family weekend

Craig’s younger brother is a huge Braves fan, so we invited his whole family down for one of the games last weekend. It was hot hot hot, but the Braves won by a longshot and it was a fun night. This was mine and Craig’s first game of the season (I know, gasp!). I’m not a big baseball fan, but I really enjoyed the people watching from my seat!

Saturday, we took a day trip up to Lake Lanier, and this was our first outing with the new boat (without my dad around to load/unload it, drive it, and basically do all the work). We were a little nervous, considering that Craig had never towed a boat and had only driven it once. We got off to a wonderful start when we arrived at the boat storage place — the copy of the key to the trailer hitch didn’t work! Sweet Andrew had to drive halfway to the lake to meet us with the master key, and all was ok from there. After another minor debacle with making a wrong turn on the way to the boat ramp and having to maneuver the boat and truck backward up a hill, we finally made it in one piece to our destination. I’m so thankful Craig’s dad was there to offer some guidance, because I don’t think Coco and I would have been much help!

Once we made it out onto the water, it was such a fun day. The weather was perfect, the drinks were cold, and the water felt great.

Craig’s mom (Renee) and sister (Cassie)::

Coco could not be paid with a lifetime supply of cheese to go near the water, but she LOVES riding on the boat!

Our handsome driver::

This was also our first time trying out our new tube — Cassie and Chris approved. Coco played lifeguard and watched them intently the entire time.

Craig said last weekend that he’s always heard that it’s better to have a friend with a boat rather than have one of your own, because it’s all the fun and none of the work. That may be true, but it’s still pretty cool to have a boat to share with our friends and use whenever we want!

wine tasting & a restaurant review:: the columbia

On Friday night of our beach vacay in St. Augustine, we went downtown for dinner at my favorite spot in town. I’m sure you’re thinking it’s seafood, given that we were at the beach in FL, but it’s actually The Columbia Restaurant. I don’t care that much for seafood unless it’s crab cakes, fried clam strips (I know, I know — am I 6?), or white fish. Shrimp? No thank you! Anyway, there are several locations around the state, but Craig and I first tried it when we were in town a few years ago to meet with our potential wedding photographer. It’s located on St. George St and is right in the middle of all the action in the walkable downtown area. It’s a huge restaurant — we brought a group of 30+ people there one night during our wedding weekend and had the best time.

Before dinner, Mom suggested that we visit The Gifted Cork — a wine and gift boutique down the street from The Columbia. It’s a cute little store filled to the brim with wine-related gifts — coasters, funny cocktail napkins, decanters, corks, and of course tons and tons of wine. Every afternoon, they have $5 wine tastings with wines chosen for the theme of the month. I think July’s theme was the beach, given the wine labels… We choose four of the eight wines to taste and got to keep a souvenir wine glass. The staff was so friendly and knowledgeable — the guy who helped us was actually from Atlanta, so we had lots to chat about.

Craig and I went with reds and enjoyed all of them, especially the Beach House (maybe Pinot?) and Longboard (Cabernet). We bought a few bottles to take home as souvenirs, and mom got a really fun fish-shaped bottle of white. It was such a fun little activity, and you can’t beat $5!

So back to The Columbia…
They have a delicious white sangria (called the Sangria de Cava) made table-side that we just love. It’s made with champagne, brandy, orange liqueur, and citrus juice — it’s so refreshing on hot summer days. Plus, it’s served in one of their cute ceramic painted pitchers (not pictured below, but they really are cute). They sell them in their gift store, too.

One of my other favorite things is that they serve each person 1/2 a loaf of bread with lots and lots of soft butter. YUM! Right up my alley. I don’t remember what anyone else got, but I’ll tell you about the only dish I ever get — the Chicken Salteado. It’s chicken, chorizo, diced potatoes, onions, green peppers, garlic, and red wine — served with yellow rice. Here’s a photo so you can picture how tasty it is. Oh, and that yummy bread is sneaking into the background, too.

If you’re ever in St. Augustine and in the mood for a non-fried seafood place, you have to check it out!

beach vacay in the old city

Last week, we took a much-needed vacation with my parents to one of my most favorite places in the world — St. Augustine, FL. My mom’s family is from Jacksonville (Andrew and I were also born there) and we grew up visiting mom’s family’s beach house. I have so many fond memories of summers spent at the beach house with cousins and friends.  We have photos of me as a baby crawling along the beach EATING sand. Maybe that’s why I love the beach so much now.

We are lucky if we can make it once a year now with jobs and busy schedules, but when we do, it’s like Heaven. You can walk out of the house and right onto the almost completely empty beach. You can hear the waves crashing on the shore from the front 2 bedrooms. I always try to stay in one of those rooms because of that and the front row view of the beach. This house burned to the ground when I was very small, and my dad (along with a team of other people) re-built it — it’s now aptly named “The Phoenix.”

We brought Coco this time, and it was her very first trip to the beach. While at the lake last month, we found out the Coco does not under any circumstances like moving bodies of water. So walks on the beach near those big, crashing waves were not her idea of a good time. Any time we’d go near them, she’d pull as hard as she could (and she’s quite strong at 90lbs.) and sit down so she couldn’t be pulled near the water. We finally convinced her to check out the water when the tide went out in the afternoon. Then she was all about splashing and biting the water…  until tiny little waves rolled in, and she wanted nothing to do with them again. Who would think that such a big, “scary” looking dog would be terrified of moving water?

We took the opportunity to drive into Jax to visit my cousin Alli and her 3 kids, as well as my grandmother, Nana, for lunch one day. We haven’t seen them in 2 years since we last came down for our 1st wedding anniversary. It’s amazing how time goes by so quickly. I love getting to visit with Alli — I always thought she was so cool growing up, and she’s still pretty awesome now. 🙂 The kids were in full-on playtime mode when we got there, so Craig and I took turns admiring all of their toys and reading some books with them — Craig also got the brunt of some of Tripp’s karate moves. He’s such a good sport!

Alli, Tripp (7), and me::

Happy Baby Anderson (1.5)::

Princess Addy (5)::

My beautiful, smart, adventurous 86-year-old grandmother, Nana::

Craig, mom, and me after a yummy lunch at Alli’s::

Much of the rest of the trip was spent sitting on the beach listening to Jimmy Buffett tunes, eating out, and watching movies.

Flagler College downtown::

This is what Coco did most of the time since she couldn’t sit out on the beach without trying to eat every bit of sand in sight::

Perfect day. Can’t wait to go back!

a greek dance party & a restaurant review:: taverna plaka

Last Saturday, we were invited to a large group dinner to celebrate our friend Rachel’s 29th birthday. Dinner was at Taverna Plaka, a Greek restaurant in Buckhead known for a party atmosphere — think belly dancers, napkin-throwing, and birthday celebrators dancing on the dinner tables. It’s definitely not an ideal spot for a romantic dinner, but it’s a lot of fun for groups, especially those celebrating birthdays, bachelorettes, and the like.

We had about 20 people and were crammed in among several other very large parties. Needless to say, a spacious dining area is not a priority, but it was… cozy. The music was loud and fun, and the belly dancers were highly entertaining. It took what seemed like forever to get our drink and appetizer orders, but we weren’t in a hurry. Our table shared the stuffed grape leaves and the fried meatballs. I’d say the meatballs (covered in a yummy tzatziki sauce) were definitely the favorite, and they were devoured within seconds of being set on the table.

Our waiter’s favorite dish was the “beef cakes” (basically little oval-shaped hamburger patties with more tzatziki sauce), Greek fries, and a Greek salad. Several of us girls took his advice and ordered the beef cakes – I think partly just because of the funny name. Craig went for the healthier option and ordered salmon. Dinner was pretty yummy all around, but the best part was definitely the atmosphere and the entertainment. By the time we finished dinner, the birthday girl was on top of the table dancing with a piece of baklava on a plate.  (It was delicious, btw. Baklava is one of my faves that I rarely find, and it always reminds me of the Greek restaurant that our family friends used to own at home.) Rachel danced with the belly dancer and she danced with a birthday boy turning 22. Napkin-throwing seemed to be the trend of the night. Napkins repeatedly ended up in our plates while eating, but that’s just part of the party. I think it’s kind of gross and kind of hilarious that people are walking all over the tables where we’re eating our dinner, but again…. just part of the party!

Hoopla 2012, part 2

Hoopla warp-up, part 2::

One of my most favorite things about Stella & Dot is the connections I’ve made with so many new people, and a few old ones, too. After I signed up as a Stylist, I found out that my cousin’s cousin Katie (she’s in the photo below on the left) was also a Stylist. We hadn’t seen each other in probably at least 8 years until last Hoopla. Since then, we’ve kept in touch and I look forward to getting to visit with Katie and her friend Kirsten each year. She’s so fun and is a crazy dancing machine. This photo was taken at our Wonderland Awards Gala, where we  honor so many of our incredible leaders as well as every Stylist’s successes over the past year. The Stylist who earned top in sales sold over $200,000 in jewelry in the past year!! Way to set the bar, Sandy Sembler! She’s such an inspiration — last year, she attended her first Hoopla and sat in the very back. She later told us that as she sat in that back row, she said to herself that she’d be in the front this year… and she certainly delivered, even in the face of a difficult personal situation. It’s women like her who are an inspiration for me to keep going, even when it’s not easy. This company is full of those women, and it’s such an honor to be associated with them!

We were entertained by amazing Cirque performers during cocktail hour, and after awards, about 1,500 women (and a few good men) celebrated with a giant dance party till late into the night.

Our one and only CEO/Founder, Jessica Herrin. I am confident she has the best dance moves of any CEO in the country, hands down. With our company well on its way to being a billion-dollar business in the next few years, she certainly has every reason to dance.

Two of my team members, Devon and Kari, joined me at Hoopla this year! Kari was the very first Stylist to sign up on my team over 1.5 years ago, and Devon is a new Stylist (who lived on my hall freshman year of college!). The training we receive over this short weekend is invaluable for our businesses, and I’m so thrilled that they decided to take part in it. They are already putting what they learned into action, and I can’t wait to see what this year brings for them!

One of my favorite moments of the weekend::
Our Board Chairman, Mike Lohner, flew to SF from London to give a very motivational and inspiring speech and he started it off with a saxophone serenade to “What Makes You Beautiful.” His performance was so unexpected, and it received a huge roar from the crowd, especially with our Executive Team dancing all over the stage!

Our mission has also expanded! We’re now officially supporting breast cancer, autism, and ovarian cancer awareness months with sales of specific items (like our Tribute Bracelet last October for breast cancer). Stella & Dot is making it easy for our customers to look good while doing good!

Q & A with Jessica closed out Hoopla 2012::
One of her favorite words:: BOLD. Not surprising, given who she is and the empire she’s created in just a few short years. Being BOLD is a leap of faith to try something new, like starting your own business. It’s overcoming obstacles and adversity when you think you can’t. It’s knowing that this business is not just about selling jewelry (even though it’s the most stylish, gorgeous jewelry out there), it’s about being able to style our own lives and giving us the power to help others do the same. It’s about believing 6 impossible things before breakfast. It’s about turning the word “impossible” into “I’m possible.”   Thank you, Jessica Herrin, for dreaming big and making it possible for us to do the same.

I think this photo says it all. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me!

Hoopla 2012, part 1

This time a week ago, I was about to arrive in San Francisco for Hoopla. I look forward to this weekend every year for so many reasons.
1) Stylists who attend our national conference are the first to see and try on our new Fall collection.
2) We get 2 days of training from the cream of the crop — our VP of Training, Chief Creative Officer, Director of Field Operations, and our amazing/gorgeous/genius CEO & Founder. (And we dance to “Call Me Maybe” while we’re at it!)
3) We also get to learn from thousands of our fellow Stylists and leaders from around the US and Canada.
4) Meeting new Stylist friends that you’ve been stalking (or were being stalked by) on facebook… and reconnecting with those friends that you maybe only see once or twice a year. We have teams that span across the country, so sometimes we’re meeting people on our teams for the first time at Hoopla.
5) Prizes!! Lots and lots of jewelry giveaways as well as super fun swag bags for all attendees!
6) It’s a big ‘ol dance party at every event. We love our DJ.
7) Speaking of parties, there are so many welcome receptions, team parties, team dinners, and recognition parties. This year’s awards gala included a special performance by Cirque de Soleil performers!

So yes, it’s a business trip… but it’s really all about the jewelry, isn’t it? The Olivia Bib Necklace is my FAVORITE piece from the new collection. These red-orangey stones will pop over so many colors and prints…. I’m excited to wear it with light pink, mustard, lime, denim, navy/white, and hot pink! It’s such a statement and can really dressed up for weddings or a night on the town — or it can be thrown over a white T or patterned maxi dress for a casual outing. I also adore those Gigi Studs seen below — and they come in black, too!

And speaking of jewelry, here are some prizes from the trip! Stylists received a pair of the new Secret Garden Earrings, which are gold leaves with sparkle down the spine. They’re pretty, dangly, lightweight, and have just enough sparkle. Stella & Dot also debuted a boutique where we could purchase S&D branded items, like mousepads, water bottles, pens, etc. I got several to give out as prizes to my team who couldn’t make it to Hoopla. No, those TB flip flops weren’t part of our swag bags — I have an awesome Sponsor who loves to shower us with gifts.

This was our last year in San Francisco for Hoopla, as we’ve outgrown the conference centers and hotels there. I’ll miss getting to tour around this beautiful city next time, but I don’t know if I’ll miss 60-degree weather and very windy evenings in July! My sponsor Paige did a team dinner on Friday at a neat little place called Salt House. The food was great… the wait time after ordering was not. We didn’t eat until after 10pm, which made for a very late night for us East Coast girls. My favorites were the loaves of fresh-baked bread tossed on the table (I probably ate 1/2 a loaf waiting on the meal to arrive) and the dessert that one of the girls got — lots of peanut butter and chocolate crunchy goodness. I should have just ordered bread and dessert, and I would have made it out of there much earlier.

Had to get a standard trolley photo::

Day 1 of training — Behind the Design with Blythe::
We added 2 new collections — Mod Safari and New Romantics. My darling Olivia is a superstar from Mod Safari — the collection is full of bright colors, animal prints, and designer-inspired pieces from a nod to 60’s style. I’m also really loving the enamel animal bangles. I mean, who can resist blue and gold tigers?? You can’t have a bad day while wearing kissing blue and gold tigers on your arm.

New Romantics is inspired by Victorian estate jewelry. Some of my favorites from this collection are the Tempest Necklace, which can be worn 3 different ways (that’s pretty awesome for a bib-style necklace), the Lillith Fringe Necklace and Earrings, the Starstruck Cocktail Ring, and the Secret Garden Ring. (All are pictured below, except for the SG Ring.) I love the edgy, rocker look that is still very elegant and can be pulled off by a 20-something city girl or a mom in her 40’s.

Our design team is incredible and never ceases to impress me with the collections they release each season. They travel the world looking for inspiration, whether it’s on the streets of Brazil or in a tiny vintage shop in France, and they then bring that to our customers with a fresh new design. We have a world-class design team that hails from the likes of DeBeers, Ippolita, Banana Republic, and Marc Jacobs — and we have in-house model makers that create models of many of our pieces, which is almost unheard of in the fashion jewelry industry. I am reassured more with every collection launch that I chose the right company to be a part of.

Stay tuned for more from Hoopla!

15th annual lake trip at camp maskill

We have a standing reservation at Camp Maskill every 4th of July. Our friend Hunter’s family is gracious enough to offer up their lake house in Mt. Juliet, TN for all of our friends to celebrate the 4th as well as Hunter’s birthday every year. His parents are the best — not only do they allow us to stay at their house, they cook every meal for us, let us bring our crazy/wet/hairy dogs, and don’t seem to mind us traipsing through their house till the wee hours of the morning.

2012 marks several things — the 15th anniversary of this lake trip, Hunter’s 30th birthday, and his mom’s 60th birthday… needless to say, many reasons to celebrate! Since the holiday fell in the middle of the week, we went early (as I had to fly out to Hoopla on Friday), and several other people came and went throughout the week. We spent our time floating in what felt like 90 degree water, playing washers/pictionary/silly word games, eating lots and lots of cheesy rotel dip, and sleeping on air mattresses/chairs and in cars/tents with 30-40 of our closest friends. We also got to meet our friends Cole and Angie’s newborn baby, Jackson. He slept during most of the visit, but he was still perfectly adorable.

On Thursday night, we added a new activity to the lineup — a trip into Nashville to celebrate Hunter’s Dirty 30. Craig lined up a trolley party bus to take us back and forth, and I think the bus trips were the favorite part of the night! The late night snack at Paradise Park was top of the list, too. If only I’d known to get the corn dogs…

I’m sad to have missed out on the trip to the “steakhouse” with everyone on Saturday. It’s the funniest place — all you can eat steak and potatoes, BYOB, and amazing wood-paneled walls. Ah well… till next time!

puppy dog tails

After work the other day, we were walking Coco around our neighborhood. Some of our pint-sized neighbors were out in their driveway, so we stopped to visit. They wanted to look at her, but they weren’t too fond of petting. I guess it would be rather terrifying to see an animal twice your size jumping all over the place right in front of you. Anyway, I just had to tell this cute story::

The little boy saw that Coco has her tail docked, as is typical of Rottweilers. He then looked at us and asked where her tail went. Good question, I suppose. So we told him that she didn’t have one, and lots of other doggies don’t, either. His response: “Well shouldn’t you get her a new one? Her tail fell off!” Gotta love the way kids think.  Happy Thursday!

fancifying our basement

Sometime around Christmas last year, we decided that our fully-finished basement (complete with a bedroom, full bath, living room/bar area, built-in desk and bookshelves, and a huge storage room) wasn’t completely cutting it for entertaining. We love having friends over to watch football games, for New Year’s Eve, various wedding showers, etc. The room was a decent size with a great bar area, but it was pretty tight for a group of more than 6-8 people due to a wall that jutted out from one side to create a built-in desk. So we decided on a plan to knock out that wall to open up the living room area. Easy enough, right?

In the spring, we had a contractor come in to check out the space and tell us what we needed to do/what would look best/what would be safest. With removing one whole wall, we’d need to add in a support beam so that our living room floor wouldn’t one day come crashing through the ceiling. So right before Easter weekend, Craig got the itch to do some demo work and took a sledgehammer to said wall. One of my many favorite things about him is that he’s so handy and can figure out a way to fix almost anything (just like my dad and his dad). I couldn’t have married a man who didn’t know how to use a drill.

Craig did all the demo work himself to save us some cost on the remodel. Once the wall was removed, though, we realized that a portion of the carpet would have to be replaced, because there wasn’t any carpet under that wall. We were probably never going to find an exact match to the 10-year-old carpet currently in the basement, so we begrudgingly expanded our budget and started the carpet search. After a few weeks of some very frustrating calls/visits with Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Empire Today, we ended up choosing a company called Restor-It (a receommendation from our friend Renee) that had a great price for carpet, pad, and installation and caused us the least annoyance.

Oh yeah, and on top of all of this, we decided we needed to re-paint the entire living area, the staircase area, and the bathroom! So much fun. We painted the bathroom the same navy blue that we used in our main floor 1/2 bath, and I love it. It was solid white and so boring before.  (This was our second try on that bathroom. The first time around, we tried a minty green, and it was rather unsightly in such a small space with very bright lighting.) We chose a light grey for the rest of the space and Restor-It ended up being able to paint a good portion of that (once we got tired of painting and gave up) AND the ceiling, too. So worth the extra cost, because nobody likes painting ceilings.

So now the carpet has been replaced, the walls and ceiling have been painted, and the furniture has been moved out of our storage room and back into place. After about 6 months, it’s finally a useable space again! We still have to hang all of Craig’s Auburn/Tennessee/Titans football paraphanelia on the walls and get somet more furniture, but it’s 100% better with this change. Also, we’re in need of a big sectional counch to fill up the larger living room we now have… so if anyone wants to donate, feel free to do so.

Now on to the next project… Craig wants to redo the bar. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t take another 6 months for that!

BEFORE — boring white walls, old carpet, not enough entertaining space::

PROGRESS — no more wall, half-painted room, some holes in the carpet::

AFTER — pretty painted walls and ceiling, nice new carpet, and a much more open space::