Friday, September 9, 2016


Our little farm is nestled at the end of a dead end road that is probably about a mile long and densely wooded. There's a good possibility that there are more deer living on our street than humans but since neither are often visible I'm really just guessing. Three other houses sit down at the end of the road and I believe there might be two others hidden deep into the woods at the end of long, winding dirt driveways. I assume a dirt driveway must lead to something or another but who really knows? I'm certainly not brave enough to find out.
We haven't officially met any of the other people who live on the street unless you count the couple about 1/4 mile up with the crazy loose dogs that jump out in the road and chase your car as you drive by. There's about 4 or 5 of them with a large snarling boxer as their ringleader. The woman just helplessly throws her arms in the air if she happens to be outside when the boxer leaps out in front of you. Meanwhile, you hardly notice her because you've just had a mini heart attack that has dislodged your heart and pushed it up into your throat. As you are choking on it you pray your car comes to a screeching halt so you don't hit the son of a bitch. This dog is lucky that it would be socially awkward to hit him right in front of his owner because he is such a menace that it has actually become tempting. A man who must live with the woman and said dog has actually given us permission to "just run him over" but we don't because he only yells it if he happens to be standing in the road when one of these incidents occurs. We realize he is probably just frustrated and embarrassed that the menace refuses to listen when called. And as tempting as it might be in that moment to lay the pedal to the metal, as fellow dog owners we couldn't imagine living with ourselves if we hurt one of them even though I've sometimes wondered if the world wouldn't be a better place without that boxer and his gnashing teeth and nasty growl. 
Naturally, these run ins don't count as "meeting" the neighbors and the people whose homes are in closer proximity to ours just mind their own business. In the first few weeks we would wave if we happened to be out front as someone drove by but our house is set off the road a bit and you can't really see well enough to know if they waved back. After a while we just stopped because it felt stupid. It doesn't bother us that no one has stopped over and I wouldn't say these people are unfriendly. Fact is, our driveway is gated and the gate is always closed. Not because we are unfriendly, but because we have three dogs and four free range hens and prefer to keep them from wreaking havoc upon the neighborhood. We feel it is the neighborly thing to do. Besides, let's give these people the benefit of the doubt: how would you feel if a Subaru Outback with New Jersey license plates came rolling down your bucolic Tennessee backroad? There goes the neighborhood indeed.
Truth be told, I was embarrassed about the Jersey plates myself because I didn't want these people to think badly of us. Jersey people have a bad rap and sometimes rightly so. Since I was born, raised and spent the first 40 years of my life living there I have no shame in saying that. People are different out here. It's a kinder, gentler place. Except in the isolated case of a loose, roaming boxer. I know when I see New Jersey plates driving around Nashville I gasp a little and say a quick prayer that if they're moving here it's because they love and appreciate this place like we do. I don't want anything about it to change and I will singlehandedly build a wall around Tennessee if I need to in order to keep that from happening. I hope you know I say that with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. 

A few weeks back a small black pickup truck came languidly rolling down the street. There were two pit bulls hanging out in the back and an elderly gentleman up front who had a longish grey ponytail hanging from the backside of his baseball cap. He stopped at our house, got out and introduced himself to Charlie who just so happened to be outside. He shared how he and his wife live right at the end of the road in the exact spot where our street forks off sharply to the left. It's a tidy house nestled in a grassy knoll with a front porch and picket fence both painted a white that has seen brighter days. They have numerous outbuildings and a gazebo with a swing. We knew exactly what house he was talking about. Their place exudes a coziness that had caught our eye many times.

We were driving back from running errands in town a few days later when we spotted the two of them sitting on the front porch. It seemed like the perfect time to stop. They introduced themselves and somewhere in the introductions felt need to make mention that they are "just simple country folk". Maybe the black caftan I was wearing over my skinny jeans or the stack of bracelets on my arm looked fancy to them. I'm not sure. I may finally live in the country here in Tennessee but I still feel the need to accessorize most days. I did silently thank the Lord however that I didn't wear the navy maxi dress with the long caftan sleeves that looks like I should be serving drinks poolside in Palm Springs. That would have been a bit much. But fancy or not, it was without hesitation that they invited us right inside their humble abode because people here don't look at you funny with one eyebrow raised assuming you have an ulterior motive for being there. People out here still drop by unannounced to see how you're doing and invite you in to sit for a spell. Back home I wouldn't even do that to my parents or siblings. Back East you just don't.

We spent a good hour that afternoon chatting with them. Turns out they've lived right here in this pristine hamlet all seventy of their some odd years. They are as passionate about the state of Tennessee as they are this neck of the woods and they don't have to explain on either account for me to understand why. They have a cabin on 10 acres about an hour from here that they like to escape to because I guess that even when you live in a small village with just over 600 residents you must still feel the need to get away sometimes. I get it. Their kids are grown with families of their own so it's just the two of them in that sweet little house filled with over 40 years of memories and collected mementos. When they heard that this was our first summer without vegetable gardens the wife disappeared through the back door and returned with her arms full of tomatoes and cucumbers. I sent Charlie back down with a dozen eggs from our hens later that day. It seemed like the best way to reciprocate.
We've been back to visit with them again. Turns out the wife and I share a love of books and cooking. She's welcomed me into her kitchen where she's shared her well worn cookbooks and handwritten recipe journal with me. My heart skipped a beat looking through pages and pages of gracefully scripted dishes. We were standing over her recipe for Chess Pie when I told her I had never had it before. Like Southern hospitality, it doesn't really exist where I'm from.  I couldn't tell if her reaction was of pure shock or pity that I have been deprived of something like Chess Pie. She immediately went to the sideboard and lifted the dome from a pretty glass cake stand.
"I have one slice left of a Chess Pie I made." she said and then she looked slightly embarrassed. "Of course, it's a few days old now and I don't make my own crust anymore, but you really need to have some."
She grabbed a fork from a nearby drawer, carried the pie tin over to where I was standing, cut a generous chunk from that remaining slice and literally fed it to me. Like, actually spooned it into my mouth. I chewed slowly. It had a custard like consistency mixed with a crisp, sugary bite. It was not too overwhelmingly sweet and reminded me of brule but with a pie crust which in my opinion made it even better. For me, sometimes something very moist needs something dry to balance it. It was a delicious combination and she was thrilled I thought so.
Before we left she insisted that I borrow one of her cookbooks so I picked one she had mentioned was a favorite. It's nothing fancy or specifically Southern, just a soft cover spiral bound cookbook where she has lovingly drawn green hearts around certain recipes that must have proved their worth at her table. I thought of the hundreds of hard cover cookbooks I have at home with their lush photography, inspiring covers and was a little uncomfortable at how extravagant they would seem to someone who confessed she buys all her books at Goodwill. She doesn't turn her nose up at soft covers the way I do or choose cookbooks based on whether or not the images are so striking that they make her gasp for air or if the recipes use only the finest seasonal ingredients. She's looking for the tried and true ~ simple meals that not only fill the belly but end up filling the soul with comfort and a peace that all the aspirational visual imagery in the world cannot provide. Best part is, she doesn't even realize it.
Once upon a time I used to dream of spending a week or two taking cooking classes in the heart of Tuscany or Provence. Now I think I would sell my soul for a week spent by her side in that modest kitchen hearing the stories of our little village, growing up in the South and learning how to make proper biscuits and other classic Southern fare. And let's not forget that amazing Chess Pie.

Oh, and by the way they told us they don't often drive down our street. For one it's a dead end and for another there's those damn dogs. 

She also loaned me this amazing book about the history of our village. There aren't words to describe how awesome this is and how hard it will be to give it back.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Mix

Dinner party with friends:
Old classic Wedgwood dinner plates
Vintage mix match flatware
Chambray napkins from West Elm
Rattan chargers 
Vintage mix match glassware
Oversize scarf from American Eagle as a table throw

My infatuation with pink has held steady all summer long and shows no signs of letting up. With deep emerald green accents it may take me all through fall and winter too....

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Playing Tourist in our City

 When my brother, sister in law and mom came into town to visit earlier this month it gave us the perfect excuse to play tourist right here in our own city and all I can say is who knew Downtown on Broadway was so crazy? My daughter said and I quote, "This place is crazier than New York City." She may be right. While it was a blast exploring it all for the first time together my heart definitely lies outside the city limits in that rolling green countryside I am so fortunate to call home.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer in the South

No, seriously....TGIF.
There's been so much going on as we continue to settle in to the new homestead and in between projects, work travel, visitors, more projects and more work travel, we have been trying to enjoy our first summer in the south. And it's been a hot one. Like, really, really hot. So hot that you just want to lay around doing nothing except maybe read a book and refill your wine glass every hour or so because hydration is critical in heat like this.
Since I had a few minutes this morning while I enjoy my coffee and it's been a minute since I've written anything, I thought I would pop in, say hi ~Hi! and share the easiest salad that is perfect for those days. Plus, it takes no fancy kitchen skills which is helpful because after all that wine you need to stay hydrated, let's just say your kitchen skills may be slightly impaired. It's been on rotation in this house and not because my skill level is questionable but more because melons have been ridiculously delicious this summer.
There's no real recipe ~ I just ball up some cantaloupe, slice some fresh mozzarella and prosciutto, throw in some basil and toss with some black pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil. It keeps well in the fridge but I prefer it to be at room temperature which makes it perfect for bringing any leftovers to work for lunch. Except at work there's no wine. Bummer.
We are having our first official dinner party tomorrow with some new friends and I am trying to wrap up both my table and menu plans. Two of my most favorite activities. Along with drinking wine of course.

Happy Weekend Friends!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pop ~ Up Market!

It all started with the lamps I found at Goodwill. Gaudy enough to be completely fabulous, they were the launching point for my booth.  I instantly envisioned a bar/buffet table with these two lamps anchoring the ends. All I would need to do was find the perfect shades that would take the glam down a notch and make them feel current and right now.

A week or two later I found this amazing oil painting and fell head over heels with everything about it. My love for old oil paintings runs deep but the pink and white dress, the gold frame ~ she was a perfect match for my lamps. I knew then that my core color theme would be pink, white, gold and black. Black because I found the most amazing black drum shades for those lamps on clearance at Pottery Barn.

Even though I started planning and acquiring the pieces for my space over the winter, I could only do so much living in a tiny apartment. Then we were moving out of the house in NJ, closing on the house here in TN, cleaning, painting, unpacking and while I could see my set up clearly in my mind, time was no longer on my side in bringing it to fruition. In fact, time was running out quickly and I felt unprepared and ill equipped and worried I had made a big mistake committing to doing this in the first place. It was uncanny that while I secured my space back in December of 2015, that it would coincide with finally moving into our home 6 months later. What are the chances?
The week after the movers came I had to fly back East for a meeting which meant another week of getting nothing prepared. Long story short, I found out while I was there that I would also need to spend the entire week prior to the market in Memphis for work obligations. I about near lost my mind.
I debated pulling out of the market ~ I am not one to do things half assed but I stood to lose a ton of money as well as the opportunity to ever do one of these again if I left them with an empty space last minute. I waivered back and forth for days on what to do but ultimately decided to go for it. Half assed or not. Nothing great every came easy anyway, has it?
God always has a way to work things out even when they seem most impossible. This little farm here in my favorite town in America is proof enough. And he always gives beauty for ashes. 
You know how I know this?
That mess the former owners left us in the barn had piles of old barn wood in it. Fabulous old barn wood that Charlie used to make me an amazing sawhorse table. It came out so good in fact that I put it in my home office/studio space for photographing merchandise for the shop. (There was also an amazing giant, antique porcelain kitchen sink out there too that is going to be reused in a magnificent way, but that is a whole other story for another time) Some lady at the market even inquired if it was for sale! 
The most beautiful thing of all though was when I walked into Liberty Hall at the Factory and saw my space was that it was up against a brick wall. I nearly cried with joy. It gave me a place to hang the little gallery wall I envisioned and the best part was that there were pre~drilled holes in the wall. I just slid little screws in them and viola! My gallery was complete.
God is so good y'all.
The market was a big success for me, I met some amazing people and since then the online shop has been really busy with tons of hits and people saving it to their Etsy favorites. Whether it is related, I don't know but I couldn't have asked for more. Some lady even came back as the market closed out and bought all the fabric I used to create my "dining table". Unbelievable!

I haven't committed to the October market yet; I am still deciding only because it is so close to the craziest time of year at work for me. But who knows? Thoughts of a fall/winter theme are already racing through my mind....

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Sweetest Moments

There have been so many sweet moments our family has shared through this journey that are forever ingrained in my memory. Those moments when I thought I was losing my nerve and about to run home with my tail between my legs but my son's pep talks and confidence in me reminded me that I could do this. Our two months spent here alone together was time I could never replace and some of our best mother/son moments. I smile when I think about all the nights my daughter and I stayed up way too late giggling and being silly in our shared bedroom back at the apartment. Or that Saturday morning a few weeks back when I was walking through the airport from my final flight home and saw Charlie standing there at the end of the terminal waiting for me. I will never forget how full my heart felt and how happy he was to see me; knowing that this time we were together for good.

I don't know what you call it, but I am one of those people who gets a vision for almost everything. Naturally, I had built the entire scenario up in my mind of the first moments Charlie would step into our new home, admiring and taking it all in while I anxiously waited for his inevitable approval. As we pulled up to do our final walkthrough the evening before closing I realized that things were not going to materialize as I had imagined.
The sellers were there and no where near moved out. I counted 7 dogs and 2 horses roaming around the property, which to our dismay, they had completely stopped taking care of since the home inspection. Since May is pretty much full blown summer here in Tennessee the property has become a veritable jungle and I cringed as we walked passed empty cans, bottles and other assorted garbage just thrown on the weed infested lawn. If you think the house was in much better shape then guess again. There aren't many words to describe the level of filth we encountered. Needless to say, Charlie was obviously completely horrified that he was about to plunk his money down on this place.
It was definitely not one of the sweetest moments.

We arrived to the house a few hours after closing ready to start cleaning and prepping it for painting. My realtor/girlfriend showed up right behind us in her sweats with rubber gloves in hand. We scrubbed the kitchen for hours, laughing, joking, squealing in fear and disgust at some of what we found. We cracked a bottle of Dom I had long been saving for this very occasion and feasted on some fine meats and cheeses.
Despite the fridge alone taking 2 hours to clean and sanitize, it was one of the sweeter moments and other than the obvious good company, I'm sure the Dom played a little part in that too.

We have spent the past 5 days cleaning and painting. Our backs ache, our joints hurt, there has been plenty of crankiness and we have come close to having some arguments. I was standing out on the deck the other evening taking a breather and soaking in our beautiful surroundings when Charlie walked out to join me. We were quiet at first standing there leaning over the railing when he finally spoke. "I do see the potential here. I can see gardens out there and our family sitting out here enjoying it all on this deck. I just can't believe  that this place was left like in this condition for us."
My need to hear him say that he finally saw what I did in this place made up for a lot of those not so sweet moments.

Sunday night I decided to make a proper dinner. With the movers arriving yesterday to deliver our stuff I figured the rest of the week will be a meal time crap shoot. I stood here in my new (and clean) kitchen chopping vegetables with a cocktail by my side and Waylon Jennings on the radio. As I took my time preparing our meal I remembered how many evenings in NJ where I stood in that little kitchen with a cocktail by my side, Waylon on the radio all the while dreaming that someday we would own a farm in Tennessee.
We are finally here.
That is most definitely the sweetest moment of all.

Monday, May 9, 2016


The spring season is a busy one in the world of women's apparel retail. Easter generally flows right into Mother's Day and the build to Mother's Day is considered to be the "Black Friday" of the season. Needless to say, I was not really excited about working my second Saturday in a row, especially since this busy period has meant that Charlie and I have only had 2 days off together since he arrived in Nashville on April 16th. It's feels like a big fat tease: he's finally here but I just work all the time.  Let's not even discuss the fact that my job now encompasses 4 states and I spent the middle part of the week on another whirlwind trip to the OKC.
Anyway, at some point during the day on Saturday a woman that works for me casually mentioned that someone had dumped two puppies in her yard about a week ago. She was doing her due diligence to see if she could find their rightful owner to no avail. Her neighbor agreed to take the boy puppy but she was yet to find a home for the girl and was not going to be able to keep her permanently.
I asked her to show me pictures of the dog and mentioned that we had been discussing getting a 3rd dog since we will have so much land. I prattled on about needing a bigger, more serious dog for the property than our two spoiled "city" dogs and how I love labs and blah, blah, blah. 
Then she held up her phone and showed me this face:

I mean, really.....
I sent some pics to my husband and before I knew it, my daughter was texting me begging me to take the dog. They had already sent pictures to my son who is currently in South Carolina and now he was begging for her too via long distance. Being the sucker I am, we met up with her and the puppy later that evening to see if we thought she would be a fit for our family.

 By the way, have you ever seen a shopping center with a park/green space smack in the middle of it? No, me either until I moved out here. God bless Nashville.

She stole our hearts.
We know we are totally crazy taking on a puppy at the same time we are trying to move and be settled in our new home. We are going from a 2 dog family to a 3 dog, 2 cat (we are keeping the property's current barn cats) family with 4 hens on the way in a matter of a two weeks. Insane.
But the reality is, there is never an optimal time to take on a puppy, this little girl needs a home and I may just be certifiably crazy. 
So without further ado, I'd like to introduce Frankie. My daughter came up with the name and given our love for our new hometown Franklin I thought it was quite apropos. I am sure I will be complaining about the shedding but that face tells me it will all be worth it.