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Wednesday, April 28

A Little Rain Makes A Big Difference...

A week has passed, and look what's in my garden! My first rose of the year!
Not surprisingly, it's on the bush I planted for my grandmother...
she loved her Mr. Lincoln rose bush so much.
Two roses on it already! And look!
My little floribunda has a bloom as well! A pink bloom!
And look at these pretty zinnias!
The Hostas under our Magnolia are also growing like weeds...
Here's a view of our zinnia bed...we've planted zinnias here the past three years.
They always do really well.
A close up of our front porch flower pot.
And our house...new windows, freshly stained shutters and fence, new mulch and all...
the only things missing are the flower boxes.
I love it when the trees start to get their leaves in the springtime....Sigh!
So does Porter...Leafy trees mean shade!

Tuesday, April 27

Fashion Inspiration: Grace Kelly

The story is one of fairy tales. The beautiful movie star meets and falls in love with the handsome prince and is whisked off to a castle in the South of France.
This was Grace Kelly's reality.
To top it off, she epitomized style and well...grace. Her look is completely timeless, from her Kelly bag to her sunglasses to her perfectly fitted dresses. And who doesn't want that Kelly hair? I wonder how long it took to get it that way? I'm picturing a head full of curlers every night...all in the name of beauty!

Monday, April 26

Oxford Weekend

The top three photos are from Double Decker's Facebook page. I did take my camera with me, but the crowds were not conducive to picture taking!
O-U Stadium/Swayze Field, Summer 2006. We love our Ole Miss Baseball!
Yikes, I'm becoming a bad blogger, but I promise I won't abandon it completely. I enjoy it way too much for that. :)
This past weekend we went down to our favorite Mississippi town, Oxford. Neither of us is from Oxford, but it will always feel like home because we spent three of the best years of our adult lives there. We also met and fell in love during our first year in town and made the best friends we'll ever have.
Since we graduated four years ago, I can count the number of times we've stayed down there on one hand. It's sad because it's literally a 1.5 hour drive, and we have a place to stay. Life, unfortunately, always seems to get in the way, and trips to Oxford haven't worked out for us much over these past four years.
Life did work out for us this past weekend, and we journeyed down for two days and two nights of fun. We ate lots of good food, visited with family and friends, watched Ole Miss whip arch-rival LSU in baseball (can we say SWEEP?), enjoyed the fabulous Double Decker Arts Festival on the Square, stayed up too late and even slept in just like the good ole days!
If you aren't an Oxford-Ole Miss lover, you need to become one. It's a magical place. The arts are all written all over it (literally), and it feels more like the South than most cities I've visited.
Here are some of our highlights:
Square Books - When I visit a bookstore, I hold it against this one to see if it measures up. Square Books, Off Square Books and Square Books Jr. are all staples of the Oxford Square, and a visit to the city isn't complete without a visit to at least two of the three. Square Books is my number #1 because it has a cool staircase which leads to a coffee bar and more books and because you just know you're going to pass the ghost of William Faulkner on the way back down. Off Square Books is pretty rad as well, and most of their books are used (read: CHEAP). They also have a store cat. I didn't visit Square Books Jr. because I don't have kids, but they did have books made from recycled materials in their windows :)
The Blind Pig - It was our first time to visit this little deli and bar in the basement in one of the new buildings on the Square (rebuilt only because the previous building caved in). It was divine. Sandwiches are their specialty, and I had a yummy panini with black forest ham, Roma tomatoes, Swiss cheese and honey mustard. Delish. We visited in the middle of the day, but apparently they also have good music at night.
Ajax - Ajax is one of the other staples of the Square. I first visited it more than a dozen years ago when my grandmother was in town from California. We didn't really appreciate it back then, but we love its southern feel now. It's a mixture of an old juke joint and a restaurant somewhere in Louisiana. Lamar Sorrento's cool midtown Memphis folk art covers the walls, blues plays in the background and the crowd is pretty eclectic too. Even if you don't like fried pickles and catfish, you'll want to hang around because of the vibe. It just makes you feel cooler.
Two Stick - On Friday night we were feeling healthy, so we went to Two Stick. Their sushi is the best we've ever had, and their salads are great as well. We also tried the wontons and guacamole, and it was so good! Jonathan and I once ate on the floor at their old location, which wasn't as fun as you might think. Looking back, I'm glad we did it though! Ah, memories!
Other yummy notables: Varsity Grill and The Bungalow, which were also yummy. I had great salads at both! I'm going back to The Bungalow because they were out of Filipino egg rolls, and I love Filipino egg rolls so much!
O-U Stadium/Swayze Field - We love watching baseball here. In college, we were at games on most pretty weekends and on a lot of rainy, cold weekends as well. Everyone in the outfield cooks out, so it always smells divine. Plus, we're actually pretty darn good in baseball. This weekend was even sweeter because it involved three wins against #5 LSU, our arch-rival.
The Double Decker Arts and Music Festival - Rated the best large festival in the state, Double Decker is named for the big red bus that the city imported from England in 1994 (two years after we were imported from England - lol!). I do have a soft spot for Oxford because of the bus, and for the red telephone booth which also sits on a corner of the Square, but hey, I don't see much of England in the South! The backdrop of the festival is the picturesque Lafayette County Courthouse, so Double Decker is not only a great festival, but it's a pretty one too. This year, rainy weather delayed it until Sunday, but the rain didn't stop the music or the artists from coming out. The crowds were crazy, but we weren't in a shopping mood anyway. We just enjoyed the sunny weather and a leisurely stroll and were so grateful to be in one of our favorite places on Earth.
AC's Bed and Bath Company - Also on the Square is this little shop filled with linens, soaps, night gowns and loads of other pretty things. I love all of their gorgeous vignettes, and I always leave there feeling very inspired. I do love linens, you know!
If you aren't inspired to make a road trip to Oxford just yet, don't worry - I plan to follow up with my own photos of the city over the next few months. Jonathan and I have a few summer road trip weekends in the cards, and we want to enjoy some more art, music and food from a Southern city that isn't Memphis. :)
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 21

My Happy Place

The Jane Magnolia, our flowers in a birdbath and a tiki torch to keep the mosquitoes away. Our happy place.
Work in progress: the new deck (still to be stained), the new siding (still to be painted) and one big black dog. We're hoping to add to the deck (on the right) so we can have a dining area. We love eating outdoors and grilling with friends. Right now we just bring our kitchen table (it's a little bistro set) outside when we want to eat on the deck. The bistro table seats two, which is a bit of a problem...
Porter. All the spots/holes in the yard are his fault. You'd never guess that, would you?
Our newly stained fence.
The new rose bed. I can't wait for these little guys to get bigger!
One of my blog friends, Alli, recently did a post on her blog, One Pearl Button, entitled "Happy Place." I think we all have at least one of these. In my case, I actually have three - my family home in Mississippi at Christmastime, any quiet beach with my husband, and the backyard with my husband and our crazy pets.
This is our backyard. We've been slaving away in it nonstop since February, and the work is almost done! We (Jonathan) stained the fence, built a new bed for my roses, mulched all of the beds and planted some new flowers. We picked up our new flowers on our adventure this past Saturday. Among our flower purchases: three rose bushes (pink, yellow and purple), calypso, verbena, herbs (basil, oregano, English thyme and cilantro), citronella and zinnias. We went to Dabney's, this incredible garden center that reminded me so much of the nurseries we went to when we lived in England. We will definitely be heading back there sooner rather than later. It was so much fun.
We still have some siding and our Adirondack chairs to paint and our new deck to stain, but overall our happy place is really starting to come together.
Don't you love it when you work really, really hard on something, and it finally starts to look the way you always dreamed it could?
Sigh.
This yard really makes us happy.

Friday, April 16

Springtime Strawberry Pie and Strawberry Lemonade

After we enjoyed a piece...
We made this pie for Easter, and it was delicious. The pie plate that I used is huge, so we ended up doubling the recipe and using 4 lbs of strawberries. Luckily we buy our strawberries from Costco, and they only cost us $6!
Strawberry Pie - adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Filling: Eight cups (or more) of fresh strawberries 2/3 cups of water 2/3 cups of sugar 2 tablespoons of cornstarch Whipped cream for topping Pie Crust: 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon of salt 1/3 cup of butter Some vanilla - I used a lot! 4 or 5 tablespoons of cold water (I needed more than this...) Stir together flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Using a pastry cutter, add your butter. I let mine sit out for a while so it wasn't too hard. Pieces of butter should be pea-sized. Sprinkle your mixture when a tablespoon of water at a time. Toss with a fork, and then move the moistened flour to one side of the bowl. Continue this until all of the flour is moist, and then make a ball from your pastry. Roll your dough onto a slightly floured surface. The dough needs to be about 12 inches in diameter. You can wrap your dough around the rolling pin to transfer it to the pie plate. Once your dough is placed, crimp the edges, and use a fork to prick the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Cover with two layers of foil, and bake for eight minutes on 450. Remove foil and bake for another 5 or 6 minutes, or until the crust is golden. For glaze, combine 1 cup of strawberries and the water in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add enough additional water to make 1 1/2 cups. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn starch and then stir in the blended strawberry mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture is bubbly and thick. Cook and stir for two more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. After the mixture has cooled, spread 1/4 cup over the bottom and sides of the pastry crust. Fill with strawberries, and then use the rest of the glaze to cover your strawberries. Make sure all berries are covered with glaze. Chill for 1 or 2 hours, and then serve with whipped cream! Strawberry Lemonade 3 cups of cold water 1 cup of lemon juice 3/4 cups of sugar Frozen strawberries Squeeze your lemons and pour juice into the pitcher. Stir in water and sugar. Use a wooden spoon to ensure all sugar is dissolved. Add as many strawberries as you like. Chill in refrigerator -- the strawberries will make the lemonade pink overnight! Enjoy outside in the sun!

Wednesday, April 14

Exciting Weekend Ahead

The last few weekends have been incredibly busy, and they've felt an awful lot like an extension of the work week. I'm glad we're getting these projects behind us, especially since we're still not done *cringe*, but we're ready for some fun. The weather is supposed to be pretty again this weekend, and we're due for some fun. Here are our plans for the weekend.... We're going to the Memphis Farmer's Market on Saturday...It's opening day! According to their web site, they're going to have lots of lettuces and strawberries, as well as herbs and flowers. We're also going to check out the possibility of joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I'm so excited. After loading up on veggies at the MFM, we're going to my favorite midtown antique store, Toad Hall, for their Anniversary Sale. I'm hoping to find some pretty linens from my favorite vendors, Kate and Elise. If the day couldn't already be cool enough, it's also Record Store Day, so we're going to our favorite record store, Goner Records, to check out some vinyl. After those trips, we're going to switch to working mode for a while, because we have to pick up some mulch for the yard work we're planning to do on Sunday. There's this great place down the street from us where they'll put a huge scoop of mulch in the back of your pickup truck for $20. It's so much cheaper to buy mulch that way. Thank goodness for trucks! After that, we're going to head out to Dan West Garden Center to look at rose bushes for my new bed, and then we're going to Anthropologie! I've been having Anthropologie withdrawals for a few weeks now, and it's time to see all the new pretty things they have for spring. I'm just going for the inspiration, of course! I will be back later with the recipe for the strawberry pie shown above. Strawberry pie and lemonade are perfect this time of year. This one was especially yummy. What are your fun plans for the weekend?

Saturday, April 10

The Story of Our House (What I've Been Doing Lately)

Here's our house in the very beginning...
Two years ago last month, we bought our first house. After two months of actively searching for the perfect place, we stumbled across a cream colored cottage in the heart of Memphis. We had always said we'd never live in Memphis. This neighborhood, with its sidewalks, beautiful old trees, mid-century homes, and its very own grocery store, pizza place and pub, didn't feel like Memphis. It immediately stole our hearts. We knew our house was the house for us the very first time we saw it. It was far from perfect - the windows were original and didn't open, the kitchen had nasty linoleum floors and the bathroom had a bit of a mold issue. The bachelor who owned it also had a thing for wild game, so there were stuffed critters on the living room walls. How attractive. But I didn't care. I saw the kitchen's white bead board cabinets that touched the ceiling, the perfect hardwood floors, the yellow tile in the bathroom, and a backyard with potential. Jonathan wasn't completely convinced at first, but after a few more visits to the house (I think we saw it five times in all), we made an offer. A few weeks later, we were buying our house. In the meantime, I was a total house stalker. I work three miles from the house, so I drove by every day at least once a day, sometimes more. If anyone was watching me, they probably thought I was trying to rob someone. I just couldn't wait for the house to become ours. I'll never forget the day I saw the SOLD sign in the yard. I have a camera phone picture of it. I called Jonathan and screamed. It was such a big moment for us. Closing day was terrible. The bachelor and his girlfriend were way behind schedule, so we weren't able to see our house until after 5, although we closed at 1! Finally the time arrived, and we were in. Some intense cleaning ensued, but I was carried over the threshold - how is that for sweet? We closed on a Monday, and Tuesday night I had to work. Jonathan and my mom moved from cleaning to painting without me. By Wednesday, we were living on a mattress in the floor. On Friday, we were still painting when a snow storm moved in. We spent our first weekend in our new home snowed in without furniture. The power went out for a while, so we were painting in semi-darkness. It was interesting to say the least. Memphis (at that time) rarely saw snow, and it was the first week of March. It was some sort of weird phenomenon. In the two years since then, we've had snow multiple times. The phenomenon continues. Paint was the beginning. We kept our projects small that first year as we were adjusting to life with a mortgage. The scariest project was the bathroom (I tackled wall paper and mold by myself while Jonathan was on a work trip) and the kitchen (three layers of wallpaper - one of which had been painted over!) took over our Thanksgiving break and then some. Jonathan kept asking why we had to remove the wallpaper. I was insistent. We had to remove the wallpaper. The second spring, we had tile installed in the kitchen and sun room. The sun room had painted concrete floors, only one step up from the gross linoleum. The difference was incredible and worth every penny. Now here we are in our third spring. We've been here long enough to know what we really wanted and needed, so we took big steps and invested in new windows and a deck. The windows were a must, and the deck was pretty close. With a giant Labrador, the sun room was more like the mudroom. These two projects haven't been too time consuming, but while we were at it, Jonathan cleaned and stained our cedar fence and shutters, and we built a new bed around the deck for my roses. The next projects will involve painting new siding on the sun room, cleaning and repainting the window sills, and painting our guest bedroom a lovely shade of vanilla (it's currently orange). When you're a homeowner, the projects never end. When you're a homeowner whose house was built in 1950, the projects never, ever end. So, if you were wondering why I haven't been blogging very much in the past few weeks, now you know. I promise to post some pictures very soon.... We have a lot of hard work to show off!

Sunday, April 4

Anthropologie Love Part II

I just got my April Anthropologie catalog in the mail yesterday. What a perfect mail day - no bills, no junk mail -- just the Anthro catalog! Yay! :)
It is, without a doubt, clear that my love affair with clothes is back in full swing after a two-year hiatus. I already have a nice little list of things I want to try on when I make the trek out to the Anthro store in a few weeks!
In case you're wondering, I've been very disillusioned with the fashion world for the past few years. Everything in stores seemed to be the same year after year. The only difference was that the quality was down, while the price remained the same. Even one of my favorite stores, Banana Republic, followed this trend. It was very disappointing for me, a long-time clothes, store and handbag enthusiast.
Luckily, Anthropologie saved the day. It's expensive, yes, but it has good sales. I love it for its originality and its beauty. It inspires me to go out and find replicas of these beauties at the antique malls as well! :)