Friday, March 29, 2013

Vendor Spotlight - Laura Parente Photography

I have a friend who is a photographer.  She is amazing.  You can tell she is passionate about her craft because she is always taking pictures.  She takes pictures of anything... 

Well, mainly her pup... That's her dog, Charlie in the above picture... Charlie is Laura's favorite subject.

Sweet Charlie is so good-natured and Laura has a great sense of humor!  Laura has won several contests over at The Pioneer Woman photography as well.   (I wish I could find that darn photo that she won with.  It was beautiful!)

But back to Laura's photography of our wedding!  Laura is available for all sorts of pictures... weddings, bar/bat mitzvah's, senior pictures, etc.  Just wait until you see the beauty that she creates in your photos.  Here are some of our favorites from the wedding... I'm sorry there are so many, but this is just a small portion!  And honestly, most are my favorites!  She is THAT good.

Jessica getting ready...


 Good googly-moogly, I LOVE this one... (Yes, "googly-moogly" is a word!  At least in our household!)

Laura added the background to keep from seeing the cars outside of the courthouse...

Jessica is waiting for the reveal to her "beloved"...

  I love how Laura kept our photos casual....  That's who we are...


 Jessica dancing with her dad...

Our photo booth was so much fun!

  Scott dancing with his mom...

If you have photography needs, I implore you to give Laura a call.  She's fantastic at what she does!  What do you think of our wedding so far?  Leave a comment!

Keep creating!


*All of these photos are copyrighted by Laura Parente Photography and cannot be duplicated without written approval. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Recipes Rebooted - Salsa Soup

I love those recipes that are so easy, yet delicious, that you can go to them from memory.  And what is hard to remember when a recipe has only 4 ingredients!  If you are a soup "connoisseur", you will LOVE Salsa Soup.  It makes in the crock pot which adds to its ease.  Give it a try!  I think you will love it.


Salsa Soup:

*  4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (can still be frozen or use fresh)
*  2 jars (16 oz) Pace Picante Sauce (I am a wimp when it comes to spicy, but if you are not, go ahead and pick your poison... Not real poison, of course... that would be dangerous!)  
*  2 cans of Mexican Corn (I usually use Green Giant, but I do not think the brand matters.)
*  1 (32 oz) carton of chicken broth (I usually use what is on sale, so it really does not matter which brand you use... SEE, I told you this was easy!)

Throw all ingredients into your crock pot, even if the chicken is still frozen.  Set your crockpot on high and leave it for 4 hours.  DONE!

If you want to, you can add some cheese to your soup and your favorite "crunchy" chip, like tortillas.  I usually do not add anything and I love this soup.

Enjoy and happy creating!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vendor Spotlight - Zest Catering

You know how there are people that you meet and it seems as if you are old friends?  Like you have known each other for years?  That is how it feels with Hannah and Dana Harris from Zest Catering.  When you meet them, you know that they are professional and up to the job.  

But you also know that if you rented the "Party Bus" and tore the night up in town, Hannah and Dana would probably be there with you! 

When we started this wedding journey, one of the many initial tasks that we needed to take care of were to pick out our vendors.  Once we had found the venue, we needed a caterer.  Luckily for us, our venue had a preferred vendor listing.  And to prompt us toward that list, the venue charged an extra $1000 if we did not use a caterer off of their list.  (We are no dummies!  We called the folks on that list!)

Jessica made the first contact with Hannah from Zest Catering.  Hannah and her husband Dana own Zest and they were a delight to work with and such fun people.   Before we could meet with Zest, the Old Decatur Courthouse was having a silent auction and their preferred vendors were required to attend and provide the food for the event.  We were invited to attend as this would be a good way to sample some of the caterer's foods and we could get a different sampling of each.  The one "booth" that we continued to go back to was Zest.  They had the most delicious biscuits with chicken fried steak, panchetta, and honey.  It was embarrassing how many times we hovered around that booth!  But the Zest folks were always polite and smiled at us as we came back for "second breakfast, thirds, eleventies..." (Name that movie...)

Over the next months, as we talked with Hannah and Dana, we knew that we had picked the right vendors for us.  They seemed to know exactly what we wanted.  When Jessica said "I want an elegant wedding", they knew what elements to use.  They also worked with us on our budget.  If we felt the price was beyond what we could afford, Hannah or Dana would give us options to lower the cost.  And we were never once made to feel that our budget was too low or that they could not accommodate us.  

In fact, they were more than accommodating.  On the day of the wedding, we had a "table issue" that was completely our fault.  It was just an oversight really.  At some of our tables, we put 8 people instead of 10.  This caused us to need more tables than we thought and we had not communicated that to Zest.  As people are in cocktail hour and they are about to come upstairs to eat, we noticed the error and Hannah, very calmly, said "We can take care of this."  She promptly had her crew set up two more tables and threw extra tablecloths over them and no one was none the wiser.  The food was delicious, her cleanup took 45 minutes and everyone was a delight to work with.  I cannot say enough good things about Zest.  If you are having an event in the Atlanta area, I would suggest you contact them.  Tell them Tracy sent you! 

Our tables...

Our centerpieces...

Our place settings....

With the help of my "crew", Hannah and her team created this beautiful event!

I think they have "elegant" down pat....

Jessica and Scott's champagne flutes...

I still get emotional when I see the pictures!  BTW, the movie is Fellowship of the Ring, by JRR Tolkien.  

Be creative friends, it's good for the soul!  How do you like my new Creative Cure header?  I'm still working on it!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Who is this imposter?

I have been trying to figure out my new identity.  

You know what I mean... 

Where your life has changed and you are no longer who you used to be...  

I USED to be a newlywed who was moving to strange lands (Oklahoma - there are no trees in Oklahoma!) and foreign countries (Japan - yep, for three years).  That woman was young and naive and was learning how to live with her new husband (which was sometimes difficult!) and was trying to make new friends (which was also sometimes difficult!).  

This picture was overexposed when we got it (Hey!  It was the '80s!).  But I liked it, so I kept it.  We had been married two months when this was taken.

I USED to be a mom of young children and I could talk about strollers or which formula worked best for my kids.  That mom used to have lots of friends with children who were the same age and we could get together over coffee while our children played in the "balls" at McDonald's.  We took our kids to Disney during this phase and we would love to see the "magic" on their faces.

This picture is of Michael and Jessica before Allison.  They are so darn cute!  Jessica is my daughter that just got married!  They grow up so fast.  Do you like my movie star sunglasses?

I USED to be a working mom who had to "corral" my sweet babies in the morning, get them a bagel and drop them off at school at 7:00 am so that I could make it into downtown Atlanta by 8:00 am.  Then I would leave work at 5:00 to rush home to pick them up at daycare by 6:00 to avoid paying $1.00 a minute/per child after 6:00.  I would have to quickly think of something for dinner because they were starving!  And we had to do homework!  (Lots of exclamation points because those were stressful times!)  But I liked working because I was "me".  Not a mom/wife/sister/daughter... Just "me".  If I was successful, it was because I worked hard.  I could make people laugh and I enjoyed the friendships.

I USED to be a mom of teenagers who were not turning in their homework or not telling me about career day at high school because they would rather have their teeth cleaned daily at the dentist than be seen with their mom!  We took our kids to Disney during this time and we would love to see the "magic" on their faces (do you see a pattern evolving?).  Professionally, my work life had begun to consume me and I rose in the ranks.  I enjoyed the "control" and "leadership" that my new work life involved.  The people that I worked with for 11 years became, in some case, life-long friends.  People that I could count on.  People that watched my children grow up.  People that cared about me.  This was probably the most satisfying professional time in my life to date.  I do not think it was my shinning moment as a mom.  I was working long hours and was quite often grumpy.  It is amazing what God does to get our attention, isn't it?  Boy, he got my attention in a BIG way...

Our family, including a niece at Disney in 2000.

Today, I am a wife, a mother of grown children, a mother-in-law (that's new!), a student, and a contract worker.  The children are out on their own.  The contract worker is not as satisfying as I had hoped.  And the hubby works an opposite shift so we are not always together when I am off of work.   Now can you understand why I am trying to figure out my next move, professionally and personally?  I read lots of blogs and most of those that I enjoy are moms with small children just talking about their daily lives.   I am also writing about my daily life, but I no longer have the topic of motherhood cornered.  I especially enjoy the blogs that deal with DIY or home improvements.  (You know how I love being creative!)  I love to cook.  I love to travel.  I love to create things.  I am starting to dabble with my "What Not To Wear" wardrobe and I'm actually interested in some fashion!  (Wouldn't that make for a good blog post if I chronicled me throwing out my Christmas vests???)  I love to make people laugh.  I love to help people.  I would love to have sponsors on my blog so I can get paid to write!    So, what does an empty-nester talk about on her blog?  What does an empty-nester do with her time?  

Any suggestions?  I would love it if you left me some comments!  I never get any.  (That was a shameful "sympathy plug"...)

Keep creating friends! 


Friday, March 22, 2013

30 Years in the Making and Atlanta Wedding Florals

This week, as I started my second week in the first of the last 6 classes until I get my degree (did you follow that progression?), I got an email from my university.  The first line read "congratulations on nearing the completion of your degree..."

(I added two lines for you to get the full effect of that statement and pause like I wanted you to...)

Let me explain something before I continue...  Even though I know that I only have 6 classes left, those words above projected me up to "Mount Giddy" quicker than anything has in a LONG time...  Do you want to know why?

My degree has been 30 YEARS in the making...  That's a LONG time folks.  Let me explain.

I was in college when I met my dashing, funny, charming airman who was stationed in Oklahoma.  (Sidebar:  Have you ever seen a man in uniform?  Geez... Gets me every time!)
My plan was to go to nursing school after my freshman year and in fact, I got accepted into nursing school TWO separate times (after high school and again after my freshman year).  But Airman Charming convinced me that I could marry him AND go to nursing school.  It seemed like a WIN-WIN!

Hmmmm...  As I was on my honeymoon, orders for Airman Charming came in... 

to Japan.. 

For a three year stint....

Yep, have you ever researched "Nursing Schools for Americans in Japan"?  There are none...  
So, life got in my way.  I lived abroad, I started having children, I started working full-time and had the guilt of leaving my babies too long as it was, and I have just never been able to finish my degree.  Until now...  

I am almost done folks.   And it is so stinkin' exciting!!!!

BTW - Hubby and I met when I was 18, spent time together only 12 times before we married (lots of phone calls during that time!  It was WAY before the Internet and texting!), and only knew each other for 10 months when I married him at the ripe old age of 19.  This is our 30th year.  Not too bad, even if I am not a nurse....

Our venue...

This week I wanted to show you how our venue looked for the wedding.  I still do not have the professional pictures back, but we've got some really nice shots from people who have attended.  I hope you enjoy!  It really was a beautiful event.

Our florist was Atlanta Wedding Florals.   Nanci's work is AMAZING!  We found her through a Groupon and even though our Groupon was set to expire 5 months prior, Nanci let us purchase it to use for our March wedding.  She was professional and fun to work with.  And it was amazing how she was able to create our vision after just consulting with us.  I did have to pay extra from what I had purchased with the Groupon because it did not include things like the alter flowers, but the extra cost was reasonable and the results were stunning. 
 Look at this beautiful aisle!  Real rose petals folks...

The other side with the small bouquets on the chairs and Nanci added the ribbon.  She set up the vases, candles and rose petals. 

 Full shot of the room.  Look at that alter!

 Here is the best picture I could get for now of the design of the alter.  (I hope to post more when we get the professional photos back.)  We had asked for cherry blossoms sprays.  Nanci created the rest.  My jaw dropped when I saw it.  So worth the extra cost!  Those are cherry blossom branches and willows.  She also added hanging votives from the branches.   

This was the "sweetheart table" at the reception after the room was flipped.  Still wanted to show you the alter...

 Nanci's bouquets were stunning as well.  This is a picture of my two beautiful daughters.  Allison, my youngest, was Jessica's Maid of Honor.    
Jessica and her bridesmaids...

 It was a day I hope I'll never forget and I believe that Jessica and Scott will never forget it either.  It was truly magical.  If you have floral needs in the Atlanta area, please give Nanci a call at Atlanta Wedding Florals.  You will not be sorry.  Tell her "Tracy sent you."

Keep creating friends!  It is good for our soul!