library love.

Feeling very…sentimental…today about all the trips to the library I’ve made in my lifetime. The excitement never changes. I am so deeply appreciative that libraries have coped and adapted so that we can still sail to other lands while huddled safely in our homes.


Thank you from the bottom of my heart, library systems. Your work is enormously essential.

THE INVISIBLE LIFE of ADDIE LARUE by V. E. Schwab

What is it about my weirdo brain that says, ‘Oh…this is a really popular book out there in the world? Then let’s be sure and NOT read it yet.’ What? Why??

Whatever mental defect I have, it happens every time a book skyrockets to popularity. But I’ve heard so many fantastic things about this one, maybe it’s time I ignore myself and dive in? What do you think?

Have you read it? Did it live up to the hype?

OLD BRITAIN CASTLES

Quarantine has been about tying up loose ends, like this once-started-but-never-pursued collection of Johnson Brothers dishes: Old Britain Castles. The thrill of the hunt will never cease to excite me. Finding new pieces at fantastic prices is a sweet reward. I’ve added to my collection this year, all from my living room sofa. Not quite as thrilling as an out-of-the-way antique shop, but still fun!

INTIMATIONS by Zadie Smith

I didn’t check to see what this book of essays was about before starting to read it. Some respected people recommended it, so I opened the front page with no expectations.


I found a collection of essays filled with reflections on the first half of 2020. Unique reflections. Powerful comparisons. But all with room enough for me to think about other perspectives and process my own 2020 experience.

Powerfully beautiful essays, not overindulgent in trite hope nor overwhelmingly oppressive in gloom. I closed the back cover, filled with new insight.

Bitter drinks. Better South.

On our fifth wedding anniversary, my husband, Scott, planned a weekend getaway, staying at a historic hotel in Boonville, Missouri called the Hotel Frederick. It was an idyllic weekend. The restored 1905 hotel was like walking onto a quaint movie set. The bar downstairs was filled, the rooms were each unique and it felt like you were staying at your favorite aunt’s house. Quilts and antiques. Heated bathroom floors with heated towel racks. We had a fantastic weekend.

It was there that I realized the great artistry behind a truly memorable hotel experience.

Years later Scott and I had the opportunity to play host at our own Airbnb in downtown Kansas City. I never expected to feel such honor and responsibility to make each guest’s stay as warm and welcoming as possible. It was a tremendous blessing for me to be able to bless them.

I have recently mentioned the Bitter Southerner. The bitter part of their name represents their beginnings: reviewing and writing about the greatest bars and bartenders in the southern United States. Then their work expanded into highlighting the progressive movements happening in the South. I have been devouring their podcast and learning so much about the large swath of the American South that doesn’t still ‘fight for the Confederacy’ but wants to see a more inclusive and redemptive state of southern culture.

Bitter Southerner introduced me to another historic, boutique hotel, the Wylie Hotel. Wylie is set to re-open their newly renovated hotel this year. Wylie Hotel is located in Atlanta, Georgia on Ponce de Leon Avenue in the old fourth ward. Tucked within the 1929 revival hotel is Mrs. P’s Bar & Kitchen, a dignified but approachable dining lounge offering southern eats and inventive drinks. Just like our experience years ago, Wylie strives for a home-like atmosphere in the heart of Atlanta. And just like our Airbnb, Wylie is situated at the intersection of the city market and downtown events.

I cannot wait to visit this Atlanta gem.

A few days ago we loaded up the dog in the car to run a few errands around town. We noticed we’d had a few boxes delivered which I handled with indifference until I saw the box from Bitter Southerner, sent from Wylie Hotel. A new sweatshirt that all y’all need to feel. It’s soooo soft and cozy. A Better South tote bag, one of their books of collected stories and a Bitter Southerner’s corduroy hat with its fantastic logo: ‘For the sake of the story. For the love of the South.’

I will wear them with Southern pride. AND will wear them when the opportunity finally arises to travel again and stop over in Atlanta at the Wylie Hotel. Thank you, thank you for such an exciting box of goods.

Keep them on your radar, readers. Follow them on social media so you’ll be alerted, along with me, when their doors are flung open and we can meet at Mrs. P’s for a good dose of southern cuisine and bitter spirits in the better South.

2021 thoughts…

I have spent the past couple of months ‘getting my mind right’, as many of us do at year’s end. What am I being drawn to? What do I need to gently lay down?

I have been increasingly drawn to my past during this quarantine year. Not necessarily my past, but my roots. Where I come from.

I have been interested in retracing/learning about my southern roots – mine in particular and the South as a whole. I have always had a bittersweet feeling about the South. There is a scar in it’s heritage that seems to go either unnoticed or is gingerly stepped around, generation after generation. I’d like to embrace it under a different light. I love what Bitter Southerner is doing and was glad to have stumbled upon them during my ‘gather all the resources’ preparations for 2021.

Meanwhile, I’m remembering so many wonderful times throughout my childhood, visiting family in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama. They were good people and wonderful influences on my life. I want to tell some of those stories. I want to highlight the progressive movements happening in the South currently. I want to talk about food and great books – fiction and otherwise.

My father was born in Commerce, Oklahoma, the son of a miner and the third of four brothers. Just as he was preparing for college, his father died of lung cancer. I believe this shape-shifted my father’s identity that resulted in me being raised by a well-rounded man who took part in every aspect of raising children and making a house a home. That was a lucky commodity in the 1960’s.

My mother was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, the youngest of five children. She wasn’t the hell-raising, boot-kicking kind of southerner. She wasn’t a couture society girl either. She was proper and ladylike (the words most used at her funeral.) She had her own career as an English teacher and proudly served in that role from college until retirement, save a few years she took off to be with me and my sister. She embraced Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette, Dreyer’s English, and Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in equal measure. I knew how to set a proper table at 5 and was stitching day-of-the-week dish towels by 10. White after Labor Day, not returning an RSVP and first-degree murder were on par with one another in egregious behavior. I balked at her rules as a child but have grown into an appreciation for their deeper intention.

My parents prized humor, common decency, and as educators, lifelong learning and reading were central to our daily lives. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with their stories as well as the South’s larger legacy.

I don’t know where this will lead me, but I’m excited to follow the nudge it has been giving me these past few months. The past and the future, holding hands in the present. How they will intersect is yet to be determined.

To the South – and beyond!

She wore pearls and felt.

These 5” felt trees were meditative to work on. A perfect craft for a chilly winter afternoon.

Scott is becoming a master Cricut user. (It’s a new-to-us tool that I’ll talk more about in the future.) He cut out a bunch of Christmas trees for me. I love using non-traditional Christmas colors. This cool aqua seemed to create just the right cold-weather forest look I wanted. I purchased a few strands of small pearl beads in the jewelry section and was ready to go.

I randomly sewed on the pearl beads. I had to remind myself I wasn’t sewing a button on a coat for a 9-year-old boy; I didn’t need to secure them on for endurance! One good loop through the back would do.

It’s been years, actually, since I’ve used the blanket stitch. But it added just the right rustic finish to these delicate trees. (I like this quick tutorial)

I thought I had polyfill at home but realized at the last moment that I didn’t. Instead, I used some of the snow from one of my first projects and it worked great.

I’m not saying it was a mess-free endeavor, however

The stuffing should be just enough to add a little 3D effect. You can see below the difference between a stuffed one and the flat one. Just a little, you don’t want to overstuff these.

(I even got a little adventurous and added a ‘g’ to the back of one tree and the year ‘’20’ to another.)

You could string these together to make a garland or add individual strings on the top and use them as ornaments. I considered tucking them into the bottom of a grapevine wreath. Or even simply placing them in a bowl. Many options.

But the more I looked at them, (and maybe this was because it was around lunchtime), the more they looked like those icing-covered animal crackers with sprinkles on top. So I gathered them together and put them in an empty cookie jar, hanging one outside with a string, and adding a bit of faux snow to the bottom.

Magical. Meditative. Mid-century.

Knowing myself, I will forget about all these crafts and be pleasantly surprised when I find them in my Christmas boxes next year! (Which always happens when I buy after-Christmas things and they go straight to storage.) -ha!

Textured Decor

There is something cozy about a bowl of yarn. It adds warm texture to your living space.

If you’ve ever made a yarn ball you know it takes a lot of yarn (and a lot of mindless looping.) This is such a simple hack that I’ve used for many years. It’s also a great way to use up the last remaining parts of a skein.

Start with a styrofoam ball. Just to give me an extra hand, I usually hot glue a little patch to get me started.

Fill up all the blank spaces and you’re done. Again, I put a little dollop of glue at the end, place my yarn over it then cut a little tail and tuck it into one of the laps of yarn. The hot glue will keep it in place and not unravel.

Choose some complimentary colors but with varying textures. Use Christmas colors or the colors of your home. These add warmth and dimension to your room, easily and inexpensively.

Peppermint Hearts

I didn’t mean for this simple wreath to be an ode to Rudolph, but it kind of looks like it, doesn’t it??

I hot glued two candy canes together like a heart. Then glued their tips together to form a wreath. Pretty simple. I made a crude circle to use as a base to glue the candy cane tips to.

Then I hot glued all of it again to add my pom pom which also acts as a connector of all the parts.

I used some leftover stars from the pinecomb project and some leftover sequins from the sequin ornament. Added some ribbon from the Buffalo check canvas and called it done.

It adds a little holiday wonky whimsy in the kitchen. Are you a candy cane fan? I like them inside holiday candy but I don’t usually grab one just by itself. They are good for settling stomachs after that big Christmas meal, though!

A Few Christmas Glimpses

So many people struggled with the decision of whether or not to decorate for this weird 2020 holiday season. I can fully appreciate those who decided to skip it or simply go smaller than normal. For whatever reason, I felt unusually excited to decorate this year. I think I needed the safety net of memories and glittering lights to buoy me through the canceled plans and stay at home orders. It’s helped me out a lot, to plug in the tree lights and watch them do their thing.

I mention it every year but this pink ornament is from my parents’ first Christmas together in 1961. It has valiantly survived the years and it makes me smile each time I unpack it from the many layers of bubble wrap I store it in.

Just like this bowl of sugared fruit that sat in their kitchen window. Is it even Christmas if there’s no bowl of sugared fruit??

The gnomes are holding court by the front door, keeping evil out and mischief in. Their biggest job this year has been greeting the Amazon delivery guys. *wink*

Did you decide to decorate this year or to give yourself a needed break from the tinsel and glitter? We hope to go over to an area of town called the Fab 40’s this evening and drive through their neighborhood. Their lights will be fun to see. Then home for some homemade hot chocolate. It’s SO GOOD!!

Happy celebrating to you, however you’ve chosen to do that this year. Your choice was a correct one, so rest peacefully in that. 2021 Christmas will be here soon enough!

Hawt Chocolate

We made a deliciously rich and decadent hot chocolate recently that I decided must be a part of my #2020s20HolidayCrafts. I insist you make it immediately then sit back with a good book and one of those arm-knitted throw blankets and have yourself a merry MERRY weekend-before-Christmas.

This recipe is adapted from a Southern Living magazine hot chocolate recipe.

I mean… it starts with Half and Half and milk. So you know it’ll be good. It continues with a half a can of dulce de leche. Need I say more?

Shaved dark chocolate, heavy cream, girrrl. This is some extra livin’.

After pouring a mug full of heaven, add about a tablespoon of Tennessee Honey whiskey then top it off with some homemade whipped cream.

And why not add a chocolate rolled wafer cookie while you’re at it.

ENJOY some grown-up time and thank me later.

Tennessee Hot Chocolate

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


4 cups half and half
1/2 canned or jarred dulce de leche
8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, extra for topping
Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey whiskey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1C cold heavy cream
chocolate rolled wafer cookies (like Pirouette)

Whisk together 4 cups half and half and 1/2 cup dulce de leche in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until heated through (about 10 minutes)

Remove from heat and whisk 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt until the mixture is smooth.

Next, beat 1 cup of cold heavy cream in a cold bowl with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form (about 1 minute)

Pour hot chocolate mixture into 4 serving cups. Add a tablespoon of whiskey. Top each with whipped cream, a drizzle of de leche and shaved chocolate. Serve with chocolate rolled wafer cookies.

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