Retro + Politan = Really Cool Stuff

Oh, yes. I’ll have one of each, please. Although, truthfully, that would be a lot of lamps. And pillows. Anyway, this is the home decor/interior design shop retropolitan, in Nashville, Tennessee‘s hip Hillsboro Village. Thankfully, you don’t have to be hip to go in and look around, which is what my husband and I did recently. We are in a continual dialogue about furnishing  and decorating our new house – it’s the first house we’ve bought and lived in together and we want it to reflect both of us. And by “dialogue,” you know I mean me saying, “Oh, this is wonderful! It would look so cute in our living beside the front windows” and him saying, “Uh, how many zeros are on that price tag again?” But retropolitan is the sort of place where you so wish you had lots of zeros to spend.

Mississippi Grocery Stores

I don’t know what it is about Mississippi and restaurant names, but any eatery in the Magnolia state that has the word “grocery” in it is bound to be a winner. Examples: City Grocery in Oxford, Pizza Grocery in Corinth. And Romie’s Grocery in Tupelo. A meat-and-three by day, Romie’s turns into a warm and friendly dining experience at night featuring a creatively eclectic menu of fresh Southern favorites. And then of course there is the ladies’ room — you know that’s one of my top priorities for a restaurant. And Romie’s gets top grades for its home-like decor, cozy lighting and whimsical art work. Also: I sort of want to take this sink and the bathroom counter home with me, but a) that would leave a huge hole in the Romie’s ladies’ room and b) my Dear Husband consistently turns his nose up at bowl sinks. I say they’re an imaginative way to add some personality and style to a bathroom. He says, “They’re just weird. And wrong.” But I believe, with all due respect, that in this instance he is wrong. I mean, doesn’t the contrast of textures among the sink and the mirror and the counter just make you believe that the whole world should be this cool?  Imagine, if you can, what it would look like with your typical white bathroom sink. Ugh. However, Dear Husband and I do agree that Romie’s is delicious and we should eat there as often as we can.

Spring Flings

Oh so pretty! I am in love with Target‘s new blue-and-white spring things. Just walking through the store makes me think of sunny days and ditching the boots and wool jackets and planning Easter dinner and those wonderful spring breaks. These blue-and-white prints seem so fresh and clean — as if a warm spring breeze wafted through and banished winter. And, believe me, here in the South we definitely had winter this year. You know we got so used to snow that we sort of shrugged our shoulders whenever it was forecast yet again — and the frantic grocery-store runs dropped dramatically. But it’s time to forget winter. And, you know, looking at these prints makes me realize that we have no blue-and-white in our house. At all. We’ve got black-and-white. And soft greens. And splashes of orange and red. But no blues-and-whites. But I love these so much that I’m thinking “home re-do.” So excuse me while I go tell my husband  we’re going to redecorate. He’ll be so pleased.

Shopping … Or, Why is there a Fire Hydrant in the Middle of this Store?

Folks in my area of northwest Alabama-northeast Mississippi-southwest Tennessee will recognize Henco Furniture in Selmer, Tenn. This mecca of furniture and home-decor is known for its slogan, “It’s worth the drive!”, and for its creative layout: The whole store is arranged like a downtown’s Main Street, with Americana storefronts, trees, parks and even a fire hydrant. You really feel as if Andy and Barney are going to be around the next corner. (Note the famous “barber” painted on the barbershop window.) Staff is friendly and helpful, and customers include everybody from bargain-hunters to those with unlimited budgets. There’s even a fun family restaurant and old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, the Whistle Stop Cafe. Oh, and the furniture? It’s there, too. You stroll along and go into one “store” for bedding, another for office furniture, another for kitchen tables and so on. Husband and I were there in our continuing quest to figure out our married-together style so we can fill up the empty spaces in our new house. His style got sort of stuck in 1980s bachelorhood. My style has stagnated, too, after years of marriage to a woodworker who specialized in country-Shaker furniture and then after years of being a financially challenged single mom. So Husband and I have some work to do. At Henco, we walked along and I said, “Oh, I like that” and then we kept walking and a few minutes later he said, “Oh, I like that” and sometimes it worked out that we said it at the same time. But not so often. Sigh. This is going to take a while. More shopping needed!

Oaty Bites and Robert Redford

Here’s one of the things I like about Christmas: Friends and family giving you presents that you never ever would buy for yourself. And by “you,” I mean me. And by “friends and family,” I mean the wacky gift givers I hang out with. Such as my dad, whose sense of humor somehow takes a creative turn during the holidays and he picks out and wraps up items such as … a box of cereal. Specifically, a box of Nature’s Path Organic Oaty Bites cereal that he thought I might like. Because he likes it. And the thing is, I do like it. But how my dad knew I would is beyond me,  because whenever I visit my mom and dad, I usually have toast or muffins or cinnamon rolls or something equally warm and yummy. But this cereal is crunchy and slightly sweet and slightly nutty and good for you. Thanks, Dad. You still know best. Then my brother and sister-in-law who live in Chattanooga gave me something I’d been entirely ignorant of but which I now find out is something everybody in the whole world knew about except for me: Wine-bottle candelabras. You save your cool bottles and then put this candelabra in one and light the candles and you’ve got instant wine-bottle chic. Plus, my bro and sis-in-law ordered mine from Sundance – one of their favorite places to shop — and whenever I’m lucky enough get something from Sundance I always imagine that Robert Redford himself packed it. It could happen!

Girl with the Awesome Menu

I have to admit that I don’t know anything about Sweden beyond that Swedish muppet guy and the wonderful breakfast I order at the Original House of Pancakes in Birmingham’s Five Points that comes with powdered sugar, whipped cream and strawberries. (Now, that’s a breakfast.) Or I didn’t know anything before I got addicted to those internationally bestselling  Stieg Larsson’s “Girl With …” books. If you haven’t picked these up, you’ve got to. And keep the coffee pot handy because that’s basically all they do in these books: Hack into computers, track down killers and drink endless cups of coffee. I can’t get enough. And luckily my food-loving book club read the first book in this trilogy — and extra-luckily our hostess for this meeting is our friend who specializes in creating marvelicious meals for the rest of us to enjoy. She went all out for our “Girl with the Dagon Tattoo” night and created a Swedish smorgasbord that I believe Larsson himself would have felt right at home with. We had smoked salmon, pickled herring, beets, potatoes, ligonberry preserves, pickles, cheese, sandwiches and of course coffee and cake for dessert. Oh my cookies. It was delicious, and she made us feel so special. We always nominate her for Best Hostess Ever and we threaten not to leave whenever she has us over. You’d think she’d learn, but we’re glad she hasn’t.

Home Decor

This could be our dream house — literally, because it’s  the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Tupelo, Mississippi. The giveaway is a national fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. You tour the house, buy a $100 ticket and hope for the best. In Tupelo the local partner is the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, which oversees the very cool downtown Fairpark development where the St. Jude house is. I love this house! And I know a big part of my instant love affair is the furniture and the decor, which naturally does not stay, but since we’re on a dream roll here, I figure why not imagine moving in as is? The decor was rich and elegant but worked perfectly with the family-friendly layout of the house. Dear Husband and I especially were impressed with the built-in desk in a kitchen hallway and the built-in bench and storage cubbies adjacent to the entry way from the garage. And this was the first shower I’d ever seen with a hinged door that could swing either in or out — brilliant! Why didn’t we think of that? Hope whoever wins this house loves it, too. The drawing was this afternoon and so far our phones have not rung — but we can still dream.

Memorial Day

Welcome, summer! No matter what that silly lunar calendar says, Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of the Fun & Sun season. You’ve got food and drink and friends and family — what else do you need? Usually my outdoor entertaining consists of opening a bag of potato chips and bringing paper plates out to the deck, but folks like my friend Sharon in Huntsville, Alabama, know how to do it right. At a recent gathering in her fabulous backyard, she brought the indoors out with metal serving trays and oversized clear glass candlesticks for statement-making pillar candles decorating the wine buffet — a super idea since I usually think of light-and-disposable for outdoor eating. And, Sharon, I think I need another invitation soon so I can copy be inspired by your great ideas.

Home Decor

This is going to embarrass my friend so I won’t say her name — oh, let’s call her … let’s see … oh, let’s just randomly say her name is “Cheryl” and she maybe lives in Florence, Alabama — but I loved this inviting basket of towels in her downstairs bathroom. Doesn’t it look like a basket of Easter eggs? So pretty! And this isn’t just for company — she always has her towels like this. It’s like the most pampering and luxurious spa ever. She picks up the cheerful riot of colors in other of her bathroom accessories, and I’m particularly impressed that she uses this small piece of free-standing furniture in her bathroom to block one of the two doors into the room — offering a little more privacy and a cozy storage place all at the same time. I love how this simple thing reminds us how easy it is to add a touch of personality to a room without going overboard — or over budget — and how those small little details can make friends and family feel so special. And how you can tap in to your hidden creativity just by looking at everyday items in new ways. She inspired me to go home and, well … at least clean my bathroom. That’s a start, right?

Consignment Stores

When you’ve got spring fever but the weather isn’t cooperating — we’re back to winter here in northwest Alabama — then the solution is to go shopping for a little warm-weather cheer. But if your budget isn’t cooperating, either, be smart and do your perk-me-up shopping at your favorite consignment store. You may get lucky and find such spring-like treasures as these light and airy wooden windows lightened up with bright and happy blooms. Or what about some light and breezy white wicker furniture with soft green and yellow accents? (Note the papasan ottoman transformed into a coffee table with the addition of a clear glass top. Clever!) I especially love the collection of pastel-colored vintage coffee mugs shown off in a pale-green wooden tote. See? For just a few dollars, you can add some spring details to your home decor and have money left over for a spring-break trip to the beach. You know that these photos are from my favorite consignment store — Upscale Resale in Sheffield, Alabama, owned by my friend Susan with display assistance by my Younger Daughter. It’s like walking through a magazine spread. C’mon over and see for yourself!