Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fabulous Holiday Blog Challenge - Day 3

Today is Day 3 of the blog challenge, and today's theme is Holiday Decorations.  Man, I LOVE decorating for the holidays!  It gets me giddy to put out all of my new and old decorations, remebering the year I got each one.  It means so much more when you own your own place and can really make it your own over the holidays. Yay! 

So here is a taste of my holiday decorating.  Mind you, I only have a 928 square foot condo, so there isn't exactly a lot of space to decorate.  We do the best we can with what wee space we've got.  I'll preface this by saying that I have had many types of decorations over the years (modern, rustic, elegant, simple), but this year we got out the silly, cutesy stuff, and it definitely brightens my day to see the house covered in this stuff.

Starting with a healthy dose of snowmen here in Florida.  Can you tell I miss being up north at this time of year?

My playful use of stuffed reindeer toys.  And Pete's placement of my MSU snowmen (yes, more snowmen!).  So campy that I have to love it!

Now for more reindeer and snowflakes.

There will be a time and place in my life for elegant holiday decorations, like when I get a fireplace and can decorate the hell out of that thing.  For now, the silly, cute stuff wins out. 

I so love the holidays.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fabulous Holiday Blog Challenge - Day 2

So it's day two of Amber and Neely's blog challenge, and today's topic is:  Favorite Holiday Tradition New or Old.

So I don't come from a family with many big traditions, but we do have a few.  We watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on Thanksgiving night to kick off a merry holiday season, we bake loads of cookies and fudge and buckeyes (the list goes on and on), and I listen to my favorite Christmas music while baking and wrapping gifts. 

But my absolute favorite tradition is having our big family holiday celebration on Christmas Eve.  We listen to holiday music, eat an irresponsible amount of food and kick back loaded cocktails while opening presents.  It's a truly magical affair.  When my sister and I's husbands joined us for our family Christmas celebration (during the same year, no less), they were in awe of 1.) the crazy amount of food, 2.) the INSANE pile of presents known in our world as "Mount Christmas" (because it looks like a mountain of gifts), and 3.) the sheer joy we felt by being together as a family on that night.  It's literally the best night of the whole year.
This year will also be fantastico, but we will be having markedly fewer gifts than in past years.  We have all decided to spend less this year, since Pete and I are working hard at paying off some bills, and my sister and her husband are just about to purchase their first house.  The same festivities will remain, though, because Christmas isn't just about presents.  It's about family, togetherness, love and celebration.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fabulous Holiday Blog Challenge - Day 1

I'm linking up today for Amber and Neely's Fabulous Holiday Blog Challenge.  I've never done one of these before, so this will be a great new experience for me.  Hopefully I don't f it up.

Today's Topic: Favorite Gift Received

It's incredibly hard to choose my favorite gift ever received, because I've gotten such amazing gifts from my family and friends in the past.  Plus, I'm super easy to please because I am open minded and love the thought that people put into their presents. I especially love Pete's gifts because he always manages to find the perfect things for me, mostly because he pays attention when I say that I want things.  Whatta good man!

My favorite gift had to be the Time Life Treasury of Christmas CDs that Pete gave me as an early gift last year. 

I'd grown up listening to this music, which was always played on my parents' jumbo stereo system as we decorated the Christmas tree, baked cookies or sat in front of a roaring fire each December.  Yes, I really had that kind of childhood, and I loved every minute of it.  This music always reminded me of home and a cozy Christmas, and over the years my parents' cassettes went missing, and the CD I bought in 2001 also disappeared.  I was a sad panda.  I mentioned this to Pete last year, and he found the original 1987 CDs for me on eBay, surprising me with them when we went to decorate the tree last year.  I couldn't have been more thrilled!  We just broke the CDs out again when we decorated the house last night.  It really makes my house feel like a home at Christmastime.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend Revisited

What an amazing weekend this has been!  Four days of rest, family and scrumptious food helped to rejuvenate me, and I've totally needed it.  It went as well as I could have hoped for.  I just wished Kelly and Darrell could have stayed longer, but their home inspection was definitely more important than shopping and eating leftover turkey sandwiches with us.  Pete and I didn't host Thanksgiving, my Mom and Dad did at their home in Venice.  We always love visiting them because it's like a mini-vacation for us.  AND, we got to pick up Bella, who has been on vacation at Grandma and Grandpa's house since last Thursday. Yay!

Thanksgiving Day was so relaxing and wonderful.  There were 8 of us for dinner, which was at 4:00.  We watched the Lions game before that (an unsurprising loss, again), and snacked on my homemade Chex mix and other stuff my mom bought (as if we needed snacks before such a huge dinner, welcome to my family!).  Because we live in Florida and it was 80 degrees outside, we date dinner on the screened in lanai to enjoy the lovely weather.  After dinner, we rested for awhile, then took a swim.  We ended the night watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which is our Thanksgiving evening tradition.  I helps prep us for Christmas season. So great!

Here's a look back at the Thanksgiving Day:

20 lb. turkey, fresh out of the roaster, with stuffing being scooped out of the bird.  Potatoes boiling on the stove. It's going to be a delicious dinner!

Carbs, carbs, carbs, and lots of butter.  Why settle for one type of dinner roll when you can have two?

Look at that buffet!  Not bad for a small affair.

My plate.  I think I can do it, I think I can do it.  Happy Thanksgiving!

My plate afterward.  An no, no one helped me with my meal.  I was SO stuffed!

 Pete, looking comatose after downing a huge helping of Thanksgiving dinner.  Poor guy.

Post Thanksiving Nightswimming.   Nothing makes me feel better after a big dinner like being buoyant in a swimming pool.

The day after Thanksgiving, I got up at 6:30 am to see Kelly and Darrell off, and went Black Friday shopping with my Mom.  I managed to clean up at Bath and Body Works (big surprise), got a couple of scarves at Old Navy, 2 shirts at Beall's, some DVDs at Best Buy, some pillows and DVDs at Target, and a bunch of ECB deals at CVS and Walgreens.  Afterward, we came home and went the casino and out to dinner with my parents. 

On Saturday, we went to Bogey's to watch the MSU vs. Northwestern football game.  It was a great game and I'm so glad we won!  Bogey's has the beer towers that Pete and I always like, because we feel like college kids again when faced with that volume of beer.  Thankfully, we had a whole table of people to share it with us, because we couldn't have had all of that ourselves... or could we?

Mmmm, tower of beer.  

The rest of the weekend was all about watching TV, puttering around town and swimming in the pool.  What a splendid holiday weekend it was!  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Little Good News Before the Holidays

I mentioned in post awhile back that my Hubby's company announced that they were going to be closing his division on December 15.  This was terrible news for Pete because he'd never lost a job before, and he was unsure about his future.  I was concerned about our future, not because I didn't think he would find another job (he's super smart and could do so much), but because I knew that working in this industry was not my Hubby's cup of tea.  I just want him to smile when he thinks about his full-time job instead of frown.

A few weeks ago, the company came back to Pete and said that they are going to temporarily place everyone in his division on a new project to keep them employed.  This is tremendous news!  The one problem is that this new assignment is only slated to last between 9 months and 1.5 years.  Booooo.   Pete went to training last week and starts his new job next week.

I'm SO incredibly grateful that Pete has retained a job (thankfully with comparable pay and benefits), but I'm going to help him start looking for other opportunities after the new year.  I think we need to find something stable and long-term for him, at least while he's getting his footing in the radio industry.  Eventually we're hoping he can make that his career, but for now, a job that pays the bills and isn't loathed will be superb.  We'll work on it.

All in all, a happy message while heading into the holidays, and it's one of the many things I will be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Yay!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weekend Recap

What an amazing weekend it was!  Why, you ask?  Because I had no plans.  Yup, a weekend free from responsibilities and commitments.  And it was A-MA-ZING!  I've been exhausted by managing the politics at work, so this weekend was SOOO welcome.

In my ultra-relaxing weekend, I did get a few things accomplished:
  • Watched MSU whomp Indiana in college football and made some totally delish football food -- parmesan burgers and warm crab dip
  • Ordered my Christmas cards from Shutterfly - we got cute photo cards this year!
  • Bought Pete's first Christmas present
  • Baked pumpkin spice kiss cookies
  • Baked a Pumpkin Ooey Gooey Cake, one of Paula Deen's recipes that took my breath away (and I'm sure added an inch to my waistline)
  • Ordered a wedding photo album for my parents from Mixbook - thank you, Groupon!
  • Ordered my photo canvas from Canvas on Demand - thanks again, Groupon!
  • Went with Pete and our friends to watch the WWE pay-per-view at a local sportsbar.  Thank God Jess was there to keep me company!
Can you tell I love Groupon??  Also, let me explain the WWE thing.  I'm NOT a fan.  However, I married a wrestling fan, so I get to watch wrestling far more than I ever dreamed I would.  Wrestling was just one of the things I had to accept when I fell in love with Pete, and the more I watch it, the more I can see why a guy would like it.  It's the ultimate male soap opera, combining lame drama with athleticism. And only in wrestling can men wear so little clothing and not be considered a girly-man or a swimmer.  Anyway, Jess (one of my awesome bridesmaids) comes to watch with the guys, so she and I always have a lot to chat about.

The good news is that this is a super short workweek.  Work for 3 days and I'm off for 4--can't beat that.  And now for the downward slide into the long holiday weekend.  Bring it on!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas List - Part 2

Mom's been asking for more Christmas ideas, so here I am with Part 2.  And believe me, I'm never short on ideas for awesome gifts.  It's so much better to get things I dream about than a bunch of random lotions or generic pajamas.  I still can't believe that Pete is already done shopping for me.  I have NO idea what he could have gotten me before seeing my list.  I guess it will a big, fat Christmas surprise. :)

Here are my latest lovelies:

Erin Condren Planner

This planner is ADORABLE.  While I like to fancy myself a technology buff (considering my numerous bouts with Palm Pilots, the iPhone, etc.), there's something about a handwritten planner that makes life seem complete.  The site that sells these,, also makes something like this as an Address Book, which I'd be equally excited about receiving.

Laptop Sleeve

I need a laptop sleeve for my new computer, so what better than one with a simple but fun Coach logo?  Truth be told, I'd take any kind of laptop sleeve with a fun print.  I just don't want a boring black one.  Blech.

Odd Size Measuring Spoons
I can't get enough of cooking and baking, and I love getting new tools for my craft.  My current measuring spoon sets don't have the odd sizes, like the 1/8th tsp. or 1/3 tsp.  I think having these would bring me one step closer to feeling like an old Italian grandma who has every cooking tool known to mankind.  And I could stop having to guess about the odd measurements, because I hate guessing when it comes to baking.


This Nikon Coolpix camera has a super-zoom, which excites me in a way that I didn't think a camera could.  Ideally I'd get a fancy DSLR, but this would be just fine for me considering my photo-taking habits.  Pocket-sized is the way to go at this time in my life.

Vera Bradley CheckbookCover

YES, I STILL CARRY A CHECKBOOK.  I may be the last person under 50 to do so, but I don't care.  I just feel like I need to have it.  Like an oddball monetary security blanket.  Even if I'm the only one who sees it (I use my debit card in public), I'd like to have a fun checkbook cover.  Just makes me feel pretty.

Wireless Mouse

I bought this awesome laptop but feel like a little wireless mouse would round out the whole package.  This touchpad is nice and all, but I miss the feel and the control of a mouse.  This funky white one would match my laptop perfectly.

Vineyard Vines Snowman Pajama Pants

I have always loved the cute patterns that Vineyard Vines uses on everything from Men's ties to totebags, and the prints just make my heart sing a happy little jingle.  These pj pants are no exception!  These pants have a super-cute cartoony snowman theme, and honestly, I miss snowmen.  Ain't no snowmen in Florida, so I might as well get them on my pajama pants.

Apple Cozie

And now for something random.  I saw these in a friend's Etsy shop, Kusala Knitworks, and I thought it was friggin adorable.  Is not only a crazy cute and a conversation piece, but it solves a problem for me--it will help keep my apples from getting bruised on my way to work everyday.

As you can see, my Christmas list just keeps on growing.  And if there's a snowball's chance in hell of me having a super-faboo Christmas, these ideas will help and reduce the number of post-holiday re-gifts.  Yay!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Orlando Calling

I generally don't consider myself a lucky person.  My luck has changed over the past few years.  I met Pete (which was great luck in itself), and he works in radio so he frequently gets free tickets to concerts and sporting events.  I was THRILLED when he texted me last week and asked if I'd be interested in going to the Orlando Calling music festival if he could get us free tickets.  I'd talked about wanting to go to this festival because one of my favorite bands, O.A.R., was playing, but I had a real hang-up about spending $100 on a one-day festival ticket.  Call me a cheapskate, but I can think of lots of other things I'd rather do with $100--hello, Sephora! 

Pete texted me on Friday to tell me he got the tickets!  My awesome friend Jess was supposed to come along, but had to end up working on Saturday (cue sad face).  Kelly and I ended up going to the show and we had such a great time!  We got to the show later in the day, around 4:00, and saw Iron & Wine (very jam-bandy), Gavin DeGraw (amazing--I can't believe I'd never seen him before!) and, of course, O.A.R.  O.A.R. played a fantastic set list with all of my favorite songs, but since they weren't the headliner on their stage, they didn't get to play a full set. (cue second sad face)  But I'll take any live O.A.R. that I can get, and their set, along with awesome company from my partner in crime, Kelly, made this little Kari's heart happy.

Here are some pictures from the show:

Twin Time

Gavin DeGraw


SOOO much fun!  And muchas gracias to my Man in Black for the free tickets!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Super Stress and Baking Debacles

I've been absent over the past week or so, and not at all because I don't want to blog, but because I have been CRAZY busy.  Work has been beyond nutty, and I've been slammed all. day. long. Every day for the past 3 weeks.  I judge the busyness of my day by whether or not I have a chance to check my personal email at least once from work.  I didn't get a chance to check it at all over the past couple of days, and tonight I ended up with over 400 emails to sift through.  (sigh)  I just keep repeating... One thing at a time... Breathe...

In the midst of the madness, I remembered that there is going to be a fall themed potluck at work tomorrow.  I told them I'd bring pumpkin cookies, but completely forgot until tonight.  I had planned on bringing these pumpkin snickerdoodles I found on A Bitchin Kitchen, and I knew I'd better get crackin' or else I'd be baking at 2 am. 

This what the girls at A Bitchin Kitchen's pumpkin snickerdoodles looked like:

I started baking at 9:00 tonight, and quickly realized that I didn't have any butter softened, so I knew I'd have to do one of two things:  put 2 sticks of butter on the stove while it preheats (my cheat) or send Pete to the grocery store to buy me a tub of soft margarine.  I decided to send Pete, the amazing husband that he is, out to the store before they closed.  He came back with the margarine, and I resumed baking.  I then realized that I was out of eggs (apparently Pete ate them all over the weekend while I was in Orlando and I never noticed they were gone), so Pete came to my rescue again and went back to the store for more eggs.  Pete came back and reminded me of what a great guy he is (as if I needed the reminder), and I went back to my baking.  I whipped up the rest of the batter, then had to chill it for an hour.  When I pulled it out, the dough was still too sticky to roll into balls, so I stuck it in the freezer 15 minutes.  After that, it was finally ready to roll in the cinnamon, sugar and ginger mixture.  I baked the cookies for the recommended time, and pulled them out, and the didn't look done.  I baked them for another 3 minutes, and let them cool.  The looked exactly like the picture, so I couldn't wait to dig in. 

I decided, like any good baker should, to sample my handiwork.  And let me tell you, it was supremely disappointing!  I mean, the concept of a pumpkin snickerdoodle blows my mind.  I'd never met a pumpkin baked good that I didn't devour... until tonight.  These cookies tasted like cardboard--zero flavor of any kind!  I couldn't taste any of the spices or vanilla, and certainly no pumpkin.  BOOOOOO.  I never should have trusted a snickerdoodle recipe that didn't call for cream of tartar.  I simply cannot take these cookies to my work's potluck tomorrow.  I have a reputation to uphold--one known for amazing food and scrumptious yumminess.  These cookies are too gross and I don't want anyone at work to experience this level of disappointment.

SO, now I have to figure out what I'm doing about this potluck tomorrow.  I see a trip to Publix in my future.  Actually, I've got a meeting tomorrow (a monster 2-1/2 hour meeting, yuck) that overlaps the potluck so there's a chance that I won't even make it... or if I do, I'll be late as hell.  Maybe no one will notice that I half-assed it by bringing store bought treats... this girl hopes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Christmas List - Part I

Every year my parents and sister ask me to make them a Christmas list, to give them "general direction" on what to buy me every year.  Yeah, I know that most people stop making Christmas lists once they hit college, but my parents kept asking for it... and I kept delivering because I wanted presents that I didn't have to sneakily return the week after Christmas.  So me doing a list was really more self-serving than anything.  I'm selfish that way.

So my mom just asked me where my Christmas list was, because apparently it's late.  I wasn't aware of this mystery due date, but her little comment was my cue to get moving on it.  I've been racking my brain to figure out what I want this year.  It really shouldn't be this hard, but I got married this year and got a CRAZY amount of gifts.  I have very few "needs" right now, but a mountain of "wants".  Afterall, it's not kosher to give the bride a new handbag or beauty products for her wedding (but I totally wish it was).

So far, lists consists of:

A Kindle Fire

This Book for my Kindle:
Because I love some Mindy Kaling.  Like more than anyone else on TV.

I want a Kindle because I don't currently own one and everyone says it will change my life.  I hope it changes my life the same way my DVR changed my life.  And it really did change my life.  I usually don't have much time for reading but being an avid reader is one of my lifetime aspirations.  I enjoy reading but feel guilty sitting down to read a book when I have housework and cooking and the dog and blah blah blah to do.  I have to get over that.

I'm also a huge handbag collector.  Over the years I've sold some of my bags to make room for newer, more fashionable bags, and it's been awhile since I've given a beautiful handbag a new home in my handbag closet (yes, I have a special cabinet just for handbags).

I want this beautiful specimen of a handbag:
or this magnificent marvel of handbag spendor:

with this fricken adorable wallet:

Actually, I love everything Kate Spade, all the time.  I haven't met a KS bag I didn't like.  Hopefully I see one of these babies stuffed beneath my Christmas tree this year.

I also want a Clarisonic:

I think I'm the last girl on earth to get one of these things.  But damn it, enough is enough.  I want healthy, glowing skin!

This list is To Be Continued...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday Stress, Friday Relief

It's Thursday, and man, am tired.  Things have been beyond crazy work lately. I have so many things going on and it's all I can do to just keep up.  The concept of being proactive is just WAY outside of my realm of possibility right now.  I'm simply treading water, waiting for the ridiculousness to pass so I can move on to bigger and better projects.
Some of you may know that I work in Human Resources for a large company.  My job title is "Human Resources Business Partner", and when people ask me what the hell that is, I have a hard time explaining to them what I do all day.  "I manage employee relations, executive coaching, employee engagement and roll-outs of HR initiatives within the business units I support." It just sounds like a bunch of corporate gibberish, I know.  I have a weird job that not everyone gets.

Part of this weird job that I have is managing employee matters for people at all levels within the company, from warehouse workers to Executive Vice Presidents.  One part of my job that I find completely maddening are the politics of my job, which is prevalent in ALL companies, not just big ones like mine.  Politics are particularly rampant at the most senior levels of the company, where the interworkings are like a chess match.  And I don't know how to play chess.  Keeping up with the politics at work is completely exhausting for me, but I'm getting better at it.

So today, after a crazy day of eliminating 5 positions in four states, counseling employees and managing the obscene number of emails in my inbox, my department's Senior Vice President asks me to meet with her before the end of the day to talk about our meeitng with an executive yesterday.  I expected to be raked over the coals for something (I wasn't sure what, but giving people shit for minutae is her MO), but I had no idea what.  When we met, she wound up asking me all of these questions about my take-aways form that meeting and what nuances I caught during the conversation.  She was testing my listening, comprehension and critical thinking skills.  I managed to answer all of her questions well and we had some lively discussion about the issues, but I still didn't like being quizzed.  Ugh.  Not what I needed today.  At.  All.

I'm trying to take this all in stride because my boss eluded to changes coming 2012. He told me that the wants me to get exposure to more executive-level leaders because it might help me get promoted next year.  I REALLY want that, but I don't want to get my hopes up.  They've been dashed before.

I couldn't be happier that tomorrow is Friday.  Friday is *supposed* to be a slow day at work since I only have one scheduled meeting, but crazy things erupt on Fridays, so who really knows.  What I do know is that Friday is one day closer to the elation of ending the week, spending the weekend without thinking about work once and simply taking a mental vacation from stress.  I hope you all have a fabulous Friday!

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Tampa, Florida, United States
I'm a wife, daughter and amazing twin sister. I'm a mom to my adorable dog, Bella. Loves: Shopping, cooking, baking, good grammar and Dave Matthews Band. I'm also a Bath and Body Works addict, a Michigan State Spartans fanatic, and an iPhone aficionado. I see beauty in simple things and little things make me ever-so-happy. Welcome to my world!

La Bella Vita

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