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.