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.

A Week of Spring — Home Decor

Spring decorWelcome to the weekend wrapup for A Week Spring decorof Spring. Thanks for coming along with me as I’ve discovered a week of cute and must-have spring things. I think this final find is the best of the bunch! I fell in love with these twig- and dried-flower baskets the birds’ nest as soon as I spied them at Downtown Books in Corinth, Mississippi. The baskets are supposed to be planters, but I’ve already put the dried lavender in the one with the handle and I’m pondering what to do with the others. My favorite, though, is the birds’ nest. It just says “spring” to me — in a very soft, whispery, spring-like voice, of course. And the bonus? All of this was $30.  But I left plenty, so if you’re in Corinth go to Downtown Books and pick up some more spring bargains.

Want more spring? Visit these blogs:

http://www.leciawphinney.com/ — At A Day That is Dessert, photographer and mom Lecia Phinney posts wonderful photos that will make you think spring no matter what the weather outside is.

http://www.winosandfoodies.com/ — Winos and Foodies has yummy and creative recipes for spring classics.

http://www.omiru.com/ — The stylish folks at Omiru show you how to waltz fashionably and frugally into spring. They focus on what to pull out of your closet to combine with the new season’s trends for totally chic ensembles.

Decorating

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I know I said I was continuing the New Year’s Countdown through Twelfth Night christmas-2008-part-2-0624— Tuesday — but now that our tree is (finally) down and all the wreaths and garlands and Santas are packed up and I’ve broken almost every one of my resolutions already, I’m sort of over the holidays and ready to move on … to another holiday, that is.  Does your space feel empty without all those Christmas festive touches? I’m always glad to get my house back after turning it over to Christmas for a month, but I miss the whimsy of holiday decor — plus, it covers up the cat hair valentines-day-005and distracts from the dust. So I keep the wintery things (snow people, mainly) out and gradually add red heart-y Valentine’s Day things, such as those cute heart “trees” and heart candles I put on the mantle after taking off the Christmas stars and angels. On the table by our front door — my absolute favorite piece of furniture in our whole house valentines-day-0032because so far in almost five years of marriage it’s the only one my husband and I have bought together — I’ve got a couple red and wintery serving pieces plus red and green candles I keep out until spring just because I like to. I  added a touch of valentines-day-007Valentine’s Day: A wonderful mini folding photo album out of handmade paper that my younger daughter found at Sojourns, a Fair Trade shop in Birmingham, Ala., and put in my Christmas stocking. Adorable! In our kitchen, I dismantled the bowl of shiny Christmas ornaments that sat on the table and replaced it with three red heart candles. I love the clean look of red on white. Every year around this time I’m so grateful for my grandmother’s advice to always buy red. “You can use it for three out of four seasons,” she said, “and you can always find red things on sale.”  So true. Thanks, Grandma. See? I was listening.

New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-0623Welcome to the first Saturday of 2009 and the ninth day in Cathy’s New Year’s Countdown for a tip on dismantling Christmas at your house. Look, even if you are one of those wonderfully organized people who already have (almost) all the holiday things wrapped, packed, labeled and back in the closet where they belong, you probably have a snowperson here and a Christmas candle there, still hanging around. And of course all the rest of us are staring at the tree that needs taking down today — or is that only me? Anyway, I admit I’m only so-so at housekeeping and downright bad at organization and in no way should I go around dispensing advice on these subjects, but I do love that wonderful feeling when everything is clean and uncluttered and efficient. Granted, because I’m inherently lazy and content to live like a slob, I don’t enjoy that feeling very often. But I know how to get it without much effort, so here’s a quick and easy route to post-holiday satisfaction: When you finally take it all down and put it all up, challenge yourself to 1) Throw/give away three things you don’t use but keep in storage anyway (this is where you can guiltlessly get rid of all those ugly Santas your aunt keeps giving you) and 2) Reorganize so you can easily put your hands on the essential part of your family holidays (the stockings, the Christmas CDs, the Advent calendar) that you spent two weeks trying to find in 2008. Do these things, and I promise you December 2009 will be a little less stressful. Not much, but a little. And isn’t that good enough? Check back for day no. 10 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown.

Christmas Trees

our-tree-001I wasn’t going to reveal this to everybody but my husband said I had to since our-tree-005the blogosphere is all about honesty and sincerity and thruthiness — right? — so the plain simple fact is I only put our tree up yesterday. Yesterday. As in four days before Christmas. I know, I know. Friends were shocked and appalled. Family members kept checking in anxiously on my (non) progress. How did this happen? I’m not quite sure. It’s not that I’m anti-tree. I put my mom’s up for her. I oohed and ahhed over everybody else’s trees.  I just never got around to doing my own. I didn’t do it the weekend after Thanksgiving because I was gone and I was gone the next weekend, too, and then I had the Sinus Infection From Hell and then suddenly it seemed too close to time our-tree-013to take it down to put it up. And I was sort of approaching it as an experiment: How would I feel if I didn’t put a tree up?  As Dec. 25 got closer, I got my answer: Not good. So up it went on Monday and everybody has been properly impressed. I have had the stockings up since Dec. 1, though, so there you are.  And here’s the thing: Our Christmas tree is not one of those beautifully color-coordinated and themed trees. I think those are pretty, but I don’t do it myself. Nope. Our tree is like a family scrapbook — one with green stickery things that the cats climb up. We’ve got 20-year-old kindergarten wreaths and baby Jesuses sharing branch time with vacation souvenirs and mementos of favorite things and good times. Now, that’s a Christmas tree.

12 Days of Christmas Countdown

decor-and-ginnas-001It’s Day No. 3 in Cathy’s 12 Days Before Christmas Countdown. If your home looks a little bare and you’ve got company coming soon, try this quick and festive decorating trick using things I promise you’ve got around your house. First, find a pretty clear bowl — how about that one you got as a wedding present and have never ever used? Second, unearth those boxes of solid-colored glass Christmas balls you bought on sale two years ago because you thought maybe someday you might want to hand-letter names and dates on them for personalized gifts but then later realized that really you never will and what are you going to do with boxes of solid-colored glass Christmas balls? Third, pile (carefully) the glass balls in the bowl, put your creation where christmas-and-new-years-2006-07-01820everybody can see it and receive compliments for being an innovative and talented decorator. I know this sounds way too simple, but believe me:  Its effectiveness far outweighs the effort you’ll put into it. And you get twice the decorating power since this looks cheerful and colorful in daylight and glows quite elegantly at night. If you’re so inclined, you can get all fancy and use glass balls of different sizes or coordinate different containers (bowls, vases, margarita glasses) of various colors for a pretty impressive display. Check back tomorrow for Day No. 2 in Cathy’s Christmas Countdown for a new take on hanging Christmas stockings.

Christmas Decorating

decor-and-ginnas-007Our friends Ginna and Charlie in Tupelo, Mississippi, have the loveliest house decor-and-ginnas-004and it practically glows at Christmastime.  Their festive holiday mantle makes me happy just looking at it, although Ginna disavows any credit and says a decorating friend of hers put it together. But Ginna’s the one who bought the raw ingredients, so I think she deserves all kudos. We stopped by to see Ginna and Charlie this past Sunday afternoon in our search for dry martinis and good company. Ginna was finishing one last bunch of holiday goodies and congratulating herself on having the tree up, the presents bought, the presents wrapped and even the stocking stuffers successfully hidden away — unusual for her, she said. Of course, Charlie had done his part by spending all afternoon raking and bagging leaves.  Let’s see, they had been busy and productive and had their Christmas to-do list all checked off, while my husband and had been driving around talking about all the things we had to do and bumming drinks off of people. Hmm …

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Ginna’s tree — her kids made her put their old handmade ornaments in the back — and her beautifully wrapped presents.

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Charlie’s afternoon work — an immaculate yard.