Friday, May 31, 2013

The dish on Birmingham: a love letter to my town

I can't lie. On Monday, when driving home from an amazing long weekend of camping at the Ocoee River in Tennessee, I actually groaned out loud as we approached town and I saw the "skyline" of Birmingham (that is, if you can consider four tall buildings a skyline?).

But the thing is, even though I groaned, I truly do love this place.

As I think I heard someone say recently, Birmingham is a city that is neither too big nor too small. But like the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it's 'just right.' I like that it's not so big that I am too timid to get out and explore roads to see where they will take me and who they will take me to. And it's also not so small that there isn't anything to do on a random weeknight. I always feel like I could run into anyone that I know at any moment when I'm out on the town, but suprisingly I very rarely do.

Don't get me wrong, Bham definitely has its fair share of problems. Traffic can be annoying (though I know we have it easy compared to many other cities), jobs (or at least really fun, cool ones) can be hard to come by and of course there is the always ongoing political mess that I don't even completely understand (or want to understand for that matter).

But as an optimist, I like to look at the bright side. I like to look at all the amazing things my city has to offer:

• Railroad Park, an award-winning urban greenspace that hosts free exercise classes, concerts & other events
• a beautiful new stadium downtown for our minor league baseball team, The Birmingham Barons
• incredible restaurants including those owned by award-winning chefs like Chris Hastings & Frank Stitt (but let's be honest, you're more likely to find me at the J. Clyde, Rojo, El Barrio, Saw's or Slice)
UAB Health System—one of the top four largest academic medical centers in the country
• a pretty decent music scene thanks to venues like The Bottletree, Workplay and the new Iron City
• new developments including an entertainment district downtown and the revitilization of the Avondale area
• three top-notch colleges: Samford, Birmingham Southern and UAB, which was recently named the 10th best medical school in the nation by the U.S. News
• a variety of offerings for the outdoor enthusiast including 50 miles of biking and running trails at Oak Mountain State Park, more biking & running trails plus a zip line at Red Mountain Park and boulder fields for climbers at Moss Rock Preserve
• the unbelievably gorgeous renovated Historic Alabama Theater, which hosts concerts and their summer and holiday film series
• the Sidewalk Film Festival, which I think is the coolest event Birmingham hosts all year long
• and of course plenty of great shopping opportunities at both small boutiques around town and larger stores at the Summit

I swear my list could go on and on, but I'll stop here and hope that I've covered most everything I love about my (now) hometown. I'm sure I left a few things off, but I can always save those for another day.

And honestly, when you get down to it, it's not just about the awesome things I can do in Birmingham, but it's more about the awesome people that I get to share my adventures with. I have been so fortunate to have developed my framily here in Bham and now I've started to branch out with other great friends, thanks to the tons of people I have met through the climbing gym and church.

Basically what it all comes down to is, if they say 'home is where the heart is', then my home is in Birmingham—whether I live here forever or not.

Or to make that a broader statement, as the group Alabama sings "My home's in Alabama, no matter where I lay my head."

ps. If you want to see/read an entire 40 page piece on the state of Alabama which will be featured in the upcoming Delta Sky magazine, you can find that here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Take me out to the ballgame

One of the perks I have at my job is that our company shares an executive suite at Regions Field (Home of the Birmingham Barons) with a couple of law firms in town. They pass out a few of these tickets at the beginning of each month to employees. I was lucky enough to snag a couple of them for me, J ("the boy") and two of our friends to attend this past Tuesday night's game.

Since I knew I was climbing after work and the stadium is downtown near my climbing gym, I realized it made no sense to go home and change before the game. Therefore, I needed to pick out something that was both office and baseball game appropriate.

(Insert pinstriped skirt to be worn as a strapless dress here.)

I mean, really, what could be more appropriate for baseball than something pinstriped? Am I right? And the cream lace cardigan made it office appropriate (and cute!). I also wore the wedges to the game, though I probably should've brought a pair of flats. But the wedges were just so cute. I couldn't resist.

Anyhow, even though the Barons (barely) lost, it was a good time. Perfect weather and 50 cent hotdogs. Yes I realize this is the second time I've mentioned these on the blog...clearly I love those 50 cent hot dogs!

Ok, here's the cheapskate outfit breakdown:

1. Pinstripe skirt (worn as dress), thrifted ($2.50)
2. Belt, Cato ($1.99)
3. Wedges, Charlotte Russe ($12.50) *buy one, get one half off deal
4. Lace cardigan, Banana Republic ($59.99)
5. Necklace, Noteworthy/gifted (thanks Em!)
6. Purse, gifted/passed down
7. Sunglasses, Dollar Tree ($1.00)
8. Earrings, Stella & Dot ($34.00)
9. Circle ring, Brooklyn Flea ($5.00)
10. Simple gold ring, gifted/passed down

Total: Under $125.00

ps. oh yeah, check out those lovely scratches on my right shin...compliments of a weekend camping trip and rafting the Hiwasee. Hot, right?

Photos: Leslie Evans

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cheap trick: Flat iron your clothes

I realize that with today's post you guys are about to get a full confession about my lack of domestic skills laziness. Actually it's probably more of an apathy towards wrinkles. Irregardless, I simply do not iron. What's the point right? More than that, who has time?!

However, I have found myself in a few tricky situations lately where there was maybe just one small piece of a shirt or dress that desperately needed pressing. As in, things had gotten smooshed in my closet and folded up the wrong way, leaving a collar, etc sticking straight up. That just will not do. Even I am not so lazy that I would leave that (ok maybe I would if it didn't just look absurd have done that before).

So what's a girl to do but realize that her hair straightener (ie, flat iron) is already hot and will press that collar down in a jiffy. Yep, I totally flat ironed my clothes one (ok, more than one) morning.

As much as I would like to think I am a pioneer in this new method, something tells me I probably am not. But here's hoping that maybe I gave a few of you an idea for another cheap time saving trick like this one.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Splurge on: Sheer

Ever since I saw this article from WWWD about how to wear sheer pieces, I've started thinking differently about this trend. It seems like you can actually wear sheer pieces in a classy manner after all as long as you choose items with smaller sheer panels. And you can make an otherwise old outfit seem fresh and fun just by layering a completely sheer top over it.

Sounds like something fun to experiment with to me! So here are a few sheer pieces I've got my eye on:

1. ASOS Swing Playsuit with Sheer Panels, $59.40
2. Forever 21 Sheer Striped Shirt, $13.99
3. ModCloth Star Exit Dress, $37.99
4. Lulu’s Cuts and Bolts Neon Yellow Top, $36.00
5. Sugarlips Casual Stroll Top, $49.00

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A hand me down tune

I love hand me downs. They're basically a vintage items that someone is passing down to you—for free. There's just nothing better, right? Well, actually I guess what is better is when said hand me downs are passed down from a generation in your family.

Last Sunday I was given the opportunity to go through my grandmother's belongings and take anything that I would like as a keepsake. Don't worry, my granny is still alive, but she is in the nursing home so it has been decided to sell her home and the items in it. Yes, still a bittersweet way to spend the day.

It was such a strange thing to go to my granny's house and sift through her property to fill up a box. On the one hand, I was so glad I got to keep things that made me think of her and also items that I could really use around the house. But on the otherhand it's just an odd situation. You just don't know what you're supposed to feel. But overall, it turned out to be a pleasant experience.

I was lucky enough to see extended family members that I typically only see around the winter holidays and it was so great to have my aunts there telling me what some of the items were and when/how they were used. They were also sweet enough to hand pick things for me that they thought I would be interested in the most.

So! All that said, I'm showcasing a few pieces of my plunder in today's post:

1) My great grandmother's reading glasses. And no, I really can't see in these things! Had to switch them out during the shoot for my sunnies.
2) A purse that my mom bought as a gift for my grandmother. I almost didn't take this one, but finally gave in and now I am completely smitten with this thing. What was I thinking?!
3) A heart pin that I turned into a charm on a necklace.
4) A teensy, fragile and beautiful thin gold ring. I'd like to think it was an older relative's wedding band, but I just can't be sure.

I can only imagine you'll see and hear about all the other pieces in future posts to come. I mean, I got so many lovely things, I can't wait to share them all!

Here's the cheapskate outfit breakdown:

1. Floral top, Sugarlips ($32.00)
2. Floral skirt, thrifted ($2.99)
3. Platforms, Charlotte Russe ($16.25)
4. Belt, Necessary Clothing ($5.99)
5. Vintage purse, gifted/passed down
6. Vintage reading glasses, gifted/passed down
7. Vintage RayBan sunnies, gifted/passed down (thanks mom!)
8. Heart necklace, gifted/passed down
9. Square ring, Brooklyn Flea ($5.00)
10. Thin gold ring, gifted/passed down
11. Leaf ring, gifted (thanks Em!)

Total: Under $75.00

Photos: Leslie Evans

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My top 18 running songs

As a pretty committed runner (5x a week, at least 5 miles each day) I've had plenty of time and logged plenty of miles to know what my favorite running songs are.

Sure, I don't always listen to music since I have my trusty running partners, but there are definitely some days where a solo run is necessary. And I definitely couldn't survive those without my ipod. (Well, I could, but it's just not as enjoyable for me.) Plus, we always manage to throw in at least one awful hill and maybe even a good short sprint, so a power song is definitely in order for those occassions.

So in case you're looking for some new running tunes, I figured I'd share my top 18 songs. It sounds like a random number, but it should be enough to get you through an hour's worth of a run. And trust me, there is no particular order to these. I can't place one song higher than another because there are so many different genres and tempos. Basically this list gives you a nice mix of getting-your-butt-up-the-hill songs and also just zoning-out-on-a-flat-stretch-of-road-or-trail songs.

Enjoy the run!

1. Bad Romance, Lady Gaga (purchase mp3 here)
2. A-punk, Vampire Weekend (purchase mp3 here)
3. Womanizer, Britney Spears (purchase mp3 here)
4. Browntown, Raining Jane (purchase mp3 here)
5. Home, LCD Soundsystem (purchase mp3 here)
6. 4 minutes, Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake & Timbaland (purchase mp3 here)
7. Cluck Cluck Old Hen, Alison Krauss & Union Station (purchase mp3 here)
8. With Love, Hilary Duff (purchase mp3 here)
9. Four Night Rider, The Rural Alberta Advantage (purchase mp3 here)
10. Sweet Disposition, The Temper Trap (purchase mp3 here)
11. Feel So Close (Nero Remix), Calvin Harris (purchase mp3 here)
12. The Dethbridge in Lethbridge, The Rural Alberta Advantage (purchase mp3 here)
13. Soul Singing, Black Crowes (purchase mp3 here)
14. The Lion, the Beast, the Beat, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (purchase mp3 here)
15. It Won’t Be Long, Evan Rachel Wood (purchase mp3 here)
16. When I Grow Up, Pussycat Dolls (purchase mp3 here)
17. Ride, Cary Brothers (purchase mp3 here)
18. Ragged Wood, Fleet Foxes (purchase mp3 here)

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Basic black

I have to say, it is SO great to have "professional" pics again! Certainly no disrespect to Leslie and her amazing iPhone photoshoot abilities, because without her taking time from her day I wouldn't have any outfit photos period. So I definitely appreciate her! But you can just tell such a difference when you look at these photos my brother took with his ridiculously professional camera versus the ones we usually take with a phone.

I mean, this was a complete impromptu photoshoot and I think these look so amazing. I am super grateful to my bro for taking the time this past Sunday to snap a few pics of me. Granted, we were trying to kill some time around his house before we had to go to our grandmother's, but still. He could've been just chillin on the couch instead, so I'm glad he "took one for the team" so to speak.

Anyhow, it was super fun getting to actually not only spend time with my brother but also spend time while taking the pics and being able to review them as we were shooting. Plus, now you know what I look like on any given Sunday...just in my basic black dress after church that morning. Oh and I realize that this ensemble is nowhere near boho, but I couldn't resist a couple of good hippity dippity flower field shots when the backdrop was literally right there in Josh's backyard.

Here's the cheapskate outfit breakdown:

1. Dress, GAP outlet ($24.99)
2. Guess pumps, DSW ($29.99)
3. BCBGirls Bag, Zoe's ($30.00)
4. Sunglasses, Dollar Tree ($1.00)
5. Circle ring, Brooklyn Flea ($5.00)
6. Square ring, Brooklyn Flea ($5.00)
7. Necklace, The Clotheshorse ($10.50)

Total: Under $125.00

Photos: Josh Lewis

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Life lately

One of the most fun things I have done recently is to finally make it to a Birmingham Barons baseball game. I mean, I watched construction of the new stadium as it was being built. Then I heard people talk about how amazing it was. Then a month or so later, I actually attend a game. It was everything I wanted it to be. The weather couldn't have been more perfect and I was mesmorized by how cool Birmingham looked. Oh and the Barons won plus it was 50 cent hotdog night! See, best night ever.

That week I also volunteered at the Triumph Services annual "friendraiser" art show which is an event that allows the community to come into the Triumph offices and hear more about the services they provide. It's a really fun event and I was blown away by all the talent that we have in Birmingham who also were giving back to their community by allowing a portion of their proceeds to be donated to Triumph. 

There have also been a few things to celebrate including Mother's Day and Ashley's birthday. I went home of course to see mom and then naturally the icing on that cake is to also get to spend time with my niece and nephew. It's unbelievable how big they are both getting. I mean I am holding Cade and his feet are dangling somewhere around my shins. Crazy. I also made another trip back home to see Cade's last teeball game. 

Ashley wanted to keep her bday low key so I went with her and Nick to the farmer's market at Pepper Place that Saturday and then we all went to dinner at Davenport's Pizza the next week. So good to finally spend some time with framily again. These days that seems to be few and far between! 

This past weekend was pretty chill and I even managed to score some one-on-one time with Amy when we went to a local dance company's performance. I wanted to see my friend Sara from church perform with Sanspointe and Amy just loves dance, so she was game. It was a very cool and intimate performance. Certaintly not something you see or experience everyday in Bham! 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Design project: Baby (boy) shower invitation

It's always fun when I'm approached at work to design party or shower invitations because I am required to design them "on the clock." Yes! Guilt free creative design sessions are the best. So I was stoked and gladly pushed offered my design skills to a coworker when she started organizing another coworker's baby shower.

Since there really were no parameters or creative instructions given or expected, I asked about "Michelle's" (I've changed everyone's name of course) color palette for the nursery and was pleasantly surprised to get a picture of her actual bedding.

As soon as I saw the cute and simple pattern on her crib bedding, I knew I wanted to recreate it and then also mix another pattern with it. So I opted to make her bedding pattern on the back of the invitation and then threw in just a tiny bit of chevron on the front. I also added a shade of green just to give a little pop of color.

Here's the final product:

Anyhow, I think it turned out pretty cute and I definitely plan on playing with patterns more in the future—with both graphic design and fashion.

Have a great weekend yall!

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Under the (fashion) influence: Eva Longoria

First I'd like to point out how ridiculous phony I feel when I wear a blazer. I see other girls wear them and they don’t look too "business-y" but I'm just not sure I can pull it off.

I mean, how cute does Eva look in her pic? Maybe it's because I often trend more toward a boho style, but I feel like this just doesn't even look like me. Oh well, mark it down in the fashion books that I tried to step out of my comfort zone. (side note: this seems familiar. I think I might've said something similar the last time I wore this blazer).

Next I'll go ahead and admit my hair is a bit of hot mess...and not in a cute bedhead way. (and again, my hair was a hot mess last time I wore this blazer, too. What is up with that?! Maybe it's just always a hot mess) Like did I even brush it that morning? Um, the answer is (always) no. But the good news is a hair appointment is set for Saturday morning! I mean, that won’t magically fix everything, but it’s at least good start.

Ok now down to business. So obviously I had to use Eva’s outfit as an “inspiration” and tweak a few things here and there. I mean, I don’t have the exact same items and I also needed to make it work appropriate (no shorts allowed in the office for some reason?), but all in all, I think it’s a pretty good interpretation.

Here’s the cheapskate breakdown:

1. Blazer, Banana Republic ($?? - old)
2. Skirt, AZ Well ($7.99)
3. Tank top, gifted/passed down (thanks Aunt Faye!)
4. Heels, Rugged Wearhouse ($9.99)
5. BCBGirls bag, Zoe’s ($30.00)
6. Sunglasses, Forever21 ($5.80)
7. Necklace, gifted (thanks Cathy!)
8. Earrings, Stella & Dot ($34.00)
9. Circle ring, Brooklyn Flea ($5.00)
10. Square ring, Brooklyn Flea ($5.00)
11. Thumb ring, Charlotte Russe ($2.99 – part of stackable set)

Total: Under $150.00

Yeah, as cheesy as this last pic is, I had to put it in. I mean, it's classic newscaster-meets-post-college-interview. It just makes me laugh. You're welcome.

Photos: Leslie Evans

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