March 31, 2010

‘Tis a privilege high to have dinner & tea


Part of my b-day festivities included a very important date to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. It is one hundred and eight minutes of magic from start to finish. The film provides a nice twist on a classic story and a glorious visual experience. Speaking of visuals, I get lots of daily inspiration from a host of wonderful blogs and sites, one of which is Design*Sponge (check it out if you haven’t already!). It features a column called Living In. By providing a round-up of items and products inspired by books and movies, Living In's author Amy Merrick gives you a virtual feast for the eyes. My absolute favorite was the one she did on Grey Gardens, but she also did a round-up for Alice in Wonderland (a 1970s musical version…I gotta see that). I definitely don’t want to steal her idea, but after seeing the new Alice movie, I couldn’t help but have tea parties and whimsical things on the brain.

When I was younger I would have been perfectly happy to have some piece of official movie memorabilia, like an Alice in Wonderland washcloth and towel set or a cereal bowl with the Cheshire cat around the rim. Now that my adult style has evolved (ok, I still have a Hello Kitty alarm clock…and bank…and shower curtain but whatever), I set out to find some things that would convey the fun of Alice in Wonderland without being so overly kid-approved

 alice collage

A little searching on Etsy and Ebay and resulted in a vast amount of  things that are reminiscent of Alice and her adventures. Whether you want to add a bit of forest magic to your home with this cute blue ceramic vase or drink your tea  Mad Hatter style out of this delicate floral teacup (while wearing a handcrafted top hat, kettle pendant, or teacup ring, no less), it won’t be hard to add some curious and peculiar things to your collection.

Can’t you see yourself pouring tea from this green faced pitcher, only to have the grin reappear as that of a certain mischievous cat from Wonderland?

green face pitcher 
Or if you are going for somewhat of a fancier affair, why not serve tea cakes and scones on this intricately designed iris platter. It wouldn’t even matter if the food were ugly, the plate is so beautiful.

iris ceramic platter
Let your guests eat cake…off plates covered with adorable images of cake and other sweets. I would fully expect the Red Queen to approve of these, even with her ill-tempered disposition.

cake plates laurie simmons

These melamine plates caught my eye as well. They are the perfect way to add some cheer to an otherwise boring pimento cheese sandwich (homemade of course, like a good southerner).

floral melamine plates

So give me the skinny. Have you seen Tim Burton’s Alice and if so, did you love it as much as I did? Do you have a favorite version of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland? Do you have a great recipe for crumpets or pimento cheese? Please share at once!

March 30, 2010

Stylish Blooms

P6080004 One gigantic benefit to having a wide array of deeply talented friends is being able to convince them (pretty please!) to contribute to this humble blog. I must say, even if I weren’t besties with this next mister, I would still want to pick his brain, but thankfully it didn’t take much convincing for him to  cooperate. All you soon-to-be (or wanna-be…or hope-to-be) brides out there are in for a real treat. Recently I was able to do a little Q&A with Mitchell White, a talented artist and floral designer having over 100 weddings to his credit. With 25 years of experience, the services he provides through his eponymous floral design business are always in high demand. If you can get him for your wedding then you’re very lucky. If not, I know that his knowledge, experience and style insights will be beneficial to you as you are planning your big day.
mitch flowers2
{all flowers by Mitchell White Floral Design. Above images by Amy Callahan Photography}
sbs: How far in advance should a bride make arrangements/meet with a floral designer?
mw: Brides book with me anywhere from a year to a month in advance. Eight to ten months is usually good. If you wait too long, the florist you want could already be booked. Also, if you have something particular in mind that might be difficult to track down, the earlier you book, the better.
sbs: I can totally see myself being that type of bride who brings tons of pictures and ideas to show you, but wouldn’t that get kind of annoying? I mean, you are the expert after all.       
mw: Ideas and pictures are great. It gives me a better understanding of the vision a bride has for her wedding day. There is a point, however, where everyone has to realize that the pictures are just a starting point and it is up to the bride, florist, planner, etc. to make the day unique and special. Also, the bride must realize that flowers in magazines are just like people in magazines; they're often not a realistic depiction of the subject. They've been airbrushed and photo-shopped way beyond their normal state.

mitch flowers3
{all flowers by Mitchell White Floral Design. Above images by Amy Callahan Photography 
sbs: What recent floral or wedding trend has surprised you the most?
mw: Color trends surprise me. I often feel like editors at bridal magazines just see how far they can stretch it. Color is great and it is very important, but simple, classic, elegant and low key is always best in my book.


{all flowers by Mitchell White Floral Design. Above image by Amy Callahan Photography}
sbs: I crack up when I look at wedding pictures from the 80s or 90s. How do you help a bride make floral choices that are more towards the classical end of the spectrum as opposed to the trendy stuff?
mw: I guess I've been lucky in that most of the brides who choose me typically want something that is classic in style. I think that's why they choose me, what I do leans in that direction. There have been a few occasions where I've had to make suggestions and each time the bride has trusted me and gone with what I suggested.

mitch flowers4 
{all flowers by Mitchell White Floral Design. Above images by Red Letter Days Photography}
sbs: Have you ever had to work with flowers that you thought were hideous but had no choice because the bride wouldn’t budge?
mw: I've never had to work with flowers that I thought were completely hideous. I really do think that most flowers are beautiful and their beauty is showcased in keeping things simple. I do not work with silk flowers; I think that would put me to the test. If a bride wants to use silk, I generally don't do the wedding. That sounds kind of rough, but I do this freelance and am not set up for silk, just fresh flowers. ...but I don't think I'd do a silk wedding even if I were set up for it. A wedding day is special and I think that fresh flowers are a must if at all possible.

sbs: Let’s say there’s a bride who is working on a very small budget. What is the most important floral element not to skimp on?
mw: I don't think a bride should skimp on her bouquet. It's one of the things that everyone looks at and it will be looked at in the pictures for years to come.

{all flowers by Mitchell White Floral Design. Above image by Red Letter Days Photography}
sbs: What advice do you have for those DIY brides out there who have no money at all to pay a floral designer?

mw: DIYers should just keep it simple. Choose a couple of flowers that you want to work with. Try to buy them in bulk somewhere. Do a simple, hand-tied bouquet and simple low- key personal flowers for the wedding party. Candles for the ceremony and floating flowers for the reception. All easily done and nothing too pricey. {sbs: I want to add that I’ve seen some gorgeous bouquets lately at the fancier grocery stores in my neighborhood and I think it would be neat to try and see what you could do with those, i.e. taking them apart and adding other flowers to make them look one-of-a-kind}

sbs: If money were of no object and you were given complete creative freedom, what bridal bouquet would you create for a medium-sized, outdoor spring wedding?
mw: If money were no object for an outdoor spring wedding, I would use orchids, roses, tulips, ranunculus, lily of the valley, stephanotis, miniature calla lily and maiden-hair fern.

sbs: It seems like more attention is being paid to the men’s boutonnieres these days. What is a modern, but classic choice for boutonnieres that isn’t too frou-frou?
mw: In my opinion, a boutonniere should always be simple and very low-key. For a more contemporary look, I like to use a miniature calla with a few sprigs of bear grass. 

sbs: How do you deal with bridezillas, maniacal mothers-of-the-bride, and wedding day melt-downs?
mw: I've not had too much experience dealing with bridezillas. I've been pretty lucky I guess. I continually reassure the brides that I work with that everything is going to be ok and that at the end of the day, she will be married and there is no floral catastrophe big enough to keep that from happening. I'm a very calm, collected person and I've had a lot of brides tell me that they've appreciated my calm demeanor and that it put them at ease. I've been doing this kind of work for twenty five years and at this point, I think if I picked up on a potential bridezilla, I would politely decline the job.
So there you have it folks. Some really good stuff here. I’m thinking I might try my hand at making a bouquet, just to see if I can (will definitely keep you posted). I agree with MW that simple and classic are the best choices and will look great in photos for years to come. Many thanks to Mitchell White for this wonderful information!
wedding flowers yours,mine,ours
{I’ve always loved this bouquet from the classic 1968 comedy Yours, Mine and Ours starring Lucille Ball…this picture is stored in my inspiration file!}

March 29, 2010

Not your average joe

uncle tim's coffee 

**Update Nov. 2012- Blackbird Coffeehouse is no longer in business...just didn't want you to stumble upon this post and try to go there...although it has been replaced with another lovely spot - The Plaid Apron!**

When the weather is nice and spring is getting in full-gear, I feel more inspired to get out and exercise than usual. Granted, any exercise is more than what I usually participate in but whatever. ...surely y'all didn't think I was one of those 'exercise people' who lays awake at night contemplating my BMI? I'm more like the person who doesn't even know what BMI stands for and has to ask friends, "what is crossfit?" But I digress.

Recently, I was strolling along the route I had mapped out in a quaint local neighborhood when I came into a clearing and saw the cutest little coffee shop. What is better than walking one brisk mile (everything in moderation folks!)? Um, that would be caffeinated goodness! So I finished my loop and stopped in the shop to take a look around.

Maybe I should back up here and tell you about the first coffee shop I ever visited. Picture it: a small town in Tennessee, c. 1993 (I was eleven). Cafe Insomnia was adjacent to our local college campus and for some reason my mom took me there to get a cup of coffee. It wasn't for the birds and bees talk (got that when I was 7, thanks), so I can't be sure why exactly we would have gone, but it felt like a special treat. I didn't know what a coffee shop really was;  just that it seemed very cool and grown-up. I ordered an espresso (naturally) because I liked the tiny cup and saucer it came in. It was terrible and I drank it anyway.

A few years later, our town had another coffee shop called The Magic Bean. I was forbidden to go because my parents said "bad things happened there" and I'm still not really sure what they meant. Finally, a wonderful place called Poet's was opened on the town square and it provided me with gobs of great memories hanging out with friends, seeing & being seen, and drinking frosted lattes with sugar-free Irish Crème flavoring.


Anyway, I guess I've always been fond of coffee shops both for drinking coffee and congregating and when I saw the Blackbird Coffeehouse, it seemed like a great new spot for both. Tucked into the heart of Sequoyah Hills in Knoxville, this is the perfect place to meet a friend for a chat or just to grab a bite of breakfast. One thing that struck me about it is the calm and soothing atmosphere. I guess some places are more bustling, but I could see myself getting lots of work done while enjoying a warm treat.


Comfy couches and chairs abound as well as outdoor seating for these glorious weather days. You can get pretty much any variation of coffee you'd want and the prices were very reasonable. On Saturdays the menu includes a hot brunch which I didn’t try, but wish I had…biscuits and gravy, eggs and other a.m. staples. Something else I liked is the helpful chart to explain the make-up of standard coffee drinks.

  coffee-drink-diagramSimilar to this one,  you can see at a glance the coffee-to-cream/milk ratio and decide which tasty beverage is right for you. I had a café au lait and it was delicious.

Several local bakeries supply goodies including Cities Cupcakes and The Plum Baker (more on her in an upcoming post). There are also lots of cute little gifty things to browse including t-shirts with the coffeehouse logo on them. I love the blackbird perched on the rim of the coffee cup! I highly recommend this spot whether you are a coffee connoisseur or just love a neat place to sit and visit. Maybe you’ll see me there!

Do you have a sweet little place in your neighborhood where you are often spotted? I’d love to hear about it!

March 26, 2010

Cute things for spring

Avon ad

You know how you can sort of get an idea in your head and then hang on to it, even when it isn't exactly accurate? I should just go ahead and admit that I'm guilty of doing that sometimes. In this case, I'm talking about my feelings toward Avon. I've never had anything against the cosmetics giant, per se, but I also never really gave it much thought either. As a little girl, my grandma had her very own Avon lady and I always looked forward to going through her catalogs and being allowed to select one bubble bath and one lip balm (usually for around 99 cents). In more recent years, my mom has been sweet enough to buy me all sorts of face creams to try and lots of them have come from Avon, and I have (once or twice) placed an order myself. But I never realized how much Avon has stepped up its game lately, until now.

Don't worry, you can still find all the great bubble bath, lotion and Skin So Soft products (the original southern insect repellant) that Avon is famous for. Only now, you can also get adorable accessories, cute clothes (and shoes!), and great-smelling fragrances. Even this isn’t really a new thing, but I guess it just wasn’t on my shopping radar before.

Recently, I chatted with a friend of mine, Shawna, who is an Independent Sales Representative for Avon and she says her favorite product is the company’s mineral foundation. I haven’t used it, but she likes it much better than the more well-known mineral make-up brands and it’s way more affordable (double yay!). As a stay-at-home mom of (soon to be!) three little ones, she says that being an Avon rep is perfect for her life and schedule.

In just a few minutes of browsing, I found some really great things that I’m putting on my ‘want-it’ list for spring. That dress has such a cute shape and I could totally see it dressed up or down with different accessories. The punchy yellow bag could add lots of oomph to even the most basic jeans and t-shirt combination. As a child of the 80s the butterfly clock spoke to me because it has a retro feel (anyone else scared that the 80s now = retro). Frizz serum + a cute umbrella as back-up for those April showers and dressy flip flops for when the days are getting warmer. Finally, Cynthia Rowley (love her!) perfume which I luckily have a bottle of and it smells heavenly! avon1

images, clockwise from top left: mark Curl Goddess Silkening Serum; mark, Leader of the Rack dress Artsy Cool; Desert Rose bib necklace; Butterfly color changing clock; Flower by Cynthia Rowley eau de Parfum spray; Carry Me Away handbag; Bead delight thong sandal; Barbie Anniversary umbrella

Now be honest, if I hadn’t told you first, would you have believed all these lovely items were from Avon? If you say yes, then you’re way ahead of me in the game. If you (like me) were unaware of the bounty of goodies available to you at the click of a mouse, then let’s fix that. Scoot on over here and start shopping! Oh, and Shawna, you’ll probably be hearing from me soon…that necklace is a must-have for spring! {One thing I’ve noticed is that items can be in high demand and sell out, so if there is something you want…don’t wait!}

March 25, 2010

A pickle of this…a pickle of that

scan0002 Everybody thinks his or her grandma is the world's best cook. That's what we're supposed to think. One of the perks of being a grandmother (I have gathered) is to be thought of as the world's best cook by a couple of generations worth of people. For all of you ladies out there who are worried that you might not be in the running for this title, just will be the world's best cook when you become a grandma (or a great-aunt or great-grandma or whatever). My problem (really more of a blessing) is having had too many grandmas who were all the world's best cooks. What is it about coming around the table together to enjoy good food that has the power to really connect us? Whether it is with family, friends or friends who are like family, it never fails to make me feel like I belong somewhere. In his wonderful cookbook Back to the Table, Art Smith describes the dinner table as

"a familiar, uncomplicated, and friendly place where we can celebrate family, friends, food, and life's many blessings."

One of my life's blessings is having such wonderful memories spent around the table of my great-grandmother Genia Whiteaker. Grandma Whiteaker could cook (and bake) just about anything. From her famous Christmas morning breakfasts to her weekday dinners (eaten at mid-day, but don't call it lunch), I never had a meal at her house that wasn't oh so good. {ok, one time she tried to serve me one of those gel-type candles because she thought it was a jar of peach preserves...lesson: warning labels that say 'do not eat' should always be in very large print}

Anyway, of all her delicious dishes and baked treats, the one that remains most vivid in my memory is hardly a dish at all. It doesn't even have a recipe. Simply put, it is cucumbers and onions, sliced up and swimming in vinegar. It might not sound very special. You can't even call it pickles.cucumbers But something about this staple being on the table with every meal (maybe not breakfast) stuck with me. Maybe it was knowing that she had taken the time to put it all together, maybe it was the familiar sight of that rectangular plastic container in which she always kept it, maybe it just tasted good. Somehow this dish went with matter what the main attractions of the meal happened to be, there was always room on your plate for some cucumbers and onions. And if everything on your plate was sort of swimming in vinegar, all the better.

I have tried making my grandma's version of cucumbers and onions many times. Sometimes its close to perfect. Other times not so much. I can't give the recipe because there isn't one. If you'd like to try it, peel and cut some small-ish sized cucumbers into chunks (the small ones are less likely to be bitter). Then cut up a big white onion into medium sized chunks as well. Mix some vinegar, water and sugar (the sugar dissolves better if you heat this mixture) and pour it over the cucumbers and onions. It gets better if it soaks for awhile, but never lasts very long at my house.

If you'd like a real recipe for something you can pickle, I recently made some pickled grapes from the Lee Brothers Cookbook, Simple Fresh Southern (they have a whole section devoted to pickling all sorts of interesting things). Anyway, I can't remember my grandma ever making this, but I think she'd have liked it.

bunch of grapes

Pickled Grapes with Rosemary and Chiles

    • 6 cups red and green grapes
    • 2 cups white vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp salt
    • 2 tsp sugar
    • 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
    • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    • leaves from a sprig of rosemary

Pack grapes into containers with lids. Heat vinegar with 1 cup water over medium heat. Add salt, sugar, garlic, red pepper, and rosemary. When mixture simmers, remove from heat and pour over grapes. Cover loosely and cool to room temperature. Cover tightly and refrigerate 1 hour. Will keep for 2 weeks.


{me as a bunch of grapes, Halloween c. 1988}

March 24, 2010

Herbs the word


My local produce market had flats of herbs last week and I couldn't pass up bringing a few (several) home. I was in a birthday induced frenzy that caused me to believe life should cater to my every whim, and if it was herbs I wanted, then herbs I would have. Whew, thank goodness that's over. Anyway, I was afraid I might have jumped the gun on spring because then the temperature dropped into the 30s and I feared my little herb babies might not fare too well. I sequestered them in the house for a couple of days until I knew it would be safe and then pushed them from the nest. They are now residing happily on my tiny patio in an assortment of pots and containers.

{greek oregano}    

Since childhood, I have been a huge fan of all sorts of random tiny objects...miniature animals from gumball machines, little paperweights, small carved ornaments, what-have-you. Maybe I plan on churning out a bunch of dioramas one day that wouldn't be complete without the requisite bejeweled turtle paperweight or penny-sized ceramic chicken. Maybe I'm a pack-rat (its true). Whatever. So I decided to give my little things new homes with the plants. It adds a certain whimsy to the containers and I mean, really, what other tiny plastic hippopotamus gets to bask in the shadow of lemon thyme?


{lemon thyme}

Do you have herbs living at your house or in your garden? Which ones are your favorites and how do you plan to use them?

March 23, 2010

I’m all earrings

 When I was six or seven years old,  my mom and aunt convinced me to get my ears pierced by bribing me with a trip to the Hello Kitty store afterwards. Or at least that is how I remember things. gt-blue-bolt-earrings-gold-300The piercing wasn't so bad...nothing a little Spottie Dottie and Keroppi couldn't fix. I was probably too young at that point to take good care of my ears and I ended up letting them grow back. Eventually I summoned the courage to get them re-pierced when I was about 11 or so. Since then, I have amassed quite a hefty stash of earrings. From those sparkly tween jewelry stores in malls (which I totally love) and yard sale finds to earrings I have been gifted or those handed down, I have a very nice collection. That isn't to say that I won't always welcome more and probably can't pass up a great clearance rack, but anyway.

When you have multiples of a certain thing, storage can become an issue. I used to keep all my jewelry in a little plastic tackle box with individual compartments. But I found that it was hard to see it all and when you can't see what you've got, you probably won't remember to wear it. I saw this cute idea in Real Simple magazine and have been saving the page for awhile now, but only recently scored a bundle of wooden picture frames for less than a dollar at a rummage sale. One of the frames was the right size so I decided to attempt this crafty little project. frame-jewelry_300All you need is a wooden frame (or at least one with a wooden underside so the little screws can be installed) and a picture frame hanging kit. Every picture frame kit I've ever seen has the wire and eye screws. I hate dealing with numbers, but I broke down and used a ruler to determine where the screws would go so at least the wires wouldn't be all slanting down on side. I estimated the length of my longest earrings and left room for three rows of that size, then one extra row of shorties at the bottom. Obviously this type of earring frame hanging thing wouldn't work for earrings that are on straight posts. But I was thinking it could be altered and instead of wires, use wide ribbon. Then the posts could go thru the ribbon with the backs on the other side. Another variation that might look interesting is to use a really tall narrow frame. It might be time consuming putting it all together, but once all the earrings are hanging there, it is sort of like a piece of art. DSC00430All I know is that it corrals my earrings and displays them in a way that I can easily glance over and decide which ones to wear without having to dig through a bunch of little boxes or compartments. Cost = practically free; Difficulty = a cinch;       Other = very little math involved (yay!).

March 22, 2010

My sweet of choice…

I guess the secret is out....I love cupcakes. How it happened is something of a mystery, but happen it did. I'm not just talking about my love of single-serving cake, but the awareness of this love, which has spread among my friends and loved ones. Now everybody knows that I think about cupcakes pretty much on a daily basis. I didn't say I eat them on a daily basis (I want to, but as my blue friend says: they are a sometimes food!).
Cuppie drinking diet coke
Since the humble cupcake has become kind of a big deal, I have found it is now possible to enjoy this little treat in lots of other ways, besides the obvious of eating one.  First, I must give credit to the oh-so talented Cakespy whose whimsical artwork features “Cuppie,” a little cupcake who has all sorts of adventures. Here he is enjoying a diet coke break, but you can also find him running from zombies, chilling with unicorns and eating bacon. All original artwork, prints and other fun products can be purchased on the Cakespy blog
keep calm bookmark_
Also this adorable bookmark (currently sold out on Amazon, but my friend snagged me one here). I had already embraced the calming mantra (a different take on this), but putting it on a bookmark is genius!  What a cute way to hold your spot in a good book. Definitely better than the bank deposit slip or grocery store receipt that can be found in most of my current reads. its raining cupcakes
Speaking of books, I can’t wait to read It’s Raining Cupcakes. The cover art alone drew me in before I even knew what the book was about! {It sounds like a fun little story for ‘tweens’ but I’ll probably read it anyway}  I can also get my cupcake fix by flipping through a good cookbook and taking in all the lovely images. I have both of these and they are stuffed to the brim with inspiration and great ideas for treats to attempt.
martha stewarts cupcakescupcake heaven
I have to admit that until now, I’ve been less likely to bake cupcakes than to buy them, but with such great tools at my disposal, I really have no excuse! So thanks to all of you who have embraced me and my love of cupcakes. And a very special thanks to anyone who has baked, bought or stolen cupcakes for me! Your efforts are most appreciated. Now tell me, what is the next big trend in dessert treats? Is the lowly petit four going to be the thing for spring? Are no-bake cookies going to take the country by storm? Do you have a favorite treat that is often overlooked and overshadowed by the glory of the cupcake? Please share!

March 18, 2010

My smelling salts!


Coco Chanel once said that "fragrance is the unseen, but unforgettable aspect of fashion." I might not have heard that quote as a child, but I definitely believed the sentiment behind it. For as long as I can remember, I've always loved perfume. When I was really little, I would spend lots of time admiring the beautiful bottles that sat on a mirror on my grandmother's dresser. Lining them up by height, smelling each one and carefully replacing the lid gave me much amusement. Before I knew anything about design, I understood that bottle looked different according to what was inside. At one point my mom wore Liz Claiborne and the bottle was a bright yellow triangle with the perfume in the center. 

My fragrance of choice, which  I pined over for months, was Elizabeth Picture%206_0_0Arden Red Door. All my asking paid off at Christmas that year when I was given a tiny (seriously the size of an acorn) bottle of the golden liquid inside a ball of green tissue paper. My life was complete. I was eight. At the time it seemed perfectly normal to me to desire such a gift. Twenty years later, I think Elizabeth Arden perfume is sort of a bizarre present for a little kid to want, but I was an old soul. My loyalty to Elizabeth Arden stayed true. When she released a new fragrance, I had to have it too. I was a devoted wearer of Sunflowers, then True Love. This was around the same time as the unisex perfume movement (Calvin Klein’s CK1) and I never got on that bandwagon. Why wear something ‘youthful’ when I could be classic?

Since then, my perfume collection has grown. I don’t have a signature scent, just lots of fragrances that I like and wear depending on my mood. There’s Gucci Rush (a spicy scent that reminds of a trip to Chicago), Marc Jacobs (the bottle design won me over, but it smells good), Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle (a treasured gift from a beloved friend), and on and lizardenmediterraeanon. But the other day I was scouring the clearance bins in the Cosmetics department at Target and ran across this cute little box. Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean. I’d never even heard of it. It made me smile because my 8 year-old self would have wanted it too. So I bought it, scent un-smelled. It was on clearance after all.  I couldn’t wait to add that blue bottle to my collection. It’s nice to have Elizabeth back in the mix…I mean, we have been friends for 20 years. 

Do you have a signature scent or a new favorite fragrance? Maybe it is yummy-smelling soap that you prefer. Or even a great lotion. Please share! 

March 17, 2010

Speak southern and carry a Jell-o salad

jello salad
{not a true Jell-o salad…what with the olives and all}
There are certain things that are so distinctly southern to me. It can be hard sometimes to explain what this means, what gives a thing or a place that southern feel. Often these southern things begin to sound cliché, but in order for a cliché to exist, it must have occurred many times over to be accepted as such. My southern experience is unique to me, just as your experience (be it southern or otherwise) is unique to you. All I know is that the south means home for me, and things that feel southern feel like home too.

One particular thing that reminds me of home is Jell-o salad. Many variations exist, but I can promise you that all true southern Jell-o salads contain crushed pineapple and one of the following: cool whip, cream cheese, or cottage cheese.

I have never been to a church homecoming that didn't have at least two different Jell-o salads included in the spread, and usually four or more were present (different flavors of Jell-o make for completely different tastes!).

One issue that can arise in times like this is the question: Is it a dessert or a side dish? I'm of the camp believing while it may be sweet, Jell-o salad does not a dessert make (that’s where cobbler, pie and cakes come in) I like to see it somewhere on the table with all the other side dishes and if I have to scootch my green beans over to make room for a slab of pink fluff, I'm prepared to do so. That's another thing great about this dish, with names like 'strawberry fluff, frost pink, and green salad delight' how could it bring anything but joy to the world?

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I want to share a favorite Jell-o salad recipe: Green Salad Delight. There is nothing especially Irish about it, but it is green and very delicious (even says so in the recipe!).

Green Salad Delight
1 6oz package lime jell-o 1 cup mayonaise
2 cups boiling water 1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 large (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple 1 small carton cottage cheese
1 cup chopped pecans

Dissolve jell-o in boiling water. Add a little at a time to mayo until blended. Add pineapple, juice included. Add other ingredients; stir. Pour in 9x13x2” pan or Pyrex bowl and refrigerate overnight. Slice and serve. Delicious!
Recipe credit: Dining with Pioneers, vol.1

March 16, 2010

The Great Switch-a-Roo

There are certain elements in one's home that often get overlooked. Except apparently not because for some people, these tiny things receive much special attention. Everything is relative. If I lived in a smallish one bedroom condo (oh wait, I do), I probably wouldn't have a sub-zero fridge and custom cabinets in my kitchen (which I don't). If I lived in a huge loft with 18ft ceilings, exposed brick, wide plank hardwood floors and thick blog picscrown molding (dreamy), I'd probably care more about how my appliances looked or the fact that my toilet has no tank lid (another story for another time). But I can't imagine caring too terribly much how my electric switch plate outlet covers look. Well, that isn't exactly true. I care how they look, I just don't care $57 worth. That's how much some of these pretty hammered metal ones cost.

You may think I taxed my brain by counting the number of switch plates in my house and multiplying that by the cost of one hammered metal one. Except that would be something like $570 (you know there’s at least ten). $57 was for one switch plate cover! One. Granted that one was at the high end of the spectrum, but the low end was between $10 and $20 ($20 for one switch plate cover?). Needless to say I opted not to go that route. 

Having heard good things about Rustoleum spray paint (she says it is her best friend!), I thought why notUN_HammeredBrown_SP_L make my own? I decided to give it a try and I'm pretty happy with the finished product. The hardest part was taking all the switch plates off and putting them back on (not very hard). It only took a few minutes for a couple coats of paint and it  covered both plastic and metal switch plates really well (I just used the ones I already had which were plain white).  I even spray painted the screws! Now, I'm not dogging anyone who happens to have those fancy hammered metal ones. This is simply another means to a similar end. I would have done this a long time ago had I known what an improvement it would be.   


{If you’re in the market for the fancy metal ones, check out Switchhits (funny name) for TONS of options!}

March 15, 2010

Pick a Peck

openerWhile combing the 'gourmet' aisle of one of my favorite bargain stores, I came across a cute little jar of pickled red peppers. As a self-proclaimed foodie and fearless recipe adjuster, I knew I could use them as a substitute for something, so I added them to my cart. I'm convinced that part of the reason I liked them is the cute drawing of rabbits on the label. The jar may have sat in my fridge for a few weeks before I even remembered to open it, but when I did, I wasn't sorry. These little guys are delicious! They are Mama Lil's Pickled Hungarian Goathorn Peppers, specifically sweet hot peppers in brine...kind of a mouthful, but you will want to remember that name! Mama Lil was just a regular lady canning pickled peppers from her garden in Ohio, but her peppers became a highly coveted favorite of family and friends. Lil's son was away at college in Seattle and constantly requesting jar after jar to be sent his way. Eventually, he started the company with her recipe, using locally grown peppers where he lived and it took off. The only ones I have tried are the Sweet Hot Peppas, but they are so good. jar6_overCalling them hot is deceiving because they are more pickley then spicy. The only problem is my jar is almost empty and I haven't been able to find any more. As often happens, this store gets in a shipment of something once and never again. I'm not giving up though. According to the Mama Lil's website, if my local grocery store doesn't carry the line, I can request that it does. And if worst comes to worst, I can buy a whole case of them straight from the company. It just goes to show that if you have a talent (like making awesome pickled peppers), who's to say that other people wouldn't be thrilled to enjoy the fruits of your labor? (so far I've used Mama Lil's peppas in omelets, tuna salad, and on a Mediterranean grilled chicken pizza...they do not disappoint!).

March 12, 2010

Joyeux a’ la Friday!

paris from pompidou 2 I love to travel. Love it. So much. I have trips planned in my mind that won't happen for years. It is not unusual for me to be in the middle of one trip and secretly planning another. I consider myself to be very fortunate in that I have been to some amazing places. Several of my trips have been practically free...I know, I said I consider myself VERY fortunate. The costs associated with travel can be a big deterrent. Were I not in the company of some very fabulous folks, I might never have had the opportunities to travel to exotic locales such as Paris, Chicago, New Orleans and Red Rock Canyon. But even the trips that cost me the most were totally worth it in the end. It's the place you go to in your mind when daily living gets the best of you. It's where you picture yourself for just a moment when you need a tiny escape. For me, it's the day I ate lunch at Le Georges, the restaurant on the roof of the Pompidou Museum in Paris. I was alone and sat at a small table which provided me a panoramic view of the city. Sun shining, breeze blowing, me enjoying a delicious omelet made with just the right amount of butter, sparkling water, a rose on every table....I've relived this in my mind on many occasions. (Follow the link to see images from the museum's webcams)

pompidou restaurant roseIn tough economic times, setting aside money for travel can be tough. But to me, the return on investment is so worth it. Whether you live your entire year for a week at the beach or you take lots of little vacations periodically, remember to make lots of memories. Because these are what will help tide you over until the next great trip!

{While I can’t take credit for these glorious images (1 & 2), they are exactly how I remember things in my mind’s eye}

March 11, 2010

Wishful planting

(not my peony, but hopefully representative of my variety, Kansas)

I love growing things...plants with flowers, plants you can eat, plants that look pretty. I'm not picky. I'm always kind of in awe when my plants manage to grow. A horticulturalist I am not (although botany was my science of choice as a naive college student) so I'm learning as I go along. Last year, I went a little overboard (me...overboard?) and spent too much money on plants for my patio. At the end of the the summer growing season, I scoured the discounted plant section at my local nursery, thinking I could get some things to keep inside over the winter. Luckily, one great find was a peony plant, albeit a sad looking one. After some research, I decided to try and grow it in a container. Even though the experts say this can be difficult, I don't have any grass-space to call my own at the moment.

After re-potting, I let all color fade from the leaves before cutting them back all the way to the ground (see some good info at My peony lived inside through the winter in a big bucket of dirt. Now that the weather is getting warmer (slowly but surely), I wanted to make DSC00404sure I provide it the necessary care before spring. I've got high hopes, but I'm also realistic...if it sprouts one leaf, I will probably do a jig. And hopefully one day it will have a permanent home in a lovely garden (preferably my very own).    

(also not my peony…these are fake. but still pretty in my opinion)

March 10, 2010

Urn a’ la Eddie

 aqua jasperware Wedgwood is a classic name in the  world of pottery. Most people are familiar with the brand’s popular Jasperware, unglazed stoneware which is recognizable in blue decorated with white relief designs. But the first ornamental ware introduced by blck basalt urnsWedgwood was Black Basalt in 1768. These ceramic pieces, in flat black, were a more refined version of Egyptian black pottery. The two little lovelies at left sold at Christie’s for around five thousand buckaroos (more cupcakes than I’d like to count for even the cutest of vases). I never cared much for the blue Jasperware pieces, but the black Basalt ones are right up my alley. Let me clarify, my alley of style…not my alley of budget.

Then I saw this wonderful arrangement of objects by Eddie Ross and loved how those black urns really anchored the whole thing. eddie'sblackwedgwood

Knowing Eddie (well not actually knowing him, but his work) and his great ability to mix high and low, cheap and expensive, I had a pretty good idea what was going on here. I was right! He totally spray painted those to look like Wedgwood Black Basalt! Read more about it here. I filed this project away and have been scouring the aisles of thrift stores ever since….until now. I found urn cropthis little guy at my local AmVets thrift store for cheap! Originally it was kind of a terra cotta color (sorry there isn’t a before shot). I’m a believer that anything can be spray painted, so since the shape was good, I snatched it up. I’m thinking now that it might need another coat, but it could just be the glare from the flash. I mean obviously NOBODY is going to mistake



                       for this

                                (an actual Wedgwood Black ware piece) 

Picture 29150









But I’m pretty happy with my little find. I love being able to take something that has been cast aside and give it new life. And maybe one day I’ll have a real Wedgwood piece to add to my collection, but it must be able to play nice with its spray painted friend.