September 24, 2016

When Your Momma Hustles

I haven't been blogging much lately. It makes me sad when I log into the back-end of Southern Belle Simple and see that I've only posted a couple of times in any given month. Apparently some of you are still out there, but I can see why others might have moved along to more exciting online spaces, with fresh new content that is updated daily.

I think back to the good ol' days when I was posting to the blog religiously, at least five times a week. It's not that I don't feel I have anything to say anymore or that I'm thinking of shutting down the blog. Heavens no. Actually, there's so much more I want to say. So just what is my problem?

I blame the fact that my momma hustles. Stay with me now.

One time, years ago, I was having a conversation with my grandpa about work and life, and other things. My mom's name came up and my grandpa said these words: "Now, your momma, she hustles."

What he meant was that my mom is a hard worker who is always looking for opportunities to work a little bit more and bring home a little bit more bacon.

The dictionary defines hustle as to obtain by forceful action or persuasion. Anyone who knows my mom would agree that her special brand of persuasion is unique, but quite effective. Basically, she gets s#!t done. I mean that in the best possible way.

As long as I can remember my mom has worked. She's worked more than one job sometimes to ensure that our family had what we needed and then some. And of course my dad worked too, but with my mom it was different. She was always looking for ways to bring in a little bit more money for our family.

She learned it from her dad (the grandpa who so aptly described her in this way). He's hustles too. His first job at 16 turned into a career that he kept at for nearly 50 years. But all along the way he was always looking for ways to work a little bit more and bring home a little bit more bacon. And he got it from his parents who were the same way.

It's definitely not a greed thing. I believe my family has a hardworking mentality and I think they get a sense of accomplishment from doing a job well-done. Plus, it never hurts to have a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Now that my grandpa is retired, he gets to do more of what he enjoys but he still works at certain things and is always wheeling and dealing. And my mom will probably be one of those people who never actually retires, but just sort of transitions from one kind of work to the next.

That brings us to me. Being self-employed means hustling is the name of the game. In some ways this is really great because the sky's the limit. In other ways, it's not so great because it means there's always something else to do, some other person to call, some other email or bit of marketing content to write. But I love what I do. And I feel grateful for the chance to do it.

I've just been hustling so much to build my work-life, my creative-life has been a little on hold. This blog is the result of that creative life. I started it in 2009 when I was working at a job where I felt little to no creativity and was dried up inside. I needed to express something, anything and this blog is how it came out.

Over the past seven years, so many incredible things have resulted from it. It's the thing that's really and truly me. And when I don't do anything with it for weeks at a time, I start feeling sort of funny and sad.

I'm so glad I come from and was raised by people who are hardworking. I'm so glad I had the example of a mom who was always willing to take on a little bit more to make sure her family had a good life.

But there has to be a balance.

The creative stuff matters.

As my mom has told me more than once, "You gotta do the stuff that feeds your soul." I'm not sure what that looks like for you, but for me a big part of it lies in this blog. I hope that whatever it is that you enjoy, that thing that taps into your creative and beautiful soul, that thing that causes you to come alive....I hope you can carve out some time for that thing.

We all gotta hustle to some extent, but who says we can't obtain by forceful persuasion the things that make us feel like our real true selves.

September 21, 2016

Happy First Day of Fall Y'all - Simple Treats & Easy Decorations to Welcome the Season

Even though you wouldn't believe it by the temperatures in Tennessee right now, fall is finally here! Fall is definitely the favorite time of year of so many people (including me!). 

In honor of the first day of fall, I'm sharing a few simple treats and easy decorations to welcome the season.

First, a fall simmer pot to add some of the scents of the season to your home! 

1) Easy Fall Simmer Pot Recipe 

When I was growing up, my mom used to always have a simmer pot on the stove with leftover orange peels, cinnamon and cloves. It always smelled so wonderful! 

There's no shortage of scented products available to buy in stores. And some of them even smell good. But with all the chemicals and artificial ingredients, they may not be good for our health. 

That's why a DIY simmer pot can be a great natural alternative. 

Here's what you need: 

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Apple slices
  • Orange slices
  • Cloves
  • Water

Fill a saucepan with water over high heat until it boils. Add the ingredients above and stir. Boil for a few minutes and then turn the heat down so the pot will simmer. There's no need for a lid because this will let all the great smells escape. 

Keep an eye on your simmer pot and add water as needed. Inhale deeply and enjoy!

2) DIY Apple Candle Holders

I've seen this idea all over the Internet, and it just looked so easy and cute, I had to try it. Apples are available in abundance right now. I got mine at Trader Joe's, only $3.99 for a big bag. 

To do this project, you'll need apples & tealight candles. I opted for the battery operated ones because they are safer with pets (and people!). 

Trace around the shape of your tealight on the top of the apple. Then, carefully cut out the circle shape with a paring knife (or X-acto knife).

Finally, using a melon baller, scoop out the apple flesh inside the circle, making a hole that is large enough for the candle to fit inside. 

Pop it in, and voila! What a cute and EASY project for fall.

3) Apple Nachos - A Simple & Delicious Recipe for Fall

via Haute & Healthy Living

There are tons of ideas for this simple and tasty fall party snack around the web. I found a healthier option at the great blog Haute & Healthy Living that uses almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract to make a caramel-like topping.

But the beauty of this type of recipe is that you can get creative and make it however you prefer!

All you need are some apples (sliced thin and soaked in lemon juice to keep them from turning brown) and whatever toppings you want to enjoy with them.

Possible toppings might include:

  • Caramel sauce
  • Chocolate sauce (or chocolate chips)
  • Peanut butter chips
  • Coconut
  • Raisins
  • Candy pieces
  • Marshmallows
  • Pretzels
Delicious and oh so simple to make! I hope you'll take some time this fall to really enjoy the season. Fall always seems to arrive with so much gusto, but then before we know it Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us. 

Want to really make the most of fall? Here are a few things on my fall bucket list. I hope you are inspired to make some special memories with your family this season! 

Visit my Fall Pinterest board to see more great fall recipes, projects and ideas!

September 19, 2016

My Lottery Ticket Life

Sometimes the Internet is a terrible place. A place that leaves me feeling like my life is not nearly as glamorous or exciting as I'd like it to be. A place that only serves to illuminate for the rest of the world everything I already believed was wrong with me, and how I'm not doing as well as so-and-so or having as much fun/success/whatever as someone else.

But using the Internet is a necessary evil for work and daily life so I press on, all the while attempting to maintain a healthy perspective and constantly trying to remember that we all struggle, and nobody's life is perfect. 

We're just bombarded with so many messages that have potential to leave us feeling less than. It's like a perfect storm sometimes.

But other times the Internet is wonderful. Serving as a way to connect us, acting as a vehicle to bring us stories and information we would have never otherwise encountered. 

Yesterday, I came across an interview on NPR with John Krasinski, the actor who played one of my all time favorite TV characters, Jim Halpert. In the interview he used the phrase "lottery ticket life" when referring to the level of success he has achieved. I guess he feels like he doesn't deserve it....that it was some sort of fluke, like winning the lottery. 

That phrase "lottery ticket life" really stuck with me and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. 

Something else I read yesterday was an article by Maria Shriver, in which she talked about how she's giving up complaining about the so-called mistakes her parents made during her childhood. She even referenced Alison Piepmeier and her poignant piece about being grateful for the beautiful life she was able to live.

Alison passed away recently, and while I didn't really know her, we were from the same place and that counts for something. 

So what's the point of all this rambling?

Not too long ago my husband and I had a fight. Everyone argues of course, but this one was a doozy. Let's just say it ended with one of us slamming the door in the other one's face and the other giving the door slammer a gesture involving a certain finger. Please know this is not how we typically behave. And would you believe it was just a little can of LaCroix fizzy water that started it all? Pamplemousse if you were wondering. But these things happen. And I think we're doing the world a disservice by pretending they don't.

Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Communicating is hard. It doesn't mean we give up, but sometimes in the midst of the struggle, it doesn't look so pretty. 

Later that day after our fight, when the situation had blown over, we met back up to find that each of us had decided to surprise the other with a treat of a cool drink - the gift of the Chik-fil-a iced tea magi if you will. 

All is now forgiven, and we've moved on from it, but it's important to me to remember it. Even in the middle of these silly blow-ups, or whatever other petty things might present themselves, I still believe I, too, have a lottery ticket life.

It has nothing to do with being happy all the time, but everything to do with being grateful. Heck, even actual lottery winners aren't any happier (according to this article).

I might not be the star of a TV show, or a Kennedy. But I have so much to be thankful for. The anniversary of September 11th always manages to put that into perspective too. I feel almost guilty for this because it comes up every year and leaves me feeling such a great deal of clarity...for awhile. But chances are, once that tender rawness has passed, we all just go right back to our weird little ways of coping, often losing our cool over dumb stuff, making mountains out of molehills, and just having an unhealthy lack of perspective.

All the decisions we make add up the person we are. Every little tiny thing we do over the course of a day adds up to who we are becoming. Every little choice we make. Every reaction we have to every situation in which we find ourselves.

This occurred to me this morning when I walked out the front door of my house and promptly sloshed a big cup of coffee down the front of my shirt. I have to be honest, my first reaction was to get mad. I looked down at my beautiful peach shirt and saw the ugly brown stain. But my very next thought was this: Don't be the kind of person who gets mad over something as silly as a spilled cup of coffee.

Because if I allow myself to be that kind of person, it's like giving that mouse a cookie. It will open a floodgate of other ways I will allow myself to waste precious energy being upset for no reason. Where will it end?

I don't want to be the kind of person who gets mad over things that don't matter. A student at a local university recently felt so hopeless that he jumped off a pedestrian bridge on campus, taking his own life. THIS is something to get upset about it. That a soul would feel so lost, so hopeless. There's no shortage of stories that break my heart all to pieces.

All you have to do is turn on the news for one minute to see some horrific story about people struggling, suffering, and really hurting. But I don't want to have to always be comparing my life to others to see the good in it. I want it to be able to stand alone as something to be thankful for. No comparisons.

I may as well have won the lottery.

September 7, 2016

Fun & Healthy Ideas for Better Breakfast Month - September 2016

September is Better Breakfast Month and it's a great time to create new, healthier breakfast eating habits. 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it helps get your metabolism going and provides the energy and nutrients you need to stay focused and do your best thinking. 

For me, breakfast has to be a seamless part of my morning routine. Otherwise, I get in a rush and end up skipping it...which is not good. 

Thank goodness breakfast has come a long way since the days of grapefruit halves and black coffee (a' la Mad Men) as well as the sugary cereals and nutritionally lacking pastries of my childhood in the 1980s. 

Here are three creative options for Better Breakfast Month. Apparently these were predicted to be the big trends in breakfast for 2016, but I don't think they've quite made the rounds yet in my neck of the woods. 

1) Get Creative with Healthy Smoothie Bowls

I know smoothie bowls aren't exactly brand new, but they still hold a certain level of mystery for many folks. I'm here to de-mystify this delicious and healthy breakfast option. 

I'm going to let you in on a little secret...smoothie bowls are just smoothies, in bowls. They are a little thicker than your regular smoothie drink, but this can be achieved by using less liquid. Plus, they have the addition of toppings which not only makes it possible for you to create an unlimited number of combinations, but also helps you feel fuller because you're chewing it. 

I was inspired by Naturally Sassy to make this green smoothie bowl (recipe here). It combines lots of healthy foods such as spinach, kale, bananas, and blueberries in a delicious breakfast treat. 

Another tip is to use frozen bananas, which adds to the smoothie bowl's creamy consistency. 

2) Savory French Toast - French Toast Pizza 

I grew up eating French Toast, slathered in syrup and butter. It never occurred to me that French Toast could also be savory. 

Check out this awesome looking French Toast breakfast pizza, via EatWell 101

The best thing about this recipe is you can really just start with the same base and then add whatever toppings you prefer, depending on what mood you happen to be in. 

Not keen on onions for breakfast? Maybe try tomatoes and mozzarella with some fresh basil. The French Toast base means you're getting some extra protein from the eggs too. 

Need more inspiration? Here's a round-up of other French Toast recipes that are definitely outside the box. 

3) Salad for Breakfast - Eggs Benedict Salad 

Finally, a breakfast option that really packs a healthy punch - salad! I know what you're thinking. "Who wants to eat a soggy cold salad in the morning?" Well, this tasty salad is anything but! 

It's basically eggs Benedict on leafy greens, with other healthy veggies tossed in for good measure. My recipe came from here, but you can alter your version to your taste.  

These are just three ways to enjoy better breakfasts during September. I hope you will be inspired to start each day with a better breakfast. I know I am! 

Drink it Up - Southern Mint Tea with Sugarlands Shine

Need a great drink recipe for your next social gathering? Try this tasty recipe from Sugarlands Distilling Company! 

Southern Mint Tea

1.5 oz of Mint Condition Peppermint 
1 oz of Southern Sweet Tea Moonshine
4 oz of Unsweet Iced Black Tea 
.25 tsp of sugar
3 mint leaves 
2 lemon wedges 

Muddle the sugar, 2 mint leaves and one lemon in the bottom of a glass with Sweet Tea moonshine. Add ice, Peppermint moonshine and tea. Garnish with remaining lemon wedge and mint leaf.