December 24, 2014

Such a place as fairyland

“There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.” 

― L.M. MontgomeryThe Story Girl

December 23, 2014

What I Want for Christmas - My Grown Up List

The other night I went to a holiday party providing free photos with Santa for kids and families. My friend brought her young niece who sat on Santa's lap and posed for a photo, but promptly informed my friend that while that Santa was pretty good, he wasn't the 'real' Santa because the real one (another Santa from a previous event she attended) knew she was seven years old and that she had trouble keeping her room clean. She didn't feel the need to tell the second Santa what she wanted for Christmas since he clearly wasn't the real one. It was way sweet.

I remember the magic of believing in Santa Claus. One Christmas I left my teddy bear in the living room chair to keep watch for him in the hopes that he could report back to me what he saw.

I knew Santa had to be real because my little brother and I would carefully leave out some sort of snack (off-brand Cheez-its or animal crackers from the Dollar General Store perhaps) and be oh so excited the next morning to find that "he ate them!!!"

Being a grown-up, Christmas now has a different meaning to me. There's still plenty of magic to behold, but you have to look a little closer to see it. You have to actually stop to take time to look for it in the first place.

If Santa were really real (and not my dad) or I could go back to believing like I used to, what would I ask of him?

This is my grown-up Christmas list.

1) An email inbox that doesn't grow exponentially overnight
2) More lazy Saturdays spent doing absolutely nothing
3) A heart that forgives, but also forgets
4) Not being out of breath when I have to do 60 seconds of jumping jacks
5) For Rayna and Deacon to just end up together once and for all
6) To sit down for one more Christmas morning breakfast at my great-grandma's table, and in the spirit of holiday magic, I'd abandon my vegetarianism to eat the saltiest country ham you've ever tasted, with red eye gravy
7) A new Harry Potter book nobody's ever read before
8) Renewed health for my family - physical, emotional, spiritual, the works!
9) A Barbie Dream House
10) To be with friends old and new, to share memories and stories of times we've enjoyed together

I hope you get everything on your list this year my friend! xoxo - Kate

December 15, 2014

Southern Christmas Traditions - Southern Living Sweets to Eat & Read

I have such a sweet tooth and when Christmas rolls around, I just can't resist indulging in some holiday sweets. There are so many great recipes out there for holiday goodies, but I'm running a bit behind this year, plus it would be impossible to try them all.

Since I've had some baking fails in my life, I try to stick with recipes that are tried-and-true and you don't get any better than the Southern Living test kitchen.

These culinary wizards work all through the year on confectionery creations, testing and making sure that they can share the recipes in good faith. Thank goodness for them is all I can say!

Here's a wonderful recipe that would be fun to recreate with your family this year and who knows, maybe you should make a few extra to leave out for the man in the red suit.

Minted White Chocolate Balls

Makes 32 cookies • Hands-on 30 min. • Total 1 Hour
(Coat in chocolate two at a time)

  • 56 vanilla wafers, crushed (less than 1 [11-oz.] box)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 4 ½ tsp. light corn syrup
  • 6 Tbsp. peppermint schnapps
  • 3 cups white chocolate morsels
  • Crushed peppermint candies for coating

1. Stir together first 6 ingredients; shape into 32 balls.
2. Microwave chocolate in a bowl at HIGH 30 seconds; stir. Microwave 20 more seconds or until smooth, stirring once.
3. Coat balls in white chocolate. Sprinkle with crushed hard peppermint candies immediately afterwards.
4. Place in parchment paper-lined pan. Chill for 30 minutes or until set.

Yum! For more great recipes like this, pick up the December issue of Southern Living Magazine, on newsstands now. And if you want even more great southern Christmas fun, consider the wonderful new book Southern Living Christmas All Through The South: Joyful Memories, Timeless Moments, Enduring Traditions. It is a gorgeous sight to behold and would make a wonderful gift for your favorite southerner or yourself!

**This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, but please don't feel any pressure to click on it**

December 14, 2014

Not Holding On -- Just Letting Go

We're in the thick of the holiday season, which seemed to have started somewhere around October 1st this year...always earlier and earlier. The hustle and bustle that come with November and now December can make it easy to lose focus on what really matters.

To be completely honest, I struggle to maintain healthy perspective. One minute, my eyes are glazed over at the sight of bright and shiny things on display in my favorite department store window...the next minute, I'm crying about a story of a family spending the holiday season in a local mission.

Do you ever have trouble finding a balance between all the extremes we're faced with on a daily basis? I have rich friends and poor friends, but all have a story and not always with a happy ending. Life never stops, not even for Christmas, a day for many folks that's simply known as Thursday.

It sort of tends to shine a big spotlight on things or at least that's how it feels. Things that we've basically accepted as the norm the rest of the year can feel larger than life at Christmas. Family strife, relationship woes, estranged friends, lost love. Misunderstandings, hurt feelings, resentment, and just being plain old mad at the world.

I've got just as much of that stuff as anyone and sometimes it really brings me down.

But no matter what, the scale is always tipped in my favor. I've got so much to be thankful for and I don't mean that in a trite or cliche way. So much. And yet I still manage to hang onto the past hurts that really weigh on me.

Holding on is hard. Remember the monkey bars on the school playground of your childhood? Even though I'd start out strong, I could never make it all the way across. A couple bars in, I'd find myself just hanging there, holding on as tight as I could. But alas I wasn't very athletic and instead of holding on any longer, I'd let go and drop to the ground so the next person could take his or her turn.

Could letting go be that easy? For so many of us (myself included), we keep hanging on...and often to things that don't serve our best interests. What would happen if we just let go?

I've mentioned before that I'm attending a yoga class and it has really stretched me (literally and figuratively) outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes the teacher will instruct us to do a pose and I think my body just won't move in that way. And then I'm surprised when it does. When I first do a posture, it feels sort of uncomfortable. But then my teacher will tell us to really sink into the stretch, and what felt nearly impossible a few minutes before starts to get easier.

Maybe letting go isn't so easy after all. Or maybe it gets easier as we practice it, sinking in a little more each go around. I guess it just depends on what we're holding onto.

I wish for you the same thing I wish for myself not just during the holidays but all the time...perspective to see clearly what truly matters and courage to let go of things that don't.

December 12, 2014

Classic Holiday Fashions for the Southern Gentleman from Onward Reserve

The holiday season is such a festive time, but it can be stressful too. Socializing with co-workers is one thing that tops many peoples' worry lists. This year, I've been invited to a couple different work-related soirees, but instead of going solo as I might have done in the past, I get to bring my southern beau. 

He's definitely a jeans & t-shirt kind of guy, so the thought of dressing up for a bunch of different parties isn't his cup of tea. Maybe you have a spouse or partner who falls into this category. I decided to enlist the help of an expert, in this case the fine folks at ONWARD RESERVE. 

A luxury and specialty retailer, ONWARD RESERVE was founded by T.J. Callaway and has three locations in Georgia (Athens, Buckhead, and Thomasville) as well as Charlotte, North Carolina and a Chattanooga, Tennessee pop-up shop.  

In an effort to provide consumers with the very best in lifestyle brands as well as up and coming collections, T.J. Callaway established ONWARD RESERVE in 2012, after leaving a successful career in investment banking. Some of the designers and international brands carried by the shop include: Barbour, Peter Millar, Dubarry, Vilebrequin and others. However, the stores also pride themselves in offering unique finds from brands like Smathers & Branson, Fulton & Roark, Martin Dingman and Token & Icon.

I sat down with Virginia Johnson, the creative director of ONWARD RESERVE to talk about some style options for a dapper gent this holiday season and beyond. 

SBS: The holidays are here and that means parties. Are you getting excited? 

OR: Who doesn’t love holiday parties? I especially love another excuse to get dressed up! 

SBS: I love getting dressed up too, but my beau isn't quite a fan. Can you help me guide him toward some fail-safe options for our holiday social calendar? 

OR: Guys may not have the same love for getting dressed up as girls do, but at Onward Reserve we make it easy to shop for things that he’ll want to wear. 

For a fun festive look these “Party Pants” are sure to be a hit:

Pair the party pants with this quarter zip sweater:  

SBS: I'm loving those pants up there, but they might be out of my beau's comfort zone.

OR: If he’s a little more conservative try these cords

with a classic button down, like this  

and a cashmere sweater for warmth. 

SBS: What if the holiday party is a bit more dressy? Not black tie, but not super casual either.

OR: The occasion may call for a blazer, in which case I prefer to ditch boring navy and go for a cool tweed like one of these beautiful Martin Dingman jackets.

SBS: That's gorgeous! Okay, one last question. What about footwear? My guy lives in Chaco sandals most of the year, but they aren't really holiday gathering appropriate...if you know what I mean.

OR: If you’re going to be partying all night-he’s going to need great looking, comfortable shoes.

These are perfect: 

SBS: What great options! Thanks so much Virginia for sharing your ideas about holiday fashion for the guy who wants to look great and feel confident (and comfortable) at the same time. Is there anything else you'd like to share with Southern Belle Simple readers? 

OR: Onward Reserve currently has 5 retail locations. Our stores are a fun, comfortable place for guys and their better halves to shop. Grab a beer, watch the game and get some holiday shopping done!

Happy Holidays y'all! 

** I was not compensated in any way for this post, nor are these affiliate links. Just wanted to share some cool stuff with you.** 

December 11, 2014

Local Holiday Gift Ideas - Hostess Gifts for Christmas

This time of year, you might be invited to a holiday party (or seven). Throwing a Christmas or New Year's party is fun, but it's also a lot of work. That's why it's nice to show your appreciation for your host's hospitality with a great hostess gift.

I was taught that you never show up to a holiday party empty-handed, whether you contribute a pot-luck food item, a great bottle of wine or just a little trinket for your host.

It's a great way to let your host know you care and it's also a way to help ensure you'll be invited back! If you're looking for some unique holiday hostess gifts with a local twist, look no further!

I went to some of my favorite local businesses in Knoxville, but your town probably has some great ones as well. I hope you'll be inspired to shop local this Christmas season and help small businesses keep their lights on!

1) Local & Regional Art for the Holiday Hostess 

Some of my favorite gifts over the years have been handmade items. There's a great gallery in Knoxville called Liz-Beth & Co. that stocks a wonderful array of local and regional pieces. 

Some possible gifts to consider for a holiday hostess with the mostess: 

Pottery - Not only are these pieces handcrafted locally, but they are also made with Tennessee clay. The glasses and wine carafe would be a great gift together or separate. You could also throw in a bottle of your favorite local wine or some great local cheeses or charcuterie for a ready-made holiday appetizer sampler. 

Jewelry - Small jewelry pieces are another great hostess gift option whether for the holidays or all through the year. These dyed-silk wrap bracelets with assorted charms are beautiful and would be perfect for women of all ages. 

Something for the host - Maybe your host is a dapper gent...or perhaps the guy you're looking to make a good impression on is your boss, hosting you for your office Christmas party. If he appreciates the finer things, consider one of these handcrafted wooden pens by artist Russ Bell

Made from a variety of exotic woods, each pen is different and features a unique cigar band decoration. There are also options made from the wood of whiskey barrels. Other gift items for the host include cuff-links, a massage gift certificate or tickets to see a favorite team.

2) Holiday Hostess Gifts with a Personalized Touch 

I've always enjoyed receiving gifts that were personalized. There's just something about stuff with our names or monograms on it that we seem to love here in the south. 

A great local shop in Knoxville makes all your personalization dreams come true...Me and Co. Run by the lovely and talented Michele, this shop is adorable. You can buy gifts and things in-store to have personalized, as well as bring in any items from anywhere. 

Another fun item to gift a holiday hostess is a personalized Christmas platter or plate. Present it with your favorite Christmas cookies and then let your host find her name underneath! It's the gift that keeps on giving. 

3) Snacks & Treats for the Holiday Hostess 

When it comes to last minute holiday hostess gifts, you just can't go wrong with food. Depending on your host or hostess, the party menu might be set in such a way that the idea of adding an unexpected cheeseball induces stress. So maybe you take edible gifts that don't have to be eaten right away. If you know your hostess would approve, take some snacks and munchies to share with the group. 

My go-to these days is anything from the Captain Rodney's line of products. A wonderful Tennessee company based in the quaint hamlet of Bell Buckle, Captain Rodney's has great glazes and sauces, and my personal favorite...pepper jelly. 

I heard Southern food writer extraordinaire Julia Reed speak about her love for this southern delicacy, but I was already a fan. You've probably had it...a huge brick of Philadelphia cream cheese drowning in pepper jelly, eaten with club crackers. Is there anything better?

Another great Captain Rodney's product is the Boucan Glaze. I guarantee the recipe shown below will change your life. Well, maybe. But it's pretty darn good. I get mine at Linda's Hallmark in Knoxville, a great local business that is not your ordinary Hallmark shop!

These are just a few ideas for holiday hostess gifts. Get creative this Christmas season and make your party hosts/hostesses feel truly special by giving them a thoughtful gift. You won't regret it!