Small Business Saturday

The weeks keep flying by in 2017. Somehow Thanksgiving is tomorrow and all the holiday shopping really kicks into gear this weekend, starting with Black Friday (although I believe many stores have already started Black Friday sneak peak sales earlier this week). I know I have woken up at the crack of dawn on Black Friday with my mom, sister and Aunt many years to go shopping at a giant mall in Atlanta (where we used to spend Thanksgiving) for “the biggest sale of the year”. Those are great memories looking back on it, but I can honestly say I am not attempting any Black Friday shopping this year. Instead, I will venture out on Saturday and visit some of my favorite small, independently owned businesses and support them.

Small Business Saturday (a registered trademark of American Express) is officially the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  American Express first launched the holiday in 2010 to support small, local businesses that make our communities stronger, but are often overlooked during the busiest weekend of the year for shopping.  It’s nestled in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, both of which focus more on larger companies and eCommerce.  Small Business Saturday can (and should) be every Saturday, however, many small businesses promote sales and specials during the weekend after Thanksgiving, when holiday shoppers are on the prowl.

I did some research on Black Friday (and beyond as the “holiday” seems to extend longer and longer each year) and the numbers are staggering. I drove my husband nuts last night reading out all these statistics. Each source had slightly different numbers and all were tracking online sales vs in person sales, but the total spending in 2016 for Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were estimated to be around $10billion: $1.93 billion online shopping on Thanksgiving Day, $3.34 billion online sales on Black Friday, $1.2 billion mobile sales on Black Friday and $3.45 billion on Cyber Monday.

According a survey performed by RetailMeNot, consumer spending over the Black Friday weekend is expected to increase by 47% from 2016 to 2017.  They expect shoppers to spend an average of $743 per person in 2017 versus $505 per person in 2016.  Those numbers are for the entire weekend, though it only specifically referenced Black Friday and Cyber Monday. RetailMeNot expects more shoppers on Cyber Monday (56% of shoppers in 2017 versus 39% in 2016) but same percentage of shoppers on Black Friday year over year.

Small Business Saturday is predicted to be the 7th top shopping day (far behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday) according to that same RetailMeNot survey.  This prediction makes me so sad because small businesses are a large part of what creates and supports our community.

According to the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, there are 28.8 million small businesses in the US which is 99.7% of all US businesses. Those 28.8 million small businesses employed 56.8 million people in 2014 (unfortunately all the various surveys I found are taken in different years, but you can get the idea and see the trends hopefully). These numbers shocked me, so naturally I looked up the statistics for South Carolina. Per the American Express Small Business website, there are 395,068 small businesses in South Carolina which makes up 99.4% of all businesses in the state.  The website also states that 46.9% of employees working in South Carolina work for small businesses.  As I mentioned earlier, small businesses play a major role in our economic growth.  According to a study performed by the Office of Advocacy’s Small Business Profiles, 1.1 million new jobs were created in the US and 17,129 jobs were created in South Carolina by small businesses in 2014 alone.  Data for 2015 and 2016 were not available, but I would assume these numbers have increased each year.

Sorry guys, I know there are a LOT of numbers in this blog post (I’m an accountant/financial analyst – sometimes I can’t help it. I do LOVE numbers J )  Just a few more, I promise.  Lowcountry Local First is a local Charleston “nonprofit cultivating an economy anchored in local ownership, because local-independent businesses are the cornerstone of our culture, economy, and character”.  According to their website and research, businesses reinvest 3 times more money back into our local economy than large corporations do!!  How amazing is that!?  To give you an example (and yes more numbers), for every $100 spent at a large corporation, an average of $15 is reinvested in our local economy.  However, for the same $100 spent at a small business, $45 ($15*3) is reinvested into our local economy!  If we assume the $3.45 billion spent on Cyber Monday alone last year was all large corporations giving back 15% to the community, then $517 million was reinvested.  If we take that same $3.45 billion spent on Cyber Monday alone last year and spent it on small businesses reinvesting 45% back into the local economy, then $1.55 billion would have been reinvested!  Even if you aren’t a dorky accountant like me, those number have to excite and inspire you – right?

Ok – enough numbers.  How can you help?  First, stuff yourself with turkey and stuffing and gravy on Thursday.  Take a nap on Friday and use the guides linked below (if you are in SC) to help you plan your day on Saturday.  Next, head out into your community on Saturday and SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES.  Take any guilt you have from over-indulging on Thanksgiving food (which I will most certainly do) and replace that with the sense of accomplishment and pride when you support your local business owner (which in turn is supporting their family and dreams and the local economy even more than spending money at big box retail). Lowcountry Local First has a listing of local businesses in the Charleston area and Charleston Moms Blog published their own local “Mom-Based Business” guide in the Charleston area.  My girl, Shana, with Handstand Happiness will have her own local shopping guide to Greenville, SC.  If you are not in South Carolina, Google “Small Business in ____” and I’m sure you will find all sorts of resources.  Happy shopping!

Getting Organized

Somehow, it is already November. I don’t have any idea where the time has gone, but we are now 7 weeks from Christmas and 8 weeks from 2018. This is the time of year when schedules get a little hectic. There are the holidays, work parties, school programs, travel, shopping, shopping and more shopping for said holidays and all on top of normal everyday life. So let’s talk about organization for a minute. Let’s talk about how keeping track of your work schedule, your significant other’s work schedule, personal appointments, kids’ appointments and activities, birthday parties, and your in-law’s wedding anniversary that you can never seem to remember {hypothetically 😉 } are all dates that float around in your head like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.

Owning a consulting business that requires meetings with new or existing clients on a regular basis means that I have to stay on my game. If I miss a meeting, it could be a missed potential new client and missed revenue.  It could hurt my professional reputation.  It would definitely upset me that I let someone down.  So I have to stay organized.  You might think I am old school, but I live for a good paper planner! I’ve tried several and my favorite by far is the Life Planner by Erin Condren.


I love the bright colors that you can chose, all the options available (monthly, weekly, hourly, etc) and the uplifting sayings sporadically placed throughout. There are lots of accessories for your planner if you wanted a budget tracker or meal planner or lots of stickers.  Hop on over to the Erin Condren website and check out all the options.  Now is the time to get your planner for 2018!

I am one of those people who learns by writing – I used to make note cards for EVERYTHING in college and graduate school to help me remember – so it makes sense that I like to write down my appointments vs typing them or dictating them into an electronic calendar. That’s not to say that electronic calendars are not good. I still use Outlook, but I will also write those things down in my planner so I can see it all in one place. I polled some of my best friends and all but one uses electronic calendars to organize and coordinate their personal and work schedules. It seems that Outlook is the most popular for work and Google Calendar is the most popular for personal.  Both allow you to share events/appointments/etc with other people.  Outlook is my go-to for setting up meetings with clients.

My husband and I have not progressed to using Google Calendar or Outlook for our personal schedules though and we both think it’s because there are so many other items on our work calendars that our personal appointments get lost. I’m honestly not even sure that my husband keeps a personal calendar haha. I’m pretty sure I’m his personal calendar 😉 My husband is an attorney who works a lot {thank you for your hard work babe! } and travels a good bit, so for our family, we normally try to review our work and personal calendars on Sundays for the upcoming week so we both have an overview of the week ahead.

Since we both work full time and share all the kid duties, we have started to implement a “need, want, would like” list each week as well. As in “I need to go to this board meeting Thursday night”, “I want to work out 3 times this week” and “I would like to grab a drink with ____” Friday night. This exercise has made it much more likely that we get those types of things into our schedules. Otherwise, the next thing you know, its Friday (yay), but we didn’t get those “wants” and “would like” items done.

How do you keep organized for work, family, etc.? What are some things you do to stay organized that were a game changer?

A Beautiful Mind

Note: this post contains affiliate links meaning Brushstrokes and Balance may make some commission off purchases  from those links.

Eating out with kids and a couple of our favorite restaurants

Happy Friday everyone!!  I’ve had a busy week with work, parent-teacher conferences, appointments, etc. – I’m sure you all have been busy as well.  Its just that time of year when it seems like everything gets a little crazy and we are certainly ready for the weekend!

Last weekend, we went to two of our favorite restaurants for dinner Friday and Saturday night.  We don’t normally go out to eat both nights of a weekend, but our boys’ school was offering “Parents’ Night Out” one of the nights as a fundraiser so we were able to justify it 🙂

When we had our oldest son, my husband and I decided that we would start taking our kids out to eat early on in their lives so that they would {hopefully} not be out of control in restaurants when they are older.  We also didn’t want to let having kids hold us back from trying new restaurants (or going out in public in general ha) because, as I’ve mentioned in prior posts, we don’t have family in town for free babysitting and paying for sitters can sometimes cost as much as the date itself (especially with more than one child)! That might sound crazy, but ask any parent of toddlers where going to a restaurant with his/her kids ranks on his/her list of fun activities 😆 It can be very stressful with the tantrums and loud voices and food “displacement”.  I’m not saying my kids are angels in restaurants (because they are not), but the mix of them recognizing that they are out to eat where other people are trying to enjoy a meal and us having practiced good manners and respect at restaurants from as early as they can remember makes the experience much more enjoyable. That being said, we don’t typically take them to white tablecloth establishments (but will as soon as we feel like we won’t be buying lots of replacement china ha). Another added benefit is that eating out exposing our kids to different foods all the time so I think it helps them be more adventurous eaters (see my comment on oysters below).  My 3 year old will also order for himself at some restaurants and I love seeing the pride in his face when he does these independent “big boy” things.

If you are wondering how to start eating out with kids, I’d recommend starting off slow with fast food restaurants where you can make a quick escape if needed and work your way up to more casual sit-down restaurants if/when you are more comfortable. For new parents – take that baby out (unless your pediatrician has said not to – please don’t ever take medical advice from me)! He/she will likely sleep most of the time you are out. If you need to feed or diaper the baby you can bring a bottle to feed them and change them in the bathroom if they have changing stations. We’ve changed diapers in the car, in the booth at the restaurant and in one of our laps when space is really limited (trying to cover up as much as possible for other diners’ sakes). Same with nursing. I’m the most modest person, however with each child I have that modesty level drops dramatically haha. I used to nurse in the car, but now, with a good nursing cover (or not, if that’s how you roll, more power to you!) you can nurse at the table or find a quiet corner somewhere. We didn’t take our oldest out as much as a baby, but baby #2 was out to eat with us within a week! They aren’t getting any restaurant “training”, but it’s so important for the parents to get out of the house and I didn’t realize the first time around how easy it was with a baby (bc everything is scary with a new baby I totally get it!)  With a toddler, set your expectations realistically and give yourselves and your toddler some grace and patience. Explain where you are going and how you expect them to behave and make it fun! We don’t pull out an iPad or iphone to let him watch something, but instead I keep a couple small, non-noisy toys in our diaper bag to entertain while we wait for food.  They will not be perfect and if they are, call me and give me all your secrets please!

So back to our nights out- Friday night, we took the boys to one of our favorite restaurants, Bowens Island. Bowens Island is a super laid back seafood restaurant with a view that is unmatched by any other restaurant in Charleston (see pictures below).  They are known for their oysters (in the months that it is appropriate of course), but I also love their fried fish, shrimp and crab cakes.  Our 3 year old was introduced to oysters early on and will eat them faster than my hubby can shuck them for him!  It is very family friendly and casual and serves up some delicious seafood.

Older pic, but one of my favorite family pictures at Bowens Island


Saturday night was “Parents Night Out” at school so Derek and I went to another one of our favorite restaurants, Xiao Bao Biscuit (Pronounced: See Ou! / Baow / Biskit).  They describe themselves as “Asian Soul Food” serving up dishes from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam in a family style.  If you don’t like spicy food, this might not be the restaurant for you.  There are dishes that aren’t as spicy, but for the most part, everything has a “kick” to it (in a great way!).  The mix of flavors you get in each and every one of XBB’s dishes is phenomenal.  We ordered almost everything on the menu this time and like to try new things each time we go.  We started with Chao Shou which was pork dumplings in toasted chili broth.  We get these almost every time we go, and it seems they get better each time we get them!  We want to lick the sauce out of the bowl when the dumplings are gone.

Chao Shou – Pork Dumplings

We tried the Shaking Beef (stir fried brisket, radish, chili peanuts, fried onions and pickled veggies) and Chaat (cauliflower, tamarind chutney, labneh and crispy potato) which were both delicious.  They have such unique and complimentary flavors – you can’t let the ingredients intimidate you here.  It all works together so well!

Shaking Beef

Chaat – Cauliflower

By far, our favorite dish at XBB is the Okonomiyaki, however I never attempt to say it when I order it haha.  The first time we ate at XBB we came with a friend who said we HAD to try this dish.  When you read what it is you’ll see why we hesitated, but it is AMAZING and every single person we have convinced to try it since, has loved it.  The Okonomiyaki is a cabbage pancake and you can add on top bacon, a farm egg, pork candy or katsuobushi (dried, smoked tuna).  We normally add everything but the katsuobushi – I think it is a new addition. You can see my husband’s fork in the picture below – I barely had time to snap a picture of it!


If you live in Charleston (or are visiting) and like spicy, Asian food, you have to try Xiao Bao Biscuit.  We seriously bring all of our out of town guests here atleast once.

After XBB, we had about an hour before it was time to pick up the boys from school for “Parent’s Night Out” so we hopped over to the brand new Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company for a quick beer for Derek and a few more minutes of adult conversation!  As much as I love being around my kids, I firmly believe in date nights with my hubby for us to tak about things other than work and logistics and kids (although it’s hard to not talk about some of that!). Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company is located on King Street Extension, right beside The Workshop – which is an “exploratory food court” {More on that in a separate post.  We walked around to read the menus and I came back a different day to try food}  Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company is a 20,000 square foot brewery with a wide variety of beers in cans, bottles and kegs and will ultimately serve over a dozen of the Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company’s beers on tap.  The executive chef from Edmund’s Oast Restaurant is overseeing the kitchen at the Brewing Company so you know it is good!  We didn’t eat there since we had just eaten at XBB, but it looks like the food will be more casual (I.e. pizza) than Edmund’s Oast Restaurant.  I’m sure I’ll have a whole separate post on Edmund’s Oast Restaurant as it is another one of our favorites and one we recommend to out of town guests, especially if they like good beer/wine/food (but that’s everyone, right?!)  Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company and The Workshop share this awesome courtyard with lots of seating and space for kids to run around.  I can definitely see us bringing the boys back for some pizza and beers!

That was most of what we fit into that 48 hour weekend!  We are off this weekend for some football, friends and chaos as we will be in a house with 5 boys under the age of 4 (wish us luck!)  Hope everyone has a great weekend and if you are in town, please stop by one of the restaurants mentioned above and let me know what you think!


Intro to the Charleston Farmers Market

Nothing gives me more of a sense of community and engagement with local businesses like exploring the Charleston Farmers Market. Every Saturday morning from 8:00am to 2:00pm from early April to late November  you can find the Charleston Farmers Market set up in Marion Square downtown Charleston.  The Farmers Market supports “Lowcountry farmers, growers, prepared/packaged food, artisans, crafters, live performers and community groups of all kinds”.  You can find just about anything you need at the Charleston Farmers Market.  Read all about the history and get more details on the website here.

We try to go as often as we can for several reasons.  The boys LOVE going because there is so much there to entertain them!  From live performances to jump castles to a large field where they can just RUN (thank you Charleston Farmers Market for that!).  There are many vendors set up preparing food for you to eat there or take with you as you walk around and shop.

We like to try new ones every time we go, but one of our favorites is Roti Rolls which was established in 2010 and has won Charleston’s Best Food Truck every year since then – so you KNOW it is good.  They focus on buying local ingredients (we love supporting our locals!) which means it is fresh and good and the menu is always changing depending on what is available from local farms.  They also cater weddings, corporate events, office lunches, school events so check out their website here or better yet, go to the Farmers Market and try some of their delishiousness!  Last weekend, I got the Wakey Bakey and it was the most amazing combination of flavors I’ve ever tasted (not to be dramatic ha).  It has breakfast potatoes, thai pimento cheese, candied bacon (how could you go wrong with this!?), a poached egg and verde sauce.  The picture below does not do it justice.  Go get one for yourself.  You’ll thank me.

That refreshing drink you see in the picture above is the Grapefruit Aqua Fresca with blueberries and mint from Juice Joint.  I had to pry this from my 3 year old’s hands more than once to get a few sips in myself!  Juice Joint is a family owned and operated business and they believe in supporting other local businesses as well.  They buy local ingredients and provide delicious “whole-food juices, smoothies and food items using raw fruits and vegetables that retain their vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and enzymes” (see their website here).  They started as a farmers market stand at the downtown farmers market a few years ago and now they can be found out at their truck on Folly Beach, at the Farmers Market downtown Charleston or on James Island.

Another reason my kids love coming to the Farmer’s Market is that we usually cave and get them a cool, sweet treat (how can you say no when it is still 90 degress in October!?).  This past weekend we found the cutest Icecream Sandwich cart – Wich Cream.  They support local farmers as well and have some delicious flavors!

Another huge part of the Farmers Market is obviously the stands upon stands of fresh produce, prepackaged food for sale and the beautiful arts and crafts.  One of our new favorite stands to visit is Rio Bertolini’s Pasta!  They can be found at multiple farmer’s markets in North and South Carolina and at a few retail locations.  They sell pre-made meals that you can just pop in the oven and the most amazing variety of fresh pasta and sauces.  We have tried most of the ravioli options and are working our way through the other pastas.  Last week we got the cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) pasta and vodka sauce.  It was a huge hit in our house and we will definitely be buying more!

Well now that I’ve made you hungry and its 4 days until the next Farmers Market downtown, look up locally sourced restaurants or weekday farmers markets and go support small businesses!  Hope you all have a great week.


What is this blog all about?

So what is this blog all about?  I am not 100% sure myself haha.  But I can tell you that I have thought about writing a blog for a while.  At first, the thought was I would write about our family and post lots and lots of pictures of our kids for other members of our family  – who live literally all over the country – so they can easily keep up with our lives (note: you will still probably see lots of pictures of our family).  Fast forward 4 years, 2 kids and 2 demanding jobs later, and now I have a different idea that I am still refining so bear with me (and feel free to leave comments or suggestions!).

My husband and I are very fortunate to have great friends and family and most of our friends/family are hard working, successful people.  They have jobs/run companies/own their own businesses and have kids/pets/hobbies/etc. that they are trying to juggle as well.  I, personally, am guilty of “burning the candle at both ends” and not taking time for myself and I know many of our friends/family members feel the same way.  I named the blog “Brushstrokes and Balance” because, initially, I was going to use this as an accountability tool to make myself take time to do things I enjoy (like painting – hence ‘brushstrokes’) and in general find more balance in life.  Now, I want to inspire others to make an effort to find “balance” in everything they do.

When I talk about “balance”, what I mean is – we cannot be everything to everyone all the time. Trust me, I tried. Its stressful and frustrating and it leads to lots of sleepless nights and tears. We cannot physically be and give everything to everyone. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I spent the last 10 years “working my way up the corporate ladder”, the last 4 of them included being pregnant and having children (2 boys so far with a third boy on the way). Its hard to juggle working full time and being a mother. Some days I feel like everyone I encounter is getting 10% of me.  I HATE not being perfect or letting anyone down.  Some people make doing it all look easier than others, but let me be the first to say it is HARD.  We do not have family in town so it is just my husband and myself in our “village”.  If one of the boys is sick or has an appointment or my husband is travelling for work or any other little disruption, its up to my husband and me to juggle and rearrange to make sure all our metaphorical balls don’t drop.  Sometimes they do.  And its ok.  We allow ourselves grace and patience and forgiveness.  Yes, our kids go to school, but not full time. We arranged our schedules so that they are not in school all day while we clock in 8-12 hours of work each day.  I have absolutely zero judgment towards anyone whose kids are in school/daycare all day or not at all.  We all do what is best for our families at a given point in time.  Long story short, a lot of the blog will be about how I find (or attempt to find) balance in our crazy, wonderful life.

On top of all of the above, we live in the most amazing city that consistently is rated number 1 in the world for places to travel, so naturally we want to be out experiencing it.  We LOVE getting out in Charleston, especially if we can take the kids.  So part of this blog will be highlighting some fun things we like to do and places we like to go.

I own my own accounting and consulting business with a focus on small business/start up companies.  My husband and I LOVE to support local businesses however we can and I will feature a lot of our favorite local businesses on this blog.  Any businesses that I promote on here are ones that we truly love and want to see succeed (note: it will not be an exclusive list, I will try to feature as many of our favorites as I can!)  I will never name any of my clients for privacy/ethical reasons.

And lastly, there will be no (intentional) discussion of politics on this blog. I want this to be a positive site full of inspiration and motivation. If you want to discuss and argue politics I can get you in touch with my husband or father-in-law 🙂

Thanks for following along!