Mississippi

This is why I love Christmas in Mississippi. Look at this gorgeous old house, with its classically festive holiday decorations of red and green — enlivened by the riot of pansies planted in the front yard. It’s like, “Christmas is here, but spring is coming!” Although I have to say that the past few days here in the South have been sort of wintry — chilly with a chance of freezing. Younger Daughter has been in Maine visiting her uncle and aunt there in the Frozen North, but I believe it’s been only minimally colder here. Then again, what do I know? Anything below 85 degrees is sweater weather to me.

Weddings

I love holiday weddings! It probably goes back to my own parents’ wedding on Dec. 18, 1955. I wasn’t there but I’ve always been entranced by my mom’s description of her bridesmaids carrying muffs with holly sprigs pinned to them — how romantic and lovely is that? So I was tickled when Younger Daughter asked me to go with her to a friend’s wedding that was the weekend before Christmas. Her friends had so many sweet touches to the ceremony — a processional of guitar music, simple and classic knee-length bridesmaids’ dresses, a swirly logo on the invitations and programs — that I should have known the reception would be equally classic. It was at Locust Hill, an outstanding historic house in Tuscumbia, Alabama — a town full of outstanding historic houses. I especially was enthralled with the entryway, where a holiday-decorated antique sidebar held scrapbook pages for guests to sign plus photos of the couple. And the groom’s cake was fun with its fishing theme. Now, I can hear some of you non-Southern folks scratching your heads and wondering what a “groom’s cake” is. While it’s true that this tradition of honoring the groom with his own cake is no longer confined to states that consider Jefferson Davis’ birthday an official holiday, it’s still not a common tradition outside of the South. And I’m not even sure why it’s such a Southern thing, sort of like cheese straws and using the word “tea” to mean “a tall glass of cold iced sweet goodness.” But I’m glad weddings are celebrated everywhere. Even where nobody knows what a groom’s cake is.

Home Decor

Anybody who’s worried about today’s young people shouldn’t — at least based on their decorating skills. Isn’t this apartment absolutely adorable? I’d move in in a minute! It belongs to Rachel, a 25-year-old who’s one of Younger Daughter’s friends in Birmingham, Alabama. Rachel is a recent college graduate and recently started working — and although interior decorating is not her field, I think it should be. I loved the way Rachel used inexpensive touches — she shops in consignment and discount stores — to express her style and create a calm and peaceful environment combined with a sense of whimsy. And she’s got such inspiring ideas. For instance, she paints small wooden window shutters, hangs them vertically on the wall and puts photos in the individual slats — brilliant! She also found a practice climbing wall with various size handholds and set it up above a doorway for stress-releasing fun. And I love the way she uses the simple basic elements of candles and coffee beans for earthy and fragrant tablescapes. And she has such a good eye — her comfy thrift-store sofa and weathered chest of drawers with intriguing mismatched drawer pulls look as if they came from a top designer boutique. Rachel’s efforts have convinced me that when it comes to interior decor, money and time constraints are no excuse. Lesson learned. Thank you, Rachel!

Cajun Week

DecorOn our way to Louisiana’s Cajun Country for a wedding this past Decorweekend, my friends and I spent a day in Mississippi doing some of things we do best: Eating and shopping. And stumbling on Wacky Ideas That Might Come In Handy Sometime Because You Never Know. Like these two examples that solve the problem of what do you do with all those 45s/albums/CDs that you will never ever listen to again? At the 101 Cafe in Brookhaven, Mississippi — a funky sandwich spot with a very cool 1960s-hippie vibe — one of the walls was decorated with a huge peace sign made out of old 45s. I love this idea — how great would it be for a rec or media room? And then at Upscale Resale — a fun consignment shop in Jackson, Mississippi — we found this gleaming and holographic mobile made out of CDs. Now, this is true recycling! Check back tomorrow for one more Cajun Week post — I saved the best for last!

Travel

Embassy Suites, Murfreesboro, TennesseeEmbassy Suites, Murfreesboro, TennesseeThis is why people say they’d like to live in a hotel (any by “people,” I mean “me”) — soft lighting, lush furnishings, hushed voices and nary a speck of dust or piece of cat hair anywhere. Sigh. Dear Husband and I were at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, this past week for a couple nights and I just wanted to take it home with me. The whole thing. I mean, who doesn’t love a bathroom with perfectly stacked thick white towels and a countertop free of spilled makeup and yesterday’s coffee cups? There’s something so simple and elegant and inviting about a bathroom you didn’t clean yourself.

Birmingham, Alabama

Fish Market in Birmingham, AlabamaOne of my favorite restaurant restrooms in Birmingham, The Fish Market in Birmingham, AlabamaAlabama is in one of my favorite restaurants — the Greek-inspired Fish Market on 22nd Street South. I’ve never been to Greece but I have both been to The Fish Market and seen “Mama Mia” multiple times so I imagine Greece to be full of beautiful people Fish Market, Birmingham, Alabamasinging ABBA songs and eating fresh and wonderfully cooked seafood. And having gorgeous bathrooms like this one with copper sinks, blue mosaic-tiled walls and stone and pottery accents. It’s so calm and serene … and Greek. The Fish Market is usually crowded and always noisy and the line to order moves fast — a basic knowledge of the extensive menu and the day’s specials is essential. There’s no table service, so you have to fight your way to the bar for another beer or more Apalachicola oysters but if you want your seafood lovingly and authentically cooked, it’s worth it. And you can always head to the ladies’ room if you need some peace and quiet. Check out The Fish Market Web site at http://www.birminghammenus.com/thefishmarket/

Decor

Women's restroomsAm I the only person who judges a restaurant in part on Women's roomsits women’s restroom? I mean, cleanliness is a must, of course, but I want to see some creativity and imagination, too. It doesn’t have to be luxurious or upscale elegant, but a spa-like feeling of pampering is a definite plus, as is some feminine whimsy. I mean, I’m sort of a captive audience here, so use this space to wow me and get your message across — that’s the way I look at women’s rooms,Women's rooms anyway. For example, Urban Standard, a coffee shop in Birmingham, Alabama, is in a cool and stylishly renovated downtown building. However, the bathrooms obviously had to be put in new and so lack the exposed brick and tin ceilings of the main rooms. Solution? Distinguish the women’s room with eye-catching art work such as this bigger-than-life piece painted directly on the wall. Definitely ups the cool factor in what’s really just a generic space. Check out more about Urban Standard at http://www.urbanstandard.net. Another of my favorite Birmingham bathrooms is in Chez Lulu, http://continentalbakeryandchezlulu.com/, a fun and funky bistro that features homemade desserts and breads from its next-door sibling, Continental Bakery. Chez Lulu’s women’s room is tiny but full of textures and colors and vintage finds that make you think of browsing Saturday-morning flea markets with your best friends and then stopping by for lattes and croissants. (My favorite is the almond croissant, because almonds are good for you, right???) I love the beaded lampshade and the plump and cozy fainting couch here, which I usually use for setting my purse on and then walking out empty-handed. But that just gives me an excuse for a return visit.