Erika Preval - Simply Put

Category: Personal



Senior year comes with lots of lasts: the last first day of school, the last yearbook photos, and the last prom. It’s my daughter’s senior year, and I’ve done my best to document these moments along the way. To stay in the moment I hosted a pre-prom picture party within a suite at The Georgian Terrace (prom was across the street at the Fox Theatre) and hired Janet Howard to capture the event.

If you follow my Instagram, you’ve seen a few of the 300+ photos Janet sent over. I’ll share more here, as well as some tips for hosting a similar party for your teens.

  1. Hire a photographer. We invited parents to take their own photos, but there’s nothing like enjoying an event and knowing that a professional is capturing every moment. Our guests are able to access all of the photos and download as many as they’d like at no charge.
  2. Keep decorations simple. Guests won’t be with you very long, so be sure your decorations serve as functional props. For this event, I had trays of sweet small bites, soda and still and sparkling water. A simple vase of Whole Foods roses was placed in the entryway and photo booth props from BigDotofHappiness were scattered on tables throughout the suite. Gold accents from Paper Source, a vintage camera and West Elm frame for signing were all it took to set the tone for the party.
  3. Set a time, but be flexible with the timeline. I used an electronic Paperless Post invitation (you can always order a single paper copy for your memories) and gave a timeline for photos. For this occasion, however, I anticipated staggered arrivals due to the separate hair and makeup appointments of friends.

















For over a year, my daughter has been working towards earning her Gold Award – Girl Scouts highest honor. Along with the owners of Sugarcoat Nail & Beauty Bar and curlBOX, she asked me to partner with her in fulfilling her vision of creating a sustainable project (Polished.) that raises awareness and makes an impact in the area of poverty.

Invited guests were members of the Junior League of Atlanta and Older Girl troops within the Buckhead Service Unit of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. They were treated to manicures as they learned about the feminization of poverty before heading over to me for a mini-etiquette session. Donations of feminine hygiene products were collected during the event. These, along with haircare products donated by curlBOX, will be given to youthSpark later this month.

Sugarcoat | 4300 Paces Ferry Road, Unit 230 | Atlanta, Georgia 30339








Excluding times I’ve lived abroad as a student, I’ve traveled solo at least once a year for nearly 20 years. Turning 40, I decided that Bermuda had remained on my travel bucket list far too long. The trip proved to be more than worth the wait, and I cannot wait to return. There’s so much to share (if you follow me on Snapchat, you’ll concur) that I’m dividing my time there between two posts. The first will focus on the property I chose to reside in during my stay and the second will cover adventures off-property.

One of the most important details when traveling alone is safety. So, I’m always very particular about my accommodations and make certain they’re aware of my plans. Rosewood Tucker’s Point makes this process easy and takes it a step further by sending over a Guest Preference form upon booking your reservation. Arguably the nicest property on the island, the thoughtful inquiries on the form are just a glimpse into the level of service you can anticipate during your stay.

Beach Club

Opting for the Manor House Poolside Deluxe Room during my 4-night stay, by the time I reached the room and walked outside to Castle Harbor Pool, I was greeted by a rain shower that ruined initial plans to lounge on my daybed and order a late poolside lunch. Before I could decide what to do next the doorbell rang announcing luggage delivery. As quickly as the sun disappeared, it returned. You’ll hear it said, and is true, that if you don’t like the weather in Bermuda, wait 5 minutes!

castle harbor pool


In addition to room service and poolside dining options, there are multiple restaurants at Rosewood. During my stay, I enjoyed three of them. Sul Mer is a beachside restaurant offering a casual dining experience steps away from the Atlantic Ocean. Think French bistro, as far as cuisine. It’s the way to go for a meal that’s lighter on the waistline and the pockets.

The Golf Clubhouse offers two dining options – Sul Verde and The Grille Room. Everyone raves about the Antipasti Bar at the former, and it is perfect for the guest who loves meats and cheeses. Of note is that this is also the restaurant’s only option for enjoying a salad with your meal. Sul Verde’s vegetarian pasta dish was yummy. Five Cheeses pizza from the Grille Room made for a great meal, as well, and you can order it ahead for carryout.

Pizza at Golf Club

The Point is the resort’s upscale dining option. I wanted a more laid back trip, so I’ve not yet dined there, but did enjoy cocktails and Bermuda Fish Chowder right next door at Tucker’s Bar.


Rosewood is part of the private resort community of  Tucker’s Point Club. During your stay, you’ll take a shuttle for visits the beach, golf and tennis clubs. Along the way you’ll be whisked past beautiful mansions (including one owned by Michael Bloomberg) and can request a stop at The Mid Ocean Club for a round of golf.

You’ll find an adult only and children’s pool at the beach, and two pools back at the resort. Castle Harbor Pool is the quieter option, but can be a bit shady at certain points of the day. Note that the poolside cabanas at Castle Harbor are for the sole use of guests within the poolside rooms, hence my choosing that accommodation. Rent a private cabana at the Palm Court pool, or enjoy sunning on its plentiful chaise lounges overlooking the Coffee Chine Grotto.

pool view

As you approach the Palm Court Pool, you’ll pass the croquet lawn and Sense spa. Spa treatments book quickly, so you’ll want to arrange for spa treatments before or at the very start of your stay. Prepare to be spoiled during your time at the spa. The space is indulgently charming and I can personally vouch for their Cedar Warming Massage.

Sense Spa Rosewood Tucker's Point

Bermuda isn’t known for being on the list of budget travel, but there are ways to make your trip more affordable. Rosewood Tucker’s Point is a luxury accommodation, so bargain hunters beware. A great source for Bermuda travel deals, including resorts like Rosewood, here. Also research perks that cards like the Platinum American Express offer. Have you visited Bermuda? I’d love to hear about your favorite things to do on the island.

Sul Mer







A last minute trip to the beach (literally booked the day before) lead us to a three-night stay on Hilton Head Island (HHI). Only a 4-hour drive from Atlanta, it’s surprising that my family waited over a decade to revisit. Our experience was definitely better with the girls as teens rather than toddlers, although you shouldn’t hesitate to head over with your little ones. It’s easy to see why Travel & Leisure has voted HHI the #1 Island in the Continental U.S.


Booking a stay during the week of Independence Day can be a challenge, so do plan ahead! Fortunately, we were able to find accommodations within the Palmetto Dunes Resort Community at the Omni Hilton Head Island Oceanfront Resort. This luxurious Lowcountry property is beautiful and the staff most welcoming. Upon check-in, anticipate glasses of champagne for the adults and cookies and mango lemonade for the younger guests.

The girls are a bit older now, so we opted for the Luxury Oceanfront Suite, which gave us ample room both inside and out on the balcony. This resort has daily activities available to keep you on property, and an Old Skool burger my family raved about, but we decided to explore a bit.



Arriving just after 3pm, everyone was looking forward to a late lunch. The first request was for something “easy” so I suggested heading to Java Burrito. You’ll quickly find that building codes restrict any blaring signage for businesses, so use Waze and keep your eyes peeled for the outdoor shopping plaza that houses Java. If you’ve been to a burrito bar like Chipotle, you’ll know what to do upon entering. Just know that, no matter the toppings you choose, this is going to be way better! Everything is extremely fresh, locally sourced and sustainably raised. In fact, I spied a bushel of unshucked corn behind the register. Coffee is available, too, hence the name. Arrive between 4-6pm and enjoy the freshest margarita you’ll find on HHI during Happy Hour.

If you’ve come to HHI in search of fresh seafood, don’t mill Skull Creek Boathouse. There will likely be a wait for those coveted outside tables beneath a canopy of mossy trees. Aim for a late lunch. If you don’t time it right, parking will be farther and the line will be longer. That being said, it’s more than worth the wait. The food is fabulous, service top notch and the atmosphere is very laid back, so relax and take in the live music and beauty of the marina and be glad you’ve dodged the touristy spot (we didn’t) and found a treasure the locals enjoy.

Near the hotel, you’ll find the newly built Shelter Cove Town Centre which houses Poseidon. Consider this your go-to if anyone in your group has food restrictions. Seafood and cocktails are at the ready, but there are plenty of gluten free options and a kids menu to satisfy the most challenging palette. Don’t miss their tomato pie!


As for the first meal of the day, we tried a few places, but enjoyed our first and last the most. Watusi is a charming restaurant and the perfect choice for a healthier breakfast and great coffee. Harold’s Diner offers no-frills but very tasty and budget friendly breakfast classics coming hot off the griddle — cash only and do follow the rules.


Situated between the Calibogue Sound and Atlantic Ocean, Hilton Head gets a bit steamy; you’ll want to pace yourself with outdoor activities. There are three championship golf courses at Palmetto Dunes. The hubby enjoyed one designed by Robert Trent Jones while the girls and I shopped the outlets. The carts are air conditioned, but I strongly urge you to reserve the earliest tee time available so that your game isn’t affected by the heat.


Want even more golf? There are lots of options for playing putt putt. We found lots of shade and a fun but challenging course at Legendary Golf. You can’t hide from humidity, so be sure to drink water and grab one of my favorite frozen treats, a cherry flavored Screwball, from their cooler before hitting the links!

My family loves going to the movies, and I was able to find a theater with the same reclining seats we’re accustomed to in Atlanta. Now, the theater is much smaller, but four adults can catch a matinee for $30 with online ticketing. Head to Park Plaza Cinema if there’s rain in the forecast or you don’t want to miss a new release.

Of course, back at the hotel there are pools to explore, sugar sand beaches to wander and s’mores to be made. If planning your first trip to Hilton Head, don’t miss going the iconic red-and-white-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse. With all we did during our 4-days at HHI, we left plenty of items on our to do list for the next time we need a beach getaway. And something tells me that with our oldest headed into her senior year of high school, that will be sooner rather than later!






OH, LIFE BEGINS AT 40! | Atlanta Event Photographer | JCT Kitchen

 Photos: Krisandra Evans Photography

It wasn’t until my second Wall Street internship that I started paying attention to the number 22. For two summers in New York, I’d worked on the 22nd floor. And my first job afterwards was on the 22nd, as well. When Spelman College numbered its buildings, I suppose for the sake of mapping, my freshman dorm was designated building 22. Our wedding anniversary is on the 22nd and our first child was born on my mother in law’s birthday: the 22nd.

I could give you countless 22s throughout my life, but the most recent is that 22 years ago, Oprah turned 40. Since watching her celebrate that birthday on TV, I’ve looked forward to this milestone birthday. The show had plenty of celebrities on hand to share their wisdom, but it was the wisdom and sense of self that Oprah had that made me feel that by the time I reached 40, I’d have also gained the clarity and posture with which to live my best life. And that has come to pass! | Atlanta Event Photographer | JCT Kitchen

So, I sent out invitations to as many guests as I could afford to pay for, asking they join me for some bourbon, champagne and Southern small bites. (Tip: When hosting your own party, guests should leave their wallets behind — cover all costs.) Ever sentimental, I wanted to host the event at the location one of Charm’s first partnerships, JCT. Kitchen & Bar, and put together a floral arrangement in my grandmother’s punch bowl so that she could be there, as well. It was the perfect evening to begin my best years! | Atlanta Event Photographer | JCT Kitchen


nashville sign

A three-day weekend is quickly approaching! In case you’re looking for a great road trip destination, do allow me to suggest a drive to Nashville, Tennessee. Should an aversion to country music have you thinking it’s not the ideal destination, know that the Music City has far more to offer. If you enjoy good food and good times, Nashville is one of the hottest places to visit in the South, and just keeps getting better. Here’s a snapshot of all that you can get into with three days to spare.


Although it sells out quickly, do your best to reserve a room at the Omni Nashville. Located in downtown Nashville within walking distance of the hubbub of Broadway, this unique hotel has multiple restaurant options, rooftop pool, and impeccable service. Sold out? Make your way to Union Station Hotel – a bit more demure but absolutely charming.


pancake pantry

Breakfast: You don’t want to leave Nashville without having a proper biscuit. A bit of a drive will lead you to Loveless Café. If you’d prefer staying near downtown head over to the food truck offshoot Biscuit Love in The Gulch. Don’t question it – order the bonuts for starters.  Arrive early to avoid the (long) line at Pancake Pantry; it’s definitely worth the wait. Or simply head downstairs to the biscuit bar at Kitchen Notes in the Omni lobby.


Lunch: Options for lunch are endless, but you won’t go wrong making your way over to East Nashville for burgers and tots at The Pharmacy. You’ll find another former food truck, Mas Tacos Por Favor, right across the street. Beyond tacos, be sure to order their chicken tortilla soup (chicken can be omitted) and elote. Cash and checks only. Feeling nostalgic? Head over to Puckett’s Grocery. A doable walk from the hotel, make a pit stop at the Goo Goo Shop for a sweet treat after dining at this historic meat and three.


Dinner: When traveling, we tend to sleep in a bit, which throws off a typical three squares a day timeline. Those times we were hungry enough for a full-fledged meal, we headed to Husk’s Nashville location (the original is in Charleston), which never disappoints. If you’re lucky, you’ll dine next to Elvis at Demos’ Steak and Spaghetti House. Order any of the amazingly generous and yummy pasta dishes, but not steak. Trust me.


pinewood social

Reserve a bowling lane at Pinewood Social. These book up weeks in advance, but opting for an early evening time might work to your advantage. The Escape Game is also a fun family-friendly activity for tweens and teens. Once the kids are settled in with the sitter, head to The Patterson House for superbly crafted cocktails in a speakeasy setting. Get there early to avoid a wait.

Do share your Nashville favorites (don’t miss shopping in downtown Franklin, TN) and travel safely!




I’m hosting a new group of teens, through March, as part of Charm’s Polished series. It just so happens that this group is comprised solely of young ladies ages 13-16. We will meet in topic-related locations each month, and kicked things off in November at Steve McKenzie’s. Locally owned by artist Steve McKenzie and his wife Jill, the storefront is filled with furniture, decor and gifts for the home and was the perfect space for our guests. Steve even took the Polished teens on a tour of his studio – such a treat! If you’ve not yet stopped by, I encourage a visit. You’ll enjoy the hospitality of Steve and Jill and quickly understand what makes theirs a charming place to shop.

Steve McKenzie’s | 999 Brady Avenue NW, Atlanta |



Photo by Charm Partner Kristin Boyer

Photo by Charm Partner Kristin Boyer

In October, I shared Monday afternoons with the most charming group of 9 year olds! They attend the same school and have all been classmates at one point or another. Each guest was bright and full of both personality and potential. For most, this was their first time within our partner restaurant St. Cecilia, but one was quick to share with me how much she enjoyed eating their crudo – what an impressive palate. Best wishes to these future leaders and graduates of Charm (Grades 2-5)!

16 Candles – A GNO

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I’d planned an absolutely fantastic Sweet 16 birthday party for Firstborn, but hadn’t clued her in on the theme. She kept mentioning wanting to play laser tag on her birthday, so I ran a few options (including the event I’d planned) past her. She chose Option C: Girls Night Out. You’ll have to wait a couple of years for Baby Girl’s Sweet 16 to see the other event – she’s all in!

We decided to have a nonstop event, from the time the girls were dismissed from school until the following morning. Multiple stops included a photo shoot with Starr Petronella, Hibachi dinner within the charming train car of Orient Express, back to back sessions of laser tag and games at Main Event, followed by reserved seats to watch Tomorrowland. It was nearly 11pm before the girls made it to their hotel suites for cake cutting and sleepover shenanigans!

This was the fastest load in I’ve ever done – less than an hour. Lots of details had to be omitted, but here are some shots of the room. Huge thanks to the hotel for providing the perfect backdrop for my black, white and gold palette. From drapery to wall art, they pulled the look together!




 Our 28 hours in Charlotte, North Carolina, last weekend were unscripted and just perfect! Since the hubby was there for an extended business trip, the girls and I took the 4-hour drive up instead of his driving home. This was our first visit to The Queen City, so we were pretty excited to see what we’d find.

Typically, I’d have researched a few places to visit for local eats and antiques, but last week was a full one, leaving no time to plan. After a quick stop at Bojangles for Bo-tato Rounds, we pulled into Charlotte around lunch time. Our first stop was the newly renovated Le Meridian, where we dropped off our bags and I handed over the wheel. Our initial plans of having a picnic at The Green, in Uptown, were thwarted, since the surrounding restaurants are closed on Saturday. A quick Google search of Charlotte’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives options lead us to Cabo Fish Taco in the NoDa (North Davidson) section of town.


Even if you’re not a fan of fish tacos, don’t hesitate to stop by if you enjoy Mexican cuisine. They have plenty of meat and vegan-friendly options, along with a healthy list of margaritas, wine and beer. Enjoy the local art, while you’re there!

After lunch, we headed to Crêpe Cellar Kitchen and Pub for dessert. This quaint spot had menu options that made me wish I wasn’t so full! The girls ordered their usual crepes (butter, sugar and fresh strawberries – not on the menu) and the hubby and I shared the most amazing Crêpe Suzette I’ve ever had!


The girls witnessed their first marriage proposal and we saw lots of prom photos being taken in the Romare Bearden Park before enjoying pre-dinner cocktails (and mocktails) at Chef Rocco Whalen’s rooftop restaurant Fahrenheit. The hubby likes to explore a city’s designated ”best burger” restaurants when traveling, so we headed to The Liberty in historic South End. According to him, the Prime Ground Pub Burger does not disappoint.

As we were leaving The Liberty, we spotted a sign for Tupelo Honey Café, and decided to head there for Sunday brunch after watching Pitch Perfect 2. They offer limited online reservations, and the best seating, IMO, is in a booth near their open kitchen. It’s worth coming here for the biscuits alone.


We headed back to Atlanta, after brunch, but not before checking out the currently under construction rooftop bar at Le Meridian. It’s sure to draw large crowds when it opens, with incredible city views. Thank you for your hospitality, Charlotte. We’ll be back soon!

Play Pretty – Tracey Pearson

Last summer, Tracey Pearson, a mother of two boys, decided to launch a company whose sole purpose was to empower girls. Yes, girls. She felt the best way to offset media’s lack of representation of girls that were healthy and strong, was to provide her sons with a different perspective. So, Tracey founded Prissy Tomboy – her way of bringing girls to the forefront, by sharing their stories and encouraging adventure.

It seems that Tracey noticed how boys easily found their place in sports and activities, and as a result, grew more confident. “But you don’t even see a group of girls riding their bikes in the neighborhood anymore.” In comparison to girl athletes, she saw that other girls didn’t have the same confidence.  Preteen and teenage girls were stuck inside and on social media, or just not seeking adventure and activity.

Always an athlete and girly, Tracey’s father started calling the Atlanta native a prissy tomboy. As CEO, she runs her company with a few other women that are just as passionate about helping girls become future leaders. “When we started this journey, our mission was to get girls out to play and create a product that supports our mission. Sounds simple, right? Once we hit the road, we found it has become so much more.”

To date, Tracey has done more than 30 events; traveling from beaches to mountains in the Prissy Tomboy van: “Miss Priss”. She’s engaged girls from the UK, Hawaii, New York and beyond through the company’s three main initiatives: an Ambassador program, Girls Only Clinics that allow girls to try new sports in a noncompetitive environment, and a fundraising arm for all-girl athletic programs. “We’ve also got a range of athletic wear and beauty products that help fund our programs.”

Currently in the midst of planning for this weekend’s event, the Adventure Challenge, Tracey has assembled an all-women panel of professionals from various fields to discuss topics surrounding leadership development for its teen audience and their parents. “The whole mission is to challenge them and have them really push themselves. There is nothing more inspiring than watching a girl blossom into a confident, healthy, and ambitious young woman.”

I met Tracey during carpool (of all places) last spring, and soon thereafter, invited her to join my campers during Camp Rock Paper Scissors. I look forward to returning the favor by bringing Charm to Tracey’s guests this Saturday at Georgia Tech! Know of a teen girl who’d like to attend? Find out more here.

Erika Preval is a certified etiquette consultant and founder of both simply put, a blog that simplifies the intricacies of manners for adults as well as Charm Etiquette, the premiere source for boutique events in social and leadership skills  for modern youth. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

DRIVER’S ED: A Refresher for Those Behind the Wheel


Driving has been a major theme for my family this summer. We kicked off the season in celebration of my older teen gaining her learner’s permit. I’ll admit that I’m still taken aback by her independence in earning it – I was in no hurry for her to drive. Her driver’s manual provided a great deal of rules for the road, but there are certain courtesies that seem to be forgotten in our rush to get from Point A to Point B. In case your tendency towards Southern hospitality doesn’t kick in during such scenarios, do allow this reminder of how to make things a bit safer while sharing the road:

Pump your brakes – Live long enough, and you’re bound to find yourself in a traffic jam. Though you can’t control the flow of traffic, you can control your reaction to it. Do your best to remain calm, despite the actions of those around you and phone ahead to anyone who might be awaiting your arrival (with an apology). This can help ease the anxiety of running late until things clear up a bit.

Remain neutral – An important part of being considerate on the road is allowing fellow drivers the ability to merge. No matter how long you’ve been driving in it, the right-hand lane does not belong to you; especially when an on-ramp is within sight. Safely move into the left-hand lane when vehicles are present in an on-ramp, so that you might provide those drivers time to safely enter the lane without interrupting the flow of traffic.

Put on your hazards – Consider this: When standing in line at the grocer, you allow a certain amount of space between yourself and the guest ahead of you. Shouldn’t even more space be allowed between your 4000-pound vehicles than the plastic thing dividing your groceries on the conveyor belt? Add any number of distractions and speed, and tailgating lends itself to a particularly unsafe driving scenario.


Our season has ended with the descriptor of Car 3 in a 5-car collision. The culprit? Tailgating by Cars 4 & 5. Please take good care and consideration while traveling this holiday weekend, so that you might arrive safely to your destination. I’m counting on you to keep my teen driver and the loved ones of others in mind while on the go. I promise to do the same.

Safe travels,


Guest Post: Must Make Basil Simple Syrup Lemonade

Through Charm, I’ve been able to partner with some of the most talented entrepreneurs in Atlanta. See what fun my friend Kate and I had making basil simple syrup and get the yummy recipe to make at home. It’s what’s cooking at Camp Rock Paper Scissors!

Via Kate Byars, Kate Byars Photography

What fun! I joined Manners Maven, Erika Preval, who has made a name in Atlanta teaching etiquette to kids, for a fun afternoon of making her Homemade Basil Lemonade – a refreshing and sophistocated summer bev for the little ones.

Now you may have had a restaurant cocktail or two with some delicious herbal simple syrups in it (I know I have!), but it is quite the Lovely Southern Hostess thing to have this on hand to dash here and there into drinks of all sorts, you feel like it.

In fact, Erika is doing this fun kitchen activity in her upcoming Camp Rock Paper Scissors, where kids will take the blend home to parents to sample. Camp occurs on June 19+20th at the Georgian Terrace and the Westside Provisions District. She has a spot or two, if you would like to be one of the last sign ups!


Want to know how to do this recipe at home?

Let’s get to it! All you need is basil, water, sugar and a whole lotta lemons.


First, make the simple syrup.  All you need is equal parts water and sugar. If you want to be sassy, you can match your cup to your dress, as Erika has. Boil equal parts water and sugar, and then let it cool. It’s really pretty easy to do, and a lovely kitchen staple to have on hand. But, if you are worried about this bit, read a guide to simple syrup-making, like this one, on a post by Stir and Garnish. I may add, also, that with the leftover simple syrup, you can easily add sweetness to other bevs and … drumroll please, to morning iced coffees – which are a soon to be MUST in Hotlanta!



After you take the simple syrup off the heat, add a handful of basil. Remember, use fresh basil, and pinch off individual leaves, one at a time. Basil stems do not make for tasty syrup!


With kids, this is a fun time to talk about gardening and where our food comes from … even if it is the delicious and sweet kind!


Steep the basil for 3 minutes and then strain out the leaves.

Then, slice the lemons and make yourself a yummy lemonade while the simple syrup cools. Easy peasy. I recommend making homemade lemonade, using a recipe like this one.… which, as it turns out, also uses simple syrup!  Did I say it would be awesome to have on hand, or what? (Or … cheat, and buy some at the store. Just make sure you buy a high quality, mostly juice recipe).


Add a dash of basil simple syrup to a glass of your lovely lemonade, garnish with more fresh basil, and serve with ice (mommas and daddies can also add a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to the mixture for an, ahem, Big Kid basil lemonade).

But wait, there’s more! Jar the basil simple syrup for up to 3 refrigerated weeks. AND, make a few extras as gifts for your friends. Or, party favors for kids at the next birthday party. Tie them up with a cute bow or a tag, distribute and you, my friend, will be the talk of all of Pinterestdom for the rest of the week. Or, at least the kids summer activities circle. Or, the cocktail club. Whichever. You decide. =)




If you liked this story and want to read more about Atlanta Moms, check our Every Mom Home Tour.


Happy 1st Birthday, Charm Etiquette!


It’s difficult to put into words the excitement of celebrating the 1st birthday of Charm Etiquette – my modern spin on manners! I poured my love of leadership, community, eating local and courtesies that count into this first business of mine. I’m overjoyed at how well received she’s been by the public, and overwhelmed by the support I’ve received from my community partnerships.

Entrepreneurship has been much like my first years as a mother – filled with second-guessing myself and sleepless nights. There, too, is that indescribable love of what I’ve created and great desire to protect it. Like parenthood, you come to realize there isn’t always a “right” answer and you must remain flexible. It didn’t work the way you’d planned? Great! You’ve failed successfully. Recalibrate. Move forward. Someone’s counting on you to make this work! Charm has been every bit my baby, and I’ve loved watching her grow.

Thank you for your part in Charm’s successful launch! It takes a village to raise a child  grow a business. I’m so grateful that you’re here!



Remembering Aunt Margie


Last weekend was extremely busy. I’d flagged it as such as early as February. Baby Girl was to play in a Regional volleyball competition in Birmingham. A surprise baby shower for a dear friend (for which the aforementioned is named) was taking place in DC. A local charity, The Enchanted Closet, asked that I facilitate an etiquette session for a group of 30 young ladies preparing for prom. What’s more, my husband and I were to celebrate our anniversary on the following Monday, April 22 – an odd day for a celebration considering our busy schedules. The weekend of April 20 had been on my radar for quite some time.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that the life of my Great-Aunt Margie would be celebrated on April 20. Death isn’t one of those things that you can plan for, nor the activities that follow. The loss of Aunt Margie presented one of the toughest business challenges I’ve had, to date. Would I attend her services, or should I be there for my daughter and the 30 young ladies who were looking forward to my guidance for their first prom? I wrestled with it the entire week.

Talk to anyone in El Dorado, Arkansas, and they’ll laud Aunt Margie’s pound cake. They’d purchase her cakes for holiday celebrations, and the like. Admittedly, it was amazing! Members of the Matthews Family (we are all the branches of the tree planted by Jeff and Savannah Matthews) coveted the cake. Slices were saved, and sometimes hidden, in safe places during our get-togethers. You can’t imagine the disappointment that would follow the phrase, “there’s no more cake.” It was just that good. No. Better. However, (and this is just between us) should you happen to call Aunt Margie, frustrated that no one had saved you a slice, somehow there would happen to be one or two waiting for you at her house. It was endearing. It was Aunt Margie.

Aunt Margie was amazing. All things that a Southern Belle should be – she was. Honestly, we were never close during my  time growing up in Arkansas. It’s our time together and conversations we had during my adult years that I remember fondly. She was, perhaps, the most like me, of Granny’s siblings. I both appreciated and welcomed that.

As the years pass, my appreciation has grown for an assignment that my daughter’s Social Studies teacher gave her. She was to interview three members of her family, in order to become familiar with our family history. In addition, a coveted family recipe was to be prepared and shared with the class. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about our family during those interviews: The fastest worker on the land we sharecropped. The family’s ties to the beginnings of Grambling State University. The first signs of my Granny’s memory loss. The recipe for Aunt Margie’s pound cake.I thought it would be difficult to convince her to give it to me, but she wanted me to have it. I was honored, and I baked my first of her cakes for a most pleased group of 6th graders. They talked about Aunt Margie’s cake and asked me (by way of my daughter) until the end of the school year to make another. I shared their responses with Aunt Margie. She simply said, “People just love that cake.”

Certainly, they loved that cake. If you were a member of the Matthews Family, you loved both – the cake and the woman behind it. One of those can’t be replaced, and we, as a family, are at a loss – an indescribable and most impactful loss.

I decided to drive my daughter to Birmingham. I slept all of two hours in our hotel room before driving back to Atlanta, at 8AM, to ensure that those teenagers were able to attend prom (and a lifetime of activities) fully aware of their social graces. Thoughts of Aunt Margie and our family kept me awake. It’s difficult to lose a matriarch – a voice in the Matthews Sisters chorus, no less. Considering her concern for and love of youth and family, I felt the best way to honor her was to uplift both. It was a tough choice, and it still sits heavily on my heart.

Though I’ve done so for holidays when my family can’t make the trip to Arkansas, I don’t know when I’ll bake another pound cake. I don’t know what it will be like to be at our reunion this year and not have Aunt Margie present. I do know that heaven has received an amazing asset, and I will honor God’s decision to have her there with him in comfort, peace and love.

For you, Aunt Margie,






Pollen Art – Kyle Brooks


The Art of Kyle Brooks – Her socks (and sentiment) match Charm Etiquette!

It wasn’t long before the girls and I began to notice the presence of bear faces, crosses and other pieces of artwork displayed on the trees (or as signs and murals) throughout our East Atlanta neighborhood. Not until we attended a festival in East Atlanta Village last year were we able to connect the artwork with the artist: Kyle Brooks or, perhaps the more familiar, “BlackCatTips”.

We were so excited to know who was behind the creations that we’d enjoyed spotting throughout the community. The girls decided that they wanted one of his bears for their bedroom door. I purchased their favorite, and it’s taken up residence there ever since!

On our drive home one afternoon, we happened to see Kyle installing one of his recent works – The Pie Sign. It was quite whimsical and a bit humorous, as there’s no pie to be found in the direction that the arrow points. Those of us who have come to love Kyle’s neo-folk art appreciate its lightheartedness, nonetheless, and I was excited that the girls were able to see their favorite artist at work.

Having a car hood full of pollen, I rolled down my window and asked Kyle if he might draw the girls a Bear onto it. Though he thought it a funny request, he gladly obliged. Using a leftover Chick-fil-A napkin as his only tool, we soon had our very own BlackCatTips Bear artwork on our car. Briefly. Rains came no less than 30 minutes after its completion!

Pollen Art

Pollen Bear on Hood – Kyle Brooks 2013

Kyle also wrote about and filmed the experience. You can see more of his work here. Many thanks to Kyle Brooks for making pollen fun!