Where to Eat in Madison, AL

best places to eat in madison, al

When it comes to eating out, I’m pretty basic. Give me a burger, a taco, or a slice of pizza and I’m a happy girl. And since eating out is such a rare treat for us (I’d say we eat 90% or so of our meals at home), when we DO indulge…I want what I want!

So, to give you an idea of what I want when it comes to dining establishments in our little town of Madison, AL, I thought I’d round up a few of our favorites. Here’s the list…

OLD BLACK BEAR

This is probably the spot we’ve visited the most since moving to Madison. It’s conveniently located in adorable Historic Madison Station. They brew their own beer, make their own spirits, and have a menu full of delicious pub-fare. Oh, and a banging brunch to boot. Their outdoor patio area is always hopping in the warmer months with picnic tables, live music, and outdoor games. Website HERE.

SAM & GREG’S PIZZERIA

Ok, now that we’ve covered where to get a burger and a beer, we can move on to my other favorite food group — pizza! (I’m a lady of simple pleasures.) This cozy pizzeria has a warehouse meets bistro feel with high ceilings, lots of exposed brick and outdoor balcony seating. As you can see in the picture above, I always opt for salami and banana peppers on my pies. Website HERE.

LUCIA’S COCINA MEXICANA

Lucia isn’t just a name, she’s actually the matriarch of the family that runs this establishment. There’s also a location on the square in Athens, AL, which we’ve been to more, but they’re both delicious. Ya girl is always down for a celebratory margarita. Facebook HERE.

THE CUBAN CAFE

Probably the thing I miss most about Miami, besides going to the beach in the Winter, is the Cuban food and coffee. But then The Cuban Cafe opened in Madison and welp! Miami?! Who needs ya! I can nab all my Cuban favorites at a super delicious and authentic place right up the road, thank you very much. Website HERE.

SAKURA SUSHI & STEAK HOUSE

This is definitely Chet’s favorite on this list — it’s the spot he always picks for birthdays, end of semester celebrations, etc. We love everything we’ve tried there and the atmosphere is always lively because they have hibachi (which we’ve never done because I can’t handle stuff like that lol). Weirdly, they also serve a bunch of really retro cocktails … which doesn’t SEEM like it would go with sushi, but I’m here for it. Website HERE.

LA PLACITA

This is just a little hole in the wall spot near us that I happen to love. Just your typical Mexican restaurant food but everything is insanely cheap. AND they put pineapples in a bunch of dishes which is a fast way to my heart. Facebook HERE.

SMOKEY’S BARBEQUE

Barbeque joints are a dime a dozen in this part of the world. But this is the first one we tried when we moved to town so I feel a sense of loyalty to them. Again, cheap, delicious food that’s perfect in a pinch when you don’t feel like cooking. It’s also a great spot to pick up a whole bunch of food for an event or to bring on a picnic/outdoor event. *sigh* Just thinking about it makes me ready for summertime! Website HERE.

P.S. Want more? Here’s a day in my life as an online content + marketing strategist.

Preparing For A Job Interview: What You Need To Know

When it comes to looking for a new job, the percentage rate of reaching the interview stage is unfortunately very low. But, when you do land an interview for an organization, you’ll likely feel like you’ve won the lottery. Of course, you haven’t actually got the job yet; you still need to meet your potential new boss and convince him or her why you’re the model employee they’ve been waiting for.

So, how do you impress your interviewers at the interview? Here are a few tips to give you some help and inspiration:

Dress for success

Let’s face it: first impressions count when you meet someone for the first time. If your potential new boss thinks that you look like you’ve just stepped off the beach, they aren’t likely to shortlist you for the job.

That’s why it makes sense to dress for the occasion. Many people often get confused about what they should wear for an interview. In general, you should wear smart, formal clothing. The worst that can happen is that you feel overdressed for the occasion. But, at least it shows that you’ve made an effort to impress those that are considering hiring you.

Research and memorize key facts

One of the questions that you are likely to get asked at the interview is “how much do you know about the company?” and, of course, the job itself. With that in mind, you need to spend some time learning about the organization’s history, mission statement, and what they do. You’ll also need to remember what your likely roles and responsibilities will be in the job.

The sad truth is that many people crash and burn at the interview stage because their minds go blank out of fear or anxiety. To avoid that happening to you, it’s important you can remember key facts and information about the company and your role within it.

There are many strategies for getting this information to stick in your brain. One fun way is to create a match-up quiz on WordMint and print out a few copies. Doing so will help you both visualize and memorize the answers to important questions.

Know where you are going

No-one wants to be late for an interview because they can’t find where they are meant to be going! Before the big day, take a trip to the location where your interview will be held. Make mental or written notes of landmarks to help you memorize the route to the all-important destination.

You should also factor in traffic jams, especially if your interview is likely to be during a peak traffic period. Google Maps can help you determine when you should leave your home so you can get to your interview in plenty of time.

Print out a copy of your resume

Last, but not least, you should print out and take a copy of your resume to the interview. It can be a useful resource if you get asked to fill out any forms at the time, or if one of your interviewers wants another copy of it.

Good luck!

P.S. If you’re on the job hunt, I recommend finding ways to reduce stress in other areas of life. Here’s my budget friendly meal plan for busy seasons!

Let’s chat about public policy!

Who wants to get nerdy for a couple minutes? If you’re down, let’s talk about the traits of effective public policy. Then, we can explore a really neat infographic brought to us by our friends at Norwich University.

Public policy affects us all, but what makes an effective policy and how can the success of different policies be measured? The infographic below highlights the main features of good public policy, discussing the most important issues and the formulae used to establish measures that work.

Public policy is a network of regulations, measures, systems and laws that are enforced or recommended to benefit people. Typically, policies are championed by a government or its representatives, with opponents lying in wait to make challenges and influence the decision-making process. 

According to the image below, the most crucial public policy issues in the US include strengthening the economy, increasing employment, reducing debt, defending the country against terrorism and making sure social security is financially sound. Additional concerns include promoting better education, protecting and improving Medicare, lowering the cost of healthcare, helping those in need and reducing crime rates. 

Effective public policy should solve problems and provide answers to questions, and it represents a combination of ‘good politics’ and ‘good policies.’ To draw up a strategy that works, it’s essential to define the problem and then undertake research and analysis to gather information and use data to make informed decisions. Planning and implementing policies involves a series of processes from collecting data for research purposes to drawing up budgets. Strong policies should solve issues efficiently and cost-effectively, promote citizenship, support democracy and facilitate justice. 

If you’re interested in public policy, or you’re keen to learn more about what makes a policy effective, take a closer look at the insightful infographic below. 


Infographic Design By Norwich University

My Top 20 Books of 2019

Here’s a look at the best books I read in 2019 (in no particular order)…

The Importance of Being Ernest: The Life of Actor Jim Varney by Justin Lloyd

Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower: Finding Answers in Jesus for Those Who Don’t Believe by Tom Krattenmaker

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Less by Andrew Sean Green

Have you read any of these books? What were YOUR favorite reads of the year? Tell me in the comments below! I’d love to add new titles to my 2020 list. 🙂

How do vacations benefit your health?

Vacations Benefit Your Health — And Here’s Why

With all your work and personal responsibilities, it’s not always easy to carve out time for a vacation. And it doesn’t help that the United States government doesn’t require employers to offer their workers any paid vacation or holiday leave. That’s not to say that companies don’t offer their employees paid vacation days, but a lot of Americans still don’t use them for various reasons, such as cost, guilt, and generally having trouble leaving work.

Although it can feel tough and irresponsible to get away from the office for a few days, you’re aren’t doing yourself any favors by working yourself into the ground. That’s because not taking time off work can adversely affect your health, with researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Center finding that it can actually be detrimental to your health to go too long without a vacation. But if you’re still unsure about taking those paid vacation leaves, here are three solid health benefits it can bring you.

Decreases stress

Since our society holds a bias towards hard work, spending hours and hours at our jobs has become a norm, and sometimes even required. But overworking yourself is one of the worst things you can do for your health, as the increased stress and higher chances of indulging in harmful substances can cause further complications. This not only means that your health will suffer in the long run, but it will impact your productivity too — making overworking extremely counterproductive. But the good news is, a nice relaxing vacation can reverse these effects, with research gathered by Stanford University’s Dr. Emma Seppala revealing that it can boost productivity and creativity. These can have a measurable effect on your overall health, as all work and no play can be demotivating and can lead to your brain feeling tired, making it harder for you to achieve peak performance at work.

Prevents heart disease

In line with the research mentioned above, less stress from taking a vacation also means lower risks of heart disease. Several studies have shown links between vacation time and a decreased risk of heart attacks or strokes. For instance, the New York Times reports that taking a vacation can help improve your heart’s condition, sharing that for both men and women, taking a vacation every two years compared to every six will lessen the risk of coronary heart disease or heart attacks. This shows how taking regular vacations not only lowers your stress levels, but also improves your overall cardiovascular health — further highlighting how vacations are important to ensure your physical wellbeing.

Aids in better mental health

Taking a vacation doesn’t only improve your physical health, it affects your mental health, too. U.S. News correspondent David Levine shares that most experts agree that taking a vacation has powerful mental health benefits, as it contributes to higher positive emotional levels, and lowers the risk of depression and burnout. It’s important to note that where you go for your vacation greatly impacts the changes it can bring to your mental health. For example, going to a place where you can connect with nature is better than going to an urban environment. An article on Parsley Health points out how even just 20 minutes in nature can positively impact your mental health — imagine what a whole weekend could do. Green spaces help to soothe symptoms of burnout, and can relieve stress, depression, and anxiety. And as previously mentioned in our post on ‘The Power of Self-Care’, spending time in the great outdoors is a great way to unwind and just enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, away from everyday stressors.

At the end of the day, going on a vacation gives your body and mind a chance to recharge. Seeing and experiencing new things energizes your brain and boosts your cognitive flexibility, which allows you to become more productive and creative at work. So, if your employer makes a fuss about you taking a vacation, tell them that you’re actually doing the company a favor by getting some downtime to re-energize.

Do I Have That Book CHALLENGE

Even though I regularly cull my book collection, I thought it would be entertaining to give this challenge a go! It was a fun excuse to comb through my shelves and remember some old favorites (as well as remind myself of a few books I should bump up on my TBR). Sharing here so you can take a peek at a little cross-section of the books I own…

Do you have a book with deckled edges? 

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

 

 

Do you have a book with three or more people on the cover?

Goths, Gamers, & Grrrls: Deviance and Youth Subcultures by Ross Haenfler

 

 

Do you have a book based on another fictional story?

1932 by Karen M. Cox

 

 

Do you have a book with a title ten letters long?

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver

 

 

Do you have a book that starts and ends with the same letter?

Sweating Bullets: A Story about Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking by Dale Dixon

 

Do you have a mass market paperback book?

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

 

 

Do you have a book written by an author using a pen name?

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

 

 

Do you have a book with the character’s name in the title?

Paula Spencer by Roddy Doyle

 

 

Do you have a book with two maps in it?

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery

 

Do you have a book that was turned into a TV show?

The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley

 

 

Do you have a book that is written by someone who is originally famous for something else? (ie celebrity, athlete, politician, etc.)

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

 

Do you have a book with a clock on the cover?

An Edited Life by Anna Newton

 

 

Do you have a poetry book?

Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney

 

 

Do you have a book with an award stamp on it?

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

 

 

Do you have a book written by an author with the same initials as you?

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines

 

 

Do you have a book of short stories?

Eveningland by Michael Knight

 

 

Do you have a book that is between 500 and 510 pages long?

Nope 😦 

Do you have a book that was turned into a movie?

Atonement by Ian McEwan

 

 

Do you have a graphic novel?

Relish by Lusy Knisley

 

 

Do you have a book written by two or more authors?

The Innovator’s Advantage by Evans Baiya and Ron Price

 

 

***

19 out of 20 ain’t bad! How do you think you would stack up? Go check your shelves! Have you read any of the books above? Let me know in the comments below!

If you enjoy my blog content, please consider supporting what I do (and keeping me caffeinated). Thank you! xoxo ☕

mid-week round-up

What are you up to this week? Are you experiencing cold weather? We woke up to snow yesterday morning. SNOW! Quite the sight here in Alabama. I’m all too happy to bust out our faux fire place, fleece blankets, and soup ingredients. Hope you’re having a warm & cozy evening wherever you are, and now here are some links to hunker down and read…

Ummm…*tearjerker alert*.

This cold snap means PASS THE SOUP!

Recent episodes of Survivor have tackled race and gender as never before.

The holiday marketing mistakes you should avoid in 2019.

Is it time for a new job? Here’s what to look out for.

This woman uses her hijab to turn herself into pop culture characters. (Stunning!)

Ricky Gervais is returning for a fifth stint as Golden Globes host. Thoughts?

Excited to read this memoir, out in February 2020.

Ethan Hawke over here being the best dad.

Free college can work. Here are 2 examples.

The world according to Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Tempted to buy (and fill!) this for MYSELF!

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Photo Diary: Everglades Adventure and A College English Teacher’s Take on Last Chance U.

If you enjoy my blog content, please consider supporting what I do (and keeping me caffeinated). Thank you! xoxo ☕

Book Club: Hunger by Roxane Gay Pt. 4

Welcome back, Finding Delight Book Club members! Today is my final post about Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and I’m turning it over to you. While it is great to read other people’s thoughts about a book and learn a bit more about an author and dive deeper into a subject with extended reading/listening watching … what I love most about book clubs is that it allows a space for tapping into your own feelings about a book and what it brings up for YOU. Sometimes this can be difficult when reading books by yourself. You read for entertainment and enjoyment, maybe you underline a passage that speaks to you or remark YAS! to a sentence that really rings true. But in a book club? We can dig a little deeper. So, shall we?

1. Roxane Gay highlights the way society treats fat people in unfair ways. People are quick to voice opinions and make remarks with little regard for compassion. We are constantly bombarded with messaging that being fat cannot be synonymous with being happy.

Explore your own battle with body image. How has mainstream media had an effect on how you view yourself?

2. In Hunger, Gay bravely recounts her story of sexual assault which occurred at a very young age.

How does this trauma play into her relationship with food?

3. This memoir highlights a common paradox, seeking body acceptance AND a physical transformation.

In what ways can we show kindness to ourselves and others when these two truths coexist?

4. Hunger isn’t always about food…

What else does the author hunger for?

5. Gay writes, “People project assumed narratives onto your body and are not at all interested in the truth of your body, whatever that truth might be.”

How would you describe the truth of YOUR body?

6. There are a lot of references throughout the book to damaging portrayals of weight/weight loss/fat shaming — gossip magazines, Oprah, The Biggest Loser — and we can surely call to mind many more that exist in mainstream media.

What media portrayals have you encountered recently that speak to body positivity and acceptance? Are you following any toxic social media accounts that you can remove in order to create a more loving feed/timeline for yourself?

Have you read Hunger yet? Pop any answers or thoughts that come up out of the exercises above in the comments. I’d love to continue the conversation. If you haven’t read it yet, but your interest is sparked, you can order it HERE or check it out from your local library. These posts will be here for you at any time — 

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

So, what’s next for our book club? Subscribe HERE to receive the full Finding Delight Reading List. 🙂

If you enjoy my blog content, please consider supporting what I do (and keeping me caffeinated). Thank you! xoxo ☕

A DAY IN MY LIFE | Online Content + Marketing Strategist

Today I thought it might be fun to share a “S**T I GOT DONE TODAY” list from a recent workday.

[I’ve talked about these lists as self-care HERE.]

This was a day I accomplished a lot. But at the end of it, I still found myself feeling uneasy about all the BIG PICTURE items I had coming up in my calendar. To quell my unease, I took a step back to reflect on all the things I’d crossed off my list that brought me closer to completing the scarier deadlines I felt looming large.

If you’re curious, here’s how this day went down —

Copy edited a project – Editing requires careful reading. Careful reading requires full attention. I try to tackle editing work first thing in the morning for this reason. Plus, starting my morning with reading feels like a great warm-up for the more creative work to come.

Wrote and designed 3 monthly newsletters – I’m at my most productive in the morning, and my brain was feeling effectively warmed-up after the editing work, so I jumped into a project that required a lot of writing next. The design aspect of newsletters like these requires a lot of work up front, but I had already designed templates for all three before this day so I mainly had to perfect layouts and make things pop.

2 weeks of social media content – This was the second most creatively-focused task of the day so I rolled right into this after the newsletters. I usually try to batch 4 weeks of social media, but this client had a lot of upcoming events that would be filling their feed in the latter half of the month. I sent off the copy and images for approval and then took a well-deserved lunch break.

LUNCH BREAK 

Created a letterhead – Brain warm-up part 2! I try and slot in a few easy to accomplish tasks right when I get back to my desk. It’s kind of like how Target places the Dollar Spot right as you enter so you’re in the habit of throwing stuff in your cart by the time you roll into the rest of the store. I need to get in the habit of checking things off my to-do list so I can keep my momentum up for the rest of the day. Today it was a simple document design but these sorts of things can also include lengthier email responses, phone calls, scheduling social media, or making small website changes.

Research for a client’s book – This took up the bulk of my afternoon, but while it took brain power and thoughtfulness, it didn’t require a lot of creativity. Making it a great afternoon activity for me. (I get the 2 pm slump!) I love helping clients through the entire book writing process but there’s something about filling in research gaps with a bit of internet sleuthing that I find especially engaging.

Compiled data into a deliverable – A perfect item to end the work day on! The research was already done, so essentially this was just some data entry. But the final product needed to go to a client which meant it felt high stakes enough to keep myself on task and to go the extra mile to make it look pretty.

And there you have it! I hope you found that interesting. If you’re ever feeling anxiety about work (there’s just always MORE to do!), I highly recommend taking a moment at the end of your day to reflect on the S**T YOU GOT DONE! Let me know if you give it a try!! 

mid-week round-up

What are you up to this week? I’m in full hibernation mode this week with these cooler temperatures. I truly look a vision at my desk each morning with blanket, huge cup of coffee, and a space heater on full blast about 2 feet from my feet. God bless working from home! Hope you’re enjoying your October, and here are some things that have caught my eye lately…

Elizabeth Gilbert on writing, grief and her toughest creative challenge yet.

Related: I just finished City of Girls!

The world’s top economists say we need more storytellers.

 Ikea and H&M ran a study on recyclable fabrics to figure out what chemicals are in them.

Stop treating parenting as mom’s burden and dad’s adorable hobby.

This coffee mug is very much my vibe.

Welp, never taking a ride share again.

Bleeps and bloops.

I, too, loved working in a grocery store.

The impact of ICE raids on a community in Mississippi.

Librarians are pretty dang funny.

Halloween costume ideas (and you can buy them on Amazon).

Is the sick day dead?

P.S. I finally took the plunge and joined Goodreads! Wanna be friends?