2012 {A Banner Year}

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The sermon theme for the past seven weeks at church was “Banner Years” – having a year that was above average financially, physically,  emotionally, etc.  With 2012 coming to an end, I began to think about my own year. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays it was nice to take a few minutes to take in all of the amazing things that happened in 2012. The more I thought about it, there hasn’t been a year yet that I wouldn’t consider a ‘Banner Year’. I sure have been blessed beyond measure!

A few highlights from my year in review:

January: I joined the Junior League of Charlotte and met some awesome ladies that I now consider some of my best friends. Not only did I make new friends, but I am proud to be a part of an organization that gives so much back to the Charlotte community. I am thankful for the opportunity the League has given me to develop my leadership skills.

February: I turned 24 and was thrown the most amazing 24-karat themed birthday party by dear friends and family. The party made me realized how many great friends I have and how lucky I am to have such a great support system. It was also the last year before the dreaded ‘quarter-of-a-century birthday’, definitely a reason to celebrate!

Me and my sweet momma at my 24th birthday party

Me and my sweet momma at my 24th birthday party

March: In March I met Mr. Matt Helgeson; and in the most romantic of ways, at a Bubba Sparxxx concert. Meeting Matt made me realize that true love really does exist and that relationships don’t have to be complicated or dramatic. Matt is gentle, compassionate, and always making me laugh. Without a doubt, I know that he is the man I’ve been praying for all these years!

April: My love for the Carolina Gamecocks and the City of Charlotte was combined when I was inducted as a Board Member for the Charlotte Gamecock Club. I have loved getting to know other alumni in the area and have learned so much about event planning. In August, the club hosted our 3rd Annual Golf Tournament, which was a blast!

Dad and I at the golf tournament. Go Gamecocks!

Dad and I at the golf tournament. Go Gamecocks!

May: One of my goals in 2012 was to find a new job, and in May that happened. I spent almost two years at AAA Carolinas, but I knew there was something more for me out there. I was thrilled when Sunbelt Rentals approached me to come work for their team. Although this wasn’t my final career change of the year, I learned a lot from the experience, and am thankful for the opportunities that AAA Carolinas provided me.

June: The entire family was thrilled when we found out we would be adding a member to it. Bob asked my sister to be his wife, and made her the happiest girl in the whole world. I could not have asked for someone more perfect for her, and am glad that I will finally have a brother!

He put a ring on it

He put a ring on it

July: Behind Christmas, July 4th is a very close runner up. It is definitely my favorite day of the summer months. Typically spent at the Inlet with good friends, this year was different. I stayed in Charlotte because Matt’s family was coming into town. This was the first time that I met them (in less you count the time we “met” on FaceTime) and it was important to me to stay in town. Some how I got dragged into running a 4th of July 4-mile race with them. It’s pretty embarrassing when your boyfriends mom finishes the race, and then runs back to find you to finish the race again. Although it was hotter than Hades, it was a challenge, and possibly the beginning of a tradition. Its always fun when you get to show off your city that you love so much!

After finishing the race

After finishing the race

August: August was apparently the month for engagement parties. Whitney and Bob’s was party was so much fun. The venue was perfect, the decorations and food were magazine worthy, and it was the first time in long while that some of our friends and family had last been in town. There are so many people who love our family, and we are very lucky! We also attended a sorority sisters engagement party in Greenville, SC that was a blast. It’s always great to be reunited with old friends.

Family at the engagement party

Family at the engagement party

September: I wasn’t completely happy at Sunbelt Rentals so I began my job hunt again. After many rounds of interviews, I was offered a job with Bank of America Merchant Services. I was thrilled when I received the offer because there was a part of me that didn’t think I would get it. I love working uptown, and I love working for an established company that challenges me daily.

October: The cool fall air brought with it football season. Not only did USC beat Georgia, we destroyed them. It definitely ranks up there as one of my favorite games that I’ve seen at Williams-Brice. I also got to cross something off my bucket list; I attended the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville, FL. Although the outcome wasn’t favorable, it was great to meet Matt’s college friends and to experience “the worlds largest outdoor cocktail party”.

November: A complete shot in the dark, I asked my family to run in the Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning. To my surprise, they all agreed. Which meant that I actually had to run it also! Running a 5K was on my 2012 New Years Resolution list and boy did I put that one off! In the end, I’m so glad we all challenged ourselves. I’m chalking it up to adrenaline, but the race wasn’t bad at all, and I have the bug to run another one soon!

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December: This month has been a whirlwind with end-of-year deadlines, holiday shopping, trips, and friends weddings, but am so thankful for the year that I’ve had. I am so thankful for my wonderful family, dear friends, my health, my career and my faith.

Cheers to 2013 and the opportunities that lie ahead!

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Friday5 {Christmas Traditions}

It’s the culmination of individual intricacies over the years that form traditions. I don’t think you start something one year with the intention that it will be carried on for years to come, it just naturally evolves. I am so thankful that my family has developed many holiday traditions that I hope one day to carry on to my own family. I remember years in the past where Mom and Dad had the neighbors throw ice cubes on our rooftop right around bedtime to simulate the sound of reindeer hooves. Or the year when they put a trail of suit footprints leading from the fireplace to the plate of kitchen in the cookies. They didn’t know it then, but these are memories I’ll never forget…

Christmas 1991

Christmas 1991

1. Christmas Eve at the McGimsey’s House: The McGimsey’s are close friends of our family who have a Christmas Eve celebration at their house every year. Like our family, The McGimsey’s don’t have a large extended family, so they open their home to their “adopted family”…aren’t we lucky?? The party generally consists of the same 5 or so families and the food, drink, and decorations are always perfect. Because of a few life changes going on, we’re hosting the party at our house this year. This is definitely a twist to the tradition, but we know it will be just as special as years past.

2. Christmas Eve Church Service: Each year we attend at least one, and lately, two, Christmas Eve Church Services. We grew up going to Matthews United Methodist Church, and although my family no longer attends Church there, it only seems right that we go back for the Christmas Eve Service. The service itself is completely predictable, but comforting to know that in a world where so many things are changing, you can expect to hear the same songs, see the same people, and hear a very similar sermon. At the end of the service the lights are all turned off, candles are lit, and the church sings “Silent Night”. I get teary- eyed every year, as it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The past few years we’ve also attended the Elevation Church Christmas Eve Service which is always entertaining, fresh, and a completely opposite experience from the Methodist Church, yet both are powerful in their own way.

Before Christmas Eve Service 2010

Before Christmas Eve Service 2010

3. Twas The Night Before Christmas… After Church we come home and indulge in a holiday feast. Without fail, every single year Whitney and I beg my parents to let us open one present early that night. I think this is a tradition for some families, but never has been for ours. Even though we know they will say no, we still ask. I am hopeful that maybe one year they will give in. It’s not looking too promising, but it’s worth a shot! When we were little my parents would read us “The Polar Express” as we drifted off to sleep. Last year I asked Mom to read it to me before bed, and loved every minute. Although my sister and  I are now 26 and 24, we still sleep together on Christmas Eve and are giddy with excitement for what Santa will bring.

Reading The Polar Express

Mom reading The Polar Express

4. Stockings and Sausage Balls: No matter how sleepy I am, I can never sleep past 7am on Christmas morning. Usually I wake up around 5am, and it takes everything inside of me to not wake up my entire family then. The normal routine is that we all wake each other up, and then go downstairs in our jammies. We eat a delicious breakfast (by breakfast I mean I’m averaging 10+ sausage balls) and have hot chocolate.  While eating our breakfast we dive into our stockings. As I’ve mentioned previously, the stockings are as good (or better) than our actual presents.

Even Elle gets in the holiday spirit

Mom and Elle – even Elle gets in the holiday spirit

5. Present Time! After opening our stockings, we head upstairs to see all of the presents that Santa has brought. The rules of present opening is that the baby goes first. Lucky me! So, I will open a present, then Whitney, then Mom, then Dad, then we start the order over again until all the presents have been opened. I love being the youngest and getting to go first and secretly dread the day when Whitney and I have children and I no longer have this privilege. I’ve heard of some families who have all of their presents unwrapped under the tree. I am so glad that my family enjoys the art of present wrapping, it makes things so much more exciting!

2011 Christmas Tree

2011 Christmas Tree

Hoping all of your Christmas Miracles come true this year, Merry Christmas!

Mr. & Mrs. Rob Shirley

This weekend one of my dear sorority sisters, Susannah, tied the knot with her hubby, Rob in Greenville, SC. Every time I visit Greenville I’m reminded of how adorable of a little town it is. The downtown area is so lively and has a distinct southern charm about it.

The stunning bride!

The stunning bride!

Every detail of the wedding was perfect. There was no detail that went unnoticed.  Because the wedding took place ten days prior to Christmas, it was appropriately themed in holiday red’s and green’s. As we walked into the reception, there was a giant sleigh (which Matt and I later climbed into after a few drinks :-/) that was collecting all of the presents. I thought this was such a clever idea! Instead of a guest book, the couple had the guests sign their well-wishes on the pages of their favorite Christmas books. LOVE this idea! Every holiday season, the couple will be able to reread the books and the kind sentiments left by their friends and family. Another awesome idea was the hot chocolate bar that was set up at the reception. This is a great idea for children, or those who do not want to drink alcohol, at the event. My other favorite ideas were the baked potato bar (with every fixin’ you could imagine) and the Krispy Kreame doughnuts that arrived towards the end of the night.  The band was perfectly engaging and entertaining, and had everyone shaking their groove thing on the dance floor.

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In the sleigh, oops!

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Guest Book

Guest Book

Hot Chocolate Bar

Hot Chocolate Bar

 

Late night Krispy Kreme delivery

Late night Krispy Kreme delivery

 It was such a wonderful evening. It made me so happy to reconnect with old friends and to celebrate the marriage of the new couple!

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 Cheers, Susannah & Rob!

Friday5 {Stocking Stuffers}

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As practical as it may be, I can assure you that no one wants to wake up on Christmas morning to socks and toothbrushes in their stockings. My parents have always gone out of their way to super stuff our stockings. We have said many times that we would be satisfied if we didn’t get any other presents besides our stockings, that’s how good they are! So here are a few suggestions to spice up your stockings this season.

1. Everyday GLO Teeth Whitening Maintenance (thanks, Courtney!): How embarrassing is it to walk around a Christmas party with purple teeth? While red wine is delicious, the stains that it leaves behind are not cute. The stick comes with a scrubbing tip that helps to remove stains, has a fresh mint flavor, and is tiny enough to fit in your clutch. Perfect accessory for holiday parties! TheEveryday GLO Teeth Whitening Maintenance is found at Sephora and is only $25!

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2. Whiskey Stones: Lukewarm is the enemy” – said every strong whiskey drinker. These soapstone’s go in the freezer for a few hours, then pop them in your drink. They keep your beverage chilled without diluting the good stuff. Soapstone is soft enough so that it won’t scratch your glass and keeps it’s temperature for an extended amount of time.

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3. Moleskine City Notebooks: For anyone that’s hoping for a trip this year (hint, hint!) the Moleskine City Notebook is a perfect stocking stuffer idea. From New York to Kyota, there is more than likely a version out there that you’re looking for. Each version includes a map, and plenty of pages for documenting names and numbers, restaurants, tourist attractions and hotels. Also included are blank pages to record your memories from your trip. Love this idea!

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4. C Wonder Cashmere Intarsia Monogram Gloves: I’m a sucker for all things monogrammed, so naturally I love these gloves. Plus, you can’t go wrong with cashmere anything. The index finger and thumb of the gloves comes with touch screen capabilities making it easy to “type and swipe” while running around in the cold.

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5. Bar10der Ten-in-One Bartending Tool: This gift is perfect for anyone (above age 21) on your list. This amazing little tool has ten different items all in one! Everything you would ever need to make the perfect cocktail: Muddler, Knife, Reamer, Stirrer, Channel Knife, Strainer, Jigger, Corkscrew, Zester and Bottle Opener. It’s also available in four really fun colors! 41kqE+fT18L._SY300_

Christmas in Chicago

Besides Charlotte, Chicago is one of my favorite cities! I am so lucky that my sister lives in the Windy City and try to visit as often as possible. There is something about Christmas in Chicago that is just magical! Last November I happened to visit the same weekend that Macy’s did their Tree Lighting (and also a featured a guest appearance from Guiliana and Bill). This is not your typical run-of-the-mill Carolina Place Macy’s either. It has 9 floors and is simply amazing. Last years trip was so great that I decided I wanted to make it a holiday tradition to get to Chicago. This year Mom decided she would join me, and we would make a girls weekend out of it.

 

This tree was huge. Can you see tiny little Sandy at the bottom?

This tree was huge. Can you see tiny little Sandy at the bottom?

 

Since I spent less than 48 hours in Chicago, our time was very limited. Saturday we woke up at the crack of dawn (8am falls into this category on Saturdays, right?) and went to a few bridal boutiques. We were THRILLED when Whitney decided on a dress for her big day. As soon as she put the veil on, emotions overcame me. I could not stop crying. She looked absolutely stunning and was beaming with happiness. And luckily, this was one of the last big items to cross off the wedding to-do list. After a celebratory brunch, we did a bunch of shopping. Brr was it cold! Chicago’s weather is no joke. I have no idea how people actually live there.

Did I mention that it was cold?? I could only stand for a tiny portion of my face to be exposed to the elements.

Did I mention that it was cold?? I could only stand for a tiny portion of my face to be exposed to the elements.

Saturday night, Whitney surprised us with an early Christmas present…tickets to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” Musical.  The Cadillac Palace Theater was amazing. It was originally built in the 1920’s and it looked as if nothing had changed since then.  The architecture and decor were beautiful. And the musical was awesome! I would go see it 10 more times, it was that good! It was so much fun to be able to dress in our furs and attend the theater.

Cadillac Palace

Cadillac Palace

Before the musical

Before the musical

Inside the theater

Inside the theater

 

After the musical, we headed to The Drake Hotel, which could be one of my Top 10 Favorite Places. If I lived in Chicago, I would definitely have my wedding at The Drake. It is so gorgeous that words can’t do it justice. Palm Court is a room at The Drake that is simply luxurious. Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana have enjoyed afternoon tea at Palm Court. But the evenings are when the magic happens.  Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are served and on most weekend nights there is a full band and dancing…lots of dancing. I dream that one day I’ll be able to dance like these people at The Drake, but for now I’ll have to settle for people watching with a glass of Pinot!

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Even the bathrooms are amazing

Even the bathrooms are amazing

It was a perfect weekend and really helped to get me in the Christmas spirit! Can’t wait to be back up there for New Years celebrations!

Love them so much!

Love them so much!

 

 

Monday Morning Thoughts

Monday’s are tough. There are five full workdays ahead. The weekend is behind you and you’re wishing for just a few extra hours. It is very easy to feel discouraged and uninspired. But what if we thought of it like this: Every day God makes a decision on whether we live or if we die. God has chosen to keep me alive today. Why? What does he want to do with me? Who do I need to reach today? What impact do I need to make? What business do I still need to finish? As cliché as it is to say, today is a GIFT and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Why are you here today? Are you living out your purpose?

Happy Monday!