My Sweet Carolina

23 01 2011

I am so lucky.

Not only do I have the best nuclear and extended family, but I have had the great fortune to have become part of several other families throughout the course of my life. The initial connections were made over classes and cadavers and grew into holidays and my own room in their homes. Now I simply just belong.

I just got back from another wonderfully fun and far too short weekend with two of my other families in Morganton/Shelby, NC, and despite the 4-hour drive, I am still feeling happy and loved and almost overwhelmed by the words that Laura’s mom said when she hugged me goodbye… “You are the sister that Laura never had until now.” There was plenty of “sister” conversations in the past two days as Lily is getting a baby sister in June, but I will never forget those words.

The other role I get to play, and one that I so adore, is Aunt Kristen. Though to Lily, I’m still just “Aunt K.” My friends’ kids are hilarious and so smart and cuddly and loving. And though I’m not able to be around them (or their parents!) as much as I would like, somehow the closeness of our relationship has not been affected by distance or infrequency of our visits. It’s very special.

I am so lucky!


Still the Best. Family. Ever.

25 07 2010

…. Sorry for the delay, there are big changes afoot for me… but that is a story for a later date…

Event #5: Zarosinski Family Graduation(s) Celebration – Vancouver, WA – Sunday, June 13

After we had ambled around Portland’s Saturday Market, indulging in cinnamon elephant ears and Isabella’s first taste of fresh lemonade, we headed north on I-5 to Vancouver (Washington, not Canada, to clarify!) where there was to be a Zarosinski mini-reunion. Although it turned out not to be quite so “mini” as we were only missing two of the 30 Don-Z’s.

“There is nothing worth sharing / like the love that let us share our name.” – Avett Brothers

Not too shabby! We were all here together celebrating FOUR cousin graduations: one college (Mark), two high school (Tom and Ian), and one 8th-grade (Anne). Not to mention Fathers Day, several birthdays, and Grandma and Papa’s Anniversary. In our family, the traditional Paper Towel Banner marks special occasions, usually holding court via some masking tape on a kitchen cupboard door. Thanks to cousin Kieran, the tradition stands… 

The weather was absolutely PERFECT, and we spent long hours outside with a delicious spread of food, great beers, and of course an obligatory basketball game.

Event #6: Cousin Michael’s Graduation from U of O – Eugene, OR – Monday, June 14

(Too) early Monday morning we headed back down I-5 to Eugene to attend yet another graduation ceremony. Once again, the weather was stunning, but I was quickly reminded how a sunshine-y summery day in Eugene will wreak havoc on my sinuses. I probably sneezed no less than 284 times in the 6 hours we were in town. But it did give me a great excuse for my watery eyes as graduate after graduate took to the stage at Mac Court (*oh, you sweet old Pit, how I adore you!) to announce their name, major, and a joyful burst of thanks and love to their families in the stands!

“Michael Klaas Zarosinski vanBronkhorst”… it’s a good thing everyone said their own name!

After the ceremony, we met for a reception on the patio at Excelsior. I spent four years at school in Eugene, and never had I once even stepped foot inside this darling Inn! It’s really a beautiful place. The restaurant and kitchen take up several rooms on the main level of the building, with 14 guest rooms tucked away upstairs. I think I’ll definitely be returning here, whenever the next Eugene-event occurs!

Event #7: Visiting Mary Ann’s New House Project – Lake Oswego, OR – Tuesday, June 15

The next day was my first Non-Pre-Scheduled Event Day of the trip, and unfortunately my last full day in town. So, naturally, I filled it right up! First up was an “After” tour of Mary Ann’s project at “Millie’s House,” where I had lived (when it was in its “Before” state) before I bought my townhouse. Then it was off to Lake Oswego to see the new house project. Very, VERY “Before.” But knowing MA, she’s going to do wonders and amazing things with this little place!

Event #8: Happy Hour with the Girls and NoPo Reunion with an ATL buddy

My last night in town, I was able to meet up with two of my oldest friends (Emily and Sarah – and Shawn!) at McMenamins for a bite to eat and a fast catch-up session. It wasn’t long enough to even scratch the surface, but it’s worth it to me to have even a few minutes at a time to stay in each others’ lives. Jill and I then met up with cousin Zach at his sweet condo for a whiskey and downtime. The east-facing wall is entirely windows, and though we didn’t get the 3-mountain view, we were treated to a full-rainbow spanning I-84 instead!

Then it was once last stop in North Portland to see an old friend of mine who had recently moved to Portland from Atlanta, no less! We had a slice of pizza and a couple of beers at Mississippi Pizza Pub, which is one of my absolute favorite spots in town. They have a great, cozy live-music spot and host the Portland Spelling Bee on Monday nights! It’s fantastic.

It was yet another fun, full, happy trip to Portland. And I found it much harder to leave this time than I’ve experienced in the recent past. I still get a little misty-eyed when I think about the breakdown I had when saying goodbye to my brother Scott. It had been two years since I’d seen him last, and it’s hard not knowing when the next time will be. I am so very grateful for the close relationships that the four Grba-siblings have built and maintained, despite the physical distance that continues to separate us.

There’s nothing better than LIKING your family just as much as you love them.

Best. Family. Ever.

30 06 2010

No one is as lucky as I am when it comes to familes… except for maybe Jill and Scott and Mark, but that’s because they have the same one that I do! Perhaps THEY are the REALLY lucky ones, because I’M their sister?! 🙂

It was truly a Family-themed trip to Portland last week. There wasn’t any singular occasion that made this a Not To Be Missed weekend in Portland, but a multi-event, multi-city, uber-happy Zarosinski-Grbavac love-fest in the Pacific Northwest!

Event #1: Grbavac Late-Night Happy Hour – Ashdale Drive – Thursday, June 10

My flight left Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. and arrived in Portland at 9:30 p.m. I love flying West! Of course I checked in online (including the $23 checked bag fee… essentially airline piracy) and could drop my bag off at the curb without waiting on a single line! And we all know how I feel about waiting for things! I had a direct flight, which to me is a serious luxury. It took awhile to get off the plane (as usual) but as soon as I came down the escalator to the PDX baggage claim, I saw my bag coming around the carousel! Sweet! Dad and Jill picked me up and we went straight home where Mark and Scott and Isabella were waiting for us. It was SO GOOD to see and hug my brothers again! It’s been 2 years since I’ve seen Scott, and I couldn’t wait to spend the next 6 days catching up. We had cocktails and sat around the kitchen table chatting for a couple of hours, laughing and making our plans for Friday. It felt like a very late night for me, but I like to drop-kick my Circadian rhythms into West Coast time as soon as possible!

Event #2: Grba-Siblings Hiking Adventures – Columbia River Gorge – Friday, June 11

Friday plans included hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls and the Horsetail Falls trail and making handmade pizzas on the grill for dinner. But first, I needed a pair of hiking shoes. And to borrow some hike-worthy clothes. Obviously I was unprepared. We packed a nice picnic lunch and filled the water bottles and were on our way. The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful stretches of river-side highway in the US. Despite wishing for some whiter clouds in bluer skies, the weather could not have been better for us.

Over a month straight of rain makes for one raging waterfall! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it look like this before! Nor have I (or any of us) ever been to the top of the Falls. But today is the day! It’s not a long hike (probably 1.2 miles) but nearly 1.1 of those miles ascend at nearly a 45 degree angle.

Scott had to be in charge of the camera at this point. The observation platform dangles over the edge of The Falls, and I’m not really a fan of dangling over the edge of anything. The return trip down the now -45 degree angles was fairly frightening due to some painful knees and tired quads. Poor little ACLs!

A few preemptive bandaids and short drive farther out the Gorge later, we were back on the trails to see a few more Falls. First was Horsetail Falls – aptly named!

Next up, Ponytail Falls. I always feel a little bit Last-of-the-Mohicans when I get to walk behind a waterfall!

Finally we made our way to Triple Falls – also appropriately (if not very creatively) named.

Triple Siblings at Triple Falls!

This made a great snack spot for the remainder of our picnic lunch: string cheese, hardboiled eggs, and apples for everyone!

After a delicious dinner of homemade (even the dough, thanks to our amazing Mom!) pizzas on the grill that we ate outside on the new deck, the Siblings headed across the river to meet up with cousins and friends and 25-cent Skee Ball at East Burn. As if there wasn’t going to be enough family-bonding going on downstairs in the TapRoom, another Central Catholic family dynasty was amassing as well. By 11 p.m. or so, it looked like a Harrington-Rice vs. Zarosinski-Grbavac Mafia War Council. *side note: the Zarosinski-Grbavac faction emerged as the clear and decisive winner… They had cleared out by midnight… WE closed the bar down. Bam.

Event #3: Mark’s Graduation from OSU – Corvallis, OR – Saturday, June 12

Closing the bar down at 2:30 a.m. hurt a little bit more when the alarm clock rang the next morning to rouse us for our 8 a.m. departure for Corvaillis. *sigh. But knowing that Grandma and Papa and Dona and Katie and DeAnna and Mary Ann were all going to be there made it slightly easier to get up and going. The weather was PERFECT. Sunny and warm and breezy and simply fantastic!

After the ceremony, we high-tailed it back to Mark’s house in hopes of catching the end of the US World Cup game… we got there in time for the inspiring music and the slow-motion highlight reel. Draw, USA! We soon assembled at King Tin’s Chinese restaurant for a smorgasbord of rice and meat and veggies and delicious extravagance!

A quick stop at the Woodburn Outlets proved fruitful as I found a light-weight, rain-resistant, wind-breaker type jacket. I was in need of something to protect me (read: my hair) from the sudden summer storms of the South. And it’s bright lime green, which makes me smile every time I see it! Yay for Columbia Sportswear!

Event #4: Portland’s Saturday Market – Sunday, June 13

Portland’s Saturday Market actually runs Saturdays AND Sundays in its new location at the Pavillion on the Waterfront.

The Siblings met up with Cousin Katie to spend a relaxing sunny morning/afternoon perusing the booths and taking in the sights of The Market prior to making our way up to Vancouver for the Zarosinski Family Graduation(s) Party.

There just isn’t a nicer or more beautiful place on earth than Portland on a warm, sunny, summer-y day!

Stay tuned for more stories….

End of the Hiatus

23 01 2010

Not that there was ever a conscious beginning to said hiatus. Regardless… I’M BACK! Back from where, one may query? Back FROM the internalization of the (sometimes) rambling thoughts and commentary on the goings-on of my days, and back TO the e-spilling of those self-same ramblings.

I honestly can’t come up with a reason for the months of silence… perhaps I talked more (telephone calls, text messages, Facebook posts) or had more personal interaction (West Coast Road Trip, multiple NC escapes) and so I didn’t focus so much (or at all) on the transcription of the events of the past six-plus months.

Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of the last half of 2009… according to Kristen, of course!


Thus began the first full-month of my “new” job. Not new in the sense that I changed locations or careers, but new in that the fifteen months of working and planning and presenting my (brilliant) ideas to The Powers That Be at work finally paid off. I am now the Lead Orthopedic Therapist at Piedmont Hospital. This role enables me to work full-time on the Orthopedic units of the hospital, which is truly where I am at my best, therapeutically. (if, for no other reason, because of the short lengths-of-stay for even the most challenging patients!) Instant gratification abounds! *It is important to note that this has NOT been the case for several patients in the past two weeks who have essentially taken up residency on the unit.

Not only does this job keep me on the Ortho unit, but it also enables me to make the (long, drawn out, sometimes painful) transition into a “leadership” role – at least as far as the orthopedic realm is concerned. I’m working on a multi-disciplinary team that is creating a Total Joint Replacement Bible (my own working title) that will outline the course of events from “You’ve decided to have your hip/knee replaced” to “Yes, you ARE getting out of bed with the Physical Therapist today” to “No, you can’t stay in the hospital one more night because your wife doesn’t want to make the 27-minute drive after 4:30 p.m.” (in so many words) In addition to the patient-information guide, Piedmont Hospital is looking to become an Orthopedic Center of Excellence, a quest I have sought to be a part of since the day I started working here, and one that I am currently contributing to on the planning committee.


This month brought about a long-anticipated vacation! I flew to Portland and took off the next morning for Ashland to visit my friend Paula who was about to start Nursing school at OHSU’s Southern Oregon campus. The timing of my drive put me smack-dab in the middle of Game Day traffic – for both Oregon and Oregon State had home games. Oregon hosted 6th-ranked Cal, and made very short work of them, I must say! Despite my distaste for traffic – especially on 2-lane I-5 – it was great fun to be in the midst of the pre-game merriment. And Paula was such a good sport, ducking (!) into a dive-y pub in downtown Ashland to let me watch the 4th quarter… little did either one of us know, it was the hub for the Ashland chapter of U of O alumni! Go Ducks!

Ashland was lovely, and the company couldn’t be beat! We went wine-tasting and to the SOU bookstore (of course!) and wandered around little Talent, Oregon. Then it was off on the next leg of my journey: to Eureka!

Now, I’ve made the trip through the Redwood National Forest once before, en route to Arcata for Jill’s graduation several years ago. But I must have been asleep for that portion of the car ride, because I was FLOORED at the majesty of these botanical Giants! Could hardly get enough of them. Wow.

Seeing Jill was awesome and getting to spend time in her own town and life was fabulous! I even had the privilege to attend Hot Chick Night! Theme: Goddesses.

We took a day-trip to Petrolia, on the Lost Coast of California where Jill spent three years working for AmeriCorps and the Mattole Salmon Group. It was a stunning drive of cliffs and hairpin turns, gravelly roads and then a sprawling ocean-side highway. It’s totally where you find “Happy Cows are from California!”

We ate lunch on the banks of the (sadly dry) Mattole River after the wind cancelled our attempt to picnic at Strawberry Rock. The wind would NOT deter a photo-op, though!

From Eureka, I headed north along the Oregon Coast Highway. A longer route, but also one of much richer views. I was going back to my old stomping ground in Eugene, Oregon, to meet up with my dear friends Jeff and Laura.

We had a lovely time catching up that evening, and the next morning after tea with Laura and a send-off from Jeff, I went about re-exploring the U of O campus. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. The sun was shining and the breeze was light… reaffirming my stance that there is no nicer place on earth than Eugene when the sun shines in September!

I parked and walked around on 13th, popped into the bookstore (of course!) and got a bagel sandwich that I sat and ate on the Autzen footbridge, just soaking in the sights and sounds of the river and the passers-by.

Go Ducks!

From Eugene, I back-roaded it up to Corvallis to spend some time with Mark before continuing north to Kaiser where I stopped in to see my friend Tiffany (whom I had recently met up with in Charlotte, NC, of all places!) That was my final pre-Portland stop on the West Coast Road Trip. Once back in town, I was lucky enough to reconnect with some of my special lifelong friends. So much “life” has happened since we were all together the last time (a new career, a wedding, a sweet baby boy, a new state of residence) but by some stroke of fate, we were all in the same room again. And (it may sound cliché, but there’s no other way to put it) it felt like we had been apart for no longer than a weekend. So much laughter and fun times recalled – which only served to incite NEW laughter in this fun time. I am so glad that we were able to share that evening together.


There was definitely a transition-period for me coming back to my real life after such an amazing vacation. But then I got an invite from my writing instructor (from my freelance writing class last summer) for a Writers’ Workshop. So I was back in the swing-of-things, Atlanta-wise.

Jocelyn was in town for her birthday, and there was quite the celebration that ensued. So much celebrating on her part, in fact, that I am completely absolved from all back-lash of the now infamous Ruining of Jocelyn’s Birthday in Paris, circa 2006. Let’s just say that while she had Friday off from work, I (the uber-patient and ever-conscientious designated driver for the evening’s events) did NOT. So the 2:45 a.m. return to my house was all-too-quickly followed by my 6:30 a.m. wake-up call. Best. Friend. Ever.


This month brought another self-improvement opportunity: guitar lessons! Well, I took a beginning guitar class with 9 other people, so I suppose “lessons” is a bit of a stretch. I’m not very good, but I think I want to give it another try. Probably in a remedial beginning guitar class.

My friend Laura was inducted into Western Carolina’s Athletic Hall of Fame this year! She’s pretty much all-everything as far as Lady Catamount basketball goes. I was the rope-holder on Lily-patrol so that her family could bask in the glory and honor of the occasion. Lily and I wandered around the facilities, watching the Pride of the Smokies (WCU’s marching band) practice, the football team’s indoor warmups, and a basketball shoot-around, and still made it back for Dad’s introduction and Laura’s acceptance speeches. Way to go, Aunt K!

I’m really starting to believe that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – behind my Birthday/New Years, naturally! I had to work T-giving day and the day after, as did several of my friends. After work, we went over to Sunni and Brian’s for “Friends Thanksgiving II.” The first edition being 2 years ago, on the day after then closed on their new house. This year was a far cry from that “first” Thanksgiving when we sat on plastic chairs around a “beer pong” table in an otherwise completely empty house! Their home is absolutely lovely, and this was the first time Sunni got to set out her wedding china! I couldn’t be more grateful for the “family” I’ve found here in Atlanta.


The last month of the year opened with a first for me… Jury Duty! I imagine there aren’t too many people who would put an elated exclamation point at the end of that sentence, but I am definitely one of them! It was a very interesting day. Definitely didn’t do much to make “lawyer” look like a trustworthy and noble career path. I just don’t like the idea of your whole purpose being to trick and undermine people and to make them look foolish or wrong. It left a very sour taste in my mouth and I just don’t like it.

My holiday season progressed rapidly after seeing one of my dear friends take the stage in The Santaland Diaries! Stuart was a brilliant Crumpet, and I’m already looking very much forward to seeing him in his next role, the lead in the musical “Parade” next month.

It sort of feels like I spent most of December in North Carolina! I drove up surreptitiously for my friend Allison’s surprise 30th Birthday dinner party, and made my way to Charlotte on Christmas Eve to spend Christmas with Jocelyn and Hans and the Marshall family. I even had my very own stocking!

It was the first time that I hadn’t woken up at Mom and Dad’s house on Christmas morning. The whole weekend felt just a little bit… off. Sort of like Christmas wasn’t even happening. I mean, there were 6 stockings up on the mantle, just like at home… there were wonderful, thoughtful gifts, just like we do… delicious food and a beautiful tree… everything that said “family Christmas”… except for MY family. Now, don’t get me wrong – I had a great time and a marvelous Christmas. I couldn’t have asked for a better substitute. But I did so miss Zarosinski-Grbavac Christmas this year.

And with that, I put to rest 2009. This new month/year/decade has reinspired me to do the things I enjoy (writing, traveling), restart things I don’t yet enjoy (working out, limiting coffee intake), and learning new things that I hope to enjoy (sewing, guitar).

2010 has been good to me so far! Mom, Dad, Jill and Mark all came to Atlanta for my 20-10th Birthday Party! Everyone stayed at my house (which, if you haven’t seen it, is quite quaint and cozy!) and we had just such a wonderful time together! We took a field trip to Stone Mountain and the siblings went to an Avett Brothers concert, courtesy of Jill. Scott’s Christmas box arrived on New Years Eve! We got to Skype with Scott on my birthday, and (thanks to the wonders of modern technology) took a fairly impressive Family Photo.

2010 looks to be a great year. After all (thanks, Jocelyn!), it’s The Year of Kristen!


23 02 2009

February 20th brought two important events to the forefront of my life: 1) baby brother Mark’s 22nd birthday, and 2) opening day of college baseball! And as luck would have it, I got to celebrate BOTH at the same time! Oregon State opened their season on the road, travelling 3000 miles through 3 time zones to Knoxville, Tennessee, to play the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Knoxville being an easy 3-hour drive from Atlanta. My friend Hillary rowed for the Lady Vols Crew team at UT a few years ago, so she came along for a home-coming of sorts. Her Toyota 4Runner has a magic attachment that allows you to plug your iPod directly into the car, thus guaranteeing hours of road-trip-tunes enjoyment! First up was “O State Ballaz” followed by “We Still Ballin (2007)” and the baseball staples “Put Me in Coach” and “Back Home in Omaha.” Then I stopped being mean and we had sing-along tunes for the rest of the trip.


Friday’s game started at 4 p.m. It was chilly, without a doubt, and did get a bit less comfortable when the wind whipped through Lindsey Nelson stadium. But it was fairly tolerable. And I was purposely (and brilliantly!) delaying the addition of extra layers to my person. I started with a tank top under a long-sleeved shirt under my orange #18 jersey with Beavers across the chest and a College World Series patch on right arm. In the 4th inning, I added a white hooded sweatshirt between the long-sleeved shirt and the jersey. Gloves went on in the 6th, shortly accompanied by a set of disposable hand warmers. At the 7th inning stretch, my black pea-coat became my final outer layer. Then the fun began…


Finally in the 8th inning (just about the time the temperature dipped into the high 20’s) Mark made his 2009 season debut. And he was great! Stats: 1 inning, 1 “hit” (a blatant E-3 that the home-town scorekeeper gifted to a Vol who must have been either his son or favorite nephew), 1 K, 0 BB. Happy Birthday to Mark! Even happier birthday if they’d have left him in to finish the game and get the win instead of handing the ball over to the losing, save-blowing closer. Too bad I was the only smart (and least biased) baseball strategist at the field that night.


I’m sure I would have gotten infinitely better photos if I could have tolerated moving from the one warm spot on my seat to stand up and face the frigid winds head on. Those who did so are better people than I. But I had brought a bouquet of balloons (black and orange with a Happy Birthday mylar balloon for my brother) that were tied to the top of the stands at the base of the Georgia SEC flag, which I thought was appropriate. And I did bring Mark a birthday present, too. So there are likely very few better sisters than I. Right, Mark?! And Scott and Jill?!


Saturday’s 2 o’clock game felt practically tropical! Fifty-plus degrees, bright sun, crystal blue skies. I even came away with pink sunglasses lines on my face! Why they didn’t play a double-header in the glorious sunshine? No one can guess. And snow was on its way. And everyone knew it. Sunday morning the predicted “dusting” had dusted, and the non-asphalt ground surfaces were white. The temperature crawled slowly toward 30 as I abandoned my previously successful delayed-layering protocol. And it’s lucky that I did, because it was C-O-L-D outside. Snow flurries continued throughout the morning, though mostly it looked like the very end of a ticker-tape parade or New Years Rockin’ Eve, with swirls of fluffy flakes whirling around in the wind. Truthfully, it was the wind that did you in, not the temperature. Well, I suppose it was the malicious combination of the two.


We arrived to the game and couldn’t even bear to unload our arms of the blankets and coats and extra layers we had brought. It was too cold to go empty-handed. I was wearing 2 long-sleeved shirts, a t-shirt, a black #18 (duh!) OSU jersey (that’s Hillary in the orange one!), my white hooded sweatshirt, tall-socks, and gloves with disposable 7-hour hand-warmers already activated inside them.


I hate to say that I wasn’t really all that disappointed when the called the game at noon. It was not going to be pretty. Or warm. Or even anything close to being compared to warm. So we had our photo-op at the bus. And said a few “see you in L.A.’s” since I’ll be heading west in April to catch another series. Should be a bit nicer weather out there, don’t you think?!

Seattle Wedding Weekend – Jayson and Paula

15 06 2008

Jayson and Paula and I drove up to Seattle on that Thursday morning before the wedding – well, Jayson drove while Paula and I cut lengths of the ribbon that would adorn the wedding programs that the girls would be assembling over the course of the next 2 days. Upon arriving into Seattle-proper, we had to get Paula to her last-minute dress-rehearsal for her wedding hair style at a fantastic Aveda salon in Ballard, WA, which was actually our second stop of the day – the first stop being at the courthouse downtown where the Leaches-to-be acquired their wedding license. I took the wheel from there, as Paula was more comfortable navigating from the passenger seat via “Diana: Princess of Directions,” aka: Verizon’s GPS navigational system on Paula’s cell phone. Diana is brilliant and was without flaw the entire weekend, as far as we are concerned. At the salon, I busted out my mini-paper cutter and was able to finish half of the wedding program pages during Paula’s hair appointment. Luckily I had put together at least one rough prototype of the finished product, so the girls at the salon were able to see the final draft of the crazy work I had been doing all afternoon!




We had to book it across the floating (not kidding) I-520 bridge over Lake Washington to the Woodmark Hotel and ended up changing into our rehearsal apparel in the hotel’s public restrooms – one of my favorite moments from the weekend, actually! Of course, we were rushing around like crazy people, only to have to sit in the lobby for about 45 minutes while we waited for parents and the various other rehearsing members of the wedding party to arrive.


Rehearsal went fairly smoothly… I mean, who hasn’t been to a wedding before… we pretty much all get the idea. Then on to dinner at an Italian restaurant down the street. We checked into our hotel after dinner and went straight to work on program assembly. More cutting. Some gluing. Some photo taping. We definitely didn’t finish, but at least we put a nice big dent in the project. Tomorrow was going to be a busy one.


The Wedding Weekend Itinerary proved to be a very valuable asset throughout the weekend. Especially the address-and-phone-number section, since we had “Diana” to fill in the blanks between the Courtyard Marriott and Habitude Salon. It also allowed for a little bit more autonomy among bridesmaids… though there were still quite a few “when do we have to…?” and “where are we supposed to…?” questions still asked. Our drizzly Friday began at Starbucks – very conveniently located below our hotel’s lobby. Though if there weren’t one underneath the exact roof we slept under, there were undoubtedly seven others within eye-sight of the hotel’s front door… this is Seattle, people – the Starbucks capital of the universe. From Starbucks we caravanned over to the nail salon for manicures and/or pedicures. I made a quick voyage over to Fred Meyer (ahhh, one stop shopping at its Pacific NW finest!) for a basket to hold our still-not-quite-completed-programs and other wedding-day essentials.


Now, while the girls were scurrying all over the greater Seattle metropolitan area, there were a few things on the boys’ agenda as well. Golf being first and foremost. But, to be fair, they did have a few important responsibilities as well. Someone (I think it ended up being Jayson’s dad) had to go to this house somewhere to pick up the peach overlays for all of the tables – these were a last-second acquisition as they had to come on special-order. Jayson was also in charge of finalizing the cake-ordering – ice cream cakes, to be exact. According to the owner of the Dairy Queen nearest to the Woodmark Hotel (whom you will later come to know as The Person Who Saved the Wedding) would only require 2 days notice… Jayson later confided to me (I don’t think we ever mentioned it to Paula) that this was the case for ordering a single cake… not the FOURTEEN round ice cream cakes that Jayson ordered on Thursday afternoon. Yes, I said fourteen. There would be seven 8-inch round cakes stacked onto seven 10-inch round cakes. Jayson’s father constructed six “stands” of varying heights that would, with the lowest level being the actual table surface, hold each 2-cake stack in a cascading spiral. Each cake was very minimally decorated – only white “frosting” (also ice cream?) because they were each to have a peach ribbon wrapped around them. Problem: there were ZERO peach ribbons in all of the west-Portland fabric and craft stores we tried. Problem 2: there were ZERO peach ribbons in the Seattle-area fabric and craft stores that we and Jayson’s mother tried.


After our hand and/or feet pampering, we girls made the executive decision to divide and conquer. Paula was in search of a garter and there was still the looming peach ribbon dilemma. Mary and I were on ribbon duty. The first place we tried had (all together now) ZERO peach ribbon. Which brought us to our last-chance – Hancock Fabrics. By this time, we knew we had to return with something – so we decided we could settle for a pretty black ribbon if necessary. We found a by-the-spool bin full of various widths of many different colors of ribbon… and they have PEACH!!! After some quick cell-phone-calculator computations requiring a blast-from-the-past dating back to high school geometry (circumference = 2πr) we decided on a two-ribbon style with a 3/4-inch width along the bottom of each cake with a 1/8-inch ribbon above it. Fantastic. Mary and I are now the self-proclaimed MVPs of this wedding, and we may or may not have high-fived in Hancock Fabrics. And to top off the wondrous find, as I’m standing in line to pay the $6 for our ribbon, I get a phone call from my Dad saying that my little brother Mark had been drafted by the New York Mets!!! What a great day this has turned out to be!


Peach ribbon in hand, we return to the hotel to continue work on the programs. The other girls arrived bearing pizza, salads, and caffeinated sodas, all of which were scrumptious! We knocked out the rest of the wedding programs – which were beautiful, and if I had my camera I’d be able to post a photo – and got ready to go to one of Paula’s favorite restaurants in Seattle. It was here where some distressing news arrived… the Woodmark Hotel would not supply freezer space to accommodate the ice cream cakes. The ice cream cakes they have known about since Day 1 of Paula and Jayson’s we-want-to-have-our-wedding-here talks. Long story short… Kris, the owner of the Dairy Queen (remember how I mentioned that she saved the wedding?) volunteered to stack and adorn the cakes with the peach ribbons AND deliver them to the Woodmark Hotel at 9 p.m. – right before the first-dance and cake-cutting was to happen. She went above and beyond, and was most definitely the Queen of Customer Service. After our Mexican feast complete with sangria and margaritas, we headed over to meet up with the boys for a Wedding Party get-together at Chopstix – a dueling piano bar at the base of Queen Ann hill in Seattle. It was a raucous place, with great music and fun sing-alongs. Paula and Jayson were even invited up on stage to do a PG-13 (or so) rated version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” 


We left before midnight – mostly because we were almost too exhausted to stay safely seated on the high bar stools, but also because we had a long Wedding Day ahead of us. Mary and Paula and I made a quick late-night-snack stop at Dick’s Drive-In. Paula did the ordering: “We’ll have 3 cheeseburgers, 3 french fries, and I’m getting married tomorrow!” It was classic.


Wedding Day dawned gray… but dry. And at this point, after having spent the past two days trying to stay under cover or dodging rain drops between coverage, we are okay with gray but dry. Mary and I were up and showered early, so we took ourselves down to Starbucks for a calm start to our day, thinking that the other girls would be getting up and ready while we just stayed out of the way. We returned to the room around Paula’s “get up” time of 9:30 a.m. to find two dark hotel rooms and beds still full of sleeping girls. And (according to The Itinerary) we’re supposed to be leaving the hotel at 10:00 a.m. to drop of the peach ribbon with Kris, the Queen of Cakes. While the later-rising girls are getting ready, the earlier-rising girls are organizing bags and belongings and accessories into the “Must Go to the Woodmark Hotel” pile and loading the cars. The assortment of hair and makeup appointments at Habitude Salon thankfully provided plenty of downtime for the bridal party. And naturally we found time to make another Starbucks run.


From Habitude, we went directly to the Woodmark Hotel where the 1 p.m. wedding was winding down. We had a spread of food to nibble on (thank goodness!) and a variety of champagne and beer to sip during the dressing preparations. There were last-minute details to go over with the site coordinator and the florist and the DJ… these were all my duties, in addition to setting up the gift table, arranging the programs and the guest book, being in the room to steam the wedding dress, pinning on boutonnieres for the boys and dads and minister, getting myself dressed, and smiling for the professional photos. It was very thinly-controlled chaos! After a dash to the bathroom with the bride, we were ready to go.



The ceremony was absolutely beautiful, with a stunning view of Lake Washington spread out before us. And the reception went off without a hitch, I’d like to think. There was an amazing array of food and wine and I think everyone had a really wonderful time.





Even the cake debacle worked out exactly according to plan. My favorite moment, however, had to be when Jayson was retrieving the garter. You see, Jayson is a HUGE University of Washington Huskies fan. He’s an alum, and a rabid supporter of all things UW. This pains me and injures my soul on a daily basis, but we have overcome our differences to become great friends – just so long as neither one of us has to do or say anything nice about the other’s school. That being said, this is his wedding day, and Paula’s garter was a tasteful, but plain white with white lace. I sent her to the UW satellite bookstore in Bellevue to locate some accessories that I could use to improve her garter and surprise Jayson. She came back with a mini-windsock with purple and gold ribbons (ack, more ribbons!) and a tiny pair of baby socks with the “W” logo on each sock. I tied the ribbons onto the garter, and stitched (yes, I actually needle-and-thread sewed!) the W’s onto the garter. It was sort of my own special gift to Jayson, and boy was he surprised!!!




My responsibilities did not end with the successful cake arrival or the garter surprise, however. Jayson had given me a key to their hotel suite, so I made sure that all of their luggage and Paula’s bouquet made it upstairs. I also procured a handful of peach rose petals from the florist earlier in the afternoon and scattered them on the bed… you know, just for that wonderful cliché! The bridal staging room was a disaster area, so I had to find the girls (or their respective boys!) to come locate all of their belongings and get them out to the car, as we were supposed to be out of the room by midnight… we may have been close. The hotel concierge loaned me a cart to get the gifts, the guest book, the left over programs, the peach table linens, and the centerpieces all out to Mary’s car – I can’t even imagine what that must have looked like the next day, with the piles of boxes and bags shoved into every nook and cranny… sorry, Mary! Then I lost her keys. Grrrreat. Somehow, my red-wine-brain retraced enough steps to think to check Paula and Jayson’s hotel room – and there they were! No harm, no foul!


But after all was said and done (and said over again, and re-done) Paula and Jayson were both so beautiful and so in love, and I think they had an amazing time. That’s what I’ll remember, and those are the memories I’ll take away from this wonderfully exhausting week.

I have a thing for ferry boats…

13 06 2008

Car… check. Plane… check. Train… check. Boat… check. I definitely hit for the cycle when it comes to transportation options this past weekend! I did not hop a lift on Seattle’s monorail – which as I understand it, would fall into a category separate from the more familiar two-rail (bi-rail? duo-rail?) trains, so I suppose there is still room for improvement in this new vacation check-list.


This year has been one in which I am determined to change my long-held bad attitude toward trying new things. It’s been an ongoing challenging for me, mostly because I just don’t like doing things that I’m not good at already!


So far my self-improvement tasks include playing the guitar – which is very difficult, and I’m VERY not-good at it – and researching fly-fishing lessons – though I was not able to actually partake in said lessons due to scheduling conflicts on their part and other travel endeavors of my own. The newest try-new-things challenge will be another stab at water sports. More specifically, sailing. As in, I want to learn how to do it.


My interest in sailing knowledge and experience was reinvigorated this past weekend when I went on a lovely ferry boat ride to and from Bainbridge Island in Seattle with my parents. It was one of those gorgeous Seattle days that makes you want to up-and-quit your current job (in stiflingly hot and sticky Atlanta), sell your little house with the jungle-esque backyard, and move out to the Sound to work at a shop that rents kayaks or perhaps wait tables or tend bar at a waterfront pub. My imagination quickly concocts a wonderful little life on Bainbridge Island, complete with my condo overlooking the Sound (we definitely walked through several open houses on Sunday afternoon!) and my calm commute into the city aboard Puyallup or any of the other ferry boats that connect the Island to the mainland-city of Seattle, motoring gently over the waters, basking in the breath-taking view of Mt Rainier. Even Dad said the water and the peaceful commute would do wonders for my psyche. Of course, experience (especially those very recent ones, as in the past 3 days in Seattle) jumped in too quickly to remind me of those other Seattle days – the ones where you can’t actually see the Seattle skyline from Bainbridge, let alone Mt Rainier, and that easy ferry ride is actually more akin to a carnival ride at a sketchy county fair. And we ALL know how I feel about carnivals. *shudder*


But I digress. Sailing. It’s so beautiful and at the same time quite physically demanding, I would imagine. I’m not trying to sail to New Zealand or anything, I just want to attain some skills so when I move to an area with fabulous water-ways, I will be ready to partake in the sea-worthiness of it all. Now, I did happen to notice one particular sailboat (that was far too close to the much larger ferry boat, if you ask me) was making a helluva left turn – I realize there are more appropriate nautical terminology, but seriously, I’m just a beginner! – and was tipped waaaaaaay over on its side. Yikes. That’s something I can get used to, right???


So, I would assume that it’s understood that I spent some time in Seattle last weekend? You know, what with all the ferry boat talk and such. I was in my friends’ wedding this past Saturday at the Woodmark Hotel on Lake Washington. (side note for those who are unfamiliar with this are: Bill Gates of heralded Microsoft fame lives on Lake Washington… it’s a nice place!) It was a 3-day marathon of events, appointments, program-assembly, crises, solutions to crises, and Starbucks runs… sometimes several times a day.


But before getting up to Seattle, there was quite a whirlwind of activity down in P-town. After spending the night in Tacoma with one of Mom’s friends (who so graciously picked me up from the Sea-Tac Airport at 10 at night, and took me to the Amtrak station at 7:15 the next morning) I arrived into Portland’s Union Station right before 11:30 a.m.I’m a much bigger fan of going by train than I would have thought. It was lovely! Four big seats all to myself, a movie – “Mad Money” (I didn’t say it was a good movie) – and a 3-ish-hour leisurely tour through the SW Washington/NW Oregon countryside. And all for the bargain price of $22. Just putting enough gas in a car to make the trip would have cost nearly double that!


Portland-time was (as usual) full and quite frenzied. There were wedding programs to design, print, create, and shop for. There was a bridesmaid dress that needed a little surgery (aka: sewing up about an inch or so of the keyhole opening in a not-so-flattering part of the dress). Breakfast Club with the St. V’s gang, which lead into a wonderful orthopedics-unit reunion tour, and I even got to meet Katie’s (brand!) new little Drew! My parents and I had dinner with my super-cool cousin fresh out of her interview (which she just happened to have TOTALLY rocked!) at Wieden+Kennedy – an advertising agency whose clients you may have heard of before: Target, Starbucks, Nike, Coca-Cola, Visa, and ESPN… to name just a few! I met Mom at her school to use the industrial-strength paper cutter to create the black and peach squares that would frame a photo of Paula and Jayson on the cover of their wedding program. We had a big Zarosinski-Grbavac barbeque get-together. And I got to see my genius brother’s amazing final Architecture project mere minutes after he received a rave review! I created and assembled Wedding Weekend Itineraries complete with our daily to-do’s and various appointments and reservations as well as an inclusive address and phone number section for all salons, restaurants, hotels, and cell phone numbers. Oh, by the way, all of this happened between the hours of 12:00 noon on Tuesday and 9:45 a.m. on Thursday. That’s less than 46 hours. Go, Kristen.


Which brings me back to Seattle. Stories about which will have to wait until my exhausted brain can remember how to attach photos into this blog. And there are definitely photos! Only one of the girls has uploaded her digital images onto our group photo-site, but I’m hoping the others will do so very soon. I will unfortunately NOT be able to participate in the shared uploading of photos.


Reason being that my own camera is somewhere between California and Atlanta – I do realize that’s a very non-specific description. You see, brilliant Me left my camera in the way-backseat of the 15-passenger “party van” in St. Louis, Missouri, over Memorial Day weekend. Do not be alarmed. My fabulous St. Louis posse of girlfriends regained control of my camera (in addition to several articles of clothing and the gallons of wine that were purchased from the winery earlier that day) and the next thing I knew, it was on its way across the country to sunny Southern California. Since learning of its new location, I initially had entertained the thought of having the Cali-crew send it on up The-5 to Portland, which in theory would have allowed me to bring it to Seattle to capture all the wonderous wedding moments. Unfortunately, California has been a busy place. So instead, the new plan is for the camera to backtrack eastward and arrive (hopefully unscathed) on my doorstep in Atlanta. I have not heard mention of the camera since coming to this conclusion last week. I hope the camera and I do not pass quietly in the night as I head to LA myself in a mere 13 sleeps. After that (short) long-weekend trip, I’d like to think that I’ll stay close to home for awhile… if only that little travel bug didn’t bite me so often!


Stay tuned for the Seattle Wedding Weekend Adventures!