Pretty Southern

What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?

Get Fit at Freedom Fit Gym

Summer is coming, and that means swimsuit season is coming, too. Everyone wants to get in great shape to turn heads at the beach.


Joel (center) and his family celebrate Freedom Fit Gym’s grand opening!

For Joel McCauley, being fit and healthy isn’t just for summer. It’s an all-the-time routine and lifestyle. It’s this belief that lead Joel to open Freedom Fit Gym in Ashland, Va. He’s extremely excited about his small-business venture, and I’m so excited to share it with y’all here on Pretty Southern! After all, we do love our small businesses.

Joel is one of my close friends from college. He’s a certified personal trainer (CPT), and has wanted to open his own gym since he was a teenager. Helping people is in his blood. Operating his own gym gives Joel the opportunity to help people achieve their personal health and fitness goals and teach them about living healthfully. And going the small-business route lets him do it his way. He started working as a personal trainer just one month after graduating from college. He’s competed in baseball and track, and has also done bodybuilding competitions. All of his experience, combined with years of studies and research on the best methods, diets and healthful habits will help him help his clients at Freedom Fit Gym reach their goals.

“My hope is to create a space where people feel like they can come to better themselves,” Joel says. He wants Freedom Fit Gym to be a place “where people can come to make progress” toward their fitness goals and personal health.

ffgym-1At the gym, Joel offers open workout space with a wide variety of machines and equipment, personal training sessions and small-group bodyweight and powerlifting classes. In addition, he can craft custom nutrition plans to optimize clients’ diets for the best results.

Most of all, though, Joel knows that movement is a gift that should be celebrated. We are made to move, and Joel wants us to be able to celebrate our gifts to the best of our abilities, all year round.

“Now is the perfect time to get my dream started,” he says. “I can grow my business as long as people come to me.” And that’s just what we want, too!

Want to follow Joel’s journey and learn more about Freedom Fit Gym? He’s on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and has a website and blog!

All photos courtesy of Joel McCauley.

Kate RobertsonKate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern and a Virginia Tech alumna. She also holds an M.A. in Interactive Media from Elon University.

Born in North Carolina and raised in Georgia, Kate hopes to further her career as a social media maven and kick-ass writer in the lovely southeast.

Follow Kate on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.


The Inaugural Shaky Boots Festival – Where Kennesaw Meets Coachella

Shaky Boots Kennesaw

Blake Shelton at the inaugural Shaky Boots festival in Kennesaw.

The inaugural Shaky Boots festival rocked Kennesaw like no other music festival has in North Georgia ever before. There’s something about the South, in this blessed mountain area nestled among the pine trees, that welcomes one and all with open arms. For the brightest stars in country music – and a few rising stars too – for one weekend in May they called Kennesaw home. We certainly hope Shaky Boots will be a Southern staple for country music in the future.

Shaky Boots Girls

These south Georgia girls at Shaky Boots are the definition of Pretty Southern.

I’m a Southern girl, born and bred south of the Mason Dixon line, and for almost 20 years I’ve called Georgia my home. When I first moved to Kennesaw in 1996, this place was the sticks. We had a mall, and a few grocery stores, but the closest WalMart was at least 20 minutes away. Now, according to Shaky Boots promotional team, Kennesaw is considered Atlanta…and I couldn’t be prouder. Kennesaw has truly come into its own, and Kennesaw State University has grown exponentially over the past two decades. Who would have thought that we would see dozens of country stars simultaneously perform this once tiny suburb of Atlanta?

The two days I spent covering the Shaky Boots were hands down the best time I’ve ever had in my hometown. It was pretty cool when folks asked me “Where ya from?” that I was able to say “Right down the road. I’m even crashing at my parents’ house for the weekend!” Lord knows it beats the pants off paying for a condo on the beach, or sweating your fanny off in a field somewhere, just for a music festival.

Here are a few highlights from the inaugural Shaky Boots Festival – Where Kennesaw meets Coachella.

When it comes to fashion statements expect everything in between. Sure there were plenty of jean shorts, American flag tank tops, and boots made in every form and fashion. But then there’s this…

Shaky Boots Southern Boys

Talk about Southern pride and country strong.

Red White Blue Country

‘Merica. F*** Yeah. Yours truly with this awesome dude

Another great moment was getting to talk politics with Ketch Secor –the front man and founder of Old Crow Medicine Show. He has some profound and pragmatic views on the importance of legalizing gay marriage in the South. I reminded him that in Georgia we can’t even drink booze before 12:30 pm on Sunday – even at Shaky Boots – so it would be a long time coming before the fair state of Georgia would even give our brothers and sisters the right to say “I do.”

Ketch Secor Old Crow Medicine Show Shaky Boots

Your truly, Old Crow Medicine Show’s frontman Ketch Secor, and Katy Ruth Camp.

Now this is one festival highlight that might be on the Pretty Southern lifetime achievement list: shotgunning a beer with Eli Young Band. The group was in the media tent getting interviewed by Cody Alan from CMT Top 20. It started pouring down raining outside, and y’all know that in the South, when it rains, we pour. So, Jon Jones, James Young, and yours truly decided to shotgun a beer!

Eli Young Band Shotgun

The guys told me this was one of the traditions they had on tour with Kenny Chesney.

Now let’s talk about the up-and-comers in country music. There’s a true rising star in Nashville, and it’s a constellation named John and Jacob. This fearsome group of five gentlemen are one of the best bands I’ve seen in a hot minute.

Shaky Boots John and Jacob

The gentlemen from John and Jacob. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

John Davidson and Jacob Bryant met in Birmingham when they were still in grade school and bonded over their passion for music. Fast forward to present day and they’ve added Jake Thrasher, Austin T. Smith and Trevor Davis to their band. They traversed Europe with The Band Perry and wrote the hit single Done. Their song “Be My Girl” was featured on the ABC hit Nashville. Check out our interview with them thanks to @Periscope

Another one of my new favorite country bands is The Railers. If you’ve never heard these fine folks perform then do it now.

Their tracks have lyrics that are so catchy, and their look is quintessential modern country. The Railers also definitely have my favorite quote for 2015:

“In the South, it’s not Koombaya, it’s Koom-ba-y’all!”

Honorable mention – and a giveaway!

ATT #GoodtoGo

Representing AT&T as a Digital Brand Ambassador was pretty awesome.

The kind folks at AT&T reached out to me to help represent their brand at the inaugural Shaky Boots Festival. They sent over this awesome AT&T survival kit which really came in handy during the festival, especially when the rain hit!

AT&T is also offering a giveaway! If you post a comment to this blog, you’ll be entered into our raffle for a free AT&T GoPhone.

Special thanks goes out to Mason Jar Media for their help coordinating the event coverage. We can’t wait for Shaky Boots 2016! Comment below for a chance to win an AT&T Go Phone!

Charleston Cocktails & Conversation

Brooke Ryan Charleston

Yours truly and the fabulous Brooke Ryan in Charleston

We recently broke the internet in Charleston after one of our bloggers let lose the wrath of a woman scorned by the Holy City. We didn’t mean for the post to go viral, but we ended up with more than 80,000 hits over one week. Much of the traffic can be credited to social media and the hosts of the radio morning show 2 Girls and a Guy at Mix 96. Brooke Ryan from the program was kind enough to meet up for cocktails and conversation to catch up on what happened since Pretty Southern rocked the boat in Charleston. The fabulous folks at Charleston’s Mixology Tour hosted us for the afternoon. We started at Prohibition, then went to The Cocktail Club, and ended at Republic.

Howling Wolf Cocktail Prohibition Charleston

The Howling Wolf at Prohibition

Cocktail Club Charleston

Tequila with watermelon-ginger beer foam and spices at The Cocktail Club

Spanish Galleon Republic Charleston

Ingredients for the Spanish Galleon at Republic

As our happy hour progressed through Charleston, I started to fill Brooke in on what’s happened at Pretty Southern since our post went viral. It turns out, dreams do come true. She filled in her loyal listeners the next morning on her radio program, and you can listen to the clip below.

Thanks again to Brooke, Mix 96, and Charleston’s Mixology Tour for an awesome afternoon of cocktails and conversation. We can’t wait to come back again soon.

Clyde May’s Whiskey – As Southern As It Gets

Clyde May's Southern Whiskey

Did y’all know that Alabama has an official state whiskey?

In 2004, the State of Alabama designated Clyde May’s Conecuh Ridge Alabama Style Whiskey as the “official state spirit.” The story behind the founding of Clyde May’s Whiskey is about as Southern as it gets. After serving in World War II, legend has it that Clyde May returned to his native Alabama to raise his eight children and tend to the farm that he had purchased before the war began. Like many farmers at the time, Clyde would distill the excess grains he harvested into corn whiskey. “Branch-farming” he liked to call it. From the 1950s to the 1980s, May managed to produce nearly 300 gallons of whiskey a week just southeast of Montgomery in a still that he had designed and built himself. While much of May’s whiskey was sold un-aged, a portion of the whiskey he produced was aged in charred oak casks. Clyde added oven-dried apples to his barrels. The resulting hints of green apple and cinnamon not only made it smoother than other whiskeys—they’re what made it Alabama Style.

I’d rather break laws than cut corners” ~ Clyde May

Always distilling whiskey outside the law, May was arrested in 1973 and served an 18-month sentence at the Maxwell Air Force Base. “He sure had a reputation for making fine whiskey,” said Thomas Allison, a former officer with the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Upon his release, May gave up his cell to the man who convicted him: Attorney General John Mitchell, who was convicted in 1974 on charges relating to the Watergate scandal.

After May’s death in 1990, his son, Kenny, took up the family business and began working with Kentucky Bourbon Distillers to produce a whiskey in honor of his father. Using his father’s recipe and water imported from Conecuh Ridge, May produced the first legal batch of Clyde May’s Conecuh Ridge Alabama Style Whiskey over a decade ago.

Today, Clyde May’s Whiskey continues to be made from the same recipe that Kenneth’s father perfected nearly 50 years ago: a mash of corn, rye and malted barley. Once the grains are distilled, they are aged in oak barrels for an average of five to six years.

The kind folks over at Clyde May’s reached out to us, as they partnered with King of Pops to produce tasty “poptails” this summer. Clyde May’s Poptails are the coolest cocktails around.


King of Pop’s “Poptails” with Clyde May’s Whiskey.

Here are a few recipes y’all can try.

All of these recipes make delicious cocktails – or you can pour the concoction into popsicle molds and freeze them overnight.

The Clyde Mule

  • Clyde May’s Whiskey
  • Ginger Beer
  • Lime juice – to taste (we added in a dash of peach bitters too)

Y’all can make your own King of Pops “Poptails” at home using Clyde May’s

Grapefruit Whiskey Sour

  • Clyde May’s Whiskey
  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Simple Syrup

Clyde & Coke

  • 2 fl oz Clyde May’s
  • Coca Cola
  • (optional) 1 fl oz Ginger Juice

Pretty Southern Mint Julep – a Pretty Southern original if you don’t have time to prep & cool simple syrup.

  • Clyde May’s Whiskey
  • Ginger Ale
  • Fresh Mint

Have you tried Clyde May’s or one of these delicious King of Pops “Poptails”? Let us know in the comments section below.



A “Mom Bod” Success Story

Pretty Southern family
There’s been much discussion in the media over the hailstorm created from “Dad Bod”. Today, we want to share a “Mom Bod” success story from one Southern lady about how she got her body back after birthing three babies in seven years. All mothers know how hard it is to shed the baby weight, especially if you’re starting a big family. Dana Griffin Tamasi is a native of Loganville, Ga., and after graduating from the University of Georgia, she immediately started her family. Her kids include 7 year-old son, Tripp, and two girls: 5 year-old Paisleigh and 2-year old Tinsley. In addition to being a mom to three small children, Dana also works full time as a school teacher. All the working mamas out there know that time for the gym doesn’t exist with a packed schedule, and Mama Dana was kind enough to share a few secrets of her success.

What was your body like before Baby # 1?
Before Tripp, I could eat whatever I wanted, drink on the weekends, and not gain weight with little or no exercise. I was between 125-130 lbs.

How did it change after Babies #2 and #3?
After Paisleigh, I never lost all the weight I had gained before I got pregnant with Tinsley. Once I got pregnant with her, I gained weight faster and I got up to 190 lbs. When I left the hospital I was in the 180s and I really thought the weight would come off. I tried walking because I could push my girls in a stroller while Tripp rode his bike. Unfortunately only a few pounds came off and I quickly lost motivation to keep going.

What motivated you to get started with your weight loss program?
I finally hit a turning point when I’d had enough feeling depressed about my weight every time I looked in the mirror. I was trying to fake the way I felt about myself. I am a happy person most of the time and I felt like I was constantly pretending because inside I was not happy. I also LOVE pictures and I take pictures of my kids every chance I get, but I HATED pictures with me in them. Every time I saw a picture of myself, I was reminded how unhappy I was and I refused to buy the pictures or hang them up in the house.

I desperately wanted to take family pictures with the five of us and be proud of them.

One day while on Facebook I saw a post about how a girl I knew from UGA and how she went from 164 lbs to 128 lbs in eight months. I decided if she did it then maybe I could too, so I messaged her. She told me about a challenge group she was running and about Shakeology. I ordered a sample pack of shakes and joined the group.

How did you kick off your training?
I began my journey in a 10-day slim down group and sampled Shakeology. Shakeology is Beachbody’s superfood shake. Their slogan “It is your healthiest meal of the day” is absolutely true. I vowed that during those 10 days to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, sleep at least seven hours, drink at least 64 oz of water and drink one shake every day. I lost 4 lbs in those 10 days and felt energized throughout the day.

What exercises, shakes, supplements, social media, etc. really helped you on this quest?
The first Beachbody product I bought was T-25 and Shakeology. T-25 is a 10-week program with a Alpha cycle and a Beta cycle. I completed T-25 in 10 weeks and lost 16 lbs. Since then I have done PiYO, and have done a 21 Day Fix. I do not think I would have stayed motivated and accountable to my workouts and nutrition without the online Challenge groups through Facebook.

Mom Bod Success

A “Mom Bod” Success Story!

I have learned that the most important part of weight loss is nutrition.

The nutrition aspect is what had been missing after Baby #2 and #3. The groups keep me accountable with my food because I post pictures of what I am eating for each meal in a group. It really makes you think before you eat.

You lost 30 pounds in 2014! What are your weight loss goals for 2015?
I would love to lose 12 to 15 lbs in 2015 and tone up. I am trying to get definition in my arms and a slim tummy wouldn’t hurt. However we are throwing around the idea of Baby #4.

Between being a mommy to three kids and working full time, how do you find the 30 minutes each day for training?
I get off at 3 pm and pick up my older two kids at 3:30 pm. I try to fit my workout in at 3:45-4:30 pm and then go get my baby. My older two kids can entertain themselves for 30 minutes, but I can’t workout with my littlest one. I can also squeeze in a workout at 7:30 pm after my baby is in bed if I don’t get it in in the afternoon.

I have realized over the year that I watch way less TV because I just don’t have time!

Once I started working out and making it a daily habit, I just feel better after it’s over. I feel guilty when I don’t get a workout in. However, there are busy days it just doesn’t happen but I pick back up the next day. My rule is never go more than two days without exercising because then you might begin to talk yourself out of it!

Pretty Southern Mom

Dana & her family

I find working out in the weekend harder sometimes especially when we are super busy but most of the time those are the days I like to run because my husband is home to watch the kids for an hour or so. Training to run takes more time than 30 minutes but I use this time for ME! Before I never really did anything for just for me after having kids! Running refreshes me and helps me clear my mind, challenge myself and the come back home ready to be the best mom and wife I can! My hubby had hunting and I now have running!The online Facebook Challenge groups have been monumental in helping me achieve my goals. I equate it to having friends or a trainer at the gym without leaving the house. The groups give you a coach or coaches that give you nutrition tips through recipes and menus, workouts and workout tips, motivational posts and quotes to keep you going and pick you up when you feel like giving up or eating that whole pizza! Even the challengers get involved and get to know each other and begin to comment and offer support to each other! Like I said the groups are all about accountability and motivation!

So what did you think about Dana’s “Mom Bod” success story? Share your own successes, challenges, or thoughts in the comments section below. If you’d like to join Dana’s fitness quest, please say so in a comment and we’ll get y’all connected