December 23, 2011

Christmas! Christmas!


After a bit of a crazy week, I know we’re all ready for the Christmas festivities to finally begin. I can’t wait to be with my loved ones, eat delicious food and celebrate the greatest gift that’s ever been given to us.

I hope each of you has a blessed holiday! Oh and I’m guest posting over at The Trot Line today so I’d love to see you there too.

December 20, 2011

A Holiday Blogger Outing with Southern Belle Simple


Last night I met up with some fabulous local bloggers for a little dinner and friendly conversation. Some of the lovely ladies I’d met in person before and others were new friends, but we all had a great time and I’m excited to connect and support each other in this adventure.

I want to share their blogs so you can check them out and support them too! From left is moi, Heather of SprinkleBakes, Heather of The Mommyhood, Melinda of First Comes Love, Melissa of Frugalissa Finds, and Jennifer of Family Friendly Knoxville and Playgroups are No Place for Children.

Some of us are moms, some are wives, some pet owners, some artists, crafters and bakers. I would never have dreamed when I began writing a blog that my life would be so enriched by the friendships and connections I’ve made in the process, but it really has. Instead of competing against each other for readers and Facebook likes, bloggers, or at least the ones I’ve met, do support each other.

I look forward to many more get-togethers with these wonderful ladies and any others in our area who’d like to join. Thanks to all of them for attending our first event last night!

December 19, 2011

A Christmas Card from Southern Belle Simple

{Leon, age 7 & Bentley, age 13}
Wishing you and yours a most blessed Christmas season. From all of us here at Southern Belle Simple (including me, Leon & Bentley).
You, dear friend, are precious to me. Thanks for reading and thanks for making my blog part of your day.
-- Kate

December 14, 2011

From the Southern Belle Simple Bookshelf: Homemade by Clodagh McKenna


I recently stumbled upon a wonderful book and ended up purchasing it as a little early Christmas gift to myself. Homemade by Clodagh McKenna is one of those volumes I’m sure I’ll refer to again and again as it is filled to the brim with wonderfully easy recipes and creative ideas.

McKenna is an Irish television personality and she just exudes girl next door charm. From her preserved lemons and Christmas chutney recipes to her thoughts about the importance of having picnics and keeping life simple, her book offers a little taste of what things are like in her world. It is beautifully designed and has enough pictures to satisfy even my picky tastes (what can I say…I like cookbooks with a lot of pictures).

You can also visit Clodagh’s website where she shares a ton of recipes and other info that is found in the book. Maybe I’m drawn to her because a part of me longs to connect with my Irish roots. I’m just glad I discovered her because I’ve already gotten quite a bit of inspiration from the book and site.

If you still aren’t convinced, take a look at this recipe for onion soup with cheese toast and just try not to drool.

Hope everyone is having a blessed week! Mine has been busy but Wednesday means Friday is just around the corner so I think we’re gonna make it. Love y’all!

December 13, 2011

Only in the South: All-you-can-eat Breakfast with the Holy Family


My “Only in the South” posts are usually a bit humorous (or at least I intend for them to be), poking a bit of loving fun at the traditions and culture of my sweet south. This post is different. In a season that can so easily get derailed by the commercial aspects or stress of having to make everything just so, I’m glad there are places where the true meaning of Christmas is known and celebrated.

And only in the south is one of those places a Shoney’s All American Diner. There is one particular Shoney’s location in my town that is always decked out for each holiday. Maybe saying it’s decked out doesn’t convey the degree of décor I’m talking about, but just picture hundreds of giant snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, 8 ft Christmas trees in every room and a mural with polar bears frolicking in the snow.

All these things are nice and festive, but the life-size nativity is what really caught my attention. In a time when everyone seems so afraid of offending people or Heaven forbid, saying Merry Christmas to someone who might not believe in Christmas….I’m really happy that I could enjoy my bacon and eggs while the reason for the season is illustrated in the next room.

Hope you are having a great week! And if you’re ever in East Tennessee, visit the Shoney’s on Western Avenue….I guarantee whatever the time of year, it’s a feast for the eyes.

December 12, 2011

Small Traditions, Big Meaning


It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas in my neck of the woods and over the weekend, the southern beau and I enjoyed one of our favorite holiday season traditions. Every year we like to bundle up, grab a coffee or hot cocoa and drive around the neighborhood looking at the lights.


By now, most everybody who is going to has put up his or her Christmas tree and outdoor decorations. We like to make our way around and see what festive décor can be seen. There are certain houses we always look forward to because we know they’ll be decked out in holiday brilliance. Plus, there’s something about seeing a lit-tree twinkling in each home that reminds me how much we are all connected.

It might not be very glamorous, but it’s our tradition and we really look forward to it each year. That’s the thing about traditions…they can be anything really, as long as they are special to you. I love to hear people talk about their own meaningful traditions. Anytime they get that wistful look in their eyes and begin a sentence like “oh and we always…,” you know they are going to share a story that matters to them.

I’d love to hear about a simple, but important tradition your family enjoys together. What makes the holidays feel like the holidays to you?

December 8, 2011

A Treat for Santa from Southern Belle Simple


When Santa comes to my house this year, he won’t be getting milk and cookies…but it’s not because he’s been naughty. I recently stumbled upon the most delish concoction and I think Ol’ Saint Nick will love it. Plus it’s something the rest of us can enjoy in the meantime.

I’m not much of a milk drinker, but I love almond milk and will occasionally drink soymilk. This time of year, Silk (the almond- & soymilk company) brings out a couple of its seasonal flavors and one of them is pumpkin spice. I grabbed a carton of it at the store this week and had a glass last night. With a generous shaking of pumpkin pie spices on top, it was truly decadent.

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Have any of you tried the seasonal Silk flavors? There’s also mint chocolate chip and an eggnog flavor (which I’ve never had). I only tasted soymilk for the first time a few years ago, and I really prefer almond milk. What about y’all? Any other pumpkin lovers out there who’ve had this treat or might give it a try? I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

December 5, 2011

Celebrate the end of Prohibition with Bathtub Gin


On this day in 1933, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was repealed, ending the 13 year period of Prohibition in the United States. It’s so strange to think about a time when it was illegal for adults to drink alcohol.

bathtub gin logo

To commemorate this day almost 80 years later, I wanted to share a truly wonderful product with you that was inspired by the days of speakeasies and Prohibition. Bathtub Gin is a line of jams and fruit spreads made with fresh fruits + liqueurs and other spirits. Created by two Nashville sisters who grew up helping their mom make homemade jams and preserves, the company has several flavor options and all are just so tasty.

bathtub gin products

The sisters offer several Bathtub Gin gift-set options for that foodie on your shopping list. I love how the jams can be used in the traditional sense, but also for sauces, mixed drinks and salad dressings.

Even if you aren’t a drinker, I think you’d still enjoy these great southern products! All this talk of Prohibition and the roaring 20s sort of makes me want to dance the Charleston!

Happy Monday friends! Missed y’all!

November 30, 2011

November Round-up


On this last day of the month, I wanted to share a little list of things I’m thankful for…since I didn’t manage to do it each day (but I’ve enjoyed the ones of you who did!).

I’m thankful for…
  • my new job…even though it’s keeping me very busy and blogging has gotten pushed down a bit on the to-do list
  • my dogs…even when I come home to find chewed up feminine hygiene products and bath tissue (thankfully unused!)
  • my family…even when some of them drive me the tiniest bit crazy (love you all though)
  • my sweet southern beau…who tells me it’s ok to eat another piece of pie AND always takes out the garbage (what a keeper!)
  • my energy level which is improving as I introduce more and more healthy foods into my diet
  • the love and friendship of all my blog/twitter/Facebook/Blissdom buddies…you make my days brighter
Now are we ready for December and the excitement it brings? I guess come tomorrow, we’ll find out!

November 18, 2011

Design*Sponge Event & Giveaway

event logo

Earlier this week I traveled across the state to Nashville for an event I just couldn’t miss. After the much-anticipated release of her first book, Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge has been doing a book tour and the West Elm store in Nashville was one of the stops on her agenda.


Not only was I able to meet Grace (who is tiny in real life) and get a copy of the book signed, I attended a special pre-book signing event where we were able to complete a fun little craft from the book.  I took my mom along for the adventure and we had a blast.

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Here Grace, Amy A. (left) and others ham it up for the camera. We were all encouraged to take silly pictures in front of that bright backdrop and they should be posted on the Design*Sponge Facebook page. I’m going to do another post detailing the craft, but you might be wondering about the giveaway.

I had pre-ordered my copy of the Design*Sponge book as soon as I heard about it, but a signed book was included with each ticket to the event so I asked Grace to sign the extra copy for me to give away to one of you. She wrote a sweet note inside for the SBS reader who wins. 


Design*Sponge at Home Giveaway:

1 entry per person for a chance to win a copy of the book signed by author & D*S creator Grace Bonney. You can leave a comment here OR comment on the Southern Belle Simple Facebook page OR tweet me @sthrnbellesimpl. It’s that easy. The giveaway will be open through midnight on Thanksgiving and I’ll announce the winner on Friday November 25. Good luck to everybody!

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Happy Friday!

November 15, 2011

147 Years After the Burning of Atlanta

I don’t remember the first time I saw Gone with the Wind as a child nor all the subsequent viewings thereafter (there were many), but I vaguely remember the first time I saw it after learning that many aspects of the story’s setting and background happenings had really taken place once upon a time.

atl burning

Probably the scene which had the most impact on me as a child was the burning of Atlanta by Sherman and his men. I’d be on the edge of my seat watching as Rhett tried to coax that poor horse, with Scarlett’s shawl over its eyes, through the depot as the flames leapt around them. Even though I knew they’d make it, I always watched as if anything could happen.

You might wonder why I’m mentioning this today. On November 15, 1864 General William Sherman and his men left the scorched ruins of Atlanta and began their march to the sea. To be clear, I’m no Civil War scholar…just your average southern girl with a blog celebrating life in the south. Those were dark times in our nation’s history…not the first, not the last, but  they helped shape what the south was to become, some good and some not so good. I like President Herbert Hoover’s quote in which he states “the supreme purpose of history is a better world.”

Thankfully the fair city of Atlanta rebuilt. It’s home to Coca-Cola, the Braves and Julia Sugarbaker…to me, it doesn’t get much better than that.

November 14, 2011

Fall Fun in the South

fall leaves from Dana Moos flickr

It was one of those perfect fall weekends with just enough productivity to make you feel accomplished, but also enough frivolity to give your mind, body and spirit a little refresh.

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Friday evening I enjoyed dinner with my brother in which he kept me utterly entertained with his colorful commentary on religion, politics and other current events. It’s so strange for me, having always seen him as my ‘little brother,’ to think of him as a grown-up, but I’m so proud of the grown-up he has become.  He’ll be graduating from college in a few weeks and my family is looking forward to celebrating the event.

Saturday morning I ran some errands and then met my sweet friend Hannah B. (from Secrets of a Belle) for lunch and an estate sale. For someone like me who comes from a family of hoarders collectors, it’s safe to say I probably visited my first estate sale in utero…but Miss H was more of a novice. Have no fear though….she got right in and found several treasures that I hope she’ll feature on her fabulous blog sometime. My finds were a couple random kitchen items, including a vintage FireKing relish dish (like the one pictured, which is available on Etsy). 


Sunday, the southern beau & I enjoyed a fun day together which started with a ‘Dixie biscuit’ {see below} and ended with watching a silly 90s movie on Netflix. All in all, it was a great weekend. 


I hope yours was fun too. As always, I’d love to hear about your adventures, so fill me in either here in the comments, on the SBS Facebook page or @sthrnbellesimpl on Twitter. Sorry for the lack of posts lately….after 7 years working at the University of Tennessee (my alma mater), I just started a new job with a public relations firm and I’m still getting settled into my routine.

Happy Monday friends!

November 8, 2011

Anti-Recipes: Lentil & Spinach Chowder


Soup is my favorite thing to enjoy for dinner after a long day, especially when the weather gets a little chilly. The only problem with soup & blogs is that some folks don’t think it makes very pretty pictures…but I promise what this chowder lacks in beauty, it makes up for it in taste. It’s really easy and can be altered to fit your preferences (which is how I cook everything…recipe, schmecipe).

The Anti-Recipe:

  • 3 cups dried lentils
  • tomato sauce (I used a batch of my roasted tomato sauce which had been frozen, but you could use readymade from a jar just as easily)
  • 1 serving sized bottle of store-bought green juice (mine was cucumber, celery, lemon & spinach)
  • handful of pasta (I used quinoa pasta for the first time and it was yummy!)
  • 1 Vidalia onion (or some other type) quartered
  • fresh spinach (3 or so cups)

Cook the lentils according to the package, but use the green juice instead of water. If you need to add some water, that’s fine. As they get tender, stir in the tomato sauce and onion. Simmer this for a bit and add the pasta (if you like). Just make sure there is enough liquid to cook the pasta and the beans unless you really like to chew. Season it up to your liking and when everything is the consistency you want, ladle it out into bowls over fresh spinach leaves. The heat from the soup wilts the spinach and makes for a really good taste.

{Fyi: I came up with this soup from things I had on hand…that’s the beauty of soup. Be brave with your cooking my friends…who knows when an experiment gone-right will become your favorite dish!}

November 7, 2011

Southern Traditions: Napkin Rings

I ran across this little treasure while thrifting recently with my momma and I wanted to share. Miller’s was an iconic southern department store with flagship locations in Chattanooga and Knoxville, TN…both of which were established in the early 1900s.
The box alone is a blast from the past, but the napkin rings inside are simply precious. They probably weren’t expensive, but I’d like to think they made a sweet wedding present or housewarming gift for a local belle.
I’m guessing they are from the 50s or 60s, but they could be newer. It’s so strange how the simple act of using a cloth napkin makes a meal feel so much more special. And dressing up my cloth napkins with a little something shiny only adds to that special experience.
What ideas do you have to make regular old weekday meals feel a bit fancier?

November 1, 2011

That Thorns have Roses


November means Thanksgiving and all the wonderful food and celebrating that comes along with it. I want to spend some time this month thinking about what it means to be truly thankful. Even the words “be thankful” can sound trite, but not so when there is genuine feeling and meaning behind them. I have a dear friend who posts a thankful list on Facebook each day…just 2 or 3 things from that day she is thankful for. It’s not a huge thing, but it certainly makes me smile and always reminds me there are things we can see as blessings, especially where we least expect them.

Will you join me in looking for things to be thankful for this month? Who knows…maybe we’ll making being thankful a year-round activity!

{image 1 via, image 2 without text via}

October 31, 2011

Witch’s Brew Wishes & Candy Corn Dreams


My house has been decorated for Halloween since around October 1st, but it’s possible we get into the holiday more than other folks.


This little crow has been part of my décor for a few years now and this year he found a nice spot on an Eiffel tower lamp. Some small antique glass bottles give a spooky effect as they can be imagined to hold potions and other mysterious concoctions.


These bottles actually started out clear, but certain elements present in the glass caused them to turn purple over the years as they were exposed to ultraviolet light. Many people collect this ‘sun-colored amethyst’ glass.


No Halloween is complete with candy corn and the rest of Brach’s sugary harvest mix. My great-grandmother’s carnival glass compote makes a perfect spooky candy dish.


White pumpkins add an unexpected touch, just watch out for the spiders crawling all over them. And after our visit to the real-live pumpkin patch, the southern beau and I finally carved our punkins yesterday….can you guess which one is mine & which is his? ;)


October 28, 2011

Fall Fun at the Pumpkin Patch


My southern beau and I get pretty excited about Halloween and this year he wanted us to visit a real pumpkin patch. We’ve done ‘pumpkin patches’ before, but they were the kind where all the pumpkins have been set out in a field…as opposed to actually growing there.


There was still a bit of that at the patch we went to, but many of those little orange babies were still clinging to the vine! I felt like such a kid running around trying to select the perfect ones.


We also saw these rascals who were alertly guarding the patch. The dog wasn’t easily convinced, but Mr. Goat fell in love with me once I gave him corn and a few licks of my sorghum lollipop.


All the pumpkins made it home with only one instance of stem breakage and they are patiently waiting to be carved.

Did you get a pumpkin this year? Did it grow in a patch or do you prefer more lasting varieties (i.e. ceramic)?

Happy Friday y’all!

and congrats to Amy & Katie L. for winning the Shutterfly giveaway!

October 26, 2011

Holiday Cards from Shutterfly

Last year I was contacted by the kind folks at Shutterfly and offered some free Christmas cards in exchange for a post. At that time I’d never ordered cards from them before and didn’t want to recommend anything I hadn’t used. We ended up buying our cards from them and I gave the promo code away to a lucky reader.

Holiday Cards, Holiday Photo Cards, & Photo Greeting Cards  Shutterfly - Windows Internet Explorer 10262011 15810 PM.bmp

This year I was contacted by Shutterfly again and provided with codes for 2 lucky readers to win 25 free cards. As someone who always made her family’s cards each year, it’s so nice to be able to upload a picture and be done with it. Not to say getting that perfect picture is ever easy, but at least half the battle’s won!

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These are some of my favorite card designs…especially the retro ones with cute fonts. There’s nothing cookie cutter about Shutterfly’s designs, many of which allow you to customize color and messages.

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The hardest part is deciding which ones to get! If you’d like to be eligible to win 25 free cards, leave a comment on this post or send me a tweet (some folks can’t comment for some reason). I’ll use randomOrg to pick a winner. One entry per person and I’ll close the entries at midnight on Oct. 27th.

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Oh and if you’re a blogger, you get a double chance to win by also entering here.

Are you ordering cards this year or getting super crafty and hand-making them, thus putting the rest of us to shame? I say order some pretty ones and spend that time baking cookies instead!

{P.S. I wonder if the folks on these cards are actual families and couples or just attractive card models?}

October 25, 2011

Southern Collections: Sterling Souvenirs

Some people go on vacation and relax by the shore…I do enjoy a bit of relaxing, but my favorite vacation pastime is thrifting!  This way, while those relaxing, shore-sitting people come home with a t-shirt or mug, I come home with vintage ironstone and silverware. My most recent trip resulted in some new-old treasures I wanted to share.

I was attracted to the spoon because of its twisting design and thought it might be perfect for serving some type of sauce or jam out of a little dish (condiment jars never go directly on the table…per my southern belle grandmother’s way).

I snatched up the silver plate butter spreader because of its S monogram (for my last name) and the simple pattern allows it to easily mesh with my other silverware.


The relish fork is a piece of ‘hotel silver’ (presumably from the Hotel Rowe in Grand Rapids, Michigan) . I don’t have any particular connection with the hotel, but I liked this piece because I’ve always wanted some hotel silver and never stumbled upon any ‘til now.


The finds of the trip were these curious little forks which I think would also have been used for pickles or other relish items. The one on the left has a golden tint and is marked “Montagne Italy.” The back has a tiny fleur de lis, but these boogers were just so hard to photograph.

The right fork is my favorite…only about 3.5 inches in length with a small figure on the end. It sort of looks like a mermaid (or perhaps a baby, wrapped up?). Anytime I find something so unique, I am intrigued about where it came from and who might have used it. Have any of you seen any utensils like these before? I’d love to know more about them.

October 24, 2011

Easy DIY Chalkboard Gifts

I’ve played around with chalkboard spray paint in the past…once turning an average wall mirror into a cute kitchen message board. This time I used chalkboard paint to make a few easy gifts and I think they turned out pretty cute.


First, these little gift tags. I guess I should share that all these items came from the clearance bin at Hobby Lobby. The tags started out with different kinds of veggies painted on them, but since I liked the shape more than the original design, I decided to make them chalkboards instead. These could be used as actual gift tags or I was even thinking personalized Christmas ornaments.


Next was this metal wall art…once again I wasn’t a huge fan of the original painted design, but, spray-painted with chalkboard paint, the metal makes a nice little message board, both for chalk and magnets.

I love how chalkboard paint makes it so easy to create a new use for something, especially when it’s a steal of a deal. I’m always on the lookout for items I can transform. Have you made anything crafty lately?

October 19, 2011

Anti-Recipe: Halloween Candy Corn Bark

candy corn bark

Sweet and salty combinations are just the greatest when it comes to snacking so I decided to whip up a batch of white chocolate bark with candy corn and pretzels. The recipe is so easy and the best part about it is you can make as much or little as you want. This comes in handy for me since I’m trying to eat healthier and I knew if I had made a whole lot of it, I’d also have eaten a whole lot of it.


  • pretzels (I used the small square grid variety of Kroger brand pretzels)
  • white chocolate chips
  • candy corn
  • tiny bit of cooking oil

1. Spread out a layer of pretzels and candy corn on a sheet of waxed paper (on your counter or a clean baking sheet).

2. Add a tiny bit of oil to the white chips and melt them slowly, either over low heat on the stove or in short increments via your microwave.

3. When the white chocolate is smooth and liquefied, pour it over the pretzels and candy corn. A thin coating is plenty for the sweet/salty combo but if you want to use more white chips for thicker pieces of bark you can break, go for it.

**Note: My measurements were about 3 servings of pretzels and candy corn (as specified on the packages) and then 3 tablespoons of chips…so the whole batch could be divided into 3 servings of about 300 calories each. Not the healthiest, but it is a special occasion treat!

{Disclaimer: The above image is not my creation…but it did look very similar}

October 17, 2011

An Apple A Day…

Who else is enjoying the crop of apples available right now, especially the Honeycrisps? I’ve been eating one almost every day for the past week and they are just so delicious. Apples are considered one of the “dirty dozen,” a.k.a. fruits you should try to buy organic whenever possible. Even if you peel them, it’s possible to get some not-so-great chemicals from the non-organic ones. If you can get them organic from a local farm, even better!

Sometimes I like to have a little something sweet after dinner and apples fit the bill. My favorite way to enjoy them is with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, but sometimes I melt a handful of chocolate chips and dip the apple slices in that. What’s your favorite way to eat an apple?

October 14, 2011

Friday Flashback: Billys Tap Room

billy's tap room

Yesterday’s post mentioned something we did on vacation that I’d been dreaming of doing since childhood. While visiting Ormond Beach as a kid, we had a few choice dining spots, but they were mostly on the budget-friendly side. One year my parents and grandparents went to dinner (grown-ups only) at a place called Billy’s Tap Room and after that I’ve always wanted to eat there.


This lead glass cabinet near the door contains personalized nameplates for regulars who might want to call ahead and reserve a table.


The restaurant started out as The Tea Room in 1922. Billy MacDonald was the lounge manager at the Astor and Plaza Hotels in New York City and was invited by the owners of the beautiful Ormond Beach Hotel to move to Florida and manage the restaurant for them. After a few years, Billy bought a building on Granada Boulevard and moved The Tea Room, changing the name to Billy’s Tap Room & Grill.


In the early years, Billy’s sold fruits, jellies, newspapers, sandwiches and gifts. It evolved into a bar and full-service restaurant, where, in 1937, you could get draft beer for a nickel. Over the years the restaurant went through several owners, even closing for a time but it’s now reopened and restored to its original glory.


We took my mom there for her birthday dinner and it was quite the experience. I don’t think there are many places like Billy’s left…where going out to dinner still feels like a treat and not just something you do to get out of cooking. If you’re ever in Ormond Beach, definitely give it a try.