June 28, 2013

Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel

It's been the most exciting week! I was invited to have a sneak peek of the newest 
Southern Living Idea House. Built on the grounds of Fontanel, Barbara Mandrell's famous estate, the SL Idea House is a sight (and a site) to behold! 

Located in lovely Whites Creek just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, Fontanel has long been a gorgeous location. But now, with the addition of the newest Southern Living Idea House, it's even more beautiful! 

The Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel opens to the public tomorrow (Saturday, June 29th) and will remain open through December for guest tours. After that, the property will become a boutique hotel/bed & breakfast destination. 

Photos inside the house were strictly prohibited since it will be featured in the July edition of Southern Living...so you'll just have to take my word for it until the magazine comes out! 

The central house is flanked with guest cottages and two adorable small cottages called 'bunkies.' Porches connect the properties around a grassy quad area. In fact, the property contains 2800 square feet of porches! 

I was allowed to bring a +1 so I invited my lovely southern momma and we had a blast! Our Nashville trip included other adventures so stay tuned for more of that as well! 

The highlight of the event was getting to meet Southern Living editor-in-chief Lindsay Bierman who provided the behind-the-scenes tour. Also in attendance was designer Phoebe Howard who designed the property's interior spaces. 

After our daytime tour, a crew descended on the property to transform it for the night's party. Nearly 500 guests attended the opening party, including Nashville news personality Jonathan Martin, musician Keb' Mo' and Big Kenny of country music's Big & Rich. 

Southern Living EIC Lindsay Bierman & my mom...too cute! 

Make plans now to visit the Idea House at Fontanel. It's absolutely stunning and there are plenty of things to do in the area....including paying a visit to the Goo Goo Clusters Outpost on the grounds of Fontanel. 

Summer only officially started a week ago and already mine is getting off on the right foot! I hope your summer is going swimmingly my dear! 

June 25, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Garden

Covet: cov-et. /kuh-vet/ verb, meaning "yearn to possess or have (something)"

Synonyms: crave - desire - hanker - lust

When I think about coveting, it usually extends to things that are expensive...a certain kind of house you wish you had, a bigger television, diamond jewelry. 

Lately, I've been coveting something in the worst of ways. It's not necessarily an expensive thing, although it did cost lots of sweat and hard work to create. I've been coveting a garden. 

 Living in a condo like I do, I have a small concrete patio which I've crammed with potted plants in my efforts to have a so-called 'container garden.' For the past eight years, I've called my condo home and my container garden has brought me lots of joy. It still does.

But there's a garden down the road from my house that turns me pea-green with envy. I'm talking about the University of Tennessee Gardens, recently named as the official botanical garden of my state. It's practically within walking distance of where I live...less than a 5 minute drive. 

In the past three days, I've been there three times...to enjoy the paths and picnic tables...sculpture installations and even a rock labyrinth. Some of it is a work in progress, but aren't we all?

I've been dragging my southern beau there too, but he doesn't seem to mind. Saturday, we took a stroll in the evening. Sunday, we had a lovely picnic on a grassy spot in the middle of a big grove of trees. Monday, it was fish watching in the newly added ponds. 

The entire garden is lovely, but the part I really covet...the part I really hanker for is the kitchen garden. 

It's this wonderful space with raised beds tucked inside a wooden fence that's the most cheery shade of lavender. 

Every time we visit, I say to my southern beau "I'm coveting this garden in the worst of ways." 

"One day," he says. "One day, you will have a garden that is even better than this." 

And I believe him. But until then, I'll tend to my mint plant, leggy and sparse as it reaches for the sliver of sun that shines onto my patio. I'll water my fern with its three spindly leaves. I'll pinch the flowers off my basil that I use for homemade pesto. 

I'll love my little patio babies as if they are headed for the cover of Better Homes & Gardens...but I'll know that just a stone's throw down the road is a garden that the whole state tries to claim as its own. 

June 19, 2013

What is the Most Important Thing in Life?

While there are a few things that I do think top enthusiasm in life (love, family, faith), I have to agree with Tennessee Williams that enthusiasm is way up there. 

I used to hear that quote from Emerson that "nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" and I'm only beginning to understand how true it is. 

Do you approach each day or each task with enthusiasm? For a long time, I certainly didn't...but now I'm so grateful to have a job I love and a daily routine I feel excited about. 

Who knows? Maybe injecting a little enthusiasm into your life will have a positive effect! 

June 18, 2013

Everything I Needed to Know in Life I Learned from Barbie

This past weekend, I was visiting with my grandparents and conversation turned to stories about my childhood. I was the only grandchild on that side of the family for the first 13 years of my life so my grandparents pretty much gave me their undivided attention.

The main thing I did at their house was play with Barbie dolls. My grandma was my Barbie playing companion, spending hours upon hours sitting cross legged on the floor of my bedroom with only the occasional cigarette (hers) or Hydrox Cookie break (mine).

It's not until we start reminiscing about those days do I remember what an impact Barbie made on my life. In our playtime, my grandma and I were transported to another world...
My grandma Patsye, age 22....before she was a grandma or the Barbie Queen 
Her soap opera of choice was "The Guiding Light" so that provided inspiration for many juicy story lines to reenact with the Barbie dolls...between Alan-Michael Spaulding and Reva Shayne Lewis Lewis Spaulding Lewis Cooper Lewis Lewis (9 marriages, only 7 men), there was no shortage of intrigue, kidnapping, mistaken identity, and the like in our land of Barbie make believe.

The first Barbie dolls I ever got (c. 1984) were Sun Gold Malibu Barbie & Ken. These were the only dolls who retained their original monikers...all subsequent male and female dolls after that were given new names to match their personas (as my grandma and I perceived them).

There was "Wanda" (Barbie's best friend), "Meggy" (an unfortunate looking off-brand fashion doll who also served as Barbie's nemesis), "Dr. Joyce Brothers" (Doctor Barbie...naturally), "Brooke Shields" (remember when she had her own doll?) and "Lee Ann" (named for a character on another popular soap opera One Life to Live...played by Yasmine Bleeth in her pre-Baywatch days). And those are just a few.

[I'm wondering if I should be concerned about the impact 1980s/90s soap operas had on my childhood? Yikes.]

Anyway, I loved playing with my Barbies. I loved imagining all the stories and adventures that felt so real to me.

Some people say Barbie isn't a good role model for young girls because of her unnaturally small waist or the fact that she's so obsessed with clothes. I never considered those things. My Barbie ran her own business, was mayor of the town and still had a kind, handsome husband (Ken) to come home to. She wasn't limited in any way nor was she a stereotype.

On some level, I saw myself with these same unlimited opportunities. I played with other toys, but my Barbies were the bees knees as far as I was concerned.

Sometimes I played Barbies with friends my own age, but it was never quite as fun as playing Barbies with my grandma. I treasure those memories like nothing else.

Childhood goes by in a flash...we only have such a short amount of time when imagination and play are encouraged. This makes me so sad. I'm not saying I want to play with Barbies as an adult, but I think it's so important to engage in things that capture those same elements of reckless creative abandon...dreaming of dreams, believing in impossible things, and maybe a ride around the bedroom carpet in a pink convertible.

June 17, 2013

Southern Funeral Traditions: Pre-Planning

Funeral traditions vary all over the world, but here in the south...we take them pretty seriously. From flowers to food and other ways that we honor the lives of our departed loved ones, southern funeral traditions are unique. 

I guess to some people, funerals and talking about death is morbid. But my great-grandpa was a preacher so he regularly officiated at funerals when someone passed away. Each day, he and my great-grandma would listen to the obituaries on the radio. We all knew better than to talk or make any noise while the obits were read on WHUB, our local radio station. 

It was a small town so he pretty much knew everybody. This meant he attended a lot of funerals as well. 

To my grandparents, planning your funeral was not morbid. They saw it as an important task, just like any other, and a way to ensure their last wishes were carried out. 

I recently came across this sheet of steno paper in my grandma's handwriting. It contains her funeral arrangement wishes. Maybe it seems weird to you, but it gives such a true picture of who she was...I wanted to share it. 

She outlined who was to speak and that each speaker had the same amount of time as well as which songs were to be sung. If you knew her, it would make more sense. She was a devout Freewill Baptist and never cut her hair, based on the belief that a woman's hair was her crowning glory. I think she was afraid someone might cut it after she died so she made special note of this. 

She also specified a lady who could fix it in the exact style she liked, but I think that lady preceded her in death. My mom, who was like a daughter to her instead of a granddaughter, ended up doing her hair the day of her funeral. Again, that might seem weird to some folks, but it was a way to honor her wishes. 

It's not written in her arrangement notes, but she wanted a blue casket "to match her eyes." Nobody ever mentioned to her that her eyes would be closed by the time she would use it, but she had her blue casket all the same. 

Last week was the 10th anniversary of her death (she passed away in 2003 before my senior year of college). I've always wished she could have met my southern beau. She liked men with hearty appetites, especially when they enjoyed her cooking, and I know he would have. I miss her all the time. Especially the way she would call you at the crack of dawn on your birthday to sing in her earnest (yet off-key) vibrato. I miss the delicious food she was famous for...poke sallet with scrambled eggs, her made from scratch yellow cake, fried pies, vegetable soup, and homemade pickles. 

I miss how when I told her "I love you grandma," she'd reply "and I do you, little darlin." 

My grandpa, her one true love, lived for seven years without her before passing away. I like to think they are reunited again as she says "on the other side. In Heaven."  

When you believe that this life isn't all there is, death isn't so scary. 

June 13, 2013

How to Freeze Summer Fruit

It's farmers market season in the south and each week, I love picking out all that delicious locally grown produce. Sometimes I end up with a little more than we can eat and this is why I wanted to learn the best ways to preserve summer fruit.

Canning has always intimidated me and I wanted a quick & easy method. Since I'm joining my friends on Knoxville's WTNZ Fox43 this morning, I decided to share some easy methods for freezing different kinds of summer fruit.

I decided to learn more about freezing the kinds of fruit we eat most (strawberries, blueberries & blackberries), but there are plenty of helpful online resources for freezing other fruit varieties.

I also wanted some simple methods that are proven to produce great results! There's nothing worse than pulling something out of the freezer to find it all freezer burned and gross.


First, blackberries. From everything I read, it seems like the easiest way to freeze blackberries is flash freezing. This sounds complicated but it's really easy. Wash your berries gently in water. Now lay them out on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper or parchment.

Pop this into the freezer for about an hour. When the berries are frozen, you can put them into a zip top bag or one of these plastic Ball freezer jars. I prefer these to glass jars sometimes because I'm always cramming my freezer too full and things tend to jump out when I open the door. If using freezer bags, try to get as much of the air out as you can.


The next fruit I wanted to freeze is strawberries. For these, I used the sugar pack method. You'll need 3/4 cup of granulated sugar for each quart of berries.

Wash the berries well in a colander under cold running water. Apparently soaking them is bad...oops, I've always been a berry soaker. With a paring knife, remove hulls and stems as well as any bruised spots or blemishes. Slice the strawberries in half lengthwise and try to keep them uniform in size.

Put your berries in a clean bowl and add 3/4 cups of granulated sugar for each quart. Stir gently until the berries are completely coated and then let this mixture sit for 15 minutes.

Pack strawberries into plastic containers like the Ball freezer jars or plastic freezer bags. Leave 1/2 inch head space for pint sized containers or bags and a full inch for quart containers.

Don't forget to label your containers with the date so you can enjoy the best results (will keep for 6 months or so).


Finally, I wanted to freeze some blueberries. I found conflicting information about whether to rinse them or not, but Cook's Illustrated is a pretty reliable source and they say to rinse. Rinse your berries and gently pat them dry.

Toss the blueberries with granulated sugar...1/2 cup for every pint of berries. When the berries are fully coated, place them in zip top bags and freeze flat on cookie sheets. You can also freeze them in plastic containers, depending on what you have.

The sugar is only intended to help the fruit keep its shape and can be rinsed off when you want to eat them. A benefit to this method is that it makes for berries that can be eaten raw.

I'm so glad to have some of the season's bounty safe and sound in my freezer...I don't want summer to end, but I love knowing that come fall/winter I'll be able to enjoy summer's harvest.

June 12, 2013

Summer Travel: Folly Beach

Traveling is such a fun part of the summer and since I already shared that I'm hoping to really enjoy all the moments that summer has to offer, I'm trying to plan some travel adventures too! 

There are so many amazing summer travel destinations in the south...it's definitely hard to choose. I was chatting with a blogger friend of mine named Anna who happens to be an expert on one popular southern travel destination: Folly Beach, South Carolina. 

I asked Anna a few questions about Folly and she had such great things to say, I thought I'd share! 

SBS: What do you love about Folly Beach?

Anna: Folly Beach is unlike any other beach town on the East Coast. It's small-town, meets artist-community, meets the ocean. So there's always something going on that's interesting: art shows, festivals, surfing competitions. And the beach is beautiful, wide, full of shells, and perfect for summer afternoons. But there's more to Folly than just the beach. People wave from street corners. Surfers welcome the sunrise. Anyone is truly welcome there, and that's a great feeling.

SBS: For someone who has never been to FB, what are the "must see" attractions/locations/etc.?

Anna: Start on the beach with your toes in the surf. You can't go wrong with the beach, obviously. You have to walk up and down Center Street. There's always something to see, shop for, and eat on Folly's version of main street. And you'll want to see Morris Island Lighthouse. If you drive down East Ashley Street until it ends and then walk the 1/4 mile to the beach you will have some amazing views of the lighthouse that is typically surrounded by water. If you fish, then you'll have to drop your line from the Folly Beach Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier, and even if you don't fish, then it's worth it to walk to the end to look for dolphins or see what anyone else has caught. 

My family loves the parks on Folly, especially the Pirate Playground and Folly Beach County Park. I also love to buy fresh seafood from Crosby's for dinner; their boats are tied up out back, so everything they have is delicious. 

SBS: Whats your favorite FB restaurant?

Anna: So many of the restaurants on Folly are good, and really you can't go wrong. I love to sit outside at The Charleston Crab Shack on Center Street. The patio lets me people watch, and the food is always good. I always order shrimp just because it's totally my favorite, but have to try the hushpuppies too. It might be worth a trip to Folly for the hushpuppies. Really.

 SBS: What about FB makes it an inherently southern destination?

Anna: I could tell you that it's because George Gershwin wrote Porgy and Bess here. Or I could say that because it's next door to Charleston, so much history has rubbed off on Folly. But what I really think makes Folly Beach southern are the people. People here care, they smile when they see you. They open doors and say things like, "Bless your heart." And they mean it. Folly Beach is southern to it's core, and the people here are the proof. 

If that isn't enough reason for me to start planning my trip to Folly Beach, I don't know what is! It sounds like a truly magical place and I hope I get to experience it sometime soon! 

Are you a Folly Beach fan? I'd love to hear your favorite spots and sights to visit on Folly! And thanks to Anna for helping me out! Check out her great blog "In the Next 30 Days" where she carries out month-long challenges and adventures...it's awesome! 

June 11, 2013

Thoughts on Summer from Pablo Neruda

As a child, summer was something that felt so official. School books were put away, desks cleaned out, teacher gifts distributed. There was never any question whether summer had begun because once school came to an end, we knew it had arrived. 

This carried over with me into adulthood on some level because for a time I was a student in college and even after that, I worked in a college environment where there was a distinct separation from the school term and the summer. Our work slowed down. There were long lists of summer projects to complete. It had a certain feeling of relaxation to it, even though the workdays were the same. 

Now that I'm part of the real world...summer feels somewhat more vague. June is here, but it isn't officially summer. Each day comes and goes. Work must be done no differently than the rest of the year. But still I long for a feeling of summer that I fear will not materialize. I worry that summer will zip past and I won't have anything to show for it. 

I've always been terribly prone to missing the moment at hand because I'm thinking about or living for the next moment. Are you guilty of this? I don't want to miss the best parts of summer because I'm always looking ahead to the next thing. 

Today I drove down the street with the windows down. A John Mellencamp song came on the radio and I turned it way up. I sang along. My dog stuck his head out the window. We went through a drive-thru and I got a lemonade. It wasn't anything special, but then again maybe it was. These are the moments I always seem to miss because I'm looking for the next moment. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to understand what it means to live in the moment. 

I'm hoping this summer I can get lots of practice. 

June 10, 2013

Remembering Hattie McDaniel

Today is the 118th anniversary of the birth of actress Hattie McDaniel. Her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind won her an Academy Award for "Best Supporting Actress." 

In researching her story, I ran across a couple of quotes attributed to McDaniel that I wanted to share: 

  "Putting a little time aside for clean fun and good humor is very necessary to relieve the tensions of our time." 
(Still so very relevant)

and this one is my favorite...

"You can best fight any existing evil from the inside."
-- Hattie McDaniel 

She was a treasure and I'm so glad to have been able to experience her talents through her films. Happy Birthday Hattie McDaniel! 

{photo LA Times/UCLA Collection}

June 7, 2013

Happy Birthday to my Southern Beau!

{my beau as a baby}
Today is a special day...the birthday of my southern beau. I've been sitting here for several minutes trying to figure out what to say about him, but it's hard to put into words just what he means to me.

I feel really blessed to have him in my life and in my corner. He is the smartest person I know, the truest, the most loyal. He cannot tell a lie to save his life and is even worse at keeping secrets. 

He has the biggest heart, especially when it comes to our spoiled rotten dogs. He makes me laugh like crazy. He gets me. 

Nobody is perfect, but he is perfect for me.

I am ever so thankful he was born on this day and eventually wound up in Knoxville...grateful to my friend Ellen for recommending I take a creative writing class my final semester of college...happy that my beau worked up the nerve to ask out the giggly girl in the pink raincoat and glad I said yes all those years ago. 

June 5, 2013

How to Get in Shape, Southern Style

I must have been living under a rock because apparently I'm the last person to see this. I mean, I'll admit that it's kind of a silly video...but it still has nothing on the fitness habits I learned growing up in the south. 

It looks like the video is set in Florida, but there's no way the lady is a southerner. First of all, her accent sounds like she is from the North. Another reason I know she isn't southern is that if she were, she'd be dressed in a leopard print jogging suit made of parachute material. A southern lady would have her pocketbook with her and might also be Prancercising to "What a Friend we have in Jesus" instead of the current song. 

My great-grandma, a staunch Freewill Baptist minister's wife who never wore pants or owned a television, used to start every morning with a little cardio. Lying on her back in bed, she'd throw her legs up in the air repeatedly, "taking her exercise" as she hollered 'Hip-hoo' over and over again.

She also liked to brag that she could plow a field better than any man and had hands so strong, she could take a'hold of her grown brother Clarence and flip him over her head.  

My dad's mom kept fit on a steady diet of ginger ale and Kent Golden Light Kings, bought by the carton. 

One summer when I was staying with my grandparents, I spent an entire rainy afternoon dancing up and down their sidewalk with an umbrella, performing Broadway show tunes in costume. If there'd been a YouTube in 1990, I'd have gone viral. 

So if Prancercising makes you happy, I say go for it. But don't wear white shoes after Labor Day no matter what. 

June 3, 2013

Do you have a vision?

 I've heard this Bible verse all my life: "Where there is no vision, the people perish..." and it always kind of scared me a little. Sometimes it feels like there is so much pressure on us to define our vision in life, to figure out our purpose. What if we pick the wrong one? What if the vision we have is based on misinformation? What if we spend all our life doing something that doesn't line up with what we were "meant to do?"

There are so many books out there that claim to help us find our vision or understand our purpose. And I'm not saying they are bad. But what if we understood that we didn't have to go outside ourselves to learn that stuff? What if we knew it was as simple as asking our heart?

I'll never forget a conversation I had with my mom several years ago. I was working in a job that felt like a dead end. I knew I was fortunate to have it, but it made me feel so trapped. Do you know that feeling?

I was frustrated and trying to express to my mom how I couldn't figure out what I wanted to be doing, but I knew it wasn't what I was currently doing.

She asked me what I might choose if I could do anything I wanted. My vision at the time was so unclear...but I remember saying "I just want to have a job where I can be at home with the dog all day."

This might sound crazy to you. Looking back, it was kind of a wacky thing to say. But it was a real desire of my heart. I love my dog. And he loves my being at home with him. It's a peaceful time for us both and in the moment of frustration, that was the shred of vision I had for myself.

Maybe some part of your vision for your life seems wacky to others. Maybe even you think it's a little bit nuts. Well I just admitted to wanting to build my life goals around the well-being of a dog...it can't get any wackier than that. But I'm happy. And I want you to be too.

As I sit here typing this post, with my dog sprawled out on the bed in the other room, I have to smile. Each morning I wake up and begin my workday....at my home office...with the dog nearby. And I feel so blessed for this experience. What might have seemed like a silly dream five years ago is now part of my reality.

I don't believe that we can just say something and will it into being. I do believe that if something is buried in your heart and you have the courage to speak it, it can begin to be real. I knew that being home with my dog was part of my vision...but just a little part. The other, bigger part of my vision (having my own business) wasn't yet realized. But all things in good time.

Maybe your vision for your life isn't complete. Maybe it never will be. But if there are parts of it that you feel in your heart to be true, why not entertain the possibilities. Why not?

June 1, 2013

Remembering Andy Griffith

There are so many things about our lives that never get settled or worked out in a way that we like. Many days end without resolution. I don't know about you, but I like knowing that I can visit a place where every problem, however minor, gets neatly solved (with a moral lesson to boot!) in twenty-one minutes. 

That is the Andy Griffith Show for me....a place from the past that gives me great comfort. 

Remembering Andy Griffith on what would have been his 87th birthday. We lost a true southern gentleman with his passing last year.