March 31, 2014

Looking Foolish, Being Great

"Until you're ready to look foolish, you'll never have the possibility of being great." 

Tonight, I'm going to see Cher in concert with one of my dearest friends...I rarely go to concerts so this is kind of a big deal for me. She might not be a southern belle, but I have always liked her. I love that quote above because I really believe it's true. Cher may have looked foolish in the eyes of some folks (perhaps for some of her fashion choices), but through it all she has persevered. And who wouldn't say she's great? 

I struggle with worrying about looking foolish, but ultimately I want to live the life I've always dreamed of...not matter what anyone thinks. 

I hope you have a wonderful week. The next time you feel a bit foolish, ask yourself if it's an opportunity for greatness? 

March 25, 2014

Why Everyone Should have an Artist Friend

I have many wonderful friends in my life and they each fill different roles. Hopefully I fill different roles in theirs too. Some of my friends are great listeners that I can go to when I'm stuck in one area or another. Others usually are the ones who need a listening ear and feel they can come to me. Some friends are encouragers, some give me tough love. Some ask the hard questions and others are content to get together socially and not scratch too far below the surface. We can't be all things to all people nor should we try.

But there's a certain type of friend I think we all need in our lives. Everyone needs an artist friend. My artist friend is also my client, so saying he's my friend might not be exactly true. But when I meet with him, I always feel like I've been in the company of a friend.

Here are a few reasons why I think everyone should have an artist friend.

1. Artist friends encourage creativity - There's something about being around creative people that inspires creativity in us. Artists look at the world with a unique perspective and they are always looking for opportunities to create. We spend so much of our time consuming what other people have created (TV shows, books, blogs, magazines, etc.), but how much time do we spend creating? I think we all have something wonderful inside that the world needs. But it takes tapping into it a little bit.

2. Artist friends see the value in all people - I witnessed this when my artist friend took as much time to speak to a 6-year old child as he did to speak to the director of an art gallery. Artists don't see people for what they can do for them. They see each individual as someone to collaborate with, whether on ideas, projects, stories, or just a great conversation. They know it's not about what others can do for's about what we can all do for each other.

3. Artist friends appreciate enthusiasm - I'm learning more and more in life that a big percentage of success comes from being enthusiastic. I may not always know the answer or do the right thing, but I'm going to be enthusiastic about it...especially when working with my clients. Artists' lives can be solitary at times so when they come across someone who is excited about what they are doing, they appreciate it. Artists understand that sometimes enthusiasm is contagious and all it takes is a little spark.

4. Artists value ideas - What's the best idea you've ever had? Did you act on it or let it mull around inside your head for 20 years. It feels like society only values the ideas that make you rich. What about the little ideas that might improve the life of just one other person? Aren't those worth acting on too? Artists know this is true.

5. Artist give of themselves - Art is a very personal thing. And it's not easy to make a living or a life as an artist. They have to keep at it day after day, year after year. Or else they give up. But the ones who do make it understand that it's all about giving of yourself, emptying yourself out. Because they know there's plenty more to go around and they'll get filled up again in no time.

I always wanted to be an artist, but I ended up becoming a writer instead. Which is just fine by me. But I'm sure glad that I get to spend time with artists because they enrich my life in so many ways.

March 24, 2014

Blast from the Past: Sunflowers Perfume, or Why Scarlett O'Hara was a Terrible Role Model

I was clipping coupons from the CVS circular in the Sunday paper when I stumbled upon an advertisement for Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers perfume. Do you remember it? The cheery yellow and white logo, the sweetly pleasant scent.

I didn't even know it still existed. 

My first memories of perfume involve my mom's Liz Claiborne fragrance in the 1980s. The bottle was a yellow plastic triangle with a little section of the liquid showing through a clear window in the center. There was also a red version and a blue one. Very eighties. 

My first bottle of perfume was a tiny vial of Elizabeth Arden Red Door, a Christmas gift when I was about 10. I felt so fancy and I tried to ration it out so it would last a long time. Then Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers hit the market and I became a fan overnight (along with nearly every other girl my age who lived in my small hometown).

Once, during high school, my bff and I were driving around town in her car, smoking Marlboro Lights and pretending to be much cooler than we actually were. All of a sudden I realized I was supposed to meet up with my family soon and I DID NOT want them to know I had been smoking. My friend happened to have a bottle of Sunflowers perfume in her console so we sprayed it all over ourselves in an attempt to mask the lingering smoke smell.  

Then I started to worry that someone might smell cigarettes on my breath. In a moment of sheer genius, I remembered the scene from Gone with the Wind when Scarlett, in mourning over Frank Kennedy, has been imbibing Brandy a bit too much and Rhett shows up at her house unannounced. If you've seen the film, you know where this is going. She gargles cologne to mask the brandy smell. 

If it worked to mask alcohol, I thought, why couldn't the same thing work to cover cigarette smoke? Before any sort of common sense I might have had kicked in, I opened my mouth and pumped a couple of squirts of Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers into it. 

Sweet lord Jesus it was the nastiest tasting thing ever. As good as Sunflowers smells, it tastes equally as bad...maybe worse. Not one of my finest moments. 

But seeing that ad in the paper yesterday reminded me of that memory and gave me a chuckle. I was never much of a smoker, but I guess we all do things as teenagers trying to be cool or appear grown up. 

Did you have a signature fragrance during your coming of age years? 

March 20, 2014

Simple & Delicious Recipes to Make in a Waffle Iron

There's something so strong about the power of memory when it's tied to food. When I was growing up, I'd spent the weekend with my grandparents and my grandma always made waffles for breakfast on Saturday morning. She'd heat up her ancient waffle iron, make the batter and watch for the light to turn green so we'd know it was ready.

I'd sit at the table, anxiously awaiting the moment I could slather on a soft pat of butter (my grandma kept her butter on the counter top so it was always room temperature) and drown my waffle in Mrs. Butterworth's. I always secretly hoped the bottle would talk or wink at me like it did on the television commercials, but it never did.

When I finally got a waffle iron of my own, I was excited to try out my grandma's waffle recipe and see if I could ever make anything that tasted as good as I remembered. Today, I'm joining my pals over at Knoxville's popular morning news show Mornings with Fox43 and we're making waffles.

But these aren't your typical run of the mill breakfast waffles, in fact these aren't breakfast foods at all. I'm sharing recipes for food you can make in a waffle iron, including appetizers, main course and dessert!

Do you ever use your waffle iron to make nontraditional things?

Appetizers in a Waffle Iron 

Smoked Salmon Sweet Potato Stacks

This is a simple and delicious appetizer recipe you can make with just a few ingredients. The best part is that it seems sort of fancy so you can keep the supplies on hand and whip it up at the last minute if you need something to make for an impromptu gathering.

To begin, you'll need frozen sweet potato tots (you can also use regular tater tots if you can't find or don't like the sweet potato option). Place a handful of tots on the lower plate of a hot, greased waffle iron. Close the lid and let cook for 3-5 minutes. The time will depend on your waffle iron, so just be patient the first batch.

Once you have a sweet potato waffle, you can add the other layers. Smoked salmon topped with a dollop of creme fraiche with a sprinkle of dill. You could also add capers or substitute sour cream if you prefer. Super simple and oh so good. I used three tots per waffle so they'd be the perfect bite sized appetizers.

Pizza in a Waffle Iron 

Waffle Iron Pizzas 

This was probably the easiest of all the waffle iron recipes I came across. I didn't get a good picture of my finished waffle iron pizza, because we ate it before I could snap one.

To make pizza in a waffle iron, you first need some type of pizza dough. I used store-bought pizza dough in a can, but you could make your own from scratch or with a baking mix.

My waffle iron is kind of small so I ended up cutting the dough into four rectangles to make four smallish pizzas.

The dough will cook in a preheated waffle iron for a couple of minutes and then you're ready to add toppings. I used salsa, but you could also use marinara sauce. Then, top with cheese and whatever other toppings you like on pizza and pop it under your oven's broiler for a few minutes.

Using the waffle iron might seem like extra work for pizza, but the texture it created made the store-bought dough much better.

Dessert in a Waffle Iron

Carrot Cake Waffles with Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

This was my favorite waffle iron recipe and I am not even that big of a carrot cake fan. It was just so good. Of the three recipes, this one is the most like a traditional waffle batter...but there's nothing traditional about it beyond that. It was the perfect texture, light and fluffy and not too sweet. You could definitely leave off the frosting and still enjoy this treat.

To make Carrot Cake Waffles, you'll need:

1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c. oil
1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 c. flaked coconut
1 c. shredded carrots

Mix the dry ingredients together and set aside. Then mix the wet ingredients and fold them into the dry. Stir it well, but it's okay if you have lumps.

Fill the center of your preheated, greased waffle iron plate with about a half cup of batter. This recipe made 5 waffles for me, but as I said earlier my waffle iron is fairly small.

For the frosting:

4 oz. softened cream cheese
2 T softened butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

Mix this together well. You should probably use a mixer, but I was lazy and stirred it by hand. It still turned out fine. I put mine in a squeezable icing container so I could control the amount I put on each waffle. It was so good. I can't wait to make this again. It would be a great addition to Easter breakfast or brunch.

I came across some other interesting ideas while researching the information for this post. Did you know you can take cold pizza slices, fold them in half and heat them in a waffle iron? Apparently canned cinnamon rolls are also really good. I'm going to play around with other waffle iron recipes and I'll keep you posted! And if you have a tried and true waffle recipe, even if it's just for plain ol' waffles, I'd love to hear about it!

March 18, 2014

On Being Hacked

Have you ever felt hacked? I'm not talking about something that happens to your computer or smartphone. In fact, I can't seem to find anything in my research about the definition of the word hacked that I'm referring to. It's quite possible my mom just reassigned this word to mean something only she this is a practice my family is wont to do.

But I've heard the word 'hacked' used my entire an adjective. In this case, it means a state of embarrassment combined with awkwardness.

For example, you're wearing zero makeup and your rattiest sweat pants when you run into an old boyfriend at Wal-Mart: "Ugh, I was hacked to death to see him, I couldn't think of anything to say."

Does this make sense at all?

I spent the great majority of my adolescent and teen years in a state of feeling hacked. I don't know why exactly, but I guess I was so worried about what people thought of me that I wasted a lot of time and energy not enjoying my life.

Like at my 6th grade graduation when my name was called and my Aunt Bo yelled WHOOOO at the top of her lungs and it reverberated around the elementary school gymnasium. I was mortified. Or you could say I was hacked.

Looking back, I realize how blessed I have always been to have family that cheers me on...but at the time I just wanted to melt into the gym floor.

It happened in high school too...when I'd invited a new friend over and was trying to make a good impression. My little brother burst into the room waving a toilet plunger and running around like a banshee. Then he jumped on my new friend's back and screamed "Hey mom, I just beat up a big kid." Again...I was mortified.

I wish I were the type of person who could let things roll off her back. Maybe I've gotten better...I mean, hopefully I'm better able to deal with awkward situations than I was 16 years ago. Right?

Today, I am turning 32. I'd love to be able to say with my head up and my shoulders held back that I never experience these types of feelings anymore. But just the other day I experienced it again. I was invited to a fundraising event and saw that my former boss was on the event committee. I imagined myself bumping into her at the event and feeling hacked about it. What the crap?

Basically, I think it boils down to this: We want to control how people see us and what judgments they make about us. I know this is true of me. But it's impossible to do so. We simply cannot help what people think of us and why should we care? There are only 24 hours in a day and I don't think that's nearly enough to waste even one of them worrying about some random person's opinion of us.

So how do we avoid feeling hacked?

I think it starts with our own opinion of ourselves. If we are authentic and living life as our true selves, we just have to let the chips fall.

Next, I think we have to identify the people in our lives whose opinions matter (still a short list) and forget about the rest. Otherwise, we will drive ourselves crazy. I remember how I felt from about age 12 on and it sucked sometimes. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self not to care about what everybody thought.

We will make mistakes. We will feel embarrassed about it. This is unavoidable. But the mistakes we make don't define who we are. Nor can we allow them to keep us from enjoying our lives.

I'll leave you with this final thought. A couple of years into our relationship, my southern beau and I broke up. This wasn't like a "taking some time apart" but a true severing of ties. Six months had passed and I didn't think I'd ever see him again. We were both still in college and I saw him on campus. If there was a ever a time I wanted to just feel hacked and slink away, this was it. But something compelled me to walk over and speak to him. I think he was more than a little hacked to see me too. The conversation that followed led to our getting back together and now, nearly 10 years later I truly believe we're meant to be.

So I guess the moral of the story is don't spend your life feeling hacked and missing out on some amazing things. Be brave. If someone dumps you or you lose a job, it doesn't mean you are forever defined by this. No matter what happens, there might just come a time when you can laugh about it.

My Aunt Bo is still one of my biggest cheerleaders and the friend my brother 'beat up' is still my bff.

March 17, 2014

This Love of the Land

Maybe it was my reddish hair or pale skin, but I always secretly hoped I had Irish ancestry. After much research, I was only able to pinpoint one or two people from my family tree who possibly came from Ireland. 

While I might not be Irish, I can confidently say that I come from people who had a deep, deep love of the land on which they lived. 

My great grandpa was a farmer who worked the land all his life, never living anywhere but a few miles from where he was born. 

I've never lived on a farm, but I love the idea of being connected to all the people generations back who sweated and toiled and worked the land. One day, I'd like to build a house on my grandparents' farm and spend quiet days with my southern beau, writing and enjoying a happy life together. 

Hope you have a Happy St. Patrick's Day...and if you have Irish ancestry, I'm mighty jealous! 

March 14, 2014

For Anyone Who Has Ever Felt Ugly

Have you ever felt ugly? I don't mean that you had a bad hair-day or a little pimple. I mean have you ever looked in the mirror and hated what you saw? I've been there. This is kind of a difficult post to write but if I'm being totally honest with myself, there have been plenty of days when I felt downright ugly.

From my coke-bottle glasses/frizzy hair/chubby childhood to my awkward teen years and beyond, I've never thought of myself as beautiful.

Having people in my life, including my southern beau, who speak kind, complimentary words to me helps...and this is not something I take for granted. But there are many people who have nobody to offer up daily affirmations or compliments. And what's more, it really doesn't matter what nice things anyone else might say to us if we feel a certain way (i.e. badly) on the inside.

In the past few years, I've started developing a new understanding of God's amazing grace...and not grace as a churchy buzzword, but what it truly means: divine influence on the heart. This is the only thing that has led to me to finally believe it's possible to experience being beautiful from the inside out. And the ironic thing is now this idea of beauty has got nothing to do with how I look.

Each day I'm learning more about the One who made me...the one who imagined every aspect of my personality. And when you come face to face with that knowledge, the only possible feeling is awe. I am awed that someone wanted me to exist so much that He spoke me into being. I am humbled and honored to be one of His creations. And you are one of His creations too.

I'm learning that this body, while I do believe it is a temple, is not really who I am, but instead just a home for my spirit. And yes, I want to take care of it and treat it with respect...but how it looks isn't really all that important.

I wish I could go back in time and communicate this to my 10-year old self...the one with the crooked teeth and the weird looking toenails. I wish I could say it to my 15-year old self, scared to death about being in high school and wanting to do all the right things as to avoid drawing attention to myself. I wish I could tell it to my 20-something college, feigning confidence with that "fake it til you make it" attitude but all the while feeling like such a fraud.

I'm certainly not saying I've arrived or that I've learned all there is to know. I still have lots of days where I feel like I'll never "get it together." Days when I don't realize for several hours that I have peanut butter on my face...or spill an entire glass of iced tea into the lap of the person I'm having a business meeting with. I'm certain I'll make mistakes and stick my foot in my mouth and hurt people's feelings and say the wrong thing. But little by little, I'm feeling a bit more comfortable in my own skin.

I'm grateful for each new revelation of grace. I'm grateful that it means I have permission to be my far-from-perfect self. I'm thankful that I can share about it here and maybe encourage just one other person who feels the same way. Of course, I hope none of you has ever felt this way. But I'm guessing some have.

And if you have felt this way, I want you to know that those ugly feelings are a lie. You are beautiful. Inside and out.

{images via 1:cobalt123; 2:Martin LaBar; 3:haribote}

March 12, 2014

Mountain Music

Whether you believe it's God or just being part of the universe, I think we all have a deep desire to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. I believe it's God. And while I think everyone should be free to believe what he or she feels is authentic for them, I struggle to understand people who think we're all just here at random.

Maybe it's because I still feel so close to my family members who have passed away, but I often encounter things that recall them to me in such a way that they are almost present.

This happened the other night as I arrived home and heard a song playing on the radio. I always leave NPR playing for my dog when he's home alone and there is a great program on my local public radio station that plays every Saturday night called Mountain Jubilee (You can listen to it live online for free! but that's beside the point).

The song was Angel Band, performed by E.C. and Orna Ball, a pair of Virginia folk musicians. This is the kind of music that I grew up hearing and singing at the small country churches where my grandparents attended. The slightly nasal, twangy sound of it only adds to the experience. There was something about the lyrics and Orna's higher pitched voice that took me right back to the Sundays of my childhood, nestled up against my granny in the church pew, chewing on a stick of Juicy Fruit she had pulled from her purse.

I referenced this on the Southern Belle Simple Facebook page, and got many responses from folks who also had grannies, and sweet memories of them at church through the years.

How easily I take for granted these memories, until I meet someone who has no memory of a grandparent to think fondly on...or worse, people who feel disconnected from everything and lack any sort of cultural identity or heritage.

Maybe it doesn't matter to people as much as it does to me....this feeling of connectedness that ties us together across generations. Maybe I'm strange or weird to put as much importance on it as I do. I just don't know how to be any other way.

Here are a few examples of music that I really enjoy...the Angel Band song is on this compilation called Back Roads to Cold Mountain.Another great one is this, Come to Mountain: Old Time Music for Modern Times.

March 11, 2014

Life Lessons from the Civil War

I get to travel some for my various clients and recently I went to Washington, D.C. for a public broadcasting summit. It was a great experience and during my time there, I was able to tour the Daughters of the American Revolution museum (above), attend lunch with PBS documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, eat breakfast in the Member's Room of the Library of Congress, and hear from all sorts of interesting speakers.

One such person (who I've had the pleasure of meeting before this trip) was Pat Harrison, the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She served as the assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell and has done lots of other cool things in her career.

But she said something in a keynote speech that stuck with me. She spoke about a book she had read called Take Command!: Leadership Lessons from the Civil War. I hadn't heard of it before then, but am thinking of reading it.

Mrs. Harrison mentioned a section from the book about how often in business and in life we have a little victory and then lose focus of the bigger battle, stopping off to the side to celebrate and revel in our success or bemoan our defeat. She said that according to the book, in war this is how you get killed. And I guess in life, it's how you never really get anywhere.

I don't think she was saying not to celebrate when something good happens...I think it was more about always moving forward. And not to let anything throw you off track whether you win or lose.

The book also outlines how Robert E. Lee was fearless and this is how he managed to be successful on many occasions. I've written a lot about fear and how it holds us back. I struggle with it all the time. Fear of being perceived a certain way. Fear of not being perceived at all.

What I realized is that when you are really focused on your goal, you don't have time to worry about any of that nonsense. So maybe my problem is really a lack of focus...I'm not sure. But it is something I'm thinking about.

I hope you have lots of victories, large and small today and always! And if you need to stop along the way and celebrate them or have a tiny pity party when things don't go well, I say go for it.

March 10, 2014

Savor the South: Okra and Pickles & Preserves

I was excited to get an unexpected package in the mail and even more excited when I opened it to reveal the newest volumes in the SAVOR THE SOUTH Cookbook collection: Okra and Pickles & Preserves. 

The cookbook series, published by The University of North Carolina Press, includes other editions such as Peaches, Pecans, Buttermilk, and Biscuits. These are great little cookbooks that pack a punch with some wonderful recipes and commentary from major southern food writers and experts .

Okra: A Savor the South® Cookbook is written by none other than the fabulous Virginia Willis. She's just great and her insight on the "bright green, heat-loving vegetable" includes slime busting tips, and fifty recipes for how to make it more delicious (26 southern dishes and 24 global dishes). I love fried okra, but I hate standing over a the oven fried version below caught my attention when I was thumbing through the book.

Photo by Scott M. Porush

Oven-Fried Okra
From OKRA: a Savor the South® cookbook by Virginia Willis. Copyright © 2014 by Virginia Willis.  Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.

Let’s face it, there’s really nothing like fried okra, but this oven-fried version comes darn close. I prefer to use organic canola cooking spray. It has little flavor, a high smoke point for high-heat cooking, and no aftertaste like some cooking sprays seem to have.

Makes 4–6 servings

·         1 cup fine cornmeal (not self-rising)
·         1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
·         Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
·         1/2 cup buttermilk
·         1 large egg, lightly beaten
·         1 pound okra, stem ends trimmed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
·         Cooking spray

Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°.

Combine the cornmeal and cayenne pepper in a shallow dish. Season heartily with salt and pepper.

Whisk together the buttermilk and egg in a large bowl. Add the okra and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and set aside to marinate, about 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the okra from the buttermilk and add it to the cornmeal mixture. Dredge the okra in the cornmeal mixture. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and spray it with cooking spray. Place the okra on the heated pan and lightly coat it with additional cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once. Stir and spray again. Cook an additional 10–12 minutes. Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Pickles and Preserves: A Savor the South® Cookbook is written by Andrea Weigl, the food writer for the Raleigh News & Observer. It begins with some great how-to information for the novice canner (such as myself). The best part to me were the "Don'ts" because I guess with canning it can go south really fast if you don't do the right thing. This is my year to can y'all...I just feel it!

Until then, here's a refrigerator pickle recipe that I know won't be too hard.

Spicy and Sour Refrigerator Pickles
From PICKLES & PRESERVES: a Savor the South® cookbook by Andrea Weigl. Copyright © 2014 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.

I don’t think my husband and I could survive without a jar or two of pickles in the refrigerator to serve with hamburgers, hot dogs, and pulled pork sandwiches. So it really says something that this recipe has become our go-to recipe for cucumber pickles. I’ve even used the same brine to pickle jalapeño slices. 

I first tasted these pickles while judging a cooking contest at Burt’s Bees corporate headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. The recipe is adapted from Beth Ritter’s winning entry. Ritter says it appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram years ago and was attributed to Dock and Opal Everett, who used to own a produce stand in Waco, Texas. I use a mandolin to make quick work of slicing the cucumbers, jalapeño, and onion.

Makes 2 quart jars
·         2 pounds pickling cucumbers, such as Kirby, cut into 1/4-inch slices
·         1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced
·         1 onion, sliced
·         4 cups white vinegar
·         1/4 cup pickling salt
·         3 1/2 cups sugar
·         1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
·         1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
·         1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
·         1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Combine the cucumbers, jalapeño, and onion in a large bowl.

Heat the vinegar, pickling salt, sugar, celery seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, and peppercorns in a medium stainless-steel saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved, about 10 minutes.

Pack the vegetables evenly into hot, sterilized jars. Ladle the brine over the pickles, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Seal the jars with lids.

Let the pickles sit in the refrigerator for 5 days before eating. These pickles are good for 1 year but best within 3 months.

So there you have it. Two great new cookbooks and tons of new recipes...You should snatch these up! They are available where books are sold. Also, be on the lookout for the next editions in the SAVOR THE SOUTH series, Sweet Potatoes and Southern Holidays.

March 7, 2014

Friday Favorites: Oil Pulling, Junior League, and New Age Wine

Happy Friday to you! I hope you've had a good week. What's on your agenda for the weekend? Saturday morning, I'm headed to a local charity rummage sale put on by the Junior dear friend and I have attended together for several years and found some incredible treasures along the way.

Here are my top three tips for finding great stuff at yard sales and rummage sales (in case you were wondering):

1) Take an empty tote bag or duffel bag with you to haul everything around in.
2) Look for potential in everything you see, but realize you can't bring it all home with you.
3) Be brutally honest with yourself and don't purchase things just because the price is right.

Speaking of Junior League, you might be aware of my affinity for vintage Junior League Cookbooks (at least I'm in good company with the likes of Ms. Julia Reed). I've amassed a pretty great collection over the years, but since I only have limited space, I try to buy them only when they seem like a really special find. I ran across one such book recently and for the low price of $4, it's now mine.

Some Like it South: A Cookbook by the Junior League of Pensacola, Florida is a wonderful addition to my vintage Junior League cookbook collection. When I'm having trouble making a decision, I base my purchase selection on how many congealed salad recipes a cookbook has. In this case, it's 12. Not to mention 17 casseroles! That's the sign of a good southern cookbook and this one has casseroles and congealed salads for days. 

Another reason I liked it was it has a series of sample event menus at the beginning (A Beach Picnic, Easter Dinner, A Hunt Breakfast). I'm such a sucker for these! 

You can find vintage cookbooks at second hand stores, rummage sales and used book stores as well as on sites like ebay and etsy. They are a little slice of history to me and I treasure my collection! Stocking your southern kitchen? Here are my top 5 southern kitchen must have items

Oil Pulling - 

Okay, so you might know about this already. I just heard of it. Apparently oil pulling is a thing where you swish oil around in your mouth to remove toxins from your body. And it's also supposed to contribute to better health in a bunch of areas. My southern beau said it sounded like black magic bulls4!t (pardon his crude language). But he's kind of a cynic. So I decided to try it. 

You need unrefined, organic coconut oil. Or sesame oil. But I went with coconut. Then, you just get a teaspoon of it and put it in your mouth. It's really odd because it starts out all waxy and solid, but then it immediately liquifies. You have to keep the oil in your mouth for 20 minutes. I'm not going to was kind of gross. Not the taste, but more just the idea of swishing something in your mouth for that long. 

However, after my 20 minutes were up, I spat it out and looked in the mirror. My teeth were so much whiter! Seriously, I couldn't believe it. Who knows if this was a fluke since I've only done the oil pulling one time. We'll see. Anybody else doing this? 

Wine Tasting

Saturday night my beau and I are headed to a wine tasting party. Everybody is supposed to bring two bottles of wine so there's enough to share with the group. After being pretty anti-social for awhile (just keeping busy with work), I'm glad to do something like this. 
I'm thinking of taking a couple of bottles of New Age, an Argentine wine that is best served on the rocks with a lime slice. I had it for the first time at Christmas and found it refreshing. 

Do you have a favorite vino that's your go-to for special occasions? I'm not a big drinker, but I enjoy a glass of wine from time to time. 

If you made it through this long and random post, congratulations. I hope you have a wonderful weekend! 

March 6, 2014

How to Get a More Peaceful Night's Sleep

How many times do you hit the snooze button each morning? Usually I only have to snooze a couple of times, but on occasion I'm guilty of doing this for hours. Sleep is something I never seem to get enough of. This post is mainly for me...and I'm taking my own advice. But I hope you will too!

March 2-9 has been declared as National Sleep Week. It's an awareness campaign put on by the National Sleep Foundation and it leads up to this weekend's time change (remember, spring forward?).

Many people don't get enough sleep at night and what they do get isn't always good quality sleep. Our bodies need sleep to recharge and revive themselves. In honor of #SleepWeek, I'm sharing some simple tips for getting a better night's sleep.

Most of these tips revolve around the bedroom. Makes sense because this is the room we're doing most of the sleeping in.

1) Bedtime Routine 

My first tip for getting a better night's sleep is to create a bedtime routine. When we're little, this is a book, get a drink of water, say our prayers, lights out. But why is it that the older we get, the less we focus on these types of things that are really quite good for us?

A good bedtime routine could be drinking a cup of hot tea (decaf), reading a few pages in a book or even chatting with your partner or family about events of the day. Maybe you want to jot down a few thoughts in a journal or make a note for something you want to accomplish during the coming week. Whatever routine works for you, try to get one that feels natural. It's also good to try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This trains our bodies and creates a sense of balance.

2) Breathe Better

Fresh air is great, but we can't always open the windows and let some in. Maybe the air outside isn't fresh at all where you live. A really good way to improve the air quality of your home, specifically the bedroom, is by having houseplants.

Houseplants work overtime to purify the air in our houses and this lets us all breathe and sleep easier. You don't have to create a greenhouse in your room, but just pick one or two plants that you like. Good ones to try are snake plants (mother-in-law tongue), ivy, peace lily, spider plant and rubber plant.

3) Bring Some Luxury In

There's something about staying at a fancy hotel that makes me sleep so well. I enjoy all the little extra touches, but they seem so luxurious...not like anything I could ever really experience at home. This just isn't true. That's why I'm trying to incorporate some of the luxurious aspects of staying at a hotel in my own bedroom. Things like having a pretty pitcher of water near the bed or keeping note pads close by. It seems so silly when I think about it, but these small things do make a big difference in making my room feel more inviting. And that can only help me sleep better, right?

4) Beautiful Linens

I've never had fancy sheets. Until now. Okay, the ones I have are from Target. But they seem fancy to me. They are organic cotton and such a beautiful botanical print. I haven't put them on the bed yet, but I can't wait to use them.

It seems like such a small luxury, but pretty sheets that are comfortable too can make your bedtime routine much better.

5) DIY Linen Spray 

Scent is such a powerful trigger and the right smells can calm and soothe us, which is especially helpful when we're trying to relax at bedtime. After doing some research, I created my own DIY linen spray. It was so easy and you can do it too!

All you need is Vodka (I used Stoli Vanilla Vodka), essential oil (lavender is good), and distilled water.

Mix 2 oz. vodka w/ 20 drops essential oil. Blend this well. Then add about half a cup of water. The oil should bind to the alcohol so it doesn't just suspend in the water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake well before each use.

I hope you can be inspired to get a better night's sleep! Everybody is different and has different sleep requirements and needs, but we all gotta sleep sometime. Do you have any tried and true tips for peaceful sleep? I'd love to hear about it!