Distinctively Southern: Sip and See

8 05 2013
Click image for link.

Click image for link.

This weekend I got the chance to meet my new baby cousin (actually I think it’s my cousin-in-law once removed, but who can keep track of those things?). Since we’re out of town, we hadn’t had the opportunity to be there for the showering of gifts before baby E arrived, so the new parents invited us over for tea and sweets.

A distinctly southern tradition, a “sip and see” is a chance, especially for a second or later birth, for friends and family to come and celebrate the newest addition to a family. It’s got all the great southern aspects of a shower — sips and sweets and friends, plus the added bonus of getting to meet the little one.

You can make it as formal — complete with fine china and tea sandwiches — or as casual — lemonade out of mason jars — as you wish. The only requirements are something to sip and someone to see.

Distinctly Southern: Haint Blue Porch Ceiling

9 05 2012

“Blue color is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight.” – John Ruskin

Click image for source.

I love nothing more than sitting on a certain cool porch on a hot summer day, obviously a pitcher of chilled sweet tea nearby, leaning back in a chair to look up at a ceiling of calming light blue.

We’ve all heard the rumors for the reasons why — to keep away evil spirits, to keep our hearts devout by reminding us of the color of heaven, because wasps won’t build nests on blue surface they might think was the sky.

So what’s the real story? I’ve heard all three spouted with absolute certainty, so we may never know for sure, but who really cares? It’s tradition, beautiful, cooling, and, just like porches, distinctly Southern.

Distinctively Southern: Magnolias

6 03 2012

Growing up, we had this really gorgeous magnolia tree outside in our front yard. It always epitomized beauty to me with its low shade, shiny leaves, and big white flowers.

My parents had a painting of a magnolia in their bedroom, but I never really associated magnolias so strongly with the South, in the way that you don’t notice something that’s just always there, until I left.

It’s no secret around here that while I used to not be about to shut up about the South, my voice has been a little quieter banished out here in LaLaLand.

Make no mistake, we have greatly enjoyed our time so far in California. The folks are nice, the weather is perfect, the scenery cannot be beat.

But it’s like a great vacation in a foreign country. You just can’t wait to be home.

So I find myself dreaming about that painting in my parents bedroom, and wishing to sit underneath shady magnolia trees.

And then, one day, I looked out of our bathroom window at an awkward, almost backwards angle into a neighboring yard, and could almost, just barely see, the small peek of … a magnolia tree. They grow in central California!

It’s the only one I’ve seen, but whenever I want, I can lean out and peer into the neighbors yard (I’m sure they’re thinking “what is that crazy, window-washing woman doing??) and get a little taste of home for now.

So for those of you that have unlimited views of magnolias, kudzu, Spanish moss, and honeysuckle, don’t take it for granted. Enjoy the Southern foliage. There’s no place like home.

Distinctively Southern: Wicker Furniture

20 04 2011

Southerners aren’t the only ones who do wicker, but I think we certainly do it best. The casual feel and the cool design and materials are perfect for warm summer days spent out on the porch fanning ourselves with (what else?) a tall glass of Sweet Iced Tea.

Technically, wicker is thought to have originated in Egypt (remember that little baby sent down the river in a wicker basket?). But from the first settlers who landed on this great soil, Americans have been weaving. So, wicker is Distinctively Southern. Picnic baskets, lounge chairs, porch swings, even children’s play houses.

Just like the South, wicker is light, yet sturdy. Comforting but sleek. It comes in many different colors and styles, but can fit in just about anywhere.

Relaxing on a summer's day on my parent's porch in Kentucky

Distinctively Southern: Shacks

28 10 2010

In continuing with our new Distinctively Southern series, we highlight today a concept that is not specific to the South, but I certainly associate my love for shacks with that  mysteriously beautiful, decrepit image that is distinctly Southern. While the last Distinctively Southern concept was considerably more sophisticated than today’s feature, we hope you’ll get the essence of what we mean by “distinctively” Southern.

I’m not sure when it started, but it was certainly fueled by living in the deep South, especially Florida, where Spanish moss, beach shabby, and sea-salt faded paint was de rigueur.

Whenever I drive by one of these broken down old sheds or houses, I’m compelled to wonder about the story of the structure, whose property it’s on, and how it fell into a state of such disrepair. Now, as the “tiny house” movement is becoming popular again as folks simplify our living, I can’t help but wonder if these country archetypes will live on.

Enjoy just a few pictures of beautiful old dilapidated buildings known as “shacks.”

shack in Eastern Tennessee


Image from Memphis Photomans Flickr


Image from Memphis Photomans Flickr

shack in winter

Perfect for a Hallow’s Eve weekend drive, see if you can grab your camera, head out into the more rural areas in your neck of the woods, and photograph some of these beautiful Southern shacks.

I’ll leave you with a passage from one of my favorite books (no, not that Shack book)… I’ve mentioned before and while I certainly don’t want to romanticize the unfortunate fate that has befallen so many of these tiny little structures, I still can’t help but love the decrepit look of Southern shacks.

From The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E. L. Konigsburg:

Distinctively Southern: Bowties

6 10 2010

Classic Bowtie from Brooks Brothers

It’s no secret I love a man in a bowtie, but technically, we Southerners don’t have a monopoly on snazzy dressers. Still, there is something distinctively Southern about a man in a bowtie. So today, we start a new, very loose new series of posts on those things that are just “distinctively” Southern — we didn’t invent them, aren’t the only area of the country with access, but we sure do ’em best!

There are several styles of bowties. We’ll choose to ignore the clip on for our Southern purposes, because really, in a Southern man’s closet, it just shouldn’t exist. Aside from those unmentionables, there is the butterfly (sometimes known as a “thistle”) and the bat wing. The butterfly is the thicker, more popular, though the bat wing is coming into vogue lately. Where would you wear one, you say? Well, to anywhere you might sport a tie — on a dinner date, to church, a party. Trust us, anyone who jabs you about sporting one is secretly jealous he had the confidence to pull it off himself.

Now, for the trickiest part of owning a bowtie, tieing the bowtie. Never fear, for it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds, and gentlemen, if you just can’t manage it, ask a lady nearby. No doubt her fingers are more nimble, perspective facing the tie more advantageous, and willingness to do something so near to your person, desirable. Trust us, she won’t mind.

Perfect for a fall accessory, call bowtie wearers preps, tweedy intellectual, haberdash — call them whatever you like, but there’s no denying Southern men look great in bowties. So, perhaps next time you want to get your honey, dad, or yourself something a little Southern special, think bowties! Some of our favorite sources are Brooks Brothers, Southern Proper, and GravesCox, though they can be found in many department stores as well.

consummate Southerner, Mark Twain in a bowtie -- image from Life magazine