Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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AR Workshop

I like to be crafty and I like the idea of DIY but I am also a slight perfectionist (though not nearly as bad as I used to be). I also have trouble decorating. I have trouble visualizing decor and making decisions. So all around some issues! Luckily for me there are lovely little shops and activities that can solve many of these problems.

I’ve tried the sip and paint places and painting is definitely not my gift. I’ve done a couple and have never painted anything I would actually hang on the wall. Then last year my friend discovered AR Workshop. There are a number of them around Atlanta (and around the country) and we have now been to two different locations. They have mostly wood projects – signs, frames, display boxes, clocks, trays. You pick your date and project (some can be customized) ahead of time to reserve your spot then just show up! At the locations here you can also bring your own wine.

This is also not the cheapest activity you will do but think about it. You end up with a piece of decor that you made (or at least put together and painted) that you can actually use in your house. I love it!

Last year the shop in Lawrenceville had a Christmas in July sale so we made Christmas decor. I made a plank sign that I did actually hang on the wall, though I wish I had done a couple things differently. This time we hit up the Smyrna location since it was a little closer for two of us. Since we are moving to our new house soon and we got married last year, I wanted to do something cute with our last name.

When you get there, everything is set up for you! Your wood pieces, the stencil of your design, and any materials might need. You’ll have a pro or two (depending on how many people are doing projects) who will walk you through every step. Everyone mostly has the same steps, depending on how fancy you want to get. You’ll pick out whatever stain, method, and/or paint you need, and they have lots of examples to looks at as well expert advice to offer.

The first step is always sanding the wood, getting rid of rough edges. Then you stain any wood that needs staining. Mine was the frame that needed staining. You can also use different methods of staining to give it different looks, but since mine is just the frame I kept it to a simple dark stain.

The next step for mine was painting the main board. You could also stain this if you wanted to. I picked a nice gray since that is a main color in our new house.

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Next, you take your stencil and tape all over the cut-out space with little pieces of tape. Then you peel off the backing from the blue stencil and stick it to your wood. Then you peel off all the little pieces of tape. I’m going to be honest – I have no idea why you do these steps. I didn’t ask, I just did as I was told. I’m sure there’s some science around it and if I sat and thought about it for a minute I could probably figure it out. But I don’t really care how it works, just that it does!

Once your stencil is placed and tape-free, you paint! You dab the paint into the stencil (as opposed to painting strokes). This keeps the paint from getting under the stencil.

Then you peel off the stencil and voila! You have a lovely painted wood project! You may need to do some touch ups, which the expert can you do. And not pictured is the putting it all together. In my case it was using a nail gun to put the frame on. I know, I know – how could I not get photographic evidence of the nail gun. It’s obviously the coolest part. Next time.

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I loved my project and will definitely go back, even it’s once a year when there is a specific project I have in mind or holiday I want something for. I highly recommend getting a group together and checking it out. Find one near you!

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23andMe

I have never really had a serious interest in the whole DNA kit thing. It would be interesting to know where your ancestors are from but I didn’t really care to pay money to know that kind of information. I’m pretty sure I’m European and that’s enough for me.

But then a family member told me about 23andMe which also has a DNA health component that includes reports about genetic health risks, carrier status, wellness, and traits that are linked to your DNA. Now that interests me more. Especially to know if I have variants related to health conditions I might have or things I could potentially pass on. No, I’m not pregnant but that is something I would want to know eventually so why not go ahead and find out?! Most insurance companies do not completely cover this testing even when you are pregnant so you have to pay for it eventually if this is information you want to know.

So I did it! I got a discount code and ordered my kit. It came in a nice little box and had everything I needed. And by everything I mean a tube to spit in. There are clear instructions. Spit in the tube (don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes), seal it up and release whatever preservatives keep it fresh, seal it back in the box, and ship it back.

Then you use the bar code to register your tube with your account and you wait. In the meantime, you can take surveys online that also link to your account and DNA so researchers can use it to have even more accurate information about DNA and genetics. I work in research so of course I did all of this – but it is optional. You can also track where your DNA is in the analysis process.

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It took 17 days from the day I put it in the mail to get my results back, which I didn’t think was that long and it was earlier than the ‘expected’ date. You can see everything online, of course, and there is a lot to go through!

My ancestry was not at all surprising. I’m very European (99.5%). And if you’ve seen me or know me you would not be surprised either. I guess the breakdown was kind of interesting, but again, nothing surprising.

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The health information was very informative. You HAVE to remember though that this is not diagnostic at all or a guarantee of anything to happen. You can use it as a springboard to talk to your doctor about anything concerning. Luckily, I have nothing concerning.  There were a couple variants of health conditions that were detected, but nothing that I am at an actual risk of developing. Then there are carrier status reports – genetic variants that could affect your children’s health. No variants detected there! But this includes things like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and 42 other conditions I have never heard of.

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The last reports are related to how DNA may affect your body’s response to diet, exercise, and sleep, and the genetics behind your appearance and senses. For example, I am predisposed to weigh about average. I apparently also have a muscle composition common in elite power athletes so it looks like I squandered that one! As far as traits, some are true for me and some are not. My report says I have “slightly higher odds of disliking cilantro” (yes, this is genetic), but I love cilantro. However, I am likely to have blue or green eyes (check), straight or wavy hair (check), and be bitten more often than others by mosquitoes (big check). It’s amazing what they can predict using genetics!

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I thought this was all very cool information. Luckily there’s nothing serious health-wise that I need to be concerned about right now, so some might say it was a waste of money, but I don’t feel that way. Let me know if you are interested in this and I’ll send you a referral code! They have the Health + Ancestry or just the Ancestry options. Think about it!

Use my referral link for a minimum of 10% off – or if there is a better deal happening you’ll get the better deal and I’ll still get the referral! https://refer.23andme.com/s/ak5bj


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Swimming Pigs

Since my previous post about our honeymoon was getting long, I promised to write one specifically about the excursion. As I said, there were plenty of free activities at Sandals Emerald Bay, but there were also optional excursions and we decided to not be completely lazy every single day.

Now I may have been – at first – a little underwhelmed going to the Bahamas (a feeling that was completely unfounded and wrong), but when my husband told me what excursion we would be doing I almost cried. Ever since I was little I have loved pigs. Don’t ask me why and I don’t know where that love came from (mom? dad? anyone know?), but I love pigs. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out we would be SWIMMING WITH PIGS. Even now, almost 9 months later, I am reliving the excitement. I had also seen this excursion on The Bachelor so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The tour was done by Great Exuma Water Sports. They had 2 time options – a morning and afternoon. We decided we could suck it up and set an alarm one morning, knowing that the weather would be more mild than the middle of the afternoon on a boat. I want to say there were about 25 of us on the tour but that could be way off. There was a short bus ride to the other end of the island where we boarded the boat and took a nice little ride through the Exuma islands. The guide was great – telling us stories and history about the area and specific islands. And just riding around in a boat was fun enough!

But of course we were there for more. The first stop was Pig Island and it is definitely something you need to experience. As the boat nears the island, pigs literally begin running into the water. They swim to the boat, amidst sting rays swirling around below the surface. (You can see some of it in the video on my last post). We jumped out of the boat, into the water, and began feeding the pigs chicken hot dogs. Only the big ones really swim out into the water but there are little ones too that hang out at the edge of the water on the island. I guess eventually they learn to swim because that’s where the treats are. They also bring a bucket of leftovers to feed to both the big pigs and little pigs to make sure everyone gets some grub. We hung out with the swimming pigs in the water for a bit then made our way up onto the island where I immediately found a cute little friend. I held him like a baby and he fell asleep in my arms. Once again, I was almost in tears.

I could talk about the pigs for days. I was in love and would have brought that little piggy home if I could. But there was more to the tour! Our next stop was a little island that bordered both the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay where there is a cool blow hole. It also had beautiful views. I think you would typically do some reef snorkeling there as well but the Atlantic was very choppy that day and it would not have been a pleasant snorkeling experience.

Our guide found a live starfish along the ride, which we passed around the boat (then returned to the water). We stopped at another island to see and feed Bahamian Rock iguanas (who eat grapes). And our last stop was by the little island to do a little snorkeling since we couldn’t do it at the reef.

I would definitely recommend this tour if you visit Great Exuma. It was nice to get out of the resort for half a day and we still got some good nap time by the pool after we returned. I cannot imagine a better honeymoon – my husband did a FANTASTIC job planning – and Sandals definitely set the bar high for all-inclusive resorts.

 


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Drop the Mic

Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Merchant were geniuses in creating Lip Sync Battle and I have posted a number of my favs. I have also come to love carpool karaoke with James Corden. But this week I discovered (via YouTube…if you know me, you know I’m not even up to see The Late Show, much less The Late Late Show) Drop the Mic. James Corden probably was looking for a modified Lip Sync Battle, and he nailed it. Instead of a lip syncing battle, it is a purely original rap battle. These are fantastic. So I may post some for the next few weeks. Happy Friday!


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Adios, Atlanta

The time has come! Seven new wonderful friends and I are leaving for Nicaragua this weekend! If you missed my first post, click here to learn what this trip is all about and why I’m going. A big thank you to everyone who supported me financially and made this trip possible. We have worked hard to prepare a VBS curriculum for kids in the area as well as put together 120 hygiene kits for those kids (with a wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a comb, and cup). These, and so many things we take for granted having readily available will be a huge gift for the kids we come into contact with. We will also be helping with some home improvement projects in the area.

I’m so excited for this experience – personally and for us as a group – and prayers this week are appreciated (especially for no volcano eruptions or tropical storms 😉 ). I’ll do a post or two when I get back, but while we are there I will be keeping our trip blog up-to-date. Visit the site and follow it if you want daily updates and pics! Can’t wait to share stories and [lots of] pictures! Adios!

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Colorado

I had the chance to head to Colorado for work and since I have never set foot in the state, decided I needed to take full advantage. My wonderful friend quickly hopped on board to go with me for the weekend before work started, even though it would a quick one, because she loves Denver. I was a little disappointed that it snowed pretty much the entire weekend – a wet, gross flurry. There were a few breaks, and it definitely affected our potential outings, but don’t worry, we still had a great time.

And let me just say that people in Colorado are the nicest I have ever met. Every hotel employee, restaurant host and server, drivers, park staff, random strangers – all insanely, genuinely nice. Drivers don’t fly 20 mph over the speed limit and they actually stop for pedestrians.

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Despite the weather, we made good use of our time. We got in late Friday so just went straight to the hotel. Important travel tip: the light rail was recently expanded to the airport, so you can take that from the airport to downtown. We did not know this, so we rented a car (the airport is about 25 miles outside the city) but ended up not really needing it. Oh well! We are both morning people and on eastern time, so we were up early on Saturday with nowhere to be until 10am, so we did make use of the car to hop over to Voodoo Doughnut for a nutritious breakfast. Delicious. Cash only. Go early to beat the lines (at 6:30-7ish it was empty). We got ready then hopped on the free 16th Street mall ride bus to Coors Field. We took the stadium tour (still snowing) which was really cool (to me at least). Fun fact of the day – there are heaters under the natural grass field to trick the grass into thinking it’s warmer than it is to make it turn green. What?! After that we met some of my friend’s friends for brunch, then spent the afternoon hitting up some fun brewpubs and bars.

 

Garden of the Gods

Work was in Pueblo, CO 2 hours south of Denver. It was a cute little town, but we were working. Luckily we finished training mid-day on Wednesday and I was staying that night back in Denver to fly out the next morning. The weather cleared and was perfect by Monday (didn’t wear my jacket again after Sunday) and I was itching for some outdoor activities. I drove back through Colorado Springs and made a little detour to Garden of the Gods. It’s more touristy and not ‘hiking’ per say, but talk about beauty. Breathtaking views of the Rockies, incredible rock formations. Instead of driving up, I did do the short “hike” from the visitor center up to the paths, and climbed a little on some of the rocks to just sit and take it all in. Definitely recommend this, especially if you only have a little time to spare and are in or going through Colorado Springs.

 

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Like I said, I am a morning person and am a sucker for sunrises. So I set my alarm nice and early on Thursday morning and drove over to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in the dark. Red Rocks is a completely natural, open-air amphitheater – the only one in the world. There were already a few people there working out when I arrived and the sun was just beginning to paint the sky with it’s colors. I walked around, down to the bottom of the theater, back up to the top, scoping out some good photo spots. Despite the warmer weather all week, it was cold and windy up at the amphitheater, but luckily I had put my sweatshirt on. To get the blood flowing, I ran some of the steps on my way back up and quickly lost my breath. And I’m not completely out of shape. Definitely a good workout. Anyway, I found a good corner at the top and watch the sun slowly rise behind the stage with downtown Denver in the distance. Pictures do not do it any kind of justice, but I tried. It was incredible and nothing but the simple work of God reminding us that there is true beauty remaining in the world. Definitely want to get back to Red Rocks for a concert sometime.

 

I had a great trip, even the work part went well, and I definitely recommend a trip to Colorado, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. I will definitely remain on my list to return to for more outdoor fun and beauty.