April 30, 2014

The End of an Era

Change is hard. Do you find this to be true for you? I'm not sure if this is how everybody feels or maybe just me...but change is something I don't always do well with.

I guess I get used to things being a certain way and then when they aren't anymore, I feel a little off. 

Possibly it's just that I'm overly dramatic and like to make a bigger deal out of situations than they really are. 

When I visited my grandparents last night, little did I know it was the end of an era. 

You see, when I was growing up I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house. And my favorite thing to do was play Barbie dolls with my grandma. We'd hole up in my purple bedroom, playing Barbies for hours. If it weren't for her frequent smoke breaks or having to go start supper, we'd have set a record of some kind. 

{my grandparents' house, beautifully drawn by my aunt Michele}
The only problem was, it was hot. My grandparents' house had been a small farm house that was added onto a little at a time until it reached the state it was in when they bought it. They moved into it in the early 1960s. No air conditioning of course, because I guess people didn't have it back then. But by the time I came along (the 80s), air conditioning was much more common. 

All my other family had it, even if just window units. But not my grandparents. 

My grandma was really skinny and smoked a lot. She drank ginger ale and was cold all the time. So I guess she didn't care about not having air conditioning. And my grandpa is from Texas and loved being as hot as possible...especially when he was outside. 

I can remember staying with them in the summer, trying to fall asleep at night and being so hot the sheets stuck to me. Or while we were playing Barbies, my legs would get sweaty behind the knees and I'd end up with carpet fuzz all over me. 

A few years later, they got a window air conditioner. I guess they must have liked it, because this led to getting another, then another, and another until finally they had one in every room of the house. I didn't spent as much time with them since I was getting older, but those window air conditioners cooled the house down pretty well. 

But last night, when I went to visit them, I learned they got central air conditioning. To feel cold air coming from a vent on the floor at their house was like nothing I've ever experienced. My grandma can't figure out how to work the digital thermostat, but neither could I so we read the manual together. 

It's not like getting air conditioning is life shattering. But it's just bizarre for something that's been one way your whole life to up and change like it's no big deal. It's not really about the air conditioning because I'm happy for them to feel more comfortable in their home. But this is not something I thought would ever happen.

Has this ever happened to you...where something you thought was the norm just up and shifted?

April 17, 2014

Fun and Simple Ways to Decorate Eggs for Easter

Spring is a time of new life. Easter has always held a special place in my heart because of what it means to my faith. But the less-than-spiritual traditions of Easter are special too, because they bring back warm memories of childhood, including dyeing eggs with my grandparents and Easter egg hunts with my brother and cousins.

Did you know 180 million eggs are dyed and/or decorated for Easter in the United States each year? That's a lot of eggs! While those old school Paas Easter Egg Decorating kits were a mainstay of my childhood, I decided to branch out this year with some new Easter egg decorating ideas. 

I'm joining my friends from Mornings with Fox43 for a segment on Fun and Simple Ways to Decorate Eggs for Easter. These methods are fun and affordable and don't require lots of crafting skill...so you gotta love 'em! 

1) Dyeing Easter Eggs with Silk Scarves 

I've seen this project floating around on a few different blogs, but I've been so skeptical about it...until I tried it for myself. My silk dyed eggs turned out really beautiful. And believe it or not, this was fairly simple. 

 To create gorgeous dyed Easter eggs using silk, you'll need:
  • Eggs (white)
  • 100% silk fabric with a pattern (I used a silk scarf, but you could use silk shirt, silk ties, etc) 
  • White cotton fabric (old pillowcase, handkerchief, or whatever you happen to have)
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • An enamel pot
  • Bread ties or rubber bands 

Begin with a raw egg (no cracks). Wrap it tightly in a scrap of silk and tie with a bread tie or rubber band. Then wrap this in a square of white cloth and secure with another bread tie or rubber band. Place the wrapped egg in the pot and cover with water. Add a splash of vinegar. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes (or so), remove your egg with tongs and place in cold water. When it's cool enough to handle, unwrap and voila! 

In case you're thinking "Silk? Didn't she say this was affordable?" the answer is your local thrift shop. I found a gorgeous silk scarf for $.99 and it already had some rips so I didn't feel bad about cutting it up. You can usually find outdated silk ties, dresses or blouses on the ninety-nine cents rack too (I hope your thrift store has a $.99 rack like mine does). 

2) Color Blocked Easter Eggs 

Another simple, but really pretty Easter egg decorating project, that was created for less than $5. I snagged a package of six plastic Easter eggs for $.88. Then, using spray paint I already had on hand, I painted each half of the eggs with the loveliest shades of turquoise and gold. 

I love the way these painted Easter eggs turned out so much. Who says a project has to be complicated to be good? And it's totally up to you depending on your desired color scheme. 

3) Sweet Easter Treats 

I wanted one of my Easter egg decorating ideas to be edible, so when I found a Wilton cake pan with egg-shaped molds at a rummage sale, I decided to put it to good use. With a basic Rice Krispies Treat recipe, I created egg-shaped treats and decorated them with store-bought frosting and candy.

Super easy and fun for all ages. You could even leave the eggs un-decorated until Easter and let your family decorate them together. If you don't have an egg-shaped pan, you can always shape them by hand or use plastic Easter eggs as a make-shift mold. 

For more fun Easter facts, check out this infographic from The History Channel's website. Do you eat your chocolate rabbit ears first?

April 16, 2014

How to Behave at a Dinner Party

By the title of this post, you might think I get invited to a lot of dinner parties. This isn't exactly true. I don't think it's a reflection on my being unwelcome at these types of events, but instead says something about my close circle of friends. I guess we're more for casual outings, restaurant dinners and laid-back gatherings at home as opposed to fancy dinner parties. But you never know when you might get an invite to a soiree or gala.

What, you don't go to dinner parties much either? No matter, these tips will serve you for any social occasion in which you might happen to find yourself.

 by bubbo.etsy.com
1) Make Conversation 

This seems painfully obvious, but I encounter so many folks who seem to lack this skill. I guess when they say conversation is a lost art, it's the truth.

How it works is, you ask other people polite questions (more on that in a second) and then you smile and nod while they answer you. Then, if they ask you questions, you answer them as well.

Conversation is not one person doing all the talking while the rest try to get a word in. And it's not sitting there scrolling through your phone. Which leads me to number 2...


Really? This is not something we should have to be told. But sadly, it is. I'm not talking about checking your phone to see if the baby-sitter texted a question about your child or taking an emergency call.

I'm referring to people who slump down in their chairs, scrolling aimlessly through their Facebook news feed while a dinner party is going on around them. I don't get this at all. It sends the message to the host that their efforts aren't worth your time. And it sends a message to the other guests that they aren't as interesting as a random Internet meme or cat video being shared on social media.

And if you are older than 40, you should definitely know better than to do this. You lived in a world without smartphones for goodness sake.

3) Don't Ask Inappropriate Questions or Discuss Topics that Might be Offensive

Recently, a dear friend of mine went to a party and upon her polite refusal of wine, another guest turned to her and asked if she was an alcoholic. First of all, it's nobody's business why she didn't want wine. She's not an alcoholic, but if she were, how awkward would that have been?

And none of anyone's business for sure!

Don't ask people if they are an alcoholic. Or what their political affiliation is. Or how they voted. Or how much their paycheck was.

Again, this all seems like obvious stuff, but maybe we're getting away from common sense and need to be reminded.

Other dinner party conversation topics to avoid: dissection, animal slaughter, feces...actually anything to do with the bathroom in general or in specific.

4) Don't Name Drop

So your best friend is a famous celebrity. That's awesome. But it's really not being a good friend to try and leverage their "it" factor to make yourself look better at parties. If it comes up casually or if someone asks you directly, it's okay to mention it, but don't be 'that person' who's obsessed with who they know.

The doll's biscuit was stale, but she bit her tongue lest she offend her kind hostess {via}
5) Don't Make a Fuss 

So you're a vegetarian and the main dish is chicken. This happened to me recently. If you can politely convey this message to your host(ess) prior to the food being served, I think that's okay. Otherwise, just push it to the side. Don't make a big fuss about how it was murdered. Even if you think it was.

6) Don't Ask to Bring a Guest

Throwing a dinner party seems like it would be a great deal of work. And it takes much planning. If you are invited to a party, but aren't given the option of bringing a date/plus one/guest, don't ask to do so.

The party host has probably considered his/her budget, seating limits, and guest list in the planning stage and an extra person could really throw that out of balance.

And never, ever show up with unannounced with an extra person. This is just rude.

Aunt Bee is a gracious southern hostess, she won't lead you astray!
7) Follow the Host's Lead

If in doubt, just look to your host or hostess. If she takes second helpings, it's a sign that you can too. If he opens more wine, have some. If your hosts don't serve alcohol, don't ask for any. You can be sure that your host wants you to be comfortable and at ease.

Any type of social gathering should be fun. And when you follow these simple, basic, social rules, you'll be the hit of every party.

Other things to consider:

Bringing a Hostess Gift - This is a great thing to do when you're invited to any social gathering, as long as it isn't something that requires the host to take his or her focus away from the party. Cut flowers, a potted plant, a bottle of wine or even a basket of local jam & honey is nice. Never a pet.

Writing a Thank You Note - Non-negotiable. You MUST write a Thank You Note and you must do so promptly. And NOT an email. Some belles carry Thank You Notes in their purses and leave one in the mailbox on the way out for their hosts to find the next morning. I like to show that I'm not too cheap to buy a stamp. Plus, every host will appreciate getting a few kindly penned words by post.

April 9, 2014

Birthday Celebration: Dinner at Knox Mason

My birthday was a few weeks ago and to celebrate, the southern beau and I had dinner at Knoxville's Knox Mason. It's kind of sad that this was my first time dining at Knox Mason, even though I'd been wanting to eat there for what feels like forever.
Much like the tagline for my blog, Knox Mason is "utterly southern, and elaborately simple." And I mean that as a compliment.

The food was delicious. We began by enjoying deviled eggs, which were made with rooster sauce and Tennessee chow chow. The deviled eggs were creamy and rich...but somehow I missed that little sprinkling of paprika that usually accompanies them. Call me a deviled egg purist.

Next, we tried the pimento cheese, which is made with Sweetwater Cheese and served with Saw Works beer bread and Wickles pickles. Again, delicious. Although I have to admit I didn't think it was quite as good as my homemade pimento cheese, which I'd swear on the witness stand is the best pimento cheese I've ever had. Hear that Chef Matt Gallaher? The pimento cheese gauntlet has been thrown.

 For the main course, we decided to try two different salads...have I mentioned how much my beau loves to sit patiently looking at the food while I try to get the best possible photo? [sarcasm. but he is a good sport].

I got the beet salad, which was divine. If you aren't careful, you can really mess up beets by overcooking them. In fact, for most salads I make with beets, I prefer them raw for that crunchy texture. But the Knox Mason beet salad was great. That little swath of goat cheese smashed across the plate looks like a happy accident, but I suppose in fancy culinary circles this is the style du jour. Whatever, it was delicious.

My beau got the carrot salad with arugula, almonds and creme fraiche, which was also very tasty. He seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. 

For dessert, we tried the banana pudding, served in a mason jar with the most perfectly toasted marshmallow topping. Too cute!

Have you been to Knox Mason? What delicacies did you enjoy? Since I'm not a meat eater, it eliminated some things as options, but I had a great time. 

Want a side-by-side taste test comparison of Knox Mason pimento cheese vs. Southern Belle Simple pimento cheese? Here's my recipe

April 8, 2014

A Visit with Kristie Barnett The Decorologist

Last week I was in for a real treat. Not only did my schedule include a Cher concert AND a visit to the HGTV Smart Home 2014, but I was also invited to join some fellow bloggers for a special dinner at the home of Nashville designer Kristie Barnett. Kristie, a.k.a. The Decorologist, is a residential paint color expert and her staging and home design business is the talk of the town in Nashville. 

Kristie was gracious enough to host a wonderful dinner at her home for the bloggers who attended the HGTV Smart Home event. This post might be a little photo heavy, but I couldn't stop taking pictures of all her lovely decor. I know everyone doesn't embrace such eclectic style, but I think it's gorgeous. 

Much of her furniture (according to her blog) has been purchased at yard sales and estate sales. And with a little TLC in the form of paint, upholstery and revamping, Kristie has created a living space that truly embodies her style. 

Check out the dining room where we enjoyed the most delicious meal! And who says all your chairs must match? I think the different styles make for a more interesting arrangement. 

A mid-century dresser painted and re-purposed as a sideboard. Don't you love the vintage touches? 

Kristie said her husband built this diner booth in their kitchen...what a great spot to have your morning coffee. And her green glassware collection looks lovely against the white woodwork.

Here is another gorgeous piece of furniture in her dining room. Don't want to paint a priceless antique? Wallpaper or craft paper in the back of it is a great way to add visual interest without a permanent commitment. And the cuckoo clock was non-working so she gave it a coat of chalk paint to punch it up! 

On the largest wall in her dining room, Decorologist Kristie Barnett has arranged a collection of thrifted art. Similar tones and colors create a unified look.

Dark wooden armoires get a new life with a bright white coat of paint. Kristie said her 1930's home was lacking in closet space so these pieces provided extra storage for clothing and other bedroom items. 

I was so jealous of her great office too! Love the painted trim and shelving installed near the ceiling. I bet I'd get so much work done in here.

Upstairs, Kristie's husband has an incredible office as well. They created that cool pattern in the hardwood floors using different stains.

Whether your home is large or small, fancy or plain, sparse or filled with collected treasures, it's really an expression of your personality. And the most important thing is the people you choose to fill it with. I'm so honored by Kristie's warm hospitality and her kind spirit. She is so talented and her home is a reflection of that.

Learn more about The Decorologist Kristie Barnett by visiting her website. She has tons of wonderful DIY projects and how-to's, including how to paint upholstered furniture (the fabric too!) with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

And a special thanks to the fabulous ladies of Forest Home Media (Nancy McNulty and Dana Tucker) for putting together such a great day of fun with the HGTV Smart Home and blogger dinner.

April 7, 2014

Southern Hospitality at the HGTV Smart Home 2014

Last week I was invited to attend a special sneak peek event for bloggers to tour the 2014 HTGV Smart Home in Nashville. Since I was already planning to be in town for the Cher concert, I thought it was perfect timing, plus it sounded like a really fun opportunity.

The house is located in the beautiful Duncanwood Reserve in Nashville's upscale Green Hills neighborhood. An English cottage-style residence, it has three bedrooms and a whopping 4 and a half baths. Not only is the home beautifully designed and decorated, but it's also equipped with the latest and greatest technological advances, which is what makes it so smart.

The house was conceived by P. Shea | Design and constructed by Carbine & Associates. Just 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, it's convenient to some of the most desirable attractions Music City has to offer.

Not to mention just around the corner from a delicious eatery called the Copper Kettle (where the southern beau & I enjoyed a tasty lunch.) If you eat there, please get the cornbread salad. You won't be sorry.

But the best part about the HGTV Smart Home is you can win it! The house is part of a grand prize package valued at more than $1 million, and also includes a 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and one hundred thousand bucks to boot. Pretty sweet deal, huh? The HGTV Smart Home 2014 Giveaway opens for entries at 9 a.m. ET on April 15 and runs through June 9. I really hope you win. Then have me over for supper, okay?

Here are a few of my favorite features of the 2014 HGTV Smart Home...in no particular order.

1) The Gorgeous Blue Kitchen Cabinets

2) White Painted Brick Fireplace and Bold Art** on the Mantle

**All the art in the HGTV Smart Home was incredible...I'm working on a post featuring the different artists whose work was included. You're going to love it all.

3) Chalkboard Wall + Stage for Impromptu Basement Concerts 

4) Closets that Went on for Days...Seriously, I could live in here

5) Pops of the Loveliest Shade of Kelly Green in this Guest Bedroom (I never wanted to leave)

6) Industrial Touches (like these great letters) & a Relaxed At-Home Feel 

Seriously, it would tickle me to death if one of my readers won this amazing house. I've got my fingers crossed for you!

April 3, 2014

Being Interested vs. Being Interesting, part 1

Have you ever known anyone who was unable to let somebody else tell a story without interrupting to match it and/or try to top it with one of their own? I heard a quote recently that sums this up nicely, I think.

"It's better to be interested than interesting."

I have learned (and I really believe this is true) that you'll get so much farther in life if you are interested in what other people have to say.

Everybody you will ever meet just wants to be heard and be listened to. People don't care that you're trying to be interesting all the time. In fact, it's rather off-putting.

Not only is it a common courtesy as part of polite society to listen to others, but it is also a gracious act to show them that what they say matters.

I meet people all the time in my work as a marketing consultant as well as at different blogging and social media events. And I can't tell you how often I encounter people who insist on being the center of attention, not giving a flip about what anyone else might have to say.

At first glance this behavior appears to come from an abundance of confidence, but I call foul on this. My hunch is that people who behave in this way are actually painfully self-conscious and are trying to make up for something they think is lacking.

Think about the last time you were in a social setting with a person who wouldn't stop talking about everything on their mind, never once stopping to say "but enough about me, how are you?"

Now consider a time when you felt invisible and someone made a special point to say a kind word to you or ask you to share what was on your mind. It probably felt pretty great. As opposed to the scenario above, which can just leave you feeling tired and drained.

This post is as much for me as anybody else. I want to remember this always, keeping it at the forefront of my mind. Especially as my social calendar grows and I encounter more and more people.

I want to be kind. I want others to feel at ease around me. I want them to feel like their thoughts and ideas matter (because they do!). I want everyone I meet to know their inherent value. And I want to quit trying to be interesting and just be interested instead.

Check back for part 2, The Importance of Being Interested in Opportunities.