Supporting DVA_ domestic violence awareness

This post is a late coming, but one that I had to give a ton of thought.
I was recently recognized by the local Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, Refuge House for my support of the shelter. The recognition came as a total shock, and I was and am still humbled by the recognition. I share not for congratulatory wishes but in the hopes that I will in someway inspire others to give back in their own way to causes important to them.

 I had worked a full day and rushed across town to the Alpha Chi Omega chapter house to support the ladies at their Annual Pizza Pie With Alpha Chi Event raising funds for the shelter. Following typically protocol at such events, the ladies silenced the room to thank guests for coming and invited the Refuge House Director of Development to speak. When she asked that I join her at the front of the room, I truly went thinking she would ask me to hold something while she presented. the thought that she would be presenting to me never crossed my mind. She started talking and explaining the support they had received, and still nothing, and then she said my name- I was shocked, humbled and honored...

I share this for several reasons.
1. I at times wonder if my volunteering makes a difference. Volunteering can be an added item to an already busy calendar, but the answer is a simple YES. If you follow me on Instagram, you might of noticed the #hashtag #EveryDifferenceMakesADifference I committed to using this hashtag each time I volunteered in 2015, thus I can always look back and over time see the magnitude of the impact of volunteering. 

2. Be the Change you Wish to See in the World. As someone who works with and volunteers with collegians on a regular basis, I feel it is important to be a role model for them. My mom was and continues to be this role model for me. As I have grown my friend, co-workers and fellow Alpha Chi Omega Sisters continue to inspire me. For collegians to see me giving back is important. I strive to never ask others to do something I wouldn't do myself. And I am humbled that the Chapter, friends, and family continually not only support my volunteering efforts, but join them... 

3. This is an issue I BELIEVE IN.  When looking to volunteer it is important to pick a cause you are passionate about, a cause you are committed to, your passion with shine thru in all you do. (or at least that is the goal) As a volunteer who works with collegiate women. I know the statistics of Domestic Violence all to much. (The following statistics were taken from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2007)
  • 53% of victims of domestic violence were abused by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • 21% of college students report having experienced dating violence by a current partner.  32% experienced dating violence by a pervious partner.
  • 13% of college women report they were forced to have sex by a dating partner.
  • Among college students who were sexually assaulted, 35% of attempted rapes occurred on dates, 22% of threatened rapes occurred on dates, and 12% of completed rapes occurred on dates.
  • 60% of acquaintance rapes on college campuses occur in casual or steady dating relationships.
  • Over 13% of college women report they have been stalked.  Of these, 42% were stalked by a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend.
  • Nearly one third of college students report having physically assaulted a dating partner in the previous 12 months (Break the Cycle, Inc., 2005).
  • As many as one quarter of female students experience sexual assault over the course of their college career (Break the Cycle, Inc., 2005).
  • Approximately 90% of victims of sexual assault on college campuses know their attacker (Break the Cycle, Inc., 2005).
I can't read those statistics and be a bystander.
College students face a variety of obstacles in accessing services that may assist them in escaping an abusive relationship, or an an abusive situation. With that being said I strive to be a resource and to provide resources both for the shelter, and for the collegians I come in contact with.
  • Students may feel isolated from their personal support networks- I strive to be that support
  • Students may fear their parents finding out- I strive to give them the support/resources their parents would want to provide them, and strive to give them the strength to tell their parents when appropriate
  • students cannot afford supportive service. I connect with with campus resources
  • students may not define their experience as abusive- I strive to educate on healthy relationships, and to be a role model in my own relationships. 
  • students feel trapped by the social networks- I strive to provide networking opportunities
In my opinion nothing I do is "groundbreaking" or "new" and until now I didn't view anything I did as "noteworthy" I looked at the things I did as my duty. I know that to the world I may just be one person, but I have learned that to that one person I may be the world..

I share to thank Lindsey and the Refuge House for recognizing my efforts. 
I share in hopes of inspiring others to recognize that #EveryDifferenceMakesADifferece
I share in hope of inspiring others to follow their passion
I share to shed light on Domestic Violence
I share in hopes of touching someone and that someone touching someone and so on, and together we can effect change! 

If you want to learn more about the local Refuge House click here
If you are are a victim of Domestic Violence and need help visit here 

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224 instead of clicking the links above


Travel... Going back to Nola- French Quarter Edition

New Orleans is my hometown....
It is my heart, and the city has a resilience and a vibrant culture that is all it's own!

I have been blessed with several opportunities to return to the city this year...

First for the Alumnae Global Services Initiatives trip with Alpha Chi Omega Women's Fraternity.
I blogged about my adventures here, here, and  here.

Then I was able to meet the Mister, in the city for a short weekend get away, as he ventured to NOLA for a fraternity brothers wedding, and I flew in to meet him after to spend sometime in the city....

And this July, I went back to New Orleans to volunteer for the Katrina10 initiative. I organized a group of Gap Inc Volunteers to contribute time and talents at a local charter school. It was wonderful to give back to a city that holds a piece of my heart surrounded by co-workers. (more on that in another post) 
Why do I mention all of the above? Well, I keep getting asked my "must do" list for the city by family and friends. I am going to break this down into multiple posts.. I am going to start in the French Quarter with some of my favorite locations.. becuase there is more to the Quarter than daiquiri's at Fat Tuesday's, having a hurricane at Pat O'Brien's (I prefer the Bloody Mary above) or a hand grenade at Tropical Isle. Those these are all quintessential tourist stops. 

So what are my favorites.... 
If you follow my on Intsagram, some of these will not be a surprise as I post about then nearly every trip.
1. Cafe Pantalba- ok this one is special for a few reasons. History. Location. Food. Sentimental. 
History- The building was designed by the Baroness Pontalba in the 1800s. They were originally built as row houses, & later turned into luxury apartments. the Pontalba Buildings are known as the oldest apartment buildings in the United States. (fun fact the current Mayor and his family live above the restaurant) Cafe Pontalba pays homage to both the history of the buildings and to the food NOLA is known for.
Location- historic Jackson Square, 546 St. Peter. Grab a seat, and enjoy the large open windows/doors. I could people watch for hours from this location. You can see the locals, tourists, and artists in the square and if you are lucky will enjoy some local music. 
Food-  They specialize in Creole dishes like Shrimp Creole, crawfish etouffee, and Creole Red Beans and Rice. The restaurant also has great salads, pasta and PoBoys. I usually find myself having etoufee or jambalaya.
Sentimental- My mom worked at the restaurant in the 70's (before I was in the picture) Back then the only worked for tips, and it was well worth it according to her.

2. Jackson Square/St. Louis Cathedral- night or day this is one of the most picturesque places in the quarter. Technically , Jackson Square in a historic park.  It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. In 2012 the American Planning Association designated Jackson Square as one of America’s Great Public Spaces. But to me it is more than a park, it where tourists, locals and artists come together to showcase some of the things that set New Orleans apart. On any given day you can enjoy great food, amazing art, the sounds of local musicians all while taking in a historical landmark.During daylight savings time it's open from 8am to 7pm. During winter, it's open from 8am to 6pm.

St. Louis Cathedral - The history of the Cathedral dates back to the 1720's, you can learn more about it here. It is truly beautiful, if you have the time take the self guided tour for a minimum donation of $1, or if you can plan ahead attend mass! 

3. Johnny PoBoys- If you ask anyone from New Orleans everyone will tell you their "favorite" or the "best" PoBoy spot.. And while yes some are better than others, most preferences are based on a memory or an experience. For me Johnnys PoBoys is my go to, and I visit EVERY time I am in the city.  The reason why is simple, my first trip back to Nola as an "adult" was in January of '00 and I called my dad and asked for a list of places to go (he might not remember that conversation, but I still have the scrap of paper I scribbled down notes on being sure to take in every detail)  I was excited to be sharing my hometown with sorority sisters and friends as we ventured back for the FSU National Championship game. Not only do I always visit Johnnys, I always order the same thing. A Dixie Beer, Blacked Chicken PoBoy and Zapps BBQ Chips. Johnnys is located at 511 St Louis St. They only take cash, and there is often a line to the end of the street but it is well worth it. You can learn more about Johnnys by visiting their website. I gasp to share another PoBoy spot, but I would be remiss, if I didn't share Mothers PoBoys. I have only been once. It is located in the Warehouse District, 401 Poydras. but it is a favorite for tourists...
4. Frechmans Art Market- located at 619 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116. The market is open Thursday - Saturday 7pm-1am. Here is the link to the page, be sure to check hours before you make the trip. It is the only nighttime art market in Nola. It has local artists, musicians, and jewelry.

and some of my other favorites.....
5. Café Du Monde:  For beignets and coffee. Yes this is a quintessential Nola stop, but well worth it, and since it is open 24/7 (only closes for Christmas and major Hurricanes) you have no excuse not to visit. 813 Decatur St. right by Jackson Square. Grab a table and wait for service. Order up beingets (Beignets are square French -style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar.) and a coffee. Note the coffee is dark roasted with chicory and is served Black or Au Lait. Au Lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. Truly one must visit and experience- after all the Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market... so it must be good if it is still open today!!  
6. Central Grocery:  Famous Muffuletta sandwiches,  923 Decatur St.
7. Port of Call:  STRONG drinks. Great burgers, on the outskirts of the French Quarter, 838 Esplanade Ave (can be a bit dicey of a neighborhood)
8. WW II Museum- it is on 945 Magazine Street. You can buy tickets online or at the museum. It is an incredible museum. Of course I am bias b/c my dad installed the lights, sound, videos, interactive displays etc. But all bias aside check it out- you won't regret it.
9. Emeril’s New Orleans:  If you want to do an Emeril’s restaurant, Warehouse District, 800 Tchoupitoulas St. (pronounced: Chop-i-too-lus)
10. Deanie’s seafood: 841 Iberville St check out the menu here
11. Antoine's 713 St. Louis Street. They have a great Oyster Rockefeller and an amazing Sunday Brunch
12. Drago's they have great charboiled oysters. Check out there menu here

More of my New Orleans Favorites in the next post..
Until then check out #SimplySouthernGirlTakesNOLA on Instagram for more photos. I will warn you you might end up hungry if you check it out


Monogram and Mimosa Engagement Shower

Recently, a good friend and sorority sister got engaged, she is a fellow "Southern Girl" Who appreciates Monograms, Mimosas and party planning. I knew immediately we must throw her a proper party! She was scheduled to graduate with her Masters from FSU, and move to Mississippi with her fiance, thus we had to act fast! We decided upon an engagement party- Monograms and Mimosas!

I worked with The Polka Dot Press on the adorable two sided invitations below. I used a simple white envelope with navy wrap, and gold writing.

Guests were greeted with Arianna's monogram on the door, and a chalkboard greeting asking guests to capture photos from the party with hashtags so Arianna and family/friends could view.   

The entry table provided guests the opportunity to leave words of wisdom for the couple. Once cards were completed guest dropped the card into the gold birdcage. The flowers were provided by hilly fields florist, and the monogrammed pen jar, and letters were a take a way for the bride to be after the party!
The colors for the party were Blush and Gold, with pops of Navy, as the Bride knows one of her wedding colors will be navy. I created tassel for my fireplace, and
The food theme was breakfast, as the party was from 10-1.
The menu included
cucumber slices with decedant cheese
fruit skewers (strawberries, grapes, and pianapple)
petite quiche
donut hole skewers 
bacon wrapped kabosa sausage 
and cake balls
Can we take a second to drool over the flowers from hilly fields florist
I was over the moon with how they turned out, and I must say the guests were too!
We had a mimosa bar with various juices and fruits, and then Tea and water for those who wanted an alternative. (I forgot to snap a photo prior to the party getting started, but all of the champage glasses were lined up ready to go with stem decorations so guests could tell them apart.
Guests each received a Monogram sugar cookie as a take away, 
with the Brides soon to be new monogram.
and I just have to share the two below photos as they are my favorites from the day. 
left are the donut hole skewers in flower frogs! and right is Arianna opening her monogram cake carrier from JSBH (co-host) and I.


Teds Montana Grill Tallahassee edition

I was recently contacted regarding Ted's Montana Grills new spring menu, and asked if the Mister and I would like to give it a try. I immediately said yes, as C and I love a good burger, and are always up to trying something new.  Additionally, I admire what Ted Turner is doing as an environmentalist and philanthropist, so it was a win win. Please note that the mister and I did receive a complementary meal, but the thoughts below are all our own...

Ted's website states, Inspired by the pioneer spirit of the American West, Ted’s Montana Grill is committed to serving honest food served with genuine hospitality. The menu is known for its modern interpretation of hand-prepared, 100-percent fresh, classic American food. The chef inspired menu features the finest cuts and best selection of bison, including high-quality, flavorful steaks and award-winning burgers amongst a variety of other unique menu items.

I must also share that I work retail, so I have a crazy schedule, the GM of the Tallahassee location, George worked to accommodate us, and truly provided top notch service during our visit. 
Two of my favorite things about Teds Montana Grill
1. The great quotes on the coasters. I know this is silly, but they truly are great one lines
2. the  picked cucumbers .. a unique tasty treat and a refreshing choice from the usual bread to snack on while waiting for your appetizer/meal
The mister and I tried the Smoked Trout Dip appetizer. It boasted a southwestern flavor featuring trout smoked in-house, roasted Anaheim peppers, fresh lime, cilantro and served with ciabatta toast points and tortilla chips. The mister is usually not a fan of fish, but he loved the dip and says he would order again! We like it best with the chips. Our server shared the bread is made fresh daily, but  being ciabatta toast, it was a bit hard for my liking.
The mister was quick to order the New York City-based Boylan soda to try. He opt'd for the Creme and I must say it was sweet, but subtle. I asked our server to tell us more about why Boylan? He denoted that Boylan builds on Ted’s desire to provide authentic American options made with natural ingredients. Boylan’s features  bold-flavored sodas sweetened with pure cane sugar, natural oils and served in recycled glass bottles. Note there were three flavors to choose from: black cherry, creme and orange.

The mister chose Bison Meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes, and squash casserole. He considers himself somewhat of a Meatloaf expert, as he orders it nearly ever time it is on the menu. C shares that the meatloaf was moist, and the seasonings bring out the full bison flavor the bison and the sauce compliments the meatloaf.

I chose the Avalon Bison Burger-  Gruyère, Blue Cheese, bacon caramelized onions, roasted garlic aioli, baby arugula.. I opt'd for onion rings instead of fries. The burger was huge! After half of the burger I was full, and I knew I needed to save room for dessert.. Thus I asked for a to go package, and enjoyed half for lunch the following day ..
We were excited to learn that Ted’s Strawberry Shortcake dessert returned to the menu, as we had heard about it prior, but were not quick enough to make it to Ted's to try it. The dessert featured fresh-baked sweet drop biscuits topped with vanilla Häagen- Dazs® ice cream and house-made whipped cream, fresh strawberries and strawberry sauce. It was the perfect end to an amazing meal. 

C & I are already thinking about when we can go back! 


Dare to Dream....

Today I continue on my journey working to document the Alpha Chi Omega Global Service Initiatives trip. Please note, I am working on these posts from my cell phones (I didn't bring my laptop, or any other valuables to camp), thus there maybe a few typos along the way...

Tonight we ended our day with reflection time. The staff from Alpha Chi leading the trip has worked to carve out this time each evening. The time is spent by many reflecting on a prompt in their journals, or outwardly discussing with others. Being a processor by nature I have utilized the time each evening to inwardly process the events of the day.... the interactions I had, the sights I saw, and the conversations I was engaged in....

Today was a day that I can recap in one word DREAM.

Fellow alumna, Megan from Kansas who I already shared an affinity with (she is a fellow Chapter Advisor) shared in reflection that set set a goal for herself to visit all 50 states. I of course knew that Megan and I had to be friends. She shared that this trip was a step in fulfilling that dream.

Marc (the homeowner) shared his dream of having a completed house for his family. Marc's son Cole shared his room with us- sharing paint colors, where his bed would go etc,

Walt (the foreman) shared his story about giving back and his dream of making a difference.

I chatted with by husband via text during our reflection time, and shared my dream., in relation to my post yesterday that every difference makes a difference. My dream is that not only am I making a difference but that I am inspiring others to make a difference.  Yes, this trip is emotional for me. It is hard to city a city I love is such disrepair nearly a decade after Katrina, but it is important for me, becuase I dream of a day that the city will fully recover, and a day that others will see that to the world you maybe one person but to that one person you maybe the world..

and to close it is important to set dreams and goals for ourselves, but it is even more important to challenge ourselves and each other to achieve those dreams, and you never know who else you will inspire along the way..

What's your dream???

update: Megan shared more about her dream over on the Alpha Chi Blog, check it out..

She also shared a book, that I may or may not (OK I DID) have already ordered on Amazon! 
Megan shared:
“The Dream Manager,” by Mathew Kelly. He writes about the high percentage of turnover companies experience with their employees. His solution is to ask employees what their dreams are, and help them achieve those dreams via a company Dream Manager who is appointed to help everyone achieve their dreams. He found when employees are happy with their personal lives, they end up being better workers and more loyal to the company.


It is not about you....

 I posted yesterday about my arrival in New Orleans, and my excitement to attend and be apart of the Global Service Initiates trip for Alpha Chi Omega.  This trip allows myself and 11 other alumnae to make a difference in the Cresent City. 

Today we met the family whose home we would be helping to rebuild. We are working with a former New Orleans Police officer who found himself homeless after Katrina. Due to a law on the books in New Orleans, he also found himself jobless (New Orleans police officers had to live in New Orleans, this law is no longer) Upon finding another job (still a police officer) he bought this 1951 1 bedroom, 1 bath house with the vision to expand it to fit his family. 

We also met Walt, the foreman who oversees the various projects Camp Restore is working on. Prior to this Walt,  renovated churches throughout the Midwest. He suffered a heart attack and upon recovery was called to move on to rehabilitating homes in New Orleans. 

So today surround by my sisters, homeowner (Marc in orange) and Foreman (Walk in blue) we embarqed on a journey to rebuild. We learned how to install insulation & drywall, how to mix up mud, and how to float walls. We learned the importance of being humble enough to ask for help (big and small). We learned that dedication and heart can make a difference, and that as a team we can get stuff done!

But mostly today, when reflecting I learned that yes this trip may be physically and emotionally hard for many of us, but in the end it isn't about us, it is about those we will touch during our time here.

I am excited to leave Day 1 with drywall up in the living room, mudding started in bedrooms, insulation in the master bedroom, and the job site super organized! Can't wait to get back to it tomorrow!


Every Difference Makes a Difference..

 Inaugural Alumnae Global Service Initiative participants
Traveling from all corners of America – Alpha Chi Omega alumnae and Alpha Chi headquarter professional staff converged at Camp Restore in New Orleans, Louisiana for the inaugural Alumnae Global Service Initiative Trip. For me, this trip was special. Not only would I be volunteering with my sisters, but I would also be volunteering in my hometown – a city close to my heart. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that I am humbled to be a part of.

After the regulatory “camp” tour and assignment of “camp chores,” the team took time to relax, unpack and settle in. For many of us, sleeping in bunk beds is a trip down memory lane to our collegiate days in residence halls and chapter facilities; this time, however, the conditions are different. Camp Restore opened in 2006 following Katrina. The camp was a place of hope, a place where those willing to volunteer congregated. Following Katrina, hundreds of volunteers occupied the camp, often sleeping in PODS and FEMA trailers. Nearly a decade after the camp opened its doors it still remains prevalent in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Volunteers continue to fill the gap left behind in the rebuilding of the city.
We were each drawn to apply for this trip for different reasons, but a common theme was a desire to give back surrounded by our sisters. We wanted to strike on the cords of love, unselfishness and sincerity. We wanted to make a difference, giving of ourselves as we are able.

Over introductions and subsequent dinner, we mingled with the leaders of the camp and gained a glimpse into their daily lives and the life of a New Orleanian, post Katrina. Following dinner participants gathered for reflection and were challenged to define our view of the culture of New Orleans. We all found the city to be one rich in heritage and culture. A city of passion and hope. A city rich in the spirit of family. After reflection we watched a documentary that illustrated the city’s trials and tribulations post Katrina and the obstacles that are presented to current residents and those wishing to return to the city. The documentary clearly, and undeniably, showcased the city’s rich and resilient heritage, and left us driven to make an impact in the coming days. As we ended the night we returned to our bunks, each reflecting on the impact that this trip, this city and our fellow Alpha Chi Omega sisters will leave on each other and on the great city of New Orleans.

I head to bed anxious to share this great city and this experience with my fellow sisters who are here and, thru this blog, with sisters across the nation. May each and every sister remember the importance of every service rendered and be inspired to volunteer.  After all, every difference makes a difference.


Shamrock rice crispy treats

Last St. Patricks day, I treated my team to Lucky Charms Rice Crispy Treats for St. Patrick's Day! 
This year I decided to do a little something different!

1/2 stick of butter 
melt in sauce pan then add... 
1 bag of small marshmallows (4 cups)
heat until all melted, mixing while melting... 
add green food dye (color to your preference)
remove from heat, 
add 5 cups of Rice Crispy Cereal
and then lay out on tin foil, cover with tin foil, and use rolling bin to roll to desired thickness
let cool
cut with cookie cutter!


Wedding Wednesday -DIY Cotton Boutonnieres

C decided he wanted to wear Cotton Boutonnieres. Seems like a reasonable request right? Well, that is what I thought until I started searching for them. They are much harder to find then one would think. I was about to throw in the towel, and my mom happened upon a Handmade Weddings book at the used book store! Flipping thru the pages I found COTTON BOUTONNIERS!!!!
 I showed C, and he was 100% on board. He ordered cotton (left) from Floral Cotton, the Texas tallow (right), lavender (below), clear floral tape and boutonniere pins from Save-On-Crafts. I purchased the navy ribbon from Hobby Lobby.
 All of the supplies arrived quickly and were of excellent quality. I rallied one of my bridesmaids JSBH to help me with the "crafting"... her hubby also came over to "supervise" .. He is British, and actually read thru parts of our honeymoon itinerary ,and provided comic relief. So here is what we did!!!
Here’s what you will need for 12 boutonnieres:
  • Cotton (I bought 24 bolls, I worried, I would break a few stems, I didn't so now I have extra)
  • Texas Tallow (two bunches)
  • Lavender (optional, 1 bunch)
  • Floral Tape ( I opted for clear)
  • Ribbon (I chose navy to match the bridesmaids’ dresses)
  • Boutonniere Pins (I chose pearl ones to match bridesmaids necklaces)
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Scissors

 Group together 2 sprigs of lavender, 1 boll of cotton, and cluter or two (depending on size) of Texas Tallow. Wrap the prior with the floral tape  so it stays together. Then place a small dab of glue on the end of the ribbon and secure to the top of the stems, wrapping the ribbon from top to bottom and back up. Add one more dab of glue to secure the end of the ribbon.

 We created the smaller boutonniere with just lavender and Texas Tallow for the ring bearer.
I am quite happy with how they turned out, and the Mister is over the moon! I would recommend this to any DIY Brides, as they are fun to make and turn out great!

and below are a few additional photos of the boutonnieres...