June 28, 2017

Fun & Easy Ideas for a July 4th Celebration

July 4th is a day worth celebrating and it's a great time to throw an impromptu summer party for all your favorite people. Whether you're planning to live it up with larger than life July 4th festivities or maybe just host a small summer soiree, our nation's Independence Day is a perfect opportunity to throw a party.

If you've been around this blog before, you know I like simple projects, recipes and party ideas. Why make things harder than they have to be?

Here are three fun and simple ways to celebrate the 4th of July in style!

Drink it up: Star Spangled Stunners

Every good party must have a signature drink. It doesn't need to be alcoholic, but if you want to make things a bit more spirited, I won't try to stop you. 

Obviously our color scheme is red, white and blue. With all the wonderful fruit in season right now, this makes it easy to create some delicious concoctions. 

Start with some fresh fruit...raspberries and blueberries are good options. Freeze them in a tray of ice. Then, when they are nice and frozen, plop them into a glass of coconut water (I used Bai). 

You can also add some rum for a bit more spirit. 

I know it seems pretty basic, but sometimes it's the most basic things that really are best. Delicious and easy! 

Jazz Up Plain Coleslaw with Tasty Toppings

Coleslaw is sort of the proverbial red haired step child of the summer barbecue. It's not nearly as exciting as mac and cheese and it's not nearly delicious as potato salad. 

But nobody puts coleslaw in the a corner, at least not on my watch. Here are three ways to take ordinary shredded cabbage and take it to the next level. 

Shredded Cabbage + Blue Cheese + Grape Tomatoes 
Cabbage + Sliced Almonds + Mandarin Oranges + Soy Ginger Dressing
Shredded Cabbage + Coleslaw Dressing + Hot Sauce 

Create a DIY S'mores Station - 

There's nothing quite like s'mores to take you straight back to the magic of childhood summers. Maybe it's the fact that s'mores are kind of messy or perhaps it's just how everyone comes together to enjoy them but they are a great option for an impromptu summer soiree. 

I saw this great DIY S'mores Bar (via Party City) and decided to create my own! 

I was also inspired by the fabulous blog, Love and Zest...check out her S'mores creation below! It's nearly too pretty to eat. 

Love and Zest 
I hope this inspires you to get creative with your 4th of July celebration and make it really special. 

Happy Birthday America! 

June 26, 2017

Fashion Articles I Might Actually Read

All my life, I've had a love-hate relationship with magazines. There's nothing more exhilarating than getting a new one, glossy and filled with perfume samples under their little flaps, and information like 7 Steps to a Better You, TODAY! My taste in magazines has changed over the years, and I suppose this is normal, but the intensity of my love-hated for them has not waned.

As a kid, I got Highlights, which taught me to be a Gallant, not a Goofus. Then, for a period I read The American Girl Catalog, pining always over Molly, the only doll I could identify with (she had glasses don't you see?).

From there, I shifted my focus to Teen, Sassy, YM, and Seventeen. I learned how to flirt, what to wear on a first date, and whether my guy best friend was in fact a Dawson or a Pacey. Then Cosmo Girl and Teen People. Finally, Vogue, Marie Claire and W, which gave me my first real taste of the high fashion world. I was convinced I'd have Anna Wintour's job one day and even typed up and mailed a letter telling her so.

As a senior in high school, I considered myself quite the fashionista. I experimented with styles like cut-off boyfriend jean-turned capris, pre-Man Repeller, but repelling men all the same. I also wore a dress over a pair of pants, which I considered to be quite avant garde for my small-town high school in the late 1990s.

As I got even older, my magazine reading habits shifted away from the fashion titles and more toward home-centric subject matter. Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Domino and such.

But I still want to be plugged in to the world of fashion. Sometimes, I just don't feel like there's a place for me. I'm too old for the trendy 20-something clothes, too young for the boring 40-something clothes, too particular for the cheap, fast fashion crap and too broke for Eileen Fisher.

Maybe you've felt the same way? Fashion magazines are supposed to be aspirational, and I get that, but why do they often leave me feeling worse about myself? Hence the hate part of my love-hate relationship.

I was considering this while washing dishes recently. I started thinking about how many articles in fashion magazines I skip right over because I just don't have the energy to give myself a pep talk afterward.

I think that's why I've moved into mags about home. Home magazines don't seem to bring the same shame that fashion mags do. Buying a new lamp or a punchy accent rug seems more attainable, no matter what size pants I might be wearing.

So, fashion editors, if you are listening, here are some articles that I might actually read.

10 Pants that Don't Give You a FUPA (look it up)
3 Shoes that Don't Make Me Cry After Wearing them All Day (And Also Don't Make Me Look Like a Grandma at the Grand Canyon)
5 Cute Shirts that Hide Back Fat
How to Shop at Thrift Stores and Look like you Shop at Bergdorfs
Outfits for Family Holiday Functions that will Probably Be Super Stressful
What to Wear to Church When You Haven't Been in a Long Time
Up-Dos that Don't Make You Look like a Member of a Gospel Singing Group
Outfits to Wear right after your ex Denied your Facebook friend request

Help a girl out, mkay? 

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 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 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.