The Low Down

Thursday, April 3, 2014

And Ode to Springtime

There is an exquisite symphony happening right now in the backyard. J’s grandmother was a gardening visionary. She left a legacy of floral artistry. Even though I never met her, she has made herself known in her garden. 

The music began in the wake of our strange Ice-Blanket. Just when the winter felt endlessly long and cold– the strong, quiet, notes of dignified camellias began. To me, camellias are a reminder to hope in the drear of dark days, like the warming of strings in the orchestra... reminding me that the days will soon lengthen and the concerto is about to begin...

I cannot get over these blooms!

Then, the slow emergence: gentle tunes of Japanese magnolia, the bride’s wreath, and fig leaves. My eyes tingled with anticipation. Finally, this Saturday, the choir! A crescendo of cherry blossoms, daffodils, dogwoods, azaleas and wisteria left me speechless.

The Yard

A show like this is humbling for the failed gardener in me. Every year, I have dreams of a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, basil, peppers, and so much more. I imagine a lovely garden of magnificent flowers. But, I often find that I kill more than I coddle. A mint plant even died on my watch, which I hear is virtually impossible. I’ll keep trying though, channeling the gifts of my gardening ancestors.
Because that is what springtime is, I think. It is hope. It is chucking last year’s wilted failures and starting over with a few new seeds and seedlings. My second generation tomatoes will surely outshine the first. I just know it.

What are you planting this season?



PS - I debated about posting this, thinking that the writing is too flowery. Then that thought made me giggle.

PSS - Though tempted, I purposely avoided the words whimsy, ethereal, airy and epic and am further banning them from this blog. Double whammies if I inadvertently use them and thank you, social media for ruining some great adjectives.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I have a confession

Over the past two years, I’ve fallen long and hard for my home on the Gulf Coast. I’ve been reading Pat Conroy and Flannery O’Connor, listening to the Alabama Shakes, walking barefoot, decorating with (and eating) Satsumas and Meyer Lemons by the ton, getting creative with Conecuh Sausage and Peturis Farm Red Sweet Potatoes. Heck, I even moved in to a housed designed after Tara.
 
And you know that tiny morsel of seaside? The humble royalty of the south? The infamous raw oyster?
 
I ate one.
 
Ok, six.
 
I went to my late Pawpaw’s favorite seafood joint, Sea ‘N’ Suds. (Pawpaw Dub, the one who once convinced an entire kitchen staff that he was the Cajun Cook.) 
 
Granny Grace, Pawpaw Dub, Me, Mom
 
 
I was captivated by memories of gumbo, flounder and crab claws. I smiled at the childhood memory of his throaty laugh, the time he showed me how to eat an oyster and I squinched my nose. I had to give in.
 
And? I loved them. Should I change the name of the blog?
 
I had a second encounter with the little boogers on Valentine’s Day at Tin Top restaurant in Bon Secour. They tasted like they’d brought them in from the bayou out back. Fresh and heavenly. If you are a raw oyster virgin, I recommend you go there if you plan to try them around here.
 
Speaking of Valentine’s Day, have you seen this gem on Garden & Gun? I submitted my own Grandparents’ photo (#24) and ended up spending hours on the 14th reading the little blurbs and shedding tears, some for my late Gran and others for the lasting love stories.
 
Cheers to Oysters! Cheers to Love! Cheers to this beloved South!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Um. Hi again.

...Well, this is awkward...

I'm sorry it has been so long, my friends. I guess I thought I was wonder-woman when I imagined blogging about my wedding during my 3-Month Engagement and 4-Month Post-Engagement adjustment period.

Riiight.

Anyway, I'm back. I'm hitched. It is awesome.


And now it's time to catch you up on all the fun things I've found over the past 6 months. I want to tell you about some of the local flair I used in our wedding and I've found a few food things that I think you're going to love. Stay tuned for amazing gumbo, the best fried pickles in Baldwin, and a few chart-able (and un-chart-able) kayaking expeditions.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

MAWAGE!

You probably already know this but... J and I are getting married!

(Photo by talented future brother in law.)

I am so excited. First and foremost, because I get to hang out with this guy for the rest of my life:


Secondly, because I get to see all the people I love most! It is one of my favorite things when thinking about a wedding - that all of my (& Justin's) best people will be in one place at one time. I can't wait!


Lastly, because I love all things local, I'm going to get a chance to share some of my favorite Baldwin County highlights with loved ones far and wide. While I don't want my blog to become a wedding site (I'm not up to the task,) I would LOVE to tell you all about some of the local flavor we'll be touting on the big day! So stay tuned. I've got some good ones coming. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Girl's Gotta Eat

I'll start this post with an announcement: I have begun writing for another blog! Fear not readers, I'll still bug you on a weekly basis. :)

This new blog is for a wonderful small business in Orange Beach called Gulf Coast Beach Getaways. (Here's the link to the blog.) I'm excited about the opportunity and elated for the chance to give more exposure to the beautiful corner of the world that I live in.



In the interest of integrity, I am going to try to keep the two blogs separate. I don't want my employment to influence the recommendations I give you. But, from time to time, I might do some posts that are about the same topic and are quite similar. In these cases, I will be sure to inform you of my bias.

One exception to this: My employers requested that I maintain an events calendar for the area. This has proven to be quite a task... there is SO much going on! I'm going place this calendar on my blog as well. It will have it's own tab: To Do List.

Get ready, it's going to be a busy fall!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Spring Time

Hi Everyone! I hope you had a nice Labor Day weekend! I learned two things over the three-day break. First: You can fit 7 people onto a one person kayak.

(There is still some debate about who finally tipped us.)

Also, I had no idea how many incredibly beautiful fresh (and cold) water springs decorate the Florida Panhandle.

Cypress Springs
We rented a few extra kayaks from Old Cypress Canoe Rentals, a new mom-and-pop company that rents out canoes, kayaks and rafts. The equipment is brand-new and they let us stay out as long as we wanted. We were able to explore the main attraction, Cypress Springs (above.) I wish the picture could convey how beautiful it was. Of course, the locals are well aware of their little treasure, and the place was absolutely packed with rowdy friends enjoying Labor Day weekend. It might behoove you to go on a weekday if you are looking for some low-key exploration. We took our time down the rest of the cypress and oak covered river, relishing in the relatively silent scenery.

Kayaking the Morrison Spring Run 

We also explored some of the less popular springs on the creek. They were not nearly as beautiful, but very interesting in their own right. We also paid a visit to Morrison Springs, which is a nice, clear diving spot with some fantastic kayaking opportunities.

We camped at Falling Waters State Park, which also has some interesting geographical features, but it is a bit of a drive to many of the springs.

It was a really nice weekend! Oh, and fear not, my football loving friends, we were able to enjoy both the Bulldogs' and the Bammers' beatdowns with a TV that we ratchet-strapped to a tree.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Two Red Flags With Black Boxes

Facing my first named storm as a Gulf Coast resident hearkens me back to this common pre-snowstorm conversation back in Atlanta:

Person A: Did you see how full the parking lot was at Kroger? Haha.
Person B: Yeah, hahaha, people really go crazy whenever snow is in the forecast!
Person A: Yeah, no kidding. It's like, chill people!
Person B: Haha, chill. Hahaha.
Person A: I remember back in the Blizzard of '93, we had no power for three days.
Person B: Yeah! Burrrr. We definitely chilled then! Oh, I also heard that Wal-Mart ran out of bread and bottled water today.
Person A: Oh really, ha, wow, people are crazy.
Person B: Sure are.  The weather people are probably exaggerating anyway... It probably won't even snow that bad.
Person A: Yeah... Well I better get going, I've got to "run some errands."
Person B: Me too. Maybe I'll even grab a "bottle of water." Hahaha.
(Both secretly head to the nearest Grocery Store to stock up on essential grocery items, flashlights and matches.)

While Hurricanes are nothing to joke about and are decidedly more dangerous than Atlanta Snowpocalypses, I find that the attitudes are really quite similar: a mix dread for what could happen, practicality about what will probably actually happen, excitement about missing work/school, irreverent humor about the "over-prepared" and lots of jokes about the overreaction of news media and the in-competencies of the weather people. (Apologies to my meteorologist and news friends.)

Thanks, NOAA

So, though Issac has turned his eye westward and everyone assures me it won't be that bad, I thought I'd share with you MY hurricane preparedness list, just in case a latter-alphabet storm sets its sights on us.

1. Water.
2. Granny. And her Meds and Oxy-Tank
3. Flashlight & 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey*…. Because nothing makes ghost stories more frightening than a power outage and a flashlight!
4. Fully charged cell phone and computer. Or maybe not...
5. Blankets/Battery Powered Fan – Is it going to be hot or cold? I can’t get a read on that.
6. Virgin Hurricane Recipe – (Fitting since it is my first storm. :)) Orange Juice, Pinapple Juice, Grenadine and Sweet-and-Sour mix
7. Fiber Bars – Don't judge, I live with an octogenarian and I’m hooked
8. Helmet, Galoshes and a Bear Grylls Survival Bracelet – Just in case I have to go rescue this guy:

(Baxter. A hurricane in his own right.)
9. Non-Perishable Iced Coffee – Storm or no storm, I still need caffeine*
10. Body Spray – Showers may be few and far between?
11. Stack of books and the sewing project that Granny and I are working on
12. Extra batteries.
13. A group of good people to batten down the hatches with!

That should do it! Any other suggestions?


*Thanks for the tip, Deb. :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Food with a Y Chromosome


Category 5
Don’t be fooled by the name. Food Network-featured Manci’s Antique Club is a man-cave if I’ve ever seen one. (Which is handy, because I suggested we try it as the lone woman in a party of 8.) Lined with old farm machinery and a Jim Beam collection that rivals the moonshiner himself, this bar/dive is something.

I have it on good authority that males will love this place… Especially if they decide to man-up with the Hurricane Burger! A bacon-cheese burger slopped with chili? C’mon, you know you boys would wear bacon-chili cologne if they made it.

Gals, this is not Dr. Pepper 10. There are plenty of treats for us as well. (And I’m not talking about the bathroom. Wink, wink.) I sampled a few of the sandwiches, but I especially like the sides: homemade chips, fries, or (yessss!) fried okra. 

The place is a little bit dusty, but fun and worthy of the "dive" label. Also, you'll definitely have something to talk about after you leave. Don't worry, Manci's regulars... I won't ruin the surprise. :)

Manci's Antique Club Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seafood Edition #2: Oysters

I feel cozy in paradox.

While I may shy away from raw oysters, one of my absolute favorite foods in America is a char-grilled oyster from Drago’s in New Orleans. So, upon our family outing to the Original Oyster House on the Causeway for my mother’s birthday, I decided to try a similar dish-- the oyster sampler.* It was a lovely arrangement, including 3 different varieties of oysters: fried, baked with Parmesan cheese, herbs & butter, and the house specialty. (Marinara sauce and ham were involved.)

Any time I have ordered oysters at the O.O.H., I have ooooooh-ed. They are delectable. Not sure what they bathe the little bottom feeders in before they are cooked, but they are quite nice- especially the fried ones. The baked versions were nice too, but it’s a shame to compare anything to one of my absolute favorite foods in America. I was so enraptured by my pearly feast and the rowdy family conversation that I did not realize that I had an amazing sweet chili sauce to dip with. My plate was clean when I discovered it, so I had to borrow a few of J’s leftover shrimp and other samples from around the table so I could enjoy the sauce more fully. In conclusion: next time I go to O.O.H. I must be in the mood for fried food. And I’m asking for a gallon of the chili sauce.

Also, a very Happy Birthday to my unique and inspiring mother; and to my grandmother who did all the work. 



*I am aware of the old saying that one shouldn’t eat oysters in months that do not contain an “R,” but my grandmother assures me that farm raised oysters have created a cozy paradigm shift to year-round oyster eating. Your thoughts?

Original Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake


Can we all just agree that we are tired of eating cupcakes? 

...Ok, now that we are all in agreement, let’s go back to eating cake. This cake: Dean’s (slap-yo-mamma) 7-Layer Caramel Cake  from Andalusia, Alabama.

I bring this up because J and I are doing a juice fast this weekend in an effort to reset our taste-buds. So, naturally, my daydreams are vacillating between bacon cheeseburgers and my favorite store-bought cake in America. Ugh. Yum.

Aunt Dean’s got it down, y’all. She recognizes cake for what it really is: a skeleton for its muscle, a frame for its drywall, a blank canvas for its Chagall, a set-worker for its Madama Butterfly. What I'm trying to say is: the true star in Aunt Dean’s cake is the icing. Oh, the icing! Her caramel spread has a contrasting sweet and smoky bite and that will make you wonder if there was an epic battle for good and evil fought in its fruition. Holy moly, it's good.

I admit, I'm so in love with the caramel, I've yet to venture out and try her many other cake flavors. Aunt Dean's website says her cake business all started with a Sock-It-To-Me accident. (How’s that for intrigue?) It also includes all the local places you can pick them up. I usually get mine at Allegri Farm Market in Daphne.

So tell me... what's your favorite cake?

Dean's Cake House on Urbanspoon