Home for the Holidays

Finally — Elvis is in the house! It’s been more than two years since Husband JP and I moved into our house, and all this time Elvis Martha BeadlehasElvis been languishing in storage. Oh, sure, we had valid excuses: We’re too lazy not sure where to put it, it’s so big that we’re too wishy-washy to commit heavy that it needs professional installation, we’re scarred from a previous trauma of dropping a heavy mirror on a cat’s paw — you know, all the usual. But we live in northeast Mississippi, where folks speak of both Elvis and the War of Northern Aggression in the present tense, so we couldn’t delay much longer. Plus, this piece is from one of our favorite artists — Martha Beadle, of Florence, Ala., who creates wonderfully whimsical fiber art from bits and pieces and her own inspired imagination under the name Martha’s Needlework Eccentricities. She sells throughout the Southeast, and we’re lucky enough to have three more of her pieces — wine, Tupelo honey and the beach  — which we think makes us official collectors. Elvis would be is proud.

What Your Table Should Wear for Spring Parties

After being inspired by these completely cool table coverings at Nellie Mae, in Tuscumbia, Ala., I am immediately ditching all the matching and carefully pressed contents of my linen closet shelf drawer and going for joyously eclectic creativity. I mean, how sweet are these? I love the ethereal layering of the neutral-toned tablecloths on the left and then the cheerful fabric garlands, rosettes, bows and flowers decorating the one on the right with the netting underskirt. I think these would be perfect for a bridal shower or even an informal outdoors wedding — you know, those oh-so-fun weddings that are really just parties in disguise, where the bride wears cowboy boots and everybody’s kids are running around and there’s beer and barbecue for all (except the kids, of course). On the other hand, I’ll always love the simple elegance of crisp white napkins paired with Grandmother’s linen tablecloth. And the retro fun of colorful vintage table squares that demand place settings of Fiesta ware. Of course, the way Husband JP and I usually eat is out. Or on the couch watching basketball. But I just like to know that I COULD set a nice table if I were inclined to.

If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Mardi Gras

Have fun letting your good times roll today — whether you’re eating King Cake (watch out for that baby) or pancakes or paczki or your completely-bad-for-you pastry of choice. Of course, nothing goes better with eating rich fried sugary food than our other favorite activity: shopping. Younger Daughter and I spotted this could-be Mardi Gras wreath in Nellie Mae, an adorable boutique in downtown Tuscumbia, Ala., that’s owned by classmates of Older Daughter. And that sort of threw me. I mean, I’m used to my children’s friends being old enough to check my teeth and fill my prescriptions and give me speeding tickets, but buying clothes and jewelry from people I used to chaperon on field trips takes some getting used to. (Stay tuned for more Nellie Mae photos and other downtown-Tuscumbia finds — so cute!)

Jana & Claire: Do Not Read This Post. Look Away! Thank You.

My house was blooming the other night when friends who are co-hosting a bridal shower for the daughter of another BFF came over to make tissue-paper flowers for the decor. These colorful blossoms have been popping up everywhere recently — I see them in store windows and displays. They’re even Martha-Stewart-approved, and she has a video tutorial on how to make them. But we tapped in to our many-decades-ago high-school memories of decorating homecoming floats and transforming gyms into dance floors and didn’t even need Martha’s help. You just layer sheets of tissue paper, pleat as if you’re making a fan, fold in half and scrunch up the center and secure with a pipe cleaner. Then, it’s on the fun part of separating the layers and shaking them out into a flower. We got better with each attempt and soon were experimenting with different colors and sizes. We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do with them now, but they sure are impressive! This is easy enough for even awkward, uncoordinated and clumsy non-crafty folks like me to attempt and yet creative enough for talented crafters, like my friend on the left in the photo above, to be inspired. You see, after our flower-making marathon, she went home and stayed up until 2 a.m. making corsages out of fabric and netting, using the same tissue-paper principle. I, on the other hand,  drank more wine and went to bed.

P.S. I warned Jana & Claire, the mother of the bride-to-be and the bride-to-be herself, not to look at this post, but they probably did and now are hoping that my flowers somehow don’t make it to the shower in favor of the gorgeous ones everybody else created.  But I’m redeeming myself by bringing coffee and herb-cheese biscuits, so maybe that will help.

My New Favorite Getaway Destination

Isn’t this the prettiest and most relaxing bedroom ever? I stayed over at a friend’s recently after a particularly energetic book-club meeting (we kept toasting the fact that the hostess’s husband had not set himself on fire when the gas tank ruptured as he grilled our dinner). My friend graciously put me up for the night, and I promise it was like staying in the coziest bed-and-breakfast inn ever. I did not want to leave. I love her color scheme of white with blues, pinks and oranges — it was cool and summery and so clean and fresh. And can you get a close-up of the bedside tables? How cute is that? My friend — oh, let’s call her “Susan,” for no reason whatsoever — loves color and design and knows how to make it all come together. Plus, she’s an excellent shopper and always finds the bargains everybody else passes up. I’m definitely going to have to come up with another excuse to stay here again soon. When’s the next book-club gathering?

Can We Fit an 8-foot Table into a 6-foot Backseat?

Let’s go shopping! It’s the best kind — where you just look and don’t bring anything home. (Incidentally, this is my husband’s preferred way of shopping.) Recently friends and I were cruising around nearby Smith Lake, close to Cullman, Alabama, and we passed an ironworks store/wedding rental on a county road. There were four of us, and three of the four have wonderful taste in all things decorative and are excellent and enthusiastic shoppers: One has an eye for vintage bargains, one keeps an organized list and only buys for specific needs and one thinks looooong and hard about each purchase. On the other hand, one of us just wants to go drink but always says “Sure! Let’s stop!! That looks like fun!!!” when the others see a tempting gardening/furniture/home decor/antiques shop because I she’s afraid they’ll make her stay home next time. But sometimes treasures such as gracefully scrolled metal furniture and luminous and colorful glassware delight even the most impatient shopper.

And to prove that I am not a total decorating and shopping failure, I offer Exhibit A: Part of our front porch. I was going for cozy, casual and not ugly. The rocking chair we bought a few years ago from Cracker Barrel, the fern stand I got at Hobby Lobby at one of those incredible sales at which you feel as if the store’s paying you to take stuff away, the pillow’s from T.J. Maxx and the flowers (picked out with help of Husband JP) are from Lowe’s. I buy all greenery at Lowe’s because I’m terrified of the workers at local nurseries who actually talk to you and ask if they can help you and who expect a somewhat intelligent reply in return when all I know is that I need plants I can’t kill that have the little sun and shade icons on them. Sigh. Come to think of it, my friends probably WILL leave me home next time.

Corinth Home & Garden Tour

This is our backyard. Oh, okay, that’s a downright lie. You know that our backyard actually is about the size of this patio table. And even if it were bigger, I still wouldn’t have the talent and skill to make our outdoor space look this cute and inviting. I mean, don’t you want to just pull up a chair and pour a nice cool drink? Love the bright red and green tablescape with lemon-yellow accents. So summery! This was only one of the dozens of inspiring “rooms” on this past weekend’s Corinth (Mississippi) Home & Garden Tour. Sponsored by Verandah House Friends, the annual tour raises money to restore Corinth’s 1857 Verandah House, a Greek Revival beauty where Confederate officers planned their Shiloh campaign. The tour included a flower show, a silent auction of amazing local art, a bake sale and a plant sale. But the stars, of course, were the homes and gardens. Three houses in one of Corinth’s historic districts were open to visitors, and it was a constant stream of admiring “ooh’s and ahh’s” as we peeked into interior rooms and wandered through outdoor spaces. I especially was impressed with the way the owners combined respect for their homes’ authenticity with modern individual touches — beloved family heirlooms were cozily comfortable sharing with cheerful 21st-century details. But, you know, that’s how we do it* in the South.

* I was going to say “that’s how we roll in the South,” but since that invariably would lead to “Roll, Tide!” references I went instead with a less inflammatory phrase. After all, this is a free and open space where we tolerate all opinions and where differences are welcome. On the other hand:  “War Eagle!”

Zebra Tape and Espresso Mirrors

I read or heard recently a news report that shopping is good for you — it gets you out of the house, gives you exercise and company and a new perspective on things. Of course, in my case that new perspective is “What’s happened to all our money?”, but that’s a minor issue. The point is that you can Learn Things and Gain Experience by shopping. For  example: I recently discovered that you can buy duct tape in patterns remarkably similar to some throw pillows I have. And more. Am I the only person around here who didn’t know that duct tape comes in bright neons and animal prints as well as the standard battleship gray? I’m guessing this idea was inspired by more women doing more do-it-yourself jobs around the house. But, honestly, does everything we touch have to be cute and colorful? I realize I’m wandering into dangerous grouchy-old-lady “you-damn-kids-get-outta-my-yard!” territory here, but seems to me that when you need duct tape, having the good ol’ dependable gray workhorse around is best. I’m not sure I’d feel quite confident that zebra stripes are going to do the job. With all due respect to zebras, of course. But we all know that manufacturers and retailers have all sorts of tricks to lure us into buying stuff. Such as this sign my husband and I spotted in a home warehouse-store. It uses all the correct decorating words to grab our attention: “Euro!” “Shaker!” “Espresso!” — a combination of adjectives that only exists in marketing land. I mean, is there such a thing as “Euro Shaker?” I’m doubting it. And Mr. Google agrees with me. Plus, throwing in “espresso” is just silly. Are they talking about Italian roast? French press? A Starbucks doppio? Define your terms, people! But I do like that mirror.

All Work and No Play …

When the going gets tough, the tough clear their calendars, buy plenty of wine and head out to for a weekend near the water. And, boy, you know that things sure get tough a lot. Okay, not really — but us girl friends have to have an excuse to get away every now and then. We’re counting on one of us to retire soon and buy a fabulously big lakehouse with room for all of us, but until then we have to rent our getaways. Luckily, a couple of us are skilled at wading through all the lists of possible rentals and honing on in exactly what we need. Such as this one-level open-plan charmer we hung out at recently. It was a wet weekend so we couldn’t enjoy the inviting back deck and the peaceful view as much as we would have liked, but the interior was so industrial-modern and minimalist-funky that we were fine inside. We loved the brick walls and exposed ductwork and construction details that ran throughout the house. There even were two commercial-style garage doors that opened up to the deck to bring the outside almost completely in. The sleek upscale kitchen had plenty of storage along with stainless appliances and granite countertops. The cabinets sported gorgeous door pulls that carried out what we felt was an urban-loft theme — on a lakeshore surrounded by trees and water. And good friends. And plenty of wine.