The Cotton District, Mississippi

5 02 2014

Cotton District

Located in the college town of Starkville, Mississippi is an idyllic neighborhood — the Cotton District.

In the 1920’s, Starkville’s cotton mill was home to many poor tenants and workers, and by the mid-1960’s, it had fallen into complete disrepair. So Dan Camp, inspired by European cities, as well as other beautiful Southern locales such as Charleston and New Orleans began building homes and businesses classic architecture in the Victorian and Greek Revival styles.

Commonly considered the first example of new urbanism, today, the Cotton District houses college students, young professionals, and retirees.


3 02 2014

I can spend hours wasting on Wikipedia. There is endless information in the world, and what amazes me even more is that our ancestors didn’t have access in their whole lives to the information we can browse in one hour.

But did you know our own South has versions of our own Wikis?

Many of the states such as Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia have their own encyclopedia.

So the next time you’ve got a little time to waste, learn a little bit about our own Southern backyard.

Stephen Foster Day

13 01 2014

Today, January 13th is Stephen Foster Memorial Day.

Most of you will know who Stephen Foster is, but even if you don’t, we all know his songs. Foster was known as the “Father of American Music” and penned such songs as “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” and my favorite “My Old Kentucky Home.”

While Foster spent most of his life a little north of the Mason-Dixon, the South has embraced his music, which embodies the American spirit. Foster made many of our beloved Southern landmarks famous with his songs. White Springs, Florida is home to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park on the banks of the Suwannee River. Foster wrote “Old Folks at Home,” which made the river famous. The Museum at the Folk Culture Center features exhibits about his music.

stephen foster

In Bardstown, Kentucky you can visit My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Foster was inspired to write his famous tune, which is now the Kentucky state song and sung each year at the Kentucky Derby, after visiting his cousin, Senator John Rowan, on Federal Hill. Today, you can tour the mansion on Federal Hill. And if you’re there during the summer months, be sure to stay for the Broadway-style show “The Stephen Foster Story.” I was delighted by the costumes, songs, and story last time I visited. The grounds are beautiful and you can’t do better than a warm night under the stars at their amphitheater.

New Urban Cowboy

8 06 2013


If you’re looking for an interesting documentary to watch this weekend, check out New Urban Cowboy: Toward a New Pedestrianism. Artist and founder of the New Pedestrian movement Michael Arth moved to DeLand, Florida where he began to purchase and design homes and businesses in the historic “garden district” that had fallen into disrepair. His labors for a renaissance of the formerly run-down area turned into a new way to build towns. Work opportunities based an a pedestrian model brought new life into this urban village.

With a renewed focus on community, and a decreased dependence on our automobiles, the new pedestrian movement is a model I can get behind! What a fascinating look at a hopeful vision for the future.

New Urbanism: A Southern Revolution

3 06 2013


I am a big fan of old houses. There’s nothing like the charm of a great old neighborhood with large, shady trees, sidewalks, and neighbors close enough to know each other.

But I’m also a fan of new houses — with enough closet space, modern electrical wiring, and  energy effecient design.

Gladly, developers are taking note and including all the wonderful elements of those beloved established neighborhoods in new communities.

This movement is called “new urbanism.”  I’ve posted before about Cordova The Town in Tennessee, one of the first examples of tactical urban development in the 1990’s. And the most popular example is probably Celebration, Florida, but these communities are popping up all over the South.

Hallmarks of new urbanism include sidewalks and homes close to the streets, so that neighbors can easily interact with each other. They often offer parks, shopping, and schools right in the neighborhoods themselves, bringing individual families into real community.

This model of sustainable efforts is the answer to surburban sprawl that was so popular in the last century, and the south is leading the way. After all, it comes natural to us. When it comes to knowing our neighbors, bringing over an apple pie or watching the kids for an hour or two — that’s our Southern hospitality specialty.

Southern Flame Food and Music Festival

29 04 2013

Summerville BBQ concert

This weekend, I got the opportunity to take a break from Operation Yard Work and change gears to Operation Eat-Some-Great-BBQ. The Southern Flame Festival was held in under the live oaks in Summerville, South Carolina, where more than twenty local vendors came out to smoke and sauce samples of their ‘Q.

Summerville BBQ sign

We got to taste a variety of Carolinian barbecue and sauces ranging from sweet to mustardy, each one more delicious than the next, all while enjoying bluegrass music from bands Common Ground, Dee Dee Cumbee, and Eddie Bush and the Mayhem.


I’ll always be a Memphis BBQ fan, but I’m enjoying the tart flavors of a vinegar-based Carolinian sauce as well.

City Guide: Oklahoma City

7 03 2013

You’ve already heard the story. Southern girl moves to California (Southern girl meets lots of wonderful friends, enjoys the beautiful Pacific beaches… but), can’t wait to get back home.

What you haven’t heard is how our supposed-to-be month-long road trip across the country got cut short. Somewhere around Albuquerque, a few days in, Mr. SIT and I looked at each other and thought, what are we doing!? We hadn’t seen our families much in the past three years, and we missed home. So we called mommas and daddies, told them to get the guest rooms ready, and rushed across the states home, skipping all the fun we had planned in between, and spent our month crashing into familiar beds and familiar meals and familiar arms.

It’s not like me to be so spontaneous. I had carefully planned and much anticipated another fun road trip across our great U.S. (word to the wise — if you’re ever doing the trek, take I-40… LOTS more interesting than I-10). But it was the right decision.

There was one stop we couldn’t bear to strike from the itinerary — Oklahoma City. While Mr. SIT claims to have grown up in Tennessee, he really spent his childhood years in OKC. I just had to see the old homestead, elementary schools, and eat some of the delicious food he raved about all these years.

And any place that boasts a Cowboy Museum has got to have a little Southern in it, right?

Boy was I!

We received a warm welcome in OKC, some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten, and hands down the best sweet tea I’ve ever tasted (granted, it was my first in a few years, so at that point, perhaps I wasn’t too picky).

Even all this time later, I’m still thinking about Oklahoma’s sprawling territory and can’t wait to get back sometime soon. We loved our time in this modern, but Western-born city. So I thought I’d share a few of our highlights in hopes you’ll get to visit.

We spent most of our time in downtown, nearby Brickton, or in the charming suburb of Edmond (where Mr. SIT grew up), but OKC is easily driveable, so wherever you go, you won’t be far from your next stop!



We stayed in the heart of Oklahoma City, known as Bricktown. There are lots of hotels to choose from, and the location is great — walking distance to great restaurants and shops.

I recommend the Skirvin Hilton. A beautiful but comfortable stay for an excellent value. The Hampton Inn & Suites was also popular, as well as the Courtyard Marriott, all nearby the action of Bricktown.


We had many delicious meals in OKC. Many of the stops on our trip were neighborhood specific (think the little pizza joint Mr. SIT’s family grew up going each weekend, and such), so I’ve tapped the mind of my dear friend Katie who also grew up in OKC for a few more ideas. But everywhere we ate was delicious. These Oklahomians really know how to feed folks, and offer some of the friendliest service besides!

Claussen’s Curve area. Cafe 501: Good food inspired by international travels. Republic Gastropub: Classic American public house with a sleek modern atmosphere. Tucker’s: Burgers plus savory onions. A delicious combination.

Paseo Arts District. Paseo Grill: Sophisticated, yet casual in the historic Arts District. Sauced: Family pizza joint with a full coffee bar including smoothies and organic vegan menu options.

the mantel oklahoma city

Downtown. Vast: Located in the downtown Devon Skyscraper, take in the views of OKC with your dinner from atop the tower. The Basement Modern Dinner: Handcrafted American food from natural, local ingredients. Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse: Make a themed night of it by eating at Mickey Mantle’s after catching a RedHawk’s baseball game. Nonna’s: If the weather is pleasant, sit outside on the outdoor patio. Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill: Oklahoma-native and country singer’s take on live music and good food. In the Raw Sushi Bar: A hip place with great sushi and a good time. The Mantel: Awarded some of the top culinary recognition so don’t miss this bistro.

New Midtown. You’ll find a little bit of everything in midtown. Stella’s: Really good Italian food served in a modern atmosphere. McNellie’s: Irish pub with a neighborhood crowd of all ages. Kaiser’s: One mission — feed people and make them happy with an old-fashioned America flair. 1492: Latin cuisine and drinks. Irma’s Prairie Thunder Baking Company: Locally-owned artisan bakery with soups, salads, and sandwiches and friendly service.

Nichols Hills. Saturn Grill: Sandwiches and subs with a great selection for vegetarians. Flip’s Trattoria: A local favorite with real food and great energy. Hit The Lobby Bar first, located in the lobby of the famous Will Rogers Theatre, followed by Musashi’s for a theatrically-prepared dinner at a Japanese steakhouse. Iron Starr Urban BBQ: Fine dining with a smokehouse flavor.

A little outside OKC. If you really want the no-frills cowboy feel, head to the stockyards and eat at Cattleman’s Steakhouse for rustic hospitality. If you’re in the mood for a short drive out to Okarche, the legendary fried chicken at Eischen’s Bar is worth it.

One of our favorites was a childhood favorite of Mr. SIT’s — Ted’s Cafe Escondido. They have several locations now, but wherever you go, you have to indulge in their homemade tortillas. They are heavenly and fresh-made.

And for a quick meal, don’t miss one of the many locations of Braum’s — a combination fast food joint/mini-grocery market. An Oklahoma favorite, this place has the most delicious soft serve ice cream. You can grab a standard burger, or even a few items in the grocery portion.



My absolute favorite part of Oklahoma City was the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. We got started on the right foot, when we showed up around lunchtime, thinking we’d grab a quick sandwich in the museum’s restaurant before heading into the museum. Boy, were we in for a treat. The museum restaurant, Dining on Persimmon Hill, offered a full buffet of the most delicious home cooking you’ve ever put in your mouth. Casseroles, soups, salads, perfectly moist meats, and the desserts — heavens! Mr. SIT and I still talk about the pineapple bread pudding we should have gotten the recipe for. What a happy surprise when most standard museum fare is a turkey sandwich and bottled water. Full and happy, we wondered around for hours in the extensive art gallery (move quickly… it goes on forever), and then moved on to the rooms of over 28,000 western artifacts, all excellently displayed. If you’ve got little ones (especially boys), this would be a heaven for them.

My suggestion is to carve out a whole day to enjoy this sprawling museum. It’s well worth it. Then hit the hotel with your Netflix cued up to watch a couple Western movies. You’ll be in the mood, I promise you that.


All of us remember the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, one of the truly rocking acts of terror in our lifetimes. Visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum was a somber day, but one that was truly worth the entire trip. The museum was informative, emotional, and very well done with information on the day, the investigation after, and what law-enforcement officials learned about terrorism as a result. Most of all, it was an inspiring look at humanity, and how many individuals gave of their time, resources, and even lives in the aftermath. Don’t miss the Empty Chairs memorial in the back — 168 chairs, one for each victim, made of glass and bronze. A beautiful but sober tribute.


If you have extra time I highly suggest you spend an hour or more perusing the Oklahoma State Capitol building. I love exploring Capitol buildings, and this one is beautiful.

Two of the places I regret we didn’t get the chance to visit, but I hear are must-sees, and plan on hitting on our next visit: the Myriad Botanical Gardens and the American Banjo Museum.


50 Penn Place: Unique shops as well as watering holes for when you need a short break to refuel.

Paseo Arts District: Don’t miss a Gallery Walk on the first Friday and Saturdays of the month.

The Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City in Yukon: All your favorite stores in one place.


If you do get the chance to spend time in Bricktown, make sure to visit the Riverwalk. I was happily surprised at this newly completed version of Oklahoma City’s Riverwalk. Take a romantic stroll surrounded by twinkling lights and happy conversation eminating from one of the surrounding restaurants (or stop for a bite yourself). Take in a movie at the Harkins Theatre on one end, or catch an OKC Thunder basketball game in season. Bowl a game or two at the RedPin Bowling Alley, where they have waitstaff for you to order right from your lane.

antique garden in oklahoma

Venture to Norman to visit the beautiful campus of the University of Oklahoma. There’s always great shopping and eats around a college town. Favorites like The Mont and Bison Witches are favorites. And stop into Antique Garden for fun fashion and home decor shopping.

If you happen to catch OKC’s Shakespeare in the Park in season, don’t miss this cultural treasure of an experience.

And if you’re there during cooler months, head over to nearby Moore and catch a flick at the Warren Theatre for a luxurious viewing in the plush balcony seating, where you can order food and drinks to your seats, from home-cooked favorites to candy and popcorn.

One of my favorite strolls down Mr. SIT’s memory lane is worth a look yourself. He grew up in the suburb of Edmond, which has a completely charming downtown itself. We stopped for a delicious coffee at Cafe Evoke, and then meandered around the shops, peaking into galleries and feeling like we’d stepped back into a simpler time.

Eat at… Boulevard Steakhouse, Charleston’s: American food prepared each day from scratch, Signature Grill: upscale and intimate, Steve’s Rib: for the best BBQ brisket and sauce in town, began as a little food cart, and now owns his own restaurant. And shop in the Spring Creek area.

Have any of you traveled to this underrated city? What did I miss — any suggestions? And what’s more, do I have you dreaming of singing O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, Oklahoma, OK? You’re doing fine, Oklahoma!