July 31, 2013

Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow (or Why Dancing with the Stars won't be calling anytime soon)

For the past couple days, I have found myself repeating this little phrase in my head: slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick....You get the picture. 

I'm not going crazy, although I can see how it seems that way. 

The reason I've got the phrase in my head is because earlier this week my southern beau and I had a dancing lesson. It was all his doing as a surprise for me and we were actually supposed to have the lesson last week, but then life (in the form of a burst hot water heater) got in the way. 

There's a dance studio in my neighborhood, next to the fancy grocery store where we sometimes go for gourmet chocolate and free coffee samples. I had peered in the window at the elegant couples moving gracefully around the floor and remarked how we should go dancing sometime...although it was mainly just wishful thinking. 

Apparently my wishful thinking worked because this week, I found myself being trotted around the same dance floor by my beau. 

Before we actually got to the dancing, we had to fill out a form for the instructor. One of the questions on the form was "Why do you want to learn to dance?" and my beau wrote "I don't." And that pretty much sums up his excitement level prior to the lesson. 

But he knew it was special for me and once we got on the floor, he kind of got into it. 

We attempted to learn the rumba and some beginner swing dance steps. Since neither of us has much dancing experience, it was mostly basic things...I doubt we'll be joining a professional dance circuit anytime soon. 

Mainly we just had fun. I've always heard that how you dance can be representative of how you approach life. Here are a few of our dancing experiences that demonstrate this: 
  • I kept trying to lead (what can I say, I like to be in charge)
  • When I didn't do a turn quickly enough, my beau would give me a little push (alas, he also likes to be in charge) 
  • He also got really frustrated when he couldn't get it perfect after one try. 
The best part was just doing something together where we could laugh at ourselves and feel a little bit silly. It was a nice way to spend an evening. I highly recommend a dancing lesson if you are looking for something fun to do with your sweetie, a good friend or even by yourself. 

Just remember this: a rumba is a dance, a Roomba is a vacuum cleaner and Zumba is some kind of exercise. We kept getting them confused! 

July 26, 2013

Wish I Were Here: Goo Goo Outpost at Fontanel

Do you ever wish you were someplace else? Sometimes I wish I could magically whisk myself away to a different location...even for just the afternoon. Today, I'm dreaming of the Goo Goo Cluster Outpost at Fontanel in Nashville. Sitting on the porch, sipping an ice-cold Cheerwine and eating a Goo Goo Cluster sounds pretty good right about now.

July 22, 2013

National Hammock Day, or Another Reason My Grandpa is Awesome

Today is National Hammock Day. Since I find myself lacking a hammock at present, I'm celebrating the day in the best way I know how...reminiscing about my best hammock memories. 

When I was about 6 years old, my grandpa bought a hammock. It wasn't just any hammock, mind you. It was an original Pawleys Island hand-crafted rope hammock. My grandpa appreciates quality and he's always been one to do his research. After much reading and investigating, he determined that a Pawleys Island hammock was the best. So that's what he got. 

In his backyard were two tall trees. As a child, I believed they were planted with the express purpose of supporting a hammock just for me. Maybe my grandpa even told me that. He has always had a way of making me feel like the world (or at least his world) revolved around me in some form or fashion. 

He usually did yard work or tinkered in his basement workshop on Saturday mornings. But Saturday afternoons were hammock time. He'd carry the hammock up the concrete steps that led to the backyard from where it was stored in the basement. He'd pretend to need my help hanging it up using the metal hooks. 

Then we'd plop in. Sometimes I'd perch up at the corner, pretending to be a spider and the hammock was my web. Sometimes we'd be astronauts flying through space or explorers rafting down a river. Mostly I was just an adoring granddaughter begging him to tell me story after story of his childhood adventures. 

My grandpa rigged up a rope that was tied to my swing set. This is how we made the hammock rock. Sometimes we'd doze. My grandma would bring us sweet tea but I remember she rarely got in the hammock. It was just his thing, thus it became my thing too. 

To me, the most magical thing about the hammock was that in it, time sort of stood still. My everyday life was fairly scheduled with extra-curricular activities. At my grandparents' house, everything just stopped. If we wanted to stay up all night and sleep all day, that was fine. And if we wanted to lay in a hammock for hours on a Saturday, that was fine too. 

I know it's impossible, but if I could go back and re-live a day in my life, I'm pretty sure it would be a hammock day. I'd love to have a yard with two trees perfect for supporting an original Pawleys Island hammock someday. But until then, I've got enough hammock memories to do me just fine. 

Happy Hammock Day! 

July 18, 2013

Store-Bought Products with a Homemade Twist

This morning I visited my friends Abby Ham and Moira Kaye at Knoxville's WTNZ Fox43 for my regular Southern Belle Simple segment. For today's installment, I shared tips and tricks to give store-bought products homemade flair! You can watch the segment below. For full details of the recipes I shared, read on!

Store-bought Dill Pickles with a Homemade Twist

I've been making these easy hot & sweet pickles for a few years now. The recipe came from my friend Shannon's sister-in-law's mom (I think)...isn't that how all good southern recipes are? Passed around from family to family, friend to friend? 

To make them, all you need is a jar of store-bought dill pickles, granulated sugar and crushed red pepper flakes. I prefer whole dills because I think they have better texture than the dill pickle chips. 

Pour the pickle juice out of the jar, but save it for later. Slice the pickles. Now put them back in the jar in layers, beginning with a layer of pickle slices plus a sprinkling of sugar and red pepper flakes. Repeat these layers until the jar is filled with pickles and then pour the juice back over the jar's contents. Replace the lid and refrigerate for a day or two. You'll swear these sweet & spicy pickles are homemade! 

Sweet & Savory Butter 

Flavored butter is so easy to make, yet it makes an average meal more special. As I mentioned in the segment, I love having herb butter at one of my favorite Knoxville restaurants, The Northshore Brasserie. 

To make flavored butter, simply decide what flavors you want to incorporate. For a savory option, I used fresh chopped garlic chives. For a sweet version, I added some Key Lime marmalade to room temperature unsalted butter. This tastes awesome on croissants and I'm sure would be wonderful on pancakes, scones or biscuits too. 

For the savory butter, you can use any herbs you like...basil, oregano, dill, thyme...the possibilities are endless! Try it on fish, potatoes or warm crusty bread. Your family and/or dinner guests will love you! 

Condiments with a Kick 

Finally, condiments! It's so easy to jazz up even the most boring condiments with a little creative ingenuity! Ketchup gets bolder with the addition of curry powder. For a sweeter option, mix peach preserves or even sweet onion jelly.

Mayo (or in the case of my segment, Vegenaise) is a great starter for all sorts of add-ins. Sriracha is my favorite...it's a perfect topping for sweet potato fries! 

I hope these ideas inspired you to think outside the store-bought box. It's easy to take everyday store-bought products and give them a homemade twist...with a little creativity! 

[fries image via  by stevendepolo (contact)]

July 17, 2013

Granny Betty's 32-Layer Chocolate Cake

I love cake. And family recipes. So when I had the opportunity to try something called "Granny Betty's 32-Layer Chocolate Cake" recently, I didn't pass it up.

My family went on our annual beach trip last week. Driving from Tennessee to Florida, we usually head down I-75 and drive smack through the middle of Georgia. This trip, we took I-16 toward Savannah so we could detour for a bit in Jekyll Island.

But somewhere along the way, we got hungry and decided to pull off for a bite to eat. The spot we chose was called Bay South Restaurant. It looked like a sweet little local meat & 3 and the food did not disappoint.

But the highlight of the experience was dessert. Our server recommended the chocolate cake. Her grandmother (Granny Betty) makes the cake for the restaurant.

Did I mention it had 32 layers?

I didn't get the recipe, but it was similar in taste to a fried chocolate pie. We were told that Granny Betty cooks each paper-thin layer in a small skillet...hence the fried pie taste. Then between each of the 32 layers, there was a little bit of chocolate...sort of like chocolate pie filling. We scarfed it down.

The patience it must take to make 32 layers one by one and then construct such a confection astounds me. The world needs more people like this magical Granny Betty. I'm certain of it.

July 16, 2013

This is Only Temporary

Last week I was at the beach with my family. There's something about the ocean that inspires me in so many ways. It definitely has a magic of its own. 

Vacation always goes by too quickly doesn't it? I got home and eased back into regular life with a low-key weekend of soup eating and TV viewing.

After hearing lots of chatter about the new Netflix show "Orange is the New Black," I watched a couple of episodes. It's definitely interesting...not sure if I like it really, but there was one line that came up a couple of times and struck a chord with me. 

"This is only temporary." 

The quotes refers to the fact that the show's main character, Piper Chapman, is in federal prison. Since her sentence is only 15 months, she is given the advice that it's only temporary. 

Separate from the show, the line kept coming to my mind. To me, it holds a deeper meaning. Our lives on this earth are so temporary. Even if we live to be really old, like 112 (to me that seems really old), it is but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of eternity. I guess, if you don't believe in eternity, you may disagree. 

So often I fall into the trap of planning my whole life around something that may or may not happen...the next day, the next week, the next year. The next celebration. The next disaster. I don't always enjoy the present because I'm either worried about or planning for the future. 

Yet you do not know [b]what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
James 4:14 

While I do believe that my life (and yours) is just a vapor -- a temporary thing that passes away all too quickly, I also believe the quote in my beach photo. 

You (yes, you!) are unrepeatable. There is magic about you that is all your own. 

I believe this about you. And I believe it about me. 

That's why I want this vapor of a life, this temporary chaos we inhabit, to matter. 

It looks different depending on the day. Sometimes it means giving a waitress a $20 tip on a $5 lunch because she seemed like she needed it. Sometimes it means giving a stranger the benefit of the doubt, even when I want to yell at them. Sometimes it means not checking my email during dinner with someone I love. Sometimes it means speaking up. Sometimes it means biting my tongue. Sometimes it means going to visit someone I don't feel like visiting. Sometimes it means loving someone I don't feel like loving. 

Because I know that all too quickly, this life will pass away. And since I don't know what it will be like tomorrow, or even tonight, I want the fact that I'm still here right now to matter for something. 

July 15, 2013

A Memorable Breakfast at The Pfunky Griddle

Breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day. When I travel around the south, I love to research and scout out unique restaurants with delicious breakfast options. Sometimes, I run across these little gems by accident, which is exactly what happened when I was in Nashville recently and had the opportunity to eat breakfast at The Pfunky Griddle.  

Located in an old house in the adorable area of Berry Hill, Tennessee, The Pfunky Griddle is unlike any other restaurant where I've ever eaten. Each table has a big griddle in the center on which you cook your own food. It's sort of like DIY hibachi. The menu has offerings such as pancakes, omelets, hash browns and grilled cheese that you cook on the griddle. 

We (I was dining with my mom) had spinach omelets, veggie sausage and biscuits. The prices were so reasonable and the food was delicious. There are also lots of options (like the biscuits we enjoyed) that you simply order and don't have to cook. 

I hope I can visit The Pfunky Griddle again sometime. What a clever concept for a restaurant! 

July 10, 2013

Most Beautiful Words

I hope you're enjoying these fleeting summer afternoons...no matter how you may be spending them! 

July 9, 2013

East Nashville Eats: Marche Artisan Foods

Living in East Tennessee as I do, it doesn't seem that I get to visit the other parts of the state as much as I'd like, including Nashville. That's why when I was invited to tour the Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel a couple weeks ago, I made sure to schedule some additional time for exploring Music City.

One highlight of the trip was spending time in East Nashville, specifically a visit to Marche Artisan Foods for lunch. Marche is a European-style eatery and market serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.

My mom and I had been wandering around looking for a lunch spot when we stumbled on it. At first I was convinced Marche was just a market, but I'm so glad we investigated further because we had the most delicious food. 

First, we enjoyed some tasty sweet pea and basil soup. Split pea soup has always been a favorite of mine...of course I grew up eating Campbell's Split Pea w/ Ham & Bacon. Now that I don't eat meat, it can be tricky to find vegetarian pea soup unless I make my own. So needless to say, I was excited to try a vegetarian pea soup at Marche!

In addition to the soup, my mom and I shared a chickpea salad sandwich. If you haven't tried it, chickpea salad is really good. It's something of a vegetarian/vegan alternative to chicken salad or pimento cheese. I haven't made it, but there are some great recipes out there (here's one to try if you are interested).

Then it was time for the piece de resistance...sliced peaches and ricotta cheese with honey on whole wheat bread. This sweet summer creation was decadent. I can't wait to recreate it at home. It felt like such a treat and enjoying the meal with my mom was the icing on the cake.

Have you ever been to Marche? The same folks who operate this lovely spot also have a French/Italian restaurant called Margot just around the corner. I'm already scheming for a way to go back to try it as well! Do you frequent East Nashville? What's your favorite East Nashville eatery? 

July 6, 2013

What is Your Purpose in Life?

When we allow ourselves to be truly and completely loved, something happens to us. It causes a door inside our hearts to open....a door that up until that very moment, we didn't even realize was closed. When this door opens and we allow all that love to pour in, it's a magical thing. It smooths out the rough places. It wipes clean every mess. It heals every hurt. It causes hope to rain down on us in a parched desert of hopelessness. It soaks into the dry ground.

Another added bonus to this whole process is that when the heart-door is open, it's not a one-way street. We aren't just letting the love come in...but love starts going out too. The love that we feel for those around us can't help but spill out into the universe. We can't stop it (nor would we want to try).

There's so much talk these days surrounding how we all have some sort of purpose in life and it's our job to figure it out. What if our only purpose was to allow ourselves to be loved so we could then experience the magic of loving others?

July 2, 2013

Who Are Your People?

Sometimes I look at my life and can't believe it's unfolding in such a wonderful way. Trust me, it isn't perfect by a long shot...but there seem to be so many opportunities around every bend and I'm certain there will be even more. And it's not that there's anything particularly special about me...I'm just daring to dream. You can do it too. I promise.

The thing that makes me the happiest about it all is knowing that the folks who are part of me are carried with me in every new adventure. I feel such strong ties to the people I come from...as different and diverse as they all are.

I come from people who came from Canton, North Carolina; Lovejoy, Tennessee; Denison, Texas; and a place called the 'Bloody 8th District.'

I come from people who say 'liberry' instead of 'library.'

I come from people who went to work each day in the shirt factory, the grocery store, the church pulpit, the university bursar's office, the steel mill, and the tobacco field.

I come from people who made their beds hard and lay in them; from people who got up before the sun; from people who kept the home fires burning; from people who believed all you get out of life is what you enjoy.

I come from people who praised the Lord; from people who rebuked the devil; from people who blessed your heart; from people who wanted my life to be better and easier than theirs had been.

My life is better and easier than theirs were. And while I don't deserve the fruits of the labor of all those folks who came before me...I sure am enjoying it.

What kind of people do you come from? I bet they had some stories to tell.

July 1, 2013

Chic Southern Weddings at Historic Cedarwood

Last week was a whirlwind of adventure for my visit to Nashville and the newly opened 
Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel. Arriving early with time to spare (I hate being late!), my mom and I ended up stopping at another gorgeous home in that neck of the woods (Whites Creek, Tennessee) and I wanted to share it with y'all! 

Historic Cedarwood is an elegantly chic southern wedding venue on the site of a nearly 200-year old farm which is also the site of the Yarbrough House. The grounds are breathtaking and I can only imagine how they do it up in style for weddings and other special events. 

Do you remember when nearly all weddings were held inside churches with receptions to follow in the fellowship hall? It seems like those are getting fewer and farther between.  

My mom and I had such a great time exploring Cedarwood. It was like an extra bonus adventure we weren't expecting to have.  

To learn more about elegant southern weddings at Historic Cedarwood, visit their website.

Anybody ever attended a wedding or special event at this lovely Tennessee location?