Killer Tribes (No Attendees Were Harmed In the Making of this Event)

Last weekend I went on a trip to Atlanta with a girl I met on the internet. That came out wrong.

Actually, no, that's exactly what happened.

Because last weekend my Twitter-pal-turned-real-life-pal (who you met here), Elizabeth Hyndman, and I trekked down to the ATL to hang out with some other bloggers, writers and tribe-leaders at a conference called Killer Tribes.

Despite what it may sound like, it's not like running with the bulls where you are chased by a mob of angry natives from a foreign land. I'm almost certain no one was impaled by a spear during the course of the weekend (but don't quote me on that).

No, no. This conference is for people who want to lead. Some were there to learn how to better lead businesses, some to lead fans or followers, but all of us to lead...someone. A group. Dare I say...a tribe. (I KNOW I KNOW I deserve an award for that one. Just let me know where to pick it up.)

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Pictured: Jamie, Elizabeth, Sarah, me

On Friday night, I got to meet some of my Twitter friends (IT'S TOTALLY A THING YOU GUYS) and eat cake pops with mustaches on them and talk about Justin Timberlake and how Google Reader ruined all our lives...and I'm not gonna lie, it was good to be around "my" people.

We stayed in Athens with one of my best friends, Sarah, then woke up too early for my liking on a Saturday and trudged back to the ATL(ish) to mingle with people we didn't know.

Let me tell you, a room full of semi-to-severely-introverted writer-types trying to mingle is kind of a hot mess, but we did it, you guys. We really did it. And I talked to people I didn't even know from Twitter. Everyone give me a virtual high five.

Here are a few things I learned (some might be applicable to you, some almost certainly will not):

1) Sometimes when you avoid wearing your cat shirt so that you won't match your friend who also owns said cat shirt, you neglect to ask your Twitter friend what she is wearing and end up matching her instead.

2) Regret is not bringing your Evernote Moleskine to a blogger/writer conference.

3) People will pay you to ghost-tweet. Jason Boyett was part of the "How to Make a Living as a Writer" panel, which I loved. I learned a ton. He does communications-type work and part of that is ghost tweeting. I want in. Guys, you wouldn't have to hear as many tweets from me because I'd be busy tweeting for other people. It's a win/win. So if you know anyone, it's really for the betterment of society that you recommend me.

4) People will also pay you to write their stories for them. Shawn Smucker did a great job in the same panel talking about how he got started writing books for other people (and himself). I loved it. I've done some journalism in college and love interviewing people and writing their stories for them, so this is definitely something I'm going to try to pursue.

5) On an unrelated note, services I now offer include ghost-tweeting and ghost-/co-authoring. I'm only 10 percent joking.

6) Capitalize on your experiences and what is unique about you. I loved John Saddington's talk about utilizing on things you take for granted: your interests, your background, your culture. It was a whole new way to look at my situation and draw material from.

"Maximize your God-given uniqueness…do not take even the shoes you wear for granted."

For example, he used his long-time World of Warcraft fandom to create a dating website for World of Warcraft…type…people. He's an entrepreneur so he thinks differently than I do, and it was really cool to hear his perspective.

7) Ask questions to everyone you meet. Learn from them. (Crystal Paine)

8) I still love spoken word poetry. Check out Amena Brown. She was fantastic.

9) Maintain real life friends, and be careful not to let your tribe become an idol. I learned this from Kristen Howerton, who was just great. I've only read her blog for a few months now, but I like her style. She had a lot of great insight on valuing and growing a tribe but still balancing online/real life.

10) Great lists are in increments of 3, 5 or 10. I had to get to 10. So…I also learned…how to separate an egg yolk from the white using an empty water bottle (thanks, Tripp & Tyler!).

If you're a leader of a tribe in any capacity, or would like to be, you should go to this conference next year. And we can be real life friends if we're not already.

SkyMall Highlights, March 2013 Edition

Last week, as you may have noticed, I did a lot of galavanting. Usually I don't travel much for work, but for some reason last week took me straight from New Orleans to DC back to Nashville via plane. This also means [drumroll please...] SKYMALL COMMENTARY. Aw yeah, you guys. It's that time again.

So here we go...SkyMall "Early Spring 2013" Highlights, commentated by yours truly. [Read the first edition here.]


In what universe is killing a squirrel a sign of brawn, particularly to the extent that one would display this accomplishment on the wall for all to see? Even in West Monroe, Louisiana, this would be unacceptable. Phil Robertson just kills squirrels because he's bored during a pet photoshoot with Mrs. Kay and her terriers. No one is impressed. I mean, okay, we're impressed with Phil, but even he wouldn't display a squirrel on his wall like it's something to brag about.

And this particular squirrel looks like his soul is lurking behind those resin eyes waiting for revenge. They even included the ARMS, for goodness' sake. I'm no hunter--in fact I think I would be the opposite--but in my limited experience with mounted taxidermy trophies, I have never seen half a deer sticking out of a wall. Faux dead squirrels should be no exception. It's just creepy.


For the person in your life you would do anything for...except hold an umbrella while they strap in the kids.



What time is it? I DON'T KNOW, okay, mystical clock? Why all the mind games? Who needs this kind of stress in their lives? This is like the opposite of a digital clock.



What's a bed bug thwarting sleeping cocoon, you might ask? It's that thing where your paranoid neighbor wraps himself in an impenetrable fabric sac at night so as to prevent bed bugs from sinking their little teeth into him as he sleeps. Did you know bed bugs have teeth? Well, you do now, thanks to SkyMall. I don't know about you, but I don't appreciate their scare tactics. Also weren't bed bugs a thing like three years ago? Wasn't it kind of like an anthrax type deal? I could be wrong.

What if there is a fire and you are trapped in your bed bug thwarting cocoon? What if you are struggling to get out and you fall off the bed and are unable to escape? What if in the fortunate event that a fireman comes in to save you, you have to explain to him what this monstrosity is and that you thought a bed bug attack was more likely than a fire, which is a real thing that happens? These are questions you need to ask yourself before investing in one of these glorified pillowcases. (Though high five to the copy writer who chose to use the word "thwarting" in a SkyMall catalog.)



Just…no. This whole bacon thing is really starting to grind my gears. It's like, okay, it was cute and ironic for like 4 minutes, but we're done here, y'know?



I imagine this necklace would be worn by someone in a movie like National Treasure or Eagle Eye and the necklace would serve as instructions for the protagonist and a clue to the overall plot. She may or may not be a love interest but would most definitely be dragged around against her will throughout the entire film.



Dustbuster? More like GHOSTBUSTER. (Stop it. You're too kind. Seriously I'll be here all week.]



So these shoes are for...clumsy hippies? Seriously--toe bumpers? I mean I am clumsy but not once in my life have I thought to myself, "man, I really wish these shoes had toe bumpers." Oh and also they are the ugliest things I've ever seen. And cost $80.



This is technically an ad on the back of the magazine, but I just couldn't not comment on it. First of all, is or is not that blonde girl plotting to kill the American girl singing karaoke in French because she secretly loves the dumb guy in the middle and thinks American girl is stealing him away from her? Is it a love triangle and this rando ginger is just happy to be there, blissfully unaware of the situation? And why is this girl SO ecstatic about singing French karaoke? I get the feeling she laughs like Fran Drescher or Janice from Friends. Ugh. This kind of thing is why they hate us.

Until next time…

What's the worst/best thing you've seen in SkyMall? Do you have any other observations about these items I missed?

Justin Bieber Concert Experience: The Recap

Note: Thank you to those who gave me some feedback on whether or not they would like to read this recap. The answer was (shockingly) overwhelmingly "yes." As always, I give the people what they want. If you find yourself reading this and thinking, "wow, this is an enormous waste of my time," remember -- you asked for it. Just...remember that okay?  Photobucket

It was an event unlike any other. The constant gleam from the sequined tutu-style skirts and similarly glittery fake Ugg boots of 8 year olds, the roar of 18,000 excitable youth rising with each hopeful break in the interim Michael Jackson songs and falling disappointedly with each realization that no, it was not time for the show to start, the sea of purple flat-brimmed hats emblazoned with the popstar's trademark unword "swaggy" on the underside.

It's safe to say neither my companion Hilary nor I had seen the likes of this environment anywhere else.

There was an adorable sense of pure excitement bubbling over from the kids younger than about 13 which was just too endearing to be annoyed by. They bopped along, holding hands with a parent to avoid abduction, scarcely believing they were HERE about to see JUSTIN BIEBER. They were my favorite fans.

There were of course a vast array of homemade t-shirts, some more sophisticated than others. The puffy paint industry probably noticed a sharp uptick in sales in the Middle Tennessee area last week.

Surprisingly we also saw a few groups of glammed-up seemingly-30-year-old women wearing a new level of atrocity in the way of leggings as pants with nary a child to be seen in their party.

The show began with none other than Biebs' bodyguard/personal hype-man/sidekick Kenny Hamilton welcoming us in.

Insert the aforementioned atomic-bomb-level decibel increase here.

The first performer was Cody Simpson, who I vaguely recognized from Disney Channel or something. Wikipedia tells me this is because he was a guest on "So Random!" (essentially the 21st century forgets-what-a-real-book-is 13-year-old's version of "All That") once and also appeared on this thing where Disney tries to find the Next Big (obscure, played-excusively-on-Radio-Disney) Thing as a mentor to the NBT.

Basically all you need to know is he's blonde, Australian and was born in 1997 which makes me feel sufficiently ancient.

He sang catchy pop songs, danced with a chair eerily similar to the Britney days of yore, and did a little too much pelvic thrusting to be appropriate for the audience, in my humble opinion.

I can't be sure, but I think he donned a royal blue silk pajama suit similar to the one Barney from HIMYM wears, except instead of a tie he wore a wifebeater underneath so that he could take off the jacket and 13-year-olds would squeal.

Seriously how much do we know about this guy? I'm asking.

Highlight performance: an underwhelming snippet of "N***** in Paris" from Watch the Throne. (I know, right?)

Then comes Carly Rae.

I love me some "Call Me Maybe" (haters to the left) and "Good Time," so I was pretty pumped for this.

Most of her songs were super repetitive (that's coming from a pop music fan), but I really liked "Your Heart Is A Muscle" and thoroughly enjoyed the aforementioned songs. Cody sang Owl City's part and was not that great but that song is pretty much un-ruinable, so I enjoyed it.

She had a pink mic stand and wore a black dress and pretty much looked like I expected her to look. At least from section 303, row C.

I'm a sucker for gang vocals and any form of corporate singing so I also soaked in the moment of an arena full of people singing the pop anthem of 2012 together.

Highlight performance: Good Time


Wait, just kidding. Then we waited nearly an hour for his highness to arrive on stage.

During this time, it got ugly.

It is unreasonable to ask a mob of thousands of teenage girls to wait for the most famous heartthrob on the planet for 56 minutes. It just is.

I'm just saying, the environment was getting unstable.

First it was just the whooing whenever there was a break between MJ songs.

Then came the wave. Never underestimate the power of teenage girls determined to accomplish the same purpose. It was the most swiftly organized round of the wave I'd ever witnessed. In a mere two rounds, nearly everyone was participating.

After the wave came the chanting.

Oh, the chanting.

"JUSTIN! JUSTIN! JUSTIN!" Fairly reasonable and expected.

But then, "JUST-IN BIE-BER, *clap clap clapclapclap* JUST-IN BIE-BER, *clap clap clapclapclap*"

Then, "HUR-RY U-UP, *clap clap clapclapclap*"

NO. Just no. That cadence is reserved for basketball games and…well, that's it. Just basketball games.

Thankfully at this point a countdown finally appeared on the giant screen.

…starting at 10 minutes. Sigh.

The screaming grew in intensity until finally only 60 seconds remained. It was finally time.

The Biebs entered via harness (as was expected) wearing enormous angel wings and all white and looking half-dead. I'm not really sure what the symbolism was.

There was lots of white flowy fabric and some dancers who may or may not have been angels, too? I don't know. I think it had something to do with "Believe." That's all I can decipher.

Between the white suit, the wifebeater underneath the jacket (if you're sensing a theme, you're right) the oval sunglasses and the hair (short on the sides, puffed up and combed back on the top), he was very 80's fabulous.

Since his set was about two hours long and this post is about two hours long so far, I'll just give you the rundown:

Set: It was actually a little disappointing because I expected it to be pretty elaborate after seeing Taylor Swift last year. Mostly just 8,000 screens, but they did a lot with them. Once, they were on a boat (I think) and Justin dove off into an abyss in the stage but appeared below on a screen, swimming. Things like that were pretty great.

Unexpected appearance: a hype-man DJ. He did things like yell "jump! jump! jump!" a lot and banter with JB.

Scaffolding choice for acoustic set: While the scaffolding was not heart-shaped, the Biebs did not disappoint. He was raised up in a cherry-picker-style contraption that swiveled around to serenade us all equally with "Be Alright" and "Fall." "Fall" is one of my favorites from Believe, so I was a little disappointed it wasn't full band, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I also discovered he is a left-handed guitar player. So, fun fact for you.

Costume changes: Mostly just a lot of wifebeaters and pants that must be specially made for him since they are a walking contradiction: baggy from the waist to mid-thigh, then skinny the rest of the way down. One pair was zebra striped. I don't defend his fashion choices, you guys. Just his music.

Some gold gloves, a fedora and bright red patent leather high top sneakers also made appearances. The shirt came completely off during the encore, at which point Hilary and I yelled at him like the old fogies we are to pull up his darn pants. We could see far too much of his bright red tighty-whities (tighty-reddies?).

Transitions: There were a few videos in between sets with clips from home videos when he was a kid, and him talking to the camera in black and white (so you knew it was serious) about following your dreams and it was actually pretty precious. Never say never and believe and all that. In the video he was actually wearing a real shirt and his hair looked normal, which I think paid off in the delivery.

One Less Lonely Girl Report: The girl was only brought up towards the end of the song, which I thought was kind of a rip off, but she got to sit on a throne made of fake speakers and such, which was pretty cool. Her name was Asia and she was adorable. Also JB danced up on her a bit (still in the wifebeater) which probably made her mom uncomfortable but it's JUSTIN BIEBER so who cares, right?

Highlight performances: The encore--"Boyfriend" then "Baby"--can't go wrong there, and "Beauty and the Beat." Nicki Minaj performed live via satellite. Jay kay, jay kay, it was just her face on a screen that assembled on stage right before her part but it was still pretty awesome. And at the end of that song, JB did his drum solo, which made it even more great. That kid is insane.

All in all it was a solid show. The band and arrangements were great as always (and by "always" I mean the few times I've seen them on TV and on Never Say Never), and I thought he sang really well. Especially considering that he was apparently under the weather.

It was a lot of fun, and I'm so glad I got to have the experience.

Oh, and before I forget…the requests:

Shaved Head Count: Disappointingly, zero. Did he perform all of his songs? No. He did do a medley of some older songs ("One Time," "Eenie Meenie" and "Somebody to Love") which allowed him to get some more in, but he definitely didn't do all of them. Notable exceptions: "U Smile" and "Thought of You" (both I really like), but he did a surprising amount of them considering the "Believe" album has 17 tracks. Set Length: approx. 2 hours. Level of Amazing: 11

Did I leave anything out you wanted to know? What's the best concert you've ever been to?

Goin' to the 'Biebs, Y'all


Attention, readers: this is not a drill. I repeat, THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

This is the real deal. The time has come.

Tomorrow night, my friend Hilary and I are braving swarms of squealing teenagers in homemade t-shirts to be serenaded by none other than The Biebs himself.

Will he soar over the audience in heart-shaped scaffolding? Will he bring out T-Swizzle for no other reason than to increase the decibels in Bridgestone Arena to atomic-bomb level? Will he point to the audience a lot and wear a lot of brightly colored pleather? One can only hope.

The only unfortunate thing is that I'm pretty sure I'm sitting too far back to be chosen as the One Less Lonely Girl. DRAT.

We also get the distinct joy of singing 2012's most popular song with 20,000 other people, because Carly Rae Jepsen is his opening act. This tour is almost too Canadian to function.

The good news is, if I learned anything from T-Swizzle's tour last year, the children aged about 11 and under tend to start to lose steam halfway through. The littlest ones even fall asleep. So the screamfest should die down at some point. Though, this is THE Biebs, after all, so perhaps that is wishful thinking.

Hilary is an audiologist, so she'll probably be able to tell me what decibel level we have reached and whether or not I should be worried about permanent hearing loss.

I will also consider this a cultural experience and take copious mental notes so I can report back to those of you who would never venture into this kind of atmosphere of insanity.

What do you want to know about the Biebs concert experience? I will be your representative. (AND...should I get a t-shirt?)

An Adventure in High Society: Steeplechase 2012 Recap

On Saturday, I hob-nobbed with the elite. I brushed shoulders with the fabulous. Where, you ask? STEEPLECHASE, sucka. (I think my use of that phrase automatically negates my first paragraph.)


Thanks to some generous friends of ours and the husband of whom's even more generous boss (please don't make me try to figure out the correct grammar for my previous phrase), we got to traipse off to The' free.

For those of you who did not have the pleasure of experiencing this cultured affair, I thought I would recap it for you.

I know, I know. What can I say? I give the people what they want.

Steeplechase 2k12: THE RECAP

We open to a scene teeming with people dressed in brightly colored dresses, bow ties and seersucker, backdropped by light grey skies. It pretty much just looks like tailgating at any given SEC school at this point. Only with more hats.

After parking inside the track (that's what hob-nobbers get to do, by the way), we made our way up to the hill where it seemed the VIPs were sitting. We inferred this based on the fact that there were giant white tents, and we figured "box seat" might equal "tent" at Steeplechase. That's about all we were going on.

Hiking up a hill in rain boots and a hat that obscures my vision was harder than I thought it would be, but no matter, we were officially IN. The upper-crust. The other half. We'd made it.

After we'd made it, we had no idea where to go next.

We explained this to the usher, who was clearly unamused that we had obviously never done this before and (I assume) tried very hard not to roll his eyes whilst telling us our box number was on our wristbands. Our wristbands, which we had been required to wear in order to get into the Hob-Nob Section. Our wristbands in which the box number was covered up by the sticky part of the bracelet, making it impossible to see. Our wristbands which he then said he did "not advise" taking off.

Sigh. It's hard being a first time hob-nobber.

(By the way, if you want to play a drinking game corresponding with how many times I say "hob-nob" in this post, I'd say now would be the time to start. When else am I going to get to use this word?)

After a pained struggle with Craig's bracelet to determine our booth number and the aforementioned exasperated usher directing us, we were finally in our box.

Boxes, we found out, are not boxes at all but actually rectangular grass spaces marked off with metal guardrails in which eight wooden folding chairs are placed. But they are arranged like stadium seating and we had a great view of both horses and outrageous hats, so it was a win.

I seriously considered leaning over to one of our fellow hob-nobbers and saying, "so whe-ahr does every-wahn summah?" like Phoebe when she visits Mike's parents, but I refrained. But it was pretty much like that.

Then we basically got to live the real-life version of Mary Poppins when she goes inside the chalk drawing. We heard the trumpet before each race. There was a british MC whose name I assume was Walter. Oh, and then there was this:


Photobucket OH YES. YES, THAT IS A ROSE-HAT... AND/OR TOWEL. She was in the hat competition but didn't win. What a sad thing to go out and buy that monstrosity just for this occasion, enter a contest, stand in front of everyone, but still not get any glory at the one place people reward that sort of thing. Wah-wahhhh.

Back to the races.

The four of us had a point system going and picked horses for each race.

It was noted several times that never in our lives had we gone from not caring at all, to super-invested, to super-disappointed so quickly.


Pictured above: I unknowingly picked a horse with a Backstreet Boy for a jockey (naturally), but he did me no good. I lost. GET IT TOGETHER, NICK. It's like you'd never ridden a horse to win thousands of dollars before or something.


RACE 1 Winner: Bluegrass Summer [A.K.A. the one with the least-interesting name] My Pick: Memorial Maniac. Way better name.

RACE 2 Winner: Lake Placid [Trend: Least-Interesting Names win. Probably because they spend less time picking names and more time learning how to win races.] My Pick: Snow Blizzard. This was Nick Carter's horse, and he got DEAD LAST. Awesome Name Alert: Humdinger

RACE 3 Winner: Parker's Project [Keeps with the trend.] My Pick: Via Galilei. This time I had a strategy. I picked a horse with the same owner as the one who won last year. Plus I thought that name was pretty. I still didn't win. Awesome Name Alert: Spy in the Sky

RACE 4 Winner: Quiet Flaine. I picked this horse! Mostly because I thought his name was Quiet Flame and kept him anyway when I realized it wasn't. Score 1 for breaking the trend. Worth noting: The chosen favorite, Sweet Shani (who Craig picked), didn't even finish the race. Seriously. Just gave up and started walking. You're never going to win with that attitude, Shani girl.

RACE 5 Winner: Virsito. None of us picked this horse. My Pick: Roddickton. I was going to pick En Fuego because of his awesome name, but then I found out he was gray instead of brown and I ditched him. Yep, I judged him right then and there. But you know what? En Fuego ended up not being good. Roddickton was in 1st place for about 3/4 of the race and ended up in 6th. Really, Roddickton? Really? I was severely disappointed. Awesome Name Alert: Mr. Universo

Then we left.

All in all, I'd say it was a success. We wore hats (thanks to my friend Taylor), bright colors and seersucker so we totally fit in and no one was the wiser that we brought Kroger brand pretzels.

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Note: We found out later the winning horse died of an aneurism, which I was shocked and devastated to hear. But of course, we missed it, so if you were hoping to hear about that...sorry.

Have you ever been to Steeplechase (or a similarly high-class event)?

DIY, The Conclusion

Remember that time I decided to revamp a bookshelf I bought from Craigslist, and it took me approximately three months to finish? Alas--and I knew this was a distinct possibility--it did not turn out as I had hoped. And it's time to own up to it. No more hiding in shame. No more keeping you in suspense. (What's that? You had forgotten about this altogether--or didn't even know about it to begin with? Fair enough.)

I was doing so well up until the very last step, which was also the most ambitious step: glazing.

I even followed a tutorial. Really, I did. But either I bought some sort of ACME fast-drying paint or did not understand the directions, because I'm pretty sure it ended up looking like I took my perfectly pristine white bookshelf and rode it down a slippery mudhill in the rain. And then attempted to wipe it off. With paper towels.

By the time I finished, I was sort of getting the hang of it, so the left side looks a lot better than the top. The top looks like I thought to myself, "hm, what could I do to this bookshelf to completely negate the coat of white paint I slaved over three weeks ago?" Really? Why did I start with the most conspicuous part?

As a warning for future first-time DIY-ers, I present to you the top 3 things I'm pretty sure I did wrong:

  1. Started with the top of the bookshelf. Really, this was a rookie mistake. I'm pretty sure even an amateur bookshelf-painter would have suggested practicing on the inside first. But no---not I. Instead, I dove brush-first into a world of too much glaze and not enough hands.
  2. Misunderstood the meaning of "small." I say this because in what we in the biz (and everyone else) call "the glazing technique," you are supposed to paint on small sections of glaze with one hand, then wipe it off with the other. In case you were wondering, the entire top of the bookshelf is not considered a "small section." Trust me.
  3. Let the glaze sit for approximately 10 seconds. I would consider 10 seconds a short period of time. Wouldn't you? But not in glazing. In glazing, 10 seconds translates into "holy crap, this stuff is not coming off," and a lot of wet paper towels. And scrubbing. Lots and lots of scrubbing. What the tutorial should have said is "immediately." Wipe it off immediately. Was that so hard? I blame the blogosphere.
This is a picture of the last panel I glazed, which looks slightly more intentional than the top.


I tried to convince myself that the bookshelf could actually be conceived as cool if I had been going for a more vintage look, but I couldn't bring myself to believe it. It just looks like a mistake. I actually think it looks slightly better in the pictures, if that gives you a better idea of what it looks like in person.
Have you ever had a DIY project go terribly wrong?
Also, any suggestions on making this bookshelf look awesome again (that don't require painting over it) are more than welcome.
Check out the first three chapters of this saga here: Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3

Where the City in October Looks like Fire

In keeping with the reasons why I love all things fall, our very first anniversary was Sunday! You only get one 1st anniversary, so I tried to take as many pictures as possible. (I have recently become terrible at documenting my life in photo-form.)

This gem is brought to you by Pinterest. Because I totally forgot to bring the big framed wedding photo like you see here, we resolved to print one off at Walgreens and do it anyway. I think this is a quality memory. Totally worth narrowly-escaping a nose-diving flock of pigeons on the pedestrian bridge (and Craig getting pooped on by one of them). I am thankful that Craig is an enabler when it comes to cheesy things like this (his idea to print the picture at Walgreens).

We inadvertently stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo due to our adventure with Priceline. If you haven't used Priceline before, it's awesome. The only catch is once you specify your price & your star-level, you get what you get. We'd had great experiences with it so far. Lesson learned: wait until closer to your trip dates to book via Priceline. The Choo Choo may take their throwback feel a little too literally. (All I'm saying is a fresh coat of paint and non-vinyl tablecloths would've gone a long way.) But we had fun and enjoyed the experience anyway.

Making sure to hit up all that the 'noog has to offer, we visited the Tennessee Aquarium on Saturday. I was most fascinated by the jellyfish. Seriously, they have no faces. Yet they are animals. What is their purpose? What would they feel like if you wouldn't get stung in an attempt to find out? Mind blown. I know I could have easily thought about these questions before now, as I have long been aware of the existence of jellyfish, but I was entranced by these things for at least 5 full minutes. At each tank.

Also the penguins were awesome, despite my friend Jason's assertion that they are useless. If for no other reason, they exist to bring joy to millions and inspire many adorable animated movies. How is that useless? I had fun watching them from behind the glass and narrating what I imagined them to be thinking. I don't think Craig found it nearly as amusing as I did.

We got a free milkshake at Urban Stack (delicious, by the way) because our sweet waiter found out it was our anniversary. He brought one to us and it just happened to be s'mores flavored. Divine intervention, I tell you. These camp people couldn't have been happier. It had real toasted marshmallows in it. [Drool.]

We stopped by Rock City on the way home Monday, which, by the way, is totally worth it. The 2904 signs you see along I-24 are not lying. The weather was perfect, and the trail was beautiful. Plus we supposedly saw 7 states at once. So, there's that.

Craig and I love going on trips just the two of us--in fact, a lot of our favorite memories are our experiences exploring new places together. We have similar modes of travel and really enjoy just getting to do whatever we want with no rigid agenda. It's always such a sweet time of reconnecting and sharing an adventure, and this one was no exception. We had a great time Sunday celebrating and reflecting on our first year and talking about goals for year 2.

What other places should we visit for future trips?

DIY, Vol. 3


One step closer to finishing the project-that-never-ends. But to be fair, it’s not really the project’s fault. It’s totally mine. But weekend time is precious, okay? And between sleeping til 10 and clipping coupons, I can only squeeze in so much.

Anyway. I’ve been following a tutorial I found online, and to my surprise it actually turned out pretty well! It said if you do it right (several thin coats instead of 1-2 thick coats), you should still be able to see the wood grain pattern underneath. And you totally can. So, score 1 for Laura’s First DIY Project.

Now there’s only 1 more step: the glaze. This will probably be the true test of my newfound DIY-skillz (that’s a thing, right?), as it could easily end up looking like I just spilled brown paint all over a perfectly good white bookshelf, and all will be for naught.

Things I learned in this stage of DIY:

>Do not use newspaper in an attempt to be proactive and protect the concrete from drippage (I really did think I was making the right decision here). Fun fact: Newspaper does, in fact, stick to paint, and you will have to rip it off the bottom of the bookshelf after it dries due to the fact that you painted the bottom edges with abandon, thanks to the aforementioned “protection” from drippage. Pieces will be left behind, and goops of undried paint will get on your hands after you have just gotten all of it off from the initial painting. Perhaps trash bags would be less cumbersome? I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Just sweet skillz.

That’s really about it. Short list, but all I did was go outside and paint. And nothing went terribly wrong. So I’m okay with it.

Tune in next time [read: any time between now and November] for the exciting conclusion of: Laura’s First DIY Project. [Feel free to insert your own epic theme song here. I chose Eye of the Tiger. Did I say “epic?” I meant “inspiring and totally awesome.”]

DIY Update

Apparently my misadventures with Round 1 of my DIY project were enough to deter me two weeks until moving on to Round 2. Round 2 included sanding the shelf (a previously mentioned oversight from Round 1) and priming the bookshelf.



[Note: the tutorial I am using said it’s okay if some of the wood shows through. Also you can’t really see the top or sides which look a lot more primed than the inside due to the fact that I’m pretty sure that part is just plywood.]

Round 3 will be painting the bookshelf white, and Round 4 will be the glaze.

Keeping in mind the recent discovery that I am the world’s slowest DIY-er, my projected time-frame for my bookshelf to be complete is likely November. Also I am now realizing that by then the weather will probably be too cold to go outside and paint, so I pretty much have to finish it before that happens.

I didn’t have very many interesting things and/or mishaps take place while I primed the bookshelf, so this is a short post. Here’s hoping I run into some speedbumps on the next round so I have more things to write (I am only half-hoping this, as running into speedbumps may make a better story, but it makes the process take twice as long. And let’s face it, I’m racing mother nature here.).

Halfway to a Career in Hip-Hop (Plus Free Ice Cream)

As fate would have it, I have already begun my foray into hip-hop dance. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration.

What that really means is I played with a Kinect for the first time on Saturday and attempted to learn two dances from a cool-kid avatar that said things like, “that’s tight!” and “yeahhhh that one’s tricky, we’ll come back to that.” (I’ll let you guess which phrase I heard more frequently.)

Craig and I went over to my friend Nicole’s boyfriend JL’s house and danced the night away. Well, dance-tutorial’d our night away.

Dance terms I learned:

the “boop boop”

the “torch” aka the fist pump. (I mastered this one.)

the “chill” (basically just snapping with one hand while looking cool)

the “nudgie”

among many, many more. I’m pretty sure these are all fictional terms and not actually used in the hip-hop community, but really, how would I know? (Please enlighten me in the comments if you are more in-tune with this terminology.)

Playing on the easiest difficulty means that the aforementioned cool-kid avatar will lazily do the side-step for 8 bars while you try to figure out which foot to move first, all the while staring at you with what I could only assume was a bored, patronizing expression on his face. Though to be fair, I couldn’t really tell due to the fact that his hoodie was obstructing most of his vision (see below.).

Though my favorite part was probably watching Nicole do Soulja Boy. All the way through.

Also this weekend Craig and I got free ice cream at Pied Piper Creamery in East Nash. Being newlyweds on a budget, we more than welcomed this deal from ScoutMob. If you don’t have this app on your phone and you live in Nashville (or any other semi-large city), get it. It has restaurants and stores actual locals want to go to instead of the plethora of laser-hair removal services Groupon throws at you daily.

Flavor I got: Mocha Chocolatta Ya Ya. (Yes, they went there.) Coffee ice cream with brownies and chocolate ribbon. (drool.)

It was so delicious. And even though it was free, they definitely did not skimp on the 1 scoop. If you haven’t been to Pied Piper, go try it. (There’s also one in Berry Hill about .5 miles from our house but they aren’t open very late. Know that the East Nash location is actually open later than the website says.)

Done with the Pied Piper/ScoutMob plug. Off to practice the “nudgie.”

Things I learned in my DIY Adventure, Vol 1

I am now a user of power tools.

Well, one power tool. The handheld orbital sander. Pictured above on my soon-to-be-awesome bookshelf.

I used said power tool this past Saturday in my first-ever attempt at redoing a piece of furniture. As you may know, mine and my husband’s newfound love for HGTV/a need for a place to keep my photo albums and Disney Princess picture frame spawned the idea for this project a few weeks ago. You can read about that here.

Here are some things I have learned so far:

1. Call ahead before you drive 20 minutes to what you believe is the only tool rental store in the metro Nashville area, because you may find out that not only do they “not rent those anymore” (even though it is clearly pictured on their website), but the Home Depot a 1/2 mile from your house has one in stock (which they did NOT have it pictured on their website). Moral of the story: do not trust websites for tool rentals. You will waste gas.

2. People at Home Depot are eager to help you when you first enter the store and are set on attempting to find your items on your own first—until you inevitably cannot find it in that mammoth of a store and decide you do actually need their help. All 1200 of them then either disappear or are too busy helping customers who do not, in fact, insist on scouring 8 aisles for sandpaper before asking for help, and you must then wander around trying to find someone in an orange apron who is not occupied and/or hiding. You will also mistake several men in orange t-shirts for Home Depot employees at first glance because you are desperate for help and just want to get out of there.

3. Always check the weather forecast before you rent an orbital sander for a 24-hour period of time in which you MUST use it or you have to pay more money. If you don’t, you could be outside in 100 degree heat trying to sand a bookcase and get the sander back to Home Depot before 2pm. (Read: midday sun.) This is especially important if you are as pale as me, because you will realize halfway through that you need to stop and apply sunscreen. You will also not be able to wear sunglasses due to your protective eyewear. (See below for red-faced, squinty-eyed feigned excitement)

4. Make sure you turn around when you are examining the bookcase for portions you may have overlooked while sanding. The yet-to-be-sanded shelf could be sitting in the chair behind you. You may not notice this until after you have cleaned the sander (so as not to incur charges from Home Depot) and have put it away. Seeing as you are now sweating profusely and frustrated from the impossible task of cleaning an orbital sander, not to mention under a time crunch, you will resolve to sand it by hand later.

Today I fully intend on finishing the sanding and getting the priming done. I will probably learn more things like these.

Gettin' Crafty

As you may remember, we at the McClellan household have been watching a lot of HGTV. I have also recently downsized desks, leaving me less room for the plethora of picture frames and knick-knacks I as a 20-something female have acquired over the years and would still like to display. When you get married, you find that nearly everything in your house must be either gender-neutral or pertain to both of you, which doesn’t really include things like my Disney Princess picture frame featuring my friend Nicole and me.

These two factors, along with a desire to pursue new hobbies (seeing as I have none), have ushered me into the world of DIY. I, Laura Kathleen McClellan, am going to paint and glaze a bookshelf I bought on Craigslist for $25. And it’s going to look awesome. I think.

Here is what it looks like right now:

Here is what I am hoping it will look similar to when I am done [click image to see tutorial]:

And for those of you who know what beadboard is (I have only recently become one of these people), I think I’m going to replace the back panel with beadboard if I can make it work. (Also if I can find out where one buys beadboard.)

Now all I have to do is track down a power sander. If you have one of those lying around and you wouldn’t mind letting a novice furniture refinisher borrow it for an afternoon, let me know!

I will let you know how it turns out! Also if any of you have refinished furniture before and have any advice, let me know. Pretty sure I can use all the help I can get!

Moose Country and a Wet Computer

This post has been a long time coming. I’m trying to be more intentional about my blog, so I keep struggling to think of topics to write about, which means long delays in between posts. But I will try to do better!

I have more photos of Canada to accompany this post (I tried to pick the most quintessentially Canadian one to upload individually, seen above featuring mounties), but I was going to upload them to Facebook first. iPhoto and Facebook are were not playing nicely last week so that was a fail. But Laura, you may ask, why don’t you just upload them this week? Well, I’ll tell you, blog reader.

Sunday night my computer took a little bit of a bath. A cup of water was sitting on our coffee table—as was my laptop— and it got knocked it over. Alas.

Apparently the one thing you do not do when you spill water on your computer is attempt to turn it on after you dry it off with a dish towel. Nor do you plug it into the charger when it fails to turn on, thinking it may have just run out of battery. This will only result in a static-like noise projecting loudly from your speakers and a malfunctioning trackpad. Also you will then discover that the Apple website says at the worst thing you can do after spilling liquid on your computer is attempt to run power to it. So there’s that.

So now my macbook is at the Apple doctor where they will “take a look at it” in 2-3 days and get back to us. Sigh. I just hope I don’t lose anything, seeing as I have failed to set up Time Machine since I got my new computer after we got married. I am particularly concerned about the fact that I have a story I’ve been writing for a contest sitting on that thing, which I have started over on about 3 times. (Turns out the 3rd time really IS a charm. [Insert sad trombone here.]) We think it will not be a hard drive-related problem, but still keeping fingers crossed.

Anyway. This post was going to be about our Canada trip, but now it is getting long. So here are some highlights:

1. Lumberjack competition. When in Rome, right? 2. International festival weekend [My grandparents’ town is right on the border of Maine. Also I love all things street fair. Particularly the lemonade.] 3. Fish & chips from a tiny takeout place. [I am not a huge seafood fan but this stuff was legit.] 4. Scenery, which I will post pictures of as soon as my computer makes its triumphant return. 5. Chocolate. [My grandparents’ town is also “Canada’s Chocolate Town” due to the fact that there is a chocolate factory located there. Chocolate-fest was wrapping up that weekend. Win.] 6. Mrs. Dunster’s Donuts. Seriously, these things are amazing and I am disappointed that no one in the States has decided to get in on that yet. The ones we love are whole wheat (aka totally healthy right?), cinnamon & sugar, and they come in a bag. (They’re more like giant donut holes rather than glazed O shapes.) We still have some in our freezer. I think.

We had a great trip even though it was super short. We left on Friday & came back on Monday. It was fun to show Craig around and to see everything from a new perspective since I hadn’t been there since high school.

Next time I will have a more purposeful post. I promise. Also maybe a video of Lumberjack Roger hurling an axe and getting a bullseye (I was proud to get that footage).

Wedding time

This past weekend was one of my best friends from high school’s wedding! It was my first experience being a bridesmaid, and I’m a fan. It’s fun to be a part of someone else’s day and just be there to support your friend. My sweet husband (who graciously attended with me and read Hunger Games in the hotel room all morning while I was at the church getting ready) and me

Carlin was calm, cool and collected the entire time. Which is more than I can say for myself at my wedding. But I also don’t deal as well with being the center of attention, and well, Carlin has the ability to embrace it. ;-)

The wedding was beautiful and one of the most fun parts was getting to hang out with all my best high school friends in one weekend. I loved being around Noelle, Calli and Carlin all weekend and getting to see a bunch more at the reception. It was really relaxed and just an enjoyable time to celebrate Carlin’s big day!

All my high school friends with the bride

The ceremony was perfect for them because it was relaxed and lighthearted, but still Christ-centered. We got to hear their story from each of their perspectives which was a really unique way to do a ceremony, and I loved it. It got everyone laughing and smiling, which gave the ceremony the feeling of just being together with friends and family and celebrating Carlin and Jordan and the joyful commitment they were making.

Anyway, I really enjoyed being a part of it! Now back to secretly noting ideas for certain friend of mine’s future wedding (since I have no more wedding of my own to plan for) while we patiently await a proposal…wink, wink, nudge, nudge…;-)

Things that have happened, vol. 2

I’m getting so far behind in blogging things I would like to blog about! Here are the highlights: 1. Sunday night we had a going away party for our good friend Jason. I met him because I creepily found him on Facebook my freshman year. But I have a good reason. I had just gotten to Belmont and needed someone to go to a Chasing Victory show with me. But I knew like three people, and I was pretty sure those three people weren’t into Chasing Victory. Enter Facebook. The rest was history.


This is us with Jason at his grad party a week or so ago. We’re clearly just excited to know him.

We will miss him a lot! We played Telephone Pictionary (which we learned from him) one last time and sent him on is way. He’s going back to dumb ol’ Minnesota, but he’s got a cool internship so I guess it’s okay. Hopefully he will return one day. (I mean, who wouldn’t? Basically Nashville is the most alluring city in the country right now, with the stormy weather we’ve been having for a week straight and the serenade [read: screeching] and gentle “hellos” [read: dive-boming kamikaze-style] of the cicadas. Seriously, the rain seems to only provoke them and make them come back with an even more vengeful determination to creep out an entire city.)

2. We made s’mores with the Cartee family, and I would say it was a huge success. We have the privilege of getting to hang out with them a couple times a month, and we love it.



3. My plants are growing so tall! Too bad they haven’t seen sunshine in about 10 days. Please don’t die, little ones…

4. This weekend I am in my first wedding besides my own (and besides being flower girl when I was about 4). One of my best friends from high school is getting married on Saturday! Should be a fun time! Pictures to follow, I’m sure. Happy almost-weekend!

Things that have happened.

Here are a list of things that have happened recently that I’d like to blog about, but now am too far behind to write individual posts about: 1. I went camping with three of my favorite people last weekend. I love camping. Sometimes I sleep well, but this was not one of those times. Other than that it was super fun! S’mores might be one of my love languages. Plus I got to wear my headlamp. And eat the only kind of hot dog worth eating: one roasted over a fire.


This picture serves as proof of why I like them. Self-timer for the win.

2. My plants are growwwinnngggg. I’m so proud.


Green Beans


Cherry Tomatoes

3. I finished another book! Bossypants by Tina Fey. Seriously, if you are a female and like Tina Fey, or SNL, or 30 Rock, or…sunshine…you should read this. Hilarious. Every other line is quotable.


Also just in my own defense for taking this long to read another book, I have started about three other books besides this one since finishing my last one. This is how bad I am at finishing books. But I have now finished two, which was my goal for 2011. (You read that right.) Bite-sized goals work.

Happy Friday!

Gardening, Part 1.

So I finished my gardening project the other day. Here are some photos to prove it: Photobucket




The one on the right is a cherry tomato plant (I bought a seedling because Real Simple said that was the best way to go about it), and the one on the left will be green beans (hopefully).

I’ll periodically post pictures of the progress, just in case you’re interested in watching plants grow. :)

More dirt, please.

Yesterday I began my foray into gardening. Remember how I said I was going to? Well, I actually did it. That’s not entirely true. Yet.

I’ve never grown anything before. As evidenced by the fact that I was 1 bagful of soil and a tomato spiral short of actually planting my mini-garden last night. But hopefully after one more trip to Home Depot I will be well on my way to having vegetables I grew all by myself! Tomorrow there will be pictures.

P.S. For reference in your future gardening endeavors, the 20-something guy with a spanish-speaking accent who works in the nursery part of Home Depot 30 minutes before they close is not always as interested in helping you plant your first garden as you assume they will be. [Like the commercials imply.] Probably why I’m missing 1 bagful of soil and a tomato spiral. In his defense, I didn’t call him back over after the green bean discussion to help with my tomato quandary, so he couldn’t have known about the spiral. But if he had been more helpful with the bean situation [and not thrown me off by contradicting what I’d read online about bean-growing] maybe I would have asked for more help. So there. And yes, I read online about bean-growing. How else do you learn things? Thanks, Internet. None for you, Home Depot Guy.

Happy Wednesday!

Things that are awesome, Vol.1

1. Remember Committed? Remember how I raved about them? Okay, well, yesterday I met them. All of them. So exciting! Craig happened to be observing a session yesterday, and who should walk in but the a capella geniuses themselves. Needless to say I was seriously reconsidering my life/career choices as I sat at my desk staring at a computer screen and Craig listened to Committed lay down 6-part harmonies all afternoon. But, God smiled on me and the session lasted until about 6pm which meant I got to go by and hear the tail-end of the session and meet Committed. This studio, by the way, is almost directly across the street from our townhouse complex. You can also file this experience under reasons I love Nashville. 2. Also yesterday, I attended a house concert. This is only the 2nd house concert I have attended, the first of which was at the same family’s house. This great couple from our church take it upon themselves to find great artists and get them to come play in their living room. And they provide food. What could be better? Anyway, last night’s featured artist was Pearl and the Beard. We looked them up on YouTube a few days before the concert to see what we could expect, and we were already won over. But nothing could compare to seeing them live. In a living room.

They’re super dynamic. One minute you need complete silence to hear the subtleties in their voices, the next they’re beating on a drum and singing so loud I’m sure the neighbors could hear. Their band consists of two girls and a guy. One plays the cello (I’m sure she’s trained for years), one plays all sorts of percussion/glockenspiel/melodica/you name it, and the guy plays guitar and sometimes drums. All three do a fair amount of stomping and clapping, as noted in the album credits.

Their songs are beautiful and fun, and they’re super talented. A friend described them as nerd-folk, which I think is a pretty accurate description. But they’re not so hipster-abstract that they completely lack melody & rhythm. Perfect blend of artistry and catchiness. Dude’s voice has the sweetest timbre you’ve ever heard. Also they’re quite hilarious. Love. Love love love. Okay. Done gushing. I have some videos I took at the show which I will post later, but here are some youtube videos to get you started!

Their latest album is called “Killing the Darlings.” We bought it last night (apparently it isn’t technically released yet), and it is fantastic. So keep an eye out for that. They have two others you can listen to in the meantime, though.

Alright, too many words. Gotta wrap up. ATHENS friends: They are playing tonight at Flicker Theater for 5 dollars. If you’re able to attend, do it! You won’t be disappointed.