Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good-bye, 2009.

And so we say goodbye to another year. 2009 was a good one, one of the most blessed ever. Some highlights and achievements:

- The year of the Yellow House! I've never lived with other members before and didn't realize what a huge blessing I was missing out on. Amy, Liz, and I moved into the Yellow House in January and officially moved out yesterday. Not only was it a beautiful building, but it truly felt like a home. There was always a friendly ear to listen and there were always people coming over to visit. Unlike any place I've lived since I left home, I could truly feel the Spirit there. Thank you, girls, for blessing my life immeasurably.

- In March, I was able to see my bestie! Even though Rachel ran off to Israel (I'll forgive you eventually, love), she came back to visit and it was WONDERFUL! Miss you, Rach.

- The year of weddings. We watched so many of our loved ones joined for time and eternity. We're so happy for all of you (and thanks for all the yummy cake!)

- My baby brother graduated from high school! In June, A.J. finished his senior year at Palo Alto High in Carlsbad, Cali. My grandparents, uncle, and I all came in for the celebration. I'm so proud of him for surviving high school and even prouder that he's now a freshman at BYU.

- As sad as it is to see of dear friends, we joyfully sent off many missionaries this year to do the Lord's work across the States. Interestingly enough, no one got called outside the States. David, Jenna and Michelle, we are so proud of the great work that you're doing and miss you so much!

- Andrew and I successfully launched Blink Twice Photography! We shot our first wedding together in May and have already lost count of how many projects we've worked on together. We make a great team (if I do say so myself) and I look forward to many, many more weddings together.

- For the first year EVER I kept one of my New Year's Resolutions - I lost weight! About this time last year, I remember hating to see pictures of myself. I kept thinking "Ugh, I can't believe I look like that." I didn't want to dodge out of photos anymore. I've been working out sporadically over the past few years, but this year I buckled down and spent 4-6 hours a week sweating on the cardio machines at the gym. Jump started by the Capital Ward's "No Sugar June," I tried swapping out water for soda and fruits, yogurt, and string cheese for sugary, carby snacks. In total, I've lost a little over 15 pounds (though I'm carrying a gross bit of Holiday weight now - ew). It took a long time, but I'm hoping that this means it'll stay off. I'm not always good, I still love chips and queso, a good cupcake and pasta. But if I eat it, I know I'll be working it off double at the gym the next day. My goal for next year? Another 10-15 pounds. Wish me luck, and feel free to join me.

- Up 'til this year, I think I can count the number of times I've been to the temple on two hands. Very sad, I know. This year, I went every single month. Didn't miss one. Went sometimes three times in one month. And ya know what? Everything you've ever heard about regular temple attendence is true. You come out feeling less touched by the world. You refocus on the things in life that are truly important, on storing blessings in heaven, and recommit yourself to following the commandments with exactness. The joy, peace and happiness that comes from regular temple attendence has made this year truly blessed.

And that's this year! And oh, yeah, we got married!

I didn't ever think I'd get married in the temple. For the longest time, it wasn't something that was important to me. I don't know how I could have been so blind. A worthy temple marriage is the best thing that has ever happened in my life. I can't describe the joy of having that tie for eternity and knowing that this isn't just a partnership between us, but that the Lord will be a part of our union to strengthen and aid us when we stumble.

Every step of the way, we were blessed. In the end, it was the wedding of my dreams - absolutely beautiful, surrounded by laughter and love. And I have to brag here a little bit - I managed to come in UNDER budget, and Hans and I were able to pay for the entire thing ourselves. By working overtime, weekends, holidays, and shooting a few weddings, we were able to do the whole thing without going into any real debt (I think I put Hans' suit on my Banana Republic credit card, but that was pretty much it!) We are so grateful to our Heavenly Father for how he helped everything to fall into place.

Something else I learned this year, and am continuing to learn, is that the Lord is in control. I'm such a control freak that I always want to micromanage each step. But I can't do that. He has a plan for me. It's more beautiful and perfect than anything I could plan for myself. It's scary to give up control and trust, but every time I do, things work out. I feel peace. This year has really helped me gain a testimony of this and I hope to continue growing that testimony with more practice.

Friends, we hope that you all can look back at the past year and recognize the great blessings in your life is well. Be well.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some outtakes

From our Christmas card photo shoot with the very talented Andrew Taylor

Aaaannnnnnnndddd we're spoiled.

Wow. Christmas always makes me feel so spoiled. I always get a ridiculous abundance of gifts. This year was no exception. So I'm going to brag on the awesome loot I made off with!

Sweet husband takes home the prize for best gifts. On Black Friday we went to the outlet malls in San Marcos and he managed to score this amazing Coach purse for not so major moolah. I've never really had a fancy purse before, just every day ones, so I'm so excited to use this! Isn't it purdy?

As if that wasn't enough, he also bought me the best Steve Madden boots. They're very warm and flat, so they don't hurt my feet. I can wear them to work and be comfy the whole time. I've been saying for months that I wanted boots and Hans managed to pick out the perfect ones. Though, having Andrew text me and ask me for my shoe size wasn't exactly subtle... ;)

He also got me a bunch of fun little things - a vintage ice bag for when I get headaches, a cute cake tester that says "Diet schmiet" (exactly!), an awesome wood cutting board I've been eyeing, some more of the MAC makeup I was almost out of, and a really, really cute red apron.

My brothers also thought the red apron was a good idea - so they got me one, too! I'm keeping theirs and taking Hans' back ;) They also go Hans and I a delicious looking cook book, red snowflake serving bowls, polar bear mugs, a BYU t-shirt (can you believe I didn't already have one?) and Josh got me some sweet MAC eyeshadow. My brothers are friggin awesome.

I gave Hans a bunch of really boring gifts that I knew he wanted. I got him a robe, some Banana Republic shirts, a sweater, and a fleece lined hoodie from J. Crew. All things that he needed that I got for next to nothing on Black Friday. I also gave him Call of Duty Modern Warfare - good bye, husband. This is why wives are not fans of Xbox. But he deserves some fun.

The nicer gift was a Fossil Watch. It's black with a diamond on the face, so  a little fancier. He picked it out when we were shopping a few months ago and helped me write down the style number so I'd know which one to get. No surprise there, but at least it's what he liked.

The last gift was kind of for me to - it's that electronic Pictionary Man game. And holy crud, that thing was hard to find! I looked all over Austin and it was sold out everywhere. I even asked Target to check all their other stores and none of them had it. I eventually found it stashed on the back of a shelf in Wal-mart - the last one. Phew. That'll be fun to play on game nights!

The biggest Christmas surprise came from my wonderful godparents, Steven and Malinda. They got us a Cuisinart breadmaker!! It was one of the things we wanted most off our registry but didn't get and we're already in love with it. It has a place of honor in our kitchen. We haven't used it yet, but I'll definitely post when we do. Yum yum.

Hans' family got us some very nice gifts, too. Hans' mom got him this cool thing for his laptop - it's a little tray thing that you set your laptop on that has a fan in it so your laptop doesn't over heat. I keep stealing it from him - it's awesome. She got me a bamboo read diffuser that is currently making our house smell like a garden and one of those really cool digital frames that scrolls through all the photos on our memory card. Love it. My sister in law gave us a beautiful green frame that has the letters of the traditional wedding vow written on it. I can't wait to hang it in our bedroom.

All in all, we made out like bandits. Never felt so spoiled. But hey, it's Christmas! Hope you guys got good stuff, too.

Keeping traditions

One of my favorite parts of Christmas growing up was when my mother would bake gingerbread houses - one each for me and my two brothers - and then we'd spend an evening as a family decorating them.

Not being home this year, I decided I wanted to keep up with that tradition!

My mom made everything from scratch. She had a cardboard pattern (made from an old cocoa puffs box) for each piece of the house and she would cut out each shape individual. She made her own frosting, but it would take a while to set so we'd have to prop each piece into place with mugs until the frosting dried.

Lacking my mom's patience, I decided to do as much as I could from scratch, but take a few shortcuts where I could. I used a Williams and Sonoma recipe - man that made me wish I had a KitchenAid stand mixer. Last year at the Williams and Sonoma outlet I nabbed this great set of cookie cutters - the pieces are interlocking so they hold each other up until you can cement them with frosting. I tried to make each piece thick so they'd stand up, but soft enough that they can still be eaten. We only planned to make one house together, but the dough was enough for two, so two it was!

The frosting was from scratch, too, and was very easy. Mostly just milk and powdered sugar. I didn't end up using it to hold the house together, though, because I didn't have an icing bag to apply it. I did happen to have a leftover bottle of decorating icing from a batch of cookies I made earlier in the week, so we used that to hold the house together and the homemade icing to apply the candy.

Making the cookie dough -

The before shot -

And decorating

The after shots -

Aren't they fun? We went totally different directions with them but I love how they turned out. Plus we had a blast doing it together on Christmas Eve.

For any of you interested in trying this out, the recipes:

Gingerbread cookies

(Williams and Sonoma)


  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbs. ground ginger
  • 4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (we used dark and this was fine too)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 egg


Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale yellow, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the brown and granulated sugars and beat for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the molasses, beating until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.

Add the flour mixture in 4 additions, beating in each addition before adding more. Beat just until combined, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Using floured hands, form the dough into a smooth mound and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat an oven to 400ºF.

Remove 1 dough disk at a time from the refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. Place the dough between 2 sheets of parchment or waxed paper and roll out to a thickness of 1/4 to 3/8 inch.

Dip the cutters into flour just before using and cut out the shapes (see tips below). Using an offset spatula, carefully transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets. I found it was actually easier to put the rolled out dough on the cookie sheet, cut them, and then remove the remainder so that I never actually had to pick up the cookies after they were cut. Moving them stretch the dough a little bit and messed up the shape so the interlocking pieces didn't fit as well.

Bake the cookies until lightly browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 smaller pieces; 7 to 8 for trees and men; 10 to 12 minutes for sides and roof.

Creamy White Frosting 
(Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book pg. 171)
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (we omitted because we didn't have it and it was still yummy)
4 cups powdered sugar (about a pound)
3 to 4 tablespoons milk

In a medium mixing bowl beat shortening, vanilla, and extract with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add half of the powdered sugar, beating well. Add 2 tablespoons of the milk. Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar and enough remaining milk to reach spreading consistency (we added less milk so ours would be a little thicker).

O, Christmas Tree

You've got to go with a real tree. Thank you, Home Depot. Our house smells wonderful. I love coming home at night and just lighting it up. It makes me feel warm and cozy inside.

Christmas decorations!

Since moving into the new apartment, the bare, white walls have been bugging me. I mean, really bugging me. I've been trying to come up with photos and frames and such to hang, but time and money have been a factor.

That's why I love Christmas! And I had so much fun decorating this year (even though I'm only getting around to posting about it just now).

This was super easy and took up a whole wall. We got a blank wreath at Hobby Lobby, on sale for half off. From the floral department we got these random sprigs of berries, pine cones, and apples, most for a dollar or two. We came home and twisted them into the wreath  and voila! Instant wall decor. Love it.

We also took advantage of Black Friday savings at Hallmark to get started with our own nativity set. I'm a big fan of the Willow Tree line so I was thrilled to find they make a nativity line. We started with just the basic package - Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, and a few animals - and we'll build it out each year with more animals, the wise men, etc. Hans hung a shelf (Bed Bath and Beyond with the 20% off coupon!) in our dining room and we stuck them on there. The track lighting in the dining room makes a nice little spot light on the beautiful scene.

Christmas to me says red, green, and white. I don't know how other people feel about blues and golds and purples. I'm all about the red and green. Crate and Barrel is my favorite interior decor store and they don't have sales too often. That's why I was THRILLED with their Cyber Monday sale. 20 percent off your entire purchase and free shipping if you spend $100 or more. Thanks to the brilliant Stephanie Hall, I ordered just over $100 worth of stuff and returned about half of it. Nice little loophole. I was able to get the gorgeous red vases, snowflake bowls, cute green and ribbon embroidered placemats, and some sweet snowflake soaps and hand towels for the guest room. The simple red table cloth, the reindeer mugs, and the polar bear plates all came from the Crate and Barrel outlet for a steal! (Can you tell I get a rush from bargain hunting?)

The center piece was really quick and easy and I love how shiny. The glass hurricane was a couple dollars at Marshalls and the red and white ornaments came in two packs from Hobby Lobby, both half off.

I picked up a few other Christmas knick knacks - the Snowwoman, jingle bell mistletoe, Joy! welcome mat, and Christmas weinie dog from Hobby Lobby and Marshalls - two of my favorites.

Annnnddd Welcome, Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Joy in the Journey

One special gift we got for Christmas came from the Ricks family. Elizabeth Ricks was my adviser when I was in Beehives and I've always felt close to her. Plus, she's my role model for youthful motherhood - she looks like a teenager and has seven kids. Seriously, this woman hasn't aged since the day I met her. Flawless.

Anyway, she gave us this beautifully decorated tile that says "Find Joy in the Journey" and stands on a metal easel. It has a place of honor in my kitchen.

But it got me thinking about the conference talk from which it comes. I remember the talk quite vividly. It was my first general conference since I had returned to the Church and I felt like it was a talk that I very much needed to hear.

President Monson admonishes us to enjoy life as we live it instead of constantly worrying about the future. Says he,
"I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and non-existent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now."
He quotes from the Music Man:
"You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays."
This words cut straight through me. That's pretty much how I have spent the better part of my life. I'm a planner. I'm always preparing for the next thing. In high school, I moved constantly from planning from one test, to preparing for a concert, to running for this office, and back again. The same in college - I was always worried about a test or an internship application or what to register for the next semester. I didn't take time to relish my successes and accomplishments. I didn't take time to enjoy the things I had worked so hard for. Even when I was studying abroad in France, I didn't truly enjoy the time there. I spent so much time worrying about having an internship lined up when I got home and making sure that my credits would transfer that I don't think I ever sat back and let myself revel in the joy of Parisian streets and the pace of daily life.

It's a wonderful thing to plan for the future. It's wise to be prepared for tests, for jobs, for savings, for all the many things that may come. But in his infinite wisdom, Pres. Monson is so right to remind us that this things are useless if you don't truly enjoy the important things in life. I have so much to be grateful for. I am blessed with a wonderful family, a loving husband, amazing friends, a great job, a beautiful home, two adorable little fur babies, and most importantly, the Gospel in my life. There is so much love and laughter and joy in my life. There may be hard things that come. There will be difficulties and trials. But overall, life is amazing good. The Lord is good.

I pray we may all live by Pres. Monson's words,
"Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family. One day each of us will run out of tomorrows."

Full text.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My rant against AllState

The topic of today? Shady business.

It's now been several weeks since the accident and the claim has still not been settled. Why, you might ask? Two words: Frank Vargas. This guy is beyond shady.

So my beautiful little Honda was a 2003, in great condition. I just had an overhaul of the brakes in September. Never been in a wreck. Power everything, sun roof, cd player, the whole thing. Good car. It had some mileage on it, but nothing extreme - about 100,000.

According to my credit union, the car should be worth a little under $10k. AllState initial offer was something like $7k. Umm.... what? I asked them to re-evaluate. That's when they sent me to Frank.

He was out of town. I was out of town. We played phone tag. This drug on for weeks. Finally, we connected and I expressed my displeasure at both how long the process was taking and how low their estimate was. I told him that in the interim, I had done tons of research online to figure out a more accurate expectation of what a settlement should be. I looked up edmunds, nada, kelly blue book, and then spent hours pouring over auto trader, the newspaper, craigslist, and various dealerships in Austin to find comparable cars and what they were selling for. The low end was about $7k, but the high end was $10k. So I figured $8500 or so would be fair.

Enter my buddy Frank again. He says they're willing to go up $400 more, but that's it. He said he looked at the papers I faxed him showing all the cars that I found and that it's just not relevant. "People can ask whatever price they want," he says. "That doesn't mean that they're going to get it." Um.... what? These are car dealerships. They know what cars are worth. I'm not asking some guy on the street what he thinks my car is worth.

At this point, Frank starts becoming very defensive and belligerent. I'm appalled at the insubordinate tone in his voice - what kind of customer service rep talks to his clients this way? One who gets FIRED, that's who. He tells me that AllState has done their job and my only recourse is to hire an outside appraiser who will verify what the car is worth independent of AllState. I'm upset.
"You're telling me, i have to PAY someone else, to do your job, since you can't seem to do it right? I have to PAY to prove that I'm right?"
"No ma'am, you have to PAY to prove that you're wrong."
What a jerk! Who says that?

Conversation continues going downhill.
"I think I'd like to speak with your manager. I don't appreciate your tone, you've been very rude."
"How? How am I being rude? I'm not being rude. I'm just doing my job. I'm not being rude at all. That's just you."

Are you kidding me? Who is this guy?

Our conversation went no where and I got off the phone shaking because I was so angry. I started a google search for the guy, hoping that I could find his office's website and find a contact tree to get info for his boss. Instead I found this:

Apparently I'm not the only one who has experienced what a douche (sorry grandma) this guy is. Pam Jackson is his boss, so I'm trying to work with her instead. I called her this morning and she is out of town until the fourth (the day Hans and I leave on our honeymoon). I spoke with our insurance agent today, Mr. Billy Jackson, and he agrees that Vargas is undervaluing the car and gave me some advice on how to proceed. I tried calling even a third claims adjuster from the office, but he's on vacation until later this week, too. It seems that Mr. Vargas is the only person holding down the office. I'll be surprised if it doesn't burn to the ground.

At this point, I believe that Mr. Vargas is deliberately undervaluing the car $1000. This is an amount high enough to be troublesome to me, the customer, but not high enough that I have a viable option. I could hire a third party appraiser and he could likely get me this additional $1000. However, most of that would simply go to pay his fee, which runs $500-$600. In the end, I'd only pocket $400 or so more than what Mr. Vargas is offering. This seems like his game. He's banking on the fact that we won't want put up a fight for so little increase, and he'll come out $1000. His games and his attitude have been so unbelievably unprofessional and dishonest that I amazed that he is still employed by AllState at all. Hans' family insures all four of our vehicles through AllState and my father-in-law has been with the same agent for the past 20 years. One might think that after such loyal business, we might receive better treatment and consideration.

Please pray that this will be resolved soon and that Mr. Vargas gets what's coming to him.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Weekend wrap up

I love weekends. This one was particularly busy, but productive and wonderful. With Hans' new job, it's also the first weekend in recent memory we've both had off work. Marvelous.

Friday after Hans got off work, we ran a few errands (picked up some frames for the house, groceries, etc). Then we got fancied up a bit and went to Benihana for dinner to celebrate the new job. The food there is so delicious, but I feel like they've let this Austin location go down hill a bit. The ambiance isn't as good as others we've been to. We sat at a table with three other couples. I got to talking with the girl next to me because I commented on her engagement ring (which, by the way, was HUGE!) We started talking with her and her fiance - small talk type stuff. Where are you from? What do you do? Stuff like that. When it came up that I work for the Statesman, the guy asks "Is there any chance that the name 'Courtney Sebesta' rings a bell?" Why, yes, actually, that rings many bells. Courtney is one of about three friends I have at work, has taught me everything I know about my job, and sits directly across from me so I get to see her pretty face for about 20 hours every week. We also were in the same sorority at UT, though a few years apart. She and I also share a weird affinity for Snuggies. What a small world!

Saturday was glorious - we got to sleep in and then have waffles for breakfast. Then it was time to finish up the Christmas shopping and run other errands. We also made the trek to Round Rock to go to the Ikea. At the beginning of last year, when I moved into the Yellow House, I bought a cheapy, particle board coffee table at Ikea the night before the Yellow House's house warming party. Needless to say, since  a few guys sat on said coffee table at the party, it has never been the same. It's always bowed in the middle, pretty significantly. In recent days, it's gotten to the point where if you touch it, it falls over and the sides have fallen off exposing the particle board insides. Not attractive. We went to Ikea again (can't lose faith in Ikea over one thing!), this time determined to spend a little more for an all wood one. Fortunately, we found a beautiful one that we thought was $119. When we checked out, it rang up for $69. I love it when that happens. After a tasty meal at Mighty Fine Burgers, we headed over to the mall. We finished up our family gifts and then split up to buy a few things for each other. It was a very successful mission.

Back at home, our friend Andrew joined us for the evening. While Hans set up the new coffee table, Andrew and I ventured to Walmart so I could buy a trifle dish and the last two presents for Hans. We finished off the evening with V for Vendetta (don't worry, it was the edited TV version!) and some homemade puppy chow (or Muddy Buddies, if you will).

Sunday afternoon Andrew came over again (sometimes I feel like he might as well not go home!) to shoot a couple quick pics for us to send out with Christmas cards. I'm really happy with how they turned out. I tried a new slow cooker recipe for dinner and am so happy with how it turned out - it's a pulled pork in root beer sauce. Yum. We also made a brownie peppermint trifle to take to a Christmas party at the Kendricks. We played Cranium, husbands versus wives, and I'm sorry to report that the wives lost (er, LET them win....)

And now it's Monday. Back to the grind :( But Christmas is this weekend, and I'm so excited!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chronicles of our crazy fur babies

Oliver and Hudson have been very photo worthy lately. They seem a lot happier since the move. There's more space for them to run around and they like the carpet much better the old hardwood. Not to mention mom and dad under the same roof - no more back and forth.

Oliver -

We're going on a car ride? Some place fun? The park? No. Just running errands. I will sulk now.

Mom and dad don't let me sleep in the bed anymore. But that's ok, because I make my own pillow bed on the couch.

Hudson -

Hudson plays a lot of 'King of the Hill.' Whatever he can climb up on and nest in, he loves. It becomes his. Clothes? Mine. Pillows? Mine. The left was me trying to do laundry while Hudson tried to lie on my sorting piles. The right is a couple weeks ago when I could find the crazy little nutter. I eventually found him in the closet, on top of three stacked laundry baskets and three stacked pillows. Still not sure how he got up there... magic puppy.

Unable to wait for Christmas, Hudson pulled his stocking off the wall. And chewed on it. He's not so interested in what's in the stocking, so much as how it tastes.

Stay tuned for much more to come on our two little maniacs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some thoughts for today

1. I was driving to work and heard "Y'all don't understand/Make me through my hands/In the ayer
/Ay-ayer" and for whatever reason thought of Tom Wright. Hi Tom.

2. Making and freezing a lasagna in advance was a good idea. In theory. I cooked Sunday and put the unbaked lasagna in the freezer to cut down on meal prep during the work week. However, that thing is frozen solid. It's supposed to bake 25 minutes, I did over an hour and it was still frozen all the way through. Stupid thing made me behind schedule getting to work and having no dinner.

3. Yesterday as I was leaving to drop Hans off at school, a UPS truck with two guys in the front pulled up to the gate. Feeling nice, I pulled out my clicker/remote thingie and buzzed them through the gate. They smiled and waved. I took Hans to class and then went to the UPS store to mail off some Christmas stuff. As I was leaving, what I'm reasonably confident was the same UPS truck pulled up behind me. Guy smiled at me again. I get home, after only having been gone an hour, and find a sticky not on my door from UPS. Sorry, we tried to deliver a package, but you weren't home. We'll try again tomorrow. That's cool. I only buzzed you in and went by UPS today. Oh ya, and you didn't try again the next day. I waited this time. Liars.

4. Hubby bringing P.F. Changs to work because you had a bad day = amazing. Best. Hubby. Ever.

5. There were more, but my memory is no so good these days.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The new is up and running

A few months ago at work we found out that we would be moving our website to a new content management system. Ouch.

For those of you not familiar with what a CMS is, it's kind of like the platform or program that you work through to build the website. Our old CMS was called Teamsite and it was pretty old school. We hand coded every piece of information for the site. We didn't use Dreamweaver or Wordpress or anything like that - everything was written out in html in BBedit (or on a sticky note, or in Word, or however you wanted to write it). Then it would be FTP to our server and managed through Teamsite. It was a bit of labor-intensive process.

Exhibit A - Old site

The new CMS is called Escenic and it's supposed to automate a lot of this work. It's more drag and drop, point and click style. Want something bolded? Gone are the tags. Now you highlight and click a button labeled B, just like in Word. No more copy and pasting links. No more FTPing items. It's all in one.

Before we go any further, here's something to understand about the old site. Everything was a separate file, a separate page. The homepage wasn't just one html file - it was about a dozen. Plus ads pulling in. And videos. And on and on. Each story is a separate file, a separate page.

To change to a new CMS, each of these files had to be rebuilt, piece by piece, on the new CMS. We're talking hundreds and hundreds of files, folks. More ouch.

And the kicker? We had a little under three months to do it all. That's right, three months.

So for the past three months, we've been working our tails off, especially my boss Kristi and the genius behind the web, Christian. Today was our launch date and I'm happy to show you the difference!

 Exhibit B - new site

What do you think? It's a lot cleaner, a lot less cluttered. But the drawback is that we, the website producers, have a lot less control. We can't pick what size image we want, or really move items anywhere but where they are now.

There's still a lot of bugs and we'll be sorting it out for weeks, but take a look at and today to see the new changes.

On a separate note, I edit a website 40 hours a week and I can't figure out how to get this stupid blog to do a lightbox feature on my images. Anyone know how??