Hygge in the South: A Southern Girl’s Guide to Drinking Hot Tea

“Some like it hot, some like it cold.  But everyone wants it fresh and fragrant.”

  Gaynor Maddox Biloxi Daily Herald, 1940.

I think Maddox has the right idea in his column’s description of the tea drinker. The sentiment still fits 78 years later.  Hygge in the south certainly is strongly connected with iced tea.  However, I do believe hot tea is slowly making  a comeback among young southerners.  Sitting down with a cup of hot tea is certainly part of the hygge in Scotland.  It is there, I learned to love hot tea.


Making tea is a great way to begin organizing!

My journey to drinking hot tea.

Growing up, I was strictly a water only kid.  My family didn’t have tea in any form in the house and mainly drank Coke. (Yes, Coke not just some other soft drink.)  Sodas were too sweet to me, and I drank water for the first sixteen years of my life.  Ed’s family, when I began dating him at sixteen, would have iced tea in the fridge.  I would drink this, and began drinking sweet tea out with him at restaurants.  When I moved on campus at the University of Southern Mississippi everything changed.


A traditional cup of English Breakfast complete with a sugar cube!

The water on campus in Hattiesburg was absolutely awful.  It tasted like rust everywhere on campus!  I began drinking sodas in the commons, and bottled water in my dorm.  My freshman dorm had a sink in the room that would get so hot it boiled water right out the tap.  Seriously, we would put our Cup of Noodles under the spout and it was ready to go.  My roommate enjoyed hot tea and I was intrigued to try it. The dorm was built in the fifties and the ceilings were high giving it a lot of character.  Therefore, the room would get drafty.  I bought a few herbal tea boxes for super cheap and placed them under the spout of our thermal sink.  I couldn’t stand it!  It tasted weird and bitter.  Later I would realize this was because the water quality greatly effects the taste of the tea.


I stomached hot tea while studying abroad in London by loading it down with milk and sugar.  Still nothing could change me from my soda and coffee drinking ways.  Three years later, I moved to Scotland to complete my Master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh. Another student, who happened to sound and look like Jamie from Outlander, teased me about my continued devotion to coffee in the student lounge.   After that comment, I began trying tea out with friends.  We also had the convenience of the electric kettle in my student housing that made water hot enough to steep the tea at the right temperature.

Just writing this, a wave of happy memories washes over me.  We spent many afternoons meeting in book shops and enjoying hot tea together.  We would debate about the best T.V. shows we binge watched, books we were reading, and how much we needed to go to the library.  It was the ideal  hygge feeling!  Now I usually drink coffee in the mornings and tea throughout the afternoon into the evening.  A cup of English breakfast with milk will bring me back to the fairytale land that is Edinburgh.


Tea with lunch.

The Perfect Cup of Tea

Again, hygge is all about the contented feeling certain situations, things, and environments bring to your life.  Before writing hot tea off completely, make sure that you try it properly.  Firstly, do not make the same mistake as I did.  Use filtered or good quality water that has not already been boiled.  Not distilled either!

It is important to not steep the tea too long.  Food columist  Mary E. Dague suggested no longer than five minutes in her 1934 article.  She states anything longer will extract the tannins that give tea it’s balance flavor.

I quick note about heating the water.  Either use an electric kettle or one over the stove.  Not the microwave.  The microwave does not heat the water properly and will leave your tea tasting odd.

Types of Hot Tea

There are hundreds of varieties, brands, flavors and styles of hot tea!  Here are my main categories with a few suggestions on types.

Black Tea: The strongest of the tea family.  It has the boldest favor and highest caffeine content.  It is popular in Early Gray, English Breakfast, and a pivotal ingredient in chai.  This the main tea found at the British table.  It is also the main player in our southern iced tea!

How I like it:  I like Twinnings English Breakfast, and Earl Grey the best.  (The amount of cups of Early Grey I drank working on my history thesis cannot be counted.)  I drink Earl Grey plain and black like a good quality coffee.  English Breakfast is great after a decent steep with a splash of whole milk.

Green Tea:  Green tea has received a lot of attention for it’s recently touted health benefits.  Pinterest boards have sparked like wildfire in it’s honor.  Green tea has half the caffeine of black tea.  It is blended with every flavor imaginable from blueberry to licorice.  Ground green tea known as matcha is also becoming extremely popular in bubble tea shops and even Starbucks.

How I like it:  After my time in Vietnam, I have grown to love green tea based jasmine.  It is served in every setting instead of water.  My favorite flavor is green tea with coconut by Harney & Sons Fine Teas.  It has the perfect light coconut flavor without any bitter taste.  (Find it in the cute pink tin in the Target tea aisle.)

Herbal Teas:  Teas such as chamomile, peppermint, and others are not actually made with tea leaves.  They are fragrant and flavorful herbs that are made similar to tea.  Most variety are caffeine free, and offer a range of happy benefits.

How I like it:  I drink a lot of herbals because I drink tea later in the evenings, and love the calm they bring.  My favorites are both by Traditional Medicinals.  I love their raspberry leaf tea for women, and their chamomile lavender for bed time.

Other varieties:  Chai can have it’s own post, and probably will.  The varieties of oolong and white tea are also low in caffeine with emerging health benefits.  There is even an herbal blend from Celestial tea that tastes like a sugar cookie!  Just look online for whatever flavor you desire.


Tea with treats.

High tea or a cup in the backyard?

An article by Gaynor Maddox that ran in the Biloxi Daily Herald inFebruary of 1953 warned that a reckoning could be coming to the coffee industry.  The article brings forth the statistics that tea drinkers had risen in the U.S. based on pounds of tea sold.  It was not certain if this increase was due to the growing cost of coffee or a culture becoming aware of the proper way to prepare a cup of tea.

Today, Teausa.com states that over 158 million Americans are drinking tea.  The article also mentions that iced tea is still the majority of tea consumed I the United States.  I am sure the popularity of the show Downton Abbey  has also caused an increase in drinking tea in the United States.

I have seen more and more places locally begin serving tea.  My favorite spot for lunch is in downtown Ocean Springs.  A cute little cafe called Martha’s Tea Room.  It does serve hot tea on it’s menu, but their mint iced tea is the best!  So are the desserts!  (For real, the white chocolate bread pudding will change your life.)  It has been a joy going there with my grandmother when she was still alive, and more recently my closest friends.

pineapple dessert

One of the amazing desserts available at Martha’s Tea Room! Pineapple pound cake with pineapple ice cream.

According to Destination Tea, there are tea rooms in Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian as well that I hope to check out very soon.  Wherever you go, I say embrace the tea and treats.  The cakes, scones, and sandwiches are all part of the experience.  Some places will even have a special package where items are included with your tea.

On a budget? Quality tea can be purchased for four dollars, and vintage tea cups from thrift stores for under fifty cents.  Get a fun table cloth and have a tea party in your own backyard or porch on a nice day.


Tea in vintage tableware.

Remember,  the tea taste can be  altered by water, quality, and time.  Whatever way you decide to enjoy your tea, make sure to pause and absorb the experience!

What is your favorite tea?


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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.

GenealogyBank Review: Dive Right into Your History


Ever what happened today one hundred years ago?  What about current events the day you were born? Curious if there is a story behind the picture on your grandmother’s mantle?  GenealogyBank can help answer these questions.  It has been my favorite genealogy source by far, and I am very excited to be an affiliate!  I used GenealogyBank every day the year I worked at the Local History library.  This fall, I took the plunge and opened up my own account.

What is Genealogybank?

Unlike Ancestry, GenealogyBank has no social networking features.  It is exclusively a document database.  It’s main feature is the thousands of historical newspapers.  It also boasts a collection of historical books, government records, and the social security death index.  There is also a streamlined obituary database as well.  Use the search to find records about your ancestors and related historical events.  Over 6 million documents are added each month to the site.  Subscriptions can be obtained monthly or yearly.  A yearly subscription is cheaper per month than paying month to month.

Things I like about genealogybank.

There are certainly more positives for me than negatives about GenealogyBank.  I prefer focusing on my own searches and research without the additional input of others.  I have found several errors within linked family trees on Ancestry and found myself double checking the whole tree anyway.  With GenealogyBank, I focus on the task at hand with the primary documentation to back me up.  I also love general historical research about every day life, recipes, and retro advertisements.  GenealogyBank is a treasure troth of these from all over the United States!  Here is quick tour of my favorite features.

Vintage Party

Wonder about a special event? GenealogyBank can help!

The Advanced search feature

GenealogyBank has an advanced search tool that is effective in quickly limiting searches.  I can search for names, keywords, states, dates, and collection. The search engine also has an option to exclude words from a search.  For example, if I am researching coffee, and only want articles.  I would type “coffee” into the keyword search, and exclude “advertisement” in the other box.  Search results can also be sorted by oldest, newest, and most relevant.  The website also will react to search commands such as quotation marks.

The left sidebar

After beginning a search, you can use the left sidebar to quickly filter your results.  No need to fear getting 600,000 search results!  You can also expand.  I usually begin with Mississippi, and expand to neighboring states when necessary.

Vintage Photo

Boy’s night in Grey’s Harbor, Washington! The newspaper database covers titles across the United States.

Clear images

Ever use the old microfilm reader?  Strain your eyes using it from the blurry images?  Not on GenealogyBank!  The resolution even for the 1800s newspapers is very clear.  Zooming in and out does not effect the picture quality.  The search term is highlighted in bright yellow so the article stands right out from the page.

Clip and Save

Once you find the perfect article, there are multiple save options.  You can save the whole page or you can crop only the section you need.  I like both for various reasons.  Save the whole page if there are multiple images or the article is quite large. I have been using the clip option to save recipes I have been coming across.  (Chocolate ice cream pie?  Yes, please!)  I am slowly creating my own digital recipe box.

Vintage Parade

Use GenealogyBank to check out local history articles in your town.

Things I dislike about genealogybank.

I think the absence of a family tree maker and social networking features could be  large downside for some.  However,  the downsides to me are from using the interface frequently and the way it works with my Safari browser.

The Page Tracking

When an article or document is opened sometimes my cursor will not be able to move it around the screen.  It will sometimes move too quickly.  I have not tried the site with a different browser in a long time.  It may do better with Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer.

organization for saved documents

All saved items are kept under a “my folder” tab, but the no other organization is available.  I would love to create sub folders by family, topic, or search term.  Alas, that is not an option.  You can title the document and create research note with it.  My dream is for this to scan and save like a Pinterest board!

Vintage Children

Wonder who is in the photograph? Check local listings to find out.

Gaps in documents

GenealogyBank sometimes will have gaps in the newspapers available.  My local paper only goes to 1955.  (When I worked at Local History it only went to 1923!)  It is annoying to have a hot lead only to find that year is unavailable.  However, with 6 million documents added a year it is possible for the site to catch up.  I also use neighboring newspapers for big events with some luck sometimes.

GenealogyBank Review

GenealogyBank may not be for everyone, but it has definitely been a valuable resource for me.  Here is a list of ways I use GenealogyBank in my research:

  • Finding obituaries for relatives and ancestors
  • Reading marriage, birth, and baptismal records.
  • Trying vintage recipes, and housekeeping tips.
  • Admiring old ads.
  • Reading the “sensational” gossip of the time.
  • Researching the story behind a picture I scanned in my family photo project.
  • Imagining these cute parties thrown in society houses.
  • Gazing at pictures from the past.
  • Searching for my ancestors in old documents.

What would you research on GenealogyBank?

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.

10 Top Tips for Poshmark Success!

As mentioned in my saving money article, my favorite side hustle is Poshmark.  Poshmark began around five years ago as an app only used clothing platform.  Since then it has grown to include a website and new features daily.  My best friend constantly mentioned the ease of listing and selling.  I took the plunge in the Fall of 2015 and listed my first ten items.  Since then I have made over $800 dollars on the side with very little effort.

Besides the extra cash, I find it satisfying to give old clothes new life.  Americans waste over 15 million tons of textiles each year according to The Balance.  By reselling and shopping thrift I am at least slowing the process however  slightly.  When I find a nice item while thrifting that is not my size I will sometimes place it on Poshmark in order to see it go to someone with a similar style to me.   It is also nice to see quality thrift pieces go to a happy home.

I also sell things that no longer fit or interest me.  Flipped thrift finds also make their way to my shop.  My highest profit margin was over fifty dollars for one item!  The biggest downside of Poshmark is their take on items is high. Usually three dollars and more depending on the items selling price.  However, I decided the time price ratio over the years has been well worth it.  Below, are my top 10 tips for success on Poshmark.   Please feel free to sign up using my referral code MANDYLHORNSBY, and get to poshing!


1. Pictures are key.

Post clear pictures in good light that show different views of the item.  I will post a front, back, tag, and detailed picture.  If the item has an imperfection photo that as well.  You are allowed 8 pictures per post so use them!  I think a simple background with the item on the hanger works.  Some poshers style their items with accessories or use a fancy backdrop which can be cute or busy depending on preferance.  I personally am not a fan of items laying flat.  Using a hanger allows the person to view it as if they are in a shop.  You are also welcome to model the item as well!  (Some buyers will request this or a specific type of picture.)  Below are some examples of past sold listings.

Example of a clear and simple listing picture.

2.  Titles and descriptions galore.

Make use of your adjectives in both titles and item descriptions.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the brand, size, and color of the item?
  • What is the material?  Any special measurements?
  • Are there any rips, tears, stains, etc.?
  • What makes the item unique?
  • Where and when can you wear the item?

Be as thorough as space allows in the description.

Detailed photograph of the patter and fabric.


3. Share your items multiple times a day.

When you “share” your items they are refreshed in the search by going to the top.  Unlike other sites, this is free and can be done an unlimited amount of times.  I make a point to share my items several times a day usually morning, lunch, and evening.  It is great to do it on weekends as well.  However, just doing this  a few times a week is effective as well.  I went through a sales slump after my first Christmas season, and realized that was my problem after speaking with a friend.  My items were sitting at the bottom of the search results.   It is an easy fix, and only takes a few seconds.

Show off the whole item in your listing.

4.  Participate in the community.

This is something else I did not do when I first began.  I would ignore my feed when other poshers followed me and shared my items.  What a mistake!  I now follow back all who follow me and share their items.  If someone I do not follow shares my item, I follow them and share their listings as well.  The more your items are shared the more they are seen, and have a chance to be purchased.  The posh parties that happen three or more times a day are also great opportunities.  Every time I share relevant items in a party it is shared and liked multiple times.  Take time to admire and comment on other shops.  It is usually much appreciated.  So get going, and make new friends!

Flat photos are not the best for selling.

5.  be willing to negotiate.

The “make offer” feature is the most annoying and useful seller tool on the site.  The offers can be ridiculously low!  However, nearly eighty percent of my sales are through an offer.  Clothes once purchased are like cars.  Their value plummets even if the tags are attached and they are not worn.  So be open minded, and counter any insulting offers with something more reasonable.  Try to keep in mind the cut that Poshmark takes and how much the buyer has to pay in shipping costs.

Don’t forget to photograph the back of items as well!

6.  follow trends.

I often try things both successfully and unsuccessfully to sell.  Even though I think it is unique or I would wear it does not mean I can sell it.  Keep track of items that have sold recently by limiting your search.  For example: last year LuLuRoe was selling like crazy, and now it has slowed considerably.  Vera Bradley used to be popular, and now I have to basically give it away.  Surprisingly kitschy items like a My Little Pony tshirt and Invader Zim blanket have sold well.  You can also take the approach of curating a closet to a specific theme like color, brand, or style to attract a certain type of customer.

Follow trends in styles and brands.

7.  Keep your active listings SEPARATE from your sold.

Another genius idea from my posher guru.  As items sell in your shop, share the ones below that have not sold. This way all your sold items are not mixed in with the items still available.  Customers can view all by scrolling your available listings without items getting lost.  Buyers can also bundle more than one item together to buy at one times.  You want to maximize these opportunities!

8.  use the free seller tools.

Going to be out of town?  No problem! You can put your shop on hold to where it can be viewed, but nothing purchased while you are away.  You also have a stats page that keeps a running tally of items sold, ratings, and shares.  Bundle discounts can be made for customers that purchase more than one item from your shop.  These features are all complementary with the site.

9.  Drop the price like it’s hot.

When you drop the price an item it is placed on sale on Poshmark.  They will  offer reduced or free shipping to the poshers who have liked the item.  I will wait until an item has multiple likes, usually over ten, to drop the price.  Doing this on Fridays and Saturdays after most people are paid can increase sales.  Reducing the price if no one likes the item can also assist in generating interest.

10.  Package your items cute and cheap!

All buyers expect a nice package that is shipped within three days.   Keep packs of  thank you cards from the Dollar Tree and Michaels to write a nice and personalized card to the buyer. For color, I will stuff my box with cute tissue paper for shipping.  I have always received good reviews for this, and it takes little money.  Some will wrap items like a gift or tie them with ribbon. That is fine as well!  You can get the boxes used for shipping for free from your local post office or order them online.  You need the Priority Boxes.  (NOT the flat rate ones that look exactly the same.)  I even schedule the postman to pick up my item the day after it sells from my porch after packaging and adhering the shipping label they e-mail.  There is no need to spend time or gas to go to the post office.

Closet Items



Do you use Poshmark?  What is is your shop’s name, and top posher tip? 

**Special thanks to @muddymermaid for all her awesome tips for Poshmark that has made mine so successful!**

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.

Hygge in the South: My Winter Candle Recommendations

I have a confession.  I love the sound of a crackling fire.  My first week in Ho Chi Minh City was so loud in my hotel room that I downloaded a recording of a crackling fire and listened to it all night!  So wooden wick candles are the best.  They make me feel like a fireplace is in my house.  However, I do not discriminate against candles.

It is a very hygge atmosphere after I clean my house for the week, and light a fancy smelling candle that sits proudly on my counter.  In The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking stresses the overzealous use of candles throughout the winter months in Denmark. They rarely light scented candles because they are considered “artificial.”  What a difference from the south!  We spend hours in Bath and Body Works or Yankee Candle finding the perfect matching pumpkin scent for our home.  I find sweet scents particularly daunting when finding the right smell.

Studies claim the link between smell and memory is the closest one.  (Check out this cool article at  Fifth Sense.)  There is also an apparent emotional link as well.  Southerners crave the past.  We want to smell maw maws fudge, or laundry on a summer line.  I think this is a driving force for scented candles even if it is subliminal.

Seasonal Scents

Although I like candles year round, I do not like the same scents year round.  The first cool night of Fall, I want am in the mood for apple cinnamon and pumpkin spice.  The first December frost, I want something that reminds me of Christmas.  I want scents that conjure cozy nights, festive drinks, and twinkling lights.

Favorites this season

’tis the season-Bath and Body Works

Scents: red apple, cinnamon, cedar wood

Why I like it:  This is the most festive candle!  It smells fantastically bright and sweet.  I even have this scent as a car freshener as well.  It reminds me most of sweet mulled wine in a crock pot.  (A fun past time we discovered a few years ago.)

Marshmallow fireside-bath and body works

Scents:  toasted vanilla and cedar wood

Why I like it:  This formula has been reworked.  The marshmallow scents in candles has not impressed me.  However, this one with the hint of wood is fantastic!  It was my favorite of their new camp line candles this year.

champagne Toast-bath and body works

Scents:  champagne, berries, tangerine

Why I like it:  Like the name notates, I love burning this candle to ring  in the new year.  When I am finished with the Christmas scents this candle fills the void.  It’s citrus note also gets me pumped for new year resolutions!

ember glow- timber wick

Scents: wood, juniper, cinnamon, patchouli, vanilla

Why I like it:  This is certainly the longest burning candle on the list.  It has that amazing wick that makes the crackling sounds.  It’s scent is the perfect balance of musk and sweet.


bonfire nights-nature’s wick

Scent: Wood

Why I like it:  This candle is a great value option from the Timber Wick. I got it on a buy one get one deal at Target for seven dollars.  It burns quicker, but the flame is very bright.  It is all woodsy and no sweet in the scent.

maple tree inn wax melt-johnson glade

Scent: maple syrup, cinnamon, and pancakes

Why I like it:  I use a wax melt in my office since I feel like my books and messy desk are a fire hazard.  I have nothing against wax melts, and they are convenient. The flames on a candle are just so nice.  This melt came from Big Lots a few years back, and went back a week later and bought three more! It smells like a mom and pop diner.  (It is what I imagine heaven smells like!)

Other favorites…

I have other candles I have loved in the past.  A friend’s uncle makes fantastic candles from home.  He is temporarily closed, but you better believe those candles will make a post as soon as he is back in business!  They have the scents pumpkin brûlée, creme brûlée, eggnog, and tobacco caramel that are dreamy. For the awesome price they burn longer than any of the candles on this list.

I also wanted to mention that I do like the wax melts, and use them frequently as well.  I use them when I had my school library to chase away the musty smell before the carpet was changed out or to brighten the students experience.

What is your favorite winter candle?  Let’s talk in the comments!

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.

Sassy Starfish’s Top 8 Money Saving Tips for 2018

Growing up, I was taught that we do not discuss our financial situation.  It is is considered rude or insensitive to give away the state of your finances.  However, the dirt always comes up when friends begin discussing the reason they have rented for ten years or the massive amount of credit card past due statements hidden under the couch.

I became money conscious when I began counting up my financial aid to attend college.  However, my lifestyle during college was not the most frugal.  I did not have credit card debt or even students loans over 23,000.  I did spend too much money going to the newly opened Target and eating out.  Good gracious Ed and I have wasted so much money going out to eat!  (Seriously, hundreds of thousands.)

Fast forward to 2009.  We were ready to get married, buy a house, and live the American dream.  (Now you know that I have changed my mind on that particular dream, but nonetheless my 25 year old mind wanted the classic package.)  I was working for peanuts in my first entry level library job, and found this book shelving one day.  Yes, it was fate.  It changed my whole prospective on the way I spent money and managed debt.  It is called The Cheapskate Next Door by Jeff Yeagar.

Jeff and his wife embark on a year long no spend adventure where they only purchase the basic necessities of life.   Their real take and prospective motivated me to look critically at daily life.  A few other jolts have moved Ed and I over the years to go back to these principals.  Here based on my experience and the book are my top eight big ways to spend less, save, and pay off debt in 2018.

1. Menu+Grocery List=Big Savings

An old friend told me once when he wanted to save cash he looked back at all his old bank statements and receipts reviewing what he spent the most money on.  I knew without having to do this that eating out was the biggest blow to my account.  I also had my 2015 health issue where sodium was the enemy.  For years now, I have systematically made a menu, and used the grocery list based on that to compete a weekly grocery haul.

By doing this I spent two dollars per person for each meal for seven days.  Even eating out once depending on the price point would blow that budget.  Now, we love to eat out, but now it is a luxury we choose to use in conjunction with a birthday or to celebrate a particular milestone.  Use your crock pot or freezer to stretch meals out further.  A meal of chili and black bean soup covered our lunches for four days last week in leftovers.  Don’t forget to check sales ads, member’s deals, or coupons when making the list.  Also, take into account items you have that may spoil within a week.  I particularly love Walmart’s Savings Catcher and Target’s Cartwheel with the apps!

(**Note of caution for coupons:  Don’t use a coupon on something you are not buying anyway or plan to use in an upcoming recipe!  They can blow your budget if used just because you have one!)

Analyze your expenses first!

2. Do you really need to pay full price?

My life changed the day I realized I could purchase books from the thrift store for 25 cents to a dollar.  I loaded up on books weekly, and then slowly moved to buying clothes there.  I then discovered a department store outlet that run drastic sales every week.  (We’re talking three dresses for the price of one on the discount price.)  Then with the rise of Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, Ross, Big Lots, and others I realized I should not pay full price for anything!

So now, if I am dying for a new pair of name brand shoes for example, I scout these places in person or online until I find them for the price I want.  The three things I ask myself before making a bigger purchase:

*Do I really need this?  

*Do I need to buy this new?

 *What is the most I am willing to pay for ___?

Those three questions have kept me grounded and have led to some good deals.  Most recently a pair of Adidas tennis shoes for me to walk my neighborhood in great condition for six bucks.  They are not brand spanking new, but after the rain we had it did not much matter after my inaugural walk in them.

Thrift haul from the past

3. Don’t be afraid of the side hustle.

I have paid tribute to the altar of many side hustles.  I  sold on eBay, Etsy, Poshmark, Facebook, and even the Pass Christian Farmer’s Market.  Referred friends to different programs for cash, and even reviewed products and took surveys for free deals.  Some have been busts, and some have been lucrative.

I used to laugh at these antique road show stories of people buying a painting at a garage sale and it turns out to be this long lost masterpiece worth millions. How  surprised it was when happened to me!  I found a stack of books from the 1960s in a local friends of the library sale for 25 cents each.  This was back when I was selling vintage books on Etsy.  Turns out one of those books was an early edition of The Phantom Tollbooth I sold for forty dollars.  Another book in the same haul was a copy of Diamonds are Forever with Sean Connery on the cover.  Turns out, it’s a limited edition and I sold it for 80 dollars!  I have since moved on to selling clothes on Poshmark.  I have made over 800 dollars there to date.

You do not have to go over the deep end like me, but it is nice to have the extra cash.  I always try to sell the older version of an electronic if I update.  So every time I get a new iPhone, I wipe the old one and sell it.  Same for DVD players, digital cameras, and even broken hair straighteners.  Never be surprised on what people will buy.  Just don’t be too proud on the asking price.

4. get cash back when you can on what you are buying anyway

The apps eBates and Ibotta are great cash back deals.  They include many shops, and offer double cash back promotions.  They work by tracking your purchases and offering you an incentive for it.  I have made over 150 dollars with eBates since 2014!  I especially like using these programs over Christmas when I am purchasing gifts online anyway to avoid the Black Friday pandemonium.   Ibotta also offers cash back and challenges where you earn money you an redeem for cash!  There are also fantastic signing bonuses for referring friends for both apps!  These two apps will get you started, but there are many more available.

5. make use of free stuff

One frugal thing I did in graduate school was march to the main city library in Edinburgh.  The main library is a  towering and beautiful building with “Let there be light” scrawled over the door.  I opened up a library card there.  I would also go to cafes mid morning and read the discarded paper instead of paying the equivalent of 1.50 USD a day.  Do not knock free stuff!  Did you know you can get new release movies from most public libraries for free with library card?  Not to mention the free books and programs.  Our local libraries have free concerts, yoga, and classes!  Now libraries have eBooks and audiobooks available through downloadable apps for free as well.

Weekly over the summer a local city plays free movies on the lawn.  Check local blogs and newspapers online to find schedules for free events.  Also, remember there are hikes and walks that you can enjoy for free on a nice day.  Get creative, and think about ways to avoid spending money on entertainment!

Having fun isn’t hard with a library card!

6. go on a spending fast

The phrase is found on a favorite financial blog called And Then We Saved.  The author and her husband were able to cut off unnecessary spending and paid off all debt rather quickly.  Much like The Cheapskates Next Door they committed to stopping the sending train.  In both cases, they went to the extreme and cut all spending out cold turkey.

However, I find it more effective to pick one aspect of life to have a spending fast.  If I still have a bunch of samples from my days of subscription box obsession I will make a decision not to spend any money of bath products until they are all used up. Visiting Starbuck daily or the Target Dollar spot may be your weakness that needs curbed.

7. amazon prime is your friend!

While it  may seem like a strange way to save money since a subscription to Amazon Prime is over 100 dollars a year now.  However, we ended up saving close to 80 dollars a month when we cut our cable and exclusively streamed content.  Through the Amazon Fire Stick I have free apps for shows with the CW and PBS.  I do use Netflix and Hulu Plus as well but they average about 16 dollars a month extra.  Still a fraction of what I paid for less than 50 cable channels a month!  Not to mention the benefit Prime members have of streaming music and free eBooks.

(Tip:  Students have the option for a price reduced Amazon Prime subscription!)

8. pull it out before it can be spent

One way to save money I found is to have it pulled out of your account and placed somewhere else before the money goes into your checking.  Many banks provide the Christmas Savings service that entails pulling a portion of a check into a savings account that is only available in December of that year.  By using retirement plans along with the Roth IRA and Roth 403b you can pull money from your check and are save until you reach retirement age.  (The tax comes out of the Roth IRA at retirement, and the Roth 403b is taxed before.)  Believe me, a hundred dollars a month can add up after awhile.

In conclusion

This post is not meant to preach to you or convert you to my methods of money saving.  I hope you can come up with your own method of saving by reading using these tips.  Get creative, if you need white noise to sleep, download  a free app on your tablet instead of buying a sound machine or drag the fan from the back of the closet you already own.  What are some ways you have saved money in 2017?  Let’s talk!

Until next time..

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Hygge in the South: Is it possible here?

Enjoying the fireplace at a shop in Tennessee Smokey Mountains

What is Hygge?

I recently discovered this concept on a Winter Board Pinterest search.  My first thought was, “How in the world have I not heard of this?”  Hygge (pronounced Hee-ga) is the Danish word that roughly means a “worship of coziness.” (According to Jack Lind in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel February 27, 1963 edition.)  Web searches will crop up hundred of pictures of fireplaces, woolen socks, hot drinks, and sweet treats.

The Danes have a track record of being some of the happiest people in the word.  Hygge is a multi-meaning and faceted concept that the Danish people live by throughout the year.  Actions both during the working day, weekends, and holidays are guided by personal hygge principals.  I, for one, love a Saturday morning with a  blanket reading a book or watching Netflix.  However, hygge is more than just these stolen moments.


Hygge in the American south

I recently finished Meik Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge.  (Considered a little hygge textbook.)  It made me wonder if hygge can be lived in the South, or if we actually have our own version.  It is something I will not be able to answer in just one post, but would like to explore this year on My Sassy Starfish.

We do celebrate many of the same joys here with company, the sweet side of life, and slowing down the pace of life.  However, we have such short and disappointing winters it is difficult to  recreate the comforting atmosphere of a Danish cabin.  Here is where I would like to compare and contrast some basic hygge concepts.

Coconut Cake made by bestie based on the book The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

Looking at the Decadent side of life

The south’s love affair with sweet treats is not a secret.  Many afternoons are spent enjoying cobblers, cakes, and cookies in the kitchen with grandmothers and aunts.  We pass down dessert recipes like they are state secrets through are families.  Nothing can beat a cup of coffee, a kitchen table, and a little old southern lady telling you her stories.

According to Wiking, Danes use cake in order to bring “casualness to meetings.”  Cakes can be found both in and out of the professional setting in Denmark.  Sounds like any big event at a  southern place of work including retirements, weddings, and baby showers.  Well any major or minor event in the south period.


Some like it Hot others like it sweet

To go along with the sweets, the Danes enjoy hot beverages with coffee being king.  It does fit with the South.  We prefer our tea cold and sweet.  No family barbeque  is complete without a pitcher tea with enough sugar to cause diabetes.   Until, I went to university in Scotland I only had one friend who enjoyed hot tea.  Since then, I have learned to enjoy hot tea as well of all varieties.  I would say it is part of my nighttime hygge routine.

I, like many Americans, will always prefer coffee.  I love the smell, and the feeling of the warm mug on my hand.  I love the little whiff of steam that rises off the top.  It is the fuel for lively conversations, and deeper thoughts.

Friends and friends that are family

The thoughts on friends, and time spent with friends is where the Danes and southerners differ.  The feeling of hygge is created with a close group of friends and the feeling of comfort. Meik Wiking mentions in his book that a circle of friends in Denmark is a difficult thing to be inducted into.  It is the opposite of the south.

The best thing about the South to me is the fact that you can become part of the family in an afternoon.  Once you go to Maw Maws birthday party or supper after church you are in.  It may seem that our friendships are not as serious, but it is not true.  We build the concept of friends as family in our lives.  We support each other and it is not abnormal to have half dozen friends in your phone you can call in an emergency.

It make gatherings even better as they are a big array of friends and family.

Winter is Here or is it?

Hygge speaking, winter is king.  It is a concept the Danes live with every day, but Winter with it’s cold temperatures is the peak season.  It is a shame because in the South we usually get about twelve days of winter period.  I talked myself out of the Southern Shirt Company Sherpa jacket this year as an unnecessary expense.  (Only to realize we would have a slushy snow day a few weeks later.)  So much of the year is so sweltering is it difficult to imagine the need for wool sweaters and socks.

I find days cool enough for me to sit on the back porch is enough for me.  Lounging in a breeze is something to enjoy just as much as a crackling fire.  I would vote October as the most hygge month in Mississippi.

Campfire Cozy

Nature Calls

Life becomes simple outside.  The stillness and quiet turns nature to the portal of hygge.  A lot of Danish interior design includes natural light and wooden elements.  I keep thinking of the deer head in daddy’s den.  Also, all the early mornings southerners escape to hunt, fish, or sit in nature.

Don’t get me started on s’mores and campfires.  Ed and I made a homemade fire pit for our tiny backyard.  Many nights are spent enjoying company and the crackling fire.  I also use the candles with wood wicks to create the feel of a fire place.

Hygge the new shabby chic?

This article is just a few of my initial thoughts as I learn more about hygge.  I am seeing more similarities in my life and hygge concepts.  It is not surprising the concept is beginning to catch! I saw gnomes, Danish designed decorations, and wooly patterned socks all over this past holiday season.   I plan to explore this more throughout the year.  Articles about candles, hot coffee, seasons, and other hygge thoughts are in the works.

So grab a blanket, light a candle, and join me!

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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

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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.

Close to White Christmas

As I scanned pictures from my grandmother, I can came across these snowy day memories.  I was excited to see the pictures by the Christmas tree with the snowy window.  It was shocking since it was in D’Iberville!  This snow happened on New Year’s Eve 1963, and was reported up to five inches!

Snowy House in D'Iberville

My Grandmother’s House in the Snow New Year’s Eve 1963

D'Iberville Snowman 1964

“For many delighted children, it was the first glimpse of that white stuff they had heard so much about in Christmas Carols.” -Daily Herald December 31, 1963

D'Iberville Snowman 1964

My Uncle Bobby having a great time in the snow!

White New Year's Eve 1963

Uncle Joe and Uncle Bobby with the most unique Christmas picture I have ever seen on the coast. (Look at the snow out of the window!)

White New Year's Eve 1963

My dad enjoying the cozy snow day!

Most of my family enjoyed Christmas yesterday in shorts and flip flops.  It has been fun for me to revisit cold weather through these family photos!