Saying Goodbye to 2017 and Hello to 2018! (Also known as how I turned my life upside down in 6 months.)

“I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Enjoying the views in Sedona, Arizona

Where do I even begin?

Some people said I was brave.  Some people said I was crazy.  Some people said that they wished they could do the same thing.  I am of course speaking about leaving my career of six years as a school librarian to pursue my expat dream of teaching English in Vietnam.

I made it to Vietnam, but did have to return to settle affairs in the States.  (Turns out it is much easier to live the expat life when you’re 23 than 33.)  I attempted to resume life as usual upon my return until the house has sold.   However, changes come swiftly and I am looking onto 2018 to change my direction once again.

Lessons I Learned in 2017

Uncle Ho and I in front of the Ho Chi Minh City Town Hall, Vietnam.

In 2007, I set out for Edinburgh, Scotland for University at my dream school.  I guess the circumstances along with the ten year set me on my path.  My favorite highlights were completing my CELTA in Phoenix, Arizona, moving to Vietnam, and realizing you can love where you are from while still ready for big changes.  Here is a list of my top lessons learned this year:

*Stop and see the manatees even if you have to get up early.

My new manatee friends at Crystal River, Florida

*If you carefully consider your plan and save it is much easier to pull off the bandaid, and change jobs.

*It does not matter if it is a “dry heat” if it is over 105 degrees it is hot!  (Thanks for the Summer Phoenix.)

*The craziest people I have ever crossed are on the Phoenix area public transit system.  (Seriously, I have traveled to over 16 countries and 30 states.)

*I love teaching, and especially love teaching English as a second language.

Teaching public school could be exhausting, but fun!

*My students in Vietnam taught me most that you do not have to have many material things to be happy.

*The Vietnamese people taught me that kindness comes in many packages.

*Cafe su das are life.

*It is alright to transition through jobs if it’s not the right fit.  Especially if you do something that is in demand.

*Take a deep breath, and hop on the back of that motorbike.  Just make sure to invest in a good helmet.

My 2018 Resolutions

  1.  Read over 80 books.  (This is my ongoing resolution.  I have not accomplished it yet, but maybe this year will be my year!)
  2. Move overseas with Ed.  (Yes, I am planning to go back.)
  3. Have a daily journal that is either personal, writing prompts, or gratitude.
  4. Monetize my blogs including The Rugged Bunch.
  5. Learn to play my ukulele.  (I would especially love to play La Bamba and The Cups Song.)
  6. Get my weight back down to 125 pounds since the holiday binge.

Crepe Stand at the San Diego Little Italy Farmer’s Market

What I look forward to the most in 2018

I am beginning this year by woking as an independent contractor with VIPKID.  Today was actually my first day!  This should help me practice my ESL skills while applying back overseas.  If the house can be sold quickly, Ed and I will begin our new journey in May.  I have a spot at an international school in Vietnam, but am leaving my options open as well.

Hiking with Ed

I hope to spend a lot more time with Ed as we embark on a new adventure.  I hope to use the lessons I learned Vietnam in order to value experience over things.  Mostly making great new memories!

Let’s see what happens when we stop living the life we want instead of the life that is expected.

Enjoying the summer and happy hour in Tempe, Arizona

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

Friendmas: Finding time for our friends during the holidays.

Friend Photo Shoot 2015

There has always been a big hustle and bustle during the holidays in the south.  Throughout my childhood, I remember going to no less that three to four houses on Christmas day!  Not to mention my cousins who would do Christmas family activities in the weekends leading up to Christmas.  My Christmases went this way all the way until 2007 when I was living in Scotland an ocean away from my family.  Edward came and we had a trip throughout German Christmas Markets in Berlin, and enjoyed a quiet Christmas day in Amsterdam.

We spent time with all my new friends upon returning to Edinburgh, and celebrating the New Years with them.  That Christmas changed my perspective on the holidays.  It’s not just for family, but friends that are family as well.  Now I try to create time with my friends and family.  Especially now that some of my friends have moved away, and other have begun families of their own.

For the past three years, finding time for friends during the holidays has become an elaborate well thought out schedule.  Not making this time any less meaningful or taking away from my family.  (In some cases, we join in on our family events interchangeably!)  Here are some of my ideas for making time for friends during the holidays!

Friend Dinner date:

My mother has always done this with her high school fiends, and we have adopted this as well.  Finding a spot three or four nights from Christmas Eve we will meet at a central restaurant and enjoy some merry cheer together.  This has the benefits of no one having to host or clean up.  The restaurant can be centrally located as well.  We can also invite the whole group seeing many wayward friends at the same time.

It’s fun to play Dirty Santa, take selfies, and catch up with all our friends at the same time.

Early Morning Coffee Date:

There are several adorable coffee spots around the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  My friends will pick one for a coffee date early in the morning before all the holiday fuss begins or errands we need to run.  We pause, and enjoy the quiet before the tinsel so to speak.  Our favorites are The Greenhouse on Porter, Cat Island Coffee Company, Bank House Coffee, and the newly opened Coast Roast.  The warm December weather this week, makes The Greenhouse on Porter a pleasant coffee spot.

Greenhouse on the Beach

After Christmas Shopping:

One five year tradition I have with my best friend is to hit the after Christmas sales.  We use this time to restock Christmas bags, cards, gift wrapping, and tissue paper.  It is tradition for us to hit up Starbucks before 6 A.M. to get to Target or Pier One as the doors open.  We usually can shop until lunch enjoying each others company.  It is never a conflict since all holiday events are finished, and everyone is tucked soundly in bed.

After Christmas Haul

 Walk off the Holiday Feast:

Whenever the television loses its luster, and our pants begin to feel tights we decide to take walk.  Just a few hours out of the day to stretch our legs on the beach or a local trail is a nice break from the holiday rush.  Being able to go at any time in the day frees up our schedule.  We like to walk the Ocean Springs Bridge, East Beach, or other trails on the coast.  It is also the added benefit of beginning those New Year’s Resolutions early!

The road less taken after the holidays…

Late night Bond fire:

For friends that are night owls, a late night bond fire can also be a great activity to catch up with friends.  The cooler weather is a fantastic excuse to put on warm boots, roast marshmallows, and enjoy the company of friends.  Everyone can bring a beverage or snack to roast over the fire.  Fire wood can be found on the cheap or for free around the south.  (Someone has always just cut down a tree in my family!)  With going out later, most families have finished their festivities.

Bond fire fun


What are your traditions and ideas with your friends during the holiday?

My DNA Results are in!

My DNA Kit

After years of wanting to give it a try, I jumped at the chance to have my DNA tested when my mother offered to order a kit for me as a Christmas present.  I chose Ancestry DNA because it is the service used by my in-laws as well as a great uncle.  Ancestry is currently running a deal where the kits are 79 dollars instead of 99.  Please be aware there is around a 8 dollar shipping cost.  Bonus:  If you are a member of Ebates you can also receive 7.5% cash back on any Ancestry product!

Anyway, I was curious to see how my genealogy research has stacked up to the realty of my own DNA.  So I would like to take this moment to walk you through the process from beginning to the reveal!

My predictions:

Before ordering the DNA kit, I thought about all my previous research.  I predicted based on my physical features and my own family research.  I predicted the following results:

  • 40% Spanish
  • 15% Croatian, German (Bavarian), and Swiss
  • 10% French
  • Less than 10% British
  • Maybe 1% Native American

I thought about this considering the distance between generations of my family story.  The Croatian, German, and Swiss all come from great great grandparents.  While I know there is French on both sides of my family they came to the US in the early 1700s.  The Spanish was consistent through generations of my father’s family.  Plus I have very Spanish features.  (It has made my travels in Spain an easy going experience because I am never mistaken as a tourist!)

The PRocess:

Ordering a kit is a simple process where you create an Ancestry account, and place the order with payment.  It took less than a week or a small box to arrive. (Photographed above.)  It is the size of a small VHS box, and fits easily into the mailbox.  The kit includes two tubes, a prepaid mailer box, and clear instructions on how to complete the test.

You cannot eat, drink, or chew gum up to thirty minutes before collecting saliva.  You have to spit into the clear tube.  (They claim its only 1/4 of a teaspoon, but I had difficulty getting the tube filled!)  You then place the blue tube on top and shake in the blue stabilizing fluid. This step preserves the DNA.  Make sure to register your kit before sending in your results!

There is no need to go to the post office desk.  You can drop it in the mailbox since it is pre-paid.  I ordered the kit on November 5th, received my kit on November 10th, sent it out the next day.   My results arrived on November 23rd.  The whole process took 19 days!  Ancestry does say give 4-6 weeks for processing.  

My Results:

I was very surprised with my results.  I did not anticipate so much of my DNA to be from Great Britain!  It also showed way less Spanish ancestry than I expected.  There was also very little western Europe countries like France, Germany, and Switzerland.  It was amazing to see how my research has been off.  However, on further thought some makes sense when considering migration patterns and the history of these countries.

About 16% of my DNA is a prediction.  These are markers that are further in m family’s past.  Therefore, it is less accurate or trackable.  The amount of Middle Eastern, and central Asian is expected when considering that both Croatian and Spain have been under control of eastern countries.

My main DNA results!

Estimated DNA results!


My Thoughts:

Although my results were surprising for me, it was such a easy and interesting experience.  I would recommend the Ancestry DNA tests due to how easy it is to complete and receive results.  The whole process is sent through e-mail, and updates come in frequently from Ancestry.  You also have the option to link your DNA with other people in order to see possible matches.  (This can be waived if you would like your results to remain private.)  My great uncle showed as my first match, and I see this as a good sign of consistency within the test.

Ancestry uses genetic markers collected all over the world in order to predict your DNA.  Some of these are guesses depending.  Keep in mind that your family may be from other places, and migrated around.  (For example: think of the Irish who left Ireland during the potato famine.)  Also, other relatives are only part of your story.  A uncle only gives you a small portion of possible DNA results.

I look forward to using these results to guide further research by looking more carefully at last names and further into records.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman in South Mississippi?

In my scanning adventures, I came across several sets of snow pictures.  These were taken on March 6, 1954 in Woolmarket.  (An area of north Biloxi for the non-coast residents.)  It goes without saying the snow is rare this far south.  So when it happens it is a big deal!  For years, my friends and I dreamed of a real white Christmas that has not happened yet.  We had a close call in 1996 when it snowed the day we dismissed for Christmas break, but of course it was gone by the weekend.

Make a warm beverage, and check out these snippets of a snow day gone by…

Woolmarket snow

“The First appreciable snowfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since February, 1936, sneaked in at the early hours today and laid a blanket of white beauty her the three coastal counties. it measured generally two inches.” ~The Daily Herald

Mississippi Gulf Coast Snow

“You never know–when the king of winter paid his impressive call, the kids had only yesterday been flying kites in the March wind and were planning picnics for next month. It was early Friday morning that coast residents reveled in the first light trace of snow in 18 years– and that didn’t even stick. Today they went out to inspect the magic stuff.”- The Daily Herald

Mississippi Gulf Coast Snow

“From the Pascagoula to the Pearl River, the snowman marched. Youngsters who had never seen snow before learned of the mighty sting of the snowball. And motorists who thought they would drive around and sightsee were pretty soon slipping and tossing in soggy streets of messy slush.”-The Daily Herald

Car in Snow Mississippi Gulf Coast

“Photo shops were rushed for film as picture-takers and snow-lovers feverishly shot scenes they could show their grandchildren.” -The Daily Herald

Mississippi Family Snow

“Everette Necaise, Fire Station 2, Gulfport called to say the firemen were building a five-foot snowman stead of playing checkers and would build it higher if anyone wanted a picture.” -The Daily Herald

Snowman Mississippi Gulf Coast

“Every yard along the Coast was its own wonderland. The trees the bushes and grass were trimmed in white lace and the setting from any angle like a Christmas card.”-The Daily Herald

Snow day fun Mississippi Gulf Coast

“People came to work singing the Yuletide songs; and at least one man rushed to his porch in his underwear, braving the 35-degree temperature to see if it was real.”- The Daily Herald

Mississippi Gulf Coast Snow

One last photo for the road!

I love sharing these photos on this muggy and foggy December morning.  Stay around for some more snow day memories this holiday week!

Fun Finds: Unique Christmas Mugs

I always  keep a look out for interesting mugs.  The more random the better.  It is a bonus if the mug is Christmas themed!  Throughout the holiday season, I indulge on hot drinks.  Cider, chai, tea, hot chocolate, egg nog, and flavored coffees I love them all!  I cherish the few cold nights we have in South Mississippi.  You can see the extent of my love on my December Daily Instagram feed.

This fun finds is a gallery of Etsy Christmas mugs that I admire, and would love to have on my coffee table this holiday season!

This stackable tupperware set could last for many Christmas parties to come!

This stackable tupperware set could last for many Christmas parties to come!

All is merry and bright with these mugs!

All is merry and bright with these mugs!

Saw a mug like this at a Thrift Store in Ohio, and was immediately curious. These work for New Years and Christmas.

Saw a mug like this at a Thrift Store in Ohio, and was immediately curious. These work for New Years and Christmas.

Milk glass is so classically vintage, and so are the Christmas trees.

Milk glass is so classically vintage, and so are the Christmas trees.

Cannot go wrong with a vintage cup of egg nog.

Cannot go wrong with a vintage cup of egg nog.

These classy holly mugs would look great next to the coffee maker on Christmas morning.

These classy holly mugs would look great next to the coffee maker on Christmas morning.

This holly set is made by a brand called Termocrisa that is as durable as pyrex.

This holly set is made by a brand called Termocrisa that is as durable as pyrex.

It is not the holiday's in the Hornsby house without a santa mug!

It is not the holiday’s in the Hornsby house without a santa mug!

Another great santa mug with character and charm.

Another great santa mug with character and charm.

Thank you to my new friends on Etsy for allowing me to feature your shops this week!

New Name, New Site, New Mandy


     This post comes after a significant personal journey.  Over the years, I have been a fair weather blogger.  I get distracted, or let other things get in the way.  My disappearance from blogging and most social media for most of the summer was due to an illness.  Last May I went to the ER with my eyes swelling and my blog pressure extremely high.  It started a series of tests, resulting in the diagnosis of primary hyperaldosteronism.  My condition was a hormone producing benign tumor on my adrenal gland that caused me to lose potassium and gain sodium.


      On July 10th, I had surgery  to remove my right adrenal gland along with an overnight ICU stay.  Almost instantly my left adrenal gland took over and corrected my electrolyte imbalance.  I still felt that something was not right.  I tested positive for h. pylori in October, and after an extensive round of antibiotics finally starting to feel normal.


Now that I am on the other side of all this I can finally look toward the future.  Normally this is not where I get personal, but there are things to be said everything considered.  I am so lucky my condition was curable and caught before causing major problems to my vital organs.  So now I want to take this opportunity to focus on what makes me happy.


This holiday season I am refocusing on reading, research, and writing.  This is resulting in my decision to revamp The Sassy Starfish self hosted on a new platform and name.  Look forward to new content this upcoming month and into 2016.  Maybe a few other surprises as well!

Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to a much better year!

Thankful to be Getting into the Spirit of Blogging

     I know it has been awhile since my last post.  After I left for my trip this summer life has just taken over and swept me away.  All of a sudden I am waking up on Thanksgiving morning realizing I have not posted in over five months!  The holidays always put me in a reflective mood, even one as overlooked as Thanksgiving.  A note on my personal history, it was this week five years ago that Edward and I moved into our house, and he proposed!  This is also the time Leah and I start harassing each other about goals unmet, and create new ones for the upcoming year.  

   So here are a few things that I have been up to since my last posts in June….

We did some traveling:

I mentioned our upcoming adventures abroad, but I also took a road trip with my dad to Russellville, Arkansas for a dear friends wedding.  A week later, I boarded a plane for a five week European tour.  (There is that number five again!  Must be at theme…)  I also took a few weekend trips this Fall one with Edward for a kayak fishing tournament in Pensacola, Florida and a trip with Leah to Lafayette over this break.  It is great to get out and go!  I hope to feature some of my trips in some Throwback Thursday posts.

Ed and I with Big Ben 

Miss October:

It was my extreme pleasure to be selected as Blogger of the Month for October at Mississippi Women Bloggers!  It is awesome to be apart of this wonderful community of ladies.  I highly suggest joining in the fun if you are a fellow blogger in Mississippi.  Here are a link to some of my guest posts this year with them.  

The Art of Loving Where Your From

How to Travel with a Carry On

Fall the Ultimate Guilty Pleasure

At Home Pedicures 

New Listings on Etsy:

Some great vintage finds are now appearing on my Etsy shop by the same name The Sassy Starfish.  They are mostly collections of vintage decorative book sets.  However, I also have listed collectible cookbooks, children’s books, and other fun finds.  I hope to expand the shop into other fun items in the upcoming months.  

Had some legendary thrift store hauls: 

I have been in need of new clothes for awhile.  Especially clothes to wear to work.  I am the ultimate cheapskate, and always feel guilty paying too much money for clothes.  More recently, I have begun to go to thrift stores several time a week to look for clothes especially.  It has been fruitful!  I have found both name brands, cute vintage pieces, and stylish items as well.  It has really helped bolster my confidence as well as my savings.  It is nice to have nice clothes that fit correctly.  

Added a new member to the household: 

Most recently, Edward and I added a new little member to our house.  I got a sweet little hedgehog as a pet.  I originally wanted a bunny, but had always admired cute hedgehogs on Instagram.  A breeder I was following posted little hoglets (baby hedgehogs), and I had to have them.  So Prickles has been adjusting to her home, and my company while I watch Netflix every night.  

I look forward to getting back in the swing of blogging. Please join me for holiday posts! 

My Summer Thus Far…

A little summer fun from my trip to Oregon last year. 
This is a get to know you tag brought to you by Mississippi Women Bloggers.  This is also where you can get a blank list to share as well on your blog!  

Making: Packing lists!  I have a wedding in Arkansas this weekend, and a Europe getaway in a week and a half.  

Cooking:  This vintage themed Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.  Super easy from cake mix and canned pineapple. 

Drinking:  Summer White Sangria made with pino grigio, lemon-lime soda, and summer fruit like blueberries.  This is a great pitcher drink for get togethers.  

Reading:  The Kommondant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff is a whirlwind tale about a Jewish girl working under a new identity for the Nazi war offices in Poland.  Anyone curious about my other summer reads can view them on my Goodreads profile here

Wanting:  A new pair of Roxy flip flops and cute beach cover for the French Riviera.  

Looking:  Out our big front window watching the day pass on his lazy hot summer day. 

Playing:   Checking out Tiesto’s album on iTunes.  Need to download some new music for the road.  

Wasting:  A lot of time on Pinterest and YouTube.   Also have been binge watching Netflix this Summer.  Scandal is a very addictive show!

Sewing:  Wow, I wish I could sew.  My machine just sits in my spare room unloved. 

Wishing:  I had gone out on my Kayak some before the weather got hot.  

Enjoying:  Having a summer break to recharge after a busy school year.

Waiting:  I am waiting anxiously for next Saturday when I fly back to England to be reunited with my friend Bianca.  

Liking:  Receiving my Birchbox and Ipsy Glam Bag each month.  It is like Christmas once a month in the middle of Summer. 

Wondering:  If I should make a packing list for this week’s road trip. 

Loving:  Revlon Lip Butters in all colors!  I scored some for two dollars at my local Big Lots.  They are so soft and creamy for summer. 

Hoping:  For a great summer for all my co-workers.  I already miss them so much and it has been two weeks. 

Marveling:  At all my friends expecting babies this year.  We are definitely in the middle of a baby boom.

Needing:  To be packing for Linda’s wedding.  We leave at 6 A.M. tomorrow morning.  

Smelling:  My Big Lots candle Lemongrass, Lime, Kiwi, Coconut, and Bergamot Melon.  Keeps my house smelling like Summer for just five dollars.

Wearing:  My cute button up Columbia shirt in pink found at my local Goodwill.  (Bonus the shorts are from the thrift store too!)

Following:  My awesome friend Melissa at Double-Stacked Bookshelves.  I love keeping up with her reading list that way. 

Noticing:  My books are taking over.  I have all these books that need to be listed on my Etsy shop as well as a ever growing To Be Read pile.

Knowing:  My 30th Birthday is only about a month away.  Time does fly when you are having fun.  No worries, I am ready to kiss my twenties goodbye. 

Thinking:  About some new posts ideas.  Any suggestions out there?

Feeling:  Excited for all these adventures to be had this Summer. 

Bookmarking:  Kasia’s Kitchen blog.  She is the Blogger of the Month for June at MSWB.  This list was her idea.

Opening:  My windows to let in the summer light, and my washer machine to catch up on laundry. 

Giggling:  At all these What’s Up Elle videos.  She is a hoot on Youtube!

Remembering:  To enjoy my last month in my twenties.  Even greater adventures await ahead!  

Fun Finds Minnesota Edition

  For the second leg of my June trip I visited my cousin at her KOA Camp in Albert Lea, Minnesota.  We made several antique runs around the area. Here are some shots. 

This store is in downtown Albert Lea 
This was at a different store 
Mighty lion in Hayward, Minnesota 
Random jars at the Hayward Antique Shop 
I purchased two of the yellow cups on the left at the Albert Lea Salvation Army