December 26, 2018

Simple & Delicious Appetizers for Luck at New Year's

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

Lucky Greens Flatbread Pizza 

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

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

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

Mini Bagels with Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon 

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

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

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

Black Eyed Pea Bruschetta 

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

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

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

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

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

December 5, 2018

Easy DIY Projects to Decorate a Holiday Table

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

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

Gumdrop Trees 

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

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

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

Walking in a Winter Wonderland Holiday Scene 

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

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

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

Visions of Sugar Plums

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

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

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

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

October 31, 2018

Simple Fall Decor to DIY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2018

Treats Not Tricks for a Fun & Simple Halloween!

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

Halloween Party Mix


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

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

Halloween Goblin Punch


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

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

Scary Sweets


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

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

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

Hope you have a spooky good time this Halloween! 

October 3, 2018

Everything Pumpkin Spice | A Round-Up for 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 25, 2018

Simple Fall Container Gardening Ideas

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

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

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

When creating a fall container arrangement, consider the following:

Color - 

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

Texture - 

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

Dimensions - 

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

via Southern Living

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

Happy Fall Y'all! 

I wear my hurts like layers of clothing

I wear my hurts like layers of clothing, each piled on top of another, like I would if I were trying to protect myself from the bitter cold. Sometimes without realizing it, I peel them off….one by one. Each is a reminder of a pain I have experienced. Each serves as something that puts a bit of distance between me and the rest of the world. 

The most outer layer is a Ruff Hewn coat, with wooden toggle closures. Scratchy and woolen just like the one my mom had in the 80s. It is dark, in mingled shades of brown, black and rust with a few touches of dark green in the fabric. The coat looks very similar to one worn by Jackie on the sitcom Roseanne, which as a kid I thought was cool because I had rarely seen anyone on television with clothes that looked like ours. 

The next layer is a trendy designer sweater, purchased for my biological father by the only one of his girlfriends I ever liked. She was a tiny woman named Linda, who had no kids and bought all her clothes at Petite Sophisticate. My dad was hard to shop for and he’d spend what felt to me like hours at the department store, trying to find a suitable replacement for all the gifts he immediately exchanged.

Then there’s a white cotton turtleneck, decorated with penguins playing winter sports. The same one I wore to have my school picture taken in the 7th grade. Before heavy metal braces painfully forced my eye-teeth down into the line with the others, out of their tusk-like formation. 

Under that I wear a thin long-sleeved cashmere tee. It feels luxurious, its ivory layer against my skin. It makes me feel rich, until I see the small holes along the hem and remember it came from the thrift store. I wonder about the wealthy lady who bought it new and discarded it, without an inkling of me. 

And beyond this is a ribbed black cotton tank top, bought for something like $4 at Old Navy when that was my very favorite place to shop, c. 1998. I cut one of the straps, and fastened it back together on my shoulder with a row of shiny silver safety pins, to give it a little edge. 

Finally, under all the other layers, I wear my first bra. The one with the built in shoulder pads that my mom said would look better under my clothes. It was fine until I wore it to a slumber party and then everyone decided to run around the yard in our bras and underwear. I was the only one with shoulder pads flapping in the breeze against the dark night sky. 

September 12, 2018

Creative Ideas for Better Breakfast Month | September

September is Better Breakfast Month and every year I try to take this as an opportunity to reset my breakfast habits. Growing up, we ate a lot of those little pecan spinwheels or cereal, of which neither were the greatest options for keeping a kid full. Plus, they were high in sugar and just not too healthy.

I've heard my entire life how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps me think more clearly and just puts me in a better mood.

According to WebMD, the basic formula for breakfast is carbs + protein. The carbs give your body energy to get started and your brain the fuel it needs to take on the day. Protein gives you staying power and helps you feel full until your next meal. So I'm trying to branch out a bit with my breakfasts. A girl can only eat so much fruit and oatmeal, am I right?

Here are a few options that might inspire you to eat a better breakfast during September and beyond!

Take Your Toast to the Next Level 

I promise this isn't another blog post featuring avocado toast. I, too, jumped on the avo-toast bandwagon for awhile, but there are so many other options to take your toast to the next level! 

I'm loving the new flavors of hummus from Lantana, including beet, edamame, and white bean. They are great on toast and packed with protein to help you feel full longer. I also recently tried pumpkin seed butter, which was pretty tasty and great on toast as well. Sprinkle on a bit of shredded coconut or flax seed for added flavor. 

Not a fan of toast? Try a whole grain toaster waffle with nut butter or another spread. I promise you, there's a combination that you'll just might have to get creative to find it! 

Yogurt Parfait with Pizzazz 

Instead of your usual yogurt parfait, why not try a yogurt breakfast cone? I was inspired by Van's Foods for this one and it is delish! 

All you need is your favorite yogurt (I like the plain Greek kind from Fage) and some fruit and toppings. This is just about as easy as it gets y'all! And so easy to take on the go. But safety first....please don't try to eat it while driving! 

Egg Bread Boats 

My final Better Breakfast recipe is one that's apparently made the rounds in the blogosphere, but I haven't tried it until now. French toast has always been a favorite of mine, but this recipe gives it a new twist. Hollowed out french bread filled with egg, cheese and veggie goodness....what's not to love? 

(Image credit: The Kitchn Christine Han)

August 8, 2018

Treats for National S'mores Day!

There's a holiday for everything, including one of my favorite summer treats: S'mores! I don't know who came up with this near perfect combination of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate but I hope they know how grateful we all are for their contribution to the world.

In honor of National S'mores Day, I've got some fun and simple ways to enjoy this classic treat, but with a twist!

Unless you go camping often or have an awesome fire pit at home, it can be hard to make traditional s'mores on a regular basis. That's why I'm thinking outside the box for these fun ways to enjoy a delicious flavor combination.

S'mores Trail Mix 

Who's to say you can't enjoy s'mores in a less messy, less flammable way? S'mores trail mix is a great option for back to school snacks or lunches. Plus it's fun to make so the entire family can get involved in the process. 

All you need is your favorite graham cereal (Golden Grahams or something similar), mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Stir it together and voila! You could also use chocolate covered peanuts or raisins for a bit of a different flavor. This cute blogger also added pretzel sticks - full recipe here. 

S'mores in a Bowl 

Another fun and less messy way to enjoy s'mores is in waffle bowls made for ice cream! Fill with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips and broil on low for 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on them and don't let the marshmallows burn! You could also make these on the grill with a little bit of foil. Inspired by the archives of blogger Jane.  

S'mores with a Twist 

Finally, why not consider changing things up a bit? You can make s'mores with any type of cookies, chocolate and marshmallows you want. 

Three combos I tried were: 

Strawberry marshmallows + chocolate graham crackers + cookies & cream white choco bar
Coconut marshmallows + shortbread cookies + caramel candy bar 
Maple marshmallows + oatmeal cookies + classic choco bar 

The folks at Campfire marshmallows have even more flavor combos to consider! Click here to try them. 

July 30, 2018

Loss is a River

Loss is a river that flows inside you, making its way as only water can, with unrelenting pressure that keeps it always moving on its journey. When a barrier presents itself, the river creates new paths and channels that weren't there before.

To live with loss is to learn how to navigate these waters.

Sometimes you sit quietly by the river's banks and lose yourself in thoughts of something altogether lovely, even while the pain it carries keeps rushing past. You hear the sound of the water and maybe even feel a splash or two on your arms and face, but remain at a distance.

Then there are times when the water calls to you. So you kick off your shoes and peel off your socks, leaving them in a heap in the grass while you step carefully into the shallows. The cold sensation feels invigorating for a moment, but the sharp rocks hiding in the murky riverbed bruise your tender feet.

Other times, the sheer force of the loss you feel causes the river to burst from its banks and spread over the adjacent land or floodplain.

No stranger to this occurrence, the floodplain is low lying ground which exists solely for this purpose...waiting to catch the flood and the debris it carries with it.

Floodplains are not made of just one material, but instead all kinds of different things that have been carried from where they began, which is often an indeterminable source, and deposited after having traveled a long journey.

The loss we feel doesn't play by any rules, especially not social constructs of time and space. The river can be millions upon millions of years old and travel hundreds of miles. And it can carve out a gorge right through your very being that rivals the Grand Canyon.

But life finds a way to go on. And the river flows. Sometimes it's a mighty rushing force. Other times just a trickle across a dry and dusty riverbed.

July 25, 2018

Simple Ideas for a DIY Shark Party

Sharks are basically the rock stars of the ocean world. Brooding and mysterious. Elusive and unpredictable. And what a dedicated fan base! In honor of Shark Week, which is basically like a national holiday, I've got some fun and simple ideas for a DIY shark party!

For some simple treats, how about blue jelly beans and fish shaped candies? These look great in small paper cups, for a bite-sized serving (get it, BITE?).

Or what about a candy made from sharks' favorite water? Salt water taffy of course! Served up in some cute cups topped with these shark party favors is simple and fun!

Sandy Toes & Popsicles shared this awesome Shark Bark, which seems like it would be pretty simple to make. What a cute idea! Get full recipe here.

Other food ideas include "Seaweed Dip" (spinach dip) with blue corn chips, which look a little like shark fins or cheese wedges aka shark teeth (both inspired by Craftiness is Not Optional).

And of course you need a signature drink for any good shark party! I got inspired by the Suburban Soapbox with this Shark Attack Cocktail....kid friendly and delicious! You could also pick up a cheap glass fishbowl (I found one at Hobby Lobby for less than $10) and use that to serve your punch!

Want to make your own DIY party treat bags? I whipped these up in just a few minutes using scraps of paper and a glue stick. The bags are from a local craft store and you could get gray or another shade of blue if you prefer.

I hope these ideas inspired you to throw a 'fin'tastic shark party of your own!

July 11, 2018

Simple Ways to Be Happy

Are you happy? Like truly happy? There's a big difference between feeling happy on a particular day and having a general feeling of happiness all the time. 

The good news is that even if you find yourself feeling less than happy, there are always things you can do to increase this feeling. 

I recently read a book called "The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World's Happiest People," written by Meik Wiking. Wiking also wrote a book about hygge the Danish phenomenon of coziness. The book was a great little read, with lots of simple and practical tips that I felt like I could do. 

Here are my suggestions for a few simple ways to be happy: 

Make Something

Creativity is closely tied to happiness for me because I just feel happier when I am creating. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece of art or writing. Just a little simple Pinterest-inspired craft can really go a long way towards making me feel happier. 

There's something about exercising this creativity muscle that gives me a lot of joy. 

Some of the projects I've done recently include custom canvas tote bags decorated with iron on glitter letters and Sharpie pens, as well as some little art canvases that feature a few of my favorite quotes. 

You don't have to do anything with the things you make. You don't even have to show them to anyone. Give it a try! 

Do Something for Someone Else 

When I'm feeling blue, a surefire way to feel happier is by doing something for someone else. This past year, I've been trying to get more involved in my community and looking for ways to do something for my neighbors. 

This search for a place to give back led me to Girls Inc., a mentoring organization that I volunteered with during the 2017/2018 school year. Just one hour a week allowed me to spend time with some amazing 3rd, 4th and 5th grade young ladies. 

We did arts & crafts, chatted about life and got to know each other. This was truly one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a place to get involved. 

Another local organization I have gotten to know is Sunshine Industries & The Arc Knoxville. The Arc Knox County is a non-profit organization that offers programs and services for people with intellectual disabilities in Knox County. 

They were gracious to invite me to do a craft project with them and I had so much fun, I have already made plans to go back! 

Eat Something Delicious

Did you know there are foods that claim to make you feel happier? I'm not sure if I fully believe it, but I never said no to something delicious so I'm willing to give it a try. 

This article lists several foods to eat for increased happiness, and includes dark chocolate, coconut and Greek yogurt. 

I decided to combine these to create a little happiness parfait....even if there's no scientific proof, it tastes great! 

Using ingredients from Trader Joe's, I made a greek yogurt parfait with dark chocolate pudding and included a bit of coconut granola, shredded coconut and raspberries. 

Tasty and easy to make! 

Happiness is relative, meaning that it looks different for each of us. Sometimes happiness is being surrounded by the ones we love and other times it is a peaceful quiet with tea and good book. I hope whatever makes you happy is plentiful in your life right now! 

July 4, 2018

Free to Be You & Me

"Freedom lies in being bold." -- Robert Frost

What does freedom mean to you? There are so many freedoms we take for granted, but for me the biggest area of struggle when it comes to freedom is being myself.

Do you feel free to be yourself all the time? If the is answer is yes, I'm jealous. Oh I have moments where I can be myself. Times spent with certain people who give me permission to let my little weird flag fly. But like Cookie Monster says about his favorite treat, for me freedom is a "sometimes food." I only let myself indulge in it when the conditions are just right.

And then I wonder if I even know who 'myself' is anyway. While there are things we all share as humans, I've always felt like I was just a bit different than the rest. And definitely not in a "I'm so much better than the rest" kind of way, just in an "I feel like the rest doesn't always get me" sort of way.

For example, did you know my favorite show to watch as a kid was one where a lady taught cursive writing on a big chalkboard? I can still hear her voice as she instructed viewers to "close the loop" on certain letters.

Something else you might not know about me is that I have gone through many periods of obsession about different topics, reading as many books as I could to learn as much as I could. Some of these topics include but are not limited to: Elvis, the Holocaust, and being in the mafia.

It wasn't hard for me to make friends as a kid, but often I found myself going along with the crowd or doing things to try and fit in. The dearest friends I've made over the years, who were like little beacons of light dropped out of the darkness, are the ones I didn't have to compromise myself with.

Even if they didn't always understand my little oddities, they just let me be. But life happens and we've found ourselves flung to opposite sides of the country, or at least 100 miles away. And my friends who live close by are also dear to me but we don't always get to see each other as often as I'd like.

And now it feels oh so much harder to make friends as an adult.

I have some wonderful friends in my world, but you can always use a couple more, right? I shared this on Instagram, which felt really scary and vulnerable, but apparently others feel this way because it sparked a conversation.

I definitely feel free to be myself with my husband, thank goodness. I can't imagine trying to keep up that sort of a charade 24/7. And I think he feels free to be himself with me. But I'm sure there are people who think they know us, or some version of us. And they'd probably be surprised by what they don't know.

Like how after our most beautiful, magical wedding that we'd waited more than a decade for, we had the hardest year of our relationship on record. Our second year was only somewhat better because we were committed to seeing it through, with the help of an amazing counselor who is part of the reason we're still in it to win it today -- for real.

I've heard friends make snide or belittling comments about someone they know who is "in therapy." Like you're some sort of failure if you need to seek help. Total BS.

Our couples' therapy helped us start learning about who we are and maybe more importantly, how to start communicating in healthier ways....which we DID NOT learn from our parents (sorry mom & dad). They didn't learn it from their parents either so it's totally not their fault. We don't always get it right, but who cares? It's a work in progress.

I also see an individual counselor who has helped me look at all sorts of things to try and figure out who I am and who I want to be. A big theme that keeps coming up is this desire I have to be in a community, whatever that looks like. And this is what got me thinking about friends, and connection, and authenticity in the first place. So I'm trying to be more connected. To make more of an effort to get together with the friends I already have as well as seeking a few new ones.

As part of that effort, last night I invited a dear friend to join me for a swim at our neighborhood pool. I've really tried to get more involved in my community this past year or so and that includes in my neighborhood. Joining the pool last summer helped us meet some neighbors so we decided to join again this summer.

My pal and I were swimming and chatting with a neighbor lady who shared with us that a couple weeks prior she had lost her son to suicide. I think she just needed someone to talk to so we tried to be good listeners while I sobbed silently under my sunglasses.

She said he always felt like he didn't belong. That he could never quite find his place to fit. But that at his memorial service, nearly 200 people attended and shared how much he meant to them. "If only he had known how much he was loved," she said.

She said she felt like telling his story was a way to honor his life and also a way to possibly help someone else who might be in pain. And I think she's right about this. So I'm telling you. He was only 36. An age that used to sound ancient but now that I am here, feels like practically still a kid.

There's so much I don't know. So many things I haven't even begun to fathom. But this is something I do know for sure. We were each created with something beautiful to add to the world. And even though I believe there's life after this one, when that beauty is gone from this world, it's such a loss. To all of us. I've already been thinking about this a lot after Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I wanted to write something about it but really didn't know what I wanted to say.

I hope you feel free today. Free from pain and self-hate. Free from loneliness and isolation. And free to be your most beautiful self. The one you were created to be.

June 21, 2018

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 13, 2018

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 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'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. 

May 30, 2018

Simple Summer Drink Recipes - Southern Style

Summer is almost here and it's a popular time for parties and other get-togethers. Don't just serve your guests boring beverages...think outside the box with some creative concoctions!

Here are three fun and simple drink recipes you might want to try this summer! They are perfect for everything from a backyard barbecue to a fancy bridal shower and everything in between.

Blackberry Lemonade 

There are a couple different ways you can make this delicious summer drink, one is a bit more labor intensive and the other is easy as can be!

For the recipe that's a bit more work, you need to make a simple syrup of blackberries and sugar. You'll need about a pound of blackberries, 1 cup of sugar and a half cup of water.

Bring the berries, sugar, and water to a boil in a saucepan over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft, for five minutes. Then remove it from heat and let it sit to cool. You can pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing gently it in and tossing the solids. Or you can use it with the berries and all, it's your preference.

Now pour this blackberry syrup mixture into a pitcher and add lemonade. I like the low-calorie version from Trader Joe's but you can use your favorite store-brand or make it from scratch.

The simpler method for blackberry lemonade requires, of all things, blackberry jam! Since this is my favorite type of jam, I always have a jar of the homemade variety on hand. Don't go thinking that I make it, but I have positioned myself well among talented jam-smiths (is that a thing?) who keep my larders fully stocked.

Add a teaspoon of blackberry jam to the bottom of a glass and top it with lemonade. I actually prefer a fizzy lemon soda which makes this drink seem even more special.

Best Homemade Peach Iced Tea Recipe 

Okay, now I know you're probably thinking...what's so special about peach iced tea? Seriously, what isn't special about it? The refreshing perfection of brisk iced tea mixed with the sweetness of peaches ripened on the tree in the summer sun! Need I say more?

I have a great secret for making peach tea and it's so easy. Two words....peach nectar. You can buy great quality peach nectar at most fancier grocery stores. I got mine at the Fresh Market on the same aisle with the cocktail mixers.

Of course you can make your own peach syrup (similar to the blackberry syrup above) but if you don't have time, go the easy route. Basically you just mix the peach nectar into your tea according to your tastes.

Another trick I like to use is to freeze some of the peach nectar in an ice cube tray. Then, you can just drop the peach cubes into the tea and enjoy more of a hint of flavor as they melt.

Easy & Delicious Non-Alcoholic Bloody Mary 

I've never made a Bloody Mary but the southern beau and I had one the other day at a great local eatery and ever since, I've been thinking about trying it out at home.

I grabbed a bottle of Fat & Juicy Bloody Mary mix at the Fresh Market and while perusing the drink aisle, I saw a four-pack of Dry cucumber soda.

For a simple and tasty non-alcoholic Bloody Mary, mix equal parts of the tomato juice mixture with the cucumber soda and voila, that's all there is to it. You can add vodka if you want a more spirited concoction but I think it's pretty tasty without it. This recipe is great for a summer brunch or a picnic!

And there you have it...three simple summer drink recipes! Don't forget to liven up your summer parties with some tasty treats. And always drink responsibly!