May 15, 2019

End of the Year Teacher Gift Ideas!

Growing up with a teacher mom, I know a thing or two about how much teachers appreciate any and all gestures of thoughtfulness. With the school year coming to a close, it's a great time to say thanks to the teachers who have loved and encouraged your kiddos since August.

It doesn't take a huge budget or lots of time to create a small thoughtful token to make a teacher feel appreciated. I've got three ideas at different price points to inspire you. Hopefully this will serve as a jumping off point to get you inspired with teacher gifts of your own!

The $5 Teacher Gift Option 


What teacher (or really person for that matter) doesn't like salty snacks? This is a simple gift that you can do even on a small budget. It's called the "Nacho Average Teacher" basket and I was inspired by this fab blogger gal. 


All you need is a bag of chips, a couple jars of dip or salsa and a cute container and you're good to go. I hit up places like Big Lots and the Target Dollar Zone for little extra touches that make it feel special. You might even have a gift basket on hand or a cute vintage container. 

The $15 Teacher Gift Option 


Inspired by Stephanie at Somewhat Simple, this "Orange You Glad It's Summer" gift basket is perfect for Tennessee teachers! 



You can include anything that your child's teacher might enjoy, but things like flip flops, a cute beach cup and sunscreen come to mind. Also, some snacks to enjoy beachside/poolside.

This gift option could also be customized to your budget, depending on whether you want to spend more or less.

The $30 Teacher Gift Option


Finally, if you want to spend a bit more and make that special teacher feel extra special, a spa gift basket or movie night basket are both great options. 

For a spa gift basket, include things like sheet masks, a yummy-smelling scrub, lotion and even a bath bomb. 

For a movie basket like this one from an adorable blog, maybe include snacks and a Netflix or Redbox gift card or a gift card to a local movie theater. It helps if you happen to know your child's teacher's favorite snacks, but if all else fails grab a mix of sugary and chocolate and you're sure to please someone! 


It's really not about the money. I can remember my mom getting the sweetest handwritten cards from parents and students alike that touched her heart and still grace her fridge to this day.

But if you've had a great teacher (or several) who have gone out of their way to support your kiddo and cheer him/her on this year, I hope you'll take the time to say thanks. As a teacher's kid, I saw firsthand that theirs could be a thankless job at times, but those little gestures of appreciation went a long way.

April 22, 2019

Getting Our Hands Dirty


On the rare occasion that my husband and I take a lunch break at the same time, we will sometimes go for a walk. This happened today and we were excited to take a few minutes to get outside and do something good for ourselves. 
The path we usually walk is a one-mile figure eight loop at a nearby park. We were a quarter of the way around when I started seeing large amounts of litter scattered around the path. The more we walked, the more litter we saw.

Litter really bugs me. I don't understand the thinking behind tossing something aside for someone else to clean up. Especially when there are trash cans around. The more I thought about it, the madder I was getting. 

As we rounded the trail loop, something white and billowy caught my eye. It was an empty grocery bag. 

"Oh boy," my hubs said. "I know what happens next." He laughed as I grabbed the bag off the ground...knowing it would be the perfect thing in which to collect all the litter we were seeing! I asked him how he knew I was going to do that, and he said he just knew because he knows me. 

He was chivalrous enough to carry the bag for me as we continued our walk, now having a receptacle to collect the litter. Then I randomly remembered that it's Earth Day, and felt like our small act was for a good cause. 

As we passed a runner who saw what we were doing, he shouted "Y'all are awesome!" which felt pretty good. 

I promise I'm not sharing this to make you think we are some kinda civic heroes because we're not. But there is a point to my story. 

We filled and emptied the grocery bag three times with litter and then for a substantial pile, we dragged a rolling trash can over and picked that up as well. Afterward, I looked around at the (mostly) litter-free area and enjoyed the sight of grass, flowers and sky. 

I'm not gonna lie....it felt good to do something good. Sometimes this is reward enough. 

But just beyond the good feeling was a tinge of something else....let's call it self-righteousness. 

A tinge that prompted me to think thoughts that began with: 

I cannot imagine....throwing my trash down on the ground

What kind of person just....leaves their garbage for someone else to clean up?

I would never be the kind of person who....throws down litter in a beautiful park 

Most of us would probably agree that tossing trash out the window or throwing it down on the ground is wrong. We might also agree that picking it up is right. 

But if doing the right thing leads us to feel self-righteous, we've completely missed the point. I feel certain this can apply in so many areas. 

Let me say it again: 

If we only do what's right because it makes us feel self-righteous, we've completely missed the point. 

If doing the so-called right thing makes us think we can sit in judgment of others who are so-called wrong, then we are so-called mistaken. 

It's impossible to get inside anyone else's head. We don't know why people do the things they do. We don't know what they are struggling with, what kind of gut-wrenching challenges they are up against, and what lies they've been told or led to believe that have shaped their every pattern, behavior and thought process. 

We give ourselves the benefit of every doubt, but how often are we so quick to judge the actions of others because they are doing something that we'd supposedly never do? 

Some might say I have every right to judge them....since I was the one touching all their dirty trash and dragging around a giant garbage can on what was supposed to be a leisurely lunch walk. But it doesn't work this way. Judging others was never our right. 

What we can do is try to help. To show love. To make people feel less alone. To pitch in and get our hands dirty when it will make someone else's struggle a little easier or help them experience a bit more beauty. 

April 17, 2019

Simple Ways to Make Easter Brunch More Special!


Easter is a special time and if you're celebrating with a gathering of family or friends, I have some simple ways to make your occasion more special!

From food to drinks, to setting a lovely table, make your Easter celebration truly memorable with these simple, and easy additions.

Something to Nibble Before the Main Meal 


There's nothing more annoying to a cook than having your guests camp out in the kitchen and try to sneak bites of food before you are ready to serve them. 



I remedy this by always having something for guests to nibble before the main meal. This way, if people arrive at your house absolutely starving, and things happen to be running a bit behind (hey, it happens to all of us), then they are placated with snacks. 

Charcuterie and cheeses, nuts, olives and other salty snacks make a great option for nibbling. Pickles and popcorn are also good to incorporate. Having a mix of different things means there's something for everybody. 

I try to avoid sweet options since this has a tendency to ruin the meal. 

Simple & Delicious Peach Bellini



Nothing says brunch like a Bellini, and you can make this one with spirits or as a nonalcoholic version, which is friendly for all ages! 

For the nonalcoholic version, all you need is peach nectar and ginger ale. To give it more of a spirited twist, sub the ginger ale for Prosecco or champagne. Simple, light and sweet....perfect for spring!

Semi-Homemade Goodness 


Finally, take some of the pressure off your Easter meal prep by opting to serve some items not made from scratch. Store-bought isn't always my go-to, but when what I can buy is better than what I can make, I always go for store-bought. 


Unless you love to bake homemade bread and have a foolproof recipe, I recommend picking up some Callie's Charleston Biscuits to serve at your Easter meal. Callie's proprietor Carrie Morey is a pal of mine and her biscuits are beloved the world over. Knoxville folks can find them at The Fresh Market, or click here for a store locator in your neck of the woods. 

And if you bury the package in the bottom of the trash, I won't even tell that you didn't make them yourself! Carrie won't either, I'm sure ;) 

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Easter is more than a time for pastel candy and dresses, Peeps and deviled eggs. It's about hope, and love. And new life. So no matter what's on your table, or who is seated around it, I hope you hold the most important things in your heart this season. 

April 3, 2019

Easy Ways to Beat Stress

Did you know April is National Stress Awareness Month? Stress is such a loaded topic these days....we all have it and say we wish we didn't. Some of us wear it like a badge of honor. Some of us legitimately have it from external sources and others of us create it in our daily thoughts, behaviors and actions. I'm not pointing any fingers here....except maybe at myself.

Want to decrease the stress in your life? Here are three fun & simple ways!

Eat to Beat Stress 


I found this recipe on The Dinner Shift, a great blog with all sorts of tasty recipes. Sort of a riff on the traditional loaded cheese fries, it incorporates several ingredients that are supposed to help you beat stress and anxiety: sweet potatoes, black beans and avocados. 

I love sweet potatoes and try to eat them as much as possible. What I didn't know was that they are a mood booster because of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which helps reduce free radical damage to brain cells. Sweet potatoes can also prevent oxidative stress which is common in emotional conditions like anxiety and depression. The carbs in sweet potatoes help with serotonin production. 

Black beans are another stress fighting food because they are rich in magnesium, which has a relaxing effect on the body and brain. Some experts say magnesium deficiency can lead to stress. 

Finally, there is research that shows low levels of Vitamin B can contribute to feelings of anxiety, which can also lead to stress. Avocados are a great source of B Vitamins, so slap on some avocado or guac to give this dish more flavor. 

So, combine these stress fighting ingredients and whip up your own loaded sweet potato fries, with black beans and avocado! Add cheese, black olives, jalapenos, or whatever other toppings you like! Yum. 

Drink to Beat Stress 


I'm not talking about that type of drinking. In fact, I have found that alcohol does very little to help with stress....it just takes your mind off things for awhile and then eventually you have to deal with the it again. The drink I recommend to beat stress is a turmeric latte. 


It may be too early to say, but some researchers are suggesting that the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may help combat anxiety. 

I've been making a drink called a Turmeric Golden Milk Latte and it's delicious! Simply combine the ingredients below in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 8-10 minutes and pour into a mug. Enjoy! 

1/2 cup (120ml) of an unsweetened milk of your choice (I like almond or flax) 
1 tsp of turmeric
1 small piece of grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp of ginger powder
1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder
1 pinch of ground black pepper
1 tsp of honey or maple syrup (optional)

I can't say for sure if it's scientific, but drinking a cup of this in the evening, after a stressful day doesn't hurt. 

Make a Stress-Free Self-Care Kit


A final way that I like to deal with stress is with self-care. I know, I know....self-care seems like a buzzword these days. But it comes in many forms and can be a great (cheap & easy) option for dealing with stress. 


Maybe create a self-care kit or basket so that all your stuff is one spot. Fill it with your favorite things so that when you start feeling stress coming on, you can treat yourself to something from the basket.

Mine includes face mask sheets, body scrubs, dark chocolate, a great smelling candle, and essential oils. Also a few magazines or a book that I'm waiting for a chance to read.

Stress isn't always bad. It can alert us to danger, push us to achieve our goals and help us accomplish tasks more efficiently. But chronic stress, the kind that feels like a frenzied wave just pushing us along and sometimes crashing over us, is terrible. The good news is we don't have to live with it. I'm trying to be more aware of stress for National Stress Awareness Month and beyond. Hopefully you can too! 

March 20, 2019

Setting a Beautiful Springtime Table

Happy Spring y'all! I don't know about you, but I'm loving life against the backdrop of blooms and green. In honor of the season, I'm bringing some spring inside with a few ideas for setting a beautiful springtime table.


Don't feel like you have to go out and spend a lot of money. These ideas are simple to execute and affordable for any budget!

First, think about your background. Got a gorgeous table? Maybe leave it uncovered for some natural beauty this spring. Want to add a pop of color? Go bold with a brightly colored tablecloth. I like royal blue because it looks great against the colors of the season.

Then, add texture. Think table runners, placemats and chargers. These can help you add visual interest and create a more interesting look and feel.

Consider the dishes you want to use. I tend to stick with all white since they can be mixed and matched with anything....but if you love color, go all out! And don't feel like you have to be all matchy matchy. Combine patterns and colors to create a more exciting tablescape.

Accessories are when the real fun begins...I have some adorable little bird nests that I like to use. These were thrifted a few years ago and cost just a couple of bucks. I also like to incorporate elements like bunnies, ceramic flowers and small containers.

Don't forget to add natural elements! Pebbles, rocks, twigs or things you've collected can be really cute. And don't hesitate to snip a few branches from blooming shrubs or plants in your yard.

All of this can be combined in a lovely, affordable and simple-to-create spring tablescape!

March 6, 2019

Fun & Simple DIY Flower Arrangements for Spring


Spring is just around the corner and these last few weeks of winter can really start to wear me down. I'm bringing some springtime cheer to my home with a few fun and simple DIY flower arrangements to help welcome in the season.

I can't promise these will help spring come any quicker, but they will at least brighten up your home while you're waiting for those last days of winter to pass.

When I buy flowers, I usually just head to my local grocery store. You might think you have to go to a fancy florist, but with a little creativity you can turn simple grocery store flowers into some really beautiful arrangements, and you don't have to spend a ton of cash.

One way I like to create arrangements is with groupings of flowers or single stems in glass vases. You can use identical flowers (same type and color) or you can use all the same type (roses, daisies, etc) or just a variety of blossoms in the same color.


Get creative with your containers....don't feel like you have to opt for a plain old vase. If you collect something, put that to use. Pitchers, teapots or pottery all make great and lovely containers for a spring floral arrangement. I love using my collection of Ironstone pottery for this very purpose.

Need some container inspiration? Hit up your local thrift store. I scour the shelves for containers with a unique texture of shape. Don't love the color? Give it a new vibe with a fresh coat of spray paint.


And don't forget to think about your color palette when creating DIY floral arrangements. When Pantone released its 2019 color of the year as Living Coral, I was pretty excited. Coral has always been a favorite of mine. In fact, I used this shade for my wedding flowers a few years ago.


When in doubt, just grab flowers in a shade you love and they will be sure to cheer you up no matter the season!

March 2, 2019

Popcorn Ceilings


When I was little, I had a purple bedroom at the top of a big set of wooden stairs, on the second story of our house. I used to lay awake in my twin bed, under my Cabbage Patch Kids comforter, and count the ceiling tiles as I tried to fall asleep.

I'd count the columns across the top and then count the rows from top to bottom. Then I'd count the number of tiles in each and multiply them together to get a total number of tiles. Then I'd count each and every tile to check myself and make sure they were all still there.

It was an old house, with lots of little eccentricities, like a closet that connected two rooms through what I believed to be a secret passage.

However that was not the house I consider to be my childhood home.

My childhood home was a house where I lived for the longest with my family, five-ish years, before graduating and heading off to my so-called grown-up life. There were no ceiling tiles to count because that house has popcorn ceilings.

Every time I hear the term it make me think of something delicious. Apparently these are also sometimes called cottage cheese ceilings, and even though I like cottage cheese, this makes my stomach turn.

I'd lay in my bed and try to find some sort of pattern to make sense of the splats and spatters. When there was none, I counted other things instead. The number of days until my next birthday. How many pounds I thought I needed to lose in order to fit into a certain size of pants. How much time had passed since I'd last seen or heard from my biological dad.

Even now that I live in a home with smooth ceilings, I still count these things (16, 27, and 5429...in case you were wondering).

We've had a lot of rain lately. I was sitting in my living room and happened to glance upward and saw a brown line on the ceiling that hadn't been there before. Water, as it always does, found a way in.

This is both disturbing (anybody got a good roofer?) and comforting at the same time. Comforting because it reminds me that things will find a way.

I've been a mess this week. I've been someone who in the past I would have judged...harshly. I just couldn't seem to hold it all together. And I'm terrible at asking for help. I want to do it all, on my own. And I want to reserve the right to feel self-righteous if I'm able to and mad as hell if I can't.

I can't be the only one like this. Surely there's more of us who struggle with this distinct flavor of malfunction. I know, I know....blame our childhoods, blah blah. And maybe I do feel an urge to blame on occasion.

But that doesn't really accomplish anything.

I don't have any wisdom here. Yet. I just know I woke up alive today and that's more than some can say.

Author Matt Haig says, "Be a mess. It's fine. The universe is a mess. Galaxies are drifting all over the place. To be tidy is to be out of tune with the cosmos."

And along those same lines, my own dear husband who mainly posts screenshots from 80s horror movies, shared this on Facebook:

“Consider again that dot [Earth]. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” -- Carl Sagan

I'm clinging to my mote, praying for a sunbeam. I hope you can do the same. And if you happen to be staring up at the chaos of a popcorn ceiling, maybe you can find some beauty there too.

February 18, 2019

Family Cabin


I just started reading Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir and only a few pages in, I know I'm gonna love it. Karr wrote The Liar's Club which I used to own but never actually got around to reading, and now wish I had. It's definitely going back on the list "to-read."

In The Art of Memoir, she says "a good writer can conjure a landscape and its peoples to live inside you, and the best writers make you feel they've disclosed their soft underbellies. Seeing someone naked thrills us a little."

Last weekend my family gathered for what I jokingly dubbed "family cabin." When I offhandedly mentioned to a pal that I would be out of town for the weekend at "family cabin," he said "family cabin? Sounds like it could be the title of a horror movie."

When I was young, my mom's extended family began an annual tradition of going away for the weekend in January or February. We'd all pile into our cars and travel, convoy style, to a cabin in the woods.

We didn't always go to the same location or to the same cabin, but there were certain recurring themes woven through these trips.

The cabin would be big, but not quite big enough for everybody to have their own room or even a bed. And the cabins rarely had a bathroom with walls you couldn't hear through.

If the cabin had a fireplace, my grandpa would always light a fire. No matter how unseasonably warm it might have been outside. And without meaning to, there would always be a moment where he'd have flue issues, and accidentally smoke us all out. When it happened this weekend, I felt a sense of "all is right with the world."

Another theme of "family cabin" has always been food. Way too much food. Industrial cases of frozen sausage patties for breakfast. Bags and bags of potato chips. Multiple Crock-Pot slow cookers filled with numerous varieties of melted cheese-based dips. We pretty much eat ourselves silly, which is fine with me.

This past weekend, my grandpa (who I promise I'm not trying to pick on) said he wasn't even hungry by the time dinner rolled around, but was still going to force down a plate of steak, baked potato and salad. Afterward, he had to take a teaspoon of yellow mustard for his indigestion (this totally works if you need a good home remedy).

Something else that has been a theme of "family cabin" falls into a category I'll call crafts/games/activities. In various years, we've painted tablecloths, turned wooden spoons into angels, ice skated, made gingerbread houses, decorated cookies (I know, that one finds its home in the food category too), and even pulled all the sheets and blankets off the beds for costumes so we could re-enact the Nativity pageant (which we filmed, naturally).

We've stayed in log cabins, cinder block bunkers, stone houses, and cottages on the lake.

"Family cabin" has seen its share of spouses, partners, boyfriends and girlfriends. From year to year, we've had unexpected guests, random extras and friends who are like family.

And we've seen some of the littlest ones of the group grow up and have little ones of their own.

This year, we even saw a naked man! Well, I didn't see him....but some of us did. Apparently the cabin that backed up to ours had a well-placed (or you could say poorly-placed) window in the bathroom, and no curtains. This is actually what inspired me to write about "family cabin."

I was reading Mary Karr's words about being a good writer and how it means disclosing private things, secret things we don't want to share. When I read her line about how "seeing someone naked thrills us a little," I knew I had to put this out there. It's not really the nudity that thrills, but more the idea of seeing or learning something that is usually kept private. Good writers tell their stories, even the ones that are tough to share or don't look all that great.

I want to be a good writer. Except I am often afraid to write about certain things or tell certain stories. I worry about how things will be received or how it will make other people feel. In fact, this fear holds me back quite a bit. So that's what led me to read Karr's book for a bit of inspiration, and boy did I get some.

I'm going to work on this. Pinky promise.

To some people, the idea of spending an entire weekend crammed into a cabin with your extended family might sound like a horror movie. And I'm sure there were some years that I went with a less-than-great attitude, maybe a bit out of obligation, with all my teen and 20-something angst. It wasn't anything personal against my family....just my own feelings about life and myself that I was trying to work through.

But "Family Cabin 2019" was a true gift. In fact, this was the first year in several years that we carried out this tradition. A few years back, we just couldn't make it work. This was a fluke, but then we didn't go the next year and eventually we just got out of the habit. I hope this is a tradition we will pick back up and continue.

On the last morning, in the midst of trying to eat up the leftovers and get 24ish people packed up to check out on time, my grandma looked at me and said the following:

"I hope you will make sure that this tradition continues even after we're gone"--gesturing to my grandpa--"It would mean a lot to me if you all kept doing this."  

On the drive home, I was already looking at VRBO, trying to find a place for next year that could accommodate us all, including our dogs. Then today, I got a message from my cousin with a link to a cabin she had found. Looks like the tradition will continue, Me-me. But I hope you're going to be here for many more of them.

And to the man who some of my family saw naked, I apologize. They were thrilled at your expense.

February 13, 2019

Last Minute Valentine's Day Ideas for Your Sweetie


So Valentine's Day snuck up on me this year, but no worries....these simple ideas are sure to impress my sweetie, and yours too!

DIY Bruschetta Bar

 

Who says you have to spend a ton of money or be a gourmet chef to whip up a memorable Valentine's Day meal? The secret to creating a special eating experience is to incorporate unique flavors and choose products that feel special or out of the ordinary. I hit up my local Trader Joe's and looked for ingredients and products I don't normally buy....things like goat cheese, pesto, and other nibbles.

Ya know, stuff you'd expect to enjoy at a fancy wine tasting, art gallery opening or symphony reception.

Then I'm going to use it all to create a lovely spread, a charcuterie tray of sorts, but focused on DIY bruschetta. Different toppings, different garnishes, and lots of deliciousness.


There are many pros to this kind of Valentine's Day meal. One, it's easy to whip up without a lot of prep time. Two, it doesn't require your entire evening to be spent in the kitchen and clean-up is a breeze. Three, if your sweetie is treating you to a lovely meal out to a restaurant, this can serve as your appetizer course. Although between you and me, going to a restaurant on Valentine's Day tends to be something of a let down.

And be sure to serve this on a wooden cutting board or some type of fancy tray if you have one. Presentation goes a long way!


Here are some other ideas for things to add to your DIY Charcuterie/Bruschetta tray:

  • Assorted cheeses (some hard, some soft)
  • Assorted meats (prosciutto, capicola, and salamis)
  • Assorted olives & pickles 
  • Crusty bread slices or store-bought bruschetta toasts 
  • Assorted jams, jellies, honeys, and spreads (hummus, pesto, dips, etc) 
  • Assorted fruits like berries, plus slices/sections of apples, pears, and oranges 

Create a Rosé Wine Station

 

Champagne is popular for creating a DIY mimosa bar, but what about creating a rosé station for your Valentine's Day celebration? Rosé mixes well with some of the common mixers, such as lemonade, limeade and orange juice. You can also add some sparkling water like LaCroix in a variety of flavors, depending on your preference. 



And finally, because it's not Valentine's Day without a little something sweet.....

Cupid's Trail Mix 


Again, y'all know I love a simple recipe and this one certainly qualifies. I was inspired by this Chex Mix, but I've adapted it a bit for the holiday. 


The only ingredients the basic recipe calls for are: 

  • 8 cups Rice Chex™ or Corn Chex™ cereal
  • 2 bags (12 oz each) white vanilla baking chips (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons pink cookie/cupcake sprinkles 

I'm adding some pink marshmallows, a few red, pink and white candies (whatever you like) and pretzels to give it some salty crunch. Oh and popcorn....gotta have popcorn. 

I hope your heart is filled with love, no matter how you are spending the day! XOXO y'all! 

February 8, 2019

The Unbroken Heart


I was in high school when my mom introduced me to the soundtrack to the Broadway show The Fantasticks. I listened to it (on a cassette tape, I think) from start to finish, but having never seen the show, it was a little bit hard to know exactly what was happening in the story.

The first time I heard "Try to Remember" I knew it would be a song I'd love forever. Especially when I heard the following line:

"Without a hurt, the heart is hollow." 

You might be wondering what I, a sheltered teen from a small southern town knew about hurt. Looking back at that sweet, but silly girl, I would say definitely not much. But then, I thought I was such an expert. I thought the struggle was real all the way back when. Definitely before there were memes to poke fun at the concept. 

So that line in the song really resonated with me. Maybe it was because it somehow took the idea of pain and made it a good thing. As if our hearts are just hollow chocolate Easter rabbits until we get some broken experiences to clink and clatter around in there. Could be.  

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.
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I have a friend. Let's call her Rosie. We've known each other for a couple of years, but only in the past six months or so have we gotten to be really close. She has some challenges in her life and a few times, I have tried to pitch in and lend a hand where I thought she needed one. 

I was lamenting to another friend about how it can be tough to know when to help and when to mind one's own beeswax. My friend said, "I know you love Rosie and you want to help, but I'm just afraid of seeing you get your heart broken." 

And I know my friend meant this with all love and compassion for me. But what I didn't realize when she said it was that it's too late. My heart has already been broken. Maybe yours has been, too. 

Broken by a situation you didn't ask to be brought into. And even though you were/are loved, there's tough stuff too. 

Broken by feeling just a bit (or a whole lot) different from the rest, and like nothing you do will really make you fit. 

Broken by the disappointment that washes over you each and every time you let yourself believe things will be different and then they aren't. 

Broken by having to straddle the fence between two worlds....wanting so badly to exist completely in one or the other, but feeling like you really don't belong in either one. 

Broken by the consequences of the decisions of others, decisions that impact you wholly and yet those you have no control over. 

Broken by expectations you'll never live up to or maybe broken by the ways you hold yourself back to protect others who can't bear to see you soar. 

Broken by feelings that lurk around the corner and creep in when you are most vulnerable and least able to defend against them. 

Broken by the lies you've been told, even possibly by your very own self, and especially if you believed them. And are still believing them. 

There are so many things that break our hearts. And sometimes we don't even realize it while it's happening. Just like the stock market and how nobody really knows if it's a bear or bull until it's over. 

I can't actually remember what it was like when my heart was pristine. Hollow. These days, there are enough broken pieces clinking and clattering around in there for a lifetime. And same for my friend Rosie. 

Our hearts were broken ages ago. Before we even knew it. I'm not sure if she knows it still.

The funny (or maybe not funny) thing is my broken heart is the reason I love my friend Rosie so much. Maybe I see a little of myself in her. Or maybe I see her in me. My heart may be broken, but nevertheless, it loves so good.

January 29, 2019

We Regret to Inform You



Dear Madam,

We regret to inform you that a committee has met and determined once and for all you simply aren't good enough. We took a vote and unanimously agreed upon the following:

  • You will never achieve the things you are secretly dreaming in your heart. 
  • Plus, your dreams are so silly....just let those go, mmkay? 
  • Everyone is watching and waiting for you to fail. Failure is not permitted. 
  • Stepping out and drawing any sort of attention to yourself is foolish. 
  • Quirky fashion and eclectic style is something reserved for a cool, other sort of person so please wear only plain clothing and never high heels (in case you didn't know already, you are just so tall). 
  • Asking for help is a sign of weakness and people are annoyed by people who ask for help. 
  • The broken pieces that you haul around will never be put back together again, no matter how hard the king's horses and men may try. 
  • Your Instagram following is paltry at best, pathetic at worst and this determines a great deal of your life's worth and value. 
  • All that time you spend reading or listening to audio books could be better spent creating viral content like snazzy graphics and shareable memes. 
  • There is no audience who will relate to the weird stuff you think about, so it's best to keep all that to yourself. 
  • Daydreaming is a thing of childhood. You must get serious and spend your time thinking about things like tax shelters, HMOs, and continuously variable transmissions. 
  • The world is just terrible so there's no point trying to do any good to the contrary. 
  • You cannot speak unless what you say sounds perfect. You may not act unless every detail has been planned out to the nth degree. 

If you agree to these terms, please sign and return in a nondescript envelope without glittery stickers or any "i"s dotted with hearts. 

If you do not agree, THEN KINDLY STOP LIVING LIKE YOU DO. THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY. SEIZE IT. THAT IS ALL. 

January 23, 2019

Cozy Winter Drinks to Brighten Your Day!

Winter is a necessary evil, but can really get me down, if I'm being completely honest. Shorter days, colder temperatures, and drab landscapes don't make me feel much like celebrating.

But alas, winter will pass and soon spring will have sprung. In the meantime, I'm trying to beat the winter blues with these delicious and easy drink recipes. Check them out and I hope you feel inspired!

Chocolate Chia Smoothie


Want to start your day off right? Try a rich chocolate smoothie that tastes great and is good for you! It is simple to make and calls for only basic ingredients you may already have on hand, with the exception of the chia seeds and they are easy to come by. 


You'll need: 
  • 1 peeled banana
  • A cup of fresh spinach
  • 3-5 ice cubes
  • A cup of milk 
  • 3 T chia seeds
  • 2 T cocoa powder (the unsweetened kind used for baking)
Blend everything together and enjoy! 


Golden Turmeric Latte 



Want something warm and soothing that isn't coffee? Try a turmeric latte (also called a turmeric tea).

Turmeric touts many scientifically-proven health benefits, such as the potential to prevent heart disease, Alzheimer's and cancer. It's a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and may also help improve symptoms of depression and arthritis.

Incorporate this rock star ingredient into your next warm drink!

Turmeric Latte Recipe: 

  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • black pepper (just a pinch)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon of nut butter (almond, cashew nut or hazelnut)
  • 1 ½ cups water (or milk, for a creamier drink)
  • ½ - ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • pinch of salt 

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. This drink can be enjoyed warmed up or cold. Add cinnamon to your liking and enjoy! 

Wintry Coconut Mocktail


For this drink, I was inspired by Batida de coco, which is a Brazilian coconut cocktail. What better to help us get through winter in Tennessee than thoughts of Brazil? 



Batida (which means 'shaken' in Portugese) is a Brazilian cocktail recipe typically made with fruit juice and sweetened condensed milk. The version that inspired me substituted coconut milk for the fruit juice. It also calls for vodka (and you can find the original here) but mine is a mocktail for all ages! 

To make your coconut mocktail, you'll need: 

  • 1 can of Coconut Milk (you won't need the entire thing, maybe just a cup)
  • 1 tsp sweetened condensed milk (or honey)
  • 1 can of LaCroix coconut flavored fizzy water 
Mix the first two ingredients well. I prefer to shake them in a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Pour into a glass and top with some chilled coconut fizzy water. Delicious and refreshing. Can't you taste summer now? 

January 21, 2019

Spoiler Alert - We Have No Way of Knowing


I do not like surprises. I guess I'm just too much of a control freak to 'let go and let God' enough to enjoy them. I don't mind small surprises, like an unexpected visit or call from a friend. It's the big surprises that are more of an issue. Things that make you feel like the rug has been completely pulled from under you on a random Tuesday and you're left scratching your head and trying to make sense of the fragments scattered about the floor.

Of course this makes life rather challenging for me, since it tends to dish up a fair share of the unexpected.

Maybe this is why I prefer more predictable forms of entertainment....i.e. genre books and films that stick to a certain formula. I especially love re-reading or re-watching favorites that I've seen umpteen times, since I know exactly what will happen in each subsequent viewing/reading. 

George Bailey will find redemption. Boo will save Jem and Scout will understand more about her father. Alice will wake up and realize all was but a dream. 

There's something about the predictable that's oh so comforting. 

I am guilty of trying to figure out what the ending of a book or movie will be before I opt to experience it. This is why I usually read spoilers before watching a film that I know will be a tear-jerker. It allows me to mentally prepare myself for what's to come. 

Books are a bit trickier because even thorough reviews don't always give away the major (heart wrenching) plot points. So I often end up choosing books that seem like a sweet story but end up turning me into a big old weeping mess.

Feelings aren't always so cut and dried. You can flip to the last page of a book to relieve anxiety about what's coming, but this doesn't work for feelings. As much as you might try, you can't actually predict them. I never know how a certain situation is going to make me feel until I'm in it.

And of course all these things are very personal. What speaks to or tugs at the heartstrings of one person is going to be completely opposite from what affects another. What bothers me may not give you a second thought. Things I miss completely may keep you up at night.

I can't always explain why certain things make me cry or laugh or feel angry or frustrated. But those things are part of who I am. As much as the fact that I'm tall or have curly hair or bad vision. Maybe those things are even more a part of ourselves than the outside stuff. And I don't think we should have to stifle or suppress it just because it makes others uncomfortable, even if the uncomfortable others are ourselves.

One of the biggest takeaways I've gotten from my past year or so seeing a counselor is that feelings are neither good nor bad. They just are. I can't tell you how many times I have said "I hate the way I feel about this or that" or "I wish I didn't feel this way." 

But we have feelings for a reason. They serve a very important purpose in our lives. Like a glass window pane created to let light pass through, our feelings and emotions are functional. And yet somehow some of us have decided that our feelings are wrong. So we get the expensive plantation shutters (or in my case the cheap mini blinds) and the blackout curtains to ensure no light peeks in. 

We do things to hold our feelings and emotions at a distance. I've definitely been guilty of this. We take away their ability to serve us as they were intended. And then we find ourselves in a dark room without any idea how we got there or what is a possible solution to fix it. 

There's a saying in the psychology lexicon, "to sit with your feelings." Mostly it has to do with feelings we consider to be negative.

It's easy to sit at the popular table. Feeling cool, excited, or accepted doesn't present the same challenges. It's the other, more difficult feelings I don't want to sit with. The ones that make me feel misunderstood, unwanted or unloved. Like the weird smelly kid at the cafeteria lunch table. 

I don't have a resolution yet. The story isn't over. Right now I'm just trying to give myself a bit of grace so when the uncomfortable feelings present themselves, I can let them be. I will sit with them even when it's uncomfortable and awkward. I will sit with them when I can't make eye contact and there's no easy conversation to be made. I will sit with them when everybody else is shifting sideways glances and judging me as a loser. I will sit with them when nobody else understands what I'm doing or why. I will sit with them until I get to know them and understand them even if nobody else ever does.

I will sit with my feelings until they stop being my enemy and become my friend. 

January 9, 2019

Fun & Simple Uses for Oatmeal

January is National Oatmeal Month (who comes up with these things?) so in honor of the occasion, I'm sharing some fun and simple uses for oatmeal that might be a little unexpected, but easy to make use of.

Who knew your favorite hearty winter breakfast food was good for all sorts of other things?

Soothe Your Pup's Dry Skin


Winter weather and being indoors with the heat running constantly can lead to dry itchy skin. And I'm not just talking about people....pets can struggle to adjust to the elements, especially if they have sensitive skin. 

My senior rescue gals (a Yorkie & a Chihuahua) both have various skin ailments and an oatmeal shampoo is a great way to pamper my beloved pooches. 


All you need is a cup of dry oatmeal (old fashioned oats NOT quick cooking). Grind the oats in a food processor or blender until they are a fine consistency, like flour. Stir in a third of a cup of baking soda. At this point you can add some coconut oil for a bit more moisture. Now add 2-4 cups of water (depending on the consistency you want). Use immediately or within a day or so but refrigerate if you aren't using right away. 

When you bathe your dog, just wet his or her coat and apply this oatmeal mixture as you would normal shampoo. It won't lather up like a harsh detergent shampoo, but get it into their skin and problem areas. If your dog will cooperate, leave on for 10-15 minutes. Otherwise, rinse and you're good to go! 

Oatmeal Face Mask for Glowing Skin


Besides keeping you full as a hearty breakfast option, oatmeal has other benefits that are great for skin. Did you know it both soothes and softens? This is why it is such a good option for a DIY home face mask. 


Depending on your skin type, you may want to mix oatmeal with milk which has lactic acid to exfoliate dead skin cells. Here's a great mask recipe you can make to treat your skin this winter: 

Add a spoonful of whole old fashioned oats into a mixing bowl. Add two tablespoons of milk (whole or 2%). Stir until mixture is full mixed. You can also add yogurt or cream as a substitute for milk. 

First clean your face as you normally do to remove makeup. Then apply the oatmeal mix to your skin (face, neck, etc) and let it set for 15-20 minutes. After that, wash with lukewarm water to clean the mask from your face.  

Non-Toxic Activity Dough for Kids


Looking for something fun and simple for your kids to do on a snow day? Oatmeal can be mixed into a fun and easy "play" dough that's non-toxic and inexpensive to create. 


To make it, combine a cup of instant rolled oats with 2/3 all purpose flour and 1/2 a cup of water. Mix everything together and even let the kiddos get involved in the process. You can add food coloring to give your dough some different hues. 

Happy National Oatmeal Month y'all! 

December 26, 2018

Simple & Delicious Appetizers for Luck at New Year's

New Year's is a time to celebrate....with reflection on the past and planning for the future. And the food. Of course there's the food. I've always tried to come up with a new twist on certain New Year's food traditions. So this year I've got some simple and delicious appetizers that you might want to incorporate into your holiday! 

Lucky Greens Flatbread Pizza 


Greens, which share the same shade as money, are said to bring prosperity in the New Year. I had a big bag of kale in the fridge so I decided to get creative and turn it into a topping for a tasty flatbread pizza. 


For my bread, I used garlic naan (bought at Aldi). For the toppings, I steamed some kale and stirred it with some mayo and shredded cheese. A very beloved restaurant in my hometown has a signature cheesy bread that incorporates shredded cheese and mayo. So I used this as a jumping off point and added the greens. 

A few minutes under the broiler and it's bubbly and ready to enjoy! You could use other toppings too, but  make sure to have some greens (spinach, chard, arugula, or whatever you like). 

Mini Bagels with Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon 


Some superstitions point to eating food with a hole in the middle for good luck in the New Year.  It may be because they represent the circle of life, the way things flow from the end of one year to the beginning of another. 


This year I'm incorporating mini bagels as my ring shaped food, and this option would make a great evening appetizer as well as a midnight snack or addition to your New Year's Day brunch. 

First I added some dried dill to plain cream cheese. This will add lots of flavor that complements the salmon. Then you'll need the bagels, smoked salmon and whatever else you like to add to this combination. Capers are a popular option for some people, a' la Bobby Hill. 

Black Eyed Pea Bruschetta 


In year's past, I've made black eyed pea burgers, black eyed pea hummus, and just good ol' fashioned black eyed peas, but this year I'm making a tasty and simple appetizer....black eyed pea bruschetta. 


Black eyed peas are a traditional southern New Year's food, because they also symbolize prosperity and good luck. I'll take some of both in 2019 if you please! 

Start with a can of black eyed peas and drain. Then drain a can of diced tomatoes and stir in some chopped basil and parsley. Mix in a bit of store-bought olive tapenade or chopped olives. 

Spoon a bit of this mixture onto toast rounds and top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Delicious!  

Wishing you and the ones you hold dear lots of good luck, health and happiness in the coming year! 

December 5, 2018

Easy DIY Projects to Decorate a Holiday Table

The holidays are here and I love all the festive decorations that come with this season. I've been scouring old Christmas books, including some Southern Living albums from the 1970s and a Martha Stewart Holiday book from 1989. Who needs Pinterest when you have the original Pinterest? Ha!

I found three really fun ideas that I'm recreating and I thought I'd share them with you too! Each of these would make a lovely addition to your holiday table or mantle!


Gumdrop Trees 



Gumdrops evoke feelings of nostalgia for days gone by and there's no better way to incorporate them into your holiday table than with a gumdrop tree

This project can be completed for $5 or less, depending on what you already have on hand. I picked up a cone-shaped piece of polystyrene from Dollar Tree, plus about three $1 bags of gum drops and a $1 box of tooth picks. In just a few minutes, I had an adorable gumdrop tree! Easy peasy. And this project would be great for friends and family of all ages. 

You could also make a variation of this idea with a polystyrene ball, aka a gumdrop kissing ball for your doorway or tree! 


Walking in a Winter Wonderland Holiday Scene 


I had some extra polystyrene cones from the gumdrop tree project so I decided to put them to use in another way....as snowy covered trees for a winter wonderland holiday scene. I started with a white ceramic cake plate on which to set my scene. Then I added the white cones, dressed up with a bit of white fuzzy pom pom garland. 

A few small deer and other accessories created a magical world. This would be lovely on a table of silvers and golds, or even royal blue. I love how different a tablescape can look with just a different color scheme.

I was inspired by this pretty scene on the blog Bless'er House!




Visions of Sugar Plums


Candied or sugared fruit traces its origins to the Middle Ages, when this method of preserving some of nature's bounty was popular. The original way to create fruits confit was by replacing the fruit's natural water with a concentrated sugar syrup. The fruit would have been pricked all over and boiled up to 15 times in syrup before being set aside. 

The the final step would have been to coat the fruit with a thin glaze of more sugar, to result in a glowing confection that takes a month or more to make.

I took an easier route by making sugared fruits with an egg white wash and granulated sugar. First coat your fruit (I used pears, pomegranate, oranges and grapes) in egg whites one at a time. Then roll each in a dish of sugar, making sure to cover all the wet spots. 

You need to allow plenty of time to dry, but this project is super easy. These sugared fruits could be used as a centerpiece or as individual place card holders on your holiday table. 


October 31, 2018

Simple Fall Decor to DIY

Fall is here and the holidays are just around the corner. This is a great time to decorate your house, but who wants to spend a ton of money? I've got some fun and simple DIY crafts to help you create cute fall themed decorations for your home.


First, I'm re-purposing an old book to make a simple fall garland to decorate a mantle or doorway. Using pages from the book, twine and leaves found in your yard, we will turn items on hand into something straight off the pages of a magazine. I spotted this on Sew Beyond Beautiful's Etsy Shop!

All you need is the pages from a book (the number of pages is up to you depending on the length of your garland), leaves (either real ones from the yard or faux from the floral department of a craft store), and twine to string it up. Glue dots are also helpful for this project, as is a hole punch to make holes for your twine in the pages.

Don't have any old books lying around? Some used bookstores (like McKays where I live) have a "free book" bin out front. I would never destroy a favorite volume, but it's really a way to give an old unwanted book a new life! You could also pick up a novel for a buck at the Dollar Tree.


Next, fall is all about getting cozy with a warm drink. But who likes to leave a coffee mug ring on your furniture? With felt scraps, we can make some cute and cozy fall coasters that not only protect your tabletops but also give a pop of color to any room.

I was inspired by the Crafty Cats with these cute fall-themed coasters! Since I wanted an easier (less time-consuming) option, I chose to make mine out of felt and just glue them together. But this project can be scaled to your taste and craftiness level!


Finally, I am turning some baskets into a lovely centerpiece with found objects from my yard. I was inspired by this gorgeous centerpiece I saw on Better Homes & Gardens....what a great idea!

Especially if you have a set of nesting baskets that are all the same. If you only have random, mismatched baskets, this would still work as long as they get gradually smaller. I only had two so I simplified my centerpiece but the sky's the limit for yours!

Fall decor doesn't have to be stressful. Especially with these simple and affordable projects to bring some fall fun and seasonal coziness into your home!

October 17, 2018

Treats Not Tricks for a Fun & Simple Halloween!

Halloween is just around the corner and if you love this time of year as much as I do, you'll definitely want to create a few of these sweet treats for the occasion! Whether you're planning a party for a whole bunch of guys and ghouls or just celebrating with a few friends/family, these treats are sure to please, no tricking!

Halloween Party Mix

 

With all that Halloween candy, you're sure to need something salty to balance it out. Try a simple party mix with a few of your favorite salty snacks! 

For mine, I combined popcorn (white cheddar and cheese flavored) with pretzel nuggets, candy corn and pumpkin flavored marshmallows. Stir together and serve....easy as can be! 


Halloween Goblin Punch

 


This awesome looking creation (from a Girl and a Glue Gun) combines the best parts of Halloween....creepy plus sugary sweet! You can make your own variation depending on what flavor you like! 

All you need is a carbonated beverage (either some type of soda or fizzy water) and Nerds candies. And don't forget the cute as can be Peeps for the straw! 

Scary Sweets

 

I saw these adorable Mummy Oreo cookies and decided to give mine a twist, using Oatmeal Cream Pies instead! All you need is some type of cookie, white icing, and small candy eyes! I went with the store bought cookie icing in the tube (simple all the way!) and popped these in the freezer for a few minutes to let them set up. 


I also turned some Fudge Stripe cookies (dipped in white chocolate) into creepy Halloween blood-shot eyes. 

Then there are these monster cookies which never get old! I made these a few years ago and they have remained a favorite! 


Hope you have a spooky good time this Halloween! 

October 3, 2018

Everything Pumpkin Spice | A Round-Up for 2018

October is here and that means Pumpkin. Spice. Everything. Sorry if this makes me basic, but I can't help but love all the flavors of the season, specifically pumpkin spice. That doesn't mean I like everything pumpkin spice flavored, but some of this stuff is pretty good y'all. Like really delicious.

So, in an attempt to do something for the greater good, I am making a guest appearance on WBIR to offer a round-up of some of the tasty pumpkin spice options available in stores right now. Maybe you'll see something that strikes your fancy and feel inspired to try it!


My favorite spots for pumpkin spice food offerings? Trader Joe's & Whole Foods, as well as The Fresh Market.

Whole Foods also has a round-up on their blog of some of the various seasonal pumpkin spice options available right now, including pancake and waffle mix, cupcake mix, dog treats, and popcorn.

My personal favorites? All the breakfast options, from cereal like Barbara's Pumpkin Puffins and pumpkin spice cream cheese and yogurt to pumpkin butter (a Trader Joe's signature item) and pumpkin spice toaster pastries. And even though they are a sometimes food, the pumpkin spice cookies are so good!

These Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Madeleine Cookies are a new option this year and they are delicious.


Want something pumpkin for an afternoon snack? How about a cup of pumpkin spice coffee or tea with pumpkin spice biscotti?

For a late night snack, pumpkin spice popcorn or pumpkin chips and harvest salsa. 

Not everything goes well with pumpkin spice flavoring and sometimes if the quality of the product isn't so great, it has that fake pumpkin taste. But most of the products I have found at my local stores are pretty tasty.

There's something for everybody, and every meal of the day, including snacks. What's not to love?

September 25, 2018

Simple Fall Container Gardening Ideas

Fall is here and my front porch is badly in need of some sprucing up. The potted plants and flowers I tried to grow in the spring hung in there over the summer, but now it's obvious they have seen better days. Fall is a great time to add some plants to your porch and yard. It might seem like spring is a better time to plant, but autumn, with its shorter days and cooler temperatures is the best time. 


Fall brings some damp weather, which helps soil keep its moisture longer. Plus the soil is softer which makes for easier digging. You may also have fewer weeds because the sun isn't out as much and temperatures are cooler. Cooler temperatures are also less stressful to new plants, so they have a better chance of thriving. And when the temperature in the air is cooler than the soil, plants focus their energy into growing roots, which causes them to be healthier overall.

When choosing plants for a fall container garden, consider your space as well as your container. I get inspiration from the large planters I've seen around shopping centers and parks. I even snapped a pic of this one that I liked, in front of one of my favorite consignment shops in Knoxville. I love the tall plant in the center, which is called Sky Pencil Holly.


When creating a fall container arrangement, consider the following:



Color - 

There are so many great colors to incorporate for fall gardens, and they don't all have to be the typical fall shades or oranges, yellows and rust. I love chartreuse and bright greens, so coleus and sweet potato vines are always a favorite of mine. Another all-time favorite plant of mine is Dusty Miller, because it makes me think of my Granny who grew it in big pots by her front porch. Its grayish white leaves are a nice complement to just about any color scheme. 

Texture - 

I also like to choose plants in a variety of textures. From big flat leaves to small feathery leaves, as well as grasses and vines, there are so many different textures you can incorporate. And this keeps your planters looking interesting. Ornamental cabbages are another option I am really digging right now. Get it, digging? I crack myself up. 

Dimensions - 

When creating a fall container garden, try to use plants of different sizes and heights, which will also create a more beautiful finished product. Maybe start with something tall and feathery in the middle, and then add shorter leafy plants surrounding it. Finally, bring in some draping vines to create even more visual interest. 

via Southern Living

I hope some of these things inspire you to think outside the box with your fall container gardens! And don't forget you can always incorporate other natural elements, like curly twigs, pine cones and pumpkins. 

Happy Fall Y'all!