Ways to Spend Black Friday Besides Shopping

Black Friday is a holiday unto itself.  People wait in long lines, refresh their browser in the wee hours of the morning, and even begin as early as Thanksgiving evening!  I have done Black Friday both ways. Shopping late at night and staying home in my pajamas. I certainly prefer the later. (Seriously, think of the traffic alone!)  

The Balance website reported that shoppers in 2018 spent over 717.5 billion dollars last Black Friday.  It averaged to 1007.24 dollars per shopper! Now, remember when I said you should be finished with Christmas shopping before Black Friday?  Well, if you heeded my advice, here are some recommendations on how to spend the day instead!  

Ways to Spend Black Friday
Relax and enjoy the Hallmark Movies!

Have a Holiday Movie Marathon

Love Hallmark movies?  Can’t say no to Lifetime Christmas movies?  Here is your chance to indulge. No more social media guilt about skipping Thanksgiving.  Become hygge and light some candles while sipping a hot beverage.  

I am personally saving Netflix Let It Snow for this Black Friday!  (I highly recommend checking out the book first.)

Hike a Local Nature Trail 

REI began #OptOutside in 2015.  Since then, outdoorsy people have found alternative ways to spend Black Friday outdoors.  I did the same in 2016 during Friendsgiving in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  

Even if you are not into nature, you can find a way to enjoy the day outside.  If you live on the Gulf Coast, the likelihood is the weather will be warm enough to sit outside at a cafe or walk the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Bridge. 

Ways to Spend Black Friday
#OptOutside this Black Friday!

Clean Out Your Closets 

If you are planning on a new holiday wardrobe, you will need room.  You may also find it relaxing to declutter before the Elf on the Shelf comes to mess everything up.  I recommend this as a time to embrace the spirit of giving by donating clothes to a local shelter or charity.  

You can also continue onto your pantry and refrigerator to make sure everything is up to date and fresh.

Put Out Your Christmas Decorations

I have noticed a great number of my friends and family have gotten a jump on the holiday.  As of the day this posts, many have already posted pictures of cute Christmas trees and festive lights in their homes.   My tree goes up Thanksgiving weekend. Since my husband is opposed to pre-Thanksgiving Christmas decorating, I usually only put up my tree early if I’m out of town that weekend.  The stretch between Thanksgiving is only 27 days, so that is not a lot of time to enjoy the decorations.  

Hint:  Remember those holiday movies?  You can play them at the same time you decorate!

Ways to Spend Black Friday
Wrap all the gifts and trim the tree!

Do an Airbnb Experience

Now, this is not the cheapest option on the list.  However, it could be a lot of fun. This year in China, Ed and I tried three different experiences hosted through Airbnb.  We took a walking tour, photographs, and even a Soup Dumpling Cooking class.  Airbnb vets artisans, experts, and creatives to host their own experiences in their local cities. 

So far, the Gulf Coast has a bike tour, cooking classes, and more are being added all the time.  Take this as an opportunity to be a tourist for the day or learn a new skill.

Make Your Own Cards and Gifts 

If you feel confident, create a craft station in your home to make some handmade gifts.  You can make cake mixes in jars, frames, or go with whatever Pinterest finds you. While you are at it, you can also make your own cards easily with scrapbook paper, stamps, and cardstock. 

You can also wrap completed gifts and sign cards.

Find a Volunteer Opportunity 

Remember the quote from our friend Dr. Seuss in his Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas:  

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Some organizations have a process to screen volunteers, but could always use help at fundraising events.  My time volunteering with the Salvation Army entailed assisting at the Angel Tree booth by signing out Angels and then collecting gifts.  Local residents of the Gulf Coast can check out the organization Gulf Coast HUB for Volunteers & Nonprofits to assist in finding opportunities to help.  Help your own heart grow three sizes too big by helping out this holiday season.

Christmas Test Kitchen

Dig through your Pinterest boards and cookbooks!  Use this day to try out all the cookie swap recipes and Christmas goodies you would like to give out this year.  You can enjoy the smell of fresh baked goods instead of standing in line at Starbucks for 30 minutes with all the other shoppers. 

Ways to Spend Black Friday
Christmas test kitchen in progress!

Friend Bonfire and/or Leftovers Night 

Spend time with friends by enjoying your surplus of leftovers together and listening to the crackling fire.  You can choose other activities like board games, corn hole, or a holiday movie night. It may also be a great night to try putting everyone’s phones in a basket in order to enjoy each others company.                                                                                                                          

Alright, If You Really Must…

Some of the deals and interest free financing are too great to pass up.  Remember 3 things:

  1.  Most of the big sales and deals are available online that day!  (Clicking refresh in pajamas seems better than standing in line.)
  2. In order to indulge your need for consumerism you can always create a free wish list on Amazon of things you would like under the tree!
  3. Small Business Saturday is a thing and the next day! 

It is totally fine if you want to shop until you drop.  I have enjoyed this in years past. However, I wanted to recommend and encourage everyone to rethink the day in order to use it best for you.  

Ways to Spend Black Friday
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The Two Job Juggling Act: How I Work 2 Full Time Jobs

“Hustle is my love language.” Rachel Hollis

I have been working two jobs since May of 2018.  When I decided to leave my job as a school librarian and move to Vietnam, my career became a vortex for random opportunities.  Vietnam happened for a very short time, and then I tried a different school district. That is when I decided I would never be content in the public school system in Mississippi.  That is when I became a full time VIPKid teacher.  Within two months, I had built a sustainable full time income teaching English in my pajamas.

However, it did not solve the problem of health insurance or retirement.  After working for VIPKid for 5 months, my pre-teaching job opened up at the Local History library. The pay is atrocious, but it covers health care and I pay into my vested state retirement.  As a result, my average work week now consists of 64 hours.  

Working 2 Full Time Jobs
Lulu and I have had some rough mornings.

Have I lost my mind?

I do feel this way some mornings. Especially after time change, and my first class begins at 4 A.M.  I often wonder what I am doing with my life after teaching 2 hours on a Saturday night after a 12 hour day.  However, I have found a happy working life is a seesaw. If one thing is good, then something else will not be so great.  So although I love working with the patrons and documents, the library pay is too low to cover bills. I love teaching my students as well, but the hours are rough with no paid time off.

The bottom line is no job is perfect.  Also, our time is our most valuable commodity.  So here are a few of my thoughts after working the past year and a half at 2 full-time jobs.  

How I Work 2 Jobs
Me at Job #1. VIPKid Teacher!

Know Your Why

None of this will last if you do not know the reason for doing this.  My why is that I want to be as close to my own boss as possible. I also enjoy the flexibility of online teaching and the leave time of the library.  I love all my co-workers both virtual and in person with both jobs.

Not to mention, how much less stress my life has now.  

How I Work 2 Jobs
Me at Job #2. History and Genealogy Librarian!

Prioritize Basic Needs First

Functioning at maximum capacity only works if you keep yourself healthy.  I can only last about 3 days without a full night of sleep. My body rebels if I do not eat right after a few weeks.  If I do not drink enough water, I have a headache by evening time. So sure a habit tracker if needed or a reminder on your phone.  

Make working out during free time a priority as well.  This helps keep your body agile and improves energy levels.  

Be the Master of Your Schedule

When I was re-hired back as a librarian, I wrote out several schedule scenarios.  I thought of the ending time of my classes before and after daylight savings times and the length of my commute.  Weekly, I try to ruthlessly schedule my additional time after work. I create lists of monthly goals, weekly tasks, and daily ‘to dos.’ 

The other things I must be aware of is the amount of time being drained from Netflix, social media, and mindless web browsing.  This is something I struggle with daily. Some days I win and some days I lose. However, I am making a more intentional approach to consuming content as recommended in this recent podcast I just finished by Rachel Hollis.  

How I Work 2 Jobs
Planner game strong.

Multi-Task What is Possible

I will make a point to listen to audiobooks during my car rides and podcasts during my walks.  This is a way I can still enjoy reading and learning without stopping my day. I also dry my hair while reviewing my future VIPKid classes.  It is easy to hold a hedgehog while running computer updates or scrolling pictures.  

Get creative, what can you do while doing something else? 

There’s an App for That!

Walmart Grocery pick-up saves me over 4-5 hours a month.  I think of tedious tasks and time consuming errands then try to find ways to reduce my time. I do not own a home helper like an Echo because my Fire Stick has voice capabilities. Using the Fire stick, I will switch songs, request shows, and browse YouTube using my voice.  

Constantly, I use phone notes and reminders to keep me on track if something is off from my regular schedule.  

Really Enjoy Your Off Time

Most times, I try to take every other Sunday off of both jobs.  On this day, I have taken road trips with Edward or planned an afternoon out with a friend.  I took two weeks to enjoy China without teaching and just traveling. It has caused me to value time with people and doing relaxing things.  

I recommend unplugging from social media and getting outside.

Love What You Do!

Both of my current jobs are my top 2 favorite jobs ever.  I never regret waking up at the crack of dawn to help a student learn English or driving to the library to help with research.  I am always growing and learning with both jobs daily. Whether it is something that happened locally in the 1940s or a new word in Chinese.  

And besides, it all works out as long as coffee still exists in the world.

How I Work 2 Jobs!
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Have you ever worked two jobs at one time?  How did you manage? 

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How We Afford to Travel: Real Talk From a Real Couple

We love to travel. So there is one phrase that is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  It is, “Must be nice.”  This phrase is shot to Ed and I often when we discuss recent or upcoming travels.  Since 2007, we have traveled to over 10 countries together and survived 5 international flights together. We like long road trips and last minute trips if it is possible. When someone says, “Must be nice.” They don’t realize that we have made a decision to not eat out for 2 months to save for a plane ticket and to this day still do not have rug in our living room. 

Saving money for travel is as much about priorities as it is income or resources.  It is a mindset we have practiced since the early days of our relationship.  Here are a few secrets we have gathered over the past twelve years of travel that allow us to make travel a priority.

How We Afford to Travel
Castle on the hill in Sentra, Portugal

After Basic Needs, Make Traveling a Priority

Firstly, we ensure bills, mortgage, and food is covered.  (You know, the basic needs.)  Then we decide what can be saved for future trips.  Ed and I then decide what needs to be sacrificed in order for the trip to happen.  It may be eating out or going to the movies.  Also, we take into account money we may save away.  Example: Turning the AC up and having a lower power bill while we are away.

Other things we have put to the side to travel:  decorating the living room, replacing our Hudson’s plates, and having an iPhone three generations behind the current model. 

Create a Realistic Time Frame

Once we have a written budget for a trip, we will create a time frame.  We take the following into consideration when creating a timeline.

  1. How long we want to travel versus how much time we can take off of work. 
  2. When is the best time to visit that country based on cultural events and weather.  (Knowing it will be more expensive during popular times.)
  3. The amount of money we can save for our trip.
How We Afford to Travel
Prayers in the Temple. Suzhou, China

Buy the Most Expensive Tickets First and Pay It Off

Our first purchase is always the international plane ticket.  I usually book the plane tickets 3 to 6 months in advance.  I will pay off the plane tickets right away, and then move on to lodging.  By the time we depart, all major attractions, transportation, and experiences are paid off.  The main goal is to depart with no credit card debt. 

That way, if there is an emergency or something unexpected, we can still afford the rest of our trip with an emergency credit card that is not maxed out.

Research the Entire Trip from Transportation to Attractions

We know what to purchase by researching all aspects of the trips.  One can easily be surprised by the cost of public transportation or travel to the airport.  I was shocked to learn there is no jetty bus service from Hilton Head to the Savannah Airport. This caused me to fork out 50 dollars for an Uber. 

Take time to list all big attractions you would like to visit.  Some of the heavy hitters in Europe can be outrageously expensive.  A morning visit to a castle can easily cost 100 dollars for 2 people 

How We Afford to Travel
The beautiful lanterns of Suzhou, China.

Balance Time Versus Cost

When we first began traveling on a EuroRail pass in 2008, we would take 4-6 hour trains to avoid additional fees.  We have loaded crowded metros, and buses going up mountain sides in order to save money.  Now, we consider how much time we will save taking a pricier option.

A good example of this is our second Europe trip to Spain.  We would pay 10 Euros extra to save seats on fast trains saving us hours of transit time.  In China, we chose the metro to avoid city traffic in Shanghai and Beijing. 

Pack Light

Checked luggage prices are on the rise with the price of jet fuel.  Bringing big bags can easily double the cost of your transit on a budget airline.  Not to mention, how difficult it makes navigating public transportation, cobble stone streets, and lodging with no elevators. 

**This tip may just save your relationship.  Nothing is more awkward then trying to navigate a foreign city with a suitcase that can fit two people inside it while your partner has only a backpack.

Master the Picnic and Have Limited Meals Out

Going to Asia was a pleasant surprise.  Street food and food courts are outrageously cheap when considering the exchange rates.  However, when traveling pricier locations, we often will raid a supermarket or convenience store.  There we will find parks to snack throughout the day.  We make a goal to eat out somewhere nice each location we visit.

However, some of my best meals are unique foods that we have found in supermarkets like smelly cheese and local fruits.

Take Experience Over Things

I feel like authentic local souvenirs are far and few between.  Therefore, we do not stress about doing a lot of souvenir shopping.   Instead, we spend time visiting outside art installations, finding the best Sangria in Madrid, or watching Chinese folk dance in a park.

A memory, great pictures, and unique videos are the best souvenirs you can bring home anyway. 

Take a Jaunt Off of the Expensive Path

We have found the price tag for coffee raises considerably the closer you get to a main tourist attraction.  This goes for food, t-shirts, and even bottled water.  Take some time to explore a local neighborhood with character. 

In Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, I would get my nails done away from the tourist district.  I could get a gel manicure and pedicure for eleven dollars.  However, the salons in District 1 were charging American prices.   

How We Afford to Travel
Enjoying the view in Shanghai.

Finally….

We would like you to take away that from this article is that although traveling is a big commitment on money and time it is not unattainable.  It may not be possible now, but if you are mindful of your budget you can easily work towards the trip of your dream.  Make it fun with your partner.  As you are saving, enjoy documentaries and food shows set where you want to travel.  Turn saving money into a game by having a curse jar or no spend months like I did earlier this year. 

But most importantly, enjoy the journey.  By this, I mean the actual journey and the journey to saving the money to get there as well.

How we afford to travel.
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It’s Puh-Khan Not Pee-Can! Pecan Culture and the South

“Pecans are not cheap, my hons. In fact, in the South, the street value of shelled pecans just before holiday baking season is roughly that of crack cocaine. Do not confuse the two. It is almost impossible to make a decent crack cocaine tassie, I am told.” ~Cecilia Riverbank

Now that pecan season is upon us, I decided to take some time to research and discuss the south’s favorite nut… the pecan!  As someone who grew up in a pecan orchard, I knew little about the culture and history behind them.  For example, did you know that pecans are native to America?  There should be enough research here to ace an entire round of pecan questions at trivia night.  Let’s get cracking. (Yes, pun intended.)

pecans
Shelled pecans

How do you say it?

There is a great debate in different parts of the country about how to properly pronounce pecan.  Is it puh-kahn, pee-can, or even pick-ahn?  The folks at Farm Flavor even charted it on a nifty map for us.  As any good Coastian, I call it a “puh-kahn.” However, Southern Living polled that 70% of northerners pronounce it “pee-can.”  Who is right?

Turns out there is an answer to this debate.  When Spanish explorers happened upon the native Algonquin people they asked the name of the nut they gathered.  The Native American answer in their Algonquin language, “puh-kahn.” That’s right my southern friends, the south’s pronunciation of pecan is the closest phonetically to the native peoples pronunciation. 

History of the “Puh-Kahn”

Another interesting name for the pecan is the Mississippi Nut.  It was big business by 1915 in Ocean Springs, Mississippi to grow and harvest pecans.  According to the Daily Herald in November 1915, “Figures compiled by the local railroad officials show that from October 15 to November 20, 1915, 38,344 pounds of pecans have been sent from here by freight express.” 

By 1949, over a million and a half pounds were processed by Williams Pecan Factory in Gulfport!  These loads were cracked by machinery with the bits removed by workers.  Grafting and cross pollinating caused the amount of pecan varieties to grow to 500 today.

pecans
I love sweet pecan desserts. They are stable in the south.

The Pecan and the South

Pecan season runs October through December.  Perfect timing for delicious, southern recipes like pecan pie, pralines, and my own grandmother’s specialty lady finger cookies.  There are snatches of childhood memories in mind of me cracking pecans, or listening to my great-grandmother crack them, while a fire roared. 

I am disappointed to say that I was not a fan of pecans as a child.  My grandma Missie would make a 2 sided cake.  (A yellow cake with two different sides frosted.)  One side was always white 7 minute frosting that I loved, the other was chocolate with pecans sprinkled on top.  Now that my grandma has been gone for 15 years, I would gladly eat that chocolate side!

My story is not unique to those among the Gulf Coast. Most families down here have some pecan centered specialty.  In fact, this love for pecans has built whole companies. The first craft brewery on the Gulf Coast happened to get its start brewing a pecan based beer. Lazy Magnolia brewery in the Kiln won a bronze medal in 2006 at the World Beer Cup for it in the specialty beer category. 

pecan desserts
Yum!

Health Benefits of Pecans

Provided we do not cover pecans in praline sauce or douse them in sugar, pecans are labeled with some powerful health benefits.  (I am not a doctor so consult yours for all medical advice.)  Here are a few quick ones:

*Some controlled tests show improvements in cholesterol for those who consumed pecans. 

*They are a good source of magnesium.  Magnesium has a reputation to help with depression.

*Tests have also showed improvement in blood sugar.

*They are high in fiber and protein!

I recommend checking out Pinterest for some fantastic pecan and heath graphics!

Where to get Your Pecan Fix

Another establishment that made a living off of the pecan industry is the Pecan House.  Conveniently located in McHenry and Gulfport.  The Pecan House began making pecan candy after whole selling pecans in the McHenry area for over 50 years.  Mrs. Barbara Overstreet began making and selling the candies in 1984, and expanded the business with mail order catalogs.  They had even created a buzz by 1987 by being featured in The Sun Herald.

I recommend checking it out in person. Try out the praline flavored pecans and/or pecan log! If you cannot make the drive or flight, you can always order online.

If you want to enjoy learning more about pecans without expanding waist line I recommend checking out the Pecan episode by Savor podcast. 

pecans
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My Ways to Save Money During Christmas… and You Can Too!

It may seem a little early to discuss saving money for Christmas.  I mean we have not even made it to Thanksgiving yet! However, that is the biggest secret to saving during Christmas, planning ahead.  It is easy for me to start planning ahead because I begin seeing Christmas stuff in stores by the end of September in the south.  When I see the first cheesy Santa or hear a Christmas song I know it is time to get to jingling. 

I would like to recommend getting a notebook or digital download to come up with a plan of Christmas attack.  One of my favorite YouTubers, Kristen, at The Gold Project sell a Christmas Printable Bundle in her Etsy shop.  She has been working on her organization projects for years and offers wonderful advice.  

So once I come up with a plan of gift buying, I put that plan into action.

Save Money on Christmas Gifts
My hedgehogs enjoying my Christmas wrapping.

Buy Everything Before Black Friday

This is important so I will say it again.  Buy all gifts before the Black Friday sales.  This helps me avoid impulse buying at the last minute.  It also allows me time to research and cost compare.  Use that handy list you already made to shop online, outlet, or what every else is your preference.

For all my nieces and nephews I order a set of age appropriate books from Book Outlet during their Octoberfest Sale.  It is a way to share something I love with them every holiday.  

Have an Honest Conversation with Your Partner

When I left my teaching job in 2017 and then returned from Vietnam.  I knew that I could not return to teaching public school after a brief stint in a different school district.  However, my bills had not changed and they still needed paid.  That Christmas I began my VIPKid interview process in order to become an online ESL teacher.  Ed and I had some real talk.  We decided to only fill a stocking for each other that Christmas.

Guess what, it was still an amazing holiday.  I still enjoyed cute pictures with hedgehogs and time with friends.  Since then, we have placed a price limit or other parameters on Christmas gift giving.  Maybe you would rather put your money together for a couples retreat or find something that is memorable over expensive.  Just make sure you are both on board with the plan. 

While You Are At It, Have a Conversation With Your Friends Too

My favorite people to buy gifts for are my best friends.  I enjoy finding the perfect gift, and it is easy because I know them so well.  If you are blessed with a big group of friends, holiday shopping can become expensive.  I recommend focusing on spending time together over gift giving.  My post about hosting a Friendmas is a good example.  

So my best friend and I usually have a price cap.  If you would like to do gifts with a tight knit group, I recommend drawing names or hosting a Dirty Santa gift exchange.  Elfster is a great resource for Secret Santa groups and even allows the participants to upload wish lists.  It will send electronic reminders as well.

Spend time instead of money
Leah and I enjoying time together at our Friend Photo Shoot in 2015.

Gift Giving and Your Kids

Since I do not have children, I will just add a little Pinterest wisdom I saw.  These adorable letters to Santa are circulating all over the website.  It is a set of categories to list one item each.  The categories are something I need, wear, read, and really want.  

I also love other Pinterest ideas of practical gifts like a new Christmas book or pajamas.  Also, consider that a little of money put away can grow greatly with interest that builds up from a young age.   Talk to your local financial advisor for more information for investments for youngsters. 

Make Your Own Gifts and Card

Not much to be said here, but there are plenty of tutorials out there.  Take care to price compare because sometimes the material can be costlier than buying the item somewhere else.  

You can also purchase digital downloads to make your own Christmas cards and have them printed locally.  My friend Lisa has a great article about things you can make with your die cut machine as well!

Save Money at Christmas

Your Freezer is Your Miracle on the Dinner Table

See a turkey on sale for a penny a pound?  Score some beautiful cranberries at the farmer’s market?  How about freezing them and saving them for your Christmas feast?  Take care to mark the dates and amounts on the bag.  I like buying chocolate chips for cookies ridiculously cheap at Big Lots and freezing them for cookie swaps. 

If you don’t have room in your freezer call your mama, grandma, or great uncle Bob to see if they have room for you store items for the holidays.  What else is family for?

Wrap It and Put a Bow on It

If you give me a gift in a bag, and do not write my name on the tag, I will reuse it. (Most of the time I will reuse it any way and just tear off the tag.) Due to this, I have not had to buy bags for Christmas gifts in years. Also not above me, reusing ribbon or cute bows from previous gifts.

Also, brown paper on a roll can be painted, embellished, and even hand lettered to create beautiful gift packages. Although, I still prefer to buy wrapping paper at after Christmas sales.

Beware of the After Christmas Sales

Speaking of after Christmas sales, I went crazy over after Christmas sales my first few years after buying our house.  It was exciting to buy all these cute things at half off.  Then I would stow them away in the attic to forget about them until the following holiday season.  Now I shop with a more money conscious mindset.  I will only purchase things I’m running out of or really love. 

As of this Christmas season, I have managed to talk myself out of redoing all of my decorations.  I am bound to lose this internal debate sooner or later. This year may just be the year I lose!

The Final Noel

Take some time to think about the advice here. Consider your budget, your families traditions, and your expectations for the holiday season. This is just a quick tour into my brain and process for planning the holiday. Now get a notebook and find yours!

Save Money During Christmas
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An Evening Stroll at Coalville Cemetery “The Rough and Ready”

The shorter days and deeper shadows create nicer weather for evening strolls in South Mississippi.  On these evenings, I enjoy walking without the threat of being baked and drenched from the South Mississippi heat.  I decided to plan a visit to Coalville Cemetery in order to experience the history and scenery in the cooler weather.  The perfect afternoon came at the end of September, and I took the short drive to one of the most picturesque cemeteries in Harrison County.  

Coalville Cemetery
The gates of Coalville Cememtery.

A Little History

Coalville Cemetery grew across the street from Coalville Methodist Church in a community known as Woolmarket.  Currently, Woolmarket is within the city limits of what is now north Biloxi.  Coalville happened to be the original name of the community because the first industry was burning pine trees for coal.  Settlers shipped the coal to New Orleans and Mobile.  The coal industry bowed down to wool which proved more profitable.  

The community built the original chapel in 1852 and lasted until 1967.  Records suggest that settlers had services and Sunday school pre-1850.  It was not easy to live on the Gulf Coast in the 1800s.  There was an array of struggles due to the warm weather and mosquito borne diseases.   The residence called the original building “The Old Rough and Ready” as it also served as a schoolhouse and meeting hall.  

Coalville Cemetery
The older section of Coalville Cemetery

A bigger chapel, consecrated in 1968, replaced the original.  Mr. Albert Felsher used some of the lumber to make a wooden cross that still hangs over the choir loft.  Through all these changes the cemetery was always the silent presence across the road. 

Coalville is close to my heart and family.  I am a direct descendent of many Coalville families.  I also spent the later part of my childhood living in Woolmarket when we moved there. The Reverend Louis Fayard was a noteworthy figure in the community.  He was a circuit court rider that would travel by horseback in order to conduct weddings, funerals, and services.  Many friends and family speak of him like a local folk hero. He is also a resident of Coalville Cemetery. 

Coalville Cemetery
Evenings at the “Rough and Ready”

Stories Among the Stones and Moss

Coalville Cemetery, at the time of the post, has at least 2,270 interments according to Find a Grave.  The historic wrought iron gate still stands as entry way to the historic gravestones.  I love the moss hanging over the massive oak trees next to the chapel, and enjoy strolling down the hill.  Most of the older gravesites are closer to the church and entry gate.  If you know how to look, you can easily be transported into time.  

“Remember me as you pass by, As you are now so once was I, As I am now so you must be, Prepare for death and follow me.”

The tomb of Sarah Azolean Wedgeworth impacts me the most.  She has an above ground burial, and was only 19 years old at the time of her death.  She passed September 4, 1857 making her one of the earliest in the cemetery.  However, the poem under her name will give you chills! 

The poem is fading, but is certainly still there.  

Coalville Cemetery
Urns are common symbols on gravestones.

When I arrived that Sunday evening, the sun had begun to set with the slightest hint of fall coming.  I wandered around the old section and ended visiting both of my maternal family lines in the family plots. Each plot tells a story and each one I find interesting.  On this visit, I noticed the close death dates of two Felsher children and their mother the summer of 1885.  

It is easy to find the stories of other stones and families also interesting.  I became curious of some of the markings on the tombstones throughout the cemetery.  Therefore, I made a list and went on a search for the subliminal meanings.  

Coalville Cemetery
My ancestor lost her live too early at the age of 10. The rose depicts a young girl lost before their time.
Coalville Cemetery
Anchors are seen on many stones at Coalville because of the close proximity to the Gulf and prominent sailors living in the community.

Common Symbols at Coalville Cemetery:

  • Lamb-The lamb, also a symbol of Jesus, shows the grave of a baby or child.  Stones with this symbol mark the grave of a child or baby land. A baby land is a plot specifically for infants. (As far as I know, Coalville does not have one.)
  • Urn-It represents immortality.  If a shroud is present, it ‘guards’ the ashes or urn.
  • Rose-The rose represents a young girl or woman who has passed.  The state of the rose is important to understand the age of the deceased.  A bud would be a very young girl, partial bloom is a teenager, and a rose in full bloom I a young unmarried woman. 
  • Anchor-It symbolizes hope and steadfastness.  It is also the mark for a sailor. With Coalville’s proximity to the Gulf Coast this symbol is very common around the grounds. 
  • Book-Although it is known for its scholarly meanings, it has other meanings when on headstones.  It can have a dual symbolism as the Bible or the Book of Life.  
  • 5 Point Star or Pentangle- I was curious about this mark the most.  I wondered if it actually had a less traditional meaning than the others.  It actually represents the five wounds of Christ and the spirit rising to Heaven.  Remember, the star always is bright against the darkness.  
Coalville Cemetery
The lamb is often found on the tops of the graves of children.
Coalville Cemetery
The book can still be viewed clearly on this stone.

Another interesting feature within the grounds of Coalville Cemetery are the seashells loosely placed on the top of headstones.  This is a Victorian tradition commonly seen in southeastern states.  Along with being used as decorations, the shells symbolize in a pilgrimage and can later represent a safe crossing into the afterlife.  The shells are often the conch shell or scallop shell.  However, at Coalville I found shells of the lightening whelk.  The lightening whelk is common along the Gulf of Mexico and can be found easily locally by beachcombers visiting the barrier islands.    

Coalville Cemetery
Angel watching over Coalville.

Stone letters, Thought Co, and The Cemetery Club are the websites I used to find this information.  I recommend looking at them further to decode other markers in the cemetery.

Coalville Cemetery
So much history is in Coalville Cemetery. I encourage you to take a look.

Other Notable Interments

Coalville Cemetery has many notable people buried on the grounds. The grounds host at least nine Civil War soldiers. There are also interments for Word War I, World War II, and many others. There are many past graduates of Woolmarket School when it went elementary to high school.

If you would like to learn more about the people buried in Coalville or a specific family member I recommend researching them. There are many free and helpful sources online. You can also visit the local genealogy library. I wrote a helpful article in April about some things to prepare for a visit to the library here.

I encourage everyone in the area to respectfully visit and observe the quiet beauty of Coaville Cemetery. Coalville Cemetery is located at 12556 Lorraine Road Bilox, MS 39532

Do you have any family buried here? Where is your favorite historical spot on the Mississippi Gulf Coast?

The Origins of Family Lore and Legends: The Sensational, the Romantic, and the Spooky

I would like to challenge you to go the oldest person in your family.  Ask them about your ancestors and the past history of your family.  I bet they come up with these crazy stories and tell you about all your notable ancestors.  Unfortunately, some of these stories are not always true.  This interchange is how family lore spreads and continues to change from generation to generation. 

“Lots of times people accept the family rumors they hear as part of their family history.  But once they begin researching these rumors for themselves, they discover these ‘legends’ aren’t true at all.” Nancy Welton Dallas Morning News Sunday, April 22, 1984.

Now my family has some pretty interesting lore floating around.  When I began working for the genealogy library in 2010, many random family members and distant cousins could not wait to tell them to me!  Throuhgout the years, I have tried to verify some to no avail.  The only thing I know is that some of the people mentioned actually existed.  Don’t worry, I will share them today!  There are also some things you can do to help verify your own family lore and legends. 

Family Legends and Lore
My beautiful many Great-Grandmother Louisa Fountain Groue

Well you know my great-grandma was….

My favorite family legend is that of a great-grandfather and his mysterious death.  He is the patriarch of the Husley (aka Hosli) family from Switzerland.  Frederick ‘Fritz’ Hosli was an immigrant that came into New York only to be directly drafted into the Union Army.  He moved South for the land-claims owned to him as a veteran.  He married a local girl, and started a family.

 In October of 1882, he was set to speak in favor of an accused horse thief.  As family legend would have it, he was found dead mysteriously the next day at the age of 38.  My great-grandmother mentions poisoned coffee in her rendition.  Unfortunately, the coast paper did not begin until 1888 and there are no existing court records that have survived all the hurricanes to my knowledge. 

Here is the interesting thing.  This story was told to me and a week later re-told to me again from a distant cousin I met randomly.  Is it true?  Maybe, but it is doubtful that it will ever be verified.

Family Legends and Lore
My Great Great Great Aunts. Twin sisters of my great grandfather Dewey Lawrence

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

The story of a great grandmother on another side of my family is perfect for Halloween when everyone is thinking of the spooky.  This was told to me by a distant cousin who has done extensive genealogy research tracing the family all the way back to France.  However, this story is from her childhood memory.  As recounted, she remembers my great-grandmother Aurelia reading tarot cards until her brother threw them into a fire.  He claimed she was a “sorceress.” 

Also, like everyone else in the south I have the famous “Indian Princess” legend floating around.  There is some version of this in every family.  When in actuality, it was a ploy by many people to scam the United States Government in order to receive Native American benefits in the 1900s.  For reference, you must prove without a double to have at least one grandparent of full Native American heritage in order to claim benefits. 

Family Legends and Lore
My Great Grandfather standing a beach road. I imagine this is what all small beach roads used to look like.

How about your family lore?

Most family lore and legends stem from some little seed of truth.  Whether it is an odd fact, interesting person, or a brief childhood memory.  These things can morph and change as they are retold verbally.  (Think of the Greek legends and how outlandish they became!)  Eudora Welty mentioned that southerners are born storytellers.  Nothing can get a southerner as excited as talking about their family while telling a great story.

If you want to verify any of your family legends you should begin with solid records.  The old standbys like census records, newspaper searches, and even the family Bible.  I also suggest checking on some dead ends you may encounter from time to time.  For example, ten years ago, I did not have easy access to microfilm records that have been digitized by the Library of Congress.  If all else fails, there is always a DNA test!

Sometimes it is worth just embracing the stories.  Record the oldest members of your family telling them and share them at gatherings!

Final Thoughts.

The final story I will leave you with is about my ship captain great grandfather.  I was told he had a ship sunk by Union soldiers during the Civil War.  However, by using Genealogy Bank, I discovered he had a ship blow after the Civil War.  He lost some crew members, and the rest washed up a good ways from Biloxi.  The article spoke of a good Samaritan giving the remaining soggy crew train fair to return home.  It was interesting to hear how a legend came from an actual true event. 

Remember fact can be stranger than fiction!

Family Legends and Lore
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What are your favorite family lore and legends retold to you? 

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Mississippi Gulf Coast Coffee Crawl

It is certainly no secret I love coffee!  I create a ritual around coffee.  There is nothing more therapeutic to me than going to a coffee shop, journaling, and organizing my thoughts.  It is my favorite form of self-care.  When I was in high school, there was nowhere to go. There was one small corner café on Pass Road and a kiosk at the mall that are long since gone.  Luckily, with the resurgence of coffee culture in the early 2000s more options have come to the Gulf Coast! 

Now, you can find a fantastic cup of coffee down the 26 miles of the world’s largest man made beach!  It does not matter which city you find yourself in down Highway 90.  There is a cup of coffee for everyone.  Today I am sharing my personal favorites and why.  So hope in the car, roll down your windows, and go enjoy these java spots! 

The Community Hub

The Mockingbird Café

2nd Street, Bay St. Louis, MS

This little converted house with the welcoming front porch brought hope to Bay St. Louis when it opened after Hurricane Katrina.  The little café is a hub of activity from local performances musicians who perform there to the yoga studio attached in the back.  Any given day, you can find delicious fresh baked goodies and my favorite hamburgers.  Their brunch menu is nothing to sneeze at either. 

When visiting the Mockingbird, I suggest trying their classic café au lait.  A local special made of dark roast coffee and steam milk.  Also, don’t miss their king cakes during Mardi Gras season! 

Mockingbird Cafe
Front porch of Mockingbird Cafe

Best View

Cat Island Coffeehouse

East Scenic Drive, Pass Christian, MS

Cat Island Coffeehouse is a triple threat.  It overlooks the white sand beaches of Pass Christian, serves delicious coffee drinks, and houses a local specialized bookstore inside!  It is a bit on the pricy side, but you cannot beat the view and atmosphere. 

Go on a nice day and sit on out the deck.  Also take the beautiful spiral staircase to the loft of top for another great view.  On a clear day, you can see its namesake off in the horizon. 

Cat Island Coffeehouse
View from the deck of Cat Island Coffeehouse

Most Instagram Worthy

Bankhouse Coffee

Jeff Davis Avenue, Long Beach, MS

Bankhouse coffee is not only the flagship store for Coast Roast Coffee, but also a beautiful old building.  There is an opportunity at every turn to take perfect little square Instagram pictures.  Pause to admire the large steps leading in and the vintage tile floors. 

Coast Roast is a locally roasted coffee that has some local inspired flavors and blends.  You can find Coast Roast as far off as New Orleans at St. Roch Market or their new shop at the Auction House on Magazine Street.  I suggest buying a bag and taking it home whether you are visiting local or not. 

Bankhouse Coffee
Coffee Display at Bankhouse

Conveniently Located

Coast Roast

Highway 49, Gulfport, MS

If you enjoyed Bankhouse Coffee, you will also like Coast Roast in downtown Gulfport!  They are owned as well by Coast Roast, and have a great menu.  They also have the added bonus of a drive through around the back.  On a nice day, they can open up the garage sized windows and allow fresh air into the building. 

Coast Roast Coffee and Tea
Getting some work down at Coast Roast on Highway 49.

Best Iced Coffee

Jacked Up Coffee Bar

West Howard, Biloxi, MS

This little shop is a great stop for the iced coffee loves.  (Who would love iced coffee right?)  My favorite is the New Orleans Iced Coffee with their house sweet cream and coffee ice cubes.  That’s right coffee ice cubes!  They carry the French Truck Roasters for their coffee brand.  I also like their dark roast and lattes.

There is even after hour alcoholic options for those who would like a quiet place to go after work.  A few months ago, Southern Bound Bookstore moved in next door and it is the perfect match! 

Jacked Up Coffee Bar
Delicious coffee with whip at Jacked Up Coffee

Best Pour Over

Greenhouse on Porter

Porter Avenue, Ocean Springs, MS

Ready for some coffee and biscuits?  This is your place!  There are no brewed or espresso drinks at Greenhouse.  They instead use a variety of earthy pour over varieties.  Their roasts are wonderfully simple and taste great without creamer or sugar.  This is also a great place if you are a tea drinker.

The biscuits are a different consistency than your Maw Maw’s buttermilk biscuits.  You can choose from a variety of fillings and toppings with your biscuit.  My personal favorite is the sweet potato biscuit with their homemade pimento cheese.  They also host trivia, community, and live performances.  Sign up for notifications on their e-mail list! 

Look for their new location coming to Biloxi this Fall!

Greenhouse on Porter
Enjoy delicious biscuits with your pour over coffee at Greenhouse on Porter

New Coffee Shop on the Block

The District Coffee Company

1301 Government Street, Ocean Springs, MS

This little spot was not originally on my first draft, but I stopped in on a whim a few weeks ago. After my first visit I knew I had to add it! It is on the other side of downtown Ocean Springs. The small gray building hides the warm environment inside. It is welcoming and decorations are so cute. I almost drooled over the beautiful teal espresso machine on the counter.

I loved the staff who did not give me strange looks for bringing my little hedgehog with me after his vet appointment. He enjoyed being held and loved on in there instead staying in the warm car. The iced coffee was delicious and I look forward to going back with some friends soon. Keep you eyes peeled around the coast because they also have a coffee truck!

The District Coffee Company
Benny at The District Coffee Company.

One Final Cup

I know this list is coming out at the end of the summer heat.  However, I hope it can be useful for the two weeks of Fall weather we may have on the Gulf Coast!  These spots are great to check out if you are out and about checking out the great fall festivals and events along the Coast. 

Gulf Coast Coffee Crawl
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I’ve told you mine, now tell me yours!  What is your favorite coffee spot on the Mississippi Gulf Coast? 

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Preparing for Your Trip to the Genealogy Library or Archive

It may surprise you to learn that libraries still exist!  Even archives and special libraries with old paper books, microfilm, and dusty records.  I have worked at one at the beginning of my librarian career, and then returned to it this year.  My department serves over hundred people each month in person, over the phone, or through e-mailed research requests.  Throughout the day, I meet experienced historians and novice genealogists just starting their journey. 

Using my experience, I have created a quick guide to get you started in visiting archives and libraries for your research. 

Think of all the amazing resources waiting at the library?

Why use the library or archive?

“Why do you need to go to the library?  Isn’t everything online?”  These are common questions I get when people find out what I do for a living.  Now, millions of records have been uploaded and made available through online services.  Digitizing collections is actually a slow and tedious process.  Most libraries and archives do not have the staff or funding to make this happen swiftly. 

Tips to Maximize your Time at the Library.

This results in a treasure troth of resources hiding in a back archive room.  Also, many online records charge fees to access them.  Many libraries have these records available for free!  (Remember, libraries are a great way to save money!)  My library has a subscription to Ancestry and all the microfilm for our local newspaper all the way back to 1888.  So now my question for you is, “What are you waiting for?”

Before becoming a special collection librarian, I was an intensive researcher for over three years in school.  I visited small and large collection from Lake Charles, Louisiana to Edinburgh, Scotland.  Here are some things to do before leaving home! If you do not have a plan you could find yourself leaving with more questions than answers. 

Some things like this are hiding in back rooms of collections waiting to be digitized.

Call Ahead!

Libraries and archives sometimes keep strange hours or limited staff.  Small collections can be available by appointment only.  You can find the phone numbers for collections online or call the main branch of your library.  Make sure to check hours, days, and rules.  Take some time to ask the librarian or archivist some of the questions at the bottom of this post. 

Check the Card Catalog

Many department will link into a card catalog or index search of their records.  Check for family books, named collections, microfilm, and even photographs.  Make a list of resources that can be useful to your research. Some you can even create a digital list before arriving at the location. 

Library Tip
Tip: Make a list!

Make a List of Questions, Facts, and Goals

This is the most important tip by far!  Do not go to a library and ask for anything on the Smith family!  It will become overwhelming quickly.  It is best to pick a few small goals.  Example:  What date was my grandmother born?  What was her parent’s names?  Take a few moments to print and fill out a family fact sheet.  Free ones can be accessed here.  The librarian will ask for years, dates, places, and family names.  Knowing what you have is a great way to find what you need. 

Questions for the Librarian Archivist

  • Do you have finding aides or indexes?
  • What geographical areas does your collection cover?
  • Can I make my own copies? 
  • How much are copies?  What form of payments do you take?
  • Do you have any digital subscriptions?  Where can they be accessed?
  • I am looking for ____.  What resource do you suggest?

Believe it or not.  Many librarians are helpful and are experienced researchers themselves.  However, a librarian cannot help you without a clearly defined question or goal. 

Planning for your trip to the Genealogy Library or Archive
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What breakthroughs have you had in your own personal genealogy research at the library? 

How to Survive a Month of No Spending

Many people try this, and many people fail.  I am talking about months long no spends, shopping bans, or spending fasts.  (Many names for the same thing!) For the months of January and February I decided to cut all unnecessary spending.  I chose to do this because I did not want to be Christmas poor while going into Chinese New Year.  My online teaching job, is very dependent on the ebb and flow of holiday schedules in China.  I was able to alleviate some financial stress by focusing on my bills and savings goals. 

I have completed two no spends in the past by necessity.  The first fast occurred when my husband changed careers in 2016.  When this happened we had to reassess our financial future.  The second was when I changed careers and returned from teaching in Vietnam.  By 2018, I decided to become an independent contractor.  It took about three months to build my student base to where I needed it.  This time, I wanted to consider my actual thoughts behind making purchases. 

The book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders inspired this challenge.  She takes an honest look at why she spends and treats it like an addiction.  She was able to change careers and pay off all of her debt by the end of the year.  Due to her advice during this book and honest perspective, I decided to model my own rules based on her.  Below is my list of original rules that I shared on my Facebook list. 

January and February Rules for No Spend!

How I Did

Based on my self-created rules, I did very well my first six weeks.  I lapsed towards the end on the rules of eating out entering forbidden stores.  (Although I didn’t actually buy anything!)  I lasted the full two months without buying anything unnecessary.  The only unexpected purchase was a new pair of tennis shoes.  I deemed this as a much needed purchase since my other shoes had holes in them by this point. 

I feel like I met my general goal of thinking about my purchases carefully.  The No Spend Challenge helped me show some self-control when it comes to stopping for coffee.  I can say that I missed this the most.  I enjoy stopping by a coffee shop on my way between two jobs.  This breaks up my day and the coffee tastes way better than the staff room Keurig. 

One unexpected discovery about myself during the challenge.  I realized I am more of an extrovert than I realized.  I enjoy having a night where I go to the movies, browse shops with a friend, or even go to a restaurant I enjoy.  It did cause me to appreciate the times we went out for birthdays and trivia.  Some free things like taking a long walk or sitting on the back porch. 

Now that I am out on the other side, I would like to give some practical tips in successfully completing a no spend longer than a month.

Be Realistic

I said this recently, life is happening to us every day.  Situations come up and unexpected problems arise.  Also, some things may not be practical for your family.  For example, you may need to buy some shoes if you have young children growing like weeds.  Take note of possible situations and your family’s needs before even writing your rules. 

Have Accountability

Since I was trying to break a bad habit, I took a page from my friends completing fitness challenges.  I posted my first five weeks of progress on my Facebook group. It enabled me to have open conversation from friends and family about spending habits.  I was honest about my feelings and my failures.  Sometimes, when I was tempted to pull into the Starbucks drive-thru, I would think about having to confess it on Facebook later.

Know Your Triggers

How do you feel when you buy something new?  Do you try to put salve on a bad day by going clothes shopping?  Can’t resist a deal?  These are some of the questions you should ask yourself when creating your spending rules.  Knowing why you spend and considering your buying urges may be uncomfortable at first.  However, I did not realize how much I liked to go to Target when I am stressed. 

No Spend

Plan Ahead

The key to avoiding impulse buying is to plan days, weeks, and even months ahead.  In order to avoid buying lunches out, I would pack my lunch the night before at home.  I made sure to have plenty of coffee pods so I would not need to find caffeine elsewhere.  We went to a concert for Ed’s Christmas gift out of town.  I booked a reasonable AirBnb close to the concert venue before No Spend began.  Think of upcoming birthdays, events, trips, and daily habits when making plans for No Spend.

Clean Our Your E-mail List

Don’t forget temptation can come while you are sleeping at night!  Take time to remove yourself from e-newsletters.  Unsubscribe from shops that are tempting or offer flash sells.  I found out I had so many e-mails that I had to unsubscribe in three different sessions. 

Track What You Save

Reward yourself at the end by seeing how much you have saved!  It was very encouraging to see the amount of cash in my checking that I could transfer to savings at the end of each no spend month.  Bonus:  Take a moment to look at your bank statements from the months before the No Spend in order to see how much frivolous spending you cut out. 

No Spend Tip

Final Thoughts and Where I Will Go From Here…

I officially ended my No Spend the last week of February when my friend flew in from Scotland.  I must admit that it was nice to go into shops and head as I pleased to the coffee shop.  Over the two months, I felt guilty telling my friends no about spur of the moment plans or sales.  However, now I think twice about purchases. 

For the future, I hope to continue to implement some of my No Spend habits in the long run.  Beginning in April, I will make a fun budget to spend on coffee, eating out, and entertainment for the month.  Once the budget is reached I am finished for the month. 

I am also implementing a buying delay.  The higher priced the item, the longer I will wait to purchase it.  This way I can take advantage of the good habit I created over January and February of avoiding impulse buying.  How long do you think I should wait for an item under $25 dollars?

How to Survive a Month of No Spending

Will you try a No Spend?  Have you completed one before?  If so, what helped you be successful?