#InfluenceConf Meet & Greet


In just one week from today, I’ll be on a plane to Indianapolis for the 3rd annual Influence Conference. I’m genuinely intrigued and excited for this experience…and totally nervous.

I'm a hugger. She is not.  Consider this a promise of things to come in a week, Rach:)

I’m a hugger. She is not. Consider this a promise of things to come in a week, Rach:)

I really am an extrovert at heart, but put me in a room with a bunch of women and there’s a HUGE risk that I will revert back to my awkward, self-conscious 7th grade self (with bucked teeth, I might add). So there’s that.

For the past few years I’ve watched and listened to my good {in person} friend, Rachel Kincaid, and my {on the interwebs} friend, Jessi Connolly, talk & dream about this sacred space for women to gather together, worship the Lord and encourage each other to impact the world. A space where interweb friendships become “in person” friendships and lives are changed.

This year, I decided to come in from the sidelines and see these dreams in the flesh. My good friend, Kara, signed up back in the spring and that was the last straw, I registered THAT day. Let’s do this.

My name is Jess. I’m a creative {designer, photographer, paper-lover} who loves to cook, eat delicious food and host parties. I’m so blessed to be married to a handsome man who loves me like no other and who has the most compassionate heart I’ve ever known. I’m totally silly and most of the time, irreverent (with a wee bit of a potty mouth), but I love the Lord and I love people.

I’m excited about this conference and I’m looking forward to overcoming my fear & stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m ready to be inspired and encouraged and if given the opportunity, to return the favor. And to be honest, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve been a part of a REALLY GOOD worship experience. I’m anticipating and hoping for some ugly-cry moments and I know that Chris Kincaid’s voice will lead me to that place.

Beyond my electronics, I cannot leave home without Pilot G2 pens and some pretty paper to write on…oh, and my water bottle <– must have.

I’m looking forward to meeting you ladies next week and hope you will say hello. I have a hug waiting for you.

My New York Minute

First, I wanted to thank everyone who shared, messaged and left encouraging words regarding my last post. Especially living in the South, topics like race, discrimination and the like are SUPER touchy, but I’m thankful for working and living amongst a community of hearts that willingly lean into the discomfort of these conversations. Real life and real change happens when real talk takes place.

In the spirit of the recent New York Fashion Week, I wanted to share some of our favorites in a “Masanotti’s NYC Guide” of sorts. This year, we ventured up north for two glorious weeks of beautiful 80-degree weather.


I’m just going to put it out there, New York is expensive. But with a little forethought, research and budgeting, you can really DO New York and experience the greatest things the City has to offer.

For a well-planned and relatively stress-free trip, I recommend making a killer LIST about 2-3 months prior. I usually break up my travel lists into 3 major categories. For NYC, I’ve included my top go-to resources for each category.

Confession: I've watched and re-watched Gossip Girl more times than I would like to admit. XOXO Empire Hotel:)

Confession: I’ve watched and re-watched Gossip Girl more times than I would like to admit. XOXO Empire Hotel:)

For this post, I wanted to share the madness behind what my friends know as the infamous “New York” Google Doc. It’s best to set a budget and reasonable expectations well before you leave. For our trip this summer, we budgeted approximately $100/day for food, entertainment, etc. Some days we were well under and some days we just needed to splurge!

Food is MY top priority when planning a trip because, well, that’s just me. When I travel and experience new places, new cities or new countries, food is a major part of the adventure. Jay likes the food too, but he likes to focus on the entertainment, so he plans that part:).

New York is wonderfully HUGE and is jam-packed with thousands of food options. It can be super overwhelming, but to help relieve that stress from the beginning, I break our food list into categories: neighborhood, $$$, cuisine and time of day (i.e., breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour).

I don’t plan specific restaurants for each meal though because keeping the spontaneity factor provides the freedom to do what makes sense for the moment…and we all know that no matter how good our “plans” may seem, the best experiences are UNPLANNED. We like to freely wander around New York, so with this list, we have multiple options in each neighborhood, for each craving and during any time of the day or night!

Luckily Jay and I love ALL THE FOOD, so we try to seek out the greatest “food experiences” you can’t find anywhere else. We plan 1-2 extraordinary food adventures per trip which usually means multiple dollar signs for those particular meals (& require reservations a month or so out), and the rest are within that 1-2 dollar-sign/casual walk-in range.


Such a great gem of a coffee shop right in the middle of Little Italy.

Here’s a snippet of our favorite food places from this summer’s trip:



The man loves his pizza.

The man loves his pizza.


Happy Hours/Bars

  • Amelie’s Wine Bar ($10 Wine Flight w/3 FULL glasses)
  • McCoy American Bistro (When Mermaid Inn has a line out the door at 6:45pm for a 5-7 Oyster Happy Hour, you go to their neighbor for some huge oysters and great drink specials)
  • Hotel Delmano (Hands-down best cocktails with a pretty great bartender!)

Our Evening Piqniq with Lovely Friends

Rooftop Bars


  • Gramercy Tavern ($$$)
  • ABC Kitchen ($$$)
  • Grab your friends, some cheese, fruit & wine and have a picnic in the park
  • Vinnie’s Pizza (BK – when those fancy expensive restaurants don’t quite fill you up, there’s always pizza)

Hopefully this list helps for those of you who may be traveling in the near future. Let me know if you need or want help planning your next trip…to New York or anywhere for that matter, I LOVE making lists. And too, feel free to share some of your favorite NYC food stops in the comments.

My next post will cover some of the entertainment and activities that make the City so fun to experience. Now I’m really hungry and craving another trip to New York (surprises no one, I know).

Real Talk

I know my next post was supposed to be my ongoing “Best of” in New York, but I just can’t. I can’t bring myself to post. Every time I go to post a photo of my food, my work, my day…I’m stopped by this tug.

The tug I feel is deep in my being, in my heart and in my head. It’s time for REAL TALK.

For those who don’t know, my day job is actually in the Advancement Office of a school, so fundraising is something we do and talk about every day. This Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) has really thrown me for a loop. My initial thought was that this was a pretty brilliant strategy for charitable giving. It wasn’t even started by the organization itself but by one person who actually has ALS. What started as a few posts on Facebook has now gone insanely VIRAL with videos from my students, my friends, my family and even from celebrities, politicians, athletes and those with ridiculous influence.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater of the challenge. In fact, with a very close friend whose dad lost the battle to ALS years ago, it hits very close to home for us. It’s a terrible debilitating disease which presently has no real treatment or cure. And I love that this has touched SO many people and encouraged them to put their money into action. No, I’m not a hater, but maybe I’m a little jealous.

Maybe I’m jealous for the many other causes, the other organizations, the other diseases and more importantly, the other injustices that aren’t getting the same kind of voice, the same support, the same camaraderie, the same publicity and action.

To see the impact of this challenge– the more than $15-million dollar impact — I can’t help but think about the others that aren’t benefiting from this popularity and “peer pressure” that seems to be spurring everyone and their brother into action.

I can’t help but think about the gravity of the headlines coming out of Ferguson, Missouri.


There is a current humanitarian crisis happening in our country even still. The crippling reminder that for some ungodly reason in America today — in 2014 — the color of your skin STILL somehow determines the value of your life.

In 2014, parents with sons and daughters of color STILL have to have “the talk”. Not the sex talk but THE talk. The REAL TALK with sons and daughters of color, explaining the injustice and reality that people are going to have preconceived judgements on who they are based on their skin color. The REAL TALK that because of their skin color, they may be stereotyped as criminals and not afforded the same rights and freedoms as others in this “land of the free”.

The REAL TALK that goes something like this…“If you are stopped by a cop, do what he says, even if he’s harassing you, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Let him arrest you, memorize his badge number, and call me as soon as you get to the station. Keep your hands where he can see them. Do not reach for your wallet. Do not grab your phone. Do not raise your voice. Do not talk back. Do you understand me?” 

The REAL TALK that white parents don’t have with their white children. White privilege, y’all.


That’s REAL TALK for me, too. I can’t ignore the reality that because of my skin color, I’ve never had to worry about such things. Because I am a woman and I am white, I don’t think twice about being racially-profiled. That’s a concept not in my personal vocabulary. But for the many children of color that walk through my school’s hallways each year, it IS a part of theirs. Even the sweet five-year-old hearts that enter Kindergarten, it’s already a reality for them.

And it breaks my heart.

I can’t seem to shake it. These are sons and daughters, people. I’m reminded of that scene in A Time to Kill, (a film that’s set in the 1980’s mind you) when the young lawyer is recounting the brutal rape of a young African American girl by two white men. The girl’s father shot and killed the two men and was now on trial for his life. The all-white jury sat with their eyes closed as he described it all in gruesome detail. The last sentence struck me and even sends me over the edge today…Jake Brigance says, “Can you see her? Her raped, beaten, broken body soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood, left to die. Can you see her? I want you to picture that little girl…”

“Now imagine she’s white…” He said this and their eyes were opened.

Student Body at Howard University

It’s time we open our eyes. Let’s open our eyes to our hidden biases. Let’s open our eyes to the reality that’s happening in our country today. Let’s open our eyes and ask ourselves why in 2014, we still have to ask people to imagine these children of God as “white” to make them FEEL something and move them to action and to change.

“…And until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be even-handed. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices.”

There’s the challenge. What would the response be if I tagged three people to respond and act on THAT injustice? I don’t know exactly what the call-to-action is from here or how to respond with more than words…but, maybe you could join me in examining our hearts as we acknowledge that all lives matter and have equal value.

Consider this girl tagged.