Tips to Release Your Inner Girl Boss

Happy Women’s History Month!  March has been celebrated as National Women’s History Month in some form since 1982.  I loved studying women’s history in graduate school. Still, I enjoy listening to podcasts about impressive women on Stuff You Missed in History Class and History Chicks.  The oral histories of women living their day to day lives during conflict impresses me even more.  Women do amazing things, and you can too!  Becoming a Girl Boss is possible for us all!

If you have a dream or a business idea.  You can start it this month. Here are my tips for productivity and  growth!

Tips to Release Your Inner Girl Boss
There is a girl boss in us all!

Read About Other Awesome Women

Nothing gets me more motivated than hearing the stories of other women who have triumphed over their challenges to achieve their dreams.  There are so many stories from ladies in all walks of life. I was just as inspired by the story of Malala as of older women like Rosa Parks.  Currently, I am listening to the audio book Educated by Tara Westover and it helped me realize how lucky I am to have the opportunities given to me in my childhood.  There is always something new to know and appreciate. 

Some of my favorite women power reads!  

Have a Morning Routine 

For years, my mornings consisted of hitting the snooze button half a dozen times and giving myself enough time to brush my teeth and get dressed before hauling out the door.  Now, I still only give myself 30 minutes before my VIPKid classes. (Hey it is 3:30 or 4:30 in the morning!) So now I get to spend some time enjoying myself after classes because of new regulations from China on class times.  On the rare day that I do not teach with VIPKid, I found that I really enjoy getting up to read or write while drinking my coffee.

My morning routine is not the most stellar or consistent.  My main goal is to do something productive or enjoyable however the mood strikes.  For a few weeks in winter, I enjoyed walking my cold and quiet neighborhood in the mist.  Sometimes I indulge my Asian Drama addiction with a hot tea. I will even get a jump on chores like cleaning my hedgehog’s cage and laundry.  Pretty much whatever puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.   

Tips to Release Your Inner Girl Boss
Start your mornings right!

Care Less About What Others Think

This has taken me years and years to make headway on this.  I used to obsess over what people thought of me both good and bad.  But letting go of this worry has been the most liberating feeling of my adulthood.  It started back in college when I passed up president of an organization in favor of focusing on a scholars program.  This is where I began caring about what I wanted for myself versus others assumed of me. This has allowed me to have courage to move overseas (twice!) and carve out a career path in the millennial landscape.  

To get started just remember this favorite quote:

“Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.” -Rachel Hollis 

**I could probably take a whole other blog post to unpack that!**

Invest in Education 

We are so lucky to live in a time where self-development is so easily accessible.  I was able to learn Mandarin for travel with a teacher from Taiwan on my own computer.  The creation of online course subscription services like Skill Share and Master Class makes learning almost any topic within our reach.  The Gulf Coast School District even offers community classes in courses ranging from digital photography to phlebotomy.  Paying for coursework has been something even this cheapskate can rationalize! There is no way to put a price tag on my CELTA certification that is my ticket to the world.          

Write Your Goals Down Along With Smaller Steps to Attain Them 

The first step to making your dreams a reality is to write them down!  This can be in any form or media. If you are a visual person, you may find a collage of your goals more productive than a typed list.  But don’t stop there! Think of the smaller steps to obtain these dreams. Say if you want to write a book, for example. Think of an attainable goal now like reading a book on writing or drafting your first short story for practice.  Use that momentum to plan further into the future slowly stepping towards your big plans.  

Tips to Release Your Inner Girl Boss
Invest in yourself.

Have One Pinterest Worthy Outfit 

I think this one is so important for your confidence.  There are phases in my life where I wear the frumpiest and old clothes!  (I am currently in a slump right now.) However, when I have a cute, confident outfit I feel like I can conquer the world.  You can build an outfit based on one item you like or find inspiration by typing styles into Pinterest. Use Poshmark, thrift stores, and whatever you need to find some quality pieces like a reliable handbag for reasonable prices.  You can even put your outfit on your vision board too! 

Find Your Own Girl Boss

Of course your definition of what Girl Boss means to you is different than mine.  However, you can still get ahead on this by living intentionally towards your goals and self-care.  I hope whatever the methods you can find your way!  

How do you release your inner goal boss?  

Tips to Release Your Inner Girl Boss
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No Spend Self-Care Ideas

It is not a surprise some of my favorite things (thanks Julie Andrews) are pricey! This goes especially for my favorite self-care activities. They range from pedicures to world travel. I can’t help but feel invigorated walking anonymously down some foreign street where I cannot even read the shop signs. Last post, I discussed my thoughts on self-care versus self-indulgence. I think there is a balance between both, but I definitely think self-care is a necessity. Right now, with my reduced teaching schedule and my 2020 trip to the U.K. in the horizon, I certainly do not have disposable income.

Therefore, in honor of my No Spend until the end of March, here are some of my ideas for self-care that is free!

No Spend Self Care
Find the lavender oil and soak!

Create Your Own At Home Spa

Dig through your bathroom cabinets and drawers to see what luxury products you have forgotten. Maybe your mom gave you a bath bomb last Christmas, or there is a fancy candle tucked away behind your hairspray. You can even make your own spa products with this post. Some cheap items make great bath products. Epsom salt is a wonderful bath soak and witch hazel can be used as a face astringent. There are free streaming services like Pandora where you can enjoy relaxing music to your taste. Use what you have to create ambiance.

Find Your Next Favorite Book Series

We all have this one book that has captivated us. For may, it began with the Harry Potter series. However, I have been lucky enough to find several over my years of voracious reading. Think about some of you favorite series from the past. You can use websites like Goodreads or What Should I Read Next to find books similar to those. (What Should I Read Next takes all the guesswork out by generating a list based on titles provided!) No need to spend money to buy them. Check with your local library and they are not in the collection request for them to be ordered through inner-library loan. Most libraries will do this for free! If it is a classic that you crave, many of them are out of copyright and can be found online as open source.

Take Time to Try Meditate or Yoga

To begin the basics of both of these, you can go as far as YouTube. Check out free apps and beginner courses. Even some communities offer classes for free at libraries or churches. The simplest start is by practicing deep breathing from the stomach instead of the chest. Another skill that takes mastering is the slow inhalation and exhalation breathing pattern used in meditative practices. Even just the act of clearing your mind is a skill that is nice easily mastered. You can start this process on your own in a quiet room.

No Spend Self-Care
Find free resources online or at the library to begin a relaxing habit.

Unplug from Social Media

This is the most freeing ‘free’ item on the list. Cutting back on social media allows you time to pursue something else more healthy to you. Whether it is talking with your partner or working on a creative pursuit. Try to unplug a little a day while slowly adding more time off social media each day. I find after a few days, I don’t even miss it!

Start a Journal

Journaling within itself is a good calming and reflective practice. It is used by mental health professionals, creatives, memory enthusiasts, and more. The greatest aspect about journaling is that it can be used however it best benefits you. It can be a brain dump of ideas so you can sleep. It can be a place to bring more positive things in your life by thinking of the happiness already present. You can doodle, complain, and cry into the pages as needed. Do not feel tempted to purchase a fancy product, find a notebook with empty space and get started.

Think of 3 Health Challenges Then Begin a New Habit Today!

So much of our life can be improved by finding a balance with our health. However, our fast paced world with cheap unhealthy food and energy drinks makes it difficult. (Myself included in this! I sure love venti iced coffees.) My biggest mistake with trying to be ‘healthy’ was trying to change everything at once. It is overwhelming to start cutting sugar, eating salads, exercising all in the same week. Pick one of these and implement it for several weeks. When you feel confident it is a habit, then add something else.

Leave Your Living Room Dungeon and Go Outside

Find an activity that gets you out of the house. The University of Alabama Birmingham found that even just 20 minutes outside at the park can improve your mood. There are so many free things to do. Just walking my neighborhood daily brightens my day. If you are fortunate enough to live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, parking on the beach is free! There are plenty of piers and harbors to walk. I love watching the pelicans swoop down at the boats to catch a snack at the Ocean Springs Harbor. Check out State and National Parks in your area as well.

No Spend Self-Care
Take a walk outside as much as possible to improve your days.

Self-Care Daily

Use this list as a starting point to jump start a self-care habit that you can enjoy daily. Begin with just 30 minute sometime in the day and then you can add more slowly. Get creative with your time. A car rider line is a great place to enjoy an audiobook. Waking up a little earlier can give you the reflective time you need. Even taking a break at work for coffee with a friend is a good start! Just get going!

What free self-care activity do you like?

No Spend Self-Care
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Is it Self-Care or Self-Indulgence?

Back in 2015, I was in the worst health mentally and physically.  It was shocking to have such problems at the age of 30. Although I had a condition I could not help and was probably genetic, I had spent years not taking care of myself.  This means letting stress get to me, not listening to warning signs, putting a lot of garbage in my body, and other unhealthy habits. With my health wake up call, I began focusing on the things that would improve my overall health.  This was my beginning of understanding the difference between self-care versus self-indulgence.  

Is it self-care or self-indulgence?
Start self-care by getting enough sleep!

But Mandy, What Do Those Words Even Mean?

I never thought of these words before my 30s.  Everything to me was just ‘surviving’ or ‘thriving.’  The term self-care has made a resurgence lately, and I have been seeing it all over the place.  (Or that could just be the algorithm on my Pinterest account!) Self-care means to do the things that keep you an overall healthy and happy person.  While self-indulgence is the result of going overboard with things that make you feel good for the moment. In some cases, self-indulgence is the result of overdoing the self-care.  Also, some people’s version of self-care is someone else’s self-indulgence.  

Self-Care Guilt 

Most of us, especially women, spend a lot of time taking care of business with family, work, and kids.  The cycle continues until one day something stops the cycle for us. Whether it is sickness, bangs, or an existential crisis.  Rachel Hollis spoke about this topic in her book Girl Wash Your Face.  She recounted her experience with bell’s palsy and how the stress in her life triggers episodes.  So isn’t it better to evaluate and take measures to help yourself first? Also take into consideration that you cannot help the people in your family if you are not operating at your best.  

Is it self-care or self-indulgence?
Skip the sodas and try a cup of herbal tea.

Here Are Some Examples of Self-Care

Making an effort to get 8 hours of sleep a night.  

-Whether it is by going to bed early or creating a night time routine.  

Enjoying a cup of coffee while reading or having some contemplative time.  

-It is alright to sit alone with your thoughts or think about something that interests you.  

Spend the money to replace your 3 year old bras.  

-If it is something you need, fork out the cash!  

The Pitfalls of Self-Indulgence 

If I was on the show, My Strange Addiction, it would be for my love of Asian dramas.  It all started with Meteor Garden on Netflix last year.  (Thanks Teacher Lauren!)  Since then, I have binge watched close to 10 of them.  The thing with the dramas, is that there can be 40 plus episodes a season!  So I love sitting on the couch, and watching these shows ridiculous plots, subtitles, and all.  With working over a 50 hour work week, where does this become self-indulgence?  I pretty much tell myself that if I do not do anything that day, I am being a little ridiculous.  However, I feel like a champ if I watch two episodes then take a walk.  

If it is something you are spending too much time, money, or energy on then it probably is an indulgence.  When anything is taken in excess it can have a negative effect on us and even get in the way of self-care.  

Is it self-care or self-indulgence?
Be kind to yourself most of all!

Here Are Some Examples of Self-Indulgence

Constantly sleeping late.  

-Getting up a little earlier with a small routine or ritual can really get your day started right! 

Pounding down sodas and over consuming social media.

-Both are really bad for us! 

Shopping to make you feel better or put a band aid on a bad day.  

-Any other unhealthy habit can go into this like needing a drink or eating a tub of ice cream.  

Defining Self-Care for Yourself

Take a moment to contemplate your basic needs and then think of your personality type.  Are you an introvert or extrovert? Your answer will depend on whether that glass of wine at happy hour is self-care or not.  Write a list of ideas to get started with self-care or steal one from online. If you still feel in doubt or confused, do not feel scared to find a mental health professional or close friend to discuss this further. 

How do you practice self-care?  What self-indulgence do you love, but try to avoid?  

Is it Self-Care or Self-Indulgence?
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Book to Movie Adaptations Worth the Hype

I have been interested in hearing from other readers since I spoke next to my school librarian at the pre-computer card catalog.  (Yes, I know that tells my age!) There were days I would go to the public library and ask for recommendations when I first got my driver’s license.  When the internet became a thing, I read fan fiction then book blogs. I have now been part of Goodreads for over 10 years! More recently, I watch BookTubers on Youtube.  

Throughout my journey in the book lover community, there is one thing for certain.  Everyone loves the book better than the movie! I am no exception to this, but from time to time a book to movie adaptation will bring me great joy.  So here are my favorite book to movie adaptations that worked in my opinion.  

Books to Movie Adaptations Worth the Hype
It is always a nice surprise to have a good book to movie adaption.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (Of Course!)

Although a lot had to be deleted for time sake, I must say I loved all the Harry Potter retellings.  They changed from director to director, but they also matured as the characters aged. I would say that having J.K. Rowling heavily involved in the making of the movies really helped keep major plot points intact and recreated the magic we all love so much from the books.  

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

When I listened to this on audiobook, I thought it could not get any better.  (They had the insight to use three different voices for the 3 main women.) However, the cast of the movie was phenomenal.  They also took time to re-create parts of Jackson, Mississippi to look like it did in the 1960s.  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schafer 

I almost devoured this book in one sitting when I read it.  It has a unique style of being told through letters. This method captured the feelings of the people in the community during and after World War II.  The movie available on Netflix was fantastic as well. The flashback method of filming helped capture the stories evolving plot. Plus having so many Downton Abbey actors in it sealed the deal for me! 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

This was one of my best reads of 2019.  I actually read it because of the movie trailers.  It also gave me a look into a culture I already had a glance at with my current job as an ESL teacher.  I liked the book so much that I downloaded the sequels right away to my ereader.  The movie was so good, that I saw it in theaters twice and pre-ordered the DVD. Now, I cannot wait for the sequels to be filmed as well!  

The soundtrack may or may not have been my theme music for my trip to China.  

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald (Both movies!)

The Great Gatsby is my favorite book of all time.  The way Fitzgerald wrote a book defining a generation has always amazed me.  I actually like both the Robert Redford version and the Leonardo DiCaprio version.  The movie with Robert Redford was perfectly true to the book following the plot almost exactly.  However, the racy re-imagination of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie was good as well. (Not to mention those party scenes!) 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

The book and movie were both such an emotional roller coaster.  The movie did a good job of portraying the intense feelings the book brought about.  Emilia Clark and Sam Claflin did well as the main characters. I think this is the first time since A Walk To Remember that a book and the movie had me in the same amount  of tears.

Honorable Mention: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin 

I go through phases of reading a lot of chick lit like I do with YA.  Most of the time, I do not like the movie adaptations of chick lit books.  However, I did like Something Borrowed.  I am just embarrassed to admit it since the premise of the story is actually terrible.  Seriously, props to Emily Griffin, who had us buying into a story about an affair between a bride’s best friend and her groom!

Keep Reading and Watching

Although I feel a little ‘meh’ about many adaptations.  However, there are still so many great books I would love to watch on the big screen or even in the comfort of my living room.  Stay tuned for that list coming in March! 

What book to movie adaptation do you love? 

Book to Movie Adaptations Worth Hype
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Mardi Gras Parade Essentials

Now that you know my favorite Mardi Gras parades I would like to give you some tips to have a better carnival experience.  I was spoiled as a child to have a spot a block from the parade route my family would celebrate Mardi Gras.  It would be a big pot luck event with all essentials close by including the restroom! When we no longer did this, we would have to figure it out ourselves.  

I have spent years in heat, cold, and rain.  The days can be long and here are my personal recommendations for your parade day gear.

Be Prepared

Firstly, the weather in South Mississippi is as fickle as a lead star in a soap opera.  Each year can host a variety of climate conditions. (And when you think it can’t get any worse, it will!)  Some years are extremely cold while others can be hot or even rainy. One year, in the 1950s there were even snow flurries!  

Also take into consideration that you will need to get to the route early to have a spot to park and stand.  Then afterwards, the traffic leaving can be deadlocked for a good while. Think of possible scenarios and use this list to plan accordingly.  


Whether you like hot or cold drinks, alcoholic, caffeinated, sweet, bitter or whatever, you will still need a way to keep them at the temperature you want.  It is easiest to fill tumblers with what you need for the day so you can stop and go visiting as most of us do along the parade route. Also do not forget to stay safely hydrated with water as well!

Toilet Paper, Tissues, and Wipes

Plan to have to use the porta potties for the parade.  If you are lucky enough to find an establishment with a bathroom, do not count on toilet paper with the amount of foot traffic experienced on parade days.  Therefore, bring tissues to use as toilet paper or stuff a roll in your bag before leaving home.

Hand Sanitizer 

I have seen some bathrooms in devastating states after Mardi Gras.  Be prepared for a possible lack of cleanliness and soap. Also think of door handles, sticky hands from king cake, and even the throws from the ground.  So keep a small bottle handy on your person throughout the day.

Wagon or Rolling Cart

This is essential if you are planning to park your car away and walk.  Or if you are energetic and want to catch the parade in two spots. Use the cart to haul your kids or your loot from the day.  

Sunscreen and Sunglasses

Even on years that it is overcast.  Being outside all day can cause some wicked face and back of neck sunburns.  Be sure to use sunscreen and reapply during the day. I have so many friends that come back to work the day after Mardi Gras looking like a lobster.  Sunglasses can also help you avoid being hit with beads while staring at the sun’s glare.  

 Head Gear 

Cute little head pieces have been all the rage over the recent years.  Originally, all people riding in the parades had to wear masks. Now everyone wears cute headbands.  You may not want to be left out. Otherwise, you can done on a hat to protect your head from the sun or rain or whatever the weather decides to do.  

Comfortable Shoes

Even if you have a place close by to park, you can still be in for a lot of walking if you want to see others that day or grab something from a shop where the roads are blocked.  You will certainly be standing for the length of the parade. It is important to have some comfortable shoes or you every step leaving the fun could be painful.  

Hot Hands (If it is Cold)

These are a great way to keep a little warm on cold days.  Some of the night parades especially tend to get cold. Keep your feet toasty by putting them in your shoes too!  


Some places close for Mardi Gras, and others raise their prices.  If you are not set up with a group or pot luck, I would pack a few easy snacks to have that day.  Expect crowds at restaurants and possible long waits for food. You do not want to be in a long restaurant line with only mushed moon pies to eat!

Cash and ID

Cash is king on Mardi Gras Day.  You can find groups selling snacks and goods around the route.  Also it is easier to pay cash quickly in some places while others will only take cash that day. Once, the ATM in downtown Ocean Springs was actually out of cash the night of their parade.  So stock up before hand and keep your ID on you if you plan to go anywhere that serves alcohol.  

Let the Good Times Roll!

Or in Mardi Gras speak, just go with it.  Think ahead and check the weather. Call ahead to places you may want to eat.  Ask friends for advice. However, that may not account for all scenarios that may occur.  But no matter what happens you are still in for a good time, or at least a fun story.  

What are your Mardi Gras parade essentials?  

Mardi Gras Parade Essentials
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3 Mardi Gras Parades Not to Miss on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

If you are looking for parades during Marie Gras season on the Gulf Coast you are in luck!  There are plenty of parades beginning from January to Mardi Gras Day. There are even more options if you are willing to travel to Mobile or Louisiana.  You can count on night parades and day parades to suit your own needs. Since there are so many options, I here is a list of my top 3 and why I like them.  

Why I Love Gulf Coast Parades 

I grew up attending these parades.  They are way less crowded than the New Orleans parades.  As I mentioned in my Mardi Gras nostalgia post last year, some of these parades were opportunities for family reunions.  My high school marching band would spend the weekends leading up to Mardi Gras performing in these parades.  They were long but fun times bringing energy to the crowds.  

Unlike our neighbors in Mobile and New Orleans, our parades are a little less crowded.  They are also certainly more family friendly with stricter drinking laws. You can expect to see several parades within a weekend leading up to Mardi Gras. 

Based on my memories and experiences here are some of my favorite projects.  

Ocean Springs Night Parade

I began attending the Ocean Springs Night Parades after Katrina in 2006.  Back then, the Gulf Coast was still recovering so the parade turned and went through the route twice!  Back then people even decorated their boats, put them in trailers, and ran them through the parade as well.  Because of these nostalgic memories, I still love going to the parade. The section of route on Government Street has become tremendously crowded.  I recommend watching the parade on Porter Avenue instead.  

The parade always runs the Friday before Fat Tuesday.  More information on this parade can be found here.  

Biloxi Day Parade 

This is the peak of Mardi Gras.  The downtown Biloxi Parade on Mardi Gras Day is the big event.  It is where the Gulf Coast Carnival Associations royalty ride. It culminates with a toast by Queen Ixolib and King D’Iberville in front of City Hall on Lameuse Street.  It usually rides around noon, but I do recommend going in early because I10 and Highway 90 can become very backed up.  

If you want the party to continue, Gulfport’s night parade begins in the evening of Mardi Gras Day.  

D’Iberville/North Bay Mardi Gras Parade

North Bay Parade always rolls the Sunday before Mardi Gras.  It is a long parade as well as a long parade route. That means there are plenty of bead catching opportunities.  There are also plenty of parking spots, but take care to heed signs in order to not park on private property. There are more businesses to visit while waiting for the parade on the D’Iberville side.  

You can enjoy some delicious Vietnamese food before the parade too!

Other Parades Along the Coast

If you cannot make these parades, don’t worry!  There are plenty in each coastal county and a few further north like I mentioned above.  To see a complete list of parades and routes check out Gulf Coast Weekend to see a schedule with the route maps.  

Mississippi Gulf Coast Parades
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What Mardi Gras Parade is your favorite?  

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Coffee Butter … That’s a Thing?

It is no secret that I love coffee!  Going further than my multiple cups a day, I also love coffee flavored things.  I have a stash of coffee hard candies in my drawer at the library. Also, tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts!  Little did I know that there was something else coffee I have been missing out on. When I was visiting the Florence Gardens Farmers Market in November, I discovered Cafe Rubia.  Alessandra is a Brazilian woman selling her family recipe for coffee butter.  After tasting some, I quickly purchased a jar and am now a coffee butter convert.  

Coffee Butter
I always like starting with coffee!

What is it? 

Coffee butter is a spreadable, lightly whipped treat.  Like the name states, it is made of ground coffee beans.  I must say that the spread is different than the trend of bulletproof coffee.  Bulletproof coffee is when actual butter is added to liquid coffee before you drink it.  Coffee butter is a ground spread without actual butter as an ingredient. Coffee does contain caffeine!  

Uses of Coffee Butter

There are several uses of coffee butter in daily life and cooking.  Here are some uses: 

  • Make a Homemade Latte– I would heat a small cup of milk and stir in the coffee butter.  It is creamy and delicious.  
  • Ice Cream Topper–  Jazz up a bowl of ice cream with some coffee butter spread on top. 
  • Coffee Flavored Desserts-Use coffee butter as a base or add into desserts.  Think of how delicious dark coffee flavored brownies could be! 
  • Iced Coffee–  Use coffee butter as a creamy alternative to iced coffee base.
  • Smoothie Add In– Put some coffee butter in your smoothie to add some much needed energy to it.
  • As a Unique Smear or Spread-I love eating bread with different spreads.  Coffee butter is good on toast or bagels.  

Make Your Own!

I have found several options for making your own on Pinterest and web searches.  I like the directions and simple ingredients at Epicurious here.  (This recipe does actually call for actual butter.)  You will need a mixer to make it smooth and spreadable.  

Coffee Butter
Coffee butter goes great with warm milk to make drinks!

Buy Your Own!

If you do not have time to make your own and live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  I would recommend catching Cafe Rubia at the Ocean Springs Farmer’s Market or visit one of the locations selling her product around the city.  Here are some options you can find on Amazon below! (Disclosure: Please read the reviews because I have not tried them yet because of my No Spend.)  

**Make sure to check the labels if you have any allergies or contact the seller.

Find Your Coffee Buzz

Whether you make your own or buy a jar, you will find some enjoyment in the coffee taste.  I have enjoyed using it in making my own cozy warm lattes and as a spread on digestive cookies.  In the future, I hope to cook with it and make some creative coffee, desert creations.  

Coffee Butter
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How would you use coffee butter?

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A Valentine to My Favorite Blogs

There are so many great blogs out there!  It is overwhelming the choices out on the World Wide Web.  I have been an avid reader of blogs since my LiveJournal Days back in 2004.  Now, I love seeing some of them grow and evolve. It is also amazing seeing my friends grow as writers in their own blog.  So here is my list of favorite blogs!

The Occasional Genealogist 

Why I love it…

I really appreciate her intentional and organized approach to genealogical research.  She uses her process to be efficient with her time. Jennifer has her own courses and printables as well to help you get started.  She keeps her website clear and up to date. So many of the genealogy blogs I used to follow have become out of date and garbled. 

Lisa Markle Sparkles 

Why I love it…

Lisa has been a great friend for awhile now!  She has her own TpT and Etsy shop based on clipart and teaching littles.  I love peeking into Lisa’s creative world. She offers how tos and creative tips to get you started on your own creative business.  

Teacher New Island 

Why I love it…

My friend Lauren began a big Facebook group called VIPKid Newbie Island.  Now she has a website for resources for VIPKid teachers.  Lauren also goes over vocal health and hosting teacher meet ups.  Keep a lookout for more helpful content.  

Elisabeth and Butter

Why I love it…

I first heard about this website when she was interviewed on Say It Southern.  Elisabeth began baking in her parents kitchen and made her first wedding cake in high school!  She began a desert centered Instagram in college, and now has her own business based on baking.  I love her aesthetic and recipes.  

Plain Chicken 

Why I love it…

Plain Chicken’s recipe for white beans has been a go to recipe for me for years.  All of the recipes are simple and concise. She is another Southern food writer, and I love her take on southern stapes.  Seriously, the Mississippi Sin recipe will change your life and party. 


Why I love it…

They had me at their tag line “Backpacking in Heels.”  I stumbled upon this site when I was researching packing methods.  It has developed into a beautiful space dedicated to female travelers.  Their Facebook community is great too!

Her Packing List 

Why I love it…

The title is self explanatory, but it takes travel prep a step forward.  There are sections for specific product reviewed. My favorite posts are where real travelers show off their packing list in practice for specific trips in certain seasons. 

Tabsy Wabsy 

Why I love it…

Tabitha’s blog is a quick read that shares a lot of things I love.  She mostly does book reviews about her current reads. Lately, she has been posting daily recipes!  

Double Stacked Bookshelves 

Why I love it…

My friend Melissa and I both had blogs when we lived in Edinburgh studying at the university.  She has continued on to morph her page into “Double-Stacked Bookshelves.” (While my Edinburgh blog lays long abandoned.)  I always have fun reading her April A-Z series.  

What are your favorite blogs? 

My Favorite Blogs
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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.

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day in the past was celebrated with the same mythical reverence as All Hallows’ Eve.  There were homemade parties, costumes, and fortune telling games across communities. Today there is so much plastic and commercialism that I want to create an homage to some of these old traditions.  

My first memories of Valentine’s Day was decorating my own shoebox for Valentine’s.  I am from the generation of pre-printed 2D Valentine’s cards. (Bonus points if you can staple a piece of candy to your Valentine!). We would eat cupcakes and cookies.  Fortunately, we are from a time where homemade treats were still allowed to be brought to the classroom.  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

A Little Valentine’s Day History

Of course, the basic concept of Valentine’s Day began in Roman times with the fertility and festival of spring Lupercalia.  Later it was changed to honor a few Christian martyrs named Valentine, of course. By the late 1600s, people were recording sending personalized homemade Valentine’s loved ones.  The Victorians were all over the holiday. The first commercial commercially produced cards came about in 1846.  

Although I am all about not spending money for Valentine’s Day, I enjoyed reading about the DIY Valentine’s parties of the past.  I particularly enjoyed reading about the parties before World War I when things became simpler for war time.  I found some fun descriptions of parties in Genealogy Bank newspaper database.  

Party Menu 

Refreshments at these get together always entailed heart shaped things.  Heart shaped sandwiches, cookies, and cakes. Some even mentioned custard molds as well in the shape of hearts.  Most featured a frosted cake as the centerpiece of the spread. There was a party game where charms were baked in the cake as a fortunes for the guests.  You can a cookbook of recipes from 1910 here.  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Set the Scene and Decorate 

The newspaper articles described the decorations in detail.  Rooms covered in thousands of red paper hearts and ribbons were popular.  Another element was using tropical plants in the decorations. Some mentioned red cardboard hearts with a background of green foliage circa 1913.  Red carnations were also popular flowers to use in early party schemes. They also recommend subduing lights with tissue paper or sheets to ‘set a mood.’ 

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Games and Entertainment 

I feel like party games have gone to the wayside.  Although, I would not take back fun nights playing Apples to Apples or the Game of Things for anything.  It is nostalgic to think of day where we had to find our own entertainment before television or smart phones.  Here is a list of cute games: 

-Blow bubbles through a hanging. heart ring.  

-Hide small hearts around the room to find like Easter eggs in order to win a prize.  (Prize for the most or finding a prize gold heart.) 

-Make heart puzzles to put together at a kid’s table. 

-Have a Cupid spinner that tells fortunes.  

-Have guests draw paper fortunes from a Valentine’s box.  

-Create a target with hearts and shoot heart darts or arrows at the target.  Make the heart with cardboard and colorful paper. 

There is even a cute song to go with the heart target game:

“If your arrow hits the white.  Watch! Your lover comes tonight.

If your arrow hits the blue.  The one you love will prove true.  

Wealth and pleasure and yellow gold.  But no true love does this heart hold.  

If the arrow hits the red.  You, I fear, will never wed.

If your arrow hits the black.  Something good your love doth lack.”

From:  “Valentine Day Parties” Colorado Springs Gazette.  February 12, 1905, pg. 28.

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Gifts From the Heart 

Gifts have not changed from the beginning.  Cards, flowers, and candy were still the predominant gifts given in the past.  Each party recommended having prizes and favors for your guests to bring home. Think of something cute and creative like tissue paper flowers or homemade candy to go with decor.  

What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day memory?  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
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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.

No Spend Valentines Ideas

As I continue on my No Spend months this year, I am faced with a dilemma of how to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Technically, my rules allow to buy gives and celebrated holidays. However, I prefer not to get too crazy with spending on such a commercial holiday.  Plus the crowds are something else that evening. Ed and I have not gone out for Valentine’s in years. We have found enjoyment in simplicity and enjoying each other’s company.

So I thought of some no spend and low spend ideas for others to have a nice holiday.  

No Spend Valentines Ideas
Enjoy dinner and dessert at home this Valentine’s Day.

Cook a Romantic Dinner at Home

When choosing to cook at home, you are not limited to places that take reservations that night.  All manner of cuisine is available when you choose to enjoy a dinner at home. Edward has created many unique dishes for the holidays not just Valentines.  My favorite was one Valentine’s when he made mussels and fries in honor of our past trip to France.  

Take some time to plan ahead before cooking at home. (Although it is alright if you want to just have a Valentine’s Day Taco Tuesday!) If you want to make a fantastic meal, check out sales at Sams and other stores.  That way you may score something special like lobster for a reasonable price. Light some candles, bust out the China, and enjoy the meal. 

Grab Some Blankets and Stargaze 

A few years ago, there was a meteor shower with some visibility. So a group of us hopped in the truck and drove up to De Soto National Forest to watch the meteors.  It was a fun show. You can find your own way to enjoy the stars. Whether it is filling a truck bed with an air mattress and comforter in order to look up at the stars.  Another option is to make a fire on a beach. Do not forget to pack warm clothes and hot drinks.

No Spend Valentines Ideas
Stargaze under the nights sky this Valentines.

Create a Home Theater 

No need to look at a small television for the night.  Borrow or rent a projector and you will be in business.  There is also no reason to spend money for a screen. Find a blank wall or hang a light patternless sheet to make the screen.  (Tip: Some libraries are doing physical check outs now like sewing machines and cake pans. Check with your local library for a program like that!)  Make you favorite flavor of popcorn balls and buy some sodas in glass bottles. You will feel the cinematic charm in no time!

Take a Hike 

I recommend a winter hike since it is still too cold to paddle in most places.  Find a place that is unique or special. You can even make it a fun photo scavenger hunt to have some fun mementos at the end of the hike.  Challenge yourselves to find somewhere new to hike or look for hidden treasures around your community. Maybe there is a secret art instillation or a hidden waterfall.  

Finish a Project for a Surprise Gift

If you really need to give your significant other a special gift think of any projects you may have started.  (Currently, I have started crocheted baby Yoda with only a few inches completed.) Think of things hidden in your closet or drawers.  Can something be refashioned into a fun gift. Maybe you owe them a flower bed or a fixed gate. If not, take stock of the things you have that could be used to make a gift.  Maybe you have enough scrapbooking paper to create a thoughtful memory book or collage of funny moments.     

Hint:  You can type the materials you have into Pinterest and see if there are projects posted using them!  

No Spend Valentine’s Ideas
Raid your craft drawers and make a gift.

Write a Sweet Letter, Story, or Poem

Another way to give something that is personal and meaningful.  There are tons of writing prompts online that you can use to get started.  This is another way to use all that pretty stationary or paper stockpiled from years of crafty projects.  (Or is that just me?) You do not have to be Shakespeare or Keats to write something meaningful. Think of how that person makes you feel.  Your favorite memory or even your “how we met” story to get started.  

Create a Meaningful Playlist and Yummy Dessert 

Back in high school, I would get a friend to download mixed CDs for me.  Sometimes, I would get them to burn one for my boy of the hour as a gift.  Now it is much easier to create playlists on iTunes or Amazon Music. So take some time and make a queue of meaningful music to enjoy on a Valentine’s dessert date.  It is much cheaper to bake or make a special sweet treat. With the price of chocolate dipped strawberries, it is another great way to save money.  

Find a Free Event to Attend 

If you are having a Galentines (girl’s night) or feeling social for Valentine’s look on events near you.  Facebook has a way to search events near you. The newspaper also lists community events as well. There could be free concerts, dances, and movies that night.  

What are your ideas for a low spend Valentine’s Day?  

No Spend Valentines Ideas
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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.