Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Farewell to Devon — Tag-along Ding Dongs

Devon (left) with Dawn at our office Christmas shindig (Dec. 2008)

Devouring a Tag-along Ding Dong

Today, we bid farewell to our colleague Devon. While we're all very sad that she's leaving the company (and Atlanta), our collective office is excited about Devon embarking on new things...

To commemorate Devon's last day, the talented Dawn brought in Tag-along Ding Dong Cupcakes. I am not totally sure how the name evolved — but I am sure these things are sinfully delicious. See Dawn's post about the cupcakes (and how to make them) here. These treats encompass everything you want in a dessert: chocolate, peanut butter and an easy-to-execute recipe. (Check out Dawn's blog for lots of great photography, craft ideas, party inspirations and general warm-fuzzy-feel-good posts.)

We'll miss you, Devon. Cheers!

Shortest Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love

Key takeaways from the book:
  • I have to ask, "after all that delicious wine, pasta and gelato in Italy, how could anyone in their right mind leave for a meditation cave in India?"
  • I'd die if I had to do that much meditation and yoga
  • Every time I'd read something about South American Filipe (Liz's lover in Bali), I couldn't help but envision this suave character:

(For more of Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign videos, click here)

And read FAQ on Eat, Pray, Love by Liz Gilbert here. All kidding aside, I enjoyed most of the book. Perhaps I'm just a tad bit too conventional to have enjoyed the India months as much as I could have... happy reading!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Is there a better way to end a work week?

Thank with cheese, grapes, olives and olive tapenades, wine and Michael Jackson tribute music?

I think not.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lunch Guest

I have a lunch guest in my office today.

Her name is Mavis and she's much more comfortable in my lap than on the floor. We're having a great time. Chuck, thanks for loaning her to me while you're out to lunch!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I Love About Atlanta... (an Ashley-style post)

Ashley often posts cute little lists of things she's looking forward to or trends she's enjoying. This post reminds me of something Ashley would do — so here's to you, Ashley! 

What I love about Atlanta:
  • A great restaurant scene (mmmm Rathbun's, Holeman and Finch, Top Flr, Leon's, etc., and lots of fun finds on Buford Highway... the list goes on. Read great restaurant reviews here, here and here)
  • Lots of little neighborhoods with their own interesting, quirky personalities (I'm sure other big cities have this, too, but I sure love the character of the Highlands compared to Little Five compared to Buckhead compared to Midtown, etc. etc.)
  • Affordable real estate (at least compared to other major cities... I mean, where else can you live in a decent house with a yard for under $250,000 and still be less than 10 miles from the city center?)
  • Proximity to the busiest airport in the world
  • The drivable distance to both the beach and the mountains
  • Access to great and affordable public college education (Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech and The University of Georgia are all nearby)

What irks me about Atlanta:
  • Sub-par public transit 
  • THE TRAFFIC (no. 1 worst in the country as of 2008)
  • A sometimes too southern and too conservative mentality 
  • Not a lot of art and theater culture (the north is more famous for this)
  • A mixed bag of good and bad primary and secondary schools within the city
  • Less cutting-edge fashion/style than our big city peers

I also have enjoyed visiting big cities like the D.C., Boston, Chicago and New York — but I'm pretty comfy right here in the ATL.

What do you like about Atlanta (or the city you live in)?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Belated Father's Day

Last week, my dad sent me a picture message (yes, my dad uses Verizon multimedia messaging!) that made me smile. It was of a jar I painted for him a long time (maybe 1992?) ago for Father's Day — a jar he keeps on his desk to this day, filled with pencils, pens and other odds and ends. 

Sorry the screen shot's small... but the text with the message says, 
"Remember this? Reminds me of you every day at work."

Happy (belated) Father's Day, Dad. I love you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Honeymoon Recap: Second Day in Venice

Wow, waking up at the Domus Orsoni felt like coming to in the midst of an amazing dream. The little bit of sunlight filtering through the curtains shined brilliantly on the tiled mirrors and night stands. Just steps away from our room, we enjoyed a breakfast feast prepared by the B&B's hostess, Valentina. We enjoyed cereals (warm and cold), croissants, cheeses, jellies, coffee and milk in the sunlit, public dining.

Since our tour didn't start until 2pm, we had time to meander on-foot around the city. We shopped more vendor stands, casually popped in and out of little shops and stopped to pose for photos*. Before finding a lunch spot, we spent a few hours exploring the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The museum (the heiress and avid art collector's former home) sits on the Grand Canal and houses many important works of art from the first half of the 20th century. Despite having a preference for earlier art, we both very much enjoyed touring the expansive collection. In the mix of installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings we saw familiar artists' names such as Pollack, Dali, Picasso, Duchamp and Mondiran. We rented one audio headset to share, which definitely helped our art-appreciation experience. (12 euros/each for the tour - general information on hours and tickets here.)

We even had time to walk around and carefully ponder which walk-up pizza joint we wanted to buy lunch from. We settled on a spot with medium-thick crust, good prices and stringy-looking cheese — purchasing one slice each of sausage, classic margherita and mushroom plus a diet coke, a Peroni and a bottle of water (14.5 euros). Camping out on a vacant wooden table by a canal, we dined and enjoyed people (and gondola) watching. From there, we made our way to our tour meet-up.

Let me start the tour recap by saying while our Through Eternity tours in Rome were really great, I was flabbergasted by how awesome our guide in Venice was. Our guide was Martino Rizzi, a born Venetian and holder of a master's degree in Venetian history. He was frank, he was knowledgeable, he was interesting. Martino mixed the kind of Venetian history you'd find in a textbook with stories only a local could know. I can't recommend our tour guide enough.

We met Martino at the Royal Gardens near St. Mark's Square (or the Piazza San Marco), a large, open area full of people and with a great view of the lagoon. In fact, we saw platforms stacked around the perimeter of the square; these rafters are kept on hand so when the city floods, walkways can be set up. We really lucked out on the tour, as only there was only one other couple who booked the tour (Martino told us the tours are usually booked solid with 10ish people). We quickly got comfortable with the other two people, a retired couple from the States with a daughter living in Atlanta, and pretty soon felt like we were on an ├╝ber private tour.

Basilica San Marco (photo from Wikipedia Commons on this page)

We started at the garden's gate with a brief history of the city (that it was built upon a marsh by refugees in very early AD... how it was invaded by the Huns, the Lombards and the Byzantines...). St. Mark Square's most famous landmark is St. Mark's Basilica, which was not surprisingly, our first stop on the tour. As Martino told us about how the masculine horses and mismatched marble columns and were taken from a variety of other, existing basilicas, we skipped past the lines into the stunning structure's interior.

Inside of St. Mark's (photo from Wikipedia Commons on this page)

Wow. The inside of the basilica was unlike anything I'd seen before. It glimmered and gleamed with so much gold you would have thought Midas himself touched every square inch. The detail and beauty were so intense that you barely noticed the cracked mosaic floors, weathered from hundreds of years of sinking and flood damage. To think that none of this (beyond the mandatory restorations) was newer than the 1400's was beyond both Dan and me. We walked quietly to the front of the church while continuing to admire the carefully-placed mosaics in the ceilings and domes. (Here's a great link that diagrams the parts of the cathedral and their importance.)

Martino took us to parts of the basilica we would have never guessed to explore. He asked us to find 2 euros in our pockets and lead us through a gate where we each paid a guard. And there it was... the great Pala d’Oro altar. Made from ancient enamels and full of precious and semi-precious stones (Wikipedia says "as many as 1,972), the two-sided Pala d'Oro was breathtaking. Here's what Wikipedia says about the piece and it's origin: "The altarpiece consists of two parts. The lower part, with enamels illustrating the story of Saint Mark, the doge's portrait, and the Pantocrator group, originated as an antependium commissioned by the doge Ordelaffo Falieri from the court craftsmen of Constantinople in 1102. The image of Archangel Michael and the whole upper third are supposed to have been looted by the Crusaders in Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade of 1204." Go to google images and search "Pala d'Oro" to see others' (unauthorized/restricted) photos. STUNNING.

We then made our way to the other corner of the building and paid 2 more euros and climbed a tall set of stairs to the basilica's museum. There we saw up-close-and-personal examples of the tile restoration (amazing how they come in from the back to do repairs) and the actual, restored horses taken from Constantinople (the ones we saw out front were actually replicas). Exploring St. Mark was my favorite part of Venice (and likely my favorite church during our trip).

Next stop: the docks to hitch a ride on a water taxi (less gondola, more wooden-clad and motorized vessel). Our relaxing and informative ride lasted about an hour and a half. We did the Grand Canal and back again, oggling over 100-plus amazing homes — some private residences of the wealthy, some event spaces and some vacant. Martino had plenty of interesting things to say, but I'll admit I was distracted by viewing properties and the feeling of the breeze coming off the water. What a ride.

Our next stop proved Martino knew our group well. After the exhausting boat ride, we spent about half an hour sipping on red wines and tasting delicious antipastis (think roasted eggplant wrapped around fresh ricotta and tasty cured meats) at a little wine bar. Yum. Martino was doing such a great job with the tour that our group decided we wanted to buy his portion of the afternoon snack.

On to the walking tour. We navigated down streets and alleyways narrow and wide, hearing about the different neighborhoods of the city and how they came about. The best moment of the walking tour came when our guide pointed out a bomb shell lodged in a large home's walls. He was explaining the WWI plaque above the shell when a curious, old Italian man popped his head out of a second-story window, curious about the happenings going on below him. Martino then asked him, in Italian, if he knew anything about the bomb shell. After a series of exchanges, Martino told us that "the story goes" that a young Venetian woman dumped a young Austrian soldier before the war began — so in an attempt to retaliate, he flew over Venice with the intention of bombing her home. The conversation was so authentic, perfect and interesting that it almost seemed scripted.

As we parted ways at the Rialto Bridge and tipped our awesome guide, our fellow tour counterparts Joanne and Leon gave me their daughter Amy's phone number. They asked me to give her a call and let her know that her parents travels through Turkey, Spain, Italy, etc. were going well — and that they would call upon their return in a week.

We booked the "Private Venice in a Day" tour for 61 euros/person through AVVENTURE BELLISSIME but got his card so we or others could contact him directly in the future:

Martino Rizzi
+39 041 5265307 (home)
+39 328 9485671

Our last Italian dinner in my next post...

*If this is your first time reading this, please note that I sacrificed our camera to Air India and its 700-plus photos on the flight home... for it never to be seen or heard from again...

To Spank or Not to Spank?

This post from PerezHilton.com really got me thinking today. The post discusses Kate Gosselin (of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" fame) and shows a cover from InTouch Magazine with the headline "Caught Hitting Her Daughter."

Here's an excerpt from Perez's post:

Photogs captured Kate losing her temper with one of the sextuplets, Leah, on Saturday morning. As Kate was on the phone, Leah was blowing a whistle. After Kate asked her to stop, Leah blew on the whistle again and Kate became enraged.

She rose from her seat, came over, and spanked the little girl! In front of the cameras!

Don't get me wrong, as I'm no proponent of child abuse or severe child discipline techniques, but isn't this some serious sensationalism? It appears Mrs. Gosselin is spanking her daughter at her home (albeit on camera), something plenty of Americans do... granted they don't have cable TV shows.

I was spanked as a child, as were all my siblings. My parents never used paddles, belts, switches or the like in our spankings; their hands smacking our rears did plenty to make us sorry. These spankings were deserved — and few and far between, as we were mostly well behaved. I don't think back to my childhood and feel any kind of anger toward the way our parents disciplined us — nor do I think I'll take any issue with spanking our children if/when Dan I have kids one day*. In fact, I think I preferred spankings over the one time I got soap put in my mouth... 

What are your thoughts on spanking? Were you spanked as a kid? When you have kids one day, do you think you'll use this practice in your child discipline? Do you think there's a better/different way to punish bad behavior?

(*Note: I don't think Dan and I have talked about his feelings on spanking — but my recollection is that he feels its a fine and appropriate means of discipline as well.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthday Shirt

What do you give an English degree-holding, intellectual book-reading, Athens-living, fun-loving friend for her birthday? Why a homemade shirt paying homage to a hip-hop station, of course!

My friend has a not-so-secret love for the music of 95.5 the Beat (Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Akon, etc.). Since I couldn't find a logo high enough resolution to print for an iron-on transfer, I decided the next best option was to draw one.

the inspiration

the finished product

Kate, thanks for being a good sport about this silly gift. You know I love you!

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Heart Your Car

A few months ago, my coworker Matt had to buy a new car. His previous car, a Hyundai, couldn't exactly recover from the giant tree that fell on it. He decided it was the perfect opportunity to purchase a car that's more sustainable and economical. 

So he bought a smart car:

Image from One Eyed View

And yesterday someone left this note on his car:

If you can't read the small writing, it says, 
"thanks for caring about the environment"

How cool is that?

I wonder if she wrote his/her note was written on recycled paper...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Vacation!

Summer vacations are going to be just a little easier this summer because our office just announced three "freebie" vacation days (in addition to one previously announced). Thanks, Tod!

Overheard** in Atlanta

Random stranger guy (Rando) stops near a girl to tie his shoe: Wow, you have great hair — but I bet you hear that a lot.

Girl: Umm thanks. I actually don't get that a lot.

Rando:  I mean, it's kind of straight on the top and curly on the ends. It's cool.

Girl: Thanks?

Rando: You have split ends — but you make them look good.

**Okay, this wasn't so much overheard as it was me. What the? Seriously.

Collins Sports His Couture Onesies

About a month ago, I blogged about the baby shower Kate, Staci and I hosted for our awesome friend Olivia. The most popular activity at the shower was decorating onesies for the soon-to-arrive little baby Collins. (Great idea, Katebug!)

Well, Olivia and Tres welcomed Collins Ashford Crow into the world on May 22 — and he's just now big enough to start wearing some of his custom onsies.

Check him out here, sporting a giraffe onesie care of Staci:

iPhone pic taken by the hot momma (Olivia)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Girls Weekend!!!

My high school friends Lauren, Ashley and Nichole and I made plans to spend this past weekend together.  Two of our respective men were out-of-town so it seemed to be an especially great weekend for an estrogen fest. 

After a drink and some catching up at my casa, we made our way to Leon's Full Service for some brews and grub. I think the hour wait was WELL worth it.

Allagash white ale and Lagunitas pilsner

Pub frites with our choice dipping sauces: 
goat cheese fondue and cucumber-dill

My new obsession: veggie loaf with a cauliflower, shitake mushroom 
and sundried tomato salad

Lauren and Ashley enjoy some Leon's

Had to stop by The Chocolate Bar for a martini. 
shley's Mississippi Sidehand was the clear winner.

And you can't hang in Decatur without giving 
some love to the iron people

After sleeping in on Saturday and eating a good breakfast, we gals made our way to the Virginia Highlands Summerfest. We explored the booths of artists, jewelry artisans, wood workers and other talented vendors. Beyond the pain of finding a parking spot, the afternoon was a lot of fun. We also found our way to some friends at Moe's and Joes for a cold beer and reunited with a high school classmate at his newly-opened Yoforia frozen yogurt shop.

Saturday night brought more girl time. We stocked up on fresh veggies, chicken, potatoes and other deliciousness and invited over several more gals for a cookout. Anna, Natalie, Lisa, Megan and Moeko came over for dinner helped make it a fabulous Saturday night. Anna's grilling expertise was much appreciated. Kitchen assistants Lauren, Ashley and Nichole made it work... and we managed to have quite a spread. We girls enjoyed veggie kabobs (green pepper, onion, pineapple and mushroom), packets of grilled/sauteed zucchini and yellow squash, sweet and standard baked potatoes, lemon garlic and barbeque grilled chicken and a spinach salad. Oh yeah, and plenty of wine and Megan's Rice Krispy Treats.

When we got a call from Maria around 10, we couldn't resist heading out on the town. After all, what's a girls' night without seeing Maria?

Me and Nichole

Maria and Anna

Me with Lisa!

Girl group shot... complete with the 
gratuitous photo bomber.

What a fun weekend! It was great to catch up with the HS girls plus spend time with other girlfriends old and new. Thanks for coming together, ladies. Let's do it again sometime soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Shameless Plug for WordSmyte

My friend Paul told me about a new project of his a few days ago, so last night I sent out an e-mail to a few friends asking that they check it out. Dan had already gone to bed so I spent a few minutes catching up on personal e-mail and exploring the site.

At 12:15, I head to bed. I see Dan, who usually falls asleep pretty quickly, sitting upright in bed. I said, "what are you doing?" Then he pulled out his blackberry and showed me what he was doing... playing on WordSmyte. It's addicting!

Here's the premise. You:
  1. Identify social deviance (e.g. one who talks too loudly in coffee shops)
  2. Create a funny word to explain that behavior or activity ("mocha talka latte")
  3. Try to use the new words as much as possible, as this is how we change the world
Here are a few favorites already posted:
  • Mealbreaker: one who steals your food off your plate, using his hands, as he's asking if it's okay to have some of your food.
  • Clam jamming: the equivalent of male "cock blocking"
Give WordSmyte a whirl... it's fun!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Categorize This as Semi-Unfair

(Image from Splash News)

She's had eight kids and looks like that! Seriously, that's crazy!