Events and To Do's

I have the privilege of being related to my favorite photographers (Check out RAW Photo Design) and also had the extreme luck of making friends with the photography professor at my last school. I was in his class one day because one of the students was working on some of my items for me (I get the photography and she gets the experience) and his lecture that day was about “staging.” He commented that the creative styling is sometimes the hardest part of being a successful photographer. Coming up with ideas and concepts to photograph is a lot harder than it looks when you’re starting at the beginning and looking for motivation.

Of course I had to speak up. 🙂

That part is hard? The students there that day were trying to pick back drops for a customer’s albino hedgehog (seriously, it was awesome and I WANT one) and were just standing there. Not a one of them was trying anything. So I went to their studio and grabbed a bright purple feather boa. Stellar. Then I had one of the gals take off her chuck taylors and we tried everything to get that spiny little hog to sit inside of it. Awesome. I asked for a jar full of skittles or colored paper clips but they didn’t have that. So I grabbed a couple over-sized stuffed animals. And some fake flowers. Done. And even better.

So that got me thinking about staging a photograph and what MY perfect picture would be of. And I’ve got it. I know what I want a picture of. But I’m telling you because you’ll fall in love with it and do it before me and then I wouldn’t be happy. But I can tell you that it involves the color green, a tutu and bubblegum. Hmmm . . . do I smell a contest? I WOULD LOVE to see what each photographer comes up with for their interpretation! YAY! Let’s do that! Tell your friends. And send your pictures to I get to pick the winner. Because its my contest and my idea. I’ll even send a $25 Starbucks card to the winner. How do you like them apples?

So here’s the contest: Submit one image (along with your name & email) to by January 31, 2011. The image has to have all of the following elements included and all will be posted & shared (with credits to each of the photographers and links to your pages if you have them):

  • Include a bright green theme. A happy, bright green. Like fresh spring grass. That’s been freshly mowed. None of that weedy crap.
  • A tutu
  • Bubblegum

The winner not only gets incredible bragging rights to my awesome “I’m just somebody with a random idea” contest and $25 to Starbucks (who of course is in no way affiliated by this contest – I’m just an addict), but also will get posts on both this blog and featured all over my personal and business FB pages.

I’m so excited for my next life. I’m totally coming back as a photographer. But in the meantime – I’m really excited to see your pictures!


This year was super easy! We went to see Santa (we’re milking the whole “Santa is watching” dealio for all it’s worth this year) and when we purchased a package of pictures, we got a $20 gift card to Shutterfly. So, of course, I came right home and set to work to use it. I uploaded the picture, did a little crop job, picked out a template, used a link from Ebates (it’s actually my start page now when I bring up the ol’ net) and a few short minutes, and 4 template changes later, we have our Christmas Cards. HOORAY! Yours can be just as easy, too! Here’s what we ended up with:

Giggles And Grins Christmas Card
Get custom photo Christmas cards online at
View the entire collection of cards.

There’s this building near where we live called the Carrollwood Cultural Center and I saw a sign in the yard a couple weeks ago about an event they were having. So I figured we’d stop by and check it out.

I took a quick look on the website to see what it was all about and then packed up the kid for a quick drive-by. The nice part is that it’s not far away so we didn’t have to invest too much time/effort in getting over there and weren’t committed to sticking around for a long time to make the drive worth it.

There were quite a few art vendors, a couple jewelry vendors and a HUGE bus full of pets. We got to see a tarantula, the fattest frog I’ve ever seen and a handful of adorably cute pups. There was another guy there that made some of the COOLEST things out of old computer parts and various metals.

And there was a booth set up for the kids to do cute lil’ art projects. Moose made a caterpillar (reciting The Very Hungry Caterpillar the ENTIRE time) and a weird little easter egg thingy.

But all in all, it was a great event to get the word out about the Cultural Center and it was free – right up our alley for something different to do during the weekend. And with the huge fields right next door, Moose and Daddy got to kick around the soccer ball for a little while. It was actually the first time I got to see Moose play soccer WITHOUT his hands.

I love to be a hostess. I’m not very good at it, but I just blame that on inexperience. I’ve never had a place finished enough for me to want to invite folks in but I figure that place will never truly exist so I’m not going to wait anymore. And maybe if I start hosting enough events, it’ll light a fire under the husbands booty to finish up the trim work (I love you, honey!)

I love hosting and meeting new folks so much that I joined the Uppercase Living family as a Demonstrator (as you know by now) so I’m forced to constantly meet new folks. And hosting parties for other folks is the best way to learn how to be a great hostess – getting to see what they do for their guests and how they serve (and what they serve) is priceless education. I’ve picked up countless tips and ideas over just the last few weeks alone and I’ve racked up quite the number of events to practice with!

This week I’m hosting my very first Pampered Chef party. I’m SO excited – I’ve known about the company for almost 15 years now but only started looking at the actual product over the last couple weeks. I’m looking at an older catalog and have just about every other page dog-eared for items that are on my wish/gift list. So that’s my first official hosting gig and then I figure how much practice do you need to host Thanksgiving?? That’s right. I said it.

Granted, I’m a grown-up and I have a family and cooking for a group shouldn’t be that scary by now. But let’s face it . . . unless it involves a box of cereal and a gallon of milk, it’s probably not in my recipe bank. So we’re hosting Thanksgiving at our place for the first time. EVER. And I honestly couldn’t be more excited. Although I’m able to enjoy the excitement because I married smartly. The brother-in-law is a KILLER chef and the sister-in-law is in the works of starting her own dessert/baking company. So really all I have to do is cut up some veggies and find a place for everyone to sit.

One of the tips that I picked up from my most successful hostess yet (Connie, this would be you!) is this. Tell me this isn’t awesome !?! Connie’s was a little different, but I love this one – fits our style of contemporary clean lines so well. I just don’t know what I’ll put in it yet . . . tea or homemade sangria? Feel free to make a suggestion!

We got up and packed all morning for our trip home. L I procrastinated over donuts. Can you blame me? We’ve had such a great week and I hate to leave. As much as I conform to routines, I dread going back to them. We debated staying another day but decided against it. We were both trying to avoid thinking about the long ride home but staying another day would just postpone the inevitable. Better to just get it over with. So we were on the road by 11:30.

We stopped just a couple hours into the trip for some lunch at 5 Guys and had a couple burgers, some Cajun fries and a grilled cheese. I grabbed a handful of peanuts while we were waiting for our order in an attempt to distract the Moose from his hunger and we discovered that he now loves peanuts. Or maybe it’s just that he likes watching Mommy struggle to open the peanut full well knowing that he gets to eat them labor free. Regardless, it kept him busy and entertained until our lunch was ready. And once we were done and walked out the door, he started whining about wanting more nuts!

We walked across the parking lot to Starbucks and Moose and I sat outside ripping through some more peanut shells while Daddy went inside for his caffeine fix.

We stopped along the way a few times to make sure to stretch the legs and take potty breaks. Daddy and Moose even played a few games of football after peeing in the bushes. Yep – the bushes. Moose is terrified of public restrooms with auto-flush toilets. We have to promise not to flush just to get him in the restroom. And god-forbid it’s an auto-flusher, he jumps off the seat and into your arms so fast and crying so hard you’d thought something jumped up and bit his bum. So Daddy would take him out back somewhere to water the bushes.

The weather was FANTASTIC until we hit Florida. Go figure. Okay, it was really Georgia – I’m just on a FL-hating spree lately. Half way through GA we ran into some storms that were so bad that we couldn’t see more than a foot in front of the car. We drove with the hazards on for a while. And once we drove into that first storm they didn’t stop. Moose didn’t mind though – he was happy watching his movies and playing with his cars until we were just a couple hours from home. He reached that cranky point where nothing makes him happy except some real attention, so I climbed between the seats and hopped in back with him. We chatted for a bit, played with some toys, snuggled, watched some more movies and took a nice nap.

Eventually, we made it home and I was happy we didn’t stay another day. Since the trip home took all day – it was nice to have a full weekend at home to relax and still get some things accomplished before returning to the grind.

In keeping with our touristy adventures, we woke up this morning and after breakfast headed straight to Alligator Adventures next to Barefoot Landing. Our timing was perfect because just as Hubby bought the tickets and we walked through the gates, the feedings of the Alligators began. I really didn’t know what to expect, so I was surprised to see 3 of the “animal keepers” tossing whole chickens into the river. Granted, the chickens looked like the Purdue variety that you and I would buy in the grocery store but it was still odd to see these huge powerful creatures jumping for food. If I didn’t know any better, I would say they looked like tamed pets.

Alligator Feeding (web)

The heat/humidity was crazy today so walking around the park took everything out of us even though we weren’t there long. Moose was a great observer and loved to try to find all the gators that were trying to hide.

gator watching moose (web)We found a creepy looking bird and a cage of sun conures. My husband has become a “sun conure whisperer” lately. But that’s a whole different blog post. I wish I would have gotten a picture of him standing next to the cage with all the colorful little birds hanging on to the cage right next to him and “talking” to him. It was so cool. I did get a shot of him being eaten by a gator though – it freaked out the Moose for a minute.

daddy eaten by gator (web)

The other cool animal we found? A cool gator (at Alligator Adventure? Really?). But these gators were cool because they had their own place in the shade built just for them. They were Albinos! Apparently there aren’t many of these guys out there and would never survive in the wild since they can’t handle sunlight.

Albino Gators (web)

We found some shade of our own for a few minutes to cool off and rest our sweaty feet. Moose put on a fashion show.

Moose in shades (web)After letting the great outdoors kick our bums we went back over to Barefoot Landing for some lunch. Hot and hungry aren’t the greatest combo so we were all nice and cranky. Daddy and I can at least keep it in and drown it in beer. Moose on the other hand likes to snarl at french fries.

moose and a fry (web)But who doesn’t feel better after some grub? We know this guy does! He was jammin’ to some music on the patio as we left.

Jamin' Moose (web)After lunch we headed back to the condo with our crankster for naptime. Hubby tried to take a nap while I chatted with Gram for a while. He’s such a light sleeper though that he didn’t actually catch any z’s. The walls in that place were so thin and it didn’t help that the place above us was having their carpet replaced and the unit next to us had screaming kids and slamming doors.

We wanted to do something nice but comfortable for dinner so we offered to pick up dinner so we could all stay in. Beeb ordered crabcakes from Fire Island and everyone else got food from T-Bonz. Bill and I went over to Barefoot Landing to place the order at T-Bonz first and then walked back over to Fire Island for the crabcakes. They took forever to make them so we sat at the bar and had a couple drinks. It was really nice to be able to sit for a few minutes with no Moose to look out for and entertain and no where to be right away. The bar was nice and quiet – not crowded at all and the bartender was pretty attentive (always important). The husband is pretty funny (in a sarcastically honest way) with a little alcohol on board.

Later in the evening after Beeb and Moose went to bed, Aunt Pat came over with a large bottle of wine. The husband, Gram, Aunt Pat and I sat around the kitchen table and polished it and a pack of potato chips off within an hour. The cousins started to trickle in to say hello and chat and it was so nice to have everyone around hanging out and joking for a while. Especially since I never get to see this part of the family as much as I would like to.

We got up and made it over to Ripley’s Aquarium today. We got there around 9:30 and it was great. Not too much foot traffic, we had plenty of space to see all the displays we wanted and spend as much time as we wanted hanging out in different areas. Moose fell off the ladder off a little kid slide and freaked out for a while. Has a nice little rug burn on his elbow now. We went to a few more exhibits to distract him and get him in a better mood.

Sawfish (web)

Moose and fish (web)

Puffer Tank (web)

Around 11:30 we went upstairs for some lunch and watched the birds and fish in the water below by the docks. By the time we were done eating the aquarium was PACKED. It was nearly impossible to move from one exhibit to the next and people were everywhere. We had actually made it all the way through the aquarium before we sat down for lunch so we decided to visit the sting ray petting area and gift shop and call it a day. We picked up a HUGE stuffed Nemo for Moose, which he hasn’t let out of sight since he first saw it. I picked up a pretty neat necklace with a shell pendant (totally touristy of me, I know, but I like it).

We left the aquarium and walked out back to an area we saw while we were eating lunch – it was a great little boardwalk with rides and games and little shops. Moose got to enjoy his first few carnival rides before the rain came – and it came fast and hard. But it didn’t last long.

Carnival Ride Jeep (web)

Carnival Ride Motorcycle (web)

Once it stopped we checked out a few other rides – one of them scared him so much he didn’t want to go on any others. But he recovered quickly by the time we found the shops. We strolled by a few tourist trap stores, found a great big bear and then we found the candy store at the end of the strip (same store as the one in Barefoot Landing). YUMM-O!! Is there anything better than fresh made fudge or pralines or salt water taffy just off the wrapping machine? We picked up a few goodies and sat on the bench outside to chow down.

Bear (web)

While we were inhaling our sugar we noticed a few McCaw’s outside Margaritaville and one of them was quite the dancer. Moose took his cue and didn’t let the rain get him down either so he decided to put on a little show of his own. What a ham we’ve raised (videos to come soon).

We joined the family again for dinner at the Spring House restaurant. The husband isn’t a fan but when are pancakes NOT a good idea?? I loved it. Uncle Pete entertained the Moose for a while by drawing some fish on his placemat with crayons. It was so nice to be able to sit around the table with everyone.

When we got back to the resort we gathered up some towels, Moose’s new kite and his beach buckets and headed down for an evening stroll on the beach. We weren’t expecting the first view as we walked over the bridge.

 crabs on beach (web)

Go back and look at that photo again. Those aren’t seashells. It’s thousands of little crabs. It was the craziest thing to see. They were only near the bridge though – not out on the main beach but there were SO MANY of them. It was pretty cool.

We headed further down to the beach to try and fly the kite. Moose was pretty apprehensive of that thing but the wind was so strong Daddy couldn’t keep it in the air. It kept nose diving on the beach and Moose couldn’t run away from it as fast as he would have liked.

Moose and Daddy on the beach with kite (web)

I took it back up to the room so we could enjoy ourselves hunting for seashells instead and by the time I came back down Daddy and Moose had collected some new friends. We let them go before we went back upstairs but it was a neat experience for Moose – he loved it.

crab pets (web)

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