Storyworth Entry #4 - Relatationships With Siblings Growning Up

The following is part of an ongoing project I am working on in 2020 using the website Storyworth, a collection of memories to share with my family.

What was your relationship with your siblings like growing up?

My only sibling, my younger sister Kimberly Christine was born in July of 1977. I was four years old when she was born and I just barely remember it. 

I don't really remember when she was born, but I do remember around that time we moved into a new house. Basically, what I remember about that is my hair blowing in the wind, riding in the back of my daddy’s truck on a country backroad carrying a load of stuff to the new house (I mean, don’t all four year old's ride seatbelt free in the back of a pickup truck? Nothing to see here, let's move along). I also remember that around that time mama had zero patience for me and I had to "go play" & be quiet, A LOT. (Damnation!)

Although I already spent a lot of time with my grandparents, this was probably the real beginning of me being at their house all the time. I’m not going to lie here, my sister was not the happiest baby. She wanted mama and mama only! She would not have anyone else and she screamed if you tried to touch her (or speak to her, or look at her, or even move your head in her direction). I don’t know what her problem was, but I was not a fan and because of that I spent a lot of time being jealous of the attention showered on her. tormenting her and aggravating her for entertainment (and getting spanked a lot for doing so).
(Those of you who know that my sister & I run this blog together are probably wondering who on earth I am talking about here because surely it is not my beloved, BFF Kim.)

When I look at our relationship now as adults, I am truly humbled to my core that she will have anything to do with me after the awful way I treated her (pretty much until we were both grown). 

Because we are four years apart, we seemed to always be out of sync. When I started school, she started to walk. When I thought I was cool in middle school, she was cool for learning to read. When I went to high school, she was a goofy 6th grader with a mullet (oh wait, I had one of those too...bless our hearts). When I went to college, all high school people were idiots to me. I feel like I should pay for her to have therapy thinking back on all the schemes that I dreamed up and hateful words that came out of my mouth that left her little heart hurting when all she wanted to do was be included in what I was doing. 

Instead of helping her and cheering for her, I was always jealous of her and insecure because she was the opposite of me in every way and everything I wished that I could be. (Spoiler alert, she grew out of that unhappy baby phase.) She was blonde, beautiful, funny, sunny, talented, loved by everyone and most of all, she was a normal person who could hear. I have so many regrets about our childhood. I think I will wear a permanent cone of shame for the remainder of my life. Now, as adults we talk every single day and although our kids are of different ages and marriages at different stages; we both speak fluent sarcasm and there is no shortage of hilarity to be discussed between us on a daily basis. I am grateful for second chances. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have a sister like her, she is a shining example of all things that are good.

I was not a very good big sister to Kimberly Coots, but I will go to my grave trying to be a good big sister to Kim Love. I am so thankful that she wants to be my friend as an adult.  I love you, Kim!❤

Storyworth Weekly Entry #3 - What Did You Read As a Child?

The following is part of an ongoing project I am working on in 2020 using the website Storyworth, a collection of memories to share with my family. What did you read as a child?

I learned to read when I was four years old and I have pretty much had my nose stuck in a book ever since. I have traveled all over the world and to many different time periods in my mind and made lifelong, beloved friends in books that I have read over and over throughout my life. Books have always been my very best friends.

I could not be more thankful that I grew up in a time without internet access, ipads or cell phones. Back in the late 70’s & 80’s we were wild and free, not chained to an electronic device. Our television had four channels: ABC, NBC, CBS & PBS (more about beloved tv shows later) and children’s programming was limited. 

On long car rides, we did not have a DVD, headphones & a screen to keep us entertained. We looked out the window at passing cars and slugged each other on the shoulder whenever we spotted a Volkswagen Beetle. My sister and I usually played numerous rounds of our favorite game called “fightin’ in the backseat” before a hand or flip flop showed up back there and put a stop to it. But most of the time on our long car trips, I read a good book. 
Eight year old Mandy "gently" loving on four year old Kim.

Here are a few that I loved as a kid:

The Berenstain Bears: One of my absolute favorites is the called The Bear Scouts and Papa Bear takes Brother’s Scout Troop out on a camping (mis)adventure and they end up rescuing him over and over. I think this one reminds me of my daddy and some of his outrageous mishaps (I could write a whole book just on the adventures of Bob Coots). 

Beverly Cleary: Ramona Quimby was my spirit animal. Her sister Beezus was a thorn in my side. Willa Jean was my mortal enemy. Her cat Picky Picky was every cat at my very own home. Ramona was audacious and very often misunderstood, which was basically the story of my entire childhood... 

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Choose Your Own Adventure books are making a comeback lately and I have been so excited to see them on the shelves. These books were short and so much fun to read. I would read them over & over, choosing a different direction and ending for my adventure.

Judy Blume: File this author under “everything you need to know about adolescence, I learned from reading her books”. Deenie, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Starring Sally J Freedman As Herself, Blubber, Tiger Eyes...I can’t remember which of hers was my favorite, but I learned a lot about feelings and life from “being friends” with the characters in her books.

Sweet Valley High: There are 181 books in this series and I have read most of them (thank the Lord for our local library). Identical twins, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends in Sweet Valley, California were the constant source of gossip between my cousin Rachel and I. You would have thought these people lived in our hometown the way we obsessed over their lives. I don’t remember learning life lessons but I do remember that I thought I just KNEW what high school was going to be like from reading them. (Ha, bless my heart

And as I got a little older, I read several Stephen King books. I still can’t believe my parents let me read those. I remember reading Christine, Carrie, Cujo and Pet Sematary. Most of the mature content in those books went right over my silly head, but the scary parts did not. I can remember reading late into the night and then having to TAKE THE BOOK DOWNSTAIRS and leave it in the living room so I could go to bed because I was too scared to sleep in the same room with it! Ha!! Scared to death!!!!

But my life changed forever when I was about twelve years old and I came across the fattest, thickest paperback book I’d ever seen one day at my granny’s house. I asked her what it was about and she said that it was about "a very stubborn, selfish woman".
Something about the way she looked when she said it sparked my interest. By then I had several younger (& much cuter) cousins to compete with and I was always trying to impress her, so I decided to read it so that she and I would have something in common. Little did I know that this fat, thick book was going to shape my thinking in a profound way. Looking back now, I can say that most of my opinions about manners, traditions and all things southern I would learn from reading and rereading and rereading the book Gone With the Wind. I highly recommend reading it at least one time (but why stop there). ;)
What are some books that you enjoyed as a kid? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear about your best book friends! ;) I'm in the middle of a book club post & an amazon haul post. KIM has been the DIY queen and is going to be sharing some projects she's been working on. The kids & I went to visit a couple of weeks ago and I could not get over how much work she has done on their house!! They have the cutest, most comfy home, decorated with personal artwork, their photography, cool vintage finds, awesome concert posters...I wish she would do a Home Tour video to share. I absolutely love her decorating style (& like pretty much every thing else she does, it's the coolest ever). So, we will just wait patiently for that (Kim, we are looking at you). I can't wait for you to see what she's done with her old kitchen table!!!! It's Crazytowne!!! Thanks for stopping by to visit, friends! Mwah, Mandy

Storyworth Entry #2 - What Were Your Grandparents Like on Your Father's Side?

The following is part of an ongoing project I am working on in 2020 using the website Storyworth, a collection of memories to share with my family.
What were your grandparents like on your father’s side?

We called my Daddy’s parents Mom & Pop. They were wonderful Christian people who attended the Church of Christ in my hometown. I have such good memories of going to church with them as a child.

Mom and Pop grew up during The Great Depression and Pop served in the military during World War II. They both knew what it was like to make sacrifices to survive and were very proud of the middle class life that they made together in my hometown. Pop was a supervisor at a local factory and was a deacon at their church. Mom, in addition to being a homemaker, sewing all of my daddy & Aunt Helen’s clothes, cleaning her own home, cooking three meals a day and attending church every time the doors were open; she was also at one time a manager in the gift shop at the Opryland Hotel Cracker Barrel in Nashville. She was pretty amazing and was probably one of the busiest people I’ve ever known. She took that "idle hands" quote very seriously. 😉

Some of my favorite memories of them centered around FOOD!
Mom was a wonderful cook and I wish that I had paid more attention when she tried to teach me how to make her biscuits or her fried chicken when I was younger. We sometimes had Sunday dinner at their house after church (although, we did not normally go to church on Sunday mornings at our house when I was growing up). My mouth is watering right now thinking about her fried chicken, her homemade vegetable soup, her homemade biscuits, her gravy and her fried butterfly shrimp. 

At Christmas she would make all kinds of homemade candy and place it in Tupperware containers and store them out on the attic steps right outside the kitchen door to keep it chilled. I can remember being so excited when we would visit and see those containers out on the attic steps! She made these wonderful butterscotch & peanut haystacks, homemade fudge, and my FAVORITE Ritz peanut butter crackers dipped in white chocolate. 

Mom was also famous for gifting domesticated items for Christmas, carrying on traditions that she learned as a child when Christmas was not about gifts (and if you got any they were necessities, not extravagant luxuries). I can remember some of the last years that we had Christmas at her house before she moved in with my aunt & uncle, she was openly disapproving of all the “excess” gifts that absolutely no one was in need of, including her own (which was funny and SO Mom). She gifted things that she considered luxuries like blankets, sheets, bath towels, soap and tangerines or oranges in the toe of our stockings. As I get older, I find myself sharing her feelings about gifting and have been known to give out towels and blankets myself.

A couple of years ago I binge watched the series Mad Men on Netflix. I was enthralled by the early years of Don and Betty’s marriage. Their home was set up and decorated exactly like Mom & Pop’s (& ironically, Don’s apartment later was decorated very similar to my Granny & Poppa’s). Mom was the original minimalist, she wasted nothing! She bought things to set up house in the late 1950’s and she never bought anything else. I can remember being a kid in the eighties and their house was still peppered with 1950’s relics, it was fascinating! I was lucky to inherit a few pieces of her 1950’s costume jewelry and they are some of my most treasured possessions today. 

Mom was forever trying to teach us to save, to not be wasteful. I can remember as a kid being forced to endure lessons about how to wrap gifts using the least amount of wrapping paper, how to sew using up the least amount of fabric or how to make biscuits without wasting one scrap of dough. One of her favorite things to say was “a dollar saved is a dollar earned” and she took so much pride in clipping coupons and cutting corners to save money. 
(Mom with Olivia in 2004)
Pop passed away in 1991, just after I started my first year of college. Mom passed away at the age of 96 in 2017. I was very lucky to know them and have these memories of them both. They were wonderful people and I am proud to be their granddaughter.

Book Club - February 2020

Happy February, Book Nerd Friends!

In honor of Valentine's Day this month (or "the Valentimes", as I like to annoy my kids by saying), this month I'm committing to re-read an old favorite: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I read this one about eight years ago and it is life changing good (but a little long, which is why my February book list is short).

Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love

This one is on sale for $11.54 (regular $15.99) OR you can snag a used copy for as low as $1.87, plus $3.00 shipping (if you look under the box that tells the Paperback price, it will say something like "244 Used from $1.87").

Here's the summary, this one is a MUST READ!

California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.  
Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.  
But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does…the One who will never let her go.  
A powerful retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.

The best part about this book is when it hits you like a dump truck of bricks what this book is REALLY about (I won't spoil it for you, just trust me).

Next up, The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell...

I have read several Lisa Jewell books in the last few months and I am really excited about her new release The Family Upstairs!

Here's the summary:

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Now this next one is a new author for me & this book looks pretty crazy!
(I hope this one does not make me want to delete myself from all social media permanently...)

Followers: A Novel by Megan Angelo

Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss—a striving, wannabe A-lister—who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss’s methods are a little shady—and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can’t be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity—twelve million loyal followers—Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

Looking ahead for March Book Club:

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to serve on a launch team for Melanie Shankle's book Church of the Small Things & I had the best time!

I'm tickled to serve on another launch team for her promoting her new book On The Bright Side (pre-order your copy here), so you will see me sharing a lot about this one on social media.

Melanie Shankle's new book On The Bright Side

The hardcover version will be released on February 25 and you can pre-order on Amazon. The paperback version is $4 cheaper, but will not release until mid-April (& I can't wait that long).

Here's the summary:

These days, so many voices tell us what to do, what to think, and what kind of parent or friend or spouse to be that it's easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated. Somewhere in the midst of online arguments and crazy politics and the ups and downs of life, we've lost sight of the gifts that are all around us: kindness, love, mercy, and joy.
In On the Bright Side, Melanie Shankle reminds us of the unchanging principles we can count on in a changing world. These are lessons that Melanie has learned along the way about how to find all the joy that life has to offer - and why encouragement is never something to keep to ourselves. Exploring topics such as dealing with comparisons, when life doesn't turn out like we expected, and how to find your people, Melanie invites us to lead with love in all areas of our lives.
This delightful memoir highlights the joys of life told in Melanie's down to earth, relatable, and totally enjoyable style. On the Bright Side is a how-to guide to knowing - and living - what matters most.

Other books by Melanie Shankle that you might love: Church of the Small Things (so good), Sparkly Green Earrings (would be a great gift for a new mom), Antelope in the Living Room (hilarious stories about marriage), Nobody's Cuter Than You (a great one to share with a dear friend).
Melanie is easily one of my favorite authors and bloggers, I especially love her stories on Instagram. Her wit, her crazy dogs Piper & Mabel, her misadventures with racoons in the chimney...she makes me laugh every day!!

That's all for me in February.

What are you guys reading?
Leave me some book nerd suggestions below, we would love to know what's on your nightstand!

Happy February!!



Mandy's Amazon Finds - January 2020

(this post contains affiliate links)

Hi, friends!
Welcome to the very first Amazon Prime Finds post for 2020!

It's a pretty exciting time on, there are so many really great finds over there!
Of course, if you shop on Amazon you know with such a wide range of items to choose from, the quality can be all over the place!

Kim & I thought it would be fun to share some of the things that we have had good luck with and really love. This first post is Mandy's Amazon Finds, look for a Kim's Finds post coming sometime soon.

Please note in these posts that we will only be sharing items that we personally own and love ourselves. Crafty Southern Mama is about living the best darn southern life we can and that absolutely means being crafty about sharing good stuff!

So, hey let's get going!
Here's what I've Primed lately:

A few months ago I started doing the Prime Wardrobe feature on Amazon and I have found some really nice (& very reasonably priced) pieces to add to my closet. There is no stylist fee, you pick whatever you want to receive in your box, you can get up to 8 items at a time and you pay for only what you decide to keep.

This prime wardrobe sweater is a huge favorite here. Olivia and have been sharing it back & forth and I think I'm going to just have to break down & order another color! It is the dusty rose and it is so, so pretty!

I have the medium and it's long enough for pants jeggings but not for like Spanx leggings. I could easily wear the small. It is generously sized, but does not feel "swallow you up" big.

I wash this alone on delicate and lay flat to dry, so far it has washed up great.
It's SO warm, I love it!!

Sweater  ~  JeansBooties  ~ Earrings

I love to add a pop of color to an outfit with a scarf. I ordered this one recently and have been so pleased with it!

The reviews for this scarf said it shed, but was better after it was washed. So, I threw it in the washer as soon as it arrived and shedding has not been an issue at all. It's a much brighter pink in person & I love that!
This thing is like a warm, fuzzy hug!
I'm so happy with it (& think I might need that green one too)! 😉

Amazon Essentials Classic Fit Poplin Shirt

I think this is my favorite clothing find so far! I have bought this shirt three times since August in the checks (below), solid white and the white with black dots (all in medium, which fits my solid 8 top half perfectly). These wash up great, iron out crisp & are a GREAT deal at $19.50! I'm hoping they will add more colors.

Monarch Cypress Plush Lined Robe

(sorry, not sharing a picture of me for this one...ha)

We stayed at a nice hotel in Atlanta this fall and the robes in the room were the most luxurious things I've ever touched!!

Sadly, when I looked at them in the spa gift shop and they were $220!! #pass
When I got home, I hunted one down much cheaper on Amazon (thanks, Amazon).
I've had it for a couple of months now & I love it so much!!

Spa Robe by Monarch Cypress Plush Lined, it is divine!!

I have the pink & it's more of a peachy/pink.
I got the medium and it fits perfect!

Pink Gold Sequin Mini Skirt

Olivia wore this recently to a school dance and it looked so cute on her!
I got her the large (sizing chart said it ran more like an 8-10) and it was perfect.
She wore a shirt & heels she already owned with it and I think I did pretty good spending just $22.99 for her last school dance before prom (which I'm sure will not be a $22.99 dance...not even close) ((hold me)).

I love this sweater!!
Like SO much!!
My husband said it looked like I was going to the nursing home, I said "bring me my crossword puzzle & my glasses, sonny"! 👵

This camel goes with pretty much everything I own & it is SO warm!!
I loved this one so much I ordered the black as well. 
However, I DO NOT RECOMMEND the black. It did not wash up well & is a piling, fuzzy mess! (Oh, well)

The white tee I am wearing is also an Amazon house brand called GOODTHREADS. It's thick, is slightly longer in the back AND it washed up great! I'm pretty excited about this one for $13.77 & have already ordered another one as a back up (because I am the messiest person alive & always need a white tee back up).

Men's Dress Pants & Black Shoes

Evan was honored to be selected as an attendant for Basketball Homecoming recently. He needed black pants, a white button down, blue tie and black shoes. We had the shirt & tie already but not the bottom half, so I decided to see if I could score some men's items.
Amazon did not disappoint!

Men's Black Loafers were $29.75 (he had to go up a half size) and Black Cotton Chino Pants (these are like a pair of casual khaki pants, but are black) for $20.50.  Of course, I'm sure those prices could be beat, but not leaving the house with a 7th grade boy to go shopping was PRICELESS to me!! Ha!

(Can y'all believe how much he has grown up!?!?! Weep!!!)

Other things I've Primed & love!

Democracy Ab-Solutions Jeans! I love them!! I ordered the 8's and they fit me perfect!

This awesome blow dryer brush that everybody is raving about!
Olivia and mama got one for Christmas & they both love it!!

Christmas tree storage bags for 7 foot tree and 9 foot tree, everything got put away this year!!

Amazon Basics Velvet Hangers (I'm on a mission to change out all the hangers in our entire house this year so that every closet has the same issues are severe, I know) 😂

Natural Shoe Deodorizer (because kids)...made from 100% Natural Zinc Oxide & Botanicals, no aluminum or talic! This stuff is great!!!

What about you guys?
Have you found any good stuff on Amazon lately?
I would love to hear about your finds!!

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit today. I'll be back next week to share February BOOK CLUB suggestions, Yippee!!!

I hope you are doing great, friends!!