From Baroque to Bluegrass

12 02 2014

I recently had the chance to attend the Carmel Bach Festival and attend a concert by Mike Marshall, noted mandolin player. It was such a treat to sit and listen to classical music blended so effortlessly with the South’s beloved bluegrass, I had to marvel at why the pairing isn’t more common.

In the hands of a master musician, such as Marshall, all music seems truly like the universal language.

I haven’t been able to get this concert out of my head, so when I was looking for a gift for a musically-minded loved one, and discovered that Marshall hosts an online mandolin school, I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect gift!

Mike Marshall tours and plays all over the South and the country, or take a gander at some of his music right from the comfort of your own screen.

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.

What We’re Into: Fall Edition

5 10 2013

Many of my favorite blogs post regular roundups of what they’re loving that week or month. I always get excited about lists, so we thought we’d throw up a few of the things we’re loving around here from time to time. What’s caught two Southern girls’ eyes lately? Check it out…

record player


Portable record player (plus a bonus: Saturdays scouring music stores for some Elvis on vinyl)

Deep Roots album by Steven Curtis Chapman — Bluegrass meets favorite hymns. Mr. SIT and I discovered this gem from one of my favorite artists at Cracker Barrel one morning, and it’s been our going-to-church music on Sundays ever since. (And I found this Wall Street Journal article amusing: Cracker Barrel is “the Starbucks of Country Music.”)

Civil Wars new album

Carry the Fire song by Andrew Peterson

the road


The Road by Cormac McCarthy — And speaking of “carrying the fire,” this book is one of the best I’ve read this year. It has haunted my thoughts in a wonderful way ever since.

All of Ann Patchett’s books — Ann Patchett is not exactly a well-kept secret. I had read Bel Canto a few years ago, but I picked up another of her novels, and then voraciously read everything she’s written within a few months. I think I loved State of Wonder best of all, but it’s a hard decision. She has a way with language and stories. And, she’s a Nashvillian (Nashvilitte?).

Modern Mrs. Darcy blog — Actually, one of the aforementioned bloggers that regularly gives readers a peek into what she’s into is this Louisville gal — The Modern Mrs. Darcy. This is one of those blogs that I’m always thrilled to see pop up with a new entry on my Feedly. I always find some gracious inspiration, a great read, or something new to me!


photo (6)

These cotton stems I found at Target — A bit of rustic glamour added to my decor as an homage to my favorite Southern crop.

WoodWick brand candle — I love my gas fireplace. It’s so convenient to turn on in the mornings once Mr. SIT is off to work, but I miss that crackling wood sound. And the WoodWick brand is made in Virginia … some of the other brands don’t make that crackle.

sweet potato

Click image for source {via Saveur}


Sweet Potatoes with Butter and Brown Sugar — I cannot get enough of these lately. For breakfast, for dessert — pure deliciousness.



Rosetta Stone — Remember my New Year’s Resolution to “values timeblock“? Well, one of the items I came up with to be the kind of person I wanted to be, was to speak another language. Spanish is so practical. Over seven percent of the world speaks it, not to mention a certain mister with whom I reside. I’ve been dabbling in it for a while now, but I’m redoubling my efforts as the young people go back to school. Something about September always makes me want to learn.

U.S. Constitution — I’ve taken a new interest in the very founding document of our great nation. I’ve had the privilege of hearing a Constitutional expert, Bob Menges, in a 12-week study at our church and it has been hugely enlightening. There is so much about the framing of this rule of law that I did not know, and it effects each one of us each day of our lives. If you’d like to experience his course on our nation’s charter, he has all the sessions available (for free) on his website.


St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk, VA


Virginia Beach, Virginia — I got to tag along with Mr. SIT on a work trip last month to the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area. Norfolk gets a bad rep as a drab military town, but I found it is rich with history and art and great food. I ran around town dashing to the renowned Chrysler Museum satellite sites, St. Paul’s Church to see a Revolutionary-war era cannonball stuck in its brick wall, and feasting on southern sea fare such as potato chip-encrusted crab cakes.

Tennessee — This fall, we are heading back “home” to Tennessee for a proper vacation. Bookended by a wedding in Memphis one weekend, and a birthday celebration from my mom in the Smoky Mountains the next, we decided to spend a little time in Nashville and Cumberland relaxing and seeing the sites in between. I’m so excited to experience the Ryman and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and to catch Tennessee’s counterpart to my Charleston’s Husk.

And last, but not least…

Football is back! — Truth be told, while I’m a basketball girl myself, I love that Saturday afternoons are reserved for curling up on the couch with Mr. SIT, good snacks, and maybe a magazine or two for me (if it’s a Tennessee game).

Country Jukebox Playlist

27 05 2013


Tomorrow, I’m heading to one of my favorite southern cities, Birmingham, to see my college roommate. So I needed a little Southern road trip music. Usually I leave the territory of country music to Mr. SIT, but I’m always in the mood for a little classic country when I drive. Inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, Dr. Russell Moore’s The Cross and the Jukebox, I picked a few of his suggested tunes to get my drive started off right.

I thought I’d share my picks so that you can sing along on your summer vacation. Here they are…

1. “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash

2. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones

3. “Highway 20 Ride” by the Zac Brown Band

4. “American Pie” by Don McLean

5. “That’s What I Love About Sunday” by Craig Morgan

6. “Lay You Down” by Conway Twitty

7. “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood

8. “Long Time Gone,” by the Dixie Chicks

9. “Man in Black” by Johnny Cash

10. “A Boy Named Sue,” by Johnny Cash

11. “Beer for My Horses,” by Toby Keith and Willie Nelson

12. “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” by Bob Dylan

13. “Okie from Muskogee,” by Merle Haggard

14. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams

15. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynrd

16. “(We’re Not) The Jet Set” by George Jones and Tammy Wynette

17. “Red Ragtop” by Tim McGraw

18. “Reasons Why I Cheat” by Randy Travis

19. “A Pirate Looks at Forty” by Jimmy Buffett

20. “It Wasn’t His Child” by Trisha Yearwood

Where in the South are you going this summer? And what are your favorite tunes to bring along?

Beach House

16 05 2012

We like a lot of different music around here at Sweet Iced Tea. For example, my playlist includes everything from bluegrass, classic rock, classical, indie pop (that is one genre people), jazz, Christian, etc…  Last week, Peter and I went to see Beach House.  No, that is not a house on the beach, it is a band.

Based out of Baltimore, Maryland, Beach House is hard to place in one genre (as are many bands these days).  It is moody, with ups and downs that transition slowly throughout each track.  The instrumental and synthesized sounds, on their newest album, “Bloom,” and the vocals of lead singer, Victoria Legrand can take you on a listening party journey, if time permits. However, this album is wonderful in that you don’t have to sit and listen for hours trying to discover song meaning, or turn down the volume for bits that are so overpowering you find yourself jumping. This is the perfect album to turn on, start a new recipe in the kitchen, and pour yourself a glass of wine.  Soon enough you will find yourself singing harmony. Well, ok, that might just be me.  It is an album that would make a fantastic movie soundtrack in its entirety, but for now it might just be the perfect soundtrack to your evening.

Here are a couple of upcoming shows in our neck of the woods:

July 9th – Tulsa, Oklahoma

July 12th – Memphis, Tennessee

July 13-15th – Louisville, Kentucky

For a limited time you can also listen to the entire album, “Bloom” on NPR.

<picture was taken at the show in Jacksonville Beach, Florida and they put on a good show.>

When a Man Loves a Woman

23 04 2012

We’ve got love on the brain this week. One half of this blog is getting her own Mr. SIT this weekend. That’s right, Becky is getting married! And I’m so excited I’m getting to travel back to Florida for the sacred occasion, so I’ve been listening to my favorite love songs in honor of her upcoming nuptials.

I remember the first time I heard When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge. Every Wednesday night when I was a kid, my family and I sat down after we got home from church to watch The Wonder Years. It’s still my all time favorite show, but I so specifically remember that episode where Kevin first kisses Wendy. I fell in love right then — with the song, that is.

File:When a Man Loves a Woman cover.jpg

This soulful song, turns out, was recorded in the South, at Norala Sound Studio in Alabama. Turns out, before the recording session, the melody had been written, but Mr. Sledge improvised those classic lyrics. Magic.

Take a listen if you haven’t recently. I love how romantic it is to think a man would “turn his back on his best friend if he put her down.”

P.S. — Because of all the great music used in the episodes, The Wonder Years has never been released onto DVDs. But, you can watch them right now on Netflix!

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?

Sweet Home WHERE?

16 04 2012



Last night, I was at a show. For the final song, the band broke out into a crowd favorite. As soon as you hear those opening notes, you know it’s gonna be fun.

And then.

In the final chorus, the singer thought he’d appeal to the audience, and changed the words to “Sweet Home California!”

I was deeply offended.

Well, only a little offended. But you know what? I realized something, in that moment that has sort of summed up our past two years out here on the West Coast: in the same way singing about the swamplands just didn’t work among these dear granola lovers, my Jesus-loving, butter-slatthering, hydrangea-growing, hot weather-craving self just doesn’t totally fit out here. Folks are surprisingly really nice out this way. But I get a little weary of being asked two or three times a week, “Where’s that accent from?” (Though I’m never ashamed to say where, I don’t think I have an “accent!”)

It’s like when you’ve been on a really great vacation. You know, you’ve had the time of your life, made memories you’ll never forget, but you just want to be home. Home — to unpack your things, to stand in your own kitchen, and get back to the friends you so dearly miss.

So while I really didn’t mind hearing the crowd sing along to “Sweet Home California,” that song will always have a special place in my heart. After all, it reminds me of home. I spent a few glorious years living in Jacksonville, the hometown of the noble band itself, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a few more of my childhood living in in Alabama.

So remember, y’all. It’s Sweet Home ALABAMA. It’s a classic. And no other state will do.

What’s your favorite Southern anthem?

[For a different take at this classic song, check out one of my favorite blogs by Southern Seminary professor and country music lover Russell Moore featuring his popular series The Cross and the Jukebox on “Sweet Home Alabama.”]

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.