The Future of The Love List

Hi friends!

Sorry for the radio silence here on The Love List. 2015 is already giving me whiplash, I feel like I've blown through every single day of January at light speed. Maybe you saw, maybe you didn't, but earlier this month it was announced that I'm taking over the role of Editor at StyleBlueprint Atlanta. I'm stoked. More about that here, if you're interested. 

Between my writing/editing commitments at Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, StyleBlueprint and all the other stuff I'm working on, The Love List has admittedly fallen by the wayside a little. It's had me pondering where it realistically hashes into my life and my schedule. But I'm not abandoning it! I'm well-aware I wouldn't have a lot of the work that I do if it weren't for The Love List, and I am super grateful for that. It wouldn't be worth jack shit if people like you didn't read it. I just think a new format is in order. The site turns ten (!!) in 2016. It's quite literally grown up with me. So I want to make sure that it continues to fit into that growth is all. 

In that spirit, The Love List will be moving to a once-a-month email format March 16, on its ninth birthday and my 29th. You can expect longer-form content folded in with all the stuff you'd expect, like art crush and goods. Content will go up on the blog the same day as the newsletter is published,  so if email isn't your thing, no worries. But fair warning, some content, like playlists, will be exclusive to the email format and no longer featured here. It will of course also continue in print in Atlanta Magazine. I hope you guys will embrace the new format when it debuts in March.

In the meantime, click here to sign up for email delivery

It's gonna be awesome and special and all the things! Oh, and here's the February playlist ;)

P.S. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are still actively being updated, I'd love your follow! 

2014 Takeaways from Creatives, Musicians, Designers, Chefs and Shopkeepers

Nothing invites reflection like the turn of a new year, and boy, has a lot of ink been spilled on the subject. So much can happen in 365 days. Taking a few beats to process it is a natural thing to do, and people generally want to talk that stuff out. I know I sure learned a hell of a lot in 2014. I do believe it'll go down as one of my toughest, meanest and most formative years to date. 

Thankfully, I got to end (and begin) it on the right foot with a great group at the beach over New Year's Eve. Nothing will scrub your heart like a long stretch of days with a pack of new and old friends all at the same corner of their lives. We got to be each other's shrinks, getting all that cathartic shit purged so by the time the clock struck midnight, we truly did feel shiny and new. 

Since our gang didn't really talk resolutions so much as lessons learned, it got me thinking about what I'm taking away from the year behind me. Better, what did my friends, some of who had really big 2014's, learn and resolve? I conducted a little informal poll via text message and email, here are some of my favorite responses:

Kirk and Brittany Stafford with Rev. Curt Benham. Photo: Rebecca Read

"When a friend sends you a text that says 'Call this girl, here’s her number. You’re an idiot if you don’t.' Make sure you give it try - she recently became my wife." 

- Kirk Stafford, Designer, Belfry Shoes and Atlanta Editor, UrbanDaddy


"We designed and helped open three restaurants this year—Bocado Burger and Ladybird in Atlanta, and AVA in Tampa. Learning and navigating the unique ins and outs of each project was a major accomplishment for us. It takes tremendous hard work and belief in yourself to start a design business in a world filled with Pinterest and Instagram! It’s amazing to see how extensive a network of craftsmen exists in this country and how social media has enabled us to connect in a big way. We’ve forged many new relationships this year that wouldn't have started without Instagram." 

- Josh Charles, Owner/Creative Director, Flags of Origin

Sally Benedict Read at home. Photo: Brittany Ambridge for Domino Magazine 

"I learned to live in the present, dream in the present, and look forward to the future surprising you." 


"The coolest thing I've learned in 2014 is that miracles really do happen, and that attitude is everything. Just ask my family."

 - Emily Bean Livezey, Owner/Buyer, W.Port

Chef Eli Kirschtein at The Luminary. Photo: Sarah Dodge for Zagat Atlanta

"The importance of collaboration. I collaborated with people to design and build the restaurant, and I collaborate every day with my kitchen team. From working with Sally on art for the space, pop up work, and other projects, when you allow yourself to have humility and let others contribute, it keeps you from being too internally focused, and gives you a more creative mindset." 

- Chef Eli Kirshtein, The Luminary


"I've learned to appreciate the sacrifices my family has made in order for me to pursue my dream over the last five years. I continue to cherish the friends I've made along the way, which have kept me motivated and constantly inspired. Finally, I'm looking forward to seeing my dream fully realized  in 2015 with the support of an incredible partner and an amazing new team." 

- John Rich, Oakleaf & Acorn

Caroline Fontenot and Jed. Photo: Mark Fontenot

"Life wants to blow your freakin' mind - so let it. I learned this year that the heart can handle so much more goodness without exploding than I ever knew possible. Resolution for 2015? Continue to test its limits...and of course, lose myself to dance."

- Caroline Fontenot, photographer


"We spend so much time trying to chase the next best thing or our next goal, but it's important to also enjoy our successes. Just because you're not hustling or stressing doesn't mean you're not moving forward. In 2015, I will keep learning and jumping into new situations and opportunities, but I will also allow myself to be happy and grateful in every moment." 

- Stephanie Granada, Style Editor, Southern Living 

Chef Zach Meloy at Better Half. Photo: Rebecca Stanley

"My takeaway from 2014 was to refine my life, space, and work by trimming away the excess. As creatives, it's easy to complicate and muddle up ideas with too many extras. Pare away what you don't need, and enjoy the heart of what you've made." 

- Chef Zach Meloy, Better Half


"I really don't need to be so pessimistic so often; sometimes things don't just work, they soar." 

- Shawn Reed, Owner/Designer, form function form

Stacy Smallwood. photo: Gray Benko for Southern Living

"The biggest lesson I've learned this year is that just on the other side of resistance to change, there is the opportunity for amazing growth." 

- Stacy Smallwood, Owner/Buyer, Hampden Clothing


"Don't stress. Everything actually will be okay." 

- Anna Jones, A.Barclay Designs

Micaela English at Hearst Tower. Photo: Kelly Stuart for On the Masthead

"2014 was a challenging year for me personally, I learned that it's okay to take it easy before feeling like yourself again. If you need a night, weekend, month off from your social life - then take it. I took time to get my mind and body where I needed it to be, got back on the saddle, and have never felt stronger. Oh, and reggae, it's hard to feel down when you listen to reggae." 

- Micaela English, Web Editor, Town & Country 


"To transform myself from night owl to morning lark (and only eat ice cream once a week.)" 

- Mary Logan Bikoff, Lifestyle Editor, Atlanta Magazine

Ginny Branch.

"I resolve to 1. Hire a bookkeeper/accountant 2. Learn how to french braid my own hair. 3. Make my house a home!" 

- Ginny Branch, Stylist


"I learned the joy of not knowing every part of my business. I used to fret if I did not know every last detail. Everything needed to cross my desk. Hiring great people and allowing them to do what they do best, gave me the ability to step back into what I do best and not worry about the details of everything! I've learned the joy of hearing about something work-related and honestly saying "I have no idea about that. And, that's a great thing. That means we are our way to having a healthy company!" So, what's the most major lesson? Hire the best people to surround yourself with. You'll be happier and your company will flourish."

- Liza Graves, Co-Founder, StyleBlueprint

Duquette + Morgan Johnson.

M: "2014 was a big year. The biggest things I learned: Keep my priorities in the right order. To be easier on myself. To love bigger than I ever fathomed possible. That we are all just people, looking to be understood, to be loved and to love others. And I learned that at the end of the day, to be grateful for exactly where I am." D: "Biggest lesson learned was to trust in my faith and my family, making those priority above all else. It keeps my attention and decisions very simplified. Follow that and be as creative as possible as often as possible and life is good, even in extremely tough times." 

- Duquette Johnston, Musician and wife Morgan,


"Takeaway #1: The meaningful personal growth happened when we allow ourselves to become uncomfortable. In other words, if you want a breakthrough, get comfortable being uncomfortable. When we evaluate our growth in 2014--personal, professional, fitness--it clear that your comfort zone is not where the magic happens.  Takeaway #2: We are all connected. While this is true on a macro, seat-of-the-soul level, it's also true on a micro, creative-community level. In our first year in business, we were constantly amazed how we continued to encounter the same people over and over. And there are a lot of really talented people in our community who inspire us. Takeaway #3: Check-in for international flights closes 60 minutes before takeoff, not 45 minutes." 

- Josh and Odini, Res Ipsa

"It's all about relationships! My pops has been saying it all my life and it rang especially true this year. It really is all about relationships." 

- Clay Reeves, Clay + Bros.


"If I open my mind and heart to opportunities and people and love, I am way more likely to experience those things. And when/if those things come? I must always remind myself to fully ENJOY it. Also: Listen to more new music. In 2014, I was reminded just how many new (killer) artists there are out there!" 

- Kyle Tibbs Jones, The Bitter Southerner

"We have learned there is no dream too big!" 

- Elizabeth Stafford White and Jacquelyn Stafford Buckner, Twine and Twig

...and me? I resolve to remember names better and only speak kindly about others - both the women and men in my life - whenever I possibly can. Last year, I realized first-hand that contempt and apathy share the crown for king of all bad vibes. So I want to focus on remembering, celebrating, protecting, and focusing on the wonderful things about the people in my life, instead of what makes them a threat, what annoys me about them, or worse, gossiping. That's it. Just remembering to be kind to people, whether they are present or not... but not taking any shit off of someone who operates the opposite, either. If you don't have anything nice to say, go sit next to someone else! I'd also like to resolve to be more patient, but one thing at a time. Happy new year!

Playlist: Best of 2014

We are over and out until 2015! As is tradition, I leave y'all with a playlist of 14's finest tunes. It's always fun to run back through the year's tracks. From the songs of summer to the bluesiest winter ballad, music sinks its claws into our memories and takes us right back to the moment we attached it to. So what better way to review the year behind us?

 I hope your holidays treat you well, Ill see you guys next year. 

Past years: Best of 2013 / Best of 2012

Gift Guide: For the Guys

Ahhh! It's the last minute scramble! Sometimes, the guys on my list are the hardest to shop for. I don't know about y'all, but if the men in my family want or need something, they just go out and buy it themselves. So you have to go those extra few steps to find something cool and useful that they most likely haven't already procured right under your nose. Enter the fellas at Huckberry, who (praise be) are still shipping with guaranteed Christmas delivery (with discounted expedited shipping) through the weekend. Yes, all of the stuff above will safely be delivered in time for Dad, bro, uncle or beau to rip it open on the 25th - as long as you slide into home by Sunday. Go forth! Be merry!

1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.  7.  8.  9. 10.  11.  12.  13.  14.

Georgia Stocking Stuffers

It was fun teaming up with a few other blogs based below the Mason-Dixon to share some stocking stuffers that hail from each of our home states. Here are my favorite small items from Georgia-based makers and shops, hung by the chimney with care in hopes that you'll also consider giving to those less fortunate this holiday season. Atlanta-based Empty Stocking Fund helps provide presents to kids whose parents may not have the means. If your heart isn't three sizes too small, please consider giving as you enjoy your roast beast and add these pretty things to your shopping cart - $20.00 gets one child out there in Whoville four gifts to tear open on Christmas day. Merry merry!

Check out the other state stocking stuffer posts from Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina!

1. Doux South pickles (love their Little Rock caviar too) 2. Victorinox pocket knife, from Ann Mashburn 3. Wonder Woman action figure, from Baby Braithwaite 4. Inflatable globe, from Baby Braithwaite 5. Plaque Charm Liberty wrap bracelet, from Ann Mashburn 6. Purple elephant scarf, from A.Barclay 7. Norcross Yo Yo, from Oakleaf & Acorn 8. Original Goo Goo Cluster 9. Ombre collar, from Waiting on Martha 10. Animal head shot glass set, from Waiting on Martha

Gift Guide: Taigan

Oyster salt and pepper cellars from Lettered Olive

It just wouldn't be Christmas time if The Love List and Taigan didn't team up for a gift guide, amirite? We always come up with cool stuff for other folks - past categories include "for letting the wild rumpus begin" and "for the bro who just won't stop fretting so, so hard" - but selfishly, this year I wondered "what about my wish list?"

Gifts via La Matera, Molly Jane Designs, Glamourpuss, Peter Nappi and more

Various knickknackery, like a paddle set and cocktail napkins, sit amongst more highfalutin' fur and feather fare, all dunked in the delicious well-edited luxe of Taigan's house sauce. In the spirit of "one for you, two for me" here are the things I'm asking Santa for. Okay, and maybe a couple of things I selfishly wouldn't mind seeing my guy in, either. If only in my dreams... shop the full list here.

Gift Guide: For Kids

1. A Family for Franny, by Amelia Beck, the story of a chic French bulldog living the good life in Paris - until baby makes four. 2. Emerald August Willow Holiday Romper 3. 10 two-tipped felt pens, pink set, from Little Citizen's boutique 4. The Magic Sausage, a story left blank for the kids to illustrate, from Virginia Dunn 5. Surprise Ride, each month a surprise themed box with supplies, instructions, a snack, fun facts and more for ages 6-11. Pictured: Green Thumb box 6. Emerald August fabric knot necklace 7. Pirate Sword, from Baby Braithwaite 8. Aden & Anais bamboo swaddle blankets, from Seed Factory 9.  Bla Bla Pierre Doll, from Baby Braithwaite 

Around year five or so of The Love List, I was 23-4ish, and still living in Gainesville, Florida post-college.  The "blogging" thing was starting to hit and I wanted to expand my lens a little, but I was holding down other responsibilities, so I needed some help to do it. I decided to make use of the abundance of eager minds around me, so I put word out on a few sorority listservs and got myself some interns. 

For a somewhat impulsive decision, it turned out to be one of the best ones I ever made for the blog. Not only did I learn what kind of teacher and manager I was, I met the best group of amazing (then) freshman and sophomore girls whose careers I've been thrilled to continue to be a part of as they've moved up in life. For a little blog, did I really need like, four girls? No. Hell no. I needed like, one. Maybe. I remember one tweet from someone who asked me if I was assembling an "all girl army". But so many amazing ladies applied, I didn't have the heart to turn any of them down. So we had big sushi dinners and fellowship and gossiped about boys and oh yeah, worked.

The girls learned how to pitch stories, write with a voice, edit copy, some basic photoshop skills, and about this newfangled thing called twitter. We had a list of "NO" words on the wall; you know, crutch-y words that young girls love to use like "fun" and "awesome". I felt a sincere responsibility towards them. If they were willing to give me their time, then I was damn well going to make sure they learned something useful. Whenever I was conducting an interview, I gave "the spiel" about what The Love List was, what it did, and what it didn't do. Two things I always said we very much didn't do were 1. brides and 2. kids. Not that I had anything against either, but they were each their own huge realm out in blogland that I didn't want to F with. 

So here I am today, my girls long moved onto bigger, better jobs, out there conquering the world, and what am I here publishing? A children's gift guide.

But that's kind of the way it is when you've been writing your way through your formative years online. You start out interested in one thing, and then you age, and your interests veer in another direction entirely. When I was 23, I wasn't thinking about kids or know anyone that had one. I loved them, sure, but they just weren't a part of my periphery. At (almost) 29, that tune has changed. I have tons of friends with young children, who are pregnant or who are proceeding with the process of adopting. Kids are a blast. I'm excited about the idea of one day being a Mom. And all the cute stuff that's out there for them makes me squee! 

To be perfectly honest, the primary thing that inspired this gift guide is that the smart and funny Amelia Beck, who I went to high school with, published her first children's book last week! It makes me wish I knew a little girl to gift it to, but all of my friends have boys! I may just buy it anyway.  Here are a few other suggestions for the child (or child at heart).

Gift Guide: For the Homebody

Thanks Sheyda for the pretty Housewarming flowers! 

'Tis the season to be... overrun with gift guides from blogs, magazines, and the ilk! As if you aren't sick enough of me telling you what to do and buy in print this year, I figured I'd keep the machine churning ever so dutifully (dubiously?) along with some recommendations here on the blog. Worth noting: most of the gifts I've pulled maintain some kind of tie to the South or the fair city of Atlanta and are from companies, shops and people I genuinely like -- in the offline sense. So I'd like to think The Love List's are gift guides with a little (Southern) soul, and not just a bunch of same-color mishmash I pulled off of affiliate sites to spin a quick buck. Happy shopping! More cheery holiday content to come - and I promise to pepper in more presents (like this one) for you guys, too. 'Tis also the season to be grateful for all the nice people (like you!) who read this here blog, after all.

1. Talley-Ho round jewel box, at Gramercy Home, Buckhead (404) 846-9244 2. Kiehl's Norman Rockwell special edition Creme de Corps moisturizer, 18.00 at Nordstrom  3. Diptyque 'winter' candle, 68.00 at Nordstrom or Diptyque of Buckhead (404) 939-9290 4. Elizabeth McKay camel cashmere September tunic, 275.00 at Elizabeth McKay 5. Bottle opener and wine key, 22.00 and 24.00, at Pieces (404) 869-2476 6. Linens: For Every Room and Occasion by Jane Scott Hodges 7. One Man's Folly: The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood by Julia Reed (photo) 8. Proud Mary Antigua Navajo Loafer, 158.00 9. True & Co. 'uniform' pajama set in navy, 68.00 at (available Dec 1) 10. Soma water carafe and filter, 48.98 at Huckberry 11. Pierrepont Hicks Backgammon set, 275.00 at 12. Mazama mug/tumbler, 31.98 at Huckberry 13. Corallina sleep mask, 75.00, at Branca (photo) 14. Izola oyster quote catch-all tray, 36.98, at Huckberry (photo)

The tree in question.

Last Tuesday evening, I had a little help decorating my Christmas tree. As I pulled out the lights and plugged them in, they illuminated white and he smiled smugly. "So you're a white lights person." "Yeah, so?" I said, suddenly anxious about what I'd just stepped into. 

"I'm a colored lights person" He said. "Christmas should be tacky. It should be big gaudy lights and tinsel everywhere." "Oh my God, no!" I said, physically recoiling at the idea. He laughed. "White lights people are control freaks, the holidays shouldn't be 'just so'. People forget that Christmas is first and foremost for kids. And kids love colored lights." 

Sitting on the floor in my living room, surrounded by strings of white lights, handmade garland and fresh-cut magnolia branches, I suddenly felt like a big, child-hating Christmas jackass. 

In defense of him coming off erstwhile and grumpy, it stands to be said he also hauled the tree home in his pickup truck and put it in the stand for me. When my dyslexia sent me cross-eyed trying to wrap lights around said tree, he took over there, too. So we aren't talking about a Scrooge or a Grinch here, just a sweet, if not imperviously staunch, "colored lighter". And let me tell y'all, he ain't alone.

After our, ah, colorful conversation, I couldn't help but be bothered by the idea that I'd spent my entire (short) adult life accidentally letting my taste in holiday lighting make some kind of dismal statement about my personality. Am I a control freak? Selfish? Destined to be a terrible mother one day? Why do colored lights bother me so much, anyway?

I came to the conclusion most of us do when a supposedly ugly part of our personality is pointed out; the parents are to blame.

Maggie on the porch underneath my door's humble Boxwood wreath. Boxwood, apparently also a  total #whitelightsmove.

My upbringing was, like a lot of Southerners, a mixed bag of white privilege and white trash. As I mentioned in my oyster essay earlier this year, there was one, more elegant part of my family whose arms I rushed into, and one I had to be dragged to visit and reminded to hug. They, of course, were colored lights people. 

Okay, so they weren't exactly wrapping colored lights around their mailboxes with twenty feet of extension cord and leaving them up all year*, but when you're a teenager, you'll find just about anything to be embarrassed about.

In my teens and early twenties, I tried to play up the fancy parts of my blood and play down the muddy ones, but come a few years ago, I realized it was a pointless pursuit, and it was making me come off like a phony baloney - or, for the sake of this argument, a typical white light-lovin', hoity toity bitch.

In truth, I was raised on colored lights. Hell, I remember driving out to my Mom's best girlfriend's house in the early 90's to exchange presents. I must have been around eight. Without a trace of irony, she had mammoth colored orbs keeping company on nearby branches with even bigger ol' candelabra-looking things that had bubbles (bubbles!) moving inside them, like a hundred little lava lamps. They were atrocious! I loved them. I begged my Mom for the same lights on our tree. She said no. She's a white lighter, too.  

When and why did I become a white lighter? Hard to say. Is it because somewhere along the line, I let somebody make me feel like me or my family weren't up to snuff? In that case, shame on me. Or maybe it's just because I haven't yet acquired popsicle stick creations and glitter-framed first-grade pictures like my Mom has, whose white-lights tree sags with a lifetime's collection of ornaments. Because of that, I use bows and fresh greenery to fill mine, and I happen to think it looks prettier lit up white. 

How it happened, why it became ingrained, I still couldn't say with any honesty I actually like colored lights. So whatever statement it may make, (who knew it had such gravity) I'm still a white lights kind of gal. As I stuck fresh magnolia branches in my tree the other night, he laughed and rolled his eyes. "Total white lights person move." He said. I just shrugged. "Yup."

*thank you Rick Bragg for this colorful anecdote.

Terrible photos by me. I'm not Caroline, okay?

Happy #CyberMonday, fine folks. How was your Thanksgiving? How was your rivalry week? It was a good weekend to be a Seminole or a fan of the Crimson Tide. Everyone else, not so much. But I digress, because now, it is officially Christmas time! I promised some presents for you guys, so here's the first of those holiday giveaways. You might have seen me (or not, it's whatevs) in the December issue of Southern Living talking about holiday entertaining - I mentioned there that one of my favorite drinks this time of year (and a staple at my Christmas party) is a Hot Toddy. I really like to use a Tervis Tumbler to serve it, because if the drink isn't piping hot, it kind of defeats the purpose, you know? Here's the recipe for a crowd:

Keep the bottle nearby in case folks want to top their drink of with another nip. I put my name on these. Because they warm the bones and get you drunk.

The free stuff part: the nice folks at Southern Living and Tervis are offering up an awesome prize pack of tumblers from the new Entertaining Collection by Tervis® (pictured above in color Crystal Clear) for one lucky Love List reader. We could all use that, right? The winner will get two four packs (one in a small and large size) in the color of their choice: Clear, Cherry Fizz, Mint Sprig, Blue Infusion, or Plum Twist. To enter, follow me on Instagram and "like" my hot toddy photo. Bonus entry if you leave a comment!

If you don't luck out and win here, fret not, because you can still visit every day through December 24 to enter the Great Big Christmas Giveaway for a chance to win great prizes, including a set of tumblers from the Entertaining Collection by Tervis®


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