2016 favorites part two - entertainment

December 31, 2016

day 31

Happy New Year's Eve! Yesterday I shared all my lifestyle-related favorites for the year 2016. Today I'm sharing all my entertainment favorites. Because my opinion really matters.

It really does.

2016 favorites part one - lifestyle

December 30, 2016

day 30

I've thoroughly enjoyed 2016. There have been moments of sadness and uncertainty, for sure, but as a whole, it's been a great year for me. I know that's not the case for everyone, and it seems like all of social media can't wait for 2016 to be over, but I'm happy with the speed at which it passed. Somewhere along the way I started to slow down, mentally, and enjoy each season more thoughtfully. 

I plan to keep that up in 2017, but before we get there, I'm taking some time to re-review these past 12 months. There were so many favorite elements that I had to break the post into two parts. Below are all my most loved foodie and lifestyle tidbits.

a realistic, working-woman morning routine

December 29, 2016

I have an innocently legitimate fascination with taking a peek into other people's lives. Chances are, if you're into reading blogs or watching lifestyle videos, you feel the same way. I love a good what's in my handbag post or video, and I'll click on a home tour link faster than I'll click the top news stories. However, there's one trendy post I tend to roll my eyes at, and that's the morning routine. Every morning routine in the blogosphere or YouTube world is so ridiculously unrealistic for your average twenty/thirty-something. And honorable mention goes to the "running late" routines where they still make time to highlight and contour their face.

So, instead of complaining, I'm making my own post, where I'll share what a realistic, working-woman morning routine looks like. I'm not knocking all the entrepreneurs out there, but let's be real: working for yourself and creating your own fluid schedule is not a reality for the majority of the people consuming this kind of content. It may be a goal later on down the line (*raises hand*), but it's probably not the reality. Having an employer and a somewhat consistent time to be at work is the reality, and there's nothing wrong with that either. Personally, I think our generation would do better by embracing this idea.

For me, every morning isn't always the same, but here are the main ways it could go down in the Active Spirit house.

Also, in the spirit of keeping it real, I must admit the stock photo above is not an accurate representation of my bedspread. In a perfect world, white linen would stay pristine-clean, wash after wash, but in my world, the brightness fades easily, and it just starts to look... dingy. (We've opted for dark grey linen with just a white duvet instead)

the plan for 2017

December 28, 2016

day 28

C'mon now. You know what it is. We're a few days away from the start of a new year, so of course it's time to post about some goals.

I only had three goals (or resolutions, or intentions, whatever you want to call them) for 2016, and I accomplished two of them: move [1], and master my DSLR [2]. My DSLR is bigger, and clunkier than my phone, so I don't use it as much as I probably should, but I have learned all the settings and know how to use all the features. 

The vacation [3] didn't happen, mainly because we re-purposed our budget to buy a house (and later, a new roof for the house), and I didn't plan for down payments and vacations. It was a trade off, and putting money toward owning a home turned out to be more important for us than putting money toward vacations this year. Next year will (hopefully) be different.

Honestly, I want 2017 to simply be about enjoying life, and all the changes that may or may not come (no, I'm not pregnant, and no, that's not part of the plan for 2017). I want to attend more concerts, take more day trips, have picnics in parks, re-read some of my favorite books, have lots of girls nights, have more friends and family over for dinner, and start writing for fun more often. I've accomplished so much more than what I set out to achieve at the beginning of this year, both personally and professionally, and that just showed me how sometimes the plans I make for myself pail in comparison to the bigger picture for my life.

A good binge-fest must leave you feeling fulfilled

December 27, 2016

day 27 (selfie brought to you by my mom, who randomly texted "Disa, send me a selfie" as I was leaving work today) (k, mom???)

Well, well, well... look who it is, showing up to her 'blog every day in December challenge' two days late and many dollars short. I have no excuse. I had the whole day off yesterday, and instead of feeding my creative tendencies with a bit of reading or writing, I binge-watched all of The OA on Netflix, while writing down all upcoming plans in the handy dandy planner I picked up from Barnes & Noble. The OA, by the way, will not be making it to my next Netflix Titles that Pleasantly Surprise list. It sucked me all the way into its vortex of a plot, but I got off the couch after the final episode and concluded the past 8 hours of my day could've been better spent, and a good binge fest should never have you feeling that way. A good binge-fest must leave you feeling fulfilled.

those festive warm & fuzzies

December 24, 2016 Atlanta, GA

day 24

Christmas Eve is here! I must admit, this is the first Christmas as an adult where I've been fully in the holiday spirit. It's the first time I've had a tree; it's the first time I've bought more than a couple gifts; it's the first time I've had a bundle wrapped and ready to go well ahead of time, and it's the first time I've been down to watch all the cheesy holiday movies. 

I'm realizing that it's a choice to do all these things, and they take actual effort, but as I've done them, those festive warm & fuzzies just kinda took over! Christmas is obviously so much different when we're kids. As a child, it's all about Christmas morning. That's the climax, and everything builds in anticipation to that moment. But as adults, I think the emphasis becomes more on the season as a whole. There's really no climax to look forward to, so it's easy to just bah humthug it out until New Year's Day. 

feel enlightened and inspired

December 20, 2016

day 20

I'll be doing a social media cleanse soon, and I thought now would be a good time to rant about my thoughts on social media, only now I don't feel like arranging those thoughts into a well-organized post.  

Netflix titles that pleasantly surprise (Christmas edition)

December 19, 2016

day 19

I've been on a Christmas movie kick, fittingly, the past couple weeks. I've watch old favorites (Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street), and newer ones that I've come to enjoy (Alfie, This Christmas). I also bit the bullet and finally watched Love Actually and The Nightmare Before Christmas, both of which I had never seen before. I'll admit, I almost fell asleep watching Nightmare; it just wasn't my cup of cocoa. On the other hand, I rather enjoyed Love Actually, and I get why it's a favorite for so many. (Any Christmas movie that concludes with an elementary school Christmas presentation will always win me over.)

Random holiday movies are now, fittingly, popping up in my Netflix "recommended" queue. I'm always down to give those a try, especially on a cold and rainy Saturday morning, and so, I have. Most of them have been a miss, but there were a few hits. 

illegal food

December 18, 2016 Virginia Highland, ATL

Day 18

This day was supposed to be reserved for an evening-time Christmas party, but it was cold and rainy, so we opted for brunch after church and decided to have another cozy evening at home instead. Our brunch place of choice was Illegal Food.

I had been wanting to try their food since their days holding down the kitchen at Joystick of Edgewood. When I finally got a chance to check it out, Illegal Food had already ended their residency, and a hot dog vendor took their place. (no thanks)

So I found their listing on Yelp, bookmarked it, and made a mental note. This would probably be the last brunch of the year, so I was determined to squeeze it in. 

A Saturday well-lived

December 17, 2016

day 17

It's safe to say I'm part of the reason why the Mandarin Orange Chicken is Trader Joes of East Cobb's best seller. The sad part is, we don't even live in East Cobb. I ride out that way mainly for Trader Joes. There are 3 within a 15 mile radius from our house, but I always go to this one because the sales tax is 2% less in Cobb County. 

cozy at home

December 16, 2016

Day 16

This evening we stayed cozy at home, cleaned the whole house, had homemade turkey burgers & fries for dinner, lit a few festive-scented candles, and watched Home Alone under the Christmas lights. 

hashtag 'blesst'

December 15, 2016

Day 15

All Christmas gifts are officially wrapped and under the tree! 

This is the first Christmas I won't be scrambling for last-minute finds with all the crazed holiday shoppers, and it may or may not be thanks to my first real Christmas tree. I was motivated to get everything bought, ordered, and wrapped as soon as possible. Because Christmas trees look so much better with loads of presents beneath them.

x marks the link

December 14, 2016

Days 13 & 14

I've missed a couple days of posting, and it was on purpose. I sat down with my computer the past couple nights and had absolutely no photos or words to recap the day. They've been pretty... basic. Wake, work, home, walk dog, chill - with some foodie moments in between (none worth documenting. I mean, do I really need to post another photo of tacos?). The only thing I have to show is this snap of the dog hovering at the bathroom door while I wash my face for the evening.

there are tacos. how fitting.

December 12, 2016

day 12

I just looked through my photos to see what I could posts for day 12, and of course, there are tacos. How fitting. 

Yesterday evening I was too lazy to pack my lunch for the day, and I never wake in enough time to pack it the same day (see previous post about my snooze button addiction), so if it doesn't get packed the night before, I'll be spending extra money on lunch, which I hate. I always regret not packing my lunch the night before. So today, to fill the regretful void, J and I made a lunch date out of it at Taco T. I first blogged about this place over two years ago, and it's still my favorite taco spot ever. It never disappoints, and it made up for the unsatisfyingly mediocre Mexican food we had last week.

a tinge of nostalgia

December 11, 2016

day 11

Today is the day I sat back and could be grateful that all my Christmas shopping was done for the year. And most gifts have been wrapped, pending the few deliveries I'm expecting this week.

Christmas shopping done

December 10, 2016

days 9 and 10 (I always spell my name out for the Starbucks barista's, but they still usually mix up that first letter...)

There was a time when I'd wake up on Saturday mornings and lounge around until plans were haphazardly made. I miss those days. Now my Saturday mornings are all about cleaning, grocery shopping before the crowds appear, stopping by the bank, et cetera, et cetera. But I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel good to knock out all those responsibilities. It feels pretty swell if I may say so.

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

December 8, 2016

Day eight

My inner English major is coming out to play today, and this post is actually coming from the archives of my drafts folder.

The thing about good advice is you probably don't know how good it is until later in life. I took lots of notes in undergrad, but the nuggets of wisdom I noted mentally were the ones that stuck.

And so... here is some of the best writing advise I've ever received - from professors, from guest speakers, from other students in writing labs, and so on.

we delay the day's commencement

December 7, 2016

day seven

When your dog's new bed is as wide and nearly as fluffy as the human bed.

work, eat, sleep, repeat

December 6, 2016

days five and six

I have absolutely nothing to show for the past couple days, so here's a random snap from the past couple weeks. I'm sure the next time I take a photo of this part of the living room it will look completely different. Hopefully.

What can I say about Monday & Tuesday besides work, eat, sleep, repeat? I've been working on a freelance project in the evenings, and for the first time in a long while, I've had a super hard time meeting my deadline.

blame the weather

December 4, 2016

day four

It's December, and the cold rainy weather finally decided to make its way to Atlanta. I spent the morning/early afternoon wrapping gifts at church, and the later afternoon/evening curled up inside. I had more things to do, but my motivation waned as the day progressed. I blame the weather and the curse, among other things.

contemplate buying a gingerbread cafe day

December 3, 2016

day three

I'm just gonna go ahead and sneak this post in here like I didn't already miss a day of posting...

Saturday was grocery day, wait in line at Bath & Body Works for 30+ minutes for candle sales day, have lunch at a cute Pho place with Mom day, walk around and see fun Christmas tree day, and contemplate buying a gingerbread cafe day. 

all lit up

December 2, 2016

day two 

^^ My festive pride & glory, all lit up, sans ornaments. We've decided to start a thoughtful ornament collection that can grow, organically over the years. We'll just pick up individual ornaments that strike our fancy whenever we're out and about. That way each ornament can really mean something.

Day One (blogmas)(?)

December 1, 2016

If you look straight ahead, you'll notice the creepiest children's mainstay around the Christmas season: the Elf on a Shelf! This is a throwback photo from my days as a part time nanny; I've seen more elves on shelves than I'd care to remember, but in the spirit of all things festive, I thought I'd throw it back on this fine Thursday.

I'm thinking of trying a "Blog Every Day in December" type challenge - a Blogmas if you will. But I don't like that name, so I'm just numbering the days instead.

This should be interesting.


my (our) first real Christmas tree

November 28, 2016 Woodstock, GA

Here are a few quick photos, in succession, of the day I (we) got my (our) first real Christmas tree. (It was a bigger deal for me.) As a kid, I always alwayyyyyys wanted a real Christmas tree. My mom would pull out the fake one every year after Thanksgiving, and I'd regularly ask why we couldn't get a real one. I wanted to be in one of those cars we'd pass on the road toting a Christmas tree atop the hood. The idea that people actually had real trees in their house during the holiday season blew my mind. We didn't even have real plants! (okay, maybe one... I distinctly remember knocking it over and blaming my brother for the mess. Come to think of it, maybe that's another reason why we couldn't have a real Christmas tree.) My mom said that since there was nobody around to lug the tree in the house, and trim the tree, and lug the tree out of the house after Christmas was over, we'd have to settle for the fake one. She also didn't want to deal with the mess.

Well, Mom, it only took me about 20 years, but I finally linked up with someone who was willing to lug the tree in the house, trim the tree, and lug the tree out of the house after Christmas is over. I love it, and by "it" I mean the tree. It's everything I'd hoped it'd be (still talking about the tree here), and even though it left a big mess when we brought it in the house, it was all the way worth it. Did I mention this was a big deal for me?

It's worth noting the original plan was to chop a tree down ourselves. There are quite a few tree farms in North Georgia that host people who want to cut down their own Christmas tree. Unfortunately, we're experiencing a severe drought this season, so all the trees at Berry Patch Farms were too dry. And thanks to the wildfires that have spread throughout the Southeast, we didn't really have much to choose from in terms of tree types. Still, we picked this baby out and I couldn't be happier, even if we did bring it home by default. 

Now if we could figure out how to get the dog to stop drinking water from the tree stand...

we mostly have this first-world shopper's mentality

November 25, 2016

Picture it: Atlanta, 2007. I was working as a sales associate at my local Macy's, and I took a look at my schedule for the month of November. Everything was cool until I saw my arrival time for the day after Thanksgiving. That's what I had always called it: "the day after Thanksgiving." I was scheduled as a store opener, which meant I had to be there at 5:45am. I was a college student at the time, and I didn't even has classes scheduled before 10am, so the thought of having to be at work that early threw me off. But... I was a college student at the time, which means I couldn't afford to not go to work, so I got up and had my first taste of the shopping madness that occurs on the day after Thanksgiving. 

By the same time next year, I had landed a full-time desk job, but I was still working part time at Macy's (again, I was a college student livin' on a prayer - without student loans). One of my Macy's coworkers mentioned how all associates were required to work on Black Friday - no exceptions. Someone else asked "what's Black Friday?" and I quickly put two and two together before she explained how the day after Thanksgiving is basically a shopping holiday.

It made sense. When I would visit my family in Michigan for the holidays, my sisters would always get out early that Friday and shop the morning away. I always went because 1) I'd never turn down the chance to hang with my sister, and 2) duhhhh, shopping. I can still remember the 90's television commercials raving about the great "day after Thanksgiving" deals. Deal! Deals! Deals!


Now it's commercially known as "Black Friday," and man is it a whirlwind. I'm over it.

Jams of the Month

November 17, 2016

I know it's November. I know we're so deep in November that Thanksgiving dinner prep is already underway, however, this October Jams of the Month playlist is too good to keep to myself. I must share.

It's been on rotation, heavy, for the past couple days, and it will likely continue to be on rotation well through the rest of the month. It's loaded with a bunch of Indie artists I had never heard of before (and a few I had), and that's arguably the best part of the playlist.

Give it a listen: while you're cleaning, while you're studying, while you're reading, while you're setting the mood... ;)

Thank me now.

a girl’s first love is her father

November 10, 2016

Everything keeps moving as it normally would when you lose a loved one. The sales person still greets you when you walk into the store, but she doesn’t look at you with the sad eyes. Your job keeps functioning normally, even though you had to leave early to grieve. Your co-workers feel a tinge of pity when they find out what’s going on, but the feeling is fleeting, and they return to their business. People call and give their condolences, and they hug you and kiss your face when they see you, trying to provide as much comfort as possible. It helps a little bit, but not much. The ones who have been through similar situations insist they know what you’re going through. They insist. They say they know.


I knew something was wrong, but I ignored those feelings. When he called a few weeks ago, randomly, I felt slightly worried. But he didn’t answer when I called back, so I assumed he called on accident. Then he didn’t respond when I called on his birthday, and he never returned my voicemail. I wonder if he ever listened to it. I wonder if that was the last thing he heard me say. I’ll never know.
They say a girl’s first love is her father. I lost my first love on November 10, 2014 - four days after his 58th birthday.

Ponce City Market

November 3, 2016 Atlanta, GA

Darnit, Ponce City Market. I had high hopes for you. People have hyped you up and painted you as one of the best spots around Atlanta, and honestly? You just didn't live up to your reputation. The food hall is nice, but a bit over-priced, and with stores like Madewell and West Elm, you weren't created to help my pockets.

I'll give you another try soon. Maybe to check out the rooftop bar when the buzz dies down or to use the location as the start of my leisurely beltline stroll.

You've got good curb appeal, though. I'll definitely give you props for that.

part five of our home buying journey

November 1, 2016 Atlanta, GA

We've come to the end of the road.

I've shared our experience with pre-qualifications, house hunting, up-front costs, appraisals, and now it's time to talk about closing.

part four of our home buying journey

October 25, 2016

Let's see... where did we leave off? We were talking about money and how much of it you'll hand over, up front, when taking the FHA route for your home loan. So far I've explained Earnest Money, Due Diligence, and Home Inspection options and subsequent costs. Now I'll explain appraisals.

It sounds pretty self explanatory. Most people know how jewelry or auto appraisals work, and home appraisals are similar, but they can make or break your entire loan approval. Seriously, you can have all your ducks in a row in every other area, but if the appraisal doesn't line up with the rest of those ducks, it'll be time to re-group.

Let me explain.

Tacos Del Chavo

October 23, 2016 Kennesaw, GA

part three of our home buying journey

October 18, 2016

Let's talk about money, honey. 

Last week I explained the joys of house hunting and ended on a rather positive note: making an offer. Today I'm breaking down some up-front costs. 

Everyone knows buying a house is a big transaction, but we had no clue how much money would be leaving our bank account before we could even call the house ours. There's a shortlist of checks to write before the down payment happens, most of which are non-refundable if the deal falls through, and much of which is handed over during the due diligence period.

Two for two

October 16, 2016 Buckhead, Atlanta

Buttermilk kitchen is two for two.
Also, i have some wonderful friends.
That is all.

part two of our home buying journey

October 11, 2016 Atlanta, GA

(Read part one here)

Last week I talked about all the information we needed to digest before we could even start looking for a house. Today I'm sharing all the joys of house hunting. To be clear, it's nothing like what they show on HGTV.

As I mentioned in the last post, we went with a FHA loan, so we could only look at places that were "FHA Approved." Some sellers won't even entertain buyers who are going through the Federal Housing Administration for their loan because there are such strict approval requirements. Most condominiums were off limits, but since we had our eyes set on an actual house, it was no biggie. Still, that's something to keep in mind if you're looking to buy a condo.

Also, before I jump in, I should mention that a pre-approval letter is typically required before a real estate agent will start showing you any properties (see last week's post for more pre-approval info).

a seat at the table

October 6, 2016

Man. Where do I even begin with this album?

First off, it's been a while since I've actually been excited about some new music. I didn't know Solange was releasing a new album, but when I found out, I rushed to get my hands on a digital copy. I've been a Solange fan since her Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams album. "Tony" is still in rotation on my iPod (yes, I still use an iPod).

part one of our home buying journey

October 4, 2016 Atlanta, GA

I looked at this photo and saw all the things I wanted to add/fix in our living room, but as I started to type everything out I realized I should stop and take a second to appreciate the space and our home for what it is, as it is. Sure I want to swap out that hand-me-down rug for something larger and lighter, add a plant in the empty corner, get a proper stand for the record player in the other corner, add some art or pictures on the walls, etc. but this home already deserves some appreciation, and I appreciate it.

I never wrote about the journey it took to get here, and that's mainly because I quickly discovered that first-time home buying wasn't so fun. It was stressful. It was confusing. It was intimidating. It was triggering to anxiety I didn't even know I had. 

Once the papers were signed and we got the keys, however, it was all worth it. There's something about knowing you won't have to negotiate your lease in 12 months or look for somewhere else to live that makes you feel a little bit more stable. I remember moving in and thinking now we don't have to move for a while. Thank God. Because nobody likes moving.

So about the process. I'm writing about it now because I knew absolutely nothing when we started down this road, and it would've been nice to read someone else's experience (I did read Cece's post about a week before closing and could relate to every single word). We started looking for something in February and closed on the place in May. Three months probably doesn't sound like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but when you're in the thick of it, it's like waiting for the storm to blow over.

I'll be breaking everything down, step by step, over the next few weeks. I'm bringing tips to make you smile, so don't you touch that dial. ;)

Let's jump in.

Second Self

September 30, 2016 Atlanta, GA

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