Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Getting to Know Me: Brought to you by the number 11

I usually do not participate in surveys, chain letters, cult followings, what have you . . . but I was recently tagged by Stephanie at Thrift and Style to participate in an interactive blogger game. It looked like fun, and I think it's a great way for me to tell you a little bit more about myself, so I will oblige.

Here are the Rules:

1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post.
3. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
4. Go to their blogs and tell them that you have tagged them.
11 Random Things about Me:
1. I am a french fry addict. I can eat french fries non-stop, even when I'm completely full. If it wouldn't kill me, I might start training for some kind of competitive eating challenge. On a related note, my family thinks it's hilarious to give me their leftover french fries after I've had a huge meal. And I always eat every last one.

2. I've recently developed a strange, subliminal habit of chewing my food into the shape of Virginia. People don't believe that I'm not doing it on purpose, but I swear--I just happen to look up and see the ol' Commonwealth looking back at me. I kid you not.

3. On any given day, I'm a jeans/t-shirt/Keds kind of gal . . . but I love dressing up. In fact, if I didn't feel so overdressed around everyone else (and if I had the money), I'd have no problem with clothing myself in nothing but pretty things from Modcloth and The Limited.

4. I am the most well-behaved person ever. I also get in trouble for the stupidest things. I think the world likes to make an example out of my naïveté.

5. I won my school's spelling bee (and the county spelling bee) my first two years of middle school. I lost the school bee in eighth grade to a sixth-grader, who later became one of my best friends in high school.

6. While we're dwelling on my middle school years, I'll also mention that when I was in seventh grade, everyone thought I was 17 years old. Well, I'm 24 now, and still look about the same age I did back then.

7. I have a fear of falling off of tall things. Don't get me wrong-- have no problem standing on a tall deck or the Empire State building, whatever--as long as there's something around me. Once I get past the first step of a step ladder, though, I get really dizzy.

8. I almost had a 4.0 in college. One B my first semester of freshman year--oh, Biology.

9. I am related to John Howland, the guy who's known for falling off of the Mayflower. If they hadn't pulled him back in, I'm guessing I wouldn't be here right now.

10. I really do not care for Nicholas Cage or Samuel L. Jackson.

11. My absolute favorite time of the week is Saturday, mid-morning. Something about that point in the week just makes me feel like there's so many possibilities ahead of me.


Here are the questions Stephanie asked me (plus my answers):

1. What are you most likely to be found doing on the weekends?
Weekends are my exploration days. If you read my blog, you know that I like to go places with other people, so generally, weekends make the most sense. During the week, I'm actually a very boring homebody and spend all my time writing, working, and doing errands or housework.


2. If you could only spend time with one family member, who would it be?
I love my whole family, but I have sort of this special thing going on with my younger sister. We are absolutely nothing alike, save for the fact that we both like glitter and watching Ella Enchanted, but somehow, we get along. We like to giggle about things that no one else understands, and I swear we can read each other's minds. It tends to bug other people a whole lot (P.S.: Carolyn, if you're reading this, come visit me. I promise I'll buy you some root beer).


3. What is your favorite item of clothing?
I love dresses. It stems from a love of dressing up, as well as a love of not having to think too much when pulling myself together. Dresses are instant outfits--if you choose the right one, all the work is done for you. Plus, they're pretty.


4. What movie have you seen more times than you’d like to admit?
Titanic. Or Sweet Home Alabama. Also Hairspray, Ever After, and any other chick flick that I own the DVD to. The one I'd really not like to admit, though? High School Musical 2. I can't help it...I'm such a dork.


5. Are you happy with what you decided to study in school? If not, what do you think you should have studied?
I have a degree in Media Studies, a field I am completely thrilled about choosing. My concentration was advertising, but I also have a background in (and obsession with) social media. My teachers always said we were living in an incredibly dynamic time for technology and communication innovation, and I believe them more and more each day.

 
6. What was your favorite game to play as a kid?
I played board games, but was never a huge fan. I was more of a "dress-up" or Barbie/paper doll fan, and made up games while my little sister tagged along. We also liked to pretend we were characters from movies and TV shows: Ariel and Flounder when we went swimming, or contestants on "Global Guts," where we'd climb my parents' bed like it was a giant crag.


7. Which room do you spend the most time in at your house/apartment?
Definitely the living room. It's the lounge area, dining room, my office, and the biggest room in the house. In fact, I have lunch dishes and work papers to pick up sometime if I want to see my coffee table again...


8. Do you like to go thrifting? If so, what was your most amazing find ever?
I do, but am rarely able to find things since I have never found that one "awesome" thrift store. I did score some cute shoes at a local consignment shop a few months back, though. Overall, I love good deals and never buy anything unless it's on sale...but this contributes to my unending problem of having wardrobe pieces rather than entire outfits. Maybe one day, I'll strike it rich and hire a personal shopper.


9. What’s the one thing you will never leave your house without?
A purse. I'm going to count that as one thing, because I like to be prepared for any given situation. Wallet, keys, tissues, Chapstick, pens, phone, coupons, you name it. I carry my world on my shoulders (and my shoulders and back like to remind me every now and then). Sometimes, if I'm going somewhere to work on something, it'll be a purse, a tote bag, and a camera bag. In college, it was sometimes all of those things, plus a backpack and my clarinet. I do not travel light.


10. Are you a tea or coffee person? (Or neither?)
Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee. Okay, I'm not a coffee addict, but I do enjoy my Keurig and the occasional trip to Starbucks/Caribou/what-have-you. I want to like tea because I feel like it would make me look like an English dignitary, but I've just never liked the taste of it.


11. How many fingers am I holding up? I kid, I kid. Real question: What made you start your blog and what makes you stick with it?
First answer: Four.

Second answer: I blog because I love to write. I love pictures, I love telling stories, and I am thrilled by the idea that someone out there may enjoy what I have to say. I've had a few blogs in the past that fell by the wayside (mostly because they were random musings and had no overall theme), but I started Wading in Big Shoes because I wanted an outlet where I could share my random thoughts and new adventures with people back home as well as people who may also be in a similar life stage. My readers have kept me going, and I thank you all for showing an interest in what I have to say. You're the reason I don't stop.


I'm Going To Tag:
1. Jenny
2. Hannah
3. Emily
4. Mallory
5. Alina
6. Brittiny & Cory
7. Alexandra
8. Claudia
9. Elsie
10. Perris
11. Ashley

What questions will these people have to answer? Well, let's find out:
1. What made you want to start a blog?
2. Do you read any blogs besides your own? What are your favorites?
3. How would you feel if Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Pinterest all ceased to exist one day?
4. Is there a name you wish your parents had given you other than your own?
5. Describe your personality in one word.
6. Who is the one person you'd trade your left ear to meet (living or dead, famous or not).
7. What's your favorite way to kill time?
8. Are you a magazine reader?
9. You can travel to one place for the weekend, but it has to be in the United States. Name it.
10. What tends to be your main goal each day?
11. Your idea of the perfect evening is:


If anyone has more questions for me, feel free to ask in the comments section. In the meantime, I'm off to round up my fellow bloggers for some Q&A time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Frankenmuddy

This is my husband, Brad:

happy


 This is my husband, Brad--on mud:

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Hi, Brad.

There is actually a very simple explanation as to why Brad looks like he was trampled by a cow. Allow me to start from the beginning.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have already seen some pictures from my pre-Christmas visit to Frankenmuth. Downtown Frankenmuth is this adorable German area out in farm country, a touristy haven filled with "world-famous" chicken restaurants, fudge shops, and the largest Christmas store in the world, Bronner's. Brad and I loved it a lot the first time we went, and have talked for over a month of going back again. I figured we'd take a longer break in between our visits, but when I started seeing news on Twitter for the Zehnder's Snow Fest this weekend, I figured that today would be as good a time as any to go back.


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My first visit to Bronner's in Frankenmuth--and first encounter with Big Santa.
So, we got to Frankenmuth and everything was hunky-dory. Well, aside from the fact that police were directing stop-and-go traffic, the sky was heavy with clouds just threatening to attack us with sleet or snow or whatever else felt like falling, it was windy, and there was absolutely nowhere to park. Nowhere, except one partially-vacant lot.

We pulled into a lot that was nothing but mud from melted snow, where cars were getting stuck left and right. Lucky for us, though, Brad was able to put our all-wheel drive to use and plowed into an empty space on the side of a small hill. One try, and no sunken tires. Scariest second and a half of my afternoon.

When we got out, though, we noticed a little Mazda across the row from us, spinning in some horrible mud that made quicksand look friendly. Before I could get my camera and purse gathered up for our frigid trek to the snow fest, Brad (a.k.a., the most helpful person that ever lived) was already talking to the three people who were in the car, giving them pointers on how to rescue it from the jaws of the earth.

They started rocking the car back and forth, and I almost went over to help before we all realized that my bumbly self would be better-suited to stand at the entrance to the parking lot, discouraging other ill-fated cars from coming in. After waving two cars away, I turned around and walked back towards the rescue mission, and found Brad completely covered in mud from the Mazda's spinning tires. I guess he wasn't standing in the most strategic place.

As you might have guessed, that was the cue to throw in the towel. The three people with the Mazda introduced themselves as Abbey, Brandon, and Jenny, and kindly invited us to Abbey's parents' house for a place to clean up. So, Brad threw his filthy coat in the trunk and fashioned some shoes out of plastic bags for Brandon's muddy feet, and we squished everyone into our car for the trek across town.

You know what? It was a great afternoon. We hung out with everyone for a while, including Abbey's parents and grandparents, telling stories about where we came from, where we'd been, and where we'd like to go. It was an unexpected way to meet such a nice group of people, but all in all, Brad and I left a little while later with smiles on our faces, both agreeing that we'd had a good time. We didn't even bother going back to see the snow fest (sorry, Zehnder's--maybe next year?).

It's kind of funny where an hour-long drive will lead you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What Everyone's Talking About This Week

As someone who's into advertising and deciphering what makes each campaign special (or not), I tend to look at mass media with a fine-toothed comb. Don't get me wrong--when I watch TV, scour Facebook and Twitter, or pick up a copy of my Marie Claire, I'm there for entertainment, but it's hard not to notice all the commotion going on around the mainstream entertainment.

In the midst of my superior speculation, however (fake snottiness intended), I've noticed that I'm not the only one who's paying attention. In fact, people who aren't your typical advertising big-wigs or brand gurus are sharing fun ads and company stories through social media, and the news spreads like wildfire. This goes to show how drastically sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have impacted society and the ever-evolving advertising landscape. Below, you'll find a few greatly-talked-about stories I've seen pop up over the past couple weeks.


Volkswagen


Come on. I know that made you smile.

Volkswagen recently released this teaser to get the Internet community buzzing about the upcoming Superbowl, during which VW will debut a new Star Wars-themed promo. On the heels of last year's insanely-popular "The Force" commercial, Volkswagen is likely under a lot of pressure to deliver. Due to large doses of hilarity and cuteness, however, I hardly doubt that it will be a problem for the car manufacturer.




Tiffany & Co.


Twitter's been going nuts lately over Tiffany & Co.'s True Love in Pictures campaign, and it's not hard to see why. Part of the Tiffany's What Makes Love True site, True Love in Pictures showcases a gallery of fan-uploaded Instagram photos that focus on snippets of affection in everyday life. In an effort to boost its campaign, Tiffany & Co. carried the series further with an event yesterday at its 5th Avenue location, where many fashion bloggers and other invitees posted live tweets during the celebratory launch.

Fashion blogger, Keiko Lynn, tweets during her visit to the Tiffany & Co. True Love in Pictures launch party

JC Penney

Source

And, of course, we have JC Penney. If you haven't already noticed the 500 people in your news feed talking about the store's "no more sales" tactic, then you've come to the right place (because no one's more excited than I am). After recent studies revealed that 72 percent of the department store's revenue comes from products that are at least 50 percent off, JC Penney has decided to overhaul its strategy all together and take the guess work out of pricing. What does that mean? For starters, instead of walking into JC Penney and being bombarded by a thousand 40 percent-off signs, consumers will now see products that are already lower in price. For instance, a new shirt that retails for $20.00 will instead be priced at $12.00, no sale necessary. To me, this is a genius move coming from a store where everything is always on sale in the first place. And if you like your sales, don't worry--JC Penney will offer a special "best price" discount on select items every first and third Friday of each month.

Take a look at JC Penney's newest ad, which is flying all over TV and the Internet at the moment:


I laugh every time I see it. It's too bad clothing stores don't typically go after Superbowl time slots, because this new campaign has a lot of potential (both comically and strategically) to win over an even bigger viral audience.

So, have you noticed any other advertising hubbub while browsing through Facebook or Twitter this week? Let me know in the comments section!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ice, Ice, Baby

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Leave it to Michigan to take any situation, good or bad, and turn it into an opportunity for a festival.

The very latest? The Plymouth Ice Festival, a weekend-long occasion dedicated to the celebration of winter (or so I'm told). Coincidentally, the Plymouth Ice Festival opened last Friday, when "arctic air" (a term continuously mentioned on the local weather station) and snow decided to settle in for the biggest chill we've had so far this year. Normally, I'm not one for cold, but this event sure was a pick-me-up that helped distract from our chilly Saturday evening outdoors.

When Brad, our friends (Renee and Lynn), and I arrived in Plymouth, the whole downtown area was crowded with cars and people--and for good reason. Scads of small shops and trees adorned in Christmas lights paved the way to a large, public circle, where scads of people gathered for ice sculpting festivities, food, and live music. It was almost like stepping into a real-life Stars Hollow.

**Sidenote:** This was my favorite store window on the way to the festival. My friend, Renee, and I both decided that we needed this dress. White for her, since she's getting married, and blue for me because, well--I would just really enjoy having it. And the shoes:



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Ooh, la-la.

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Ice sculptures lining a big circle around the middle of the downtown area.

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Food booths. Sometimes, it's hard to concentrate when the great outdoors smells like pizza and cinnamon.
After watching a showdown between two ice sculpturists to see who could craft the best motor vehicle in a small amount of time, we made our way over to a heated tent (genius!) and found the Patch booth. There, I found Rebecca Jaskot (Novi Patch editor) and Nicole Krawcke (Brighton Patch editor). After blogging for Novi Patch for almost two months now, I was delighted to meet these two ladies in person! We chatted for a few minutes, and they were nice enough to satisfy my freebie addiction with a tote bag and water bottle (I also swiped a magnet before I left, but only because my refrigerator needed some Patch pride, too!).

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Patch goodies--thanks, Rebecca and Nicole!

I would have stayed in the heated tent all evening, but there were way too many people in a too-tight area, so we made one last round to look at the ice sculptures. You'd be surprised by what can be done with a chainsaw and a blow torch.


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U.S.A.! Whoop, whoop!

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Love this one.

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An upside-down robot (with broken leg) and a snow-covered high-heel.

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Bzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzz.

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Check this out: it's a huge fire pit/fireplace--made out of ice! Tell me, how do they think of these things?
And, of course, we couldn't leave without posing with some of the interactive ice displays. While kids climbed on dinosaurs and stood behind ice news anchor desks, Brad and I were busy pretending to be Inuits.

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That's me and Brad. I'm the fat one.
Funny story: a little girl posing for pictures before us stood behind the tallest Inuit sculpture. She wasn't tall enough to see out of the face hole, but when her mom insisted that she try the smaller one, the girl just stood and looked through the middle of the sculpture. Ah, to be young and stubborn. It's considered cute at that age, you know.

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There, that's better. Cozy on an ice bench, red noses and all.
I don't yet know what's in store for this weekend, but after six months as an official Michigander, I can safely say that weekend activities are not in short supply around here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Detroit is Motor City





I didn't know much about Detroit before I moved to Michigan, but if I've learned one thing at all, it's that I'm living in the land of cars. As anyone who lives anywhere in the world probably knows, Detroit is home to several major U.S. car manufacturers, and that reputation does not go unnoticed.

Each year, Detroit hosts the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), a two-week event that showcases the latest (and future concept) cars and trucks from auto manufacturers across the globe. As a newbie to the whole car show tradition, I was expecting something akin to the Tokyo car party during the first half of the movie, Cars 2, but this turned out to be much more Americanized, family-oriented, and . . . not filled with spies.


Aerial view of the Ford exhibit

In all honesty, the NAIAS is a pretty amazing spectacle. Sure, the Cobo Center and all its surrounding areas are packed from the get-go, but nothing tops the overwhelming feeling of stepping into a gigantic, new world inside the exhibit area. Rooms packed with shiny, new vehicles that literally sparkle, television screens that cover entire walls, and custom-built exhibits are works of art within themselves. It is not only an auto show for people who love cars, but also a mecca of modern design and innovative advertising.

LOVE the retractable, shrinky/growy/light-changy-things hanging over the Lincoln exhibit.

Computer-generated model of the 2013 Ford Fusion

Cars in the air! Cars everywhere!
Chevy Exhibit
That round contraption in the middle of the floor moves into and out of the ceiling, where people who "ride" the exhibit are shown a video and photographed for an ongoing slideshow on an opposite wall.



I didn't know what Coda was before seeing this exhibit, but now, I won't forget them.
The Volkswagen setup was basically a small nightclub--disco ball, live deejay, the works.


The boys (Brad and some friends we met up with) also made sure we were at the Mustang exhibit by 5:10 sharp for the Dyno demonstration. To me, this just meant listening to a car make noises reminiscent to those during traffic light races, but to everyone there drooling like kids in a candy shop, it was . . . well, honestly, I don't know. If you like cars, I have the video for you:


Demonstration: 2012 Ford Mustang on Dyno

Oh, and my favorite part? The Kia Soul hamsters. Next to the new Kias, cardboard cutouts of the "Party-Rock"-dancing rodents accompanied a large, interactive dance floor. Above the dance floor was a screen where you could watch yourself dancing with one of the Kia hamsters to the ever-popular "Party Rock Anthem." I can't dance, but sometimes, I have no shame--it was time to bust a move.

Party Rock!
And of course, there were some fun, gimmicky cars, including a Hot Wheels Edition Camaro and a graffiti-inspired Smart car. Gotta love 'em.

 

What really impressed me, though, was how futuristic some of the concept models were. Even though production is only a year or so away for these beauties, I felt as though I had stepped twenty years into the future. I guess we're getting close to the age of the Jetsons (minus the flying part, and plus a lot of pizazz).


My reaction to this one: "Where'd the rest of it go?!"
 

I guess silver is the color of the future.

Unfortunately, I didn't take home any souvenirs (unless you count a handful of free Chevy Racing buttons), but Brad certainly came away with a mental wishlist. At the top? The new Cadillac ATS--a gift for me! Well, a gift for me in a couple of years when the price goes down (or so I'm told).


It's attractive, that's for sure--and the interior puts the leather seats (my favorite feature!) in my current Volvo to shame. But it looks kind of like it should belong to the CEO of a major record label.

Who am I kidding, though--who wouldn't love this car?! You can see me cruising around town in one, right?

I'm going to assume that you all will say yes. And I'll take any lack of response as a sign that you agree.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Little Friendly Competition

I’m back!

Did you miss me? I missed you.

Over the past few weeks, I took a break to visit family in Virginia and Kentucky, relaxing and celebrating Christmas and the new year. It’s definitely good to be back, though, and I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store.

As a little post-Christmas/end-of-the-holiday-season gift to you, I’ve compiled a lovely montage of lights and décor from over the past month. These pieces of eye candy dwell exclusively in Southeast Michigan and Southwest Virginia. Now, you might not think that decorations could differ so much from region to region, but in the case of these homes, I’ve definitely found some differences. So, sit back, relax, and let the comparison (or competition, whichever term you prefer) begin.

Michigan
As decorations started popping up around the beginning of December, I noticed a common thread among many decorated houses: Michiganders like their lights, and they do a good job at putting them up. Maybe holiday decorating is an innate talent for people in cold weather-areas, or maybe it’s the fact that professional lighting companies are popular around here (yes, I’ve seen the trucks—and I know that not all of those triple-decker houses get by without at least a little help); regardless, neighborhoods around here are filled with strategically-strung colors. No sloppy jumbles of lights thrown halfway up a tree for these folks.


Tasteful swirls of color cover trees from top to bottom.
Christmas-Themed Gingerbread House
Not too shabby. Good use of color.
A few lawn ornaments here and there. Very focused.
It seems as though every suburb and town home/apartment division participated in the action.
This is just wonderful. Dedication, I call it. Who says the little houses can't win? Covered in lights.
And of course, what would Michigan be without its cars?


And then, 500 miles away, you have Southwest Virginia.


Virginia
Welcome to the land of lawn ornaments. People in this region love their inflatable snowmen and plastic Santas, and bigger is always better. Well, maybe not always better, but there’s no denying that these yards sure are fun to look at.


Little home, BIG Christmas spirit.
"Happy Birthday, Jesus."
Charlie Brown and the whole Peanuts gang.
This was just one section of a yard filled with Christmas cartoon character cutouts.
You may also note the big "3" on the roof.
Yup. Just . . . yup.
Nothing says "Christmas" like a blimp carrying snowmen.

WARNING--Inflatable Christmas Character Overload Below:


That's right. No need to adjust your monitor; that is, indeed, a yard cram-packed with inflatable lawn decorations. And yes, it does overflow onto half of the next-door neighbor's front lawn.

Funny story about that last house: we first saw it a couple years ago while out on a drive. It was daytime, so everything was deflated and spread out on the front lawn. I thought it was a yard sale. Heh, heh.


Driving around in December, looking for lights--there's nothing like it.


So, which do you prefer: colorfully illuminated yet contained, or the build-it-bigger approach? I’d love to hear what you think!
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