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.

Life in the South, According to Instagram

30 11 2013

Just a sneak peak of what we’ve been up to in November … What have y’all been up to?

Instagram - November 2013 -  Butter Instagram - November 2013 - Becky sweet potato brew Instagram - November 2013 - Becky Instagram - November 2013 - Ponds purple grass Instagram - November 2013 - Sliders Instagram - November 2013 - St. Augustine sky Instagram - November 2013 - Becky stuffing Instagram - November 2013 - Ginger A Quiet Afternoon Instagram - November 2013 - Ginger Christmas tree

Decadent and Depraved

5 05 2012

Illustration by Ralph Steadman

The South is nothing if not a colorful place. We turn out colorful characters. While we’re proud of our prim and proper sons and daughters, what would the world be without the Hunter S. Thompsons?

Born in Louisville, it was only natural he would cover the 1970 Kentucky Derby with a story that marked the beginning of his infamous Gonzo style of journalism.

Of course, the article is less about the event itself as the cast that arrives each year to celebrate the most exciting minutes in sports. If any of you have been to the Derby, you know that it’s a tale of two levels — the infield and the grandstand.

We all know (and wish to be in) the grandstand. Ladies with hats, gentlemen in their finest. But there is some kind of party that takes place in the (usually muddy) infield.

If you’ve never had the chance to read the classic work, perhaps today before the race would be the perfect time. Then put on your best, pick out a horse, and behave yourself as if you’re in the grandstand, alright?


21 04 2012

That’s right, add Mr. Clooney to the list of beautiful people from the South. Bet ya didn’t know that George Clooney was born and raised in Kentucky. My hometown, as a matter of fact, Lexington.

Stories fly around Kentucky family of sightings and though Mr. Clooney is just as at home now in Los Angeles or Italy, or serving as humanitarian in Haiti or Darfur, this actor/director/writer got his start in Fort Mitchell and Augusta. (I’m sure you all recognize the lovely stylings of his aunt as well, Rosemary Clooney.) A true Southern boy, he enjoyed sports, playing baseball and basketball, and even had early jobs in cutting tobacco.

Of course, now we all know him as doctor, escaped convict, pilot, casino schemer, Special Forces operator, and jilted dad. This Oscar-winning sexy-man is just a little more proof that we really know how to raise ’em in the South.

Kristin Chenoweth

19 04 2012

I’ve only twice in my life sat down to read a book, and then proceed to sit right there and read the entire thing in one sitting.

One of those was the hilarious autobiography of the talented Ms. Kristin Chenoweth.

I fell in love with this lady during her foray into television as Olive on the too short-lived Pushing Daisies. But before and since, she’s starred as Glinda in the beloved Broadway musical Wicked (and a host of other great shows), on the popular drama West Wing, naturally had guest starring roles on Glee, and is currently in the controversial G.C.B. This girl has been a hoot in movies such as RV and Four Christmases, and every time I see her interviewed, she just exudes energy, charm, and graciousness.

So you know I had to pick up her biography A Little Bit Wicked. And hence, the entire Saturday morning blithely whiled away in bed with this entertaining read. What a life she’s had already! While technically from Oklahoma, this girl is as Southern as it gets at heart. (And that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?)

If you (ladies, especially) love the theater and showbiz, pick up this fast read for some perfect summer fun. You’ll fall in love with gorgeous Kristin along with her foibles and adventures (she has her own very well known “Mr. Big” if you know what I mean).

Read any good books lately?

Southern Picture: Javen Photography Interview

17 10 2011

As you all well know, I’m blessed to have extremely talented friends. I consider myself lucky to have and handful of dear friends. Of six of us girls that grew up together, one is  an accomplished musician, one runs the Wealth Management department at Morgan Keegan, one is a nurse (and newly married!), one is the best mommy I think I’ve ever observed – her kids are smart, adorable, and well-mannered. I’m a little humbled to be around this group of girls, well, women now!

It’s funny how you can grow up with a bunch, and then all the sudden, one day be sitting around a table having lunch and look around and see a group of smart, beautiful girls that you’re proud to know.

So I’ve asked one of my best, Ashley, to give us a little interview today. Ashley and her husband, Justin, own a sought-after photography business in Memphis, Javen Photography.

Ashley comes from a line of photographers. Her dad has long had one of the most established and successful photography businesses in Memphis. But let me assure you, it’s not an automatic thing. As someone who has a photographer dad and sister myself, just because you’re around it, doesn’t mean you have the eye. You can teach technique, but not artistic ability. But let me assure you, Ashley has the talent.

So today, Ashley has taken time out of her busy schedule (she’s a new mom!) to answer a few questions that I may or may not already know the answers to (you see, I lived with Ash in college, so I know most of her secrets).

And speaking of friends, I just have to share with y’all, one of the greatest quotes I love on friendship, from a favorite author, C.S. Lewis:

“But in Friendship, being free of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university or another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting — any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.”

Celebrate your friends. Autumn is a perfect time to reconnect. And if you have a friend with a special talent, maybe you can schedule some time to see if she might give you a few tips. In the meantime, you can borrow mine.


Sweet Iced Tea: When did you first start taking pictures?

Ashley: Justin and I both have a unique background … both of our dad’s are photographers. My dad is a commercial and wedding photographer, and Justin’s dad teaches photography at Union University, our alma mater. For me, I really got interested in photography in college, and took classes from Jim (Justin’s dad). Justin and I both have backgrounds from school and job experiences in photojournalism. It’s really important to us to tell the story that is taking place around us. We go into every wedding with the goal of creating images that will allow couples and families to look back on the unique moments of the day.

SIT: Who are your artistic influences?

Ashley: I look at a lot of different photographers’ work… from wedding, to fashion, to photojournalism… they all play a part in helping to shape my personal style. If I’m going to refer to weddings though, we have some good friends, Nathan and Jensey Root, who actually helped us get started. We love their style and how they relate to their subjects. They are still some of our favorites!

Who is your business partner and how did you meet?

Oops, I guess I gave this away in the first question. My business partner is my husband, Justin. We met in college and started dating after I graduated. Justin lived overseas as a photographer for 2 years, while I was in the states working in video for the same non-profit organization. We were long distance for a bit, and while it was hard to be apart, we believe that God gave us that time to allow us to grow in our love for what we do, and pave the way for us to thoroughly appreciate all of our time together… in the same country! We just love working together!

Do you two have different photography styles – strengths, weaknesses, and how do you play off of those with each other?

Well, all of our friends can tell you immediately… we are total opposites! It works out perfectly for us. I am a people person and I just love the details of a wedding … what the bride wears, what flowers she chooses, what the mother of the bride is feeling on the wedding day, etc. Justin is a quieter guy, but he is one of the most observant and patient people in the world. Everyone loves him and he has a way of putting people at ease – especially nervous grooms. When we work together, everything seems to fit perfectly. We are able to work in the areas where we love and focus on what we excel in – in the end, our differences really complement one another. As far as our photographic style, we definitely have our favorite equipment pieces that lend toward different looks, but overall, the more we work together, the harder it is to tell our photos apart.

What inspired you to start Javen?

Our own wedding. To us, it was just a perfect day, and it let us appreciate all of the details and planning, but most importantly, how beautiful and uniquely special every wedding is to each couple. Every wedding we shoot lets us, in some ways, re-live our own wedding day; it’s really special.

How did you turn photography from a hobby into a career?

We started by shooting a couple of weddings for friends, and when we realized just how much we loved it, we decided to be open to shooting other weddings if they came around. Before we knew it, the business was growing in ways we could have never imagined, and we knew it was something we wanted to do as more than just a hobby. Almost 3 years later, we feel really blessed!

Is photography a full-time gig for y’all, or do you have day jobs?

I work on our business full-time from home, but Justin works as a photographer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – an absolutely amazing place! We moved to Memphis for his job right before we got married. He is able to photograph the kids and families, as well as special events for the hospital.

With the Internet, photography seems like something everyone is interested in, wants to do better, and knows a bit about. Do you keep up with trends or do your own thing?

We are always looking around and seeing what others are doing, but overall, we shy away from what is trendy, and focus more on creating images that will stand the test of time. No one wants to look back years later and have the focus be on a current photographic trend… instead, our goal is for the focus to be on capturing moments shared by our couples.

I know you’re both well-traveled. What is your favorite spot to photograph?

Wow, that is a tough one! It’s hard to say, because we both love to travel. For the sake of sentimentality, I guess I will go with Peru. Justin and I were both put on a coverage working together around the Peru earthquake in 2007. It was an amazing experience and we fell in love with the people and the country. It was also our first time to work together, which will always hold a special place in our hearts.

What kind of equipment do you use?

We are Canon folks.

Any tips for beginning photographers to take better pictures and learn the craft?

I know it’s cliché, but practice, practice, practice. We are always learning and will be for as long as we pick up a camera. Learn from those around you and ask questions, but most of all, you’ve got to get out there and work with your camera.

Finally, just for fun, I KNOW you love music (Ashley and I spent many a car drive from Jackson, Tennessee to Memphis singing along to Billy Joel, the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, Sheryl Crow…). If your life had a soundtrack, what would the title song be?

Most all of my friends know that I am generationally confused, and love Billy Joel! So to take the easy way out and steal from one of my favorites … I’ll go with “Uptown Girl.” 

Southern Colleges Week: Washington and Lee University

8 09 2011

Today’s featured school comes with arguably the most historical significance of any university in the South — or the country for that matter!

Washington and Lee University is a private college located in Lexington, Virginia. It was begun in 1749, and in 1796, George Washington himself endowed the school with the largest gift ever given to an institution at that time, so the trustees honored him by naming it Washington College. Each student’s education is still, in part, helped by dividends from Washington’s gift.The second part of its illustrious namesake comes from Robert E. Lee, who served as president as the school from after the Civil War ended in 1865 until his death in 1870, when the school was renamed Washington and Lee University.

Is it any wonder the school’s mascot is the Generals?

W & L is a member of the Associated Colleges of the South and their students agree to abide by an honor system. They turn out many great men and women, including some of the nations finest lawyers. Their fraternities and sororities play a large part on campus, as well as their athletics, but outsiders might well best know Washington and Lee by the famous Dixieland standard, The Washington and Lee Swing. It’s been recorded by Louis Armstrong, Red Nichols, and Hal Kemp, among others.

Know a few of the college’s famous alums? You might — names like Meriwether Lewis, Joseph Goldstein, and Pat Robertson graduated under the blue and white colors.