“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” - Coco Chanel


New Year's Gift for Moi

Ever wanted something desperately, but it came to mind only sporadically? Fall, a year ago, I posted a blog about a weekend at the lake. (My original blogging started here at thebottletree.blogspot then I migrated to MySpace for a time. I plan to one day repost all my blogs, including the lake weekend one to this sight.) On that long weekend away, a chef friend cooked us a meal to die for. Tenderloin was served on a bed of polenta. He cooked the loin in a tajine. I fell in love, partly with the chef, partly with the tajine. We also dined on butternut squash soup and had Bosch poached pears for dessert.

I have since drooled over tajines online and at The Kitchen Table, my favorite gourmet kitchen store. I could never justify buying one. While perusing design blogs this very day, I ran across a kitchen with a shelf lined up with tagines. My intent to own one was instantly renewed. There it was, sitting on the top shelf at T.J. Maxx begging to go home with me. I promptly adopted it.

I am now the proud owner of a tajine, my first Moroccan dish/pot. Be sweet and you just may be invited to dine with me when I break it in.

Hellooooo 2009!!!


There are no words to express my desperate desire to view the Sydney Opera House with my very own naked eye. But doing so when the New Year rolled in? I fear I'd not survive the emotional upheaval. Can you believe that across the world it's already the New Year?! (Australia is one of 2 of the 7 major continents I've not visited, oh but I will...=)

Maybe I'll shoot for viewing that fireworks display when 2010 rolls in. Ahhhh...that thought soothes my raging wanderlust.=)

Needs No Introduction

Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.
But the only thing you can't do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world...are the ones who do.


My Holiday

Christmas Eve


Christmas Eve at my home was a fun filled outdoor evening of karaoke with family and friends. (Thank you, Karaoke Queen Crystal). The firepit was blazing and tons of candles were burning. Red pillars in lanterns were strategically placed. Red Table runners with fat white snowflakes graced the small dining tables. Messages on my chalkboards welcomed all and wished them excellent holidays. (If I’ve not mentioned it, I absolutely love chalkboards, in all forms. I have a 4 foot tall, extremely obese Italian chef who holds a chalkboard on a dowel, a 2.5 foot standing pig with a chef hat that also holds a chalkboard, there is a small board beside my backdoor, and another hanging in my kitchen. The first time my pal Lori visited after I purchased Giovanni, the obese Italian, she introduced herself and said she thought he was a grand choice for a husband.)

It monsooned before our evening was over, effectively dousing the firepit. But my oversized garage did exactly as I'd imagined, allowing the party to continue while rain poured. My first visit to this house brought immediate thoughts of “I can have 100 people under here for a party!”. (No, there was not 100 people here.) There is definitely something ethereal about being outside listening to rain while candles glow.

My largest pot, a white enamel “gumbo”, was full of Cabbage ‘N Beef soup. My large tea dispenser sat beside a container filled with ice and a scoop. It was basically “help yourself” which made for an easy, enjoyable evening for me. The dessert table was laden and it can safely be said that all had a grand time.

My neighborhood is extremely quiet, just not this Christmas Eve. Husband and wife travel nurses live to the East and to the West is an elderly woman who is a night owl. Behind me is the grandmother of the female travel nurse. As Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston songs were belted, I was glad that most of the neighbors were celebrating elsewhere. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree all the way to Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer was performed. And although I am part of a family of incredible singers, there were some pretty funny renditions to be heard.

Love flowed freely. Hugs were contagious. Gratefulness for the holiday spirit was felt. Simply put, a perfect Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day
Traditionally, I cook an oversize breakfast casserole that is brimming with eggs, sausage, and cheese. My eyes popped open well before 7, and I somehow knew I didn’t have the sausage. After inspecting the freezer, I got my keys. My hope was to find a service station that carried a few groceries. I learned years ago to let the brood sleep in. They are lightyears past the early presents ritual, so I cook and take my time setting a table that makes my guts smile. Back to the sausage...I was delighted to find Winn Dixie shining brightly. I meandered around collecting special things for our morning meal, Orange/Banana/Strawberry Juice, my missing sausage, and fat cinnamon rolls. Soon the casserole and cinnamon rolls were in the oven, bacon sizzled, and pancakes were slowcooking on the griddle. I sliced oranges to garnish our glasses and got out the new holiday mini pancake griddle. It features Santa, a tree, a gingerbread man, and a snowman. Every one got a full size pancake with a mini holiday on atop it. We dined sumptuously.

Until this year, it never dawned on me that one of our rituals is actually now a tradition. We finish up a slow, late breakfast, then go to different corners of the house to finish wrapping. The wrapping has become as significant as the gifts. Tyler visits the Museum of Modern Art for his paper. Last year was origami atop the gifts. This year there was holly and sticks, subway maps, and metallic bronze tissue for wrapping. I personally love attaching ornaments of significance to the ribbons. It’s a lazy, no rush day for us, so presents aren’t had until lunch or after.

I racked up this year! Crate & Barrel goodies from Tyler always means smiles. A pink old fashioned Schwinn 10 speed from Tay was a definite hit...And vintage dishes from Tyren were perfect. We love giving the old as well as the new. And books are a big plus.

Christmas Day was another one of those “live over” days. May there be many more in my lifetime.


It's Here...


Doesn't this tree look lovely yet simple? I just may be tempted to do something of this sort next year. I literally put finishing touches on my tree this very morning. I "mess" with it the entire time it's up.

There is a big pot of holiday soup on my stove, and I sent out several text messages inviting family and friends to drop by for a bowl of soup. It's impromptu, but feels good. I will pop biscuits in the oven, stack bowls beside the stove, blare Christmas music, and simply enjoy the season.

I'm told our cool snap with be gone tomorrow. So it's a warm Christmas Eve and Day for us. But that will in no way diminish the love of family and holiday at my house. Family will arrive from Houston, and hopefully there will be a pile of people around the firepit Christmas Eve.

May your world be happy and bright this glorious Christmas.


The Oh-So-Popular Roland


The most fun of this season has been the reaction to my front door Christmas decor. I have been asked repeatedly to post Roland's picture. Here he is frolicking in the snow! He nor I can believe our luck with the winter wonderland we experienced last week. As talked about here, Rudolph's cousin has been a hit at my house.

Do tell me what you think.=)

The Impossible Happened

(my beloved bottletree)

We had 8-10 inches of snow. Yes, in southern Mississippi. Last week it was 73 degrees Farenheit Tuesday, frigid air and SNOW on Thursday.

Dear patient friends, December is busier for me than a peg leg man in a forrest fire. (Like that one? I can hear my Daddy say it then hee haw at himself. LOL.)

But last Thursday was one of those "live-over" days. It is stamped in my memory forevermore. I awoke to heavy snow fall with the ground already white at 6.30am. We were warned the day before, but without any hope it would actually happen. I jumped up to check if there were any flakes at all falling and got a massive shock. It snowed hard, continually for 6 hours. I have never in my lifetime experienced snowfall like that. Woke up Friday again to a winter wonderland.


This is my backyard by 9am. The rest of the day was spent with my family. I found I love sitting on a trash can lid and being pulled by my nephew Chandler behind his 4 wheeler at quite a clip. I returned the favor for him. Imagine that.=) The day was simply...over the top.

Funny thing is the almanac says we'll have snow again next week. I am officially adopting my Pawpaw's love and deep belief in the Farmer's Almanac.


Mama Duck Is Happy


My computer is in the shop (again), so I borrowed Boo's. (He doesn't know, I lifted it while he was sleeping.=) The last couple weeks I've worked the hours of the 6 digit earning executive (without the 6 digits). The internet in my house is on the blink (AT&T assures me it will be righted today). In spite of all of the above, life is grand.

All my little ducks were here for 4 whole days. We did the things that I crave while they are in far reaching states. We dined sumptuously at The Back Door, schlepped around Hattiesburg, went to Starbucks, had Christmas at Nanna's, and just hung out at the house (certain lamps aglow, candles burning, holiday music on...that perfect way I like my house to feel). We had sparkling juice in beautiful glasses with pomegranate floating in it and the girls wrapped gifts that would win the prize in contests. We watched Christmas movies, cooked (I cleaned) and simply enjoyed each other.

What more should the holidays be?


Stay Out of Mississippi Jeff Foxworthy!!!

The day was perfect for it. So much so that I'm quite sure I never remember having decorated with it quite so cold. I had on a scarf, hat and fingerless gloves. A large mug of hot chocolate was ever close. The wind howled and blew my ribbon into the road. My Ipod blared Holiday music and I worked diligently, red nose and all. If there is such a thing, I felt snow in the air, right here in South Mississippi. I'm well aware that was wishful thinking.

My silver tinsel wreaths are wrapped in clear lights and have "green...apple green...green" ribbon on them. (That's exactly what my sister Tara calls the color. It's hilarious.) The sparkly lighted wreaths are on each window of the house. I found full garland made of silver tinsel last year after the season, at a grand price. My door is garlanded with the gorgeous, full sparkly tinsel and accented yet again with clear lights and the bold green apple metallic ribbon.

The kicker is, my front exterior door has a deer head on it. One with large horns. I know, I know. I'm afraid my boys will wreck when they see it! He was being discarded by a client so I carted him home, absolutely cracking myself up. Roland, Rudolph's cousin, wears a large, sparkly green apple ribbon around his neck proudly. I'm just extremely nervous that should Jeff Foxworthy come through town for some reason I may end up on some reality show boasting "Most Elegant Redneck Holiday Decor"!

I grew up in family of hunters. My Dad took me once, brought me home and promptly informed my Mother I was a "bulldozer" in the woods. That oh so manly sport known as hunting has never made sense to me. My brother in law supplies me with delicious venison sausage. And that's about the extent of my exposure to hunting. My boys have never been remotely interested in it.

So, having Roland on my door is quite comical. Oddly enough, he looks amazing! My entire crew will be here this weekend and I'm looking so forward to their reactions.

Do drive by. Roland will make you smile.=)




Having sisters is one of those indescribable things. I'm the eldest. So I rule. (It would behoove you to not ask questions concerning this.) There are 3, Tiji, Tara, and Toy, and I absolutely cannot imagine life without them. Saying we are a close knit crew is a silly understatement.

Today is "Christmas Candy Making Day" at Tara's, sister number 3, chronologically. We each have a favorite we make, always in double, sometimes triple batches, then share among the 4 of us. Tara's will inevitably be peanut butter balls and Toy's ALWAYS something different (as in "not the norm"). Tiji loves making cookies and I liking dipping "stuff" in almond bark. (My nephew Clint loves my oversized dipped pretzel sticks.=) Music will be loud, it will get messy, but things WILL be back in perfect order before we all leave. (Tara's house is the "best kept".=) AND we get to take home a pile of Christmas candy loot.

The four of us spending time together is necessary to breathe. I wish I could tell you how often I hear "I need some sister time!". Last year we went to Vegas... Funny what you can read in "..." when Vegas is mentioned. Hehe. We often take off to Beau Rivage for an evening of dining and dancing=). Or just have a relaxing evening together at somebody's home. And every year I get the call, "We found our sister gifts, your part is $75!". Someone finds something we all have to have, and you put your 1/4 in the pot to cover the costs of 4 of them.

Today I will get my "fix". We'll laugh, do the electric slide, possibly cry, plan a get-a-way, and weave that sister bond all the tighter.

But that's what holidays are all about. Strengthening family bonds.




"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."-Melodie Beattie

Hello all. Thank you for your patience with my absence. This "most wonderful time of the year" is my "busiest time of the year". Hopefully, I will slow this week and post. My heart has been here all along, Father time just interferes. Under the "note" icon on my blackberry is a list of "blog subjects", hence never lacking subject matter, just time.

My house smells seasonal with sweet potato pies in the oven. Out of state loved ones are here. Overwhelming feelings are consuming me. In the next couple days here's my vow:

I'm going to...

Hug everyone.
Call someone I've not spoken with recently.
Voice my love to those dear.
Say prayers for those who lost family members recently.
Take pies to friends who are hurting.
Invite my new friend with no family to dine with me Thursday.
Spend quiet time with family.
Plant my amaryllis bulbs.
Set a date to make gingerbread houses with the nieces.
Go to the nursing home and visit my aunt.

Make your Thanksgiving list. Or plagiarize mine. Just promise to be thankful in your own way.

(picture from www.cocokelley.blogspot.com)



A long line of cars with their lights on passed as I waited to join the funeral precession. The funeral was that of a 22 year old, son of an old family friend. I absolutely cannot fathom a funeral, much less the death of my very own 23 year old son. How is anyone ever ready for such a time? Be it 23 or 83, death is still beyond shocking.

The "church/chapel" was packed past capacity. I found a chair in the adjacent office area and sat texting my eldest, states away, asking him about music should I have to plan a service for him. I truly wasn't being morbid, just in the throes of a slight panic attack. Feelings of thanks consumed me and I realized yet again you never know when something unspeakable will happen. We texted away, me keeping the conversation going so I could breathe. I suggested a couple songs to which he told me a resounding NO.

Week after next will be rough for the Golman family. I've been blue because recently I learned all my brood won't be with me Thanksgiving Day. After seeing the grieving Mother, I have resolved to lift my chin and be thankful my children are at least somewhere for the day. And I shall call that Mother's name each and every time thoughts of unfairness pop up .

I'm proving my thankfulness for life, health and wealth by giving back this season. My mind replays stories told by my cousin Doretha of how thankful she was for the Ronald McDonald House they stayed in while her son was in the hospital. Each time you go to McDonald's, inside or the drive-thru, give. $1, $5,  even $100 will benefit those in need. Lodgings and food for families with loved ones in the hospital is what Ronald McDonald House is about. I saw my first Salvation Army bell ringer last weekend. In this age of debit cards, I have resolved to keep cash just to put in the red pots.  It's a grand cause. 

Always, always add something to your total at McDonalds for the Ronald McDonald House. Never pass the bell ringer without making a deposit in the red pot. Lastly, teach your children to give and explain where it's going. Have them give something of their very own. Now is the time to clear out since much will be coming in. You'd never believe those at the thrift stores scavenging for toys for gifts for their children. Never throw away, always donate it. 

Needs are incredibly easy to find. Just ask. It's Thanksgiving. Give thanks, then just plain give.


I want...want...want...


Ask me if I want this headboard...and my Boo jumping on my bed again...


And this sofa with my Tay-Tay same height as this wee one...Will continue to look for furnishings that remind me of Tyler...=)


Event Planning-My Forte...

Waking up to the sound of bubbling water, birds chirping and a deer looking at me from the wall above the bed was lovely and disconcerting at the same time. I don't think I've ever slept in a room with a deer head. I immediately opened the blinds for a view of the lake. Serene calmness seemed to invade me though I knew my day was chock full. I was the event coordinator for a "leadership retreat" sponsored by the Developmental Partnership of our City. The retreat is being held in my client's dining hall. Last evening, late hours were required so I stayed over in the adjacent "Camp" house.

With my ipod set to "Jazz" genre, we started the day with Triple Berry Muffins, Fresh Fruit and Sparkling Orange Juice with Pomegranate. Lunch was Spring Greens with Crunch, Penne with Veggies and Alfredo Sauce, Grilled Poultry with Caribbean Jerk Seasoning and Peach Walnut Crisp. At break time there were warm Chocolate Chip Cookies and Brownies with Walnuts. I sat the tables with a variety of gourds, white and natural pumpkins, Indian Corn and loose deer antlers. The retreat ended with grilled burgers and chips.

Interior Design thrills me, but with wisdom I find event planning is a true love. Not the catering, I would get the hives were I required to cook for 500. It's the planning and implementing I love. Food choices, the actual set up, tablescapes, and music decisions all make me smile.

It has rained all day so we propped the back doors open. The air smells clean and cool and since the rain abated I'd like to paddle to the middle of the lake across the way. Tall necked ducks are quacking loudly outside the back door and I have the urge to chase them. I shall suppress it since I really enjoy working for MCDP.

It's grand to do something you love, especially if it's work related. In this season of thanks, I want to reflect on my abundant blessings. Jesus, if you read my blog please know I'm entirely grateful for allowing me the pleasure of doing what I love AND getting paid for it.


Having Trouble Breathing...All Weekend

My weekend has been chock full of emotions, most of them precious, some overwhelming. Eventful doesn’t begin to explain it. I have 4 blogs rolling around in my head and am completely unsure of where to even begin. I think I’ll do an overview and in-depth ones can follow. Spending the night with friends, attending a heart rending funeral and falling in love all over again with extended family all in one weekend will do you in.

Friday was rushed. I seemed to be behind from the moment my toes touched the floor (in reality, from the first early ring on my cell). I was due to dinner/sleepover with dear friends in Laurel at 6 p.m. and the entire day seemed to work against me. But when I arrived, (sorry to admit it, yes I was 30 minutes late) each obstacle of the day faded away. Royal treatment tends to mellow the drama of a rough day. We dined sumptuously on spring greens with raspberry vinaigrette, garlic mashed potatoes, french style white and green beans and bacon wrapped filets. Finer hosts are rare. My friends live on a working horse “ranch”. The next morning I was introduced to 2 new babies. Diva and Cobalt took my breath away. George, their fine feathered rooster showed up after Katrina and never left. And Tom was found up a tree at around 6 weeks old. He is beautiful, kind, midnight black with a white face, now rotund and sleeps with George in the hay, together I might add. Oak Crest Farms is a zen place for me.

There is a peacefulness at watching horses graze. When let out of the barn that morning, Cobalt followed his mother across the pasture to the shade tree. Diva pranced around and returned repeatedly to the fence to be petted. Jack, their terrier followed our every footstep, well as far as he can. Jack wears a collar where an invisible fence keeps him in. The batteries are now run down but he simply will not cross the line. How well he remembers the first time. I’m told you would have thought he’d been shot he howled so loudly.

Thank you Ben and Ron for your true hospitality. Of the 5 bosom friends I’m told I’ll have over the course of my life, you are part of that lump.

In the “most beautiful days of the year”, this day ranked extremely high. Crisp, clear and sunny are just a smidgen of adjectives that describe. My drive to the coast was soothing. Sunroof opened, James Taylor’s recent Christmas album blared.

Actually, I was headed to work. My cousin David has a new house and asked for help placing new artwork. He booked the day with me with no way of knowing I’d have to be there that very weekend. His new place is 3 blocks from the beach, definitely a perfect bicycle jaunt. Our plans included making his home great, then dinner.

His bungalow is long and narrow, almost in shotgun style. There is a deck running the entire length beach side with mood lighting on the posts. That makes for perfect entertaining. David is a collector of old, fine things. And it’s easy placing great stuff. There is a sailboat that is 4 ft. or more in height. Propped on the mantle in the same room is the captain’s helm from a bygone ship. The dining area, not a formal dining room, has a grand collection of wines and 2 sassy redheads in oil paintings. We worked for several hours and smiling was entirely easy around dusk. It really all came together wonderfully, and I must say the transformation was startling.

The fact that I have lodging that close to the beach is thrilling. And I’m taking my bicycle. Yes, the one with the basket on the front. The place of my birth is less than a mile from his home and I feel a deep seated connection to this city.

Our day ended with great conversation and seafood. A young lady that grew up beside me, and is also David’s cousin, is his backdoor neighbor. Marissa and her husband Zach joined us for dinner. Bonefish, a new fine dining establishment, was the perfect setting. Less than an hour into our conversation, Zach and I discovered a commonality. He’s a contractor and he began telling me of some unusual work he’d been commissioned to do by a client. The phrase “it’s a small world” doesn’t come close to this. The people he’s working for are dear friends of mine from long ago. I worked for them for years and one of the ladies graduated with me. Needless to say, conversation flowed freely for some time.

Hostessing is an art. The book “Home” by Pottery Barn has an entire section on “guests” if inspiration is needed. I spent a relaxing late evening with yet another cousin, Anita, David’s sister. With candles burning, and a large bowl of popcorn, we caught up on Grey’s. Her daughter graciously gave up her bed for me and it’s truly the little things that count. The bath was outfitted nicely and obviously waiting on a guest. Anita waited on me hand and foot though I protested. She has a lovely home and is the most unselfish person I know. She is another blog entirely.

I’m not sure I even turned over during the night. I went to sleep with the knowledge I would dine at my favorite breakfast haunt in Ocean Springs. How much more can you ask for as a guest?

Robert Heyward King by "little james"

Purposely, I’ve not alluded to my reason for needing to be on the coast. A grand, great uncle passed and the funeral was at 2 p.m. When I walked in the door, my breath literally caught in my throat. There was an oil on canvas displayed of Robert Heyward King a.k.a. “Uncle Bobby”. A rendering of a face has never been so moving nor so perfect. It’s human nature to study a portrait and in my humble way, I usually have thoughts of which eyebrow would be lowered or if the nose is a bit off kilter. I could hear Uncle Bobby speaking as I looked at this oil. His spirit is definitely alive in the portrait. I began to inquire immediately. His grandson, “Little James” as this grown man is known, was the artist. I’m proud to announce he is also my cousin. (I know, I know, I have more cousins that Carter has liver pills.) Uncle Bobby owned a construction business for untold years, as well as worked for several prominent companies. He was an instructor at Jackson County Junior College and also Biloxi High School. Oh how he loved to tease. Every picture my mind conjures up is of him holding a coffee cup with an ever present twinkle in his eyes.

Reconnecting with family is such a precious thing. I’m not fond of the reason, death is always emotional, but all the hugs and kisses are absolutely soothing to the soul. My grandmother, grandfather, Dad, Mother, aunt and uncle were all missing. My grandmother would have been collecting her a stack of the funeral programs, bumping into chairs while moving around on her ‘wheels”. Daddy would have been laughing with all the uncles, enjoying the jokes as well as telling them. And all the while Aunt Deta would have been taking pictures, documenting the occasion. Pawpaw would have sit quietly on the sidelines, ever observant. My thought processing on what my Mother would be doing is vague. It hurts to realize she’s been gone so long that I have trouble placing her in a huge family setting. I do know she would have been laughing.

I promised the aunt’s Christmas cards, as I’m always reminded to do. I conversed with long lost cousin Ernest Lee and was told a story of his worst whippin’ ever that my Mother caused. Another cousin, Candy (who is grand daughter to Uncle Bobby), added fuel to my blogging fire. You never know who’s reading.

My day started early at Bayview Gourmet in Ocean Springs. I left with a box full of gargantuan muffins, 2 of which did not make it home. While crossing the bridge I texted Steve (yet another sibling to David and Anita) to say seeing the water made me think of him. He insisted I come over and I left there with a cutting of bamboo and an avocado tree. I love visits that produce presents! (Read previous blog “I’m Officially A Redneck” for more on this cousin.) And yes, David, Steve and Anita have one more sibling, Amanda who is on “adventure” living in North Carolina. I also visited her last month. I have an affinity with this band of cousins wouldn’t ya’ say? All you other bands of cousins don’t get your panties in a wad. I’m affinitied to ya’ll too.

As weekends go, this one was fulfilling. Vacillating from sheer joy to deep sadness, these 3 days were the epitome of that famous quote. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

I definitely had trouble breathing for the last 3 days.


Your Trash...My Treasure


The lamps that look to be McCoy Pottery (but have no markings) were $4.00 each. The statue, a cool $8.00. I hit paydirt at the fleamarket. I reworked my mantle to accomodate the treasures. WOW. I love it. Today was a "fraid I'm gonna miss something so look at every single booth" day. I scoured that place and came home grinning.

Just wanted to share the joy.




Every time I pass this building, my heart speeds up. The owner allowed me a walk through and you could audibly hear my brain clicking. In "my" perfect world, there is a design shoppe on the bottom floor and I live upstairs. The corner entrance would boast a carved wooden sign stating the name "Swanky" with "interior/event" just below. I laugh at myself, but I just can't get away from that name. I love the idea of answering the phone, "Swanky, may I help you?". Large square copper pots with ball topiaries in them flank the front door in my vision. A chalkboard on the sidewalk with a daily quote would be a must. Brightly lit window displays would be impossible to pass without stopping to peruse. Accessories, custom furnishings, a few antiques, even some consignment pieces would make any heart rush upon entrance.

The building is the original Citizen's Bank. There is a beautiful conference room upstairs with mahogany walls that I envision as a dining room. I can see the sparkling chandelier. I'd love having lamps lit at dusk in those front windows with the view of the courthouse. The ceilings are high and the windows tall. My prized art would showcase perfectly.

What's that quote about dreams? "Dreams are necessary to life."~ Anais Nin

What I fail to mention here is I'd have to find me a billionaire to accomplish all this. Feel free to make introductions.



Thank you, Mark...

You have possibly given me the gift of the century.

While attending an incredibly beautiful wedding in Saint Francisville, Louisiana on Saturday (blog forthcoming), my friend Mark says" I looked back, saw tears, and I told them, we'll get a blog from this!"

Sometimes I feel as if I am talking to the wall when posting. Other times, it's for my sanity. Then the time comes when I seriously want to know I'm making a difference. Saturday was validation that warmed my soul. Mark told me of sitting at his desk wiping a tear from one of my posts. He relayed to me how the subject of one blog had given him the boldness to respond to something negative that happened in his life.

I, being human like you, crave knowing that ever so often something said speaks to you. Feel free to comment or email. And if you haven't, subscribe. You'll receive an email notifying you of new posts. I am honored to have your readership.

Mark, my swelled head is your fault. But please, all of you, do share my blog web address with 10 people today.

You'll receive a $1000 shopping spree at Target just for sharing! hehe...


It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year


This is the way I begin the season, I watch Miracle on 34th Street (the modern one). My mind is reeling with the fact that it is NOVEMBER people! I felt those sweet "wow, it will soon be Thanksgiving and Christmas" pangs earlier this week. I have begun my shopping, picking up a few things here and there. I keep a detailed list in my phone and purchased gifts go under the recipient's name with an X. I also immediately list the "perfect thing" the moment it pops in my mind. So many times we have an epiphany of just THE thing, and the moment slips away. List it!

Today the ipod gets set on Genre "holiday", I'm boiling cinnamon, orange and cloves on the stove (a tradition that my Tay loves), and I'm going to reflect on making this year one to remember. Yes, it's a rough time for me since my business reels out of control. Yes, my boys both live out of state and I'll crave their presence. Yes, my days are longest and my stress level peaks. But my reaction to things basically out of my control is what governs my happiness.

I am giving myself the gift of blocking off some hours. I will spend quality time with my Tay. I will wrap gifts in a timely fashion. I will mail Christmas cards by December 10th. I will invite bosom friends over to dine. I will blog.

Beginning today, make some lists. What holiday requirement stresses you the most? Is it wrapping? Gift buying? Grocery shopping? Decorating? Baking? Christmas card? Start now to relieve the stress. Wrap as you buy. Pick up some of the holiday groceries each time you go. Set a date to decorate. Update your card list now and address 5 envelopes daily (if doing custom, get the envelopes in advance). I highly recommend being fully decorated before Thanksgiving. You can still set an incredible autumnal table along with your Christmas decor in place. It makes you no less thankful because the tree is up.

Do things now to make December a time of sipping cocoa by the tree. It's up to you.


Baby, That's HOT pink


I lovelovelove this room, although I simply couldn't wake up daily to that color. I'm afraid it would cause me to catapult out of bed! I have been inspired for some time to do something like this art wise on my dining room walls. My wall color is a lovely chocolate, conducive to interesting conversation.

There are only 3 walls in the room, one with a door and 2 with oversized windows. The other is a large passageway to the living room. I am going to mirror the focus wall that faces the living room (I was lucky enough to procure 3 large sheets of mirror being disposed of). The other windowed wall is going to get the "multiple, multi-sized art" treatment.

I shall post pictures...(don't hold your breath as to when, it's overload season for me beginning tomorrow=).

(Photo from www.hiddeninfrance.typepad.com.)


The Battleship in Mobile, Alabama

I agree. That is the most beautiful portrayal of the battleship I have ever seen. I am off to meet a client in Mobile today, and the first thought process I had was of the battleship. My memories are in no way reflected in the above romantic picture. I remember crying and begging Daddy to get us out of there! The tour takes you deep into the belly of the ship and as a child, I was sure I walked 42 miles! I vividly remember the bunk beds and how they were stacked so closely together. Everything was painted shiney steel gray.

I don't plan to visit the ship today (actually never again=), but you owe it to yourself and children to at least once walk the 42 miles. Six months at sea on that monster? Makes me deeply appreciate the Navy.

I prefer a sailboat please...



This is exactly where my heart is today, on the water in sleek teak-decked sailboat. Oh, and while I'm fantasizing I may as well admit I parked my little convertible (pictured below) at the dock before boarding my boat. We're dropping anchor in a small cove at Horn Island and Wentworth (he's my imaginary chef) has prepared grilled salmon to top our salads. The centerpiece on the table is a large hurricane with a 3 wick white candle. (The back deck has a removable table. Perfect place for dining in the sunshine.) All white linens and a smattering of sea shells complete the setting. I think I'll ask him to set my ipod to play Jamie Cullum.

We'll be back to dock just after sunset, all windblown and with pink noses.

Oh man, I forgot about Wednesday night ensemble rehearsal at 5.30. Sheesh, guess I'll have to wait till another day...


Craving vs. Wanderlust


My home, which I refer to as "Never Finished" is what we call here in the South, a "Katrina" house. I purchased it in sad repair. Three trees in all went through the roof of the house and garage. A blue roof was not even put on. The garage had the most damage, but when I walked up, visions of parties floated in my head. The garage is deep, two cars can park one behind the other comfortably, as well as beside each other. In other words, four vehicles in all can fit. All that AND a storage room the entire width across the back. I envisioned linen clad tables with sparkly chandeliers dropped over them and easy jazz piped in. The garage literally sold me before I sat foot in the house. But there the vision did not end.

A small convertible could be housed perfectly during the "too hot" and "too cold" months. Finding the right one is a challenge, literally. If I could curb some of the wanderlust, it just may be possible. Some far reaching place on the globe always beckons, and the vision is bumped further away. At some point the craving for a convertible will overcome the wanderlust, and I'll be setting pretty. Well, a convertible will be setting pretty in my remodeled garage. Preferably one EXACTLY like the photo I found at www.cocokelley.blogspot.com.

I won't even mind taking down the hammock to park it.

You Need One...

Mario Batali Griddle/Pizza Pan

Oh the joy of finding gift cards you'd forgotten about. I carefully put them away so I wouldn't lose them, therefore never saw them again for 8 months. Have you ever experienced the sheer joy of a Christmas gift in August?

The Kitchen Table, an exquisite gourmet kitchen store in Hattiesburg, makes my guts smile. (Yes, I am aware I use that phrase too often!) My daughter and sister-in-law both did extremely well by "gifting" me with cards to this lovely establishment. I love making pancakes. I love preparing breakfast for overnight guests 'cause I get to show off my griddle. The newest addition to my kitchen is the Mario Batali "Persimmon" Griddle/Pizza Pan. My, my the joy. One of my favorite movie segments is Diana Keaton making breakfast for Jack Nicholas in "Something's Gotta Give". This after a first failed attempt at pancakes.

You need one...I highly suggest "persimmon". Ahhhh, anyone with the creativity to use that for a color name is someone I love. It also serves as a perfect cookie sheet and makes for delectable homemade pizza. Go on...spend some time in The Kitchen Table or purchase it here.

Shirley Bourn Dunaway

"Aunt Edie Noodles"

There are those that deeply affect your life without much fanfare. This doesn’t discount those that are obvious or in the limelight, just realization of the importance of the quieter ones comes with wisdom.

While recounting things that come to mind when I think of my Dad’s only living sister, first thing that pops up is that she made my wedding dress. I remember being completely lost when it came time to get married. My Mother had been gone for some 4 years and along with my engagement came yet another form and stage of grief. Cognizance of that fact simply alluded me. Yet she was a constant. She purchased the fabric, notions, and trimmings, then spent countless hours creating it.

I fondly remember the harmony of she and her sister singing “The River Of Jordan”.

She admonished me to eat the crust on the bread. I was mortified each and every time she’d announce “It’ll make your “dinners” grow!”. I’ll let you figure that one out.=) She brought her shower gifts to each function in the bag they were purchased in, just added a bow to the bag. Then proudly proclaimed we’d know which gift was from her.

Repeatedly I’d call needing work, and her reply was always, “What time can you be here tomorrow?” Off to the coast I’d head after dropping off whichever ones were school age. A finer seamstress/drapery workroom you’ll never find. My first pan of dressing was made while on the phone with her. I use her recipe for muffins and salmon cakes.

For years, each and every time I left her house she’d “plant” a can of “coffee” in my vehicle. She’d be sure to whisper and tell me where she hid it before I left. Many a loaf of bread, school pictures, $5.00 worth of gas (1/2 tank years ago), school lunch money, and gallons of milk were purchased with change from the coffee can. She’d always ask if I was out of “coffee”.

Every Christmas Eve has been spent in her home for as long as I can remember. She makes a gargantuan pot of Chicken Noodle Soup with her infamous shell noodles. To this very day my kids refer to them as "Aunt Edie Noodles". That pot alone would literally feed Cox’s Army. We absolutely crack up each and every year at the candle on her bar. It’s shaped into 4 vertical numbers-2000. Every year she corrects the last 0 with a black marker to the appropriate year/date. It’s the tackiest, yet funniest thing ever. She has a pair of Christmas mice that are collectibles. They’re about 8” tall, in full Christmas dress and my eye searches the room for them yearly. She tells the story of getting them as a gift from a downtown bank long ago. We sing, laugh, reacquaint, and celebrate the holiday as it should be done, family style.

My grandparents spent the last couple of years of their lives in her home. Her sacrifice was great. This on the heels of losing her sister, and not so long after burying 2 of her brothers.

I can never write enough words to express my genuine love and admiration for this incredibly special lady.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Edie. My life would be less without you.



(Simply could not resist..spotted on fav blog cocokelley...my fantasy yard work attire=)

I’m going to ramble, please allow me. In Advance class (basically Sunday School) our very able teacher has been admonishing us to journal. All the while I was thinking, hhmmm, that’s called “blogging” for me. We were instructed to write things down that we struggle with. Though blogging is my “journal” this is not the place because it’s too public. (If only you were privy to my anonymous blog. I have not blogged in several days and if rambling is my way of getting back in the groove then ramble I will.

Today, I’m punch drunk happy with myself (only after being desperately disgusted with said person around 5 yesterday evening). A bit after 7 this crisp morning, I was digging in the dirt with a scarf around my neck. The dark maroon mums are the perfect addition to the bed beside my drive. The wind was blowing and if a feeling can be described as beautiful, I have experienced it this very day. This punch drunk love of myself would have been more appropriate yesterday BEFORE the 40 guests arrived=). Some things just have to be moved to the back burner.

A previous blog alluded to the fact that Gustav (the hurricane) caused me considerable stress on the homefront. Not from damage, but from preparations. Makes no sense, I know. My house has been in basic order (well, to a level that my psycho tendencies recede, hush Tayler) but the outside literally gave me the hives when I drove up. We live outside, weather permitting, as much as inside=). And all my outdoor furnishings were STILL “secured for high winds” under the carport. I’m sure anyone passing was sure I was going into the scrap metal business. (I’m exaggerating here for chuckles, I do not live like a redneck.)

SOLO, my single adult class came to my home last evening and nothing is better for your home than entertaining. Whatever gene it is that God distributes causing a love of entertaining, I have two. I must tell you that after the initial disgust from around 5, by 6 the “punch drunk” began. The weather was perfect. The firepits glowed. The candles were luminous. The food was exquisite. The music was soothing. The company, my exact choice, though also my ministry. The two days of rigorous labor paid off, and they could have cared less that I had to hide the mums I didn’t get planted. I only know that the lesson Clayton taught was for more than one visitor there. Three of the attendees have never walked in the door of Woodlawn. They will now.

After class yesterday then the lesson last night, I have made a commitment to myself to desperately try to blog more often. It thrills me so to be asked “Has the ink ran out of your pen?” as was the case Saturday. With all things in life, there is ebb and flow. My blogging has been “ebbing”. I have purposed to try to post at least once every couple days. The posts may be short, but it will be something dealing with a life issue or just giving you insight into my day. A surefire way of killing your blog following is to rarely post. Lord help me to breathe life into them again=).

(Subscribe at the top right of the blog and see if I can keep you breathing=).


Pasta on the Pearl

It had to be different. My friend's birthday dinner was cause for celebration. I wanted an unusual location to set a fabulous table and after scouting around I found the perfect spot. There are a couple of new deck style viewing spots on the Pearl River. I cooked a pot of pasta, heated garlic french bread and ordered a cake. I packed up candles and table needs. The results were astounding.

I told Mary, the birthday girl, that my daughter would pick her up and our place of dining was a surprise. She arrived just before dark to candles illuminating the deck that overlooked the mighty Pearl River. My ipod played Dean Martin and we dined sumptuously. It was a perfect eveninig. And a perfect birthday for my dear friend.

Happy Birthday Mary...


Miss Hope

“Buh-taw-fwy!! Buh-taw-fwy!!” she hollered as she ran in circles chasing a bright yellow butterfly. Hope Baggett is an inquisitive 2 1/2 year old who is incredibly strong, self willed and takes me back some 18 years to another time and place. Spending the last 2 days with she and her brothers transported me to when I chased a 2 year old girl along with her 2 brothers, a 6 year old and a newborn. Hope works at keeping her brothers in line, one older, one younger, just as my Tayler did.

Her favorite outfit is a darling little hot pink sweater skirt with lots of color added. The bold sweater that matches goes on usually without a shirt and this is the outfit for every day of her life. (Of course her precious Mother makes her change for the outside world.=) It's too small, but somehow it the most important thing she owns. We played in the backyard for a bit and she found a black beetle-looking bug that I would have shrieked in terror over touching. She worked diligently to keep him crawling on her arm though he repeatedly fell off. In the end he was half smashed but she'd put him right back.

She looked intently into my eyes and said "I wike you hair."

"Lest we become as children..." This week I plan on chasing some butterflies, giving sincere compliments, wearing something just for comfort, and searching for the interesting (NOT a black beetle bug!) then using all my patience to enjoy it.

Join me?


My New Toy...


My new toy...I sincerely wish I were a year round coffee drinker, but it ain't happenin'. Come Fall, it's on. Keurig is a single serving machine that makes coffee, cocoa, or hot tea. 200 varieties are available in the K-cup, their mode of single serving. It's perfect for a household that wouldn't go through a pot or loves cocoa and hot tea as much as coffee.

Come by...we'll have a cup...=)

Email Subscription

I am learning new things each and every day. I have added an email subscription box top right in my blogspace. You may now be alerted by email that a new blog is available for you to peruse.

Go ahead, make my day.=)


I'm Officially A Redneck

I'm desperately in love. He's tall, blonde, tanned and has a tatoo of a bird on his right shoulder. (I detest admitting I've always had a thing for blondes with all the hoop-la surrounding females in this category.) There's a tad of grey beginning to show in his temples (though he's slightly younger) and he wears Sperry topsiders with panache.

He picked me up at the dock a bit after noon and we went to Horn Island, some 8 miles out. Skimming across the water at 50 mph is exhilarating and the sight of dolphins struck me dumb. As of this week, I have added yet another requirement to my list of "possibles". He must now own a boat.=) His boat, a 20 some-odd-foot center console "Open Fisherman", is perfect for a day on the water. The sky was absolutely endless and I'd forgotten that I love the smell of salt water. We walked on Horn Island for a couple hours and he named numerous birds. Rare is the man who knows what bird is which. We saw a couple of 20 pound stingrays that were waiting for high tide. Ghost crabs, white quick running critters were fun to catch sight of. I learned how to spot where the schools of mullet were and picked up a bucket full of large, perfect seashells and a couple dozen sand dollars.

(blue crab by Walter Anderson)

The infamous artistic recluse Walter Anderson lived on Horn Island for years. He'd row the 8 miles out with supplies and a fishing pole, then simply not leave. While perusing pelicans, great blue herons, reddish egrets, ruddy turnstones, and American oyster catchers, I felt I understood Walter's love of the island. Lore says he survived hurricanes by tying himself to the top of pine trees. Horn stretches 18 miles east to west and marks the boundary between the Mississippi Sound and The Gulf of Mexico. It was named one of the Best Preserved Wilderness' in the country last year. The south side of the island has a large cove and during the summer I hear it's quite popular, Australian style sunbathing being de rigueur. Park rangers live on the island year round for the sole purpose of preserving it's beauty. During nesting seasons, they flag the nests and certain areas are off limits to humans.

(bittern by Walter Anderson)

If there ever was a perfect day, my day on the water was. I wrote in my journal, looked at magazines and soaked up the sun while he fished. A 22 pound redfish is huge let me tell ya! Large, sleek sailboats glided by and he mentioned that when he retires he wants to sail around the world. (That's been on my list of 50 Things To Do Before I Die for umpteen years!) And yes, I agreed to accompany him. We returned to the dock just after the sun slipped beyond the horizon and the lights of the new Ocean Springs bridge sprang to life. I couldn't resist walking the bridge from the east to the it's highest point to view Biloxi from a nice perch. The walking track spanning the 2.6 mile bridge is unbelievably popular with joggers, walkers, cyclists, and the likes of me, the curious. My dear friends built that bridge post Katrina and I texted them while walking to tell them how lovely it was. I'm proud to be their acquaintance. The evening finished with blackened redfish at Al Fresco in quaint Ocean Springs. Dining outdoors with the sounds of a large fountain was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

I have weighed the pros and cons of my time with this extraordinary man. He's kind, intelligent, a font of information and a perfect host. After all, I do live in Mississippi and the world at large expects it. Why can't I prove them right?

I'll just go ahead and marry my first cousin. (For those of you with your eyebrows disappeared into your hairline, I'm joking. Anyway, he's already married to a lovely lady with whom I can't compete.=)

Steve, thanks for a day that's emblazoned on my mind forever. Oh, and thanks to TJ also.


Gustav Did It

I really tried. I simply do not need to blog when in this state of mind but it ain't happening. When I get this out of whack, words just flow.

For starters, Gustav is to blame. Then Ike. Then going to Europe really messed me up. Came home to work backed up and my boys came in the next day, one evacuating, the other because we were all home together for the first time in months. Less than a week later I went to staff retreat for 3 days. While gone, Tay calls to tell me she is painting her former room which was the guest room/storage. (2 closets and an armoire in the room made for a good place to stash stuff.)

Gustav was supposed to get us, but we barely got a gust. I did as was suggested and cleared my yard. I love outdoor dining, etc. so MULTIPLE things had to be secured. I have a pile of iron furniture, yard art, bottles from bottletrees, cushions, etc. still under my carport. Please believe me when I say there has not been a single day to deal with it. Everytime I drive up, I cringe.

Simply put, I'm out of kelter. Like whacked out of kelter. The carport being piled was the descent into white trash living. I left for Europe with Ike out there somewhere. I returned with evacuees arriving less than 12 hours later and me hung over with extreme jetlag. I then had houseguests for a week and had to leave again for retreat. Then the call asking me where she should put all of my "stuff" out of those closets in her room. Tay is absolutely not to blame. Life is. But now along with the piles on my carport, I have many piles elsewhere. The closets and armoire in that room contained design junk for weddings, all my pictures, my table linens (and I could easily "cloth" the White House) artwork not being used, floral, games, vases...you get the picture. Tay kindly stacked the floral junk, artwork, etc. in my room, all linens in the foyer, the games on the breakfast table, moved the armoire to the middle of the media room till I can decide where to put it, quilts and blankets in sunroom, etc.

It's all still sitting there. I simply don't have the energy nor the time to deal with it all. And energy it's going to take. I have to figure out where it's going. By most standards I am a packrat, alibeit an organized one. I use the stuff for church functions and events. It's my work, and I simply have to have it.

Since my nest emptied a few months back (thrilled that Tay is back home though), I've become accustomed to the fact that the only messes made were by me. Things have stayed pretty much in place. Do you believe me when I say that my carport and these intrepid piles are making me crazy as a sprayed roach???

To top it off, there was a lovely little gift bag hanging on my back door knob this evening. It was from my bosom friend Fran who just returned from France. I was mortified knowing she walked under the carport that looks like a redneck is collecting iron to sell for scrap. I must admit that when things are running in this vein, I digress. I think I know how the reformed feel when they have fallen off the wagon. Once I fall, it's hard to stop. I literally put 2 bags of garbage at foot of my steps with thoughts of "What are 2 bags gonna hurt? The rest of the carport is in a heap!" Fran had to step around garbage to deliver my oh so precious gift, a fountain pen. I'm fully convinced I'll never redeem myself.

Have I mentioned what the inside of my car looks like when I'm doing the "white trash redneck" living? Saints preserve us, I'm simply too mortified to share.

Tonight, in the dark I might add, I put the bags in cans and took them to the road. I put the bottles back on my front bottletree. I replaced a burned bulb in my landscape lighting. I picked up pinecones from the yard and drive. I cleaned out my car (those few words encompassed a whole lot). I shall start replacing outdoor furniture to it's rightful place tomorrow. Then Saturday I will deal with the inside piles. I feel better just having stated my intentions.

I am now on the road to recovery.


$50 Worth of Free Advice for Reading This Blog

"I hope you don't mind me asking. I'm just so confused! I have no idea where to start and if you'd just answer me this ONE question, it will help me soooo much." Whether at a funeral, in the elevator, or my favorite hangout Dirt Cheap, I'm accosted. I say that lightly because I truly don't mind. It's an honor to be thought highly of. I smile and begin guessing which question will come first. "I'm redoing my...bedroom...living room...kitchen...(you fill in the blank) and I just don't know where to begin!" This is all said with a pleading look of pained anguish.

This is for those who have design questions, and have no idea who to ask. I always suggest starting with something you absolutely love. It can be a throw pillow, a piece of artwork, grandmother's desk, even a rug. A place to start is all it takes to build a room. From the one item you can't live without, there are clues of where to begin. If it's a piece of furniture, study the style, a pillow, choose colors from it. Just start with one item and run.

Get a notebook that has pockets along with the paper. A binder is good because you can add the clear pocket type sheets. Tear pages that speak to you from magazines. Get at least 10 pictures of rooms that you love. There will be a recurring theme. It may be a light colored sofa, or dark hardwood floors. The recurring "thing" is what you love. In this book, carry an index card with your paint color attached. If you have the rug, collect multiple paint chips in the main colors, lay them on the rug, choose the closest 3 or 4 and staple those to an index card. You will always have your rug with you. Keep a sliver of your drapery or bedding fabric with you. Not only will this book be invaluable now, in years to come you will smile at your handiwork. Don't forget measurements of any and everything in the room. Those will be needed at the oddest of times and having them at your fingertips is priceless.

inspiring room books

Never Too Many Books via {this is glamorous}

Think outside the box. Paint your ceiling a darker shade or even the color of the sky. Buy an old chandelier and spray paint it. (Spray paint has a high sticking and drying agent. Spray it!) Replace dresser knobs with crystal ones. Have a chair(s) recovered. Always have something seasonal visible. "Too many books" are not words in my vocabulary. Candles, need I say more? Ok. Enough.

Your home is a reflection of you. Make sure you smile and feel happy when you walk in. This will be conveyed to your guests. (That's another blog.=)

Ahhhh, a well dressed home-don't you just love life?


Even A Mullet Requires Etiquette

It's simply NOT asking too much. I do not expect the world to quote Peggy Posts Etiquette verbatim. I just want people to have good manners, especially at the table. And good manners require a modicom of knowledge on proper etiquette.

In every person's life there comes a time when table manners will be needed. I don't care if your father sports a mullet or you were born a governor's child, table etiquette will be required. Etiquette, being nothing more than good manners, is something everyone should know the rules on. I hate using the words "rules" but for lack of better word, there you have it.

I sat down recently with a group of whom all should know the basics of dining etiquette. I was amazed at how many did not even place their cloth napkin in their lap. The issue here is not so much those who don't know what to do. The problem comes in when others at the table are aware of the proper ways of doing things. I'm not suggesting a bunch of stuffy people not enjoying themselves. I am suggesting knowing the basics for that time in life when it's required. I can hear the soothsayers now. But they are wrong. A job interview, an awards banquet, meeting the new in-laws, dinner after the baby christening, whatever the case, the day will come.

The rules are simple. (Please allow me to list some basics.)

1. Place your napkin in your lap upon being seated.
2. When asked to pass the salt, always pass both salt and pepper.
3. When eating soup, dip the soup away from you so as to not appear you are shoveling.
4. If you leave the table at any point during the meal, place your napkin in your seat. When you are finished, place it on your plate.
5. If something is not to your liking, just don't eat it. The rest of the table does not want to hear your diatribe on what's awful.
6. If you get a bite of something unsavory or possibly gristle, use your napkin to remove it from your mouth. Continue use of napkin with it folded containing the offensive item.
7. Do not lay dirty silverware back on the table. Place it on your plate.
8. When in doubt, watch for cues from others. Always start with outer utensils. For instance, salad fork is usually farthest out, salad usually first course.

Parents are absolutely responsible for their children's manners at the table. No, not perfection at each meal, each day. Just exposure to a degree of fine dining. A retired, very wise principal at the local elementary school rewarded students who received good citizenship. She invited them to her offices for lunch. The tables were set with tablecloths and cloth napkins and classical music was piped in. The children were so impressed with Ms. Gayle's "fancy" lunch and repeatedly raved.

I highly suggest that each child headed into their teens should own a copy of Tiffany's Table Manners for Teens . The book gives illustrations each young child understands and finds humorous. Set a proper table for celebrations such as birthdays or holidays and gently coax them. It's very easy to whisper "Don't forget your napkin goes in your lap." Each and every young person, boys and girls alike should have full knowledge of a properly set table. You will be doing your child a huge favor.

I love a casual, comfortable meal as much as the next person. In most settings, proper table etiquette is not at the forefront. It's just when I get in a setting that they are of utmost importance that the lack of is obvious. I am not supporting stiff, formal dining in any fashion (though there is a place for that in some worlds). I only want good manners at the table.

Sit down. Put your napkin in your lap. Smile. Bon Appetit.




I enjoy adventure and firsts are usually exciting. Today my first was disconcerting and deeply sad. I attended a double funeral, that of father and son. On a happy mission last Saturday, they were en route to pick up a bicycle for a birthday celebration of granddaughter/daughter respectively. A tragic accident claimed the lives of both.

How does the human psyche cope with such loss? How does a mother continue on with the celebration of birth when consumed with grief? The happy mission now holds untold grief and sorrow. I wonder if the child will ever want a bicycle again. I hope the great joys I experienced as a child on a bike can still be had by this little girl.

Life is short. Life is unfair. Life can cause blows we never recover from. Tell those around you of your love for them. And tell those who are not so close. Take time today to let someone know they mean the world to you. Explain that your world is a brighter, happier, more fulfilled because they are in it, that you simply can't imagine life without them.

Add the names Nona, Stacey, and Laney to your prayers. Strength from a higher power will be required over the course of the coming days.

And pray that Laney can be a happy little girl on her bicycle.

Oh So Happy Fall


I'm having my first cup of hot chocolate this fall. Oh how delicious it feels outside this morning. A nip is in the air and it causes me to take a deep breath as if I'd swam the length of an Olympic pool on the bottom. I'll be able to wear my fabulous boots before too long. And that really makes my guts smile.

Being in the deep South, I'm sure to get a snicker or two from some of you. No, we don't have intense winters, but please allow us to enjoy just this "touch" of fall if you would. It will be back scorching in a few days, but for now, I'm going to twirl, breathe deeply, and think of my dear friend June who adores this time of year.

The above photos are of my son and his oh so lovely lady, Jen. The pictures were taken last year in Indiana where Fall takes my breath away. Oh to have those leaves in my southern yard. I'm headed out to make sure my pumpkins I purchased yesterday are positioned just right on my front porch. Pick up one, two, even three. Two or more out front and definitely one at the back door will cause many a smile.

Happy Fall my dear friends.


Assumptions Beget Ignorance

I'm assuming I'd never thought about it, and all the while me professing to be the world traveler. How did I miss this? Surely I've seen articles on this indescribable land. Did I ignore them, have I just been blissfully ignorant or is this amazing place a well kept secret? I get Conde Nast Traveler. I read travel blogs. Anything link related to foreign travel is sure to be clicked and quickly. Above you see my sisters and I in Bitche, France, just over the German border. No, I didn't spell it incorrectly.=)

I have just returned from a most surprising journey, a journey to Germany. A land of villages where the tallest thing is the church spire and cutting edge modern all rolled into one. My mind constantly reeled with the knowledge that my children would adore Mannheim.
The "water tower", which is a gross understatement for something so beautiful, sits in the center of this thriving city. It dates back several hundred years. You stand in front of the gorgeous architecture of this building and street/cable/subway cars glide by. A massive round fountain with some 30 plus heavy geysers shooting into the air is surrounded by bold colors in the perfectly landscaped beds. Across the street, never has a Starbucks drawn me in so acutely. It was solid glass in the fashion of a greenhouse. The sidewalks are covered with tables, big umbrellas and all have candles on them past dusk. I crack myself up when I want to type "it's all very European feeling" when my tail was sitting in Europe! Mannheim boasts all the grandest shoppes we Americans tend to flock to along with incredible furniture stores chock full of modern pieces we rarely see. My "culture vulture" was in overdrive. The train station was all steel beams and glass while on the street just outside were three story limestone buildings that were some 300 years old.
I am impressed with how seamlessly they have married the old and the new.

A driving tour of the Black Forest was breathtaking. Can you say vista after vista? I have so many stinking pictures of hills, church spires, vineyards and castles that it's absolutely insane. I finally said "No more pictures of hills or spires." Every curve was a another view. And we hadn't even gotten to the Rhein River. We drove for half a day beside the river through village after village. There are large barges, not like on the Mississippi, that are for hire. Gleaming white with a personal chef, they are the river's version of a yacht. I have designs on a cruise on that very river in my lifetime.

To say Germany is beautiful is sadly understated. I plan to live in France one day. Switzerland is surreal. I love touring Italy. But I have to say that my days tooling around the countryside of Germany now places it as the most beautiful place I've been. For lack of better wording, it was the most quaint and homey. No wonder the country housing the largest numbers of American citizens living outside the U.S. is Germany.

(View a ridiculous amount of pics at www.myspace.com/twylabournswanner )

Address Change Notification

william street medium

Moving into my new home a couple years ago brought intense joy. I bought a "Katrina" house, as the ravaged ones were often referred to, and had such fun remodeling, redoing, redesigning, etc. The same joy is coursing through me this very morning. Yet another hurricane, Ike, has benefitted me. (Please take my words lightly. I in no way wish harm to those that were in his path.) My eldest son Tyler evacuated home and it's been sheer joy. Hence the new face of my old blog. His brain never ceases to amaze me. I describe what I wanted, he came through brilliantly.

I've had this blog spot for years and migrated to myspace some time ago. I've had many requests to read my blogs by those without access to them. I feel as if I deserve a spot on the HGTV show "Old House, New House". Tyler worked his magic and I now have a silly grin each time I look at the header on my blog. My plans are to not write "short stories" as Tay calls them. I hope to post more often, and just not in such length. I feel sure I'll have trouble resisting and will have to ever so often tell "the rest of the story".

Those familiar with me know I love entertaining. You are so welcomed to visit me here at my new address, and often. This is your "address change notification". www.thebottletree.blogspot.com is my new home.

Let me get you something to drink. I have grapes frozen to float in some juice. Sit for a spell.

The First Timer In Ballroom Dancing 101

(penned August 19, 2008)
Thursday evening the first pangs began. I fought it off, busying myself with work and family. I felt the twinges again early yesterday upon learning of my friends passing. Then the message was “Learn To Dance In The Rain” and I fought off the cloud. I told Rev. G. R. Travis at the close of service that I was going to plagiarize him and he laughed. I was awed by each story he relayed. He explained that life can’t be all sunshine or we’d have no leaves on the trees, no buds nor fruit bearing. Life would be all desert and wasteland. It has to storm, things have to get wet for growth. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain” was the quote he took his subject from. His story about much revered President Ronald Reagan stuck with me. As a young man he dropped out of college and took a job with a construction company. The first day of work, it stormed so badly, all employees were dismissed before the day even got started. His girlfriend who was starting college that same day asked him to go hang out with her at the school since he was rained out. He made contact with a Coach who convinced him to start classes that very day. It’s said that President Reagan always wondered what twists and turns his life would have taken had he begun construction work instead of college classes. The storm was the deciding factor in the path his life took. Rainbows only come after the storm. While typing this very moment, even though I heard him clearly yesterday, I’m tempted to type yada-yada-yada. But I will resist.

Today has been a storm. A text message early in the day caused stress. I desperately tried to continue my friendship with the mailman, though he brought news I simply did not need. I ate a biscuit and gravy for breakfast, something I have avoided for some time now. I stopped at a clients to pick up a box and when the sweet gentleman loading it for me opened the back door of my vehicle, out tumbled the glass top to my favorite drink dispenser. Yes, it crashed and splintered into many pieces. At that point, I really wanted to ask the big man above why He’d let that get broken! After all, I was hauling the thing after using it for a church function.

I have to attend a wake this evening, then the funeral tomorrow and my heart has a large counter weight on it, as if it were attached to a crane. Memories of crushing grief in recent years feel fresh and new. The loss of my uncle, father, then aunt to the same dreaded disease haunts me. I dread looking into the eyes of my friend who tomorrow buries her Mother. An even deeper dread consumes me when I think of putting on an encouraging face. I, the one never at a loss for words, feel speechless. I lost both grandparents in the last year, and my friend also lost her grandmother recently. My friends Mother was pure sunshine. Being an only child, she will experience loneliness I can’t fathom. I had siblings during my time of loss. Yet another fact to lift my spirits. How do we as humans cope with such deep seated loss? How do we as friends express our yearning to make things easier for them all the while knowing it’s a rugged personal path she must walk?

I have purposely reflected over my life for the last couple hours. I’m blessed beyond measure. Yet, no matter how many times I say it, no matter my thought processes on the good, a dark cloud shadows me.

It’s time to dress for the wake. I’ll wear a favorite black ensemble, even put on the red patent heels for my psyche. But sometimes, you just have to bear it. No amount of cajoling, soaking in a bubble bath, pinning a big flower in my hair, sipping from a crystal stem, perusing a new hardcover on design, not even airline tickets to Sydney in my hand will cure this ill. (I’d sure like to try the airline ticket thing just to confirm it wasn’t a cure though.)

I’ve made a decision. I shall dance. I am going to twirl, pick up my feet, and make ballerina motions with my arms. I’m sure I’ll look like a first timer in Ballroom Dancing 101. Picking up my feet will be painful, but must be done. My movements will be disjointed and clearly not smooth. It will be obvious that it’s not something I want to do nor an enjoyment for this moment in time. It won’t be beautiful or right when I initially begin. The water on my face may not be all moisture from the storm, but at least I will be dancing.

I’m going to learn to dance in the rain.

The Nest Is Empty And I’m A Raving Lunatic

(penned August 9, 2008)
Disclaimer: I write this with full knowledge that one or more of my children will read it. Be aware that I will temper my words and tiptoe carefully through the tulips so as to not offend. Sometimes the truth hurts yourself more than others. None of the following words are meant to harm.

“Raising teenagers is like nailing Jello to a tree.” I read that years ago and have been quick to quote it anytime involved in conversation concerning rearing the aliens residing in your home aged 14 to 19 years of age. I’m not sure if it was just my naiveness, or if it’s a blanket thing for all parents, but I fully considered myself exempt from not understanding my children. I went through a painful divorce just as my oldest was hitting his teens. And I handled it badly emotionally which directly affected my children. I simply had no idea how adversely. Were I offered 3 wishes by a genie, my first would be to turn back the hands of time. No, not to change the divorce, but how I handled it with and in front of my children. I saw no further than the end of my nose for a length of time. I turned inward assuming that for a “short time” things would take care of themselves. When your pain is intense and you are severely wounded, it’s hard to focus on others. It took all I had to survive day to day. I am in no way justifying myself, I was wrong. Herein lies the casualties of divorce, the children. I will take flak for admitting that I would still divorce even in hindsight from 10 years. But I would do my darnedest to make the transition easier for my children.

I was determined to expose my 3 to the world outside the usual boundaries. Single motherhood is rough, period. I taught them independence that most don’t learn till later. They learned to wash clothes, cook and take care of themselves while I strived to provide. We went to student jazz concerts at the local university. We experienced fine dining and celebrated birthdays in high fashion. We trained to Atlanta and relied fully on public transportation. (They loved the subway/metro/bus systems.) We spent Christmas week in New York City. And another Christmas week in Washington, D.C. We saw Phantom of the Opera and any musical that came near. On our yearly forays, we visited a museum of each of their choice. We spent a week at the beach. We stayed in a friend’s apartment in the French Quarter in New Orleans, cooked and dined outside in the courtyard. I encouraged creativity and uniqueness. On our trips, each one got to pick a place or something they wanted to do. We usually found out of the way music stores, vintage clothing stores, even skate parks. All done on a budget.

What I was so proud of doing has now bitten me in the proverbial butt. I live alone for the first time in 25 years. My oldest took a job in Houston last January. The middle child, my daughter went off to school year before last. My youngest who graduated in May now shares an apartment with his sister who recently moved back to town. My house is quiet and I have learned to desperately love Izzy, my black cat. What I thought was so modern of me, the exposure to the world at large, has given my children the confidence to jump nest, all without my permission.

When an additional heart is confined within your body for 9 months, you birth this being with untold fanfare, you teach this child to not get to close to cliff edge, you clothe, feed, and reveal to them the ropes of life, how in the heck are you supposed to stop? I held their hands when they took their first steps. I spooned untold bites into their little mouths. I taught them to zip and button. I wiped their mouths after vomiting. I bought her first pair of high heels. I doctored skinned knees. I flew to the hospital for stitches. I complimented their talents. I encouraged individuality. When and where does the completely natural urge to “mother” stop? Why is it now viewed with disdain by the very ones you practiced it on? I WILL question my heavenly Father on this upon arrival to the pearly gates. It is absolutely not natural to not have a say in all things concerning ones who went through your birth canal.

I don’t desire to run their lives. I have always wanted them to be effective and successful. I don’t want them all living in my house. But I do want to understand how to stop this desperate yearning for my children to be at my beck and call. Or to at least know they are safe and sound and are making good decisions. The very thing society drills into you that is unforgivable is all of a sudden the thing you are not only forced, but expected to do. You’re admonished to protect your children, and a popular ad campaign often asked “it’s midnight, do you know where your children are?”. Now, instantaneously, I’m not supposed to ask. I’m now told by friends and family, ”Just let go. Cut the apron strings. Let them grow up!”. To which my mind replies, that’s a load of............freaking manure.

So I’m now relearning what society has deemed politically correct, the opposite of what society demanded just days ago. And it’s still a load of freaking manure. I’m not calling as often. I’m not questioning as not much seems to be my business anymore. I’m practicing not being so needy. I no longer demand.

My only hope is that I have proved my love, that what I have done has been right, and that now they will repeatedly venture home on their own.

I’ll continue opening cans of cat food and pray that Izzy sticks around.=)

Elvis Had The Right Idea

(penned July 29,2008)
I really wish we all weren’t so vocal. Or judgmental. And yes, I am also preaching to myself...and the choir. How many times have you had your head lopped off for an innocent statement? Or lopped someone else’s head off for their words? Or loudly voiced what you considered to be an “opinion” when in all reality it was sheer judgment?

Though this blog has negative connotations, it must be said.

I remember taking a long slug on a Diet Coke, gasping for breath, and saying “Dear Lord, that Diet Coke is SO good.” The person next to me indignantly replied, “I HATE Diet Coke!” Was that necessary? We are quick to voice an opinion on things we abhor. Being an extrovert, I tend to give excessive information on any given subject., I’m well aware too much, too often is my habit. If a city I’ve visited is mentioned, I’m thrilled to tell you where I dined, landmarks I saw, and details on my hotel. On the flip side, I am often asked for guidance. It amazes me how quickly someone else pipes in, “That city stinks!” or “That is THE worst place to eat.” Restaurants elicit the boldest comments. People surely voice opinions when concerning food.

Last week opened my eyes. My view was eternally altered. Have you ever been guilty of judging and simply didn’t realize that was what you were doing? I recall time after time that I was the vocal one. Someone, usually a young person would attend a service after an absence. They didn’t look just like I thought they should. “What in the world? Don’t they know what they look like? They really should be more respectful.”, all “opinions” I freely voiced. Recently, someone absolutely near and dear to me walked into a service. At that point, nothing mattered. I absolutely did not care about attire nor anything else pertaining to outward appearance. My fervent prayer was that everyone would open their arms, show their love and make this person feel wanted and welcomed. I desperately hoped that no one would be as judgmental as I had been, that no noses would be turned up nor any “telling” looks be passed. Just being there, just attending a service where the presence of God could be felt, was more than I could hope for. Nothing trumped them just walking through those doors.

I promised God then and there that I would be careful to temper my opinions and try to never again judge. We must learn to not voice those negative things that swirl in our minds. We must learn kindness, goodness, thoughtfulness, and grace. We must reach out to the very one we think has nothing for us. Or to the one that returns repeatedly. I’ve never forgotten the story of Missionary Nona Freeman. She said she was like a revolving door concerning her walk with God. She was “in” and “out” so many times she lost count. She explaining that she knew it was 20 plus times she got “renewed”. Just how many souls is she responsible for in Africa? Untold numbers. Nary a doubt, the sooth sayers had much to judge. But someone believed in her. That someone gathered around her and prayed with her on that 20 something time she came for a touch. That someone had faith that no matter what, when, where, she would be saved and be something for the kingdom. Calling Nona Freeman “something for the kingdom” is a bit like calling a Rolls Royce a car.
Imprinted on my mind is the service that while going through my divorce, I was stopped in the foyer. Unsolicited advice poured forth with instructions from someone who hadn’t a clue of any details of my circumstances. I struggled to just walk through the door, and being hit head on by a well meaning busybody made it much tougher to come the next time. A dear, departed pastor’s wife who influenced me greatly had a favorite quote. “The only horse that can throw you is the one you ride the hardest.” Let’s ride a gentle horse with our words. Those things you are so adamantly inflexible over, WILL come back to you. Don’t voice your criticisms. Only allow good things to pass your lips.

The people on United Flight 93 made their last phone calls from a plane they knew was going down. I’ve read articles concerning the content of those calls and there were no harsh words, only loving tributes. Family members were told how much they were loved. Those soon to perish explained how precious their time together had been. Only sincere words of love and honor were exchanged.

Elvis had the right idea, when he sang “I did it my way.” Let’s do it our way, but let’s learn to let “our way” be the right way. Let’s determine to do it the kind way. Instead of retorting, “My God, this pie tastes awful!”, push it aside with a much softer “that’s not my favorite” if you must be vocal. When a family is in crisis, let nothing but good be spoken. Avoid voicing “he’ll pay” or “she got what’s coming to her”. If the subject is too hurtful and uncomfortable, offer hugs and send a card of encouragement. A simple “I love you and am praying daily for you” goes a long way. Refrain from giving advice unless prompted.

Here’s your chance to be an American Icon. Go on, do it “your way” Just promise that “your way” is the kind and gentle one.

“It’s 9 o’clock and All Is Wellllll....”

(penned August 6, 2008)
There are days when all goes right. Ever awakened to a bird chirping outside your window? You look out to see if you can get a glimpse of it and there are blooms on the crepe myrtles touching your window. The day simply feels good.

When my alarm goes off, I reach for my cell phone. It doubles as my alarm and calendar, well, triples if you mention it’s also my link to the world, personal and business. I turn off the alarm and immediately roll the clickwheel on my Blackberry to my daily calendar. It was chock full. This day called for my favorite red patent leather pumps. ( I honestly dressed in clothing so the shoes would work.=) I met a friend for breakfast in Hattiesburg. Then it was on to a client’s home for a couple of hours and through a drive-thru to grab lunch. (Admittedly, I’d rather have a sit down lunch, but this day dictated differently.) I stopped to pick up some flooring samples and barely made it on time to my next appointment, a design presentation. And yes, that went well.

Within minutes of pulling into my drive around 4:30, my youngest son stopped by. He offered to work in my yard for awhile. He mowed the lawn while I picked up limbs, pine cones and anything else that didn’t belong. I cleaned out my wall fountain at my back entrance and filled it with fresh water. We stayed outside for a couple hours, sweated down, but accomplished much.

He had friends waiting so I finished up. I absolutely love the smell of freshly cut grass and the look of a clean drive and walk. For years, one of my favorite things about summer is finishing up in the yard, then going out. My kids were not fond of me when I made, no forced them to help in the yard. But my youngest, the one here today, has a bit of my green thumb. He has the same gene I do when it comes to yard work.

I went in, showered, dressed and met another friend for dinner. I even had red meat, which is a treat. I usually avoid it, but allow myself once a month. I returned to a manicured lawn and my landscape lighting made my guts smile. I then began my nightly ritual. I turn on the pair of mercury glass lamps in my front window, the curio in the dining room which houses trinkets from every trip I’ve ever made along with my chandelier, the can lighting in the living room, and dim them all to a perfect glow. I light my “bird of paradise” candle in the kitchen and turn on my ipod hi-fi to the “jazz” genre. With each action, I feel myself relax.

I used to think that people were “set in their ways” when they did repetitive things. I have come to realize, it’s nothing to do with age, it’s wisdom. It’s knowing what makes your guts smile, knowing what actions calm you and what makes “all feel well”. My nest is quite settled, though parts are in an uproar for now. In a previous blog, I expounded on the perils of the empty nest. Here I am months later admitting I like things in their place, and that only happens when the nest is empty. My nest is not empty for now but she’ll be leaving soon and I’ll then crave a few messes here and there.

It’s a bit after 9, my candles are lit and the music is smooth. I have my favorite citrus drink in a beautiful stem with frozen grapes afloat. (A tip: keep your grapes in the freezer. The pulp doesn’t freeze solid but they make exquisite ice. They are also a wonderful cool snack on a hot day. This I learned while lounging at the pool at Caesar’s Palace. LOL.) My yard is fresh and the landscape lights catch my eye each time I pass my picture window. There is a sereneness about things tonight.

In the Disney movie “Robin Hood”, the Sheriff of Nottingham is a character who mans the jail. Every hour on the hour he wails in this extremely drawn out, high pitched voice “It’s 9 o’clock, and all is welllllll...”

There will be days in the future that have no semblance of this calm. Tay will move hours away, yet again, and I’ll wish for my “sheet heater”. The overwhelming urge to sit with Tyler will resurface, and I’ll crave. This Friday school starts and for the first time in some 20 years, the first day of school will not be celebrated with one of my children. Tomorrow is a milestone that had life taken different turns, I’d be celebrating a silver anniversary. Instead, I shall celebrate a blessed, full life and purchase myself something silver.

For now, I will soak up this calm and file it away for a rainy day. I will remember when I said “It’s 9 o’clock and all is welllll.....”