Happy 5th Blog Birthday!

Today marks my 5th blog birthday. That’s right, five years ago today, I published my very first post on this little blog, which at the time was called “On a Lighter Note.” My original goal was to share the little things that made me smile each day. I tried to post every day, which got exhausting, and I eventually stopped.

My, how things have changed.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been at this for five years. Who would have known that a tiny little Google Blogspot site I started in my dorm my sophomore year of college would have turned into my biggest passion project and side hustle? I certainly didn’t, but I am so glad and proud that it did. Maybe it sounds silly, but starting this little blog is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

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So in honor of my 5th blog birthday, here’s my birthday thank-you letter to my blog.

Dear blog,

Five years have gone by really quickly. It feels like only yesterday, I sat at my uncomfortable dorm desk, fall semester of my sophomore year at Virginia Tech and clicked the “Publish” button on my very first post. That first post was about not having to wait in line at the Chick-fil-a at Hokie Grill at peak lunch time, and how that made my day infinitely better, because it meant I got to eat my sandwich and fries that much sooner. I laugh now thinking about how that was my first post, but I’m sure it was important at the time.

You were there for me through the next three years of college and everything that came with them: classes, academics, boys, friends, football, basketball, graduation, the future. Thanks for sticking with me, even when I maybe-kinda-sorta neglected you at times. Please forgive me.

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Thank you for giving me this fantastic space to write about whatever I feel like writing about. Sure, I call myself a Southern lifestyle blogger, because I was always told we need to have a “niche” in our blogging. Turns out I can blog about whatever pleases me. Maybe I have my favorite topics (blogging, Chattanooga, travel and life itself) and I definitely have topics I avoid (looking at you, fashion). But I’m not restricted by a niche. And I like it that way.

Thank you for keeping me sane during grad school. I don’t know how I managed to post two or three times each week, but I did.

Thank you for teaching me about social media before I knew I could have a career in it. I attribute a lot of my love for social media (and basically anything related to digital/online media) to my blogging experience. Four or five years ago, I never would’ve thought I could make a career out of social media and connecting people online. Started from the bottom, now I’m here? #thanksDrake

Thank you for getting me through my move to Chattanooga and starting my first “big girl” job (even though I hate it when people call them “big girl jobs”). Thank you for giving me a place to write about that transition and put my stress into something productive. Some of my best posts came out of that time.

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Thank you for listening when I vented about my quarter-life crisis and the other crazy things that have happened in the last year. Thank you for listening when I talked about why it’s okay to get help, and other more personal posts. You really helped me be more open in the last year, and it made a huge difference in my anxiety management.

Thank you for connecting me with some other fabulous bloggers and people, many of whom I can now call sweet friends. Who says you can’t make friends online? Y’all know who y’all are.

Thank you for every single opportunity you’ve brought my way. From writing for PrettySouthern.com to covering the best events in Chattanooga, you’ve helped me grow as a writer, a blogger, a young professional and more. Five years ago, I would have been terrified pitching myself and my talents to a marketing or events coordinator, just to cover an event. It wasn’t my personality. Now I do it almost like it’s second nature. And I can’t think you enough for that.

I guess it’s true what they say, that time flies when you’re having fun. Thank you for being there for me. Always. You’re the real MVP. Here’s to five more years. And maybe more.

Love you, blog.

Photos taken by the fabulous Desirae of Tennessee Rose Blog (before the balloon broke loose and floated away).

Southern Brewers Festival 2016

I love summer in Chattanooga solely because it’s jam-packed with festivals and big outdoor events. Last weekend was the 22nd annual Southern Brewers Festival in Chattanooga, which is one of my favorite events of the summer. It’s a summer tradition among many Chattanoogans, and my goodness do Chattanoogans love their craft beer.

I went to last year’s Southern Brewers Festival on a complete whim. I wasn’t really a beer drinker but it sounded like a good time, and after just moving to town, I wasn’t turning down a chance to try something new. Going to the festival was a highlight of my summer last year, so I was super excited to go back this year!

southern brewers festival chattanooga 2016

Southern Brewers Festival–affectionately called “Brewfest” by many–is a celebration of the best craft beer from around the region. More than 60 breweries from across the southeast and beyond came to Chattanooga to share their best brews. Each of the breweries brought at least two brews for festival-goers to sample and sip on all day, either by the half-pour or full pour. Aside from the beer, there’s delicious fair-type food–corn dogs, funnel cakes, bacon on a stick and more–to keep the hunger at bay while tasting beer.

Like many big events in Chattanooga, the Southern Brewers Festival is a benefit. Proceeds from the event go toward the Craftworks Foundation and Chattanooga’s Kids on the Block. The Craftworks Foundation is the charitable portion of Craftworks Restaurants and Breweries; its mission is to provide its team members with financial assistance during difficult times, and with resources for career and personal growth when needed. Chattanooga’s Kids on the Block was founded in 1977, and aims to educate children about social issues and differences through the art of puppetry. They do some pretty fabulous work around Chattanooga, so it’s great to know the proceeds from Brewfest go toward these awesome causes.

That’s not all, though – Southern Brewers Festival also boasts great live music throughout the day. This year’s acts included Nick Lutsko & The Gimmix, Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue, JJ Grey & Mofro and Perpetual Groove.

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Nick Lutsko & The Gimmix perform at Southern Brewers Festival 2016

So, which breweries and beers did I get to taste at the festival?

This year, I branched out from the breweries I was already familiar with: Yeungling, Devil’s Backbone (although their Vienna Lager is a favorite of mine), RJ Rocker’s, Leinenkugel’s, New Belgium, Sweetwater (hello 420), etc. I know I can get those almost anywhere, so I focused on new brews.

I started my day with Paw Paw’s Peach from the Back Forty Beer Company (Gadsden, Ala.). This Georgia girl will never say no to anything peachy, so that was a great, lighter beer to start. I followed that with a Blue Ridge Lager from Fannin Brewing Company (Blue Ridge, Ga.) and a Sunseeker Pilsner from Green Man Brewery (Asheville, NC). I prefer lighter beers, if you couldn’t tell.

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I did sip on a couple darker ales, like the Ropegun Rye Ale from Chattanooga’s own Hutton & Smith. I was also happy to see the Carolina Brewery (Chapel Hill, NC) back at the festival; their Sky Blue Golden Ale is quite refreshing!

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Even though I said I was sticking to new beers, I couldn’t resist a Watermelon Wheat from Straight to Ale Brewery (Huntsville, Ala.). This was my absolute favorite from the 2015 festival and I was super excited for it to be back this year. Anyone know where I can find this in bottles?!

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Seriously, my favorite beer of the entire festival.

Other popular beers and breweries from the day include Jackalope (Nashville, Tenn.), Terrapin Beer Co. (Athens, Ga.), Bold Rock Hard Cider (Mills River, NC), Blackhorse Brewery (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Wiseacre Brewing Co. (Memphis, Tenn.). A full list of the breweries in attendance is on the festival’s website.

These guys certainly enjoyed their Jackalope brews–complete with antler crowns!

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The Southern Brewers Festival is yet another instance of the strength of the Chattanooga community. I’m starting to believe that we will come together over anything. And that’s definitely not a bad thing, especially when delicious craft beer is involved.

Stay up to date on Brewfest and get the news for the 2017 festival on their Facebook, Twitter and website!

To My Freshman Year Self

It’s back-to-school season, which for many people means making the big move to college for freshman year. It’s stressful, terrifying and exciting all at one time. But it’s college, which are the real best four years of your life.

I was a really naive and innocent 18-year-old. I didn’t grow up with older siblings (or any siblings for that matter) and I wasn’t super social in high school. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was sheltered, but I had a lot to learn. But doesn’t everyone?

And you don’t always learn these things from personal experience. Lessons also come from watching and witnessing others’ habits and lives.

A letter to my freshman year of college self…

Featuring photos straight from my freshman year, untouched, unedited. 

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Dear 18-year-old Kate,

You’re moving to Blacksburg, Virginia, to spend the next four years at what you will soon believe is the best place on Earth. I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t be (too) scared or nervous. Be excited. There’s a whole new world coming.

Read your class schedule correctly. Double-check it before you leave for your very first college class. Triple-check it, even. Don’t walk into the wrong classroom and make yourself late.

Forget about boys from home. They’re not worth your time. Ever.

What would you tell your freshman-year self? #college Click To Tweet

Learn how to live with roommates. This will be especially difficult for you, because you’re an only child and never had to deal with sharing space with siblings growing up. Learn how to deal with roommate conflict–the good, the bad and the ugly–and do so amicably. There’s a time and place for cat fights, and roommate drama shouldn’t be one of those places. This is a skill that will take you very far in life.

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Just get through those two little math and science classes. You won’t have to take math or science ever again after freshman year. Don’t stress yourself about making A’s. Just get through them. B’s are okay, too. You’re an English and communication double-major for a reason.

Freshman year boyfriends will happen. They’re not all bad. In fact, they may be very good. You’ll learn a lot from your first college boyfriend, like how mean your last high-school boyfriend actually was. But you’ll also learn how different dating can be in college because of the freedom, and that you deserve to be treated like a princess. Or you might learn that college guys aren’t actually as mature as you hoped they’d be. They’ll get better, though.

Don’t count on that first relationship lasting forever. It won’t. The breakup will suck–plain and simple–but treat it as a learning experience. You’ll be a much stronger person afterward. Everything in college is a learning experience.

Go to football games. Go to basketball games. They’ll be some of your best and favorite memories down the road.

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You’re not above others because you don’t drink or go to raging parties. Ease up on the judging. You’re not perfect, either. But you can be a very dependable designated driver or designated walker.

Let the tired, hungover girl in your communication theory class follow along with your notes for a day. Reach out to her again the following week. Save her a seat when she’s late. She’ll become one of your best friends later.

Keep your friends close, your frenemies closer, and forget your enemies.

What #advice would you give to your freshman-year self? Click To Tweet

Enjoy your nights alone in your dorm room. Drink your tea and turn on a movie while making study guides and taking notes. Being an introvert isn’t always a bad thing. But don’t be an introvert all the time.

College is the time for trying new things and pushing yourself. Do it. Join a music ensemble you never would have tried otherwise. Volunteer at special events and community service functions. Take that sociology or mythology class solely because they sound interesting. But also know when it’s time to dial it back or when something isn’t quite right.

On a similar note, your hair is fine the way it is. Do not try to go blonde again. It will look very bad when your dark brown roots start growing back.

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Also, lose the tie-dye sunglasses.

Don’t let anyone pressure you into anything if it makes you the slightest bit uncomfortable. Learn how to firmly stand your ground and walk away when you need to.

Dress nicely often. You don’t have to dress to the absolute nines every single day, but put yourself together. You never know who you will meet or run into on campus.

Get enough sleep to feel functional and healthy. Once you fall behind on a sleep schedule, getting back to a normal one is a chore and a half.

And last but not least… Listen to your mother. She knows how life goes. She also knows you better than you think she does.

What advice would you give to your freshman year self?

It’s Okay to Take a Blogging Break

Let’s talk blogging today, y’all. We haven’t talked blogging in a while.

One of my biggest struggles with blogging, especially in the last year or so, has been consistency. Sometimes life happens and things get in the way of my blogging routine. Work, travel, health, family… the list goes on. In the last few months alone, I’ve gone a week or more at a time without posting, several times. Even when I was in grad school, I was blogging two or three days a week. It kept me sane, I guess. And Lord knows, in grad school, I needed as much sanity as I could get.

Those weeks when I’ve gone without posting drive me crazy. I worry that my stats are dropping and that no one is reading my blog if I’m not posting new content, even if I am resharing and promoting my other recent posts. That’s not entirely the case, but #bloggerproblems.

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I’ve read posts and articles on other sites about how you shouldn’t go very long between posts and you shouldn’t go longer than a certain amount of time without posting new content. While I understand and agree with that to an extent, breaks happen and sometimes you just have to let them. The truth is, it’s perfectly okay to take a blogging break, intentional or not.

Here are 5 reasons why everyone needs a blogging break eventually.

You can’t always help what happens in life. 

Life is good at throwing curveballs and dropping in something unexpected. Or sometimes work picks up and you have to change how you manage your time. Priorities will have to shift at some point. It’s okay. It happens. The blog will always be there for you when you come back. And it will feel great when you come back.

Time away can help you refocus on your goals and how to make them happen.

Just like with rest, space is okay. Don’t be afraid of it. Giving your brain time to recharge and concentrate on other endeavors helps you refocus on your blogging goals and where in blogging you find your passion. Taking a step back also helps you see the bigger picture and how you can revise your goals, content calendar, business plan, what have you, so you can adapt and move forward successfully.

So when a blogging hiatus happens, take that time to refresh your brain and take a clean look at your goals. You’ll see everything with fresh eyes and there’s a good chance some things will change for the better.

It's okay to take a break from blogging when you need it. Click To Tweet

Breaks give you time to rest and recharge.

Rest is a crucial part of the creative process. No matter how much or how badly you want to just go, go go, your body and mind can’t always take it. Your ideas and work may even start to suffer, and no one wants that. Listen to your body and mind and let yourself rest and recharge when you feel like you need it. Burnout is real. Don’t let it happen.

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A hiatus can show you just how much you care about your work.

Remember the saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? That applies to blogging, too. The more you miss it, the more you care about it and don’t want to be away from it. At least that’s how I feel when I’m away from blogging for any amount of time. My passion for it is reignited when I’m away from it and I itch to get back to it.

Blogging breaks aren't always that bad. Embrace them and learn from them! Click To Tweet

And the best reason that it’s okay to take a blogging break…

Coming back and rocking your goals with a new focus and motivation is one of the best feelings in the world.

Without a doubt, writing and publishing those first few posts and making progress toward your goals after a hiatus is one of the best feelings as a blogger. It’s like saying, “Hey y’all, guess who’s back?” And then you feel like a total champ when you exceed all of your goals. Definitely not a #bloggerproblem.

Blogging breaks happen, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace the hiatus. Chances are it’ll be a lot more beneficial in the long run than you think!

Have you taken a blogging break lately, intentional or not? What did you learn from it? 

Moccasin Bend Company Makes Chattanooga an Even Better Place

You’ve most likely seen them set up at the Chattanooga Market on Sundays, tables covered with bright pastel t-shirts and red, blue and beige koozies.

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Moccasin Bend Company President & Founder Joshua Carlile (right) & Vice President of Operations Tyler Wright (left).

The Moccasin Bend Company was founded in March 2016 by Joshua Carlile of Chattanooga and alumnus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s College of Business. He and Vice President of Operations Tyler Wright, who were fraternity brothers at UTC, head the start-up’s operations. Their vision is to create and establish the premier brand for fine Southern apparel in Chattanooga, while giving back to the city and community they love so much.

The Moccasin Bend Company name  was inspired by the view of Moccasin Bend from Lookout Mountain, a very inspirational place for Joshua, where he spends time clearing his mind after long days. It’s a magnificent view and iconic spot for many Chattanoogans, and there’s an abundance of historical significance to the landmark. It seemed like the perfect name for the start-up.

Its current product line includes short- and long-sleeved t-shirts in a variety of bright pastels, white and ivory colors, and patriotic koozies. This is only the beginning, though; the product line expands each week, and Joshua plans for more product diversity as the company continues to grow. Potential additions to the Moccasin Bend Company line include performance fishing shirts and golf polos in the near future.

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Moccasin Bend Company is about more than creating and selling a fabulous product. Joshua says the company stresses local prosperity and strives to give back to the Chattanooga community as much and as often as possible. They have a standard to donate 10% of each month’s profits to a rotating local non-profit organization that aims to make Chattanooga a better place. This is just one of the ways they support the local community. Earlier this spring, the company sponsored a local boy who suffers from autism, to help alleviate some of the financial pressure from his family. Any non-profit organization that’s interested in partnering with Moccasin Bend Company is invited to submit their contact information online; they’re always accepting submissions!

In addition to donating to non-profits, the company just received approval for a scholarship fund–appropriately called the Moccasin Bend Company Foundation–for the College of Business at UTC. As alumni, Joshua and Tyler thought this was a perfect opportunity to give back to the program that taught them so much. “It’s really cool to be able to give back so soon,” Joshua said.

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L to R: Dalton, Tyler and Joshua of Moccasin Bend Company in Chattanooga, Tenn.

While they aren’t selling in stores yet, you’ll find Moccasin Bend Company at the Chattanooga Market every Sunday with their collection of shirts, and they’re always happy to talk with new visitors.

And now, something special for y’all: when you stop by the Moccasin Bend Company tent at the Chattanooga Market, mention this post and get a free koozie with your purchase, while supplies last!

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In the year I’ve lived here, I’ve truly never met anyone else who loves the Chattanooga community more than Joshua, Tyler and their team. Their desire to contribute to local prosperity and make Chattanooga an even better place is evident in everything they do.

Want to learn more about Moccasin Bend Co. and its mission? Tune in to News Channel 9’s This n’ That segment August 10 at 7:30am and 8:30am to hear stories and updates straight from the guys! Stay up to date on Moccasin Bend Co. by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and be sure to check out their website, too.

Best Places to Brunch in Chattanooga

This week is Restaurant Week in Chattanooga (here I am, writing about food again). It’s a celebration of the incredible food scene and culture in town, all sponsored and organized by Chattanooga Magazine. Throughout the week, more than 30 restaurants around Chattanooga will feature special menus with seasonal fare from local farms. I’m excited to check out as much as I can.

I’m going to honor Restaurant Week on the blog by talking about one of my favorite parts of Chattanooga’s food scene. Brunch is one of the best ways to spend a few hours on a weekend catching up with friends, enjoying delicious food and sipping on a nice drink.  It’s serious business in this town, and I love it. As a friend of mine said it: “Nashville has hot chicken. Memphis has barbecue. Chattanooga has brunch.” I can’t vouch for Memphis ‘cue (I am a North Carolina girl after all), but I’ll take brunch over hot chicken any day.

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And yes, “brunch” is a verb and I use it avidly.

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