March 30, 2013

Easter Treats, a recipe roundup

Happy Saturday friends! I hope you are enjoying the Easter season. I wanted to share a few of my favorite ideas for a lovely Easter, in case you are new to the blog and haven't explored the archives!

One of my favorite recipes for a delicious Easter punch is my Baptist Champagne. We call it that because it's free of alcohol, thus safe for Baptist consumption (I was raised Baptist so I'm not poking fun, honest!). If you ever make it once, be prepared to give out the recipe because I always get requests for it. You'll want to keep the ingredients on hand to make it again and again!

Another tasty Easter dish is my recipe for "Not Your Granny's Green Bean Salad." This is so easy to create and makes a perfect complement to your main dish.

No southern Easter table is complete without a Jell-O salad! Here's a recipe for a good one if you'd like to make a last minute addition to your menu.

For a more casual Easter meal or perhaps as an appetizer, my Homemade Pimento Cheese is a blog favorite. This post was my most popular for many years, until the Ritz Cracker Candy post usurped its popularity! Both are delish and I swear by the recipes.

I hope you have a lovely weekend and a wonderful Easter! Thanks for stopping by! 

March 27, 2013

What Matters to Me

Dreaming by Douglas Teed 
Here I sit, eating potato chips, afraid to begin typing this post because I'm not sure what to say. That's not true. I know what I want to say....but I'm not sure how exactly to say it.

I talk to myself. I always have. In the past year or so, I've started to realize that this talking I do while I'm alone is not for my own benefit, but that I'm talking to God. Some people might get down on their knees or go to church to pray. I do it while I'm driving around town or sitting in traffic. I'm leading with this because I want to explain that not only do I talk to God, he also talks back to me.

Some people might think this is crazy and that's okay.

Lately, I've been talking to God about all the other sad, hard, unfair things that are going on in the world. Recently I wondered out loud to myself "just what is our problem?" (by us, I mean the collective us of humanity).

Then God said something to me that I can't stop thinking about.

You don't know your value. 

"But God," I said, "I know you love me and that I matter to you."

Yes, but most folks in the world don't know that. And even if they've heard it, they don't really BELIEVE it. 

Not only do most of us not believe we are valuable to God, we also don't value ourselves and we certainly don't value each other. How could we value each other and still treat each other the way we do?

So what can I do about this? I'm just one person (this is what I said to God).

And you know what he said to me?

Tell my people they matter. Tell them they have value. Not because of anything they did or will do. Not because of any untapped potential they might realize one day. Right now. Just as they are. They matter. 

So that's what I'm going to do. I'm not sure how it will look. I'm not sure how it will go. But I want to start with you. You reading this blog on your iPhone. Yes, you.

You matter.

You matter to me.

You matter to God (even if you've never met Him).

You matter to your community.

You matter to your town or city, to your state, to our nation.

You matter to our world.

In your everyday life, you might not get the message that you matter but that's because maybe the folks you are dealing with don't know...because they don't know they matter either. But I'm hoping to change that.

You have value. HUGE unspeakable value. You can't wrap your head around it. And according to what I believe, that value was realized with what happened on that very first Easter so long ago.

But regardless of what else you believe about any spiritual stuff, I hope you believe you have value. And if you get a chance to tell someone else that he matters too, I hope you'll take that chance. We have no idea how different our world could look if we all just really knew how much we mattered. If we all treated each other (and ourselves) like we had value, things would be much better. I hope we can get a glimpse of it.

March 26, 2013

I Want It That Way: Backstreet Boys Harlem Shake

So apparently I pretty much missed the whole Harlem Shake thing. I kind of know what it is now, but I still don't really get it. No worries....that's not what this post is about.

When I was in high school, boy bands were all the rage. It's like one day they weren't and then the next day, they were. I can't explain it. But I loved them...'N Sync, 98 Degrees, and especially The Backstreet Boys.

Didn't take me for a boy band fan? Well, I was.

I even managed to see both 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys in concert my senior year of high school. It was 1999...we weren't sure what the coming millennium would bring what with Y2K and all so I consider this quite a feat.

My Backstreet Boys experience was truly unforgettable. I had been helping a friend of mine stay caught up in our honors English class (she was on our school's golf team and was busy winning the state tournament...thus she had to miss a lot of school).

As sort of repayment for helping her, her dad bought us concert tickets to see BSB. Except my friend wasn't all that interested in seeing them. Thankfully her 9 year old sister was as big a fan as I was so she made a wonderful concert-going companion.

Now I must tell you about my friend's dad. His family and mine have been close for years and he's kind of a celebrity around my small hometown. His name is Wayne, but everybody knows him as Mister Wayne because he owns and operates a beauty/barber school. He is a legend in the hair industry. Seriously.

And I feel very privileged to say that he took me to see The Backstreet Boys. Where I proceeded to scream and cry like those girls who saw Elvis back in the 60s. Except I was screaming for Howie D. Yes, I loved Howie. I only picked him as my favorite because I thought nobody else liked him...I guess I felt sort of sorry for him because he was the oldest. But Mister Wayne humored me.

He even agreed to stay at the concert arena long after the band had left the stage because they hadn't yet performed "I want it that way" and I just knew there were going to come back for an encore. We waited and waited. People started to leave. Just as Mister Wayne was about to make us pack it up, the boys came back out and sang the song. It was amazing. Though I didn't know it, in that moment I was infinite.

March 25, 2013

What Do Our Dreams Mean?

Ever since I was a little girl, I've been an active dreamer. Maybe I should clarify that I'm referring to dreams that take place while I'm asleep. Oh, I dream while I'm awake too...but this post isn't really about that.

I've always had extremely vivid dreams that I can recount in great detail the next day. For a time, I was fascinated with those books that decode dreams and explain possible meanings for each element.

I never really bought into the meaning of dreams. Instead, I sort of thought that dreams were just caused from eating weird things before bed or maybe were a replay of the day's events.

The other night I had the strangest dream. Don't the best conversations always begin this way?

I dreamed that I had set up a new client meeting with the CEOs of a circus/carnival because they wanted to hire me to manage their social media. Three of the four company big wigs were gents in suits who seemed fairly normal (except two had their teeth sort of filed down like vampires).

They warned me that the fourth member of their leadership team was quite difficult to get along with; that he was, in fact, a nudist and that I might feel uncomfortable upon meeting him. This didn't seem like such a big deal in the dream until we got to the place where I was to meet this nude circus boss and he ended up being a Bengal tiger.

When I said "but I thought he was a nudist?" They replied: Precisely! As hard as we try, we can't get him to wear clothes.

Now you might be wondering why I'm sharing this story on the ol' blog. I'm not really sure I have an answer for you. I guess, I was just thinking about how I might be able to glean anything from my dreams that would be useful to me in my waking life. And maybe they aren't anything but the result of my eating hummus before bed.

What do you think? Do you dream in vivid and memorable scenarios? Has one of your dreams ever come true? I'm really interested in these things and would love to hear from you!

This article from the Wall Street Journal talks about how young children are able to change the outcome of their dreams while they sleep!

{The work of art featured at the top of this post is available for purchase here}

March 23, 2013

Springtime in the South: In Your Words

I recently asked y'all (via the Southern Belle Simple Facebook page) to share your favorite things about springtime in the south. You did not disappoint with your responses! You mentioned so many lovely things that I also enjoy about this season in our neck of the woods. I took the submissions and used them to create this fun Wordle...hope you enjoy! Feel free to use it on your own sites, Facebook or Pinterest. 

March 21, 2013

How to Set A Southern Table for Spring & Easter

This morning is my regular segment on Knoxville's WTNZ Fox43 and I'm sharing some of my favorite ideas for setting a southern table. Spring has arrived and Easter is just around the corner so there are plenty of occasions that might call for making your meal a little more special.

Y'all know I don't like to spend a lot of money so most of my suggestions can be created on a small budget.

One way to dress up your Easter table is with the good china. My good china is thrifted, mind you, but whether you inherited Grandma's priceless heirloom set or got them as a wedding present, I'm a firm believer that if you have dishes you love you should use them! There's no reason to store or saves them for a special occasion...that special occasion is today. If you're like me and have odd pieces of thrift store china, use them too! Mix and match to create unique combinations. It doesn't have to be perfect...just play around until you find a look you like!

Another way you can add something special to your table is with cloth napkins. There are hundreds of intricate ways to fold and style napkins, but I am sharing a couple of my favorites. One, shown below from the adorable blog Sugar and Charm, is the bow tie fold. It's really easy to re-create and you only need a napkin and a scrap of ribbon to complete it.

via Sugar and Charm blog (so cute!) 

If you'd like to fold your napkin and display it in a drinking glass, the flame fold might be one to try. It's easy to master and this video walks you through the process in no time. 

Another idea of mine is to create a table that incorporates fun things younger folks can the grown-ups can enjoy their meal. Using butcher paper instead of a table cloth and handing out chalk is a way to add some fun for young and old. I found some adorable chalk Easter eggs that I think could be used as place cards as well as something fun for the table. 

Finally, decorate your Easter table with potted plants instead of cut flowers. Flowers are beautiful but they just don't last very long. I got a small pot of miniature daffodils and I think they will make a gorgeous addition to my Easter I can plant the bulbs and enjoy them year after year! 

March 20, 2013

The bigger the hair, the closer to God

For as long as I can remember, I've had big hair. I was born with it. I struggled against my genes for years, especially in junior high when I'd beg my aunt to help me iron it straight. It was the 90s! Straight hair was all the rage. 

The older I've gotten, the more I've come to embrace and love my curly hair. Actually, I always loved the curliness of my was just the bigness of it that I wasn't so fond of. 

Last week when I had my hair cut, my stylist offered to blow it out for me afterward. Since I'd never gotten her to do that before, I agreed. I figured it would be fun to do something different. 

The next couple days were so bizarre...I kept running my fingers through my hair, not able to believe how it could undergo such a transformation. I had to put a plastic bag over my head in the shower lest the steam cause my straight locks to frizz! 

I love these strong, talented ladies pictured in today's post. I love their big hair. For some reason, I've always wanted to rock a style like that...but I guess I've never been brave enough. 

The other day I brushed out my curls to create a pretty big 'do. I didn't leave the house or anything, but I snapped a pic. And for some reason, I've decided to share it with y'all. Lord help me.

I think I give Loretta a run for her money. 

March 18, 2013

Proverbs 31 Woman

Today is my 31st birthday. When I type it out like that, it looks so foreign. It's a number I've heard many times but I still don't identify with it. Thankfully, I'm not one of those people who takes issue with getting older. Turning 30 last year was no big deal. I'm just grateful for this life and the people God has put in it. 
I'm not celebrating with a big blowout party or some extravagant trip...just a simple picnic with my southern beau. But I wouldn't have it any other way. And there will be cake. Lots of cake. 

For some reason, I started thinking about Proverbs 31 and decided to share my favorite verse below. 

Clothed in strength and dignity, with nothing to fear, 
she smiles when she thinks about the future.
-- Proverbs 31:25

With a promise like that, what else could a girl want? 

March 14, 2013

Only in the South: Squirrel on Wood

Growing up in the south, I have had some hunters and fishermen in my family. My great-grandpa had a large mouth bass mounted on a board over a doorway at his house and I used to stand under it looking up and wonder what its life must have been like before its present state. 

I've seen deer heads, moose heads, wild boar heads and even the occasional taxidermied jackalope. But this weekend, at a local antique shop, I saw something I'd never seen before in the form of a stuffed and mounted squirrel. 

Really? A squirrel? To quote Carrie Bradshaw, it's just a rat with a cuter outfit. I didn't even know you could stuff squirrels (to which my southern beau replied "oh yeah, you can stuff anything so long as you can find the right sized eyes"). 

All I can say is only in the south. And what's more is the price. $49! I kid you not. I have several pairs of shoes that didn't cost $49. We got our 15-year old Yorkshire Terrier for free and he's ALIVE (for now). Is someone really going to buy this bizarre artifact for $49? 

It makes me wonder if this is some sort of special squirrel. Perhaps his ancestors survived Sherman's burning of Atlanta. 

Can anyone help me make sense of this madness? 

March 12, 2013

Rest In Peace Harry Stamps

Obituaries are, for the most part, rather dryly written and contain facts that are mainly of interest only to the folks who knew and/or loved the deceased. Not so in the case of the obituary of Harry Stamps. A reader shared this with me and I wanted to share it here with y'all.

The best part about it is that someone this eccentric and wonderful lived on the earth for 80 years. The worst part is that he's no longer with us. 

Some of my favorite passages include how he created his signature bacon and tomato sandwiches with all white Bunny Bread and other carefully chosen southern ingredients. 

I also love how the obituary mentions his love affair with deviled eggs, boiled peanuts and Vienna Sausages (pronounced Vi-ee-na of course). He also apparently loved buttermilk served in a martini glass with cornbread crumbles. 

You'll want to read the complete obituary, trust me. To do so, visit the website of Bradford O'Keefe Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Jeff Davis Campus) for their library. Harry retired as Dean there and was very proud of his friends and the faculty. He taught thousands and thousands of Mississippians during his life.

What an amazing person! 

March 11, 2013

A Method to the Madness

As a public relations/marketing professional and blogger, I think it's important to be committed to continued education. For me, this comes by way of signing up for free webinars, reading lots of articles  and following folks on social media to keep my finger on the pulse, so to speak. But sometimes this can be exhausting! From checking in with all the other bloggers I want to connect with to reading the vast number of articles and blog posts about the next great method to do _____________ (fill in the blank) in 5 easy steps, sometimes my brain feels like it's going to explode.

I'm definitely not against those types of tips and tricks for success, but sometimes I think we get so caught up in them that we forget what really matters: what's in our heart. This is probably the anti how-to post, but it's how I'm feeling so I wanted to share. 

In the past few weeks I've been bombarded with information about how to do my job better, how to reach more customers, how to engage with readers, you name it. There have been flow charts, lists of numerous so-called easy steps, and tricks of the trade. 

But I find that I am most successful when I follow what's in my heart...that unique music playing in my head that nobody else can hear. This is what tells me to take an entire afternoon to work in my container garden, instead of scanning Mashable for the next big thing in social media. My heart tells me to sleep a little later or drink a glass of wine while I enjoy a new magazine. It tells me to stop what I'm doing when a friend calls so I can really be present while we chat. These are the things that help me be my authentic self. Because after these moments of giving my mind a break, I am able to return to my work refreshed and rejuvenated. 

I'm not saying I don't work really hard, because I do. Working from home is a blessing, but it doesn't mean I wake up whenever I want and watch soap operas all day (are there even soap operas anymore?). I'd even say working from home takes more discipline because there are so many real-life distractions...dogs needing walked, dishes to wash, laundry piling up. 

If you are an entrepreneur or would like to be, I offer you this advice: Don't get caught up in chasing the methods for success. Be yourself. Follow what's in your heart, even if it seems sort of crazy. Take a nap in the afternoon. Eat that cupcake you're craving. There's something unique inside you that makes you different from every other person on the planet. And you owe that unique authenticity to the world. 

Whatever your occupation or vocation, let your real self start shining through. It will yield results...probably even better results than were promised by that webinar you just watched. 

March 6, 2013

Adventures in Washington D.C.

I've been doing a bit of traveling lately and the above photo is one of the locations I visited...and no, it's not my neighborhood Cracker Barrel. I was actually in Washington, D.C. for a few days on a work trip and part of my business took me to Capitol Hill. That's where I visited the offices of both my state (Tennessee) senators and the above photo was taken in Senator Lamar Alexander's office.

If you haven't made a trip to D.C., I suggest you do! Most of my time was spent working, but I so enjoyed getting to see the Senate and House office buildings where all the heavy stuff goes down...a little too heavy these days if you ask me, what with all this Sequestration business. But politics aside, I was proud to see all these wonderful Tennessee artifacts adorning the walls in Sen. Alexander's office.

It reminded me that our legislators really are supposed to represent us in Washington (whether they actually do or not is another issue). It also made me think of my great grandparents who never visited our nation's capital. They would have been so surprised, as I was, to walk into such a formal office building and see things that reminded them of home.

Another highlight of my visit to the Hart Senate Building was the cafeteria...what can I say? I'm a food enthusiast. I didn't try these yummy-looking root beer float cupcakes, but I had to snap a picture. NOT your typical cafeteria fare!

Prior to this past week's trip, my most recent visit to D.C. was in 1994 (I was in the 6th grade) so let's just say I enjoyed many aspects of the city that were off-limits to me then. I'm sad I didn't get a chance to visit my fabulous blogger friend Miss P (I Do Declare). Oh well, there's always next time! 

March 4, 2013

Free John Bates Tote Bag Giveaway

Ok, I've got a confession to make and I must preface it by asking that you don't judge me. I've never seen Downton Abbey. I know, I know...there's something wrong with me. I'm not sure how it happened, but I just didn't watch and then I was so behind that I felt like I'd never catch up. And now I've heard the BIG spoiler and worry that I can't watch without thinking about that. Let the judgment commence. 

That being said, some of you might know that part of my job involves working with a fabulous local PBS affiliate station, through which I scored a great piece of swag in the form of this Free John Bates tote bag. And since I've never seen the show, I just wouldn't feel right about carrying it around...even though I think it's way cool. I worried that if I carried it, people would want to talk Downton Abbey with me and then I'd look like a fool who hasn't seen it. 

So the bag is up for grabs. Just leave a comment saying you'd like to win and you're in the running. And if you want to tweet it, that's cool too. I'll pick a winner at random Friday March 8th at 10 am EST. 

And if you just want to buy a bag, here's a link to do so!