama." He thought I filed away dramatic e-mails and fights in their written form in this folder.

Silly Dan, I have labels for all my college courses. If you looked closely, you would see "PR Campaigns," "Anthro" and "Comp Lit." 


A Not So Deadbeat Dad

Family seems to be a regular topic of conversation among friends and coworkers. I know I enjoy talking about my family, and others seem to as well. 

The other day, someone (I can't remember who at this point), was asking me for further detail about my parents' divorce. This person asked, "Did your dad stick around after the divorce?"

When my parents sat us down in their bedroom to tell us the news, I was a 12-year-old sixth grader, attending middle school in Eufaula, Alabama. My younger siblings Ben, Anna and Paul were 10, 7 and 5 years old, respectively.

Paul, the youngest, was the first one to respond. Not being able to grasp the gravity of it all, he pointed to an object in the room and asked, "So, who's going to get that lamp?"

I suppose that was the first of many unknowns. My parents said that when they married, they loved each other. They explained that they loved us and had no regrets about the 14 years of marriage behind them. That union produced four children who they loved and admired, my mother and father went on to share.

Up until that point, my mother had mostly been a stay at home mom, which was more work than it seems on the surface. She helped with classroom parties, carted us around to sports-related practices and games, helped with homework and was around when we needed her. My father was also rather involved in our lives, though his long commute to work at a paper mill proved difficult for as much quality time.

They seemed to have their minds made up. A marriage that worked for nearly a decade and a half was beyond revival. My mother moved to a small apartment, my father to a small home. They both needed to become comfortable with their new situations. We kids spent one week with one parent and the next with the other. At the time, I am sure I felt unsettled and tossed about. In retrospect, I don't think the arrangement could have been better. 

I didn't experience what other kids did. I didn't know that some children were dragged through the court system, being forced to testify for or against their parents. It was beyond me that some children had one of their parents, usually the father, walk out the door, never to return.  If the worst we endured was having to pack suitcases and remember to bring our toothbrush in the transition, we had it pretty well.

The years moved quickly. We grew up still as a family unit, but a less conventional one. When my mother decided to remarry a man in a larger city an hour away, my father committed to moving as well. After all, his commute would stay the same and we would have the added benefit of having both of our parents in the same town. My father eventually remarried as well. We eventually adopted a less tumultuous living arrangement, with my younger two siblings "living" with my mother, and Ben and me living with my father. Fairly "open door" policies allowed us to spend a great deal of time with each parent, no matter which we officially resided with.

I've come to appreciate my father even more than I did as a child. His analytical, reflective manner sometimes agitated me as a teenager. I was stubborn and so was he. I think we can relate better than we once could. I recall a conversation we had as I was graduating college. My father pulled me outside to speak one-on-one by the pool. He pulled out a piece of paper and went on to tell me how he'd made a list of the top 10 characteristics employers look for in potential employees -- and he went on to evaluate me (plus, minus or neutral) in each category with a paragraph on why he rated me the way he did.  I have come to appreciate this aspect of my father.

My mother and I still enjoy the same mother/daughter friendship that we've had for what feels like forever. 

Though none of us live in the same cities any longer, with my mother in Columbus (Georgia), me in Atlanta and my father in Raleigh, I still speak to both of them regularly. My father calls at least once a week when he "hasn't heard my voice in a few days." My mom and I catch up in between errands or when she comes into Atlanta to see me or visit friends or my other siblings. Our parents helped us through school (both monetarily and emotionally) have been wonderful counsel during relationship problems of our own. We, as a family, all partake in the same celebrations, whether they be birthdays, graduations, engagements -- or shortly -- marriages. 

So the answer is, "yes, my parents are both very much 'around.'" And for that, I commend them both.

One day, I would like to compile a book of essays written by the children of divorced parents. There are so many things that parents can learn from how we children were impacted. I realize that our situation was much better than most, though there were still challenges. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Rathbun's Experience

This post is inexcusably overdue. My apologies to you two or three people who were anxiously (okay, I embellish) awaiting this post.

For a nice dinner, much in part to getting an exciting new job, we went out to dinner at Rathbun’s with another couple. Dan and I grabbed a glass of red wine each at the bar, as we arrived a few minutes early. Promptly upon Chuck and Allyson’s arrival, we were shown our table, in the middle of the dining area and within a direct line of sight from the open kitchen door.

Rathbun’s, the original of Kevin Rathbun’s triumvirate, is a fun, fresh and interesting eating experience. The dining area was a mix of long and short tables, with a crowd of interesting mix as well. I spotted fresh college graduates with money to burn as well as executives entertaining clients and out of town guests. They were all there to taste what Meredith Ford from the Atlanta Journal Constitution calls "modern American cuisine."

One contributor to Rathbun’s charm is a handwritten specials list, reprinted and passed out each day. Five to six of each of the following jumped off the modest looking photocopied piece of paper: small plates, raw plates, soups, big plates, side plates (i.e. vegetables), “second mortgage plates” (Chef Rathbun’s coy way of describing the most expensive and choicest plates), desserts and wines. The standard menu consists of the same categories, with many Rathbun’s regulars swearing by favorites.

I ordered a second glass of Rojo Spanish Granacha, Chuck a beer and Allyson a glass of white. We studied the specials and regular menu with a focused intensity, knowing our choices were important.

And so we settled on a few items, mixing and matching off the two menus.

Crab tart appetizer
Pork loin with porcini mushrooms
Strawberry cobbler with strawberry gelato “a la mode”

Soft shell crab
6-ounce fillet with mashed potatoes 
Square-shaped mango sorbet (2 scoops) with an oversized sesame seed wafer

Spring onion soup (cream based onion soup with lemon juice)
Scallops with country ham and cheese grits
Butterscotch crème brulee

Lamb medallions with diced pancetta and goat cheese
Rare ahi tuna with a spicy rub served atop stir fried Japanese eggplant
Cauliflower mash with truffle oil

My tuna melted in my mouth, and I savored every bite. The fillet was so lightly seared that it was nearly tar tar. I cut it thinly just to make it last longer. Dan's jumbo sea scallops were seared to perfection as well and made such a handsome pairing with the bed of savory grits. 

I can honestly say that the 2.5 hours we spent at Rathbun’s consisted of the best service, most delectable food and most interesting dining experience I’ve had to date. The waitstaff was knowledgeable and friendly – and nothing beats seeing the chef himself engaged in conversation with his sous chefs and staff. I do admit that I have miles to go in terms of investigating Atlanta’s culinary landscape, but my Rathbun’s experience is sure to stand the test of time.

A "thank you" goes out to Chuck and Allyson, too, for being such great table guests. We all tried one another's food, and I can honestly say that everything tasted wonderful. Kevin Rathbun and his team put an incredible amount of love and thought into each of the dishes.

A few words of wisdom for those interested in Rathbun’s: if you are by yourself or with one other diner, you’ll probably be fine without a reservation. If you’re deadset on a certain time or have a large number of diners to accommodate, you’ll probably want a reservation. On the Wednesday night we dined at Rathbun’s, the tables were full and the waitstaff was busy.

112 Krog St NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 524-8280

p.s. I've sworn to myself that I'll write these reviews in a more timely fashion moving forward, as my descriptions suffered from the time lapse!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

First Art

Dan and I had another "first" this weekend. We purchased our first piece of art!

By the generous invitation of our wedding photographer (Steffi Smith;, we spent Saturday and Sunday in the mountain town of Clayton, Georgia. Located in Rabun County, near South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee, Clayton is home to many an antique shop, kayaking outfit, cabin and country cooking establishment.

After touring around a few local falls and creeks and eating some homemade ice cream with Steffi, Dan and I ventured out on our own to Historic Clayton. We perused a few antique and knickknack shops as well as an Ace Hardware with particular character before being distracted by some artwork outside Lee Johnson's Gallery.

We overheard Mr. Johnson himself telling a sidewalk occupied patron that he would be closing the gallery in five minutes, as he had plans to attend a low country boil. We were especially struck by two rooster-themed folk paintings propped against the gallery's old brick building, on the sidewalk. We admired one acrylic painting of a solitary rooster, multicolored and on a piece of an old door. The other was of four roosters, also acrylic on wood, though longer and more rectangular. We saw signs that read, "Everything 20% off! Gallery closing!"

Mr. Johnson invited us to walk around for a moment. Because he saw our interest in the rooster paintings, he told us about Blake Gardner, the local and very talented artist behind the folk paintings. We saw several more of his interesting and colorful pieces near the register. Dan and I saw one of these pieces, rich in color and character, and looked at one another, feeling that we were both thinking the same thing.

"We'll take this one," Dan said. I was excited, exhilarated and giddy all at once. Dan had mentioned wanting a unique piece of art… and now we'd found it.

Mr. Johnson's wife didn't spare a second following our commitment to buy.

"I didn't want to say it until you bought the piece, but I really do feel in my heart that Blake will be famous one day," she shared. "He just has such a vision and a gift. All he needs is an agent."

Sure, gallery owners may say this kind of thing a lot, but I think whether Blake becomes incredibly famous or not, we have a really neat and interesting piece of art that we're sure to cherish. We also look forward to receiving Blake's handwritten bio in the mail, as promised to us by Mrs. Johnson.

Best of luck to the Johnsons in their retirement. Best of luck to Blake in his emerging career.

What information I could find on Blake:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sustainability at its Finest

I snapped this photo at Dan's grandmother's house in Fort Collins, CO. Rather creative and "sustainable," if I do say so myself. Props to Dan's grandmother (Barbara) and his uncle Bob. 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What's Old is New

As part of my totally cool and fun new job, I get to wear about whatever I want to the office (as long as we aren't visiting clients that day). I decided I can wear some fun and funky things in since the rules are lax... and I was compelled to bring my charm bracelet out of retirement. Hey, if New Kids on the Block can come back, so can my charm bracelet. The dolphin charm is my favorite. Better represent.