I Love Weddings

Wedding : Ginger
(this is me almost nine happy years ago, getting ready to walk down the aisle…)

I love weddings, and I love wedding announcements. Every year, Mississippi Magazine comes out with their wedding register, and brides take out either a full page or two full pages, in color, to announce their wedding.

When Av and I got married, I wrote our announcement and it was *full* of flowery adjectives. I could not fit enough over-the-top description in. For instance, rather than saying that we took a two week honeymoon to Europe, I wrote in every little town we stopped in practically! When I talked about the meal, I think I even mentioned that for dessert the caterer served a flaming cherries jubilee (if you’re having cherries jubilee, it’s understood that it’s flaming, right!?).

Ohmystars our announcement was just so out there. Well, it was the nicest event I had ever been to (Av’s family paid for the entire thing – we had 225 or 250 guests, amazing flowers, a crazy-wonderful meal) and the whole time I was writing the announcement when we got back home, I was thinking “now this will sound impressive to everybody in my little hometown!”. If I had been more accustomed to ‘big city life’ I think I could have kept it lower-profile while still sounding good! Now that I look back on it, it is just *funny*!

Well, since I’ve been there, I just love to read others’ announcements. Y’all, there are some good ones! While Shug has been playing in his jumperoo, I marked some of the best:

Okay – this I *love*:
“After the pronouncement of marriage, a gospel choir entered the sanctuary and the bride and groom recessed to “O, Happy Day.”
How wonderful would that be!!??

Here are some floral fireworks – in the same announcement:
“Atop each vase were colossal red and hot pink rose explosions.”
and again, later:
“The culinary presentation included three massive black urns with lavish explosions of roses.”

A good start:
“A fairy tale wedding in perfect Southern tradition took place on a crisp November evening under a full moon.”

Okay, if I had been able to give the specific botanical names of my flowers, I probably would have done this too:
“…highlighting thousands of roses consisting of ‘Star 2000,’ Peckoubo,’ ‘Movie Star,’ and ‘Marlyse.’
and those were mentioned again another two times.

I believed in giving the details too:
“…they then enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner of
Bryan honey baked ham…”

The grooms had some great cakes – here are a few different ones:
“His cake was surrounded by mosses, cotton stalks, wheat, reeds, mallard and wood duck decoys…”

“The walls were covered with cypress screens and tulle netting and decorated with antique painted duck decoys and feather-covered wreaths and arrangements. Rye grass, grown in individual platters, was used on the tall bar tables, while beer was served from a canoe.”

“…the groom’s two-tiered chocolate cake which paid homage to his favorite hobby, hunting. Camouflage icing…”

“An arrangement of cattails, duck decoys, and shotgun shells completed the table setting.”

“Featured was a ‘trophy’ turkey in a bed of grasses…”

“The groom’s table featured a Bear Bryant/Alabama Crimson Tide motif…”
((how many coaches do you know that have been gone 25 years now and still appear on groom’s cakes? That just goes to show how much we still all love The Bear!))

“Chocolate drizzle and chocolate covered strawberries covered the cake, and it was topped with duck calls.”

“The groom’s chocolate ganache cake was accented with fondant shotgun shells reflecting the groom’s love of hunting.”

“The groom’s cake was chocolate and bore an image of him enjoying his favorite pastime, bass fishing.”

“The groom’s cake was a chocolate-tiered square cake bearing the University of Mississippi emblem and was served under an Ole Miss tent depicting game day in “The Grove”.”

“The groom’s table showcased a three-dimensional chocolate alligator cake…”

((and one groom’s cake was a big bowl of banana pudding. That is my kind of groom!))

I loved all the announcements…especially the ones above, because they – like me – wanted to give the reader a real sense of how crazy-fantastic their day was. And that’s so much fun!

…and the grooms! I love how their part of the reception is reflecting who they are! Knowing Av, if he had it do to over again, he would probably want the centerpiece to be a Krispy-Kreme cake and find some way for the UVA mascot to be there, and have everything look like game day in Charlottesville…

I truly do love weddings. You know, the next time we are in Las Vegas, we are going to look up the kitschiest Elvis-impersonator wedding chapel and go all-out! Extra points if it is a drive-through!

Mardi Gras Wreath – Ornament Wreath

This weekend, I made this year’s Mardi Gras wreath! It took a little time – and a lot of hot glue, but it turned out really nice. See what you think!

styrofoam wreath (I used the biggest one they had at Michael’s)

Krylon spray paint in purple, green, or gold

globe ornaments (I got mine 1/2 off after Christmas) in purple, green, and gold – I think I used about 100 total of three different sizes

hot glue gun & lots of glue sticks

Av took the styrofoam wreath outside and painted both sides with purple Krylon:

When it was completely dry, I started gluing on large globe ornaments on the outside of the circle, with the hanger hardware taken off the ornaments. I put the open end of each ornament towards me, since I was working from the back of the wreath and they wouldn’t be seen:

Next, I did the inside part of the circle with medium-size ornaments:

I turned over the wreath, and started working on the ‘right’ side – the side that will face the street – and started gluing on more small and medium-size ornaments until the wreath was completely covered:

…and here it is, all finished! I had to take one ornament off the inner part of the circle so the wreath hanger would have a place to rest, but other than that (which no one will ever notice) I think it turned out really nice!

Yay! Happy Mardi Gras!

Whipping Cream Biscuits

Usually, I like to make buttermilk biscuits, but this week I made a batch of whipping cream biscuits – they are really nice because they come out just super-light and fluffy inside.

tiny bit of oil for the skillet

1 cup whipping cream
2 cups flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp super-cold butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 425*. Lightly oil a cast iron skillet and place in the oven so that it reaches the cooking temperature.

Put the whipping cream in the Kitchen-Aid and whip until stiff peaks form

Take the bowl out of the mixer, and gently fold it into the other ingredients. Mix just until the dough comes together – don’t over-mix. I’ll sometimes put the dough back in the Kitchen-Aid with the dough hook and let it go around just a few times. If the dough is overworked, it won’t be as fluffy.

Once the oven is at 425*, take the cast iron skillet out of the oven (be careful!) and place inside the skillet rounded mounds of dough for each biscuit around the perimeter and one or two inside. You’ll be able to see that the bottom of each biscuit starts to cook and make a nice crust while you’re doing this step:

Put the skillet back in the oven and start checking on the biscuits at about 15 minutes. Mine are usually ready around 22-24 minutes – they’ll get nice and golden brown on top:

…and super fluffy inside.


Cast Iron Skillet

This is Av’s grandmother’s cast iron skillet. It’s probably…well, there is no telling how old it is. It might be 50 years old. It is the most beautiful black, and it is so well seasoned that nothing will stick inside of it.

And it makes great cornbread.

The National Cornbread Festival is in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (the home of Lodge cast iron) on April 26 and 27 this year. They have a cook-off, a cornbread eating contest, and lots of other things. The only thing is, they have a recipe section and some of the recipes call for putting sugar in the cornbread – that is a big no-no here in the South! When I bought Kathryn Tucker Windham’s cookbook, “Treasured Alabama Recipes” that’s even how she signed all her books!

Shug’s First Scrapbook

On Monday, UPS delivered Shug’s first scrapbook! I’m still planning on doing a homemade scrapbook, but this is the one that I did digitally, using Blurb. I am so happy with it!

It goes from Shug’s birth to his six month birthday – well actually a bit before birth, because I put several of the ultrasound pics in it.

I ordered two books at first, just to make sure that the print quality and everything was good – we kept one and gave the other to Av’s parents, and they flipped over it!

I plan to make a scrapbook for Shug every six months – so the next one will be from six months to his one year birthday.

One of the reasons I really liked doing a scrapbook this way was that I was able to use Blurb’s software called BookSmart which has all kinds of different layouts – so even though I know InDesign and could put together a book that way, they had such a good selection of designs that I used BookSmart for the whole thing. I worked on it every couple of days while Shug napped and that really helped me keep up (I’m working on the next book now). Nice!

Spinach, Leek, and Horseradish Gratin

This weekend, I made a new dish that turned out really good – spinach, leek, and horseradish gratin. The horseradish gives it a little bite that is really nice. If I was serving this for several people, I might use less horseradish because some people can be sensitive to spicy food, but just for us, it was perfect…I might even use a tiny bit more next time.

Ingredients (serves 6):
2 tbsp butter, plus a bit more butter to grease the 8×8 pan
3 leeks, chopped
2 regular-size cans spinach (although fresh really would have been wonderful – I’ll do that next time)
3 tbsp horseradish
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350*. Butter an 8×8 ovenproof dish.

In a large skillet, I melted the butter over medium-high heat and added the chopped leeks, cooking them until they were soft.

Next, I added the spinach and horseradish, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked until everything was heated through. I took the skillet off the heat and added the sour cream and seasoned with salt & pepper, mixed until well blended, and poured everything in the 8×8 dish:

The parmesan and mozzarella were combined and sprinkled on top of the spinach mixture:

…and after about 28 minutes in the 350* oven (I started checking on it at 20 minutes), it was bubbling, golden on top, and ready to serve:


Tu B’Shevat

Last night started Tu B’Shevat – it’s the ‘New Year of Trees’ which I guess in the most simple explanation, is the ‘Jewish Arbor Day’. It started as an agricultural festival (celebrating moving toward Spring from Winter), and there are two main things that people try to do for the holiday – eat a new fruit, and plant a tree.

I was talking with Av this morning about it – every year in elementary school, he and the other kids would bring $5 (it’s now $18) to send to JNF to plant a tree in Israel.

When Av was 15 and took one of his trips to Israel, part of his trip was to go to a JNF forest – there are *tons* of JNF forests where together over 240 million trees have been planted since 1901 – and he planted four trees, one for each grandparent.

Here he is on that trip holding the four trees (wow! look at those glasses! haha! I think those are the crazy ones that get dark in the sunshine on their own. Okay – well, this was the early ’80s…):

Today, we did three things for Tu B’Shevat – we donated $18 to JNF to plant a tree in Israel, we planted our new pink perfection camellia in the yard (well, actually Av did that last week when it arrived! Here it is in the snow…I hope it’s going to be okay…):

…and we donated money to take part in the “Keep Mississippi Beautiful Avenue of Magnolias” program that has been going on for over 40 years. For $25, the Keep Mississippi Beautiful organization will plant a magnolia along a road leading into the state in honor or in memory of someone.

Tu B’Shevat isn’t a big holiday, but it’s still something we can do, and it will be even more fun when Shug gets older and starts to think about what he wants to plant. Of course, this is when we should be looking through the seed catalogs and think about what we want to put in the garden this year too!

Next holiday: Mardi Gras (yay!). Av and I belong to the Jewish krewe, and our parade rolled this past weekend, but we had to stay at home this year for the first time. We’ll be there next year, though! Since we didn’t get down to New Orleans, I decided to order a king cake to be delivered from Paul’s – they make the *best*. When I make ours here, I’ll post the recipe & pics too.

Our MLK Project

This year one of the things we did for MLK Day was make a microloan through Kiva to a woman named Tamilla Aslanova who sells cereals (beans, grains, etc) in a bazaar in Khachmaz, Azerbaijan.

I found out about Kiva when President Clinton was promoting his book, Giving, on Martha. One of the organizations that he mentioned was Kiva – they take money that’s loaned to give business owners in impoverished communities the capital to expand/improve. The loan we made to Tamilla will be paid back over the course of 14 months – and she has already successfully repaid two prior loans.

Right now, there are so many people interested in doing this that the organization has had to lower the amount each person can loan to $25 so more people can participate.

When Shug gets older, maybe we can make Kiva part of our tradition and he can take part in deciding who we help. I love holidays, and of course we want him to celebrate and take part in all kinds of different special days.

Tonight starts Tu B’Shevat! Another holiday….

Published Again!

Wow! I am so excited – I found out just last week that more of my pictures have been published!

The first thing is “an urban design proposal and architectural pattern book” for Michigan City, Indiana – about twenty or so of my pictures were used to illustrate home styles (like neoclassical Queen Anne, etc.). It can be downloaded from this website, but it’s a little over 37mb, so unless you’re really curious about that sort of thing…

The other pic that was published this month was in the brand-new magazine, Thicket. It’s a magazine about modern-day Alabama (although I like the name, I wonder if it’s a good idea that the name is not more straight-forward (like Texas Monthly, Mississippi Magazine, etc)). I’m really hoping it is successful, and this first issue is really nice.

The picture of mine that’s used is in the ‘Our Town’ section, in which they featured Marion. This is the Perry County Courthouse:


A Good Snow

It snowed again today! Av thinks we got 1/2″-3/4″, which is a *ton* for us. It was so exciting!

Snow on the bottle tree:

…on the backyard camellia:

…on the ivy:

…on the birds, who didn’t seem to mind one bit:

We bundled Shug up and took him outside to see – Av let him touch the snow for just a second:

He loved it!