State Fair of Texas, y’all

Big Tex

Big Tex

We went to the State Fair today, which was more of an adventure than it has been in ages. We scored free tickets and took the DART Rail, which really gave our budget more bang for the buck!

After a quick meet and greet with Big Tex, we hit the auto show, the Hall of State (my favorite building in Fair Park because of the architectures, Jeff’s favorite building ever because he met Phil Collins in its sacred halls), and then headed to a new show this year. My favorite show for the last 20 or so years has been a really cool bird show. This show had parrots singing, but also eagles released from the top of the ferris wheel, falcons catching prey mid-air, and owls circling the outdoor stage. It was always impressive, and I was so sad that they retired. I’d read that the show replacing it was great, and happily the Wild West Pet Show didn’t disappoint! Dogs, cats, pigs, geese, and ducks were on-hand to entertain. We enjoyed a bit of the Memories of Elvis show, too.

We got to ride the Texas SkyWay and see amazing views of the Dallas skyline. Today was extremely windy, so I had a death-grip on the bench at the halfway point because our car was swaying wildly, but other than that I was able to enjoy the ride and the company.

For anyone who’s been to the State Fair of Texas, you know if you’re not there for the football, it’s about the food. So, here’s the food. We tried the funnel fries, which is really the only way to eat funnel cake. Because of the aforementioned gusting winds, this was the first time today I was covered in powdered sugar. It tastes great and brushes off a black shirt easily, but it burns in the eyes a bit.

State Fair of Texas deep fried bacon

State Fair of Texas deep fried bacon

Jeff got the “fried breakfast for dinner” that he really wanted, which he enjoyed. I had one of my favorites, Texas Tornado Twister, a.k.a. fancy potato chips. I skipped the delicious homemade lemonade this year because we had a lot of other sugar, but it’s another one of my State Fair favorites. I got a “bird dog,” which is a Fletcher’s corny dog made with a turkey frank, but not before we spotted the deep fried bacon.

I tasted the fried bacon, and as a non-bacon-eater, it was a tasty, crispy, salty, fried snack. Jeff loved it.

We looked at the fried Thanksgiving dinner, and I wish I would have found it earlier, because I would have tried it in lieu of the bird dog. We also looked at the chocolate strawberries, but Jeff ended up getting chocolate covered almonds.  Then we got a deep fried s’more! State Fair of Texas will literally deep fry anything. Unfortunately, it’s usually soooo good.

These indulgences do not come without a price. I, for one, am eating nothing but salad until the wedding in 12 days!I feel like I’ll be sweating grease until mid-Wednesday.

Because of the crazy winds, a tree fell on the DART Rail power lines, and all the rails in downtown Dallas were down. Instead of hopping a train to downtown, switching to a northbound train and being on our merry way, we had to queue up outside of the Baylor hospital station to catch a bus to a rail station with power. The bus lines were crazy and misinformation was rampant, but we were lucky to get on a bus going the right way in about 30 minutes, and then on a train headed home. We are home over-fed, under budget, and happily exhausted.

P.S. My feet are killing me from wearing closed toe shoes for the first time in months. Poor tootsies!

A very wedding post

I try very hard not to constantly talk about my wedding all the time, in person and online, but we are closing in and today was a banner day! I’ve managed my fair share of big projects and events before, but this is the first of either that changes my life forever. While meeting with our caterer and cake baker, Christine, I described my approach to our wedding: Instead of finding a checklist of all the traditional wedding things I “need” to do or have, I built up from scratch with the mindset that Jeff and I are getting married, and we want to celebrate!

One thing required to celebrate is definitely cake, and we had a lot of cake today at our tasting. Christine told us to pick all the flavors we wanted to try, but we only wanted to taste what we could see ourselves actually having. That’s a good approach in theory, but we couldn’t resist several flavors.

Wedding Cake Tasting

Wedding Cake Tasting

Although we got to the point that we wanted to talk specifics, we kept eating! The cake samples were pretty much devoured. Food and cake are pretty much nailed down. Whew!

I also bought our wedding bands today. Huzzah!! I didn’t get the one I’d had my eye on all this time, but I’m so happy with what I got. It matches Jeff’s ring more, and it’s a ring I’ve adored since the first holiday season I worked at James Avery years ago.

Among my other accomplishments, I survived a Walmart today. I, of my own volition, entered a Walmart. I wanted to price check some wedding decorations, but I also needed some crafty items. I also justified that I needed a bottle of wine, and Walmart was the only place with everything I needed. I rocked through all of my list in a sprint until I hiked from household to food and made a straight-shot for the wine aisle. Of course, because it was Walmart, a patron in a motorized cart moved and adjusted her cart to align with the entrance to the wine aisle! She didn’t just randomly end up blocking the aisle, she stopped, reversed, adjusted, and proceeded to set up camp. I witnessed two “excuse me” interactions and attempted my own, but she cared not a jot for blocking us from our booze.

Although I was annoyed that I had to go down another aisle just to come up the wine aisle, I figured the extra steps would help to counteract the cake tasting to come! Come on, though, no one at Target or Tom Thumb blocks people from the booze aisle. That wacky stuff only happens at Walmart.

The good news from my Walmart adventure? I now have a cake topper (such a random, unnecessary piece of fluff! I was not going to spend a cent on one of those stupid cake toppers, such as the bride dragging the groom, or the ball-and-chain crap, or Hello 80s! something from Precious Moments.) But I was willing to make something that went with our theme!

Another project finished after the trip to Walmart was a sign I want to hang in a grouping my mom, sister, and I planned to draw attention to the door to the bathroom. My mom acquired an antique room divider years ago, but she hasn’t done much with it. The wood is old, and the hinges are old, but it’s really pretty. We decided to use it as a decoration instead of as an actual room divider because, frankly, it needed more work than I cared to exert. My sister and I have dubbed it the Janky White Thing (JWT). I have almost completed the decoration for the middle of the JWT!

Decorations, rings, food… whew! Today was a very “wedding” day, and this is a very wedding post. I’m winding down tonight with wine and Wheat Thins.

 

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Another marketing rant

I believe that Future Ashley will forgive another marketing rant because I know she’ll appreciate the reminder to remain passionate about messaging and branding! On with the rant…

I got a call today from a recruiter. First, she told me that my resume was “neat.” Almost 20 years of professional experience is … neat?! Next, she told me that the “social media mastermind” position she was trying to fill was a part-time, entry-level opportunity.

Let’s be frank: The exec who commissioned — or likely finally agreed to commission — a social media marketing role has little or no understanding of this thing called “social media.” He or she had probably been worn down by others and finally agrees that “social media” is a thing, and it’s here to stay. He or she thinks that hiring a minimum wage student to handle the social media issue for 20 hours a week will solve the issue of the board or share holder or other exec approval. For two or three months, that exec is going to be pretty proud.

The problem with hiring someone who can fog a mirror to handle your social media presence is that’s who you’ve hired to manage your reputation. “Social media” has become a thing that too many businesses don’t or can’t accept. I’ve been saying since 2008: People are already talking about you online. Do you want to participate in and hopefully control the conversation?

Offering minimum wage for a “social media mastermind” is a giant I DON’T CARE ABOUT MY BRAND to your customers. The commissioning exec thinks that he or she has checked that box — Hey, I’ve got a dedicated social media person! Sadly, that minimum wage-earning person gives not a jot for your brand, and has only the experience the commissioning exec thinks you need! I suspect that this particular position is looking for someone to broadcast a simple message, probably several times a week. What that person fails to realize is that social media is a conversation. It’s not enough to broadcast a message. You have to listen, respond, ask, and discuss. That person needs a brain between their two listening ears to craft timely, brand-worthy responses. You cannot simply broadcast your agenda.

Delighting your customers is the best social media strategy. Responding to customers while staying on-message is also a huge factor. Don’t offer minimum wage for your reputation management if you care about your brand or reputation.

All roads lead to marketing.

All roads lead to marketing in my world. I absolutely expected that some of my marketing-fu would help me in my wedding planning — I’ve worked with printers, so doing my own invitations and other stationery is fun and easy; creating a wedding website and app was pretty fun, too. I can maintain a mean Pinterest board that should be the envy of other brides! Fellow marketers, stick with me because you’ll share my pain.

I was perusing a wedding forum tonight, and I clicked on a thread that was supposedly about RSVP etiquette. The bride was worked up because five days before the requested RSVP deadline, only a third of her guests had responded. And she had even included a QR code on the invitation for their convenience!!!

The thread then took a turn for the worse: QR code enablement. As the self-congratulatory comments amongst those who did or will embrace the QR code on their wedding invitations continued — because it’s so easy and convenient for their guests! — I started laughing. I was staring at my iPhone and laughing. My first impulse was to email a former colleague who really fed my distaste for the QR code, but the email blossomed into this post. Some rants need to be saved for Future Ashley to re-read.

I used a QR code on my business card ... four years ago!

I used a QR code on my business card … four years ago!

My basic distrust of using a QR code for anything is that you have to rely on a random third party to ably deliver your message. You can generate your own QR code, and you can design and awesome mobile-friendly page, site, or microsite, but you are helpless when it comes to how your audience captures your code and renders your message!

My aforementioned colleague introduced me to the brilliance of Scott Stratten, who has some hilariously epic rants about QR codes, and I believe these apply to brides considering using QR codes on their wedding invitations.

“Think before we do!” says Stratten. Wedding planning, and a lot about life, is the same as marketing: Research and know your audience! Execute accordingly. Of every person on my wedding invitation list, I’m comfortable in assuming that I’m the only person who has ever used a QR code. But at least 90 percent of my invitation list have downloaded smart phone apps and all of them know how to visit a website. I’m skipping the QR code in favor of url and app download instructions.

Important stuff: Makeup and recipes

For my makeup junkies.

A while ago, I bought the famous Urban Decay Naked Basics pallet. Everyone raves about the UD Naked pallets, so I was thrilled to have the basic pallet.

I also impulse-purchased the NYX Natural pallet. I was thinking that I could examine the NYX against the UD and return one, but I found merit in both of them, and kept them both.

I’ve been using both of them, and I have to say that the UD Naked Basics seems to read muddy on me, no matter what I do. It could be my lighting, and it could be my technique, but it’s honestly not my technique. The NYX pallet isn’t perfect, but it works great! For those who can’t afford both, the NYX Natural pallet is a great option. Supplement with gel eyeliners and any sparkly highlighters you have.

For my food junkies.

I made a new dish that was straight-forward enough to make again, especially considering how enthusiastically my fiancee loved it. The “recipe” I followed was pretty vague, and that’s saying something for a person who never follows a recipe!

Sorry for no pictures, but I was all about the food.

  • Sear chicken breasts with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, about 3 minutes each side.
  • Set breasts aside; pour chicken broth and seasoning* into pan.
  • Cook breasts in pan until pink is gone.

*The recipe I used called for fresh parsley, thyme, pressed garlic, and lemon rind. I actually used lemon rind, fresh pressed garlic, oregano, sweet basil, and parsley.

Serve with green beans and fresh rolls for a bucket of yum!

Socknado!

 

Laundry Armageddon 2014

Laundrageddon-turned-Socknado

Laundrageddon turned into Socknado! I unearthed about two dozen pairs of socks for donation or wear. The Socknado purge also led to another purge of nearby drawers. Goodbye ratty socks and things, hello neatly folded socks and clothes!

I took out a huge bag of trash last night, and 90 percent of the bag was full of the aforementioned purged ratty things. I have another metric ton of usable clothing to donate to Genesis Women’s Shelter.

Before I got ready for work this morning, I added even more clothes — professional-looking stuff that I’ll never wear again — to the donate bag. One question that came to mind was: Why did I move this stuff at all, knowing I didn’t want or need it?!

This evening while unpacking another box, I decided to keep something that I haven’t used in several years. It’s nice, I like it, and imagined myself wondering in the future where this particular item was. But I realize that this internal conversation is how I ended up keeping so much more stuff than I should have.

I hope Future Ashley is better at purging stuff. I also hope Future Jeff is as patient with said purging!

 

Cleanse and purge for a new year

Friday, work gave me a birthday cake so good I teared up. Next time you need a cake, allow me to suggest the red velvet from Nothing Bundt Cake, mine was the Center of Attention edition. Being the center of attention was a little nerve-wracking, but totally worth it for that cake!!

Such a decadent indulgence means I need to work it off, right?! I gave myself a day off from unpacking and organizing.

For my birthday, I gifted myself with a pedicure, lunch, solitude, and a few (ok, 12.5) units of botox. After a late lunch with family today, we came home to chip away at the unpacking and organization stuff. I unpacked another box, but more importantly, I launched Landrageddon.

Laundry Armageddon 2014

Oh, the socks!

Unintended consequences of unpacking, organizing, and Landrageddon: The socks! Oh, man, the socks! I knew I had some unmatched socks floating around, but after gutting my sock drawer and emptying one of two laundry baskets, these are the unmatched socks I’m facing!

And still, I have another laundry basket to wash…

Selling it!

Way too much of my brain has been focused on lead generation for too long! I find myself continuing to struggle with maintaining a branding mindset, which is odd because my passion for marketing is actually more branding than lead gen! I guess shifting between the marketing languages one speaks is like shifting between any other languages one knows.

If I knew of anything I could so easily sell right now, it’s getting a massage. And the power of sound-proofing. And the wonders of clean sheets. And the glee of being engaged.

I had the best massage yesterday. I can’t recommend Julie Burkhart enough! We worked together years ago, and I loved her so much. She was a nail tech with an awesome sense of humor and great attitude, and I was a naive esthetician thinking that every esthetician was in the business for the same reason I was — to help people. Julie has been a massage therapist since then, and wow does she have the touch! Unlike many massage therapists I’ve had, she does not skimp on the reflexology on the hands and feet, nor does she torture the legs with excessive pressure to the shins. She was not afraid to dig into serious problem areas, AKA my softball-sized left shoulder knot that has been festering since the beginning of January. If you ever need excellent help from a genuine therapist, ask me for Julie’s details!

I’m wearing my Fitbit again after losing the case for it that clips onto my clothes. If I could sell a pedometer to anyone, I would tell you how informative it is to at least know how much you move around and, likewise, how much you don’t. The sleep tracking of the Fitbit is also really informative.

Parenthetically, one of the great things about having a fiancé is that he reaches all the tall stuff for me! Seriously though, I love coming home to him every day. I enjoy being engaged more than I thought possible! Everything is different, but I can’t explain it.  Perhaps it’s our new home, or learning new communication techniques, or just spending more time together. Note to self: Get engaged to Jeff every time you can. He is endearing.

Marshmellows!

First, I want to go on the record to say that I’m so happy to be on the gleeful side of change.

Veronica Mars movie

Veronica Mars movie

Second, what I asked for  for my birthday was to see the movie Veronica Mars. Hoo-to-the-ray, we saw it tonight! Friday nights I generally prefer to chill at home, but Jeff was up for it, and so we saw Veronica on the big screen!

That movie had so many references to the TV show that I need to watch it again. And again, and again, and again. I can’t wait to own it and have every line memorized. I know I missed a lot of jokes and many references, but the ones I got were, to quote Logan, epic.

Oh, Logan.

I’ve read some reviews of the movie, and the majority of them are by people who never saw the show. The comments range from the movie being too dark to having too much voice over. These were characteristics of the show, and a nod to the film noir detective stories. Jeff was only vaguely familiar with the show, and he thought the intro set the movie up well enough to catch viewers up and set the tone for the film.

If an AMC is near you: Go see Veronica Mars! It’s witty, chock-full of pop culture references, suspenseful, with a big dish of mystery.

Veronica Mars Team Logan Team Piz

Veronica Mars Team Logan Team Piz

P.S. Don’t tell my fiance, but I’m both Team Piz and Team Logan. And Team Dick!

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