Author Archives: Brittany Joy Cooper

Brittany Joy Cooper

About Brittany Joy Cooper

Brittany Joy Cooper is a freelance writer, editor and consultant who lives in Nashville, Tenn. A native of Indianapolis and a graduate of Samford University, she spent several years editing a music magazine in Nashville before venturing out on her own. Brittany loves all things magazine, especially Real Simple and Whole Living, and now finds that she spends too much of her spare time looking for great recipes on Pinterest.

Teacher Appreciation Week: Top 10 Creative Alternatives to the Apple

Teacher Appreciation Week: Top 10 Creative Alternatives to the Apple

Teacher Appreciation Week: Top 10 Creative Alternatives to the AppleWe’re all familiar with the old adage, but if your child’s teacher really wanted 24 apples, he or she would just go to the store and buy a bag of Fujis.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but it might also keep your child’s teacher away if you decide to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week this week with a piece of fruit. All jokes aside, though, it’s tough to figure out how to best say thank you to the person who works daily to educate, nurture and care for your child.

To make the process a bit easier this year, we’re offering up our list of the Top 10 ways to thank your child’s teacher without going anywhere near the produce section. As with any gift, the most important thing is knowing the teacher and taking into account factors like age, hobbies, family life, interests and classroom needs to help you buy the most thoughtful gift possible. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Nice coffee or tea - Of course this depends on the taste of the teacher, but a pound of nice coffee or a box of fine tea with a few honey sticks and a fun mug make for great gifts.

2. Books for the classroom - If your child is an elementary school student, you may be able to get an idea of what books the teacher has or wants and purchase some nice, new books for the classroom.

3. Something homemade – You don’t have to be an excellent baker to offer up a homemade present. Consider your abilities and make homemade stationery, a notebook or anything else you think the teacher would enjoy.

4. A magazine subscription (not to a teaching magazine) – If you know anything about the interests of the teacher you’re shopping for, get him or her a subscription to a fun magazine on the topic. For women, consider titles like Real Simple or Whole Living. For men, a safe bet is Popular Science or Wired.

5. Movie tickets – Regardless of age or stage of life, most teachers would enjoy four tickets to the local cinema. Popcorn, anyone?

6. A gift card to a teacher supply store – While every teacher does have a life outside of school and doesn’t necessarily want teacher-related gifts, this one can be quite helpful, as many teachers end up buying at least some supplies out of pocket.

7. A potted plant, flower or herb garden – Add a bit of spring to a teacher’s home or classroom with the gift of a potted plant or even an herb. Pick something seasonal to make it a little more timely and fun.

8. Chocolate – Need we say more?

9. A gift card to a coffee shop or restaurant – This is where you may need to know your child’s teacher a bit, but gift cards are always a nice token of appreciation since the recipient gets to choose how and when to use them.

10. Something uniquely local - Think about what gives your local area its flavor, and make a gift out of a few fun local things that are unique to where you live.

Celebrating Cinco De Mayo: What Goes Into a Good Margarita?

Celebrating Cinco De Mayo: What Goes Into a Good Margarita?

Celebrating Cinco De Mayo: What Goes Into a Good Margarita?OK, admit it — the way most Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo is by enjoying a good margarita. But how can you be sure your homemade margarita is top-notch?

You may or may not have any true Mexican heritage to celebrate this weekend, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to be a part of the fiesta. The weather is warming up, May has finally come and the conditions are right to relax on the back porch with a refreshing homemade margarita. But don’t fall into the land of store-bought margs and mixes that come in buckets. To make a fresh margarita from the comfort of your own kitchen, consider these few key ingredients and choose the freshest things you can find. Then your only problem will be keeping the neighbors at bay.

Basic Composition of a Margarita:

You have several options when it comes to the varieties of margaritas you can make — chilled or frozen, lime or blueberry — but the basic five ingredients that make up a classic margarita are pretty much the same. Essentially, you will need tequila, triple sec, lime juice, salt and ice. From there you can get as creative as you’d like!

Choosing the Best Ingredients:

Tequila: Here you can decide how fancy you want to get. While many people opt for a tequila like Cuervo Gold, those in the business tend to scoff at the liqueur and opt for something of a little higher quality. Experts agree that the very best tequila is made from alcohol distilled from 100 percent blue agave, which is primarily grown in Mexico. Tequilas that do not fall under this category are classified as “tequilo mixto” or mixed tequila and are made from a mixture of agave and other sugars. You can look at the label of the tequila and learn which category it’s in.

Those two categories of tequila are then further classified into five more categories to help you know exactly what you’re getting when you buy a bottle. Tequila silver (also called blanco, plata, white or platinum) is tequila made from the purest form of agave. It is typically clear in color and has never aged. Tequila Gold (also called joven or oro) will generally be a mixto that has added color and flavoring. Tequila Reposado is tequila that has been aged for between 2 and 11 months in tanks or wooden barrels. Tequila Añejo, or “extra aged” tequila has aged for at least one year, and Tequila Extra Añejo, or “ultra aged” tequila has aged for more than three years.

Triple Sec: Triple sec is an orange-flavored liqueur that usually includes the peels of bitter and sweet oranges. Here, most experts recommend going with Contreau, which is one brand of triple sec produced in France. It is said to have been an ingredient in the original margarita, and it still continues to be a top choice among many mixologists.

Lime Juice: To get the freshest margarita possible, forgo the bottled lime juice. Choose limes that are fresh and ripe, and squeeze them just before mixing your margarita. The fresh sweet and sour taste of the lime is a key ingredient that can make all the difference in your homemade drink.

Salt: When it comes to the salt for your margarita, you have several options. One fun option is to actually purchase margarita salt and use that to line the rim of your glass. When lining your glass with the coarse-grained salt, run a lime along the rim of your glass and then dip the rim into the salt. The taste will offset the sweet and sour taste of the drink and make it even more refreshing.

Ice: Obviously this one’s sort of self-explanatory. However, you do have the option of choosing to make a blended, frozen margarita or just shaking your cocktail with ice before serving it.

Now that you’ve got the basics of a margarita down, the options for exploration and variation are virtually endless. Impress your neighbors and friends with your newfound Cinco de Mayo skills and enjoy the party, amigo!

Nashville downtown

May 1 Marks Second Anniversary of Nashville Flood

Nashville downtownOn May 1 and 2, 2010, Nashville residents experienced the thousand-year flood that had the whole city bailing water. Now, two years later, the city is back on its feet.

“You might want to check the basement,” my husband told me over the phone. It was the first week of May 2010 and the beginning of our second month in our first home, a little bungalow in the East Nashville Inglewood neighborhood. It was 8 in the morning and my husband, Ben, was calling me from Key West, where he and hundreds of other Nashville songwriters had gathered for an annual songwriting festival.

“People here are saying they’ve heard their houses are flooding in all the rain there,” he told me. As I reached the bottom of the steps of our partially finished basement, I plopped down into about two inches of water. The rest of that chaotic day was filled with neighbors running around in the relentless rain trying to help me clear out our gutters, reroute the water, do anything to keep our whole bottom level from turning into an electrically-charged indoor swimming pool.

As the water reached the first step, we couldn’t touch it any longer because it could have been covering an electrical box or something else that would give it a charge. I continued to check as the water covered the couch cushions, sending them floating around the room; filled the bottom drawers of my heavy oak desk and almost reached a filing cabinet full of important documents I had set up on a chair in my haste that morning. A neighbor walked down our street and found water up to his waste. No planes could reach the Nashville airport, so the idea of Ben getting home was out of the question.

While I was focused on pumping water out of my basement (thanks to a devoted dad and brother who made the drive from Indiana), people all over Nashville faced the water in their own ways. The iconic Opryland Hotel was said to have 10 feet of water inside, the basement of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center filled with water and the symphony was displaced. People across the city had to leave their homes by boat, and we kept hearing reports of how high the water had come in the Titans’ riverfront stadium LP Field. The news kept playing clips of one mobile classroom floating down Bell Road in Antioch. Hundreds of people abandoned their cars on I-24 to escape the water. Every store in the Opry Mills Mall entirely flooded, and almost every one had to shut down.

Last weekend I went back to the newly reopened Opry Mills Mall, which finally opened its doors again just last month. It was nice to feel like that chapter of Nashville’s book has been closed, as we no longer have to drive by the deserted parking lot and think about the waters that destroyed it two years ago. My basement, I’m happy to report, is finally free of any flood remnants as well, other than a water stain on one wall, which I kind of like. After all, it’s good to be able to point to something and remember what happened two years ago across Music City. But then it’s even better to be able to report that it’s all over.

Carolina Chocolate Drops

5 Acts You’ll Want to Catch at New Orleans’ Jazz Fest

Carolina Chocolate DropsThis weekend some of the biggest names in music made their way down to New Orleans’ Jazz Fest, but we’re spotlighting some of those acts you might not yet know.

Take a look at the bill for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and you’ll see names like Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, Tom Petty, Jimmy Buffett, Foo Fighters, Cee Lo Green and tons of others who belong to the star-studded milieu. But the festival, which kicked off Friday and lasts through Sunday, May 6, is also featuring a wealth of artists and bands you may not have heard about yet.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 artists every music lover will either want to catch at the festival or get on your iPod in honor of this week’s festivities. While they’re not all fully under-the-radar per se, here are five of the trombone-slinging, dance-inducing voices and musicians who will make this year’s festival great.

Carolina Chocolate Drops1. Carolina Chocolate Drops

OK, so it might not be fair to consider this group under-the-radar — especially after they netted a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy last year for their debut record “Genuine Negro Jig” — but there’s still a chance you haven’t heard of them. A string band known for their exploration of African-American roots and musical influence over the years, the Chocolate Drops first came together in 2005 in North Carolina. Since then, they have taken their foot-stomping, finger-picking 1920s sound all over the nation playing Bonnaroo and even opening for Bob Dylan. Their new album, “Leaving Eden” just dropped in February.

Theresa Andersson2. Theresa Andersson

No, that’s not a typo. This New Orleans-based singer-songwriter does have a rather unconventionally spelled last name. But that’s not all that sets her apart from the run-of-the-mill songwriters. Andersson possesses a jazzy voice, which she layers over multiple textures and musical themes, sometimes sounding like something out of “Dreamgirls” and other times pulling out a kind of Nina Simone soul. The young songstress just released her newest record, “Street Parade” Monday (April 24).


Honey Island Swamp Band3. Honey Island Swamp Band

This five-man collective out of New Orleans has the ability to at once make you feel like you’re in an old saloon and then a second later place you smack in the middle of an arena country concert. Formed when four displaced friends had to relocate to San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina, the Honey Island Swamp Band are upbeat, soulful and just twangy enough to pull you into their funky, piano-driven blues.


Glen Hansard4. Glen Hansard

After coming to fame as the Irish musician on the film “Once,” Glen Hansard has been touring as part of the duo The Swell Season. Now, the Academy Award-winning singer with the enchantingly folksy voice is doing a string of solo gigs. Hansard was recently heard channeling a heavy rock edge on the song “Take the Heartland,” which he wrote and performed for the box office smash film “The Hunger Games.”


Sarah Jarosz5. Sarah Jarosz

This multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter began her career as a bit of a child prodigy, performing with the likes of Ricky Skaggs when she was only 16. As she’s grown, Jarosz has fully come into herself as a songstress and a writer with powerful lyrics and music alike. With her haunting and classic melodies, she exudes a beautiful vintage patina tempered by some modern and pop influence felt heavily in her work.


Even if you’re not headed down to the bayou anytime this week, check out these artists and get into the spirit of Jazz Fest 2012.

Country Music Marathon

Nashville Laces Up for 13th Annual Country Music Marathon

Country Music MarathonMore than 30,000 runners are about to meet up in Nashville for the Country Music Marathon — which now boasts an incredible philanthropy.

If you’ve ever visited Nashville, you know it’s a city of runners. They fill the sidewalks of West End and Hillsboro, jog their way over the crosswalks downtown and zip past Belmont with their dogs and strollers (and quite often both at once). But there’s only one time each year when all those runners converge in the same place, and that’s at the annual Country Music Marathon and 1/2 Marathon.

This year’s race marks the 13th in the marathon’s history, and it’s a significant year because the race landed a sponsorship from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, making it a part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.

According to the Tennessean, St. Jude signed on for a three-year title sponsorship deal with the race. St. Jude’s CEO of Fundraising, Richard C. Shadyac Jr., told the newspaper that the event is a big fundraiser for the hospital, as runners can become St. Jude Heroes and raise support for their run.

“The event is truly a marriage of fitness enthusiasts and country fans alike nationwide who want to do something meaningful in the fight against childhood cancer and other deadly diseases,” he said.

The only hospital that doesn’t require patients to pay for anything, St. Jude requires more than $1.7 million per day just to operate. The marathon is a great way for Nashvillians and others to get involved in the cause and channel their athletic energy into a worthy cause.

As with every Country Music Marathon in the past, this year’s run will feature a good bit of live music, with more than 50 local artists taking 28 stages to perform for runners during the race. JoDee Messina will also be offering up a live performance at the pre-race pasta party for St. Jude Heroes Friday, April 27, just one day before the race.

The race begins Saturday morning (April 28) at 7 a.m. at Nashville’s Centennial Park and ends at LP Field. A post-race concert will feature Rodney Atkins and Gloriana, rounding out the Country Music Marathon experience.

Magazine wreath tutorial 5

How to Recycle Magazines to Make a Holiday Wreath

Follow this tutorial to turn some excess magazines into a unique wreath for the holiday season.

It seems that wreaths have been moving beyond their historic evergreen-and-pinecone stereotype of late, and we’re seeing wreaths assembled with everything from ornaments to book pages to yarn to–you guessed it–magazines. Pull out your subscriptions from this past year and recycle them by creating something new and beautiful.

This magazine wreath does take some time, so I recommend either spacing it out or making it with a couple friends in an assembly line fashion (one person cutting, one pinning, one gluing, etc.)


  • Magazines
  • A Styrofoam wreath form
  • Pushpins (I recommend using pins with larger heads than those pictured here)
  • Scalloped scrapbooking scissors
  • A cardstock circle
  • A glue gun with glue sticks

magazine wreath tutorial 1


Step 1: Use your cardstock circle and your scalloped scissors to cut out enough circles for your wreath. You may have to cut as you go to get a feel for exactly how many you will need, as it depends on what size wreath you are making. As far as colors go, you could choose to do one or two colors for your wreath, but I just used any magazine pages I had for a more multicolored effect.

magazine wreath tutorial 2

Step 2: Once you have your circles cut, place a pin in the center of each circle. Then fold the circle in half loosely and create an S shape, shown in the the photo below. Cinch it at the bottom with your fingers.

magazine wreath tutorial 3

Step 3: Once the paper is folded, go ahead and push your pin into the Styrofoam wreath form. For extra support, I recommend placing a dab of hot glue on the wreath and pushing your pin into that. This will keep your paper from falling out later or ripping away from the pin. Begin pinning these shapes as close to each other as you can, and you will start to see the ruffle effect take place on your wreath.

magazine wreath tutorial 4

Step 4: Follow this pattern around the front and every other visible part of the wreath–you don’t have to go all the way around the back–until you can’t see any more of the white Styrofoam peeking from beneath. Add a pretty bow and hang inside or give as a gift for a unique, magazine-inspired look.

Magazine wreath tutorial 5