Gee’s Bend Photographs

Back in the 1970s, the B’ham Public Library secured a grant and hired John Reese to go to Gee’s Bend and photograph the people there, just as Arthur Rothstein had done for the FSA back in the 1930s. This is one of Arthur Rothstein’s pics, below:

Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, 8b35946r

The FSA’s photographs taken by Arthur Rothstein aren’t under copyright (which is how they’re available to be published, like above) but the ones that John Reese took for the library are under copyright, under Title 17 – except for private use. A catalog of those images can be viewed here though.

My favorite of John Reese’s photographs has to be this one on baptism day and this one of Lucy Pettway looking to be making a rag rug. The nice thing about John Reese’s photographs is that they are now, as of September, on exhibit back in Gee’s Bend at the Old Boykin Elementary School. Kathryn Tucker Windham talks about John Reese and the photographs here.

Yvonne Wells is not one of the Gee’s Bend quilters – she’s from Tuscaloosa – but there’s an MP3 of a recent interview with her about some of her story quilts here.

It’s Time

It’s time!

The first batch of paperwhites got started today – if you force them now…this week…they’ll very likely be blooming for the holidays. Plus, if you start a few each week, you can have sweet-smelling paperwhite blooms to enjoy for a while to come.

I’ve got four going in Mason jars: filled them up part-way with marbles or rocks, added the bulb:

…topped them with water up to just above the roots on the bulb. In just two or three days the bulb will “wake up” and new roots will be popping out:

Once the roots get going and the water starts to come down, just check them every day or two and add water so that it stays at the same level on the bulb.

I also do a few in glass carafes. These are just some old Manishewitz carafes that I use because the bulb is held so nicely in the top, and once the roots get going it is nice to see how long they get:

In just a couple of days these roots will look totally different:

I always get my bulbs from Smith & Hawken but they are available at just about every garden shop right now too. I put these in a sunny window and they will be taking off in no time!

Decorating For Thanksgiving

I’ve got my Thanksgiving decorating almost done -here’s the mantle, with the wheat sheaths that I tied in green wired ribbon, some tall candleholders each with a little pumpkin on top, a pinecone garland, and beneath, the Indian corn swag from a couple of years ago.

Last year after the holiday, I bought a huge woven twig cornucopia from Pottery Barn – I’m thinking about using it as a base for making something very much like an arrangement that Jane Packer did in her feature for Southern Accents. There’s a pic of it, with instructions, here. Gorgeous.

It’s Fruitcake Weather

Today and tomorrow is the first annual Fruitcake Festival in Monroeville. This is how the organizers are describing it:

The event is a celebration of Truman Capote and the holiday dessert immortalized in his enduring holiday classic, “A Christmas Memory.”

The festival includes fruitcake sales and auctions, recipe exchanges, Capote-related Christmas gifts and even a fruitcake toss on the courthouse lawn.

As a special treat, Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Neal and Broadway actor Joel Vig will present a dramatic reading of ” A Christmas Memory” Friday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m., in the courtroom. Tickets for the reading are $35 and include a fruitcake reception with Miss Neal. To purchase tickets, please contact our friendly staff at (251) 575-7433.

I read that the festival is to help “return the fruitcake to its rightful place as the Queen of the Christmas dessert table”. There’s a recipe for Sook’s fruitcake in Sook’s Cookbook, which I have – the pic of it is above, it’s the first edition from 1989 and is pretty hard to find – but it was reissued in September of this year by LSU Press. It includes the recipe for Sook’s fruitcake. There’s another book that Marie Rudisill wrote with other fruitcake recipes (she was Truman’s aunt – she was 13 and living with Jenny Faulk in Monroeville when he as an infant came to live there also – Marie was best known as the saucy “Fruitcake Lady” on The Tonight Show).

There’s a great article the St. Petersburg Times did back in 2000 with Marie Rudisill about the family. Here’s part:

“Jenny took care of the whole family because not another member of that family worked,” Rudisill says. “None of them. She was mean as she could be, but she was a remarkable woman.”

In Haunting, Rudisill describes Jenny: “She had frosty blue eyes, hair the color of red oak leaves in autumn, and skin like a china doll, translucent in its dazzling whiteness. Her hands were strong and squarish with faint freckles, like a pear ready to be picked. She was born as stylish as a tomcat with white paws and waistcoat. She was on the short side, but her sharp tongue gave her added stature.”

She rented rooms above the store. Those who fell behind on their rent, she yelled at “so all the town could hear.”

Once, Jenny disapproved of a suitor who came to call on Callie. “He pulled up in a buggy to take Callie for a ride,” Rudisill says, “and Jenny went outside and grabbed a horse whip and horse-whipped him right there in town.

“She was a holy terror, I’m not kidding you. She controlled the whole family. If it hadn’t been for her, I don’t know what would have happened to us. All of us.”

Capote came to Jenny Faulk’s house as an infant and lived there until he was 7.

“Truman always claimed that every story he ever wrote came out of his head,” Rudisill says. “Well, that’s a damn lie. The stories that came out of Truman’s head were stories that were based on his childhood in Monroeville, Ala.”

Sook figures prominently in Capote’s short story A Christmas Memory and is the model for Dolly Talbo in Capote’s favorite story, The Grass Harp, about three whimsical characters who escape to their own reality by living in a treehouse on the edge of the woods. Verena is the spitting image of Jenny. Collin Fenwick is a self-portrait of the young Capote; Catherine is based on the family cook.

“That’s the No. 1 book as far as I’m concerned,” Rudisill says. “That’s the book he loved the best.”

There’s actually another fruitcake festival in Independence, California that has a *great* sense of humor. Plus, you have to see the pic of Fruitcake Man, about 3/4ths of the way down the page!

New Bottle Trees

—I knew I wouldn’t be able to put any new posts up with the new baby home, so I did a few before the new baby came, using Blogger’s feature to publish posts automatically for a date in the future. ((Just so you aren’t wondering how I am able to do this with a newborn!))—

Dawn (hi Dawn! thanks again!) was super-nice enough to tell me about a *great* garden shop that has bottle trees – and not just bottle trees, but unique bottle tree-inspired pieces like bottle chandeliers, bottle tables, bottle trellises…

It’s called Myers’ Plants and Pottery (205.663.6597), at 2935 Highway 31 S in Alabaster, Alabama. It is a pretty big garden shop – and it doesn’t look like a whole lot from the street but ohmygoodness do they have some of the most fun things there:

This is just one of the more simply shaped bottle trees they carry. The gentleman who makes these for Myers’ makes some of the most original designs – for whatever reason I just didn’t take enough pictures:

Just as Dawn promised, they had trellises with spokes for bottles, chandeliers for bottles…all kinds of things.

They really do have a wide selection of things for the garden – some things I’ve never seen before. Have you ever said to yourself, “what I really need is an Anne Frank planter”? Or maybe Mark Twain, or Frederick Douglass? Um, probably not.

But guess what:

So you know I had to bring some of the bottle tree things home, right!? Here is one of their bottle chandeliers hanging in the sukkah before it got decorated:

Isn’t it gorgeous? Here it is inside the sukkah once Av had gotten started decorating:

I also couldn’t leave without this bottle tree table:

It is going to be great for parties – those flagstones (I think those are flagstones) will make the perfect space for hors d’oeuvres and beverages:

So happy with these! And another nice thing about Myers’ is that when I told the gentleman there what I was interested in, he made me a nice bargain, then when he and Av were going back outside to put a sold sticker on the table, he said something like, “I just like seeing things leave and making people happy”. What a great businessperson! Easygoing and positive – I bet he’s got a lot of good, regular customers (including me now) who shop with him before going anywhere else…

Ribbon Bulletin Board

—I knew I wouldn’t be able to put any new posts up with the new baby home, so I did a few before the new baby came, using Blogger’s feature to publish posts automatically for a date in the future. ((Just so you aren’t wondering how I am able to do this with a newborn!))—

I wanted to have a bulletin board in Shugie’s room, but I didn’t like the idea of using thumbtacks in there – so I made a ribbon bulletin board. The intersecting ribbons give all the pictures a place to rest.

bulletin board
fabric to cover the front of the b/board plus enough to wrap about 4″ all the way around
heavy-duty stapler, staples

This is just a regular bulletin board from Target:

I got some nice seersucker fabric and wrapped it all around the front, and made giftwrap corners on the edges – then stapled it all in. If you use a striped fabric like this, you have to be careful that no areas are stretched any harder than others or else it will look wavy on the front:

Here it is so far:

Next, I stapled the ribbon in at each corner:

Kept going:

I’ve had ribbon bulletin boards before where the whole thing makes a diamond shape, but I wanted something a little different this time so I added some vertical strips of ribbon too:

Here it is!:


Today we went on a little family outing to a food festival where we saw tons of people we know, but I totally forgot to take pics of everybody! I took these at home…the boys were dressed in their heavier Fall clothes since it was only in the 50s today.

Shug is looking like *such* a big boy!:

…the baby slept the whole time we were out!

Sweet brothers!

Memphis and Huntsville 1971 Are Back In New York

I got an email yesterday with a link to New York Times’ review of the William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008 exhibit that’s on now at the Whitney in New York.

Thirty years ago photography was art if it was black and white. Color pictures were tacky and cheap, the stuff of cigarette ads and snapshot albums. So in 1976, when William Eggleston had a solo show of full-color snapshotlike photographs at the august Museum of Modern Art, critics squawked.

It didn’t help that Mr. Eggleston’s pictures, shot in the Mississippi Delta, where he lived, were of nothings and nobodies: a child’s tricycle, a dinner table set for a meal, an unnamed woman perched on a suburban curb, an old man chatting up the photographer from his bed.

That MoMA’s curator of photography, John Szarkowski, had declared Mr. Eggleston’s work perfect was the last straw. “Perfectly banal, perfectly boring,” sniffed one writer; “erratic and ramshackle,” snapped another; “a mess,” declared a third.

Perfect or not, the images quickly became influential classics. And that’s how they look in “William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008,” a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art that is this artist’s first New York museum solo since his seditious debut.

Okay, so it’s a little off-topic and I am being much-much too sensitive about this, but I cringed when I read the part where the author says Eggleston’s subjects were “nothings and nobodies”. Nevermind the inherent beauty of everyday objects – like the tricycle in Eggleston’s “Memphis” photograph above…who really thinks that people can actually be labeled “nobodies“?! I guess I know what the author is trying to say but haven’t most of us sat in a pew somewhere and heard a sermon probably every Priest, Preacher, and Rabbi has given about this?


The 150-photograph exhibit is open today through January 25, 2009 at the Whitney then goes on to Munich.

What I thought was so interesting was that this is Eggleston‘s first show in NYC since his one-man debut there at MoMA in 1976. And a first edition of the book that went along with the show, “William Eggleston’s Guide” now sells on Amazon and eBay for hundreds and hundreds of dollars (there’s even a signed one on eBay for $1750, obo).

The NYT has a slideshow of photographs from the show here.

Oh! And am I so happy that I took a look at the NYT Eggleston slideshow because I found that the paper did one for the “Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008” (it’s here) and one is called “Wabi Sabi” by Mark Reibstein. Wabi Sabi is this Japanese word(s?)/concept that I’ve been in love with since I heard of it a few years ago. It means…well…I think of it as appreciation for what’s beautifully imperfect (like that Amish quilt I bought a few months ago, for instance). Here is a much better definition though, from the review that the Times did:

As Reibstein puts it: “Wabi sabi is a way of seeing the world that is at the heart of Japanese culture. It finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest and mysterious. . . . It may best be understood as a feeling, rather than as an idea.”

This is something I want the boys to grow up with – that what’s “simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious” is beautiful.

Oh – and A is for Art looks wonderful too!

Thinking About Thanksgiving Already

—I knew I wouldn’t be able to put any new posts up with the new baby home, so I did a few before the new baby came, using Blogger’s feature to publish posts automatically for a date in the future. ((Just so you aren’t wondering how I am able to do this with a newborn!))—

Late last month I got the call asking if I was going to be able to do my usual and make 20 or 25 pies for a local church that feeds the hungry. I try to do that many for them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, but since the new baby will be here soon, I was a little hesitant to promise to do that many. Usually it takes me all day of doing nothing but making pies, and with a brand-new infant (plus Shug will be almost 17 months then) I know I want to do as many as I can but I’m also afraid to have that many looming over me so soon after having the new baby! Here’s a pic of the pies from…I think this was a couple of years ago…when I had them cooling on the table:

Is there anything that smells better than a house full of pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan, apple, fudge, coconut, and egg custard pies? Not to me! Oh it makes me so happy, making each of these pies with love. I’m going to make as many as I can this year but the thought of committing to a certain number scares me a little! Got to take care of those little babies too!

The November issue of Country Living has a small feature about heritage turkeys – the old-fashioned breeds like Bourbon Red and Narragansett – as compared to the white variety that most everyone gets from the grocery store each year. I read in some other magazine, maybe it was Gourmet, about how people overwhelmingly chose the taste of heritage turkeys.

I went to to see if there were any growers of heritage turkeys within 100 miles of us, but there aren’t; the closest one on the website is in Illinois. Of course, to tell the truth, I would be just as happy with doing a turducken again – this is one we had a couple of years ago:

I think we brought that one back with us from Rabideaux’s in Iowa, Louisiana. If you’re not familiar with it, a turducken is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey, and it’s really delicious. And with a turducken, you’re still having turkey for Thanksgiving!

Oh, and then there are the beautiful sides to make…collards, cornbread, hoppin john, dressing, potlikker soup (I mean, since you’re around family and they love you anyway, it’s alright to crumble a little cornbread in your collard potlikker, right? Oh yes.)…

Okay, I am so ready for Thanksgiving already!

It’s Not Too Early – Is It?

—I knew I wouldn’t be able to put any new posts up with the new baby home, so I did a few before the new baby came, using Blogger’s feature to publish posts automatically for a date in the future. ((Just so you aren’t wondering how I am able to do this with a newborn!))—

A couple of weeks ago, the holiday catalogs for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago came in on the same day – and I couldn’t wait to see what holiday cards they were featuring this year.

Last year, I sent out letterpress holiday cards, and this year, thanks to all the beautiful pop-ups in both catalogs, I think I want to order 3-D cards:

If we celebrated Christmas, I would have to have thought about the Gingerbread house (top left) and the Christmas tree with presents (just below). The pop-up music box by Robert Sabuda pictured in the middle would be perfect for any December holiday too. Since we celebrate Chanukah, though, I’m thinking about either the menorah card on the bottom with the candles sticking up or the top freestanding menorah by Ted Naos in all-white.

I love almost all of Robert Sabuda’s things – he makes all those great pop-up books and these notecards with pop-up cakes. On his website, he even has a section on making home-made pop-ups. Can’t wait for the boys to get big enough so we can try some of those!

If you order cards through Hallmark, they even have a service available to mail cards out to your recipients on your behalf – although that seems a little like cheating, right!? Plus there’s no way to add a little personalized, handwritten message inside.

I think I need to go ahead and get my pop-ups on order.