Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tennessee On My Mind

 image via

image via

image via

route 81 south somewhere in TN

Johnson City, TN

For two years now I have had Tennessee on my mind. Perhaps it began with the two trips to Memphis I made within a nine month time frame.  Maybe it has just been creeping up on me slowly; manifesting in subscriptions to southern lifestyle magazines and the creation of Pinterest boards totally dedicated to images of the Volunteer State.
There's also a very good chance that it is just embedded in my soul. Part of my genetic make up if you will. You see, my paternal great grandmother Laura (my dad called her Moonie) and her entire family hailed from Maryville Tennessee, not far from Knoxville. I have an amazing photo of  Moonie, her husband Pop and a bevvy of relatives sitting on the front porch of a home in Knoxville. She was thoughtful enough to leave us notes everywhere and on almost everything she left behind. The address of the home in the picture was carefully scribed on the back and the receipt from her oil painting was gently taped to the backside of her lovely portrait. (By the way, the going rate for an oil painting of yourself in 1911 was $18.00. Cool, huh?)

Laura Taylor Johnston, my great grandmother. Behind her are:
to the right, my great grandfather Alexander Lee Don
to the left, his father, my great great grandfather Alexander Lee Don 

She even left behind a small piece of a log with a carved peg in the side ~ a cornerstone to the log cabin her family once lived in.
I treasure these momentos and wish I had had the chance to know her. My father tells me all the time how she and I are very alike and how much we would have enjoyed each other. He has also told me how much she missed Tennessee when she moved here to NJ. She was able to travel back a few times before the end of her lifetime but always pined for her original home.
We cut through part of eastern Tennessee on our way to my in laws cabin in South Carolina over the holidays. It was like a dream come true and I was like a kid on Christmas morning, practically bouncing in the passenger seat, taking tons of pictures from the car window as we made our way down a mountain highway. 
There's just something about it. Something is drawing me to eastern Tennessee and I'm not sure why or exactly what it is. I just know I need to heed this longing and make my way there.

"The mountains are calling and I must go." ~ John Muir

Have you ever felt a longing to go somewhere you have never been?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Treasure Hunters

My children have been brought up on a steady diet of thrift stores, flea markets and antique emporiums. They also learned at a young age that if they take care of their toys there is resale value and over the years they have happily sat next to me at a flea market table selling their no longer loved belongings. Leaving with a pocketful of money to buy something they really want has been a powerful lesson in more ways than one.
Yet as children grow up their ideals and opinions change as quickly as their height and shoe size and buying items that once belonged to someone else is no longer appealing. My daughter has made no bones about expressing her disgust in thrift stores. Her older brother shared similar feelings until he discovered that he could buy records and movies for mere pennies. That's all it took to win him back over. Still unconvinced, it took us finding a box filled with her favorite Japanese Anime movies that we bought for less than $5 to make her begrudgingly admit that maybe this wasn't so bad after all.
Lately, there is nothing I love more than spending a whole afternoon on a thrift crawl with the two of them. I love listening to them discuss the items they have found and I even get a kick out of hearing them converse with each other about the things I have purchased for myself. Last week we spent the MLK holiday going from thrift store to thrift store. I found a beautiful red floral dress (pictured above) for a few bucks and as I held it against myself in front of a mirror my daughter rolled her eyes and said, "You cannot seriously be thinking of buying that!"
"Why not, it would look great with these boots I have on."
"Mom, it looks like an old lady dress."
My son interrupted. "Mom isn't going to just wear it plain like that. She'll wear it differently and make it look really cool and modern."
Still doubtful, she shrugged and wandered away while I smiled to myself and thought about how lucky I am to have raised my own little treasure hunters. I know the little doubting one will come around. I got her to try on a great shirt later that same day and we even found a necklace she loves.
A few more successful trips like that and she'll be a convert.

What do you think about buying secondhand items?

*note: Those gorgeous linen napkins and decanter are all going into the Etsy shop today!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Football Sunday

Football Sundays are a big deal around here. My boys yell, cheer and pace the house regularly from early September until well into the start of the new year. Since I cannot for the life of me understand the sport (despite my husband's valiant attempts to teach me) I happily take my place in the kitchen finding ways to fill their bellies with all sorts of decadent fare.
Yesterday I was sorting through recipes I had torn out of my magazine subscriptions trying to meal plan the upcoming week when I stumbled across this recipe I had torn out of the October issue of Southern Living magazine. 
Sloppy Cola Joe Dogs.
Yes, you read that right. Sloppy Joe's made with cola. There was no question that they would love it. After all, it contains two of my sons favorite food groups: beef and soda. (What can I say? He's19...)
My husband dressed his with banana peppers and pickles from his father's garden and the boy and I just topped ours with shredded cheese. The sky could be the limit with toppings. While they won't go on a weekly meal rotation, it's perfect for football watching or serving at a casual gathering. Definitely going into my recipe archive.

Sloppy Cola Joe Dogs
adapted from Southern Living Magazine

1 medium size red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
11/2 lbs. ground beef (or turkey)
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of spicy, fruity cola (recipe recommends Dr. Pepper, I used regular Pepsi)
8 hot dog buns

Sauté onion in hot oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until caramel colored. About 4-5 minutes
Add ground beef to skillet and cook over medium high heat until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain.
Return beef to skillet. Stir in tomato paste, garlic and Worcestershire sauce and cook until mixture thickens and color darkens. Stir in cola and 1/2 cup of water and cook, stirring constantly 6-8 minutes or until bubbly.
*note: I set a timer for 8 minutes and stirred occasionally and it came out just fine*
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Vacation Life

Two days after Christmas we packed up the car and drove down to my in laws log cabin in northwest South Carolina. We love going there to visit. Each trip becomes a week long chance to relax and live life as simply as possible. My mother and father in law have created a very sustainable life for themselves there. They grow and preserve 90% of their own vegetables, they raise chickens for eggs and they have been taking care of a cow since birth that will provide a year of beef for them over this new year. The house is heated by wood which they have plentiful amounts of on the 10 acres they own. As each year passes I realize they are living my dream life.

It's no secret that I am not in love with where we live. I've had enormous moments of unrest since 2005 as I contemplate in which direction to take my life. These moments have come and gone. They were shorter and happened more sporadically in the past. Now,the itch to abandon life as I know it no longer comes and goes but stays like a nagging regret.

My thoughts have been profound and I am asking myself on a daily basis "why?". Why do we spend over 50% of our lives outside of our home doing things we are not in love with? The answer is simple and obvious: to sustain our lives. Then I ask myself what are we sustaining? Overhead and literally the roof over our heads. I love our home but truth be told, it is simply a shell that we have filled with beauty and memories. Everything we love about it we created and put here. We are why we love this house.

When I think about the cost of living to sustain it, the taxes we pay and how I truly feel about where we live, I cannot find the value in it. Costs continue to rise and we receive nothing in return. The inept schools, the lack of community, the congestion....I have lived here almost my whole life and the changes I see not only disappoint me, but have begun to disgust me as well.

My self evolution over the past few years has changed not only my values but my habits. We can live with so much less.
I want to live with so much less.
If I do, I stand to gain so much more.

This week away in the mountains provided so much more than rest. It gave me clarity in our future and our family has become aligned in which direction the four of us will be headed.
This doesn't mean the For Sale sign is going up tomorrow. There are details - many details to be sorted and not only my future that rides on these decisions. Yet there is great peace and hope in what is to come.

"By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which will moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will see when they get to the end of it, if not before."
~from Walden by Henry David Thoreau