Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Seven New Years Resolutions

Everyone knows that if you post some promise on the internet then you have an unspoken obligation to actually follow through with it. So I will post my resolutions here. Then at the end of they year y'all can keep me accountable as the year goes on.


First: I am going to blog more. I think this year ahead is going to come with a lot of change. To be honest I haven't the slightest idea where I'll be or what my life will look like this time next year. So I will blog through my uncertainties and changes that will come this year.


Second: I have got to get into shape. I have spent this last year abusing my poor back injury and not nourishing my body and have come up with health issues that I probably wouldn't have or at least wouldn't struggle with so much if I took care of myself properly. So I'm going to start with yoga to strengthen my back. I've been in too much pain lately. But many friends have recommended Charleston Community Yoga. So I am going to start there next week. I'm also going to eat more often and healthier.


















Third: Save more money. I saw someone say that saving every five dollar bill they receive was a great way for them to save money. I think that's how I'll start. As a waitress I come in contact with a lot of fives. I can do this. We'll see how much I can save in fives by next year.

Fourth: I want to move somewhere new. This is my last year at Charleston Southern. But my final semester will be online. This gives me freedom to up and move wherever I want once Cody starts college! J will be moving somewhere next summer but we've only talked about the possibility of me joining for that, nothing has been decided. So really I could go anywhere! I've always wanted to live in Austin, TX or Nashville, TN or maybe Nashville, NC! Who knows! I could go anywhere! But I want to move somewhere new before 2016 gets here!

Fifth: I want to do at least one thing to further my Student Ministry career. May that be an internship or new volunteer positions, I don't know. But I'm going to do something to actually help my work towards what I'm going to school for.

Sixth: I want to make deans list at least once before I graduate! I only have two more semesters before I graduate and it's been a while since I've had deans list. I really want one more before I graduate!


Seventh: I want to read more books and keep up with the news better. But to be completely honest that probably won't happen until the summertime. I still need to be realistic about these goals. So I'm not going to try to ad extracurricular reading to my list until I'm out of school for the summer. \


So that's it guys! This is what I want to accomplish this year! Feel free to email me or comment at any point and ask me about it. I'm gonna do this!

Caitlin

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Five ways to make sure you get the most out of eating out

I have worked in the service industry in various capacities over the past couple years. I love it! I wouldn't trade it for anything! But I've realized recently that many people simply don't know how to go out to eat. I'm not here to fuss or anything but rather educate on the secret ways to make your experience more enjoyable. These are common mistakes that I see daily at both of my jobs. So here are a few tips that if you follow I promise that you will have a much better experience in any restaurant!

1. Treating your host like a human being. 
The person at the front of the restaurant gets the most heat from customers. They are professionals. They are doing their job. They don't like keeping you in their lobby longer than they need to, it hurts their tip out. It actually cuts into the money they make if they aren't seating you. They wouldn't do it. So please trust them to do their job and that they actually are trying to seat you as fast as possible. Also, please avoid complaining to them about where they place you or asking to move to a different table. Not all tables have a server assigned to them during slower times. They will usually comply and allow you to sit where you requested but it means they have to stop their job and go look for a server that will take your table. Please, unless you absolutely couldn't sit where assigned, do not ask to be moved. It slows them down, makes them have to stop assisting customers in the front just because you decided that an identical booth on the other side is somehow better. Plus the host will probably tell your sever what a pain you already are and then you are off to a rough start. Just let the host do their job. Believe it or not, they're good at it.


(Also hosts don't mind if you request a particular server. If you have a favorite server feel free to request them.)

2. Treating your server like a human being.
Very much like the first one, your server is doing their job. Please don't ask us what our real job is. Yes many of us work two jobs but this is in fact a real job and more challenging that most jobs. Yes we are here to serve you but no we are not your slaves. Please treat us with dignity and respect. Please do not yell at us if your food comes out wrong. We don't cook it. We tell the kitchen what to cook and hope they pay attention to the ticket. Please warn us of any allergies you have. Any good server is going to put allergy alerts on the ticket to make sure there is no cross contamination of your allergens. Please don't talk to us like we are stupid. We will avoid tables of rude people. Please trust us when we tell you something, we work here, we are required to know the menu back and forth, we know what's able to be substituted, and we know almost every ingredient in our kitchen. When we tell you we don't have something, it's because we don't have it. We aren't hiding all your favorite things in the kitchen and not allowing you to have it. We really do want you to enjoy your meal. So please don't pick fight's. Please read the menu. We do not have time to list everything on it. We give it to you for a reason. Don't get upset when you ask "What kind of food you got here?" and I answer, "Well we have a menu that I highly recommend." and then I walk away. Also please make eye contact with us. It's amazing how much we interact with guests but aren't allowed the dignity of making eye contact with them. And if you remember our name it makes our day! Most servers will tell you their name. If you remember their name you will quickly become the favorite table on this round and you will never have to ask for refills because they will already be there and they might be able to offer you deals or discounts you didn't know about. We can do a lot for you. SO be nice! (This includes stopping your instagramming of food when your server comes to speak to you.)


Quick intermission story time: I had a table the other day of two ladies. After I got their drink's and complementary bread I asked if they had any questions about the menu. The conversation went like this;
Lady, "I have a quick question. This rack of lamb, is it pork or beef?"
Me, "Ma'am it's actually lamb! It's neither pork or beef."
Lady, "I understand but is it pork or beef?" (At this point I would think it's safe to say that she actually doesn't understand.)
Me, "It is not pork or beef. It is lamb. It's its own separate thing."
Lady with now much attitude and frustration, "It's a simple question. I don't know why you don't understand me. Is the lamb pork or beef?"
Me with a bit of tenseness in my voice because I can't tell her how stupid she's being and I have 4 other tables I could be assisting right now, "Ma'am, actually, beef comes from cows, pork comes from pigs, and lamb comes from lambs, like sheep, like an entirely different animal."
To which she snaps at me with, "Oh. I didn't know. I'm going to need a few more minutes to look at the menu."
I sighed and went and checked on my other tables. But really. We know what we're talking about. We actually take a lot of tests and such to be allowed to serve.







3. Not overreacting. 
We do not intentionally over or under cook your food. We do not intentionally forget one of your modifiers. Things like extra this or none of that are called modifiers. If you have more than three on one item the kitchen is likely to mess one of them up. Have some grace. They are cooking easily 50 meals at once. Also the chef had created the meal to taste it's best so if you change almost everything about it don't be surprised if it isn't the best dish you've ever eaten. It would be on the menu if it was. Almost every restaurant will gladly recook or fix your messed up food. We are always very sorry. Trust me, we don't like mistakes to happen. And we avoid them at all costs. So please understand that we are going to do everything we can to make it right and yelling is not going to fix anything. Please don't yell if you feel your food is taking too long. Especially if out order something like a well done 20 ounce steak or a well done bone in steak. These take up to 40 minutes. Basically don't yell. We aren't trying to upset you and if we have please be an adult and explain what's bothering you and we will do what we can to fix it. Also: we don't like screaming children either. We can't do anything about it either. We just hope they shut up or leave soon so complaining to us about it isn't going to get the baby to shut up.



4. Interacting with management properly. 
Believe it or not this is not the time to complain about our server behind their back. You should address your server with any issues you have with them. This is back to the no yelling thing though. This manager is trying to endure that all 80 or however many tables are having an amazing experience. Please don't yell at them for any reason. I can't actually think of any instance in a restaurant where it would be okay to yell. (Actually I once worked with a server for a week who made a racist and rude comment about war to a veteran at her table. They had the right to yell. But even they didn't! She got fired. Because that's not acceptable.) That's really the only time I can think of yelling being okay in a restaurant. If you need to speak to a manager then they are coming to your table to help you. Treat them nicely.

5. Tipping properly.
Alright this is one that gets touchy to a lot of people. So I'm going to be factual and blunt. Servers do not get pay checks. We literally live off of your generosity. We do not get to keep all of our tips. We must tip out our hosts, bartenders, bus boys, and food runners. This at many restaurants is somewhere around 5 percent of our food sales. It varies by restaurant and how many positions they must give tip shares too. If you don't tip or tip below that we are actually paying out of our pocket for you to go out to eat. This is not okay. We work long days on our feat doing lots of manual labor, working weird hours, (how often are we free to eat at normal meal times? Maybe twice a week. The rest of them we're working the rush.) and doing everything we can to please all of our tables. Some don't think it's fair that they are responsible for their servers income. Why can't the restaurant pay them? If they did then there would be no more complimentary bread or chips and salsa and food prices would skyrocket! Plus service would go down if we knew we were working for the same amount of money no matter how much our table spent then we would care a lot less about service. Just being honest with you. The norm is 20% of your original bill. (meaning what your total was before any coupons or gift cards you used.) Which is honestly a steal. Say you spend $100. We are doing $100 worth of work for you. And you only are having to pay us $20. If you stay at our table for hours on end you are cutting into our income too. Please remember that. We want you to enjoy your time but we need that table to make money. "Camping" at our table for 5 hours is not okay unless you tip enough to cover the lost tips. If your bill is less than $5 then you need to tip 100%. You're still using our table and our service. Remember that.


So following these things will make your visit more enjoyable! Being a pleasant customer makes you a favorite customer! Favorite customers get perks! If these tips don't make your experience better than I just don't know what to tell ya. Obviously there will be bad servers and there will be bad food and there will be bad restaurants. But don't find problems where there aren't any. 

Random side note: Showing up to eat five minutes before we close is just a crappy move. It just is.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy your next meal out!

Caitlin

Thursday, December 25, 2014

It's Christmas in North Carolina!

That's right guys! It's Christmas! So that means blogging in my reindeer pj pants! I will never understand people who actually put clothes on or get dressed nice on Christmas. It's a day for lounging and doing nothing. Anyone out there who manages to do anything productive, I tip my hat to you, you are the master of Christmas! I will avoid your Christmas productivity for the rest of my life! I'm sure there will come a day when I will have to leave my comfortable pjs on Christmas to visit family or something. But thankfully that day is not today.

Anyway, this post is not to just praise those of you who are productive today. I will move on now. 

Christmas here at home always means farm time. Look at the adorable cows! Aren't they so cute! Ahhh! I love them so much! Also the farm (Ray Family Farms) has a service every year they call Christmas Adam. It's the day before Christmas Eve and it's in their big red barn. They bring in the horses and make isles out of hay bales for people to sit. It's probably my favorite Christmas tradition! A local pastor preaches, talented musicians and singers in the community lead worship, and it's just such a lovely time for everyone in the community to gather together and celebrate the season! I love it! And J drove up from SC to join us for this event! It was amazing!  (have I mentioned how much I love that guy? He drove like 5.5 hours to sit in a barn. That's a good man right there!)




On Christmas Eve we had our Christmas dinner. My moms a big fan of not cooking on Christmas. So we always have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We had the biggest turkey I have ever seen in my life! It was 25 pounds! And it was one of those organic heritage breed things cause my mom is a total hippy! And it was a Christmas gift to her. It was soooo yummy! And they are going to be living off of turkey for a while. We also watched "It's a Wonderful Life" because you just have to at Christmas time! It's a classic! Also RedBox has it right now which is totally awesome.  





Christmas morning we all got up and opened presents and then napped and just lounged around. Grandma JoJo came by to visit. It's really been just a lovely Christmas! Plus I got a new coffee maker and various gift cards that I am sure you will soon be hearing about my purchases!

The brother in the picture with the turkey is a very unique young man. He asked for air soft guns, sparkling grape juice, and a fresh pineapple and coconut. I don't understand him. He has spent Christmas Day walking around with an air soft gun in a hoilster on his hip, and sparkling grape juice in a wine glass, and his cracked open coconut. He's a very interesting young man. Hehe!






Tomorrow I go back to South Carolina and will do Christmas with my roommates then! I'm excited!

How has your Christmas been? Do you have any favorite Christmas traditions? Please share in the comments!


Merry Christmas
Caitlin

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mountain Trip: Banner Elk Weekend



J and I went to the mountains a couple weekends ago with some friends of ours from Augusta! Oh my word! It was an amazing trip! We drove up Friday after all meeting in Aiken. We stopped at the Beacon Drive In in Spartanburg for dinner. (because why else would you stop in Spartanburg. It's a scary place man. A scary place.)

We tried to continue our journey to the mountains but ended up wasting like 45 minutes making giant circles around Spartanburg because our GPS kept trying to take us back to the drive in. Every time we thought we were finally on track to head to our final destination we would be back at the drive in. It was miserable and J was driving and I'm pretty sure that's the closest to insanity I've ever seen. Have you seen the movie European Vacation? Remember when they get lost and they're stuck in the round about and keep passing Big Ben and Parliament? "Hey look kids! It's Big Ben and Parliament" and a few minutes late "Look! Big Ben and Parliament." a few minutes later, "Look kids!" "We know! Big Ben." "And Parliament!" Yeah. It was like that, except with the Beacon Drive In. Including the drivers insanity and the passengers frustrations. haha!

Anyway! Eventually we end up on the right track and I fall asleep so I don't really know what happened next. Until we got to the condo we rented. The place was BEAUTIFUL!!!! (You can see where we stayed and my review for them here.) 

We spent our Saturday exploring Banner Elk and we ate at an amazing smokehouse that I can't remember the name of. Oh my word the sausage was to die for and they had a broccoli casserole special that was killer! If I lived in the area I would eat there all the time. Of course we had to get pictures of the Elk. You can't go to a place called Banner Elk and not get a picture with an Elk. You'll see those below. There was also a cute little pet supplies shop that we walked through and I oooed and awwwed over all the little puppy things. I almost bought our Gatsby a sweatshirt but I don't think he would have liked that. So I sparred him. Plus it was like $50 for a sweatshirt. I don't even want to spend that on a sweatshirt for me, nonetheless a dog! Even if he's the cutest most adorable dog ever!

We also went wine tasting at Banner Elk Winery! Well, I didn't being the only in the group under 21. But J is 21 and our friends that went with us are both 22. So they enjoyed it. I will say, I have been working in the service industry for a while and that has taught me a lot about wine and my roommate has taught me a lot as well since she has been a bartender at a steakhouse that sells a lot of wine. So for being underage, I'd say I'm fairly knowledgeable about wine. The three of them....not so much. It was almost painful watching them interact with the staff as they tried the different wines. But it was a learning experience for them! And the staff was really sweet and helpful and didn't look at my boyfriend and friends with the same disdain and embarrassment I did. hehe! Just kidding! You gotta learn about wines somehow and a wine tasting is great for that because you can try different kids and kind of narrow down what your tastes are for. So it was good!

We also drove some of the Blue Ridge Parkway! If you are ever near this drive then this is a MUST do. I have driven on different parts of this road many times over the years. Growing up in NC meant that mountain trips were almost yearly and this drive was on the to do list every year. It's beautiful! It is built for sight seeing and doesn't have houses or businesses getting in the way of the amazing view. That's where many of the pictures below came from. We even got out and took a little hike to a pretty waterfall. The guys wanted to go to a higher peak but us ladies were cold and sore from our shoes. We stuck to our little hike and then waited in the car.

After that we stopped at food lion for food and went back to the condo and I cooked shrimp Alfredo for us and we watched the second Harry Potter movie and went to bed. We packed up in the morning, went on a search for coffee. And drove home!

So that was our trip! Enjoy the photos below!














^Look at J all tuckered out! So cute!


Are you a mountains or a beach person? Is there something that you consider a MUST DO when going to the mountains?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Starter Stories: Our First Rental Home

If you read my last post you learned that my roommate and I recently gained guardianship of a teenage boy. Oh my word has that been amazing! For his safety I am not gonna be using his name on this site. But I think I'll ask him what he wants his blog name to be. We'll come up with something cool for y'all to know him by. For now he's gonna be known as our teenage boy. Anyway! As I'm sure you can imagine, a teenager needs a room. Him living on the couch of our two bedroom apartment wasn't cutting it. So we've moved to a lovely little three bedroom home. I was asked to share this story by Urban Compass! They are a great company for finding your new home in the New York area. Sadly we don't have an urban compass in the Charleston, SC area because if we did it would have made finding this place SO much easier. 

 

That was the home pre move in. The room on the left is my room. I'm gonna paint it. Because that picture does not do justice to how bright that blue really is. Because this is like highlighter blue. Blinding. I haven't decided my new color yet though. So it could be awhile before I get around to that. Then obviously the next one if the kitchen. This kitchen has a ridiculous amount of cabinet space! Oh my word! We had our apartment kitchen filled to overflowing with all of our kitchen things and now we have so much extra cabinet space we don't even know what to do with it. I told my roommate that it doesn't mean we need more kitchen things but we'll see how long that lasts. hehe!

    



^Obviously mid move in photos. We'll actually my blue room still looks essentially like that. I haven't finished unpacking yet. But I'll get there! Oh my gosh I let the boy drive the U-haul! It was so scary! But I'm sure they have better insurance on those things than I have on my car. You would think right? He didn't wreck it. So it's okay. But man was it scary for me! My roommate had to work during the move so the boy, my roommates friend, my dad drove down from NC, and a couple church and work friends helped us load and unload and clean the old apartment. I'm so glad to be done with that place! They were so difficult to work with! I can not explain the level of "Heck yeah!" I felt when I handed over the keys to that place! OH MY GOSH! It was amazing! We had the sweetest maintenance men there though. I miss them. I highly doubt they will come take care of broken things in our house now. 


        

       

Now look at our lovely little starter home! It's not completely put together. But we're getting there! We love it and so does our puppy, Gatsby, and our teenage boy! Now it's just a matter of putting up finishing touches like art on the wall and such. I'm so excited. This is going to be my roommate and I's last move together. When this lease is up we'll be parting ways. So time to make the most of this year and this adorable home!

Do you have any great moving stores to share? What's been your biggest move? Share your stories in the comments below! Or any suggestions on room color for me! 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

So We're Moms Now. And We're Moving.

Okay guys. I can't begin to explain everything that has happened since we last chatted. But lets start with the main 2 points. 1) My roommate and I have guardianship of a teenage boy we work with. and 2) We're about to move into a three bedroom house we're renting so there's room for our recently extended family!

That's right. We're moms now. Haha! This young man (who will remain nameless for privacy reasons) came to us needing a place to stay. And of course you can't just have a teenager living in your home without contacting the proper authorities and when said authorities investigated they gave us guardianship. Crazy, right? But goodness it's been awesome! We're so glad to have this young man in our lives! Sadly he is living on our couch right now but when we move he will have a room of his own and he's buying a futon from one of our co-workers. He thinks futons are the coolest pieces of furniture ever. It's adorable. So he's super excited about that. Plus he can paint his room whatever color he wants when we move! It will be his own space! This is really exciting! He is such a great kid and hard worker and now we're looking into colleges for him. I am so incredibly proud of him! He's such a blessing to us! It's been crazy to suddenly become a guardian at my young age. But I am so glad we have! He is ours. Our little family is comprised of two young women, a teenage boy, and an adorably fluffy dog! hehe! I love it! And J has taken all of this really well. Which is pretty awesome! I mean I didn't really know what to expect. It's not everyday a girl tells her boyfriend she has a teenage son! haha! But they get along swimmingly!

Now to moving! I am so excited about this move! We are renting a three bedroom home with a fences in back yard for Gatsby (the puppy) and it's in a cute little neighborhood! Essentially we are living the American dream! haha! Plus it has like a normal sized kitchen. Our kitchen in our apartment is extraordinarily tiny. Like only one person can be in the kitchen at a time. So we're pumped to have some elbow room. I put a picture below of our little home. Just 9 more days until we move in! Which means lots of packing in between classes and work for me. I've gotten empty bread boxes from work for packing. They're like the perfect size! I love them! And I actually won't be here on move in day! We didn't have many options on our date and I was already going to be out of town and then as soon as I get back in town my roommate is leaving town so she just decided they would move while I'm gone. Because she's awesome like that. So I'm getting everything packed early. It's super exciting! :)


Anyway! I just got home from dropping him off at school so I should go be productive myself. I will share more adventures of being a mom of a teenage boy later on. I am sure there are many to come!





~Caitlin

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rent the Runway Review

I mentioned previously that I was going to be renting from Rent the Runway for J's ring ceremony. And I did! So now it's time I share my results! Below you will see the dress I rented. I had a $25 off code for it being my first rental.


You can find the perfect dress for you by searching through reviews of people with the same measurements as you! This is genius! I could find people with the exact same body type and size as me and see dresses they loved that fit them well! I found this dress by doing that. Some other girls my size have previously rented this dress and raved about it and their pictures they included in the reviews were stunning! And this dress on it's own is just gorgeous! Lace all the way down and a perfect navy blue! Needless to say, I fell in love with it. 
I did a four day rental. So it came in the day before the event. Plenty of time for what I needed! Oh! And in case you didn't know, they send you two dress sizes! So I got the 4 because that's my size, and they sent me a 4 and a 6 just in case this dress was sized small. That's fantastic! I would hate to rent a dress only to try it on and it doesn't fit and I'm out of luck for something to wear. They also already include a package to send the dress back that already has a shipping label. So for the return all you have to do is put the dresses in the envelope and take it to a UPS or UPS drop box. Because my dress return date was on a Sunday and UPS is closed then I slipped it into a drop box. The most pain free experience ever!




I got compliment after compliment on this dress! It was perfect! It was perfect for the occasion and the reviews I read were truthful! And the ease of the process was killer! I will certainly be renting from them again in the future! Heck, I may never buy a formal dress again!



I can't wait for my next opportunity to rent from Rent The Runway! 5 out of 5 starts for both the experience and the dress! You might want to check them out for your next formal event. 

They also rent accessories! In fact they have an accessories service that's just like netflix! You pick three and they send them to you and when you send one back they send you the next one and it's sooo cool! I just can't afford it right now. But maybe in the future!