Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New Challenge

Things were a little crazy yesterday, and after many months of escaping the effects of the financial crisis, it has finally hit home. In a office wide meeting yesterday morning, my bosses (the founding partners of the firm) said that in an effort to keep from laying anyone off, they were asking everyone to drop down to a 4 day work week. So, basically, 32 hours of work a week instead of 40 hours.

Now don't get me wrong, I walked out of that meeting so very thankful for my job! I'm the most junior person on the team and would most likely be the one to go. So, I am very, very grateful that they are doing everything they can to preserve the team.

That being said though, the worry wort in me instantly begin trying to do math in my head... to no avail. No matter what I did, I could not seem to multiply 19 by 40, 32, or even 8! My dad would interject here a crack about my homeschool education, but I think anxiety had more to do with it. As soon as I got back to my desk, I started adding stuff up. 20% is a huge decrease when you live paycheck to paycheck.

But that is why this post is titled New Challenge. I know we have money left over at the end of the month. I know that I often don't have money because I saw that I was going to have some and decided to spend it on luxuries instead. I know that we make plenty of money to pay our rent, car payments, utilities, food, etc. This will probably just mean that there is less in the Holiday Gift Pool, or that we won't be getting a puppy as soon as we hoped.

But what it does mean is a new outlook on life. An outlook that minimizes the importance of "stuff" in our lives. An outlook that forces us to get more creative on everything from decorating to date nights to what we do for fun. An outlook that encourages the adventure of getting what you want and need in a way that you can afford. I'm also greatly looking forward to shifting my perspective.... shifting away from things being of primal importance in my life, and really contemplating what is really important.

So with this gigantic negative on the board this morning, I'd appreciate if you would indulge me in a few positives...

1) I am in good health!
2) Our families are in good health (well except for his mom but that's not a new thing).
3) I do still have a job that although pays less than it did two days ago, still will cover my basic expenses and probably more.
4) J and I got a DVR last weekend that is wonderful! (hey, you can indulge me one silly, trivial "thing" orriented positive. Anyway, I said I was learning to be less focused on stuff, not that I'd gotten there yet!)
5) I have wonderful friends!
6) And last but not least, i have the most wonderful husband in the world!

So, how has the economic crisis touched you and yours? And what are you doing to Thrive in the situation instead of letting it defeat you? I know we'd all love to hear the silver linings that others are finding!

Thanks for reading y'all!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Daily Inspiration

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Today, while browsing through The Knot's real wedding pictures looking for ideas for my good friend's wedding, I ran across my new love. Well, second after Jay. This picture literally took my breath away. Is this not one of the most beautiful things you've ever seen!

I love working with herbs. Not only do they look beautiful, but they smell wonderfully, and they have rich histories. According to the ever-wonderful wikipedia Rosemary has been linked with increased memory and was associated with rememberance for many, many years, which is why is was often used in bridal bouquets and thrown into the graves of those who had passed on. Which makes it especially appropriate at this time of year.

Next week is the celtic holiday of Saimhain (pronounced souw-like sour but with a w-wayne). It coincides with Halloween and is most likely where Halloween gots its start. It was not the comerciallistic candy selling, costume buying holiday that it has become. But it does have a link to the other world.

On Saimhain, it was belived that the veil between this world and the next was pulled thin, and those who had gone on before us could come visit those who are still in this relm. It wasn't a scary, ghosts and goblins, witches and zombies, holiday. It was kind of like Thanksgiving for the dead. :-) However, since the veil was thin, and not just your friends and family might come by to say hello, pumpkins were carved and placed on the porch to ward off any unfriendly spirits from stopping by and steeling your awesome Chexmix. Well, they probably didnt' have Chexmix back then but you get the point.

Personally, I don't take it far enough to think that my great-grandmother Bonnie, might come by and say hello while Jay and I are having dinner. But this holiday does have a lot of significance for me. In addition to it being the day the veil was the thinnest, it was also the Celtic new year. I've never been a big New Years Eve fan. The partying and drinking and waking up with a hang over was never really my thing. Maybe that's why I love this holiday so much.

So, on October 31st, I'll spend some time in the evening, to celebrate the lives of those who have gone on before me. The women (and men) who have paved a way for me. Those who fought for my right to speak my mind on this blog without fear of the government. Those who fought for my right to practice whatever religion I see fit. Those who fought for my right to vote. Something I all but take forgranted. Those in my mother and grandmother's generation who faught for the (more or less) equal pay I enjoy. Those who have lost their life on the battlefield defending my freedom. Those who faught for my right to not wear a corsette, although I'd love to see a revolt against high heals!

But not only will I take time to honor those who have gone before me, but I will also take time to be thankful for those who are still with me. My grandmother has cancer and is in poor health. Although she is so tenacious, I'm not sure she'll ever give up the ghost! When ever my mom talks about my spirit, tenacity, or rebeliousness, she always comments on the fact that its because I have the blood of Louise Bumgarner (my grandmother) running through my veins. I'm thankful that my mom is still here. I cannot even imagine the time that she will pass onto the next relm. I know that I'll survive when it does, but I'm thankful it wasn't this year. I'll take time to honor my brothers who are so important in my life, and my friends who I would not be able to live without. And most importantly, I'll take time to honor my husband who is my rock.

Even beyond that though, I'll try and take some time to evaluated my life. What are the things in my life that I need to let die in order to not bring them into this new year? The main thing I'm working on right now is learning to be less defensive with people. I know that the defensiveness steems from some left over low selfesteem, so as I grow that I know the other will die more an more.

And finally, I'll take time to honor the things in my life that I am proud of and that have come to fruition over this harvest season. For instance the fact that my job has calmed down and to some degree that has been because I have started to stand up for myself.

So, my challenge to you... is to take some time sometime next week to celebrate those who have gone before you, those who you know personally and those who you know only by the effects they broght along. Take time to honor those who are still with us, and make sure they know how much they mean to us. Take time to evaluate the things that need to die in your own life. And finally celebrate the things that have come into bloom over this harvest season.

Blessed Be y'all. And happy Saimhain.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In Celebration of Giving Back

"The United States long has been a nation of givers, but a new generation is transforming the way we do good. Millennials and Generation Xers, especially those 20- and 30-somethings starting careers, may not have the bucks to be major donors, but they are finding ways to help others and prompting big changes in the way charities raise money."

"Young people are "not just making checks and going on with their lives. They want to be part of what happens" to their money, says Claire Gaudiani of the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at New York University. She says today's young people contribute to favorite causes earlier, more consistently and in more imaginative ways than their grandparents did."

"Whether it's helping rebuild houses after Hurricane Katrina or serving as literacy coaches at the local elementary school, young donors "would rather be volunteering than sitting at a luncheon," Benero says." USA Today (10/7/08)

FINALLY! Some freaking good news about the Millenials and GenXers! As a member of the GenX community, I've heard pleny of negativity about those my age over the years. From rants about our laziness to our rebelion from our baby boomer parents' values (freaking A though, what generations hasn't been accused of this!) to our struggle to find a cause in a world void of a vietnam war style, rallying issue.

I LOVE this article because it proves something that I've felt for a long time... that just because we are young, doesn't mean we don't care about our world and what happens to it and that we aren't willing to sacrifice time and money to make a differnece! While in California, I worked with this guy (Brian, early 30's) who was such an inspiration just to be around! He had more energy in his left toe than I had in my entire body. He was charismatic by trade, and was always exacting change in his community. I've never known someone who was as community orriented and put as much energy into enacting change for himself and those around him, as he did.

At that same job, I met a guy (Daniel, 28) who was heavily active in working against the notion that homosexuality was a mental illness that could be "cured" by therapy. He had been subjected to this type of "treatment" during his high school and college days, and had first hand knowledge of the damage it could do. He regularly protested and wore awareness about the evils of the concept and was wonderfully intellegent and engaging to talk with.

So, when Brian ran for Long Beach City Council, Dan and I spent an entire Saturday writing his email address in the sand so it could be seen by people coming down from the beach access areas and the folks who lived in the beach front apartments, all of which were in the district he was running for. We also folded and stapled yard signs and participated in a gallery exhibit to raise awarenss of the district and Brian. Brian of course spent many, many hours knocking on doors and talking with people about their issues.

Unfortunately, Brian's bid was unsuccessful (this time). I'm sure name recongintion was against him. With a last name like Ulaszewski there's only so much you can ask for. But the experience was fun and exciting. And Brian went right back to fighting for his community in all the ways he had done before the campagn.

I have a friend in Michigan who at 21 (and a part of the millenium generation) is volunteering once a week with her local battered women's shelter. This is a girl who should be out partying it up every night, and then trying her hardest just to stay awake during her college classes, but instead, she is giving of her time and her expertise since she is a psychology major.

Here at my job in North Carolina, I work with a woman who has a reading buddy that she meets with every week during the school year, a woman who works at the shelter for homeless youth, one guy who is heavily involved in the Obama campagn, and multiple people who volunteer their time within the architectural industry.

So, what am I doing? It's taken a long time to get up and running, but it's finally here. I've done 4 on call shifts with United Family Services in the domestic violence crisis department. I've had two calls to the hospital. One, the victim left before I got there without treatement, the second was a spanish speaker who I really hope I was able to give some resources to if nothing else. This Sunday, I'll be able to start a movement class at the Alexander Youth Network which works with children who have mental and behavioral issues. And I sent in my pledge money in to support WFAE (or local National Public Radio Station).

So, my challenge to you is... whatever your age, what are you doing to exact change in this world? Big or small, all of our efforts make a difference so if you aren't doing anything yet, consider it! Almost every community has a battered women's shelter that needs volunteer child care workers in the evenings. A couple of hours, one night a week would be all it would take. Women for Women (www.womenforwomen.org) is a wonderful organization that teaches rights awarness to women in war torn nations, gives them training in a skill or trade, and then gives them micro loans to start their own business so they can become self sufficient. Their program involves a $25/once per month donation and a monthly letter to your female sponser in another county. One of the best resources I know of is www.volunteermatch.org. They are the monster or careerbulder of the volunteer community. You simply put in your zip code and it brings up many, many volunteer orgainzations in your community.

So, whatever you do, whether it's spending your Saturdays cleaning up trash, or simply giving to your local United Way campagn, do your part. For we all the costodians of our world and our people. There is no one but you!

link to the full USA Today article. It's definitely worth a read. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-10-07-charity-newface_N.htm?csp=

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Fall Spread

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

So... what can you do with 6 ornamental pumpkins, 4 sheets of funky paper, 3 bunches of flowers, 2 tealights and 1 medium sized pie pumpkin? I'll tell you... an entire fall themed table setting for under $30.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This past weekend, I got a hankering for a change. I love fall, I love pumpkins (see pumpkin pancake blog from a couple weeks ago), and I love having a pretty table setting. So, I took a couple of hours and headed out to Micheals, World Market, Target and the grocery store on Sunday. I ended up spending a total of $30. So, I started with two ornamental pumpkins and two tealights and one pumpkin carving set.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Take the poky thing from the pumpkin kit (and yes that IS the official name), poke around the stem, then cut and remove the stem. Don't cut any larger then the stem because you may end up with a whole too big for your tealight and you'll have to figure out something else to do with your pumpkin.

Then place your tealight on top of the pumpkin where you want it to go and trace around it with a pen, pencil or thin marker. If you use a thick marker, you may end up with a black line around the edge of the tealight. Then follow the line and make holes with the poky thing. Use the knife to trip to the line. Be careful because you can always trim a little more off, but you can't put any back. Don't gut the pumpkin because insides will help keep the candle from falling all the way inside.

if you are lucky like, me, you can get your wonderful, super strong and totally handsome husband to push the tealight into the hole. if you don't have one of those, then just stand up and put all your weight onto the tealight. You want it to be snug.

And waalaa! You have a pumpkin tealight holder!

Repeat for the second pumpkin.

For the large centerpiece take the medium sized pumpkin and cut out the top like you would if you were going to carve it. Then clean it all out.

Then simply take your flowers and arrange them in the pumpkin. In order to cut down on bacteria form the flowers or pumpkin, put a couple of drops of bleach in the water.

In order to funk up the arrangement, take some funky, bohemian paper and cut leafs out of it.

To make funky place cards, take one of the leaves, print the guests name on them (or print them out on the computer if you have really nasty hand writing like mine). Take a basic straight pin and push it through the leaf and into the pumpkin.

Put it all out on the $10 table clothe you got at Target last year and love, love, love! And you are ready for a dinner party where your guests cancel on you at the last minute. Oh wait, that's not right. :-)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Hope you enjoyed!


EDITORS NOTE: If you decide to take my bright advice and leave the pumpkin innards in the pumpkin so that the tea light doesn't fall into the pumpkin... make sure you throw the pumpkin away as soon as it starts getting soft. Why is that? Because if you don't it will literaly thow up all over your favorite table cloth and stink up your entire house to high heaven. Consider yourself warned! ;-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Adventures in Breakfast

One of the things I love doing is taking a weekend morning and experimenting with something new. So, a couple of weekends ago, I decided that I wanted to make pumpkin pancakes. They are one of my favorite foods, well pumpkin anything really. I always look forward to the fall when when restaurants start serving pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and how could I mention pumpkin food without mentioning Cheesecake Factory's pumpkin cheesecake! Woohoo!

Anyway, I got online and found a recipe from the mother of all things wonderful and cool... Martha Stewart. I'd never made pancakes from scratch, who needs to when there is Bisquick. But I figured it would be a fun adventure. So, here are a few pictures of our efforts.

I know Jay isn't a huge pancake fan, so I decided to make cheese eggs and hashbrowns as well. I was hoping to find some fancy bacon, but Harris Teeter doesn't sell any in their meet department. And apparently The Fresh Market doesn't open until 11am on Sunday. Jay was in charge of the eggs and hashbrowns. And they turned out wonderful as well.

The pancakes weren't that difficult to make. Trust me, if I can make it, anyone can. And they turned out to be SOOOOOOOO good. I highly recommend this recipe!

Here is the recipe...

Pumpkin Pancakes

For a spiced breakfast treat, whisk 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour; 2 tablespoons sugar; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt; 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg; and a pinch of ground cloves. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup milk, 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg; fold mixture into dry ingredients. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat; pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup. Makes 8 to 10.

And here's the link...


Hopefully there will be another installment of Adventures in Breakfast soon.

Love y'all!


Birthday Party Goodness

About a month ago was my 29th birthday. One last year as a 20-something. Holy crap! Next year I'll be 30!!! I never thought that I would have a hard time with getting older. But I'm a little more worried about it than I expected. We'll see though. I think it just has a lot to do with not expecting to be where I am at this age. I figured by the time I was 30 I'd have my Doctorate degree or by saving the world. But I'm just boring ol' me. But anyway... onto the birthday party goodness.

I had talked with Jay about what i wanted for my birthday. I finally decided that I really just wanted to throw a party, with invitations and a color scheme and matching drinks.

I decided to go with an ocean blue and lime green color scheme. So I was able to use a wonderful table cloth that I already had. In fact it was a great find when I stumbled across it many, many years ago. It was on clearance at wal-mart and I think I got it for about $5.

For centerpieces I tried something I'd been wanting to do for a long time. I took two square vases and filled them with whole limes and some small purple sprigs. Then in a tall cylinder vase, I cut up limes and lined the vase with them. Then I put some tall blue irises in the middle. It worked really well. I started out by trying to get the limes to stick to the side of the vase, but that didn't work too well. So, I filled it with water and put the irises in it. At that point there was enough in the vase to hold the limes slices against the sides. I just dropped them down the side and arranged them with a knife. I was quite proud if I do say so myself.

As favors I decided to pick up some martini glasses at the dollar store and spruce them up with some pretty name tags. I decided that the favors could do double duty both as favors and as drinking glasses so we didn't have to get a bunch of plastic cups. Plus the tags would double as glass markers. They were a big hit, except not everyone took theirs home so we ended up with a bunch of martini glasses. I think one night when the Hales are over we'll have sorbet and whipped cream in them.

We set up a drink station at the end of the bar. To continue with the color scheme, we had melon lemon drops and blueberry martinis. And in order to provide for the tea totalers out there we had green apple and berry lemonade Jones Sodas.

For food, we served my favorite meal of all time... my mom's cubed steak and gravy with mashed potatoes and creamed style corn. Mmmm, mmmm, mmm!

But as much fun as all the planning and executing was, the most fun part was having so many people that I loved in the same room having a good time. Not to mention, it was the first time that I had gotten to meet my nephew, my baby brother Aaron's baby. He was so adorable!

We had so much fun! And it was a great way to ring in the last year of my 20's!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm really, really behind on my blogging. I've got about three in the works and ideas on a bunch more. So here we go.

About a month ago, me, Jay, and my middle brother Luke went to check out the new US Whitewater Center out near Gastonia. It was soooo beautiful. We didn't do any rafting, but just walked around and checked everything out and watched a bunch of other people try and navigate the whitewater.

We took advantage of the beautiful surroundings to take some pictures.

Then we asked Luke to take some of us. They came out so beautifully.

After all the walking and picture taking, we had dinner in the wonderful restaurant. We got to look out over the water and eat our healthy food. And it wasn't even that expensive!

So, we totally recommend checking out the US Whitewater Center if you're in the area. It only costs $5 to park and you can walk around for nothing. It's a great way to spend a weekend afternoon!