Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In defense of gift cards

Christmas is only a week away and many people still have a few gifts left on their list. Over the last few years, gift cards have gotten a bad rap for being impersonal and not thoughtful. However, let me waste a few minutes of your Tuesday to let you know why I think gift cards are the best gift.

1. I like to budget, which often means I don't have a lot left over to mindlessly shop for myself. Shopping used to be a hobby of mine and I would love to be able to do this without the guilt of wrecking my budget.

2. We have too much crap and we usually can't wait to buy what we truly need. While I know you put a lot of thought into the house plant or the pair of earrings you got me, chances are if I really wanted it, I would have already bought it. Also, odds are your gift will end up in the back of my guest room closet.

3. The things I am waiting to buy are too pricey for me right now. Your gift card will get me closer to my savings goal and get that big gift sooner.

You have seven days to figure out the perfect gift for your cousin/co-worker/in-law.  I say go for the gift card.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Books of 2012



When I started this blog, I would diligently write book reviews as I finished new books, but then something great happened. I started reading so many books so quickly, I just didn't have time to right a thoughtful review for each one.

So, here's a little update on the top 5 books I've read this year.

1. Looking for a lesson in Atlanta history? Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn walks you through the city's history through the families that would produce two mayors. The story telling is beautiful and the interviews with the family's are invaluable. Also, for a book that is told from such a personal perspective, this book is careful to be objective, especially when it comes to failed policy.

2. An uplifting story about the power of the human spirit, Louis Zamperini is a real-life Forrest Gump. From the Olympics to a WWII POW to a difficult return home, Laura Hillenbrand infuses this story with personality, humor and inspiration. By the end of the book, I was in tears!

3. If you're looking for something more light hearted, Sloane Crosley is your girl. Her observational story telling skills are unmatched and I giggled my way through the short stories in the book. My favorite story involves Alaska and bears.

4. I read Team of Rivals before I knew there would be a Lincoln movie out this year. I'll confess, the size is a bit daunting and their are too many characters to keep up with. Goodwin, however, does a good job navigating the plots and adds great flourish to what could have been a stale recounting of history. Got some downtime later this month? This is definitely your book.

5. My husband thinks I'm obsessed. I've now read 6 books at least partially about Zelda Fitzgerald's life. Did her husband's drinking drive her crazy? Did her instability drive her husband to drink? When did the marriage sour? Would F. Scott Fitzgerald ever become the legend he is without his wife/muse? Would he have been able to have a more substantial career without her? The more I read. The more I want to know. This is by far my favorite of her biographies, although they're all great.

If you would still like insight into the books I'm reading, let's be friends on Goodreads. I update this site pretty regular on what I've read since it'll give me new recommendations.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Let's talk about something else

The US media loves to focus on the sensational, the trashy, the depressing. They'll argue it isn't what they want, it's what consumers seek and they have a point. I have a certain love for celebrity gossip and bizarre news stories because they're a nice distraction from the every day.

I've been working to take personal responsibility on the media I consume. If you would like to join me, there's an easy way to do that today.

A certain trouble-making celebrity was arrested last night for being immature, stupid and violent. Whenever the news comes up today, change the subject to Malala Yousafzai. A quick Google search will give you all the information you need about this brave Pakistani girl who just wanted to go to school.

She became an outspoken leader in women's rights, even though she's only 15 years old. The Taliban decided she was such a threat to their culture that they shot her in the head as she rode the school bus home in October. As a teenage girl, she was targeted for assassination. She is recovering from her injuries in England.

There's a world out there that doesn't involve TMZ, Honey Boo Boo or the trash the media spoon feeds us. Make today about someone who works to make a difference, and you'll be making a difference, too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm thankful for 2012

It’s been a whirlwind year with a lot of highs—and a handful of lows. In fact, without this tradition, I may not sit down this year and give thanks for a year that has brought me to tears more than a few times. But, on closer inspection, I have so many things that make me thankful. Chief among them, the spirit of resilience that all of my family members have, the attitude that no matter what happens, we each will keep going.

In 2012, I couldn’t be more thankful for:
-Steve and your patience; your enthusiasm for picking on Marlie and me; your sense of adventure; that moment when your patience runs out and you finally tell me what’s on your mind; our love for travel; your generosity with my family; and your incredible sense of humor.
-My mom, my very best friend, who puts up with all of me, which is no easy task.
-My dad, who is only a phone call away to fix all of the problems in my life, from leaky showers to tearful fits.
-Taylor and every giggly phone call that reminds me of our late night conversations growing up.
-Reed and your ability to take on everything, including our family drama, in the same way you caught frogs for Taylor and me when were little, like it’s easy.
-Mallory, thanks for bringing your insight to so many of our family moments. You have a careful eye that catches the things we often miss.

My dear, dear friends. God blesses me through each of you every day with humor, love and attention. I’m so very thankful for friends that:
-Wouldn’t commit a misdemeanor, let alone a felony.
-Laugh loudly.
-Dive into pools.
-Have traditions.
-Let me cry.
-Pick me up out of the bushes.
-Make breakfast.
-Have babies.
-Get married in awesome weddings
-Appreciate my bossiness
-Read my blogs
-Make me dinner to celebrate their engagement.
-Introduce me to new people.
-Dress up for birthdays and Halloween.
-Share inside jokes.
-Sister, get up!
-Make me laugh. Hard.
-Introduce me to their fabulous in-laws.
-Tweet, GChat and Email, because we can’t see each other often enough.
-Give side-eye
-Share their struggles
-Celebrate life with girly cocktail hours
-Share our love of any of our passions.
-Love Will Hoge
-Tailgate for Opening Day
-Ask me to be in their wedding
-Take us rafting
-Quote 30 Rock and make up drinking games
-Encourage me
-Let me sleep at their house
-Commiserate about the Braves
-Have an irreverent sense of humor
-Have a disdain for raised medians
-Are very upset that I have no Georgia swag but plenty from FSU
-Aren’t judgy
-Form friendships even if we haven’t met in real life
-Are happy
-Show me how to start over and learn new things
-Say “good talk”

Thank you for the many ways you bless me and the nonsense you put up with from me: Molly, Brad, Wylly, Sharon, Nate, Rick, Chris Brown, Nikki, Steven, Brett, Liz, Theresa, Chris Connolly, Ben, Matt, Debbie, Krisi, Pete, Sarah Beth, Cam, Patrick, Tom, Ivan, Kristi, Sarah Melissa, Chase, Shawn, Kevin, Callie, Joe, Matt, Martha, Chris Bailey, Kristin, Damon, Ashlee, Meaghan, Jenna, Seth and Billy.

Thank God for Twitter; Riesling, Malbec, ciders and tequila; treadmills; DVR; Homeland, Nashville and 30 Rock; blogs like Suri’s Burn Book; Sharpies and highlighters; Susan B. Anthony; Midnight in Paris; Zelda Fitzgerald; Will Hoge, Miranda Lambert and Jason Aldean; Dry Roasted Almonds; Willy’s Mexican Grill; my phone; covers; celebrity gossip; vacations and new adventures; people that drive better than I do; library books; hurricane coverage; the Silver Comet Trail; Jackson Square; fortune tellers; my bed; gum; the days I can work from home; coupons and contests; old pictures; awkward conversations and situations that are funny later; the laughter that comes from old jokes, and being easily amused and a little bit childish; and the million other small things that get me through the day.

God bless the Braves; Baby; Freddie Freeman hugs; Craig Kimbrell; Chipper Jones, his tweets and all his retirement gifts; Kris Medlen; Andrelton Simmons; the way Chip Caray says Francisco; and fans that throw trash for garbage calls. I’m still mad about the infield fly rule.

Epiphanies where God finally shows me what he’s been working toward all along.

That I have a Savior who blesses me everyday, and loves me for who I am but loves me too much to leave me this way.

And finally, for the chance to count my blessings. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gosh, I love Twitter

If you caught the picks on College Gameday Saturday, you know who Braden Pape is. The five year-old Oregon fan was the celebrity picker after he sang the College Gameday theme song on the show last year. I can't find the whole video, but you should definitely check it out. He stood up to those analysts and had great reasoning for his picks. I just couldn't stop laughing.

As I normally do when something has me absolutely tickled, I tweeted about it. Guess who tweets me back but Braden's dad?!

Great job, sir. I know you're very proud of your son and I'm glad Twitter could bring us together.

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 Voting Information

Hi everyone!

We're 22 days away from the November 6 election. Below, you'll find voting information for by absentee, early and Election Day voting. While I'm normally advocating for candidates in this email, the election is woefully boring in Georgia this year. However, if you have questions about ballot referendums or candidates, feel free to ask.

1. Vote by Mail

Steve and I always choose to vote by mail since he's often out of town and I like to research as I vote. Fill out a request  and mail it to your county's elections office. No excuse needed! All ballots must be received by the close of business on Election Day, so don't waste any time if you would like to vote by mail.

2. Early voting kicks off today across Georgia and runs through Friday, November 2. There will also be Saturday voting on October 27! You can vote at any location in the county where you're registered. When voting in person, make sure to bring an approved form of photo ID.

3. Vote on Election Day. Sure, you can vote the old fashioned way. Polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm on Tuesday, November 6. You must be in line at 7 pm to be allowed to vote. When voting in person, make sure to bring an approved form of photo ID. Find your polling location here.

If you aren't registered to vote, you unfortunately missed the deadline to register for this election. However, get a jump on the next election by registering today.

Voting is made so simple in Georgia that you have no excuse to miss it! Thanks for doing your civic duty and voting!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

PSA: Poor Tennessee Toth

Reese Witherspoon had a baby today and, bless her heart, she named him Tennessee James Toth. Sure, the Nashville native may be a little homesick and it's a fun name for the former Southerner. For Hollywood, however, it's a little trashy.

I know young Tennessee is just getting acquainted with the world but he could quickly become a cliche. To help out, my lovely friend Molly and I made a list of things he should never do.

1. Visit his grandparents in Nashville.
2. Become a Volunteers or Titans fan.
3. Listen to country music.
4. Run for political office.
5. Use the "You're the only Ten-I-See" pick-up line.
6. Drink Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey or become friends with someone named Jack Daniels.
7. Wear a cowboy hat or own a horse.
8. Wear plaid, ever.
9. Marry a girl named Georgia or Virginia.
10. Dress like Elvis.

You're welcome, sir.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I just came across something that made me think of an utter truth: For all the care we put into our reputation, we have absolutely no control over it when we die. And that time period is significantly longer.

As I've mentioned before, I've become quite enthralled with Zelda Fitzgerald. Her big presence in her youth, and her loneliness later in life. Her independence, which was a problem in that era but now would be considered somewhat normal. The ultimate demise of what the press saw as such a happy and dominant marriage.

Zelda, like me, wasn't much for running a household.

From her Wikipedia page:

When Harper & Brothers asked her to contribute to Favorite Recipes of Famous Women she wrote: "See if there is any bacon, and if there is, ask the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs, and if so try and persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast, as it burns very easily. Also, in the case of bacon, do not turn the fire too high, or you will have to get out of the house for a week. Serve preferably on china plates, though gold or wood will do if handy".

You can imagine the shriek of laughter I just let out when I saw this.

Zelda- on an apron! HA!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Not perfect can be good enough

I bought a painting a few years ago that hangs in our bedroom and is emblazoned with the quote, "I know well from what I flee, but not what I'm in search of." That's how I feel often in life, that I'm escaping displeasure without really knowing what will make me happy.

I'm in the middle of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream by Whitney Johnson, which I came across after her interview with the Good Life Project. Whitney, who has accomplished so much in her life fearlessly, saw other women around her who didn't have the same inspired dreams she does, but were also not fulfilled. Her book is meant to inspire them to dare to dream, to recognize their dreams and have the courage to follow them. It's definitely given me some of her courage and open-mindedness.

One of the stories just touched off a spark. A contributor writes about how she encouraged her son to draw as she read him a story. As he drew, he realized that his images didn't quite stack up to the professional illustrations that accompanied his favorite books. His wasn't good enough. Instead of enjoying the experience, he threw a temper tantrum and drew big, dark lines over his work. His wasn't good enough and no one would see it.

It made me wonder how many times I cast my work aside when I'm not happy with it or, even worse, refuse to start a project if I don't think I can succeed. I'm driven by success. Without it, I'm not really interested.

Now I realize that I'm selling myself short. If I don't let myself do, even if I might fail, I'm going to miss out on the many achievements I could have and success may elude me.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Living in Midnight in Paris

Living in Midnight in Paris

Have you seen Midnight in Paris? Steve and I love Woody Allen movies, but this one is endearing for so many more reasons besides the director's quirk. It's a great story of wanting, wandering, trying to find your place. It also has such whimsy and just a hint of Dali, another personal favorite.

After watching the movie, I've been learning more about Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott and the basis of many of his characters. She also embodies the 1920s indulgence mentality and spent much of her own life on a similar search for purpose. I'm reading her biography now and a review will be forthcoming. 

For now, check out this set and certainly find the movie soon. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Proof & Provision

Is anything more lovely than being able to show out-of-town friends a good night in your city?

I was finally able to meet my good Twitter friend, Callie, last week. Our love of the Braves made it easy to strike up a conversation. We've talked for more than a year now and it's great to know that we're great friends in real life.

Nate and Sharon joined us, and Nate's great recommendations came in handy. After a great dinner at Cypress Street, we tried Proof & Provision in the basement of the Georgian Terrace Hotel. I highly recommend this bar, especially if you're entertaining out-of-town guests.

Across the street from the Fox Theater (which is always fun for visitors to see), the drinks were creative and strong. The service was friendly and quick. The atmosphere was classy, but laid back. I only wish that it was a little quieter and that I had taken pictures!

Monday, February 13, 2012

I'm Praying for You

Wednesday's my birthday and I'm giving a gift to you, the gift of prayer.

I'm praying for my friends that are lost and those that know where they're going.

I'm praying for my friends that suffer from physical pain and mental anguish, and those that are happy.

I'm saying prayers for friends who sing God's praises and those who only see a deficit of blessings.

I'm praying for my patient, funny friends.

I'm praying for my friends who reach out in need and those that answer the call.

I'm praying for my friends who relay God's Word when I need to hear it most.

I pray that I love in God's way- patient, tender and everlasting.

Most of all, I pray for my friends, like me, who forget they never go through life alone.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book 6: How Did You Get This Number

I love Twitter for its jokes, its news but, most of all, that it exposes me to so many new things. Whenever Twitter leads me to something new, I never remember how I landed there, who took my hand, what path I chose. However, it really opens my horizons and makes me wonder why I didn't know it before. Like Sloane Crosley.

"How Did You Get This Number" is a great story about growing up, or being of age finally learning. Her command of observational story telling and mastery of adjectives makes me, a former government PR flack, want to write a "power word" list.

There's something about your 20-somethings that make you feel both old and incapable. You should be so much farther along in life than you are. Sloane embraces that while making it feel like more of an adventure than the trip where you lost your map and no one spoke English. Which is what I feel like all the time.

I can't wait for my beach trip in May. This book will be great to re-read in a place where the world seems more stable, where you can breathe.

Then I apologized to the travel gods for thinking I could do this, remembering there's a reason we don't always fulfill the wishes of our younger selves once we're grown.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Value of Good Advice

You can get really good advice when you ask for it.

Around 2006, I was facing the end of another failed relationship. Something about this one didn't sit right. I suspected it wasn't him, it was that I was a spoiled brat. I decided to ask the experts (my ex-boyfriends) a burning question. "Am I difficult?"

Most of them were polite enough not to give a real answer. One, however, fired right back, "It's not that you're difficult. You're immature and unnecessarily confrontational."

A different time, I was thinking about taking a new job. I called my previous supervisor to get his advice. We talked about the job, the responsibilities, the different politics involved. "Here's something else to think about. You're very opinionated, which is great, but when someone makes a decision different from what you recommended, you can be... stubborn about it."

All of the advice was solicited and came from people I really respected. It was also advice I really needed to hear, even if I didn't completely agree. Years later, I've really worked to accept and act on the advice and it often comes to mind when I find myself lapsing into the old bratty me.

So, ask for advice. People that know you best want to help you. You just need to be ready to accept whatever they say.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Zooey and Personal Finance

We generally don't look to Hollywood for money advice. With paydays that eclipse what most of us make in a year, it's a place of excess. Fancy foreign sports cars, designer clothes, and huge jewelry would sink us pretty easily. Even still, many celebrities end up filing for bankruptcy or losing homes by giving into the hype and spending outside their generous means.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I came up when I formulated this blog post. I found your Hollywood personal finance role model: Zooey Deschanel. 

No, really. Zooey and her husband recently announced they were divorcing and, as part of their court filings, Ms. Deschanel attached her income and expense statement. Zero credit card debt, millions in investments and she only spends about a quarter of her monthly income. 

Yes, she's still spending over $20,000 a month, but she's done what so many of struggle to do: live below our means and invest in our future. And, I might add, she's still fabulous. She's certainly a financial role model to me.