To celebrate the New Year, Oliver and I took a road trip to Texas. We spent New Years Eve in Austin and then made stops in a few different places during the drive back to Atlanta. Austin didn't quite live up to it's self proclaimed status as "weird" but there were a lot of cool things about the city that I thought Atlanta could learn from. In particular, public support for bicycling and beer. I was so impressed by the amount of bike parking. All over the city there were entire parking spots devoted to bike lock ups (in Atlanta we're lucky to find one tiny lock up on the sidewalk). The beers laws are also more progressive then those in Atlanta. In Austin the growler shops doubled as bars - something currently illegal in Georgia. 

Instead of writing about our favorite spots from the road trip I've made them into "pins" so be sure to check out Pinterest page! Happy New Year!

Christmas Crafting

Nothing says "happy holidays" quite like glitter and pinecones! To thank everyone for their continued to support for And Topher Too I wanted to share a few Christmas craft projects that I did this year. Enjoy!

How to make
Snowy Pine Cone Ornaments
• Gather newly fallen pine cones. (Be sure they are not crushed or too fragile.)
• Spray with High Performance Enamel white spray paint. 
• Once dry screw in tiny hook eyes. Thread with a 7 inch length of .125" satin ribbon. Tie ribbon into loop.
• Paint the the bottom of the pinecone (around the hook eye) with opaque white gesso. While wet sprinkle gesso with glitter. (For this project I used a chunky glitter that I think resembles snowflakes.) Repeat this step for the tips/sides of the pinecone. Hang to dry (I balanced a chop stick on pint glasses and dangled the ornaments from there).
• Finish your snowy pinecone ornament with a bow (wait until the gesso is completely dry). I used a lot of different bows on mine: black satin, red grosgrain, green grosgrain. Some of the ornaments were personalized with "2013" or an initial; for that I used the Martha Stewart glitter glue. To permanently attach the bow in front of the hook eye use hot glue.

How to make
Retro Tinsel Stars
• Purchase paper mache stars. These are from Michaels Craft & Hobby store but you can also buy them online.
• Prime with opaque white gesso. 
• Once dry paint stars with metallic silver acrylic paint. Let dry overnight.
• Working in sections, coat the star in clear PVA glue then sprinkle your preferred glitter over glue. Using your finger tip lightly pat the glitter into the glue. PVA dries fast so don't make your sections too big! I used Martha Stewart "tinsel" glitter.
• To personalize each ornament I added a black velvet chipboard letter. The ones shown here are from the Anna Griffin Darcey collection. Hot gluing the letter to the center of the ornament was a little tricky; be sure to think through how the letter's individual shape will sit on the convex point of the star's belly. 
• Once the letter is securely in place add the ribbon. Tie an 8 inch length of 1" ribbon into a pretty knot. Tuck knot between letter and ornament and hot glue into place. 

Atlanta Holiday Highlights

The holiday season is here and Atlanta's diverse creative community is ready to celebrate with an impressive variety of performances! With so much to choose from there really is something for everyone. Feeling traditional? Go see the Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater or the Nutcracker Ballet at the Fox. Looking to validate your holiday cynicism? Head to Little Five Points for Santaland Diaries and the John Waters Christmas (one night only, one man show). Prefer a little nostalgia during the holidays? Make plans to be at the Plaza theatre for a screening of It's a Wonderful Life. Comedy? Dad's Garage offers a fun twist on the Christmas Carol. Scary? Krampus Crawl cannot be missed. Excuse to dance the night away? Annual Merry Y'all Tide with Blair Crimmons and the Holiday Hootenanny at Terminal West. ( I don't think I can twist O's arm to join me for all of these so if someone wants to join me for a girls' night out just say the word!)

11/21-11/24 Urban Nutcracker at the Ferst Center. "Urban Nutcracker" takes place on Atlanta’s own Sweet Auburn Avenue in the 1940s. "Urban Nutcracker" is to "The Nutcracker" as what "The Wiz" is to "The Wizard of Oz." 

11/22-12/31 Santaland Diaries at Horizon Theater. The annual performance of beloved NPR satirist, David Sedaris's tale of working as an elf in Macy's Santaland. 

11/25-12/23 Invasion: Christmas Carol at Dad's Garage.  Every evening the audience will choose a new "invader" (who a is complete surprise to the cast and can be anything from a big purple monster to Paula Deen) to infiltrate the world of Scrooge. It's up to the cast to keep the story on track, but because this year will be bursting with even more improv flavor than last year, things are guaranteed to get even nuttier than a Cornish game hen!

11/29-12/29 Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater.

12/5-12/29 Nutcracker Ballet at the Fabulous Fox Theater

12/6 It's a Wonderful Life at the Plaza 

12/7 Krampus Crawl in Little Five Points.  Krampus is the rarely mentioned counterpart to Santa. While Santa is bringing treats to good boys and girls, Krampus is punishing the bad ones. The horned beastly creature is pretty scary and the costumes that accompany his pub crawl are well done. This event is not for the young or conservative! 

12/7 5th Annual Merry Y'all Tide with Whiskey Gentry and Blair Crimmons & the Hookers.  (Same night as Krampus Crawl - really interested in seeing how these two subcultures interact on the streets of L5P!)

12/12 John Waters Christmas at Variety Playhouse.  An unforgettable one man show! John Waters pokes fun at the holiday season with adult-appropriate humor, effectively “putting the X in Xmas”.

12/14 Gremlins at the Center for Puppetry Arts. (Asking yourself how Gremlins relates to Christmas? Gizmo was a Christmas gift! Aw, poor little mogwi.)

12/21 Kingsized Christmas with the Big Mike Gier and the Dames Aflame. The all-ages 90-minute show features Holiday favorites by the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Heat Miser, The Grinch and more!

12/22 3rd Annual Atlanta Holiday Hootenanny at Terminal West. Featuring:  Randall Bramblett, John Cowan, Col. Bruce Hampton, The Mosier Brothers, Grant Green Jr., Caroline Aiken, Count M'Butu, Donna Hopkins, Jeff Sipe Trio, Yonrico Scott, Mark Van Allen, Bobby Miller, Jeff Autry, Diane Durrett, Gaurav Malhotra, Leah Calvert, Ralph Roddenbery. 

38th Annual Grant Park MothBall

MothBall was almost a month ago and I'm still struggling for words to describe the experience. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about: MothBall is Grant Park's annual costume ball. The theme changes year to year; the 2013 theme was Hootenanny. How this all relates to me/And Topher Too? I was this year's Grant Park Neighborhood Association (GPNA) MothBall Committee Chair; as such I led a team of 10 Grant Park volunteers for three months. Together we brainstormed and built the entire party from the ground up. A task that sounded simple enough in the beginning but turned out to be extremely challenging. (You wouldn't believe the number of unpredictable complications that never stopped being hurtled in our direction. Even three hours before show time we were still confronting unexpected challenges).  

Fortunately, karma bestowed upon me a team of genuinely talented, hard working and supportive volunteers* that made the process fun, friendly and unforgettable. My sincerest thanks go out not only to the 2013 MothBall Core Committee but also to every single neighbor who showed their support. Three weeks after the event and we're still hearing rave reviews. If a picture is worth a thousand words then check out the photos below to see the looks of pure joy on everyones' faces.

(*Paul & Christy Simo, Jeff Rodgers, Lauren Rocereta & Rob Bernier - y'all are amazing. Thank you for your patience, brilliance and encouragement! You're the best neighbors ever.)


MothBall Core Committee marching in the EAV Strut Parade

And Topher Too - Proud 2013 MothBall sponsor


Time flies when you're....

If I manage to write this post in under an hour then I'll be able to say it's only been a month since I last checked in.  For the first time in three years I've been too busy too go to the gym regularly or make time for my weekly trip to Your DeKalb Farmers Market. Folks - if you know me, you know skipping those lifestyle commitments is a HUGE deal. So what gives? Festivals, party planning, costume making and print designs. Yet despite the hectic schedule, I haven't been this proud to be an Atlantan since 1996. 

Anyone who has lived in the city of Atlanta  (proper, not 'burbs)  knows that Atlantans LIVE for their spring and fall festivals. For me, fall festival season started 3 days after I planted the late summer garden. First there was the Decatur BBQ, Blues & Bluegrass Fest; a week later was Grant Park's Summer Shade Fest and the following weekend is what I'm officially declaring "the best weekend to be in Atlanta" - LABOR DAY WEEKEND! 

My Labor Day weekends in Atlanta are highlighted by my bicycle. Everything we do for three days is within biking distance:  Braves game Thursday or Friday night. Dragon*Con Parade Saturday morning always followed by lunch with friends at Elliot Street Tavern in Castleberry Hill before heading to the Georgia Dome to check out SEC Football kick-off weekend tailgates. Saturday night, Sunday and Monday are chocked full of unusually awesome party options. Our 2013 Labor Day weekend was so perfect that it was impossible to imagine the next weekend was going to be even better.

The following Saturday was both the Porter's 5th anniversary and the Beltline Lantern Parade. Sunday, Street's Alive and the NFL kick-off game between the Falcons and Saints. Saturday morning I woke up early to finish costumes for the the #GothMoths, then I put those costumes and my bike into our pick-up truck. I drove to Cabbagetown where I dropped off the costumes. Next I drove to Midtown, dropped off the truck, hopped onto my bike and took the Beltline to Little Five Points just in time for the Porter's 5th Anniversary. A few hours later: Little Five Points to Inman Park where we met up with the #GothMoths and participated in the jaw dropping Beltline Lantern Parade. At the end of the Beltline everyone hopped into the truck (which I'd purposely left in Midtown earlier in the day) and headed back to our side of the city. Sunday my Mom joined me for the Bicycle Parade along Peachtree Street. That night was the Grant Park Neighborhood Association monthly meeting - which leads me to the next part of being so busy.

I'm quite flattered and proud to say that I'm now the VP of Fundraising for Grant Park - my primary role being the subcommittee Chair of the annual MothBall celebration. When I accepted the nomination I anticipated party planning; I did not expect the world of contracts and licenses and meetings and notes that followed!! Regardless, this has been an invaluable learning experience and I look forward to sharing more of the details - when I have time!! If you don't already like gpMothBall on Facebook please do so now; it means a lot (read: too much) to me!

(More Dragon*Con parade photos on our FB page!)


Memorial Day on Saint Simons Island

We spent the holiday weekend with my Dad and his wife at their home on Saint Simons Island. Saturday we waterskied on the Frederica River (where I spotted 12 dolphins), Sunday we kayaked through the tidal marshes surrounding the island and Monday night we paid our respects to the nation's veterans at a memorial in the village. If you haven't been to Georgia's Golden Coast then I highly recommend a visit! Between the islands of Saint Simons, Jekyll and Cumberland there is so much to do and see! (More details in my post from last year.)

Count down to the Peachtree Road Race: one month

Atlanta is home to the world's largest 10K race. Every Independence Day 60,000 registered runners (and an estimated 10,000 more unregistered runners) hit Atlanta's main street, Peachtree Street, and run from Lenox Mall to Piedmont Park. The runners come in all shapes and sizes - and in our case, all types of patriotic costumes. Since 2006 I've been "pub running" the Peachtree Road Race dressed as Lady Liberty along with as many people as I could convince to put on a costume at 6am on a holiday. (Someone on the sidelines captured a photo of us that first year and used it on Wikipedia as an illustration of the costumed runners.) 

This year's road race is only one month away! That's just enough time to make or find a costume. We're inviting everyone we know and anyone else who is interested to join us. There are three requirements: 1. Patriotic costume 2. Appropriate running shoes 3. Keep up with a slow jog. Send me an email if you want information about when and where to meet us. 


(with Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter)

(with Uncle Sam and Paul Revere/Sam Adams/Young Ben Franklin)

Long weekend in the low country

The last romantic getaway Oliver and I took was to NYC in April 2010 (when he surprised me with a proposal in the sculpture garden at MOMA). Since then we've been hard at work on, well, on everything... We didn't even take a honeymoon. Earlier this spring I couldn't take it any longer - WE HAD EARNED  A BREAK DAMNIT! In a moment of haste I booked us at an inn (that we probably couldn't afford) on the island I'd grown up visiting with my family. 
Pawley's Island is located midway along the coast of South Carolina. We decided to make a road trip of it, starting in Savannah (3.5 hours from Atlanta) and working our way north along the coast through Hilton Head Island and Charleston. Our ultimate destination was the Sea View Inn, a classic beachy bed and breakfast currently celebrating their 75th year. No TV, no air conditioning, no computers allowed in the common areas. In their place we found saloon style doors on every bedroom (to allow for a better breeze coming off the beach),  a common shower down the hall and a bottle opener mounted to the wall by our sink. The beach was never crowded and thanks to the impending Tropical Storm Beryl the ocean waves were large and fun. 

This trip was my definition of total relaxation. I returned to work today refreshed; I didn't know I could return to my high-stress environment with such a feeling of renewed perspective and enthusiasm. Then I remembered that this feeling is also an important part of heart health. We all need a break from the stress of everyday life. I may have gone a little over budget on this get-a-way but I have no doubt my heart is thanking me for it. 

Hoping everyone has a chance to get-a-way this summer. You've earned it. 
XO - Cullen

Easter with friends

We spent Easter Sunday in Baton Rouge with Oliver's best friends from high school (it works in our favor that they married one another). Mandy's* Easter goodies were impressive as always (her baking and cake decorating skills are second only to my cousin Amber, a full time cake decorating professional). Pictured here are Mandy's hollow Rice Krispie Treat eggs filled with M&M's, coated with white chocolate and individually decorated. Just below them, in those perfect clear take out containers, you'll see traditional Rice Krispies, coated in dark chocolate and each uniquely decorated. There were also very cool ostrich eggs made of white chocolate, filled with pudding and topped with a cake ball to look like egg yoke! 

As a person who barely cooks and never bakes Mandy's skills impress me. Add to that that she did all this with two little boys and a five week old girl and I am speechless. AND she goes back to her full time job at a biology lab next week. High five to super woman!

One of the couple's several sister/sister-in-laws** also made half a dozen of the ever-impressive silk tie die eggs. Except to make this fun decorating technique even better then usual - they filled their eggs with cash! Way to up the intensity of the same old egg hunt! Thanks again to our friends for making us feel like family on the holidays. We'll never be able to find the words to tell you how much it means to us. 

*For anyone at our wedding, Mandy made the mini Whoopie Pies that disappeared in seconds after the dessert table opened. 
** Shout out to Sam's sister Stephanie!
***I also had the pleasure to finally meet Kari and Stewart, of Kari is Mandy's younger sister as well as a fellow blogger. Check out their blog soon - they'll be moving from Texas to India later this month!

Good Friday in Louisiana

My apologies for the lack of posts over the last week. I aim to post at least every other day but I also do not have a smart phone, iPad or laptop so when we travel - I don't post. And yes! That means we've been traveling! We left Atlanta at 4pm on Thursday and jumped on the road for the annual Boudreaux Family Good Friday Reunion in Reserve, Louisiana. 

Boudreaux is a BIG, very common, last name in that part of the country so I should specify that this particular reunion is for Oliver's grandfather's 12 siblings and their countless descendants. ("Pops", Oliver's grandfather, and his wife, Aimee', have 7 children - multiply that by Pops' 12 siblings and you get an idea of how many people we're talking about). 

I consider myself "East Coast" and not particularly "Southern". (This surprises some people because I was born in, raised in and after college returned to - Atlanta. I know my parents consider me "Mid-Western" and my college friends see me as "Southern"... but once I leave Atlanta all surrounding culture is quite foreign.)  My husband's home state of Louisiana is VERY SOUTHERN (read: foreign). I am still fascinated by everything I've married into - including, but not limited to: THE FOOD! I'll let the reunion food photos speak for themselves with promises to return to normal posting ASAP. (After a quick Easter update tomorrow). Things to note: the crawfish in the galvanized steel tub are alive (as are the ones in the nearby purple mesh bag), both casseroles have shrimp and the freshly shucked oysters were huge and delicious. 

Sadly, the rest of our quick trip was taken up with repairs on our rental properties so we weren't able to see the other side of Oliver's family. Our apologies to the Rivets with a promise to see them all next time! So sorry we missed you!

Valentine's Day - let's eat!

For dinner: strip steak, medium rare, with a mushroom wine pan sauce. Sides of asparagus, quartered roasted Yukon gold potatoes and a wilted spinach salad with goat cheese.
For lunch: deli sliced turkey, cucumber, mixed greens, red onion and cream cheese on YDFM whole wheat sourdough. (Along with a surprise delivery of two dozen, long stem, red roses and my favorite chocolate bar!)
Pregym: slice of bread with avocado, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.

Weight Loss Update
Day 22
(weigh in is Thursday)
It can be difficult to lose weight in an environment that often offers free sweets... but I am relieved to say I made it through Valentine's Day without giving into temptation. It was not easy (especially when I found myself hungry at 3pm) but it was doable. One co-worker brought in a dozen heart shaped Dunkin' Donuts. Another brought in homemade mini "Pop Tarts". And because said "Pop Tarts" were both mini and made with homemade cherry filling (from real cherries) I had just enough of an excuse to eat one... but I did not. Instead I enjoyed the small Valentine's snack I'd brought from home: three mejool dates and ten raw almonds. Even so, I'm doubtful that I'll have lost weight this week so my current goal is to not have gained any back.

Valentine Treat ideas

Valentine's Day is one week from today! Are you ready? When I think of Valentine's Day several treats come to mind. The first are my cousin Amber's unbelievably perfect custom cookies. As a professionally trained pastry chef, with work experience at Wilton, SweetAmb's dessert decorating skills are sought after worldwide. Just last leek a batch of her cookies were featured in a Style Me Pretty Copenhagen wedding. Surprising your sweetheart with these gorgeous (and delicious) cookies will certainly make a lasting impression.

The second treat is my favorite chocolate bar. What makes it perfect for Valentine's is it's love letter styled wrapper. Chocolove chocolate bars come in an incredible array of flavors and everyone includes a love poem. I pick them up weekly at YDFM. Coffee Crunch for me and Chiles and Cherries  for Oliver. And because dark chocolate is actually good for you one brick a day fits nicely into a heart healthy diet!

The final Valentine treats are actual Valentine's. Years ago, when I was freelancing at Carter's, I was caught unprepared when all the designers brought sweet little Valetine's for one another on Valentine's Day. Ever since then I've kept a small collection of vintage and collaged Valentine's on hand. I thought this year it'd be nice to get those same little valentine's out into the world by sharing them as a free download with you!
Three of the four that I've shared since 2007 have been posted to my flickr account. (Unfortunately the fourth is one of my favorites! But you can still see it here.) Click the following for: little pilot, Oh Deer! and the crazy farm animals collage. Download the option labeled "original size". Then print, cut, glitter, sign and share! 

Family time down on the dude ranch

Oliver and I had a wonderful, yet exhausting weekend. Friday I left work early so we could attend a friend's wedding. It was a late, but very fun night. Saturday we got up fairly early and headed an hour south of Atlanta to meet my Dad, his wife, my brother and his fiance at the Southern Cross dude ranch in Madison. It was our first visit to the ranch and no one knew what to expect. We were all relieved when we discovered that the place really is a great little getaway. I highly recommend a visit. 

All this time away from home means I haven't eaten a home cooked (read: Oliver cooked) meal since my chicken salad lunch on Friday. Even so, I made a conscious decision to choose healthy foods almost every time we ordered from a menu. My exception was sausage gravy on biscuits for breakfast at the ranch - and it was worth it. Now, Sunday night, all my smart ordering feels good because I know I don't need to do any EXTRA hard work at the gym this week to redeem my overeating.  Instead I can stick to my usual hard routine... Anyhow, photos from our time at the dude ranch are below.