LIFE UPDATE: BELMONT

What seems like a whirlwind of the last few months, my husband and I adopted a two-and-a-half month old kitten from the Asheville Humane Society! He is feisty, cuddly, and spunky all wrapped up in a little body.

You might be wondering how we came up with the name, Belmont. Different, amiright? It does have a roundabout story to it, believe me!

After we visited Churchill Downs during our anniversary trip to Louisville in August, I fell in love with the horse racing world. Although there were no fans allowed at any of the races this year, Chandler and I were able to see horses practice in groups at Churchill one morning. I grew up riding some and have always thought horses were beautiful creatures. In light of my recent new found “love,” I named our kitten after Belmont. The Belmont Stakes is the three-year-old run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

As the longest race in the series, the Belmont Stakes is the third and final race of the Triple Crown circuit. First is the Kentucky Derby and secondly is the Preakness Stakes.

In the last two months, having a kitten has been such a joy. However, it is a lot of work. Below, I have listed a few tips and tricks that worked for us personally to integrate a new pet into our home.

*We also have no kids (yet) and no other pets in the home, so I can’t talk on experience with integrating new animals with current ones.

KITTEN TIPS & TRICKS

CAT PROOF YOUR HOME

Y’all. I didn’t truly understand the importance of this until after I got Belmont home. Like most toddlers, kittens look to get into everything they’re not supposed to. Do yourself a favor and remove anything off the floor that you don’t want them getting in to. Trust me when I say that they will find anything and everything you don’t want them to, including stale chips under the couch and random hair ties. Cats are fairly curious creatures – cue the nine lives. Cats like to also be up high, so make sure that countertops are clear of objects that can be knocked off or any valuables. Belmont has been known to knock off my wedding ring from the bathroom vanity and use it as a toy while I was showering, unbeknownst to me. We do our best to keep him off of our counters, but be prepared for them to do it anyways when you aren’t home or watching them.

PROVIDE STIMULATING CAT TOYS

Before we brought Belmont home, I felt like I was prepared in the toy aspect. I had a scratching post, balls with bells, stringed toys and a cat tree, which also had scratching posts as the legs and a hideout. My dad also bought us a laser, which seems to be his favorite at the moment.

PLAY WITH THEM

This sounds like a pretty obvious one, right? It can often be overshadowed by lack of time and/or energy. However, you were the one that voluntarily chose to get an animal. Especially as a kitten, I expect for him to be full of energy, although all animals are different. I know that he will grow out of it eventually, but he is such a spitfire and I love it. If your kitten, or puppy for that matter, is into everything they you don’t want them to be, redirect their attention. Play with toys that are for them and show them // that are //. Use treats as reinforcement and praise positive behavior. Our current dilemma is teaching Belmont that the Christmas tree is not for his recreational play time…

Depending on if you have other animals or not, I know that they can hep with entertaining new pets. Like I said previously, we don’t have any other animals in the home to do so, so Chandler and I will do for now.

We have absolutely loved our time with Belmont. Like with anything new, it takes time to adjust to life with a new pet. Be patient with yourself and your animal. He has been the sweetest addition to our home and I have never known a little kitten with such a big personality. He likes to bat your legs as you go down the hall and lay curled up on my chest as we wind down for the night watching tv. We found a good one in our Belmont Bryson. Luckily for him, he also got his dad’s middle name. We do live in the south after all and names prevail for generations.

What are your favorite memory of time with a new pet?

EVERYTHING IS CANCELED

Love is not canceled.

Sunshine is not canceled.

Relationships are not canceled.

Reading is not canceled.

Naps are not canceled.

Hope is not canceled.

Coffee is not canceled and thank the Lord for that.

Kindness is not canceled.

Imagination is not canceled.

Going for a walk is not canceled.

Laughter is not canceled.

Family is not canceled.

Above all else, salvation is not canceled.

A lot of things in 2020 have been canceled and we all can feel the weight of life, especially this year. Remember that joy and hope can’t be taken away, no matter the circumstance. Life is too short to worry about things out of our control. Do your best and give every day all you have. Be kind to yourself and your neighbor.

Let’s not aim to be perfect in 2021, but to be available. Be intentional. Really aim to actively hear what those around you are saying rather than being a passive listener. This world can be a dark place, but be the light.

Life will only get better, I promise.

Happy Thanksgiving week, folks!

TOP SECRET SANTA GIFTS

For those of you who have participated in Secret Santa, White Elephant or Dirty Santa in the past, you know how fun they can be! For those of you who haven’t, below is a little explanation of both games. They are a fun, alternative way to do a gift exchange with family and/or coworkers. My family has done both in years past and loved every minute of it.

Dirty Santa

Dirty Santa is a family-friendly gift exchange game that has been a staple of holiday traditions for many years. The phrase was coined in the Southern states and is called “dirty” because the game involves “stealing” more desirable gifts while scheming to avoid the gag gifts that nobody wants. Rules vary depending on who you are playing with, but the general gist is the same. Each person begins with drawing a number. From there, the person with number one starts by opening a gift. The second person can either steal that gift or open one from the pile. My family has always allowed the #1 player to be the last one the to swap and/or steal after the last person has gone.

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a game often used for office staffs or as a game for bigger families. Depending on your budget, I have listed gift ideas below that around $20! Good luck shopping and remember to have fun with it. Be intentional with your gifts, but remember not to break the bank.

☆ Wine Tumbler

For those wine connoisseurs in your life, a tumbler paired with a bottle of wine will a sight after gift. Personally, I would go down fighting for this gift if this was in the running for Dirty Santa. You can’t go wrong with a red or white wine, or you could go more bold with a rose. You could also fill the tumbler with some chocolates and you’ve just put out the best gift in the game. Preppy Pineapple Shop has customizable tumblers that are durable and also come with a straw.

☆ Blue Light Glasses

Know anybody that is consistanly on their computer or phone for business? Our constant connection to our smartphones, tablets, and laptops may contribute to headaches, sore eyes, and stiff necks — all symptoms of digital eyestrain. With the majority of our waking hours spent in front of a screen, paired with harmful blue-violet light from devices, it’s no surprise that our eyes are working harder than ever. Blue light glasses are helpful in that they help with protecting your eyes against those harmful lasting effects. Glasses have also made a comeback in the fashion world, so here is your answer. Urban Vogue Shop offers an oversized clear pair of blue light glasses that are unisex in my book.

☆ Fleece Blanket

Now is the time of year to cuddle up with a fleece blanket and a book by the fire. Fleece blankets are an inexpensive, yet practical gift for those homebodies in your life. Target, Kohl’s, and Walmart all have a great selection of fleece that are inexpensive, yet durable. Depending on the price of the blanket, you could also throw in a $5 or $10 gift card of choice to pair with the fleece.

☆ Soap/Body Care Package

Who doesn’t need body care products? Nourish is a soap company based out of Savannah, GA, but has a location in Greenville, SC and Hilton Head, SC that offers a wide array of soaps and handmade cosmetic products. Lush is another body care company that offers bath bombs, shampoo, and body gels that are amazing. Like I said before, check out other shops in your area or check online to see what else you can find.

☆ Whistling Tea Kettle

A tea kettle is great idea in that it suitable for many different uses. You can make tea, coffee, hot chocolate or boil water for your soup with a tea kettle. They have stood the test of time and can also be left out on your stovetop as a decoration. Think about throwing in a set of tea bags or hot chocolate to make it a complete set. World Market makes nicely made, but more budget friendly tea kettles.

☆ Coffee Mug & Grounds

Who doesn’t love coffee and mugs? I have a slight obsession to both – just ask my husband. My kitchen cabinet is spilling over with a lifetime supply of both. Most of us adults rely heavily on coffee to get through the day and would greatly appreciate this gift. Stop by any local coffee shop and check out their selection of coffee for sale. In terms of coffee mugs, Apparent Project sells my favorite mugs of all time. I found AP in Port-au-Prince, Haiti when I visited a few summers ago and stocked up on Christmas gifts for the entire family.

☆ Airpods Case

If you’re doing a more of Secret Santa type game and know who you’re buying for has a set of Airpods, a carrying case would be a great gift. As someone who just splurged on a pair for myself, I have been eyeing a few cases, but haven’t bought the bullet. This is definitely the cheaper alternative and would be greatly appreciated by all Airpod wearers. Check out April and Kiwi and Topgogo who both offer real cool, diverse options.

☆ Keychain

Since we have keys to just about everything of importance in our lives nowadays, a nicer keychain would be a great option for either game. This gift is very practical and could last many, many years. LoomChoi has over twenty different colored macrame keychains available and Unus Leather highlights more of the rustic, leather look.

☆ Candles & Lotion

We all know how delightful a good smelling house can be. Head to Bath & Body Works or find a local artist to pick out a few of the holiday scents. Now is the time that they are in full swing with Christmas scents, so there are hundreds of options to choose from in terms of login and candles. If you’re feeling really bold, you could make your own candle as well. If not, Sweet Water Decor and Zen Body Creations both have some of the best smelling candles and are some of the coolest I’ve seen. This gift will always be a big hit among family or coworkers.


Be mindful in your shopping this Christmas season, folks. We all know how hard 2020 has been mentally, financially and physically on everybody. As shopping for the holiday only gets ramped up, be cognizant of the many talented artists and creators around you. There are so many deserving “small” shops who often get overshadowed by the Fortune 500 companies, but deserve so much credit. As you do your shopping this year, check out Etsy, Facebook Marketplace or other small businesses in your area first. They pour hours of their time and talent into one-of-a-kind products. That is a win-win situation for me, folks.

Be the change you wish to see.

BEST FALL INSPIRED COFFEE

Let me preface this blog with saying that I didn’t drink coffee at the beginning of 2020. When I moved to Asheville in January for my husband’s job, a coworker of mine worked her magic and changed my life in the best way, or so I like to think. Now, I am obsessed with coffee. I have lots of ground to make up in terms of knowing all of the “ins and outs” of coffee, but here we are. This time of year is when the hundreds of seasonal drinks grace our stores across the nation. I walked into Starbucks at their holiday “premiere” two weeks ago and it was heavenly, to say the least. Christmas music was blasting, employees were decked out in festive gear from head to toe, garland was strung from the countertop and I got a free Christmas travel coffee cup with my purchase. His mercies are new every morning! 😂

I know better than anybody that coffee adds up quickly. We are in the day and age where it feels like 90% of millennials have mobile apps that you can order food ahead of time. You can reload “funds” in the blink of an eye and not think twice about it. In turn, DoorDash and UberEats exist because of this generation. Alas, I regress.

If you’re trying to save a little money, however, you can start by making your own coffee at home that taste [almost] the same but are much easier on your wallet.

If you are treating yourself to a coffee out, check out my personal favorites!

Dunkin’ Donuts

Like I said earlier, I never touched coffee until about February. My dad has always been a frequent flyer of Dunkin’ since I can remember, because #truenother. With that being said, Dunkin’ is now my go-to “pick-me-up” coffee of choice. Their Pumpkin Iced Macchiato and Gingerbread Iced Lattes are heavenly.

Farewell (AVL, NC)

Farewell is a local coffee shop here in Asheville. When I stumbled on this shop last winter, I instantly fell in love. Their new french toast flavoring doesn’t seem like a “traditional” seasonal flavor, but // to me.

Krispy Kreme

For those of you who have been blessed enough to see a Krispy Kreme “Hot Now” sign at some point in your life, you know how delightful their donuts are. The pumpkin cake donut and the maple glazed donut are both so good. I’ll admit that Krispy Kreme isn’t necessarily my top coffee choice, but they still have some decent iced and hot options available to go with those “melt in your mouth” fat pills. Their caramel mocha latté is //.

Starbucks

For you basic white girls out there, Pumpkin Spice Lattes (PSL) and Peppermint Mochas are always a highly sought out drink at Starbucks this time of year. Nine times out of ten, I request my Peppermint Mocha or PSLs iced. There is something about an iced coffee that hits differently. However, a hot Creme Brûlée Latte on a rainy day is a nice change of pace.

Starbucks also has a long line of other drinks that are worthy of trying this holiday season.

If you are looking to spice up your coffee scene at home, International Delights has a handful of creamers, like Frosted Sugar Cookie, Caramel Waffle Cookie, and Pumpkin Pie Spice that are like Christmas in a cup. Keurig also has a handful of options that are easy to plug in your coffee maker for a grab-and-go kind of morning.

What is your favorite fall time coffee? I’d love to hear about your cup-o-joe “go-to’s” (store bought or homemade).

DIY CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

Christmas is right around the corner, folks! We are only forty days out from today. How crazy is that?! We all know how quickly that time will go. Currently, I have a Christmas playlist blasting through the house and plan to coerce my husband into watching The Santa Claus with me tonight.

We all know 2020 has been a hell of a year. It’s been tough, uncomfortable and not at all what we expected. The economy is in a recession, unemployment numbers skyrocketed overnight and businesses are having to shut down because of the circumstances. Are you on a budget but looking to add more decorations to your tree or in your home? I’ve got you covered! Below are some DIY decorations that are fun, family friendly and budget considerate.

Gingerbread Ornaments

I made these with my mom growing up and loved them! These gingerbread ornaments last years and smell heavenly. These also make great gifts for teachers, neighbors or your Sunday school teacher. This is the recipe that I follow, but feel free to find one that you like. I also added a dab of glue to help keep its shape. Don’t forget to poke a hole in the top to string it with some cute holiday ribbon!

Orange Garland

This garland makes for a beautiful decoration to hang from your hearth or above your bed. I prefer this over store made garland, anyhow. To get the optimal finish on your garland, follow The Ginger Home’s recipe or find one of your liking. This also makes for the best aroma when the oranges are done baking.

Pinecone Name Plates

These pinecone name plates make the cutest decor for a Christmas get-together for family or friends. Find a handful of pinecones outdoors or buy them from the store and spray paint them with a gold or silver spray paint. Cut down a piece of card stock or find your favorite piece of Christmas scrapbook paper and get started writing those names!

Pallet Christmas Trees

If you are into the “bigger scale” project, then this is your scene! My in-laws made my husband and I a set last year and stained them a dark chestnut color. String lights and hang ornaments on your Christmas Pallet tree and voilà! You can also paint them green to immolate more of a “real” tree if that’s the look you’re going for. Making smaller trees is also a great option for keeping them inside as well.

Wooden Sign Decor

With wooden signs, you have endless opportunities! If you have a Cricut or are artistically blessed, in which I am not, then there are so many options in terms of signs you can make. I also have Chalk Couture, which is a chalk-based transfer system that is fool proof. Chalk Couture came out with so many new Christmas designs this year, which has been really exciting to test out. Plan a trip to your local Michaels or Hobby Lobby to check out their wooden section. They have so many different options to choose from. Look at Pinterest for some inspiration if need be!

Stove-Top Potpourri

This isn’t necessarily a “decoration,” but stove-top potpourri is amazing to have simmering at home doing chores or relaxing on the couch curled up with that book you have been wanting to read. I have experimented with lots of varieties that all smell like you set foot onto a tree farm. You can also put ingredients into a mason jars that make for great gifts. This website has some great options you //.

QOTD: What is some of your favorite Christmas decorations, either store bought or handmade?

CHARLESTON HOPE

As we head into the Christmas season, there are so many opportunities to pay it forward. We all know 2020 has been hard enough without adding the added stresses of adding Christmas shopping to our list.

Charleston Hope is a non-profit based out of Charleston, South Carolina that works to enhance school culture and climate in high poverty, Title 1 schools by building on the strengths of both the students and teachers.

This non-profit is also near to my husband’s heart. He spent many hours behind the scenes packing gifts into the U-Haul to distribute to the elementary schools every Christmas and master grilling during summer events. He met Emily (Executive Director & Founder) early on in her journey with Charleston Hope and was involved as a board member for some time.

Charleston Hope also has two distinct programs that they implement throughout the year for children in their schools: Mitchell Elementary and Sanders-Clyde Elementary.

  • Step-In Girls Empowerment Program
    Step-In Girls program that empowers 4th and 5th grade girls to step-in to themselves, their community, and their future.
  • Classroom Mentor Program
    The Classroom Mentor Program is an academic mentoring program that pairs community members with students. Often times, community members will come in for lunch to sit with students or stay after school for homework assistance.

If you feel lead to give in a tangible way to Charleston Hope’s mission, I have listed some ways below.

Adopt a Classroom

Adopt a Classroom is Charleston Hope’s fundraiser that spreads love and joy during the holiday season students and teachers in their partnered schools and raises money for their year-round program. Check out the many ways to help with Adopt a Classroom here. One night before Christmas, thousands of volunteers come together in CofC’s TD Arena to wrap gifts for hundreds of students. It’s a great time of fellowship and a way to get into the Christmas spirit. Many people wear Santa hats and are decked out in green and red. They often times have food available and is a great time for the family.

Become a Monthly Donor

Monthly donors are the backbone of Charleston Hope’s organization. They allow us to focus more on programming and less on fundraising. You can become a monthly donor in just a few simple steps!

Host a Supply Drive

Teachers need some loving this holiday season too, y’all! They are pouring their souls into each and every one of their students everyday. Help Charleston Hope collect teacher’s most needed items for their Teacher’s Hope Closet! View how here!


If you feel lead to donate otherwise or to another organization closer to your heart, that is totally okay! If 2020 has taught me anything, it is that we must look out for each other. Everyone, and especially kids, are deserving of love. Many of these students in this area come from hard upbringings and are not expecting to get much this holiday season. For those of us who have the means to do so, think about giving back to the community in some way this season. You won’t regret it.

Donate here!

V: KRP

KRP. Kelsey Ryan Phillips. Ball of Energy. Sunshine personified.

I originally met Kelsey our freshman year during sorority recruitment, although that encounter is a bit fuzzy for me. Just ask Kelsey. 😂

After we both rushed Gamma Phi, our paths crossed many times during the fall semester and into the spring. Praise the Lord for His timing!

From then on, we ate almost every meal together at the sorority house. We took pictures together before every function and asked guys to be our dates in the most crazy ways possible. We went to Shag night every Thursday and ate our weight in Cookout trays. We traveled to Carolina away games and made the twelve hour road-trip to see Casey in Baton Rouge. On off weekends, we crashed Mama P’s house in Sea Pines and enjoyed the beautiful SC coast.

Often times, I would get asked where my “other half” was if Kelsey wasn’t somewhere nearby.

Our friendship quickly blossomed into one of my most valued treasures in life. Over the last nine years, Kelsey has been by my side through my highest moments and my darkest valleys. Like momma Phillips’ famous mantra, we have shared so many of life’s highs and lows together.

Kelsey was the Maid of Honor in my wedding. Kelsey is the blond to my brunette.

She pushes me to be spontaneous.
She shows me that all people are worthy of love. She inspires me to a better version of myself, even when it’s hard.
She has always been a listening ear and a steady shoulder to cry on. She is a firm believer in the Lord and is a testament of His grace in all things.

Thank you, Kelsey, for all you that you are. Your free spirit and unwavering positivity radiates joy and light into every room you step foot in. You have been such a gift to me since day one.

I can’t wait to

P.S. If you are also looking for any kind of art for a birthday, holiday or “just because,” check out Kelsey’s Instagram. She is one of the most insanely talented artists I’ve ever met. She can do acrylic, watercolor, handmade cards, photography and so, so much more. Check her out!

IV: MY MESSY APARTMENT

Dishes fill the sink to the point of spilling over. Laundry creates a mountain sized mound on your bed waiting be folded. The shelves need to be dusted and the floors haven’t been swept in some time. Cat toys are strewn across the floor.

As my mom says, cleanliness is next to Godliness. Anybody else hear that growing up? 😂

As I catch my mind wandering to the thousands of chores that need to be attended to, I am learning to embrace the messy. “Housekeeping” will always be a revolving door of being in the middle of // different things. Nonetheless, I can be appreciative. Is that weird to say? I have free access to a washer and dryer. I have free access to a vacuum. I have access to a dishwasher, which I didn’t have just last year. Some of these basic necessities are truly an answer to prayer and things I have been wanting for it seems like for forever.

A messy apartment shows me that there is life, and an abundant one at that.

I can be the first to agree that some (okay, most) days, my to-do list seems way too overwhelming to even start. The to-do list seems Mt. Everest long and continues to grow by the minute. If you are feeling like this is you, I get it. You are not alone. Take one task at a time. Be patient with yourself.

For myself, I find myself navigating to writing up a list to follow. For me, I compartmentalize by rooms. One day, I will work on the bedroom and get things organized and put up. I make the bed. I ho through my closet to see if there are things I want to thrift or give away. Find a method that works for you, though!

Balancing a full-time job, a spouse, a pet, and a social life isn’t easy by any means. It is in those moments, however, that I am the most grateful. I am grateful to have all of those things in my life.

I’m sure my list will grow that much more when we have kids, but I will learn to adapt. We tend to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves, which is good in some regard, but can also make us go crazy. Keep your head up and do the best you can. Ask for help. That’s all you can do.

Today, embrace the messy. Life is more than a perfectly clean house.

III: EDUCATION

Education has always played an important part in my life. From pre-K into my high school years, my parents instilled that knowledge is something that nobody can ever take away from you.

“When you educate one person you can change a life, when you educate many you can change the world.”

Shai Reshef

Partly because of work ethic and her drive to do everything to the highest degree, I always admired my mom’s pursuit of higher education. She has a B.S. in Psychology, two masters degrees, a PhD and was once National Boards certified. She also obtained her PhD while holding a full time job as an administrator of an elementary school, having a family and driving to classes 1.5 hours away. Wow!

I always knew my plan was to go to college after high school. I, too, loved school and that’s what I felt was the right path for me.

I applied to three in state schools because we all know college is expensive enough without adding out-of-state tuition. Anderson, University of South Carolina and Wofford made my top three for all varying reasons.

Anderson was the small Christian school not far from home. USC was the big SEC school in the state capital and has the big school feel. Wofford was the private liberal arts college planted in my hometown. They were all diverse and all had great options.

Believe me when I say that college isn’t for everyone. We need people in trade schools. School is not a be-all-end-all, for my youngest brother included. I wouldn’t have traded my experience for the world, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with not going to college. There is such a need for those trades, like welding, mechanics and even for full-time service men (and women). Often times, those people get twice as much an hour than most other jobs. Pave your own way and don’t allow anyone to dictate what is right for you.

College was a place for me to grow and to figure out what life was all about. A lot happened to that innocent seventeen year old freshman. Mentally, I grew. Emotionally, I grew. I learned how to be independent. I was able to make decisions for myself and figure out what direction I wanted to take in life at the time. By the time that twenty-one year old walked across that stage, she had experienced a lot of life.

If you are a high school junior or senior (or are looking to go back to school), consider UofSC! We’ve claimed the #1 International Business School and Honors School in the nation for the last decade.

The world is a grand place. Learning and education aren’t necessarily restricted to a classroom or in textbooks. Get outside and experience the world for yourself. Some of my fondest “teachable” moments have been sight-seeing in the Mediterranean Sea and in the streets of Paris. Take a road trip. Experience what life has to offer for yourself grab it by the horns.

✌🏼

II: Chick-fil-A

You might be thinking the same thing I was when this idea came to mind. Chick-fil-A, Alex? Really? Do you not have anything else to be thankful for?

Chick-fil-A was my first official job. It was the job I had post-college for two-and-half years as a manager. It was the job where I met my husband and it was in front of our entire team when he proposed. Chick-fil-A was the job I got to travel cross-country to do Grand Openings with. It was my first (and current) job after we moved here to Asheville. Chick-fil-A has been a part of my life for seven years and seen a lot of my life’s ups and downs.

Looking back, this job has been more of a safety net than I ever realized.

Although any job has its highs and lows, CFA will always hold a special place in my heart. Having that experience on my resume has opened doors for other opportunities I didn’t know were possible.

Will this be my forever job? Probably not. I will be sad when it comes time to hang up this grease stained uniform forever, but I know it has taught me so many invaluable lessons. It taught me to be more coachable and to also look for chances to coach others. It has grown my ability to see the bigger picture and to multi-task or die trying. It has taught me endless amounts of patience to deal with the general public and how to say “My Pleasure” without second thought.

Chick-fil-A has given me relationships that are near to my heart and has provided me people who push me to be a better version of myself, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Thank you, Chick-fil-A, for the endless opportunities I would’ve otherwise missed out on. Although jobs aren’t everything, you have given me a lot in return.

Do it for Truett, y’all.