June 23, 2017

All Things Pink in Honor of National Pink Day

Today is National Pink Day. There's no real reason for the holiday except as an occasion to celebrate that most beloved hue. I haven't gotten on the Marie Kondo "Joy Sparking" bandwagon but I do believe in things that make us happy and pink definitely never fails to make me smile. 

But I am a millennial (barely) and Millennial Pink is a thing,  so there's that. I combed through my photo archives and put together this round-up of a few that make me smile. 

Happy Pink Day y'all! 

1. Pink Lipstick & Pink He-Man Shirt (yes, this is me)

2. My Sweet Leon snoozing peacefully with his Pink little lips

3. My breathtakingly beautiful bridal bouquet with all my favorite shades of pink, peach and coral

4. Perfect pink peonies grown by my dad, transplanted from my great grandmother's garden


5. A sentiment we should consider from time to time (Como Si, Como No near Flagler Beach, Florida)


6. 60th Anniversary Cake for my grandparents' recent celebration


7. Love this combination of aqua and pink


8. My next bathroom will be pink

 9. Pink Shelling Beans, aka Shellies from the local farm stand

 10. A perfect pink flower at my favorite garden 


11. Art meets Fashion meets Fabulous at the Met for the Comme de Garcons Show 

 12. The Museum of Ice Cream


13. Fabulous raspberry creme brulee at District in Cleveland


14. View from the porch of my favorite Air BNB (I can't wait to go back)


15. More gorgeous blooms from my wedding...those carnations are the perfect shade of dusky pink. To. Die. For. 


16. Watermelon + Mint + Feta Salad


17. One more glorious peony for good measure

18. A fabulous mock-cocktail perfect for summer evenings (or you can also add champagne for more spirited fun)


19. Birthday flower arrangement from a dear friend

 20. Assorted Pink Macarons from Laduree NYC

21. Eudora Welty (by Katherine Sandoz)


22. Strawberry Congealed Salad, aka Pink Fluff


23. View of Sunrise from Ormond Beach where I spent summers as a child

24. Strawberry Butter made fresh from just picked strawberries, slathered on hot biscuits

25. Words of encouragement I needed to hear.


June 21, 2017

Things to do on the first day of summer

Today (June 21st) is the first official day of summer. It's already been hot in Tennessee for a little while, but as far as temperatures and humidity goes....we ain't seen nothing yet.

The first day of summer doesn't quite have the same feeling as it might have had at one time.

Most school kids have been on vacation for weeks now. Nearly everybody I know has been on or is about to go on some vacation. So in some ways, the first official day of summer feels like an afterthought.

To make it feel a little bit more special, here are some easy ways to celebrate the first official day of summer. Pick just one from the list, or maybe select several. Make it fun. Start summer with a bang! 

:: Wear a tube top. 

:: Set up a lemonade stand in front of your house. Or better yet, buy a cup of lemonade from a neighborhood kid. 

:: Eat one of those giant dill pickles from the gas station. 

:: Watch the film Gidget starring Sandra Dee. Daydream about who you'd rather have a summer fling with...Moondoggie or Kahuna. 

:: Run into a local laundry mat and leave a big stack of quarters on top of one or more of the washers as a nice surprise for someone doing their laundry. 

:: Read the poem Fat Southern Men in Summer Suits by Liam Rector. 

:: Listen to the Boys of Summer by Don Henley. Sing along. 

:: Eat Popsicles for breakfast and popcorn for dinner. Do not feel one bit guilty about it. 

:: Move your couch into the garage underneath a window air conditioner. Fall asleep as the cool air blows on your skin, just like it used to when you'd nap at your grandma's house during childhood. 

:: Find the nearest pool and go for a dip. 
:: Call up your best friend from high school and reminisce about the way you used to spend the summers of your youth. 

:: Eat cold spaghetti out of a bowl while standing in front of the refrigerator. 

:: Shoot off some fireworks (but be careful -- those things can burn you or put out an eye). 

:: Find a giant silk scarf and tie it around your hair like a turban. 

:: Don a pair of running shorts with stiletto heels for an impromptu trip to the grocery store. Buy the fancy mustard, a jar of expensive olives and three different kinds of imported cheese.

:: Spread out a beach towel (or blanket) on the floor of your living room. Have a late night picnic. Serve the aforementioned snacks. 

:: Fill your yard with pink flamingos. 

:: Create a signature cocktail using wacky ingredients and swear to drink it all summer long! 
Here are some ideas if you need inspiration: 

3 Summer Drink Recipes | Pina Colada Moonshine Milkshake | Mint Tea Moonshine | Bee-tini

:: Tap into your inner drama queen/king with a recitation of Catherine's monologue from the Tennessee Williams play Suddenly Last Summer. Do it with fervor. 

:: Take a boat ride. Or a train ride. Or a bike ride.

:: Sit on your front porch and wave to the passersby like you are a visiting dignitary. 

:: Wear your good perfume. The expensive one you only save for special occasions. 

:: Make up a silly dance and see if you can convince someone to do it with you. 

Have a WONDERFUL Summer!

Wishing you lots of

June 20, 2017

Drink it Up: Black Cow Ice Cream Floats

I grew up drinking Coke floats, but I recently heard this drink referred to as a "Black Cow" and I love the name. Maybe it's because I always loved the black and white cows that made their home in the pasture on my great-grandparents' farm.

Maybe it's because I had a beloved black and white dog who sort of reminded me of a cow.

Black Cows or Coke floats (or ice cream sodas) are pretty much some of the easiest drinks you can make. There's just nothing to it.

Take a few scoops of your favorite ice cream and put it in a tall glass. Pour some Coca-Cola (or another type of Coke) over it. Voila!

There's something about this drink that's just perfect for summer. The days are long and hot and here in the sweet south, we need something to help us get through it.

As a kid we'd sometimes get Slush Puppies or Frozen Cokes from the local K-Mart. These always felt like such a treat. I can't remember making ice cream floats all that often, but it was definitely something I looked forward to the few times we did.

Growing up, ice cream was something we only had on special occasions. We always had either Mayfield, made right in Tennessee with its headquarters in Athens, or Purity, made in Nashville.

These days I enjoy Cruze Farm ice cream, which is available in local stores around East Tennessee as well as at their summer pop-up shop on Gay Street in Downtown Knoxville.

June 20th is National Ice Cream Float day...but there's no reason you can't celebrate any old time you please.


June 16, 2017

Simple Ways to Save on Stuff Your Family Needs

There really is a day for everything. Of course, I'm the person who likes to celebrate things like "National Donut Day" or "Bubba Day" so I guess I don't really have room to talk.

It always tickles me when certain days overlap.

Like June 26th, which is both National Forgiveness Day AND Beautician's Day. As a child with extremely thick, curly, often frizzy hair, I often left the beauty shop feeling like my beautician should have been asking for my forgiveness. I had those bangs in the 80s that looked like a clump of broccoli on my forehead. And nobody knew just what to do with my mane.

There's another dual holiday in June...June 18th. Not only is is National Splurge Day, but it's also International Panic Day. I've definitely been there. First I splurge, then I panic.

Money is a tricky thing, or at least it can be if you aren't careful. It's one of those complicated subjects. We just can't get through life without it. From the gas you put in your car to your clothes or toiletries, or even groceries, money greases the wheels of life.

I've always been frugal. And thankfully, I think it's easier to be frugal these days, to make our money go further on the necessities so there's a little bit extra for the fun stuff.

Get Creative to Spend Less on the Things You Need Most

As humans we're creatures of habit. We have certain products or brands that we like and we keep buying them over and over. I'm not sure why this is, but it's the truth. This is why I keep my eyes peeled for discounts on those items while I'm shopping. This applies both to my usual shopping haunts as well as other stores I might not visit as often.

Some stores offer customer loyalty programs by tracking things you buy. I always enroll in these at a variety of local grocery stores. That way, if I have to duck in for something on the fly, I still have the option for some type of discount. It might not apply to what I'm buying but often there are deals I can take advantage of.

Who doesn't love getting to the checkout to pay and finding out you have coupons or deals because of your loyalty program?

There are other ways you can try things for free or at a discount, particularly at restaurants and grocery stores. One of the best ways stores can get me to buy something is by offering a free sample.

They're smart this way.

Plus, a lot of the time the person giving out the samples also has coupons...which I love! I mean, why wouldn't I buy the item? Taste testing and a reduced price...yes please!

These are all ways you can buy things you need most without spending as much money. And sometimes I do deviate from my usual products, to take advantage of a great deal. I might have a favorite kind of coffee, but lots of times I'll grab another brand just because it's on sale. If the quality is good, I don't mind something different to save a few bucks.

Think Ahead and Make a Plan

When it comes to money, I am learning how important it is to plan for the future. As my husband and I have been trying to slowly renovate our house, we've had to prioritize which things should be tackled first. We know we can't do every project at once, but that's okay.

And then, even when you plan, there are always things that happen with no warning. A few weeks ago, my car needed some work done to the tune of several hundred dollars. It's no fun, but you gotta do it.

Being self-employed, we are also thinking about retirement. When I used to work for a university, I never gave retirement a second thought. I knew that a certain amount of money was taken out of my check each pay period and my employer matched it with a contribution to my retirement account. This happened like clockwork and I never had to do anything.

Working for myself is a whole different ballgame. And you definitely can't afford to wait until retirement time to start thinking about it. To learn more about when to start saving for retirement, read more here. Generally, experts say the best time to start building retirement savings is when you’re between 35 and 50 years old, but it’s never too late to start.

Resist the Urge to Buy Things Impulsively

Oh the impulse purchase. How we love it. You've probably experienced this just like I have. Walking along the aisles at your favorite store and you spot something that looks so adorable/fun/whatever and think you just have to have it. 

This is why all that fun stuff is strategically placed near the cash register at every store. Yes your shopping cart is filled with only the things you need, but that flavored lip gloss is calling your name.

You might think it's just a small thing, but these little purchases add up over time. I'd be afraid to know just how much money I've spent over the years on little extras that I didn't really need and ended up giving away (or throwing away) later on. This is why it's a good idea to actively work to cut down on impulse spending even if it feels justifiable.

One way to do this is to enforce the $20 rule. If something costs more than $20 and you hadn't planned to buy it before going into the store, try to make yourself sleep on the purchase for a day or so. Most of the time, for me anyway, once the initial urge to splurge has passed, I don't really want the item anymore.

Another tip is to only carry cash and don’t buy sale-priced stuff unless you genuinely need it and have done your research to learn that the price is the best deal out there. Target end cap displays with those orangey-red clearance stickers, I'm looking at you.

These three tips may take a little work to put into practice. But money is an important subject and you should definitely approach it thoughtfully. With a little planning and a little effort, you can start making new habits and as you practice them, I bet you'll start to save money without having to sacrifice on things you need and buy the most.

* Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Even so, I am very picky about doing this sort of thing and will only link to products or services I  believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

June 14, 2017

Father's Day Gifts for $25 or Less

Father's Day is a special occasion to celebrate the truly special guys in our lives. And there are so many different ways you can celebrate dad, from a home cooked meal to a nice dinner out, or even a picnic in the park.

Beyond treating dad to some good eats, you may also want to present him with some sort of gift for the occasion.

Today, my friend posted her grievances on social media about how it seems like Father's Day advertisers have stereotyped dear ol' dad with a short list of gifts which fall into certain categories...

In her post, she said her husband doesn't "play golf, go fishing, eat steak, grill out, or care about football."

I agree with her that we could expand our horizons just a little bit. Not all dads fit into one category or another. Each is individual and unique. But sometimes it's easy to lump them all into one group.

I'm sharing some gift ideas for a few different kinds of dads, but hopefully these go beyond the typical grilling, golf or football-loving dad options.

Gifts for the Laid-Back Dad

So maybe your dad is kinda laid back. He probably loves casual clothes, easy Sunday afternoons, and carefree fun. This sort of dad might enjoy a retro graphic t-shirt (by Well Worn) or even the quintessential Father's Day option that says "Best Dad Ever." 

The laid-back dad doesn't take himself too seriously, which is why he's stoked to wear matching socks with his munchkin (designed in Portland, via Pair of Thieves). Maybe he wants to enjoy his favorite tunes while hanging out at the lake...now he can with this cool waterproof wireless Bluetooth speaker by Buxton (bottom left). 

And who says he wouldn't enjoy a six pack of his favorite beer, served up cold in his own wooden caddy, with a bottle opener right on the side? For the DIY Dad, there's even a "build-your-own" version. Or you can always opt for ready made. 

Gifts for the Active Dad

So this is the dad who never sits still. Maybe he's always training for that next ultra-marathon. Or perhaps he just enjoys weekend hikes with the family. He's probably the first to be up for any adventure, whether it's camping out or hopping in the car for an impromptu road trip. 

Gifts for the active dad might include a portable LED lantern for that next great camping trip. He might also like a hydration backpack, great for having water on the go. Or maybe your active dad needs a new Kleen Kanteen, in a cool dad-approved color like olive drab. 

I even found a really cool line of candles from Upper Classic, in fragrances that even dads would enjoy. The "Rugged" variety smells of cedar and citrus, while the "Brilliant" version (shown below for the jet-setter dad) has the essence of green tea, ginger and lemongrass. 

Gifts for the Jet-Setter Dad

This dad is a little less Old Spice and a little more Calvin Klein. He travels. He enjoys the finer things in life. He wants to look good and feel good. This is why he always carries a handkerchief. Add to his collection with this three pack (top center). 

Harry's Men's Razors (bottom right) are a great gift for the jet-setter dad, plus they offer a subscription option to get refill blades delivered to dad at home. The gift that keeps on giving! 

And if dad isn't so much about shaving, but is more about taming his colossal beard, then maybe Maestro's Beard Care line is the right choice. This product line boasts its water solubility, to bring moisture to the skin and hair. They claim to give you results such as instant soothing and a less itchy beard. 

Maybe dad also needs a new dopp kit to hold all his ultra luxe toiletries. This great one from Swiss Army is sleek and sturdy, with lots of compartments for keeping everything in order on even the bumpiest flights. 

Each of these gifts (or combination of gifts - for example the Maestro's beard care products) are $25 or less. I found them at Target but you can find many of these products from other sources. I wasn't compensated to feature products from Target...it's just one of my favorite places to shop. 

I hope this has inspired you a little bit to think outside the box for dad on Father's Day this year. There's no reason you can't give dad a memorable day/gift without breaking the bank. 

June 5, 2017

I want to be that couple.

This weekend I was clothes shopping at one of my favorite local thrift stores. I prefer this particular one not only because it always has a wide selection of really high end brands and good quality items, but also because the store is organized so well. Instead of having to dig through towering piles and overflowing racks, you can shop for exactly what you’re looking for, by color, style and size.

I was flipping through a rack of blouses when I came to a sweater. At first I got excited because it was in my size, a beautiful Italian wool from Banana Republic. Upon further inspection, I realized it was so tiny, it would barely fit a child. Clearly somebody didn’t follow the care instructions because it had obviously been through a cycle of hot water with a side of dryer.

I wondered if some husband or boyfriend had been the culprit. I’m not trying to pick on the guys here, but as a woman who tries to take the best possible care of my clothes, chances are slim that I would make the mistake of shrinking a nice garment such as this.

I thought of my own husband, who washes everything together on hot. Just last night he washed our dogs’ foam beds, on hot, with our one and only set of bed sheets. The dog beds exploded in the dryer leaving piles of what looked like gray bird’s nests (or in my husband’s words “pube clippings”) everywhere.

But back to the sweater…

I wondered if this small shrunken garment had been the catalyst for a big blow-up fight. Maybe it was her favorite and he ruined it. Maybe she had been feeling like he never listened to her, or didn’t see her in some way and this small slight was just the icing on the cake.

Has that been you? I can relate. Years ago, early in my relationship with my then boyfriend/now husband, we were at a Chinese restaurant and overheard a couple at the next table having a heated conversation. We couldn’t help but get drawn into listening, curious about their situation. It all came to a head when the guy said to the girl, in an angry tone, “If you want to try the soup, JUST TRY THE SOUP.”

Of course without knowing all the context, we can’t say much about what was going on, but this phrase has stuck with us. For the next decade or so, we’ve said this to each other jokingly or sometimes to break the ice during a heated conversation of our own.

This morning at breakfast, my husband said (out of the blue), “I wonder whatever happened to that soup couple. Did they make it? Are they still together or was that argument the last straw?”

We’ve been that couple too. The one arguing about something stupid like popcorn or a spoon. And I’m sure there have been times when strangers have heard us and wondered, “what the heck?” Maybe there’s another couple out there quoting one of the more ridiculous things we’ve said.

Not too long ago, I was having breakfast at a diner. I looked over at the next table and saw a couple eating together. Except they were both reading magazines. Not talking. Just munching their food, and flipping the pages. His was Esquire, hers appeared to be something about antique furniture.

My first thought was: Jeez, I don’t want to be that couple. The one who goes out to eat and sits there silently. That couple who are both engrossed in their reading, completely oblivious of the other’s presence.

But as soon as this thought came and went, another one sprang into my mind.

What if they are totally happy? What if the thing they enjoy most each week is breakfast and magazines? Perhaps it’s their Netflix and chill.  

It’s easy to make sweeping statements about how we don’t want to be. Grand edicts etched in stone about what we are and are not. I’ve done it so many times.

I don’t want to be that couple seeing a marriage counselor during year two because year one was such a struggle. I don’t want to be that couple with debt. I don’t want to be that couple who has drama with our in-laws. I don’t want to be that couple screaming at each other over a bucket of popcorn.

Except I’ve been one half of this couple. Every single time.

And I’ve been part of that couple sitting there not talking at a restaurant. And sometimes it’s just all you can do.

Sweaters shrink. Dog beds disintegrate. Couples fight over silly things. I don’t want to be that couple who doesn’t make it. That couple who takes each other for granted and ends up breaking each other’s hearts. But beyond that, I’m all in.

Ultimately, I do want to be that couple. Full stop. Whatever comes after that is open to interpretation.  

May 31, 2017

Celebrate National Donut Day with a DIY Donut Station

Alright folks, that day of days is upon us. The first Friday in June. Also known as National Donut Day. This is an occasion to celebrate one of the purest, most simple forms of deliciousness we know. The humble donut.

Donuts have come a long way over the years. Plain cake and glaze has been elevated with toppings galore, flavors and all sorts of frosting options. But the best thing about donuts is that there's a flavor or topping combo for just about everyone.

What's your favorite? Are you a classic donut fan, maybe just a blueberry cake or chocolate frosted? Or perhaps you like to go out on a limb, enjoying concoctions with strange combinations like bacon and maple glaze.

On my recent trip to NYC, I tried donuts at Donut Plant, an awesome little eatery known for its incredible donut flavor offerings. My favorite was the Brooklyn Blackout, described as a chocolate cake doughnut, filled with chocolate pudding, dipped in chocolate glaze and sprinkled with chocolate cake crumbs. Yes, please!

Have you caught donut fever? There's no shortage of great donuts  to be found in Knoxville, from Makers Donuts to Duck Donuts to the most recently opened Status Dough.

Want to enjoy donuts at home? Why not set up a fun DIY donut station at your next party or event. All you need are a bunch of donuts and assorted frostings and toppings. Let your guests go to town creating their own one-of-a-kind donut creations.

Here are a few ideas below to inspire you!

Candied pineapple + Shredded Coconut on cream cheese frosting = Pina Colada Donut

Mini marshmallows + Graham crackers on chocolate frosting = S'Mores Donut

Assorted Breakfast Cereal on vanilla frosting = Eye Opener Donut 

Fresh strawberries + whipped topping = Strawberry shortcake Donut

Apple Pie filling + Caramel sauce on cream cheese frosting = Apple Pie Donut 

Donut disappoint your guests! 

May 26, 2017

Advice for Future Grown-Up Girls

There are no do-overs in life. We can't go back and change the past, as much as we'd like to. Looking back at certain periods of time, particularly my teenage years, there are things I wish I had done differently. Things I wish I would have known.

Would it have mattered? I'm not sure.

I'm currently listening to Drew Barrymore's memoir "Wildflower" in audio book format. I love it when an author reads his or her audio book because it feels like an opportunity to have him or her tell his story directly to me.

In the book, she addresses (albeit briefly) the rise of social media and how crazy it is to be able to share photos with millions of people with a single click. I follow my younger girl cousins on social media and enjoy feeling like I have a bit of inside scoop on their lives, even though I don't get to see them very often. I wonder how hard it is for them to be girls coming of age in our current time. One of my favorite girl cousins to follow is Elliott, a precocious rising sixth grader whose posts never fail to make me smile. From her love of elephants to her victories on the volleyball court, to her adventures with friends doing typical middle school girl things.

This morning, my girl bestie from high school sent me a Facebook message with a clip from the film Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion. She said she missed those simpler times in life when just watching a favorite movie for the umpteenth time was all it took to enjoy yourself. I miss those things too.

Some experts say that kids today don't know how to connect with people in real life because they are digesting each and every experience through screens. Others would argue that social media has made us more connected than ever before. I hope that's true. I hope young girls understand the importance of the friendship connections they are forming at this time of their lives.

The years will come faster and faster, and soon those carefree days will seem like a dream, something you kind of remember and hold dear but also something that feels so distant and removed that it might not have happened at all.

I wish someone had shared this with the young girl version of myself. If you are a fourteen year old girl who happens to be reading this, or fifteen or sixteen or even eighteen, there's still time for you. Take this bit of advice from someone who knows:

Put down your phone and really look at your best friend's face. I mean really look. Memorize the way her eyes crinkle just a tiny bit when she smiles. Hear her laugh, with its ever ebullient cadence and write the sounds of it on your heart. See the way she sits, cross legged in the back of the school auditorium, eating a plain turkey and cheese sandwich from Subway. Never forget how important of a role you have in her life, as her confidante and cheerleader. One day you might be in her wedding. Perhaps you'll be in the room as her first baby is born. These magical moments are amazing and unforgettable, but somehow they aren't quite the same as just being a couple of girls, 15 and 16, driving around your small southern town in an old Chevy Blazer, smoking Marlboro Lights out the window. Do not smoke (Marlboro Lights or otherwise).

The next time you are hanging out with your best guy friend, take your earbuds out and really listen to him. Watch the outline of his profile as he drives you to Sonic for a Route 44 Cherry Limeade made with Diet Coke instead of Sprite. For the record Diet Coke is terrible for you, but life goes on. Memorize his mannerisms, the way he crosses his arms over his chest, in his Gap sweater, leaning ever so slightly to put more weight on one foot than the other. The next time you are standing with him in front of a vending machine, as he is buying his post-lunch bag of Sour Patch Kids, take in every sight and sound of the moment, because one day you'll want to re-live it. Or all the times you pull your car into his parents' driveway, going to pick him up for some evening of teenage adventures. Take a moment to enjoy the fact that his parents are inside, waiting to greet you warmly, his dad jokingly asking you to "feed his son something and bring him home alive."

These are the moments that you'll miss most when you're stuck watching a corporate webinar or attending a conference with a plated lunch and keynote speaker.

One day you won't live in a house with your parents, where your best friend just naturally comes over and lets herself in the back door. One day you won't get together weekly with your best friend to watch Dawson's Creek and eat cheese fries. One day you will wake up and your to-do list will include things like get a watch battery, call the IRS and straighten out how your quarterly tax payment was applied to the wrong year, buy toilet paper or a broom and take that bag of stuff in the garage to Goodwill.

Maybe you'll move away while your best friend stays in your hometown, married and raising a beautiful family. Maybe your friend will move across the country and you'll mean to visit him but thirteen or fourteen years will go by and you won't be able to believe you haven't made that trip.

Of course you'll form other friendships along the way. Dearly dearly beloved friendships. Friends who become family. Friends who know the grown-up you and are there for you when you need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Don't take these for granted either.

But it's those first friendships...the ones that form while you are still forming. They are worth more than all the likes, all the hearts, all the regrams. And I'd hate to think anybody missed out on that because they were too busy looking at a screen.

Oh, and one more thing. Have as many sleepovers as you can. Grown-ups are supposed to be able to do whatever they want but sleepovers never seem to make it on the list.

May 24, 2017

Drink UP! 3 Easy Summer Drink Recipes

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer and I don't know about you, but I think I'm ready for it. Here in the south, we know hot weather is coming. And there's nothing we can do about it except try to stay as cool as possible with delicious cold drinks.

I've got three good ones you might want to try this Memorial Day, or later this summer. Drink up, y'all!

Sugarlands Shine Coconut Bellini 

I just love the folks at Sugarlands Distilling Company! And they have a brand new flavor of moonshine just in time for summer...Pina Colada! Trust me, it's delicious.

Here's a fabulous drink recipe using the new Sugarlands Pina Colada Shine - the Coconut Bellini. You'll definitely want to be sipping this at some point during the summer.

To make the Sugarlands Coconut Bellini, you'll need the following things:

Champagne glasses
2 oz of Pina Colada Moonshine
Fresh berries of your choice

Mash the berries with Coconut Moonshine. Allow to chill if you have time. Top off with sparkling wine.

Sip sup!

Copycat Starbucks Pink Drink 

You may have seen this lovely concoction filling up your social media feed...the Starbucks Pink Drink. Originally a fan creation from the "Secret Menu" this drink is coming to Starbucks near you this summer. 

Try it out and see if you like it, but in the meantime you can make a similar version of your own at home. 

You'll need: 

4 acai berry tea bags
1 cup hot boiling water
1/2 cup white grape juice
1-2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
Fresh sliced strawberries
Agave nectar, optional

Pour boiling water over your tea bags and let them steep. Add white grape juice. 

Fill a large glass with ice cubes and add about a cup of the tea/grape mixture. Top it off with a splash of coconut milk. Add sliced strawberries and additional sweetener if you choose. 

Lemon-Limeade with a Kick 

I'm a sucker for anything Trader Joe's has to offer, and most of the time I'm happy with the products I find there. 

The most recent product I tried is their Organic Jalapeno Limeade. It's definitely got a kick to it, but for people who like a spicier option, you're going to love it. 

Mix it with some fizzy water for a more festival drink and add fresh lemons, limes and mint. Easy to make and great for your summer parties. You can also add tequila or vodka for a more spirited option. Enjoy! 

May 17, 2017

Easy Recipes for National Salad Month

Did you know May is National Salad Month? Thank goodness salads have come a long way since the iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing of my childhood. There's no shortage of creative salad ingredients and combinations to try, for every different taste and diet.

I'm sharing three of my favorite salad recipes that are easy to make and oh so delicious.

Turn Your Salad into a Sandwich

Sometimes, a big bowl of greens just doesn't appeal to me. My trick is to turn my salad into a sandwich. It still gives you plenty of healthy ingredients, but gives you the option of bread, which is easier to eat on the run.

There's no reason you can't take your favorite salad ingredients and make a yummy veggie sandwich.

One favorite of mine is green apples (or pears), with cucumbers, sprouts and pumpkin seeds. Add some arugula or kale and you've got a salad-turned-sandwich fit for a king.

Salad on a Stick - Caprese Salad Skewers

Another favorite salad of mine, especially this time of year, is a caprese with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. There's been an abundance of cherry tomatoes in my local grocery store and I love to create these fun caprese skewers for an easy salad on a stick.

If basil isn't readily available or cost prohibitive, I use baby spinach and it's just as good. I also like to include black or green olives if I have them on hand.

These are the easiest salads to make and always get plenty of oohs and aahs when served at any gathering.

Salad to Eat with Your Hands - Endive Salad Cups

Hosting a baby shower or other fancy-ish party? Serving lots of little finger foods may be what you're going for. Salad isn't so much a finger food, but it can be depending on what you serve. 

Belgian endive (pronounced on-deev) is great for this. I also use hearts of romaine in a pinch when endive isn't available. 

Each little lettuce cup can be filled with whatever you like. Try some tasty in season spring veggies like asparagus, peas and cucumbers. Maybe add a slice of avocado, sprouts, a tomato and half of a boiled egg. 

Drizzle the dressing in the lettuce before filling it so it doesn't spill out. Yum! 

These salad ideas might be a little nontraditional, but they are so delicious! I hope you enjoy. 

May 15, 2017

Drink it up - Sugarlands Pina Colada Moonshine Milkshake

Summer is just around the corner and my friends at Sugarlands Shine have just the drink recipe for your summer parties and barbecues! 

Sugarlands just debuted its new Pina Colada moonshine and you can find the recipe below for a Pina Colada Moonshine Milkshake. Delicious! The new Pina Colada moonshine mixes the refreshing taste of pineapple and coconut milk. This flavor is currently only available at Sugarlands' distillery in downtown Gatlinburg. 

1 cup of coconut sorbet
1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
¼ cup of pineapple juice
4 oz Pina Colada Moonshine

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Sugarlands Distilling Company produces award-winning spirits in East Tennessee. The downtown Gatlinburg distillery is a popular attraction where guests are invited to sample award-winning spirits and enjoy behind the-scenes tours.

The distillery offers live music, private tours and tastings, and distilling workshops. It is nestled in the Smoky Mountains, near the Sugarlands, an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park historically known as “moonshiners’ paradise.”  The distillery opened in March 2014 to perform the age-old craft of distilling fine spirits.  Sugarlands Distilling Co. is a locally owned, community–minded, “give-back” brand.

April 22, 2017

How to have the perfect wedding

The forecast in Knoxville today was dark and rainy. We woke up to cloudy skies, which aren't that unusual for a Saturday in late April. The fourth Saturday in April is significant for me because two years ago on a Saturday just like today, my southern beau and I said our wedding vows in front of a crowd of our nearest and dearest people.

Weddings are special no matter who it is, but for us, after dating as long as we did (eleven years!), it felt like something we'd been waiting to happen for so long.

Just like today, on that fourth Saturday in April two years ago, we also woke up to cloudy skies and even some serious storm warnings. I know you can't control the weather, but nobody dreams of a dreary, stormy day for her wedding. I was already feeling those wedding day jitters. It wasn't cold feet, just a bit of anxiety because there were so many unknowns. It's not like we could really anticipate every little thing and even though we'd rehearsed the night before, there were still so many moving parts to the event.

I haven't written much about our wedding here on the blog, which was kind of a surprise I guess, even to me. I figured that the wedding festivities would give me lots of good material. Perhaps I just got caught up in all of it and wasn't able to process everything that was happening at the time. Two years later, I'm more able to look back on it.

I know it sounds trite and is the worst of all cliches, but my wedding was perfect. Seriously. I mean sure there are a few small things I wish had been different. But not many.

I wish my closest college friend Christina had been able to attend, but she was unable to travel because of complications with her pregnancy. Thankfully she's now the mom of a beautiful little boy so it all worked out, but she was so missed. I wish my paternal grandparents had been there. Health issues and some other complicated things kept them from attending, but ultimately I understood the situation. And I wish my husband and I had taken one good photo with the gorgeous 1958 Rolls Royce my parents got for us to leave the church in, but alas that was not meant to be.

I'm sure there were other tiny hiccups I can't remember. But there were so many wonderful things about it, it was sort of like a dream. I don't know what I did to deserve such a truly special, incredible day.

So maybe you're planning a wedding of your own. Or helping someone you love plan theirs. I can't make any promises, but here are my best tips to make it practically perfect.

Choose a venue that has significance for you, not because it's the fanciest or the most popular. Our ceremony was held at a beautiful old church, rich with history and nestled into the countryside. Our reception took place at an amazing venue nearby and it just so happens to be operated by dear friends. They took care of every detail, down to the absolutely perfect flowers and made from scratch tomato sandwiches.

Don't make your bridesmaids/groomsmen wear ridiculous clothing. We've all been in a wedding where we were forced to wear something that was just awful. Don't be that person. Nobody really cares what those people are wearing. Let them be comfortable in a style that flatters them.

When it comes to cake, buttercream is the name of the game. I know, I know, fondant is beautiful. But don't you want your guests to enjoy the cake too? I'm something of a cake snob and I am convinced that not only is buttercream more delicious but it's actually prettier too. My cake was perfect. Beautiful and delicious. My design inspiration? This cake. I mean, go big or go home, right?

Don't waste time and money on wedding favors that people will end up throwing away. When my maternal grandparents got married in 1957, they didn't have a reception but ended up stopping on the way to their honeymoon for a dinner of Dr. Pepper and fried pies. In honor of them, we gave our guests homemade fried pies as favors. They went fast and I didn't hear anything except rave reviews.

Surround yourself with people you love, who love you. I think part of what made my wedding feel so wonderful is that it was truly a celebration of all the people who have loved me in my life. Who have supported me and cheered me on through so many stages. And my husband too. Don't feel compelled to invite a bunch of people because you feel like you should. 

Spring for the wedding video. Yes, if you get a fancy videographer, it's expensive. This isn't an option for everybody. I get that. But no matter what your budget is, find some way to document your day on video. You will love your photos forever, but there's just something about having footage of the day that I promise you will treasure. I wasn't going to do it until I saw a wedding video for a friend of mine from elementary school. In just a few short minutes, her video captured the essence of the day and was a beautiful memento, especially for those folks who weren't able to attend.

Marry the right person. As I type these words, it's storming in Knoxville. Unlike my perfect day two years, the sky today has not turned blue, sunny and cloudless. But tucked safely in our little house, while I sit here typing on the computer, my husband and our two dogs are napping nearby.

Unlike our wedding day, these past two years have been far from perfect. I don't even think we've had one perfect day out of these past 730, although the second year of marriage has been better than the first. Hopefully each year after will be better than the last. It helps me enjoy the present and look forward to the future.

But we're in it to win it. True blue, stuck like glue. Better than enything (I know it's misspelled...it's an inside joke). This is a decision we both made and that's that. It has nothing to do with our wedding. That was just the buttercream icing on the giant cake.

*All photos courtesy Zach & Sarah Photography - an awesome couple who helped capture our day. *