“The Hunger Games” and the Shoals

As soon as I re-remember how to download photos from my new iPhone to my laptop (stupid technology!), I’ll share photos of Grandson Nolan’s fourth birthday — because that’s what we proud grandmas do and we don’t really care how many adorable children you see today because we know our grandbabies are the adorablest. So there. In the meantime, though, I want to brag on my adopted home of the Shoals, in northwest Alabama. This little corner of the state has produced probably more Very Important Folks than any other two-county area anywhere. From Glencoe, the 1840s stallion from whom practically all thoroughbreds are descended, to politicians, musicians, writers, engineers, athletes, designers, actors, humanitarians and real-life heroes through the years, the Shoals is known for its talented, determined and creative people. Take the “The Hunger Games,” for instance. We’ve got four — count ’em, four — connections to this blockbuster hit movie. Muscle Shoals’ favorite duo Secret Sisters sings one of the most haunting songs on the soundtrack; Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars, half of which is Florence resident and University of North Alabama graduate John Paul White, has two tunes (one with Taylor Swift); UNA grad and middle Tennessean Jack White (no, not THAT Jack White) was the food stylist and UNA culinary student James Perini was the food-stylist assistant. Now, if only I’d been the one to figure out the next must-read young-adult fiction series, it would all be perfect. What about young wizards who are picked for a fight-to-the-death reality TV show? Or a mysterious castle that’s also a school for angsty teen vampires and a sullen but conflicted Alan Rickman? Or maybe …

The New Muscle Shoals Sound

Muscle Shoals music is back in the news as two young duos grab everybody’s attention. You know that in the 1960s and ’70s, my town of Muscle Shoals was famous for its Southern-gritty rock-‘n’-roll sound, with dozens of hits coming from local recording studios. (You still hear stories about what happened with the Stones came to town.) Today, the Shoals is claiming some of its own young people as performers-to-watch … watch take off into meteoric success, that is.  Such as The Secret Sisters, siblings Laura and Lydia Rogers, who are making waves as a 1950s-style new-age country-music duo. Their debut album, released this past fall, was produced by T-Bone Burnett. They’re touring and opening for folks such as Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn all over the country. Do not miss them if they come to your town. And don’t miss The Civil Wars, either. The duo of John Paul White, of the Shoals area, and Joy Williams, from California, is releasing its first full-length album this week. Known for a funky blend of Appalachian-folk and gospel and rock, Civil Wars first took off this past year when its “Poison and Wine” was featured on an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Since then, they’ve been on Jay Leno, have collected accolades by the ton and are embarking on a nationwide tour with many venues already sold out. Give these two a listen and you’ll be able to say you knew them when.

I Cooked Supper Twice! Now What?

I know! Shocking, isn’t it? But it’s true: Now that my husband and I are in a house together after five years of having a commuter marriage, I actually truly really cook supper for him. This mainly is for my mother, who was properly skeptical as I heaped praise on the possibilities of our new kitchen in our new house — “But don’t y’all usually go out to eat?” she said, puzzled about why I would care about granite countertops and tons of cabinet space. But Husband and I made it a goal to cook and eat supper at home at least one night a week. Baby steps, you know! And here’s the proof. The photo on the left documents our first meal in Week No. 1: Sweet potato fries and sautéed vegetables straight from Jack-O-Lantern Farms market in Muscle Shoals with slices of Niedlov’s bread from EarthFare grocery in Chattanooga and some seasonal Samuel Adams. The photo on the right is from Week No. 2 — roasted vegetables from the JOL market with grilled Dubliner cheese-on-pumpernickel sandwiches and a bottle of Ravenswood. And that, folks, pretty much depletes my repertoire of cooking supper. Sad, isn’t it? Not sure what I’ll come up with for Week No. 3. But promising to post it here will motivate me to do something besides fall back on my childhood tuna-fish casserole, so stay tuned. Also, you can see that the boxes behind my husband haven’t moved from Week No. 1 to Week No. 2. Hey — I was busy cooking supper!