Friday, September 28, 2012

Mimi’s Sauce

We eat Mimi’s Sauce with just about everything. Now, I am fully aware that I said “we eat Mimi’s Sauce…” 

Fish, chicken, pork, burgers, fries, veggies –  Mimi’s Sauce is the condiment of choice for my kinsmen and me. It is simultaneously basic and brilliant and can be the foundation for many a saucier sauce or simply delightful in and of itself. Spread on a turkey sandwich or as a dip for Cajun steamed shrimp, I am sure you’ll find a favorite use for Mimi’s Sauce. 

Many fried chicken establishments across The South have their own “Special Sauce.” This dipping sauce ranges and varies among the different spots, carefully guarded and some establishments even charge a quarter for an extra sauce. A quarter – that’s big money! And you know what? We pay it, because one little pack is not enough for our chicken and fries!

Mimi’s sauce to me is like cream cheese –  it is simply a block upon which to build. If you’re garden has a bounty of basil, then shred some into the sauce. If some minced Vidalia’s would thrill your taste buds, then mince away and add them. If some Creole heat is what you crave, then douse the sauce with some Tony’s – the list goes on and on and Mimi’s Sauce can handle the cause.

We’ve always eaten it and sometimes one must ask “why” things are the way things are. So I did. I asked Mimi why she made her special sauce and she simply replied, “I just do.” She has always made it and I love that my Mama and her siblings grew up eating it and that Mimi has served it since she and Granddaddy were married fifty-seven years ago.

not pictured -Worcestershire sauce 
Mimi says that I am too brash about her sauce and that millions of Mimi’s have made their own sauces. I am sure that is true. But those millions of Mimi’s are not MY one in a million Mimi.

Mimi's Sauce
  • 1 heaping cup of mayo
  • 2/3 cup of ketchup
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Squeeze of a lemon wedge
  • ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper, respectively
  • ½ teaspoon of garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon of Natures Seasoning or Durkees (these seasonings rank with mayo in Southern households youll use what your mama used and it is either Hellmans or Dukes, Natures Seasoning or Durkees)
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly and serve with fish, chicken, pork, beef, sandwiches, croquettes, shrimp, vegetables, salads, eggs, and so on and so forth!

photography by Sarah Barry Spooner

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Walking in Memphis…

One of my favorite things is to speak to garden clubs. These ladies are a treasure trove for garnering a fine education on Southern culture, fine entertaining, fabulous cooking, and, of course, honing one’s gardening prowess. Many of the groups are a part of the Garden Club of America which is an amazing organization.
I started speaking to garden clubs when I was at Auburn, and I attribute my career’s start to my garden club patrons. The ink was hardly dry on my diploma before my garden club contacts began hiring me for garden and interior projects – that’s my kind of social networking!


Often, the groups meet in a member’s home. If the group is larger, then a country club, community center or church becomes the venue, but I relish the opportunities to speak in someone’s home.
As a lover of beauty, lovely homes and gardens, and nostalgic nods to Southern entertaining, these garden club visits are quite a perk. And, being surrounded and doted on by fine ladies is not bad either!
Primarily, I have spoken to garden clubs in the Deep South, but also in St. Louis, Missouri such as The Ladue Garden Club - and groups in Virginia. These Down Home Dixie groups are such a treat for me to visit and give a lesson on flower arranging, gardening trends, tablescapes and even cooking. From small towns to Southern cities, these ladies ask me to speak to them and teach them, but I’m the one learning! I relish in learning how these ladies (who often are a tad older than my junior) garden, cook and entertain. My latest trip was of no exception!

I have had the pleasure and honor of speaking to garden clubs in Memphis three separate occasions. First, to the Memphis Garden Club and most recently to The Little Garden Club of Memphis. The second time was a combination of the two groups. This latest trip proved to be a delightful time of food, flowers, book signings, food, garden lectures, fellowship, food and some more food. Let me tell you, Memphis doesn’t play around when it comes to food – this Farmer was extremely well fed and probably gained some serious poundage on this trip. Memphis is more than ribs and bbq, ya’ll!
I have to state the old adage that “it sure is a small world.” Yes, any Southerner worth their grits is going to make their familial and social connection in other Southern towns, but Memphis proved to be a delightfully small world!

First connection was Alpine. Alpine Camp for Boys in Mentone, Alabama, proved to be a summer job to garner a lifetime of connections. Many Memphis boys have camped and worked at Alpine. The host home where I stayed was the home of one of my campers. That’s Alpine for you - connections! I saw a picture of the now grown camper and asked my my hostess, “How do you know…as she exclaimed ‘He’s my son!’” What a time!

Secondly, Auburn came into play. Whether it was seeing friends from school, meeting friends’ parents or sharing Auburn memories, Auburn always paves the way in making the world a bit smaller.

But another amazing connection came into play while in Memphis – Bainbridge. My Mimi’s hometown is always finding some way into the conversation and this time proved notwithstanding. Another one of my hostesses was from Tallahassee, Florida, and her sister married a boy from Bainbridge –and they are dear friends with my Aunt Sally there. 
That, my friends, is what I love about the South – we share this tightly knitted culture and form ever-lasting bonds with one another over great-aunts, fried chicken, silver patterns and flowers!

From a dinner party of chicken curry surrounded by friends, to garden and floral arranging lectures, to a luncheon of fried chicken and amazing peach ice cream with pecan shortbread, to memorable moments with new and old friends alike – my latest walking in Memphis truly felt “ten feet over Beale” and I cannot wait to visit again.

Hope to see ya’ll at Garden Club soon!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Late Summer Garden Gems

The summer garden is waning. The zinnias are still blooming but the stalks look awful. The basil is peaked and bolting and the ‘maters have just about tapped out. Peppers are still coming in (I love how you can neglect peppers and they keep on keeping on) and our evergreen stalwart rosemary is doing just fine.


This time of year is a super time to plant your fall garden for the Deep South. Greens such as collards, lettuces, turnips and cabbage can still be planted now and will thrive well in winter for those of us deep down in Dixieland. Fall or cooler season herbs like sage, chervil and parsley are awesome additions to the garden and look wonderful planted in pots too.


Fall is THE TIME to plant for a splendid spring. Planting snapdragons, foxgloves and spring blooming bulbs like daffodils during the autumnal season will assure an amazing array of blooms for the coming spring. Remember this Farmer’s adage – for a fabulous fall, plant in spring and for a splendid spring, plant in fall.


I think the zinnias will spindle and toil on into the autumn but probably not with the veracity of their summer cadence. The basil though bolted can have those blooms topped off and still survive until frost. The green peppers may just stay on the bush a little longer and become seasonally apropos with their skins turning orange and reddish hues.

Snip some bolted basil, some rosemary and stuff the stems into a great vase for a bouquet garni of magnificent aromas. Loving the “Rewined Candles”, I’m now using the empty votives as vases. The tones and shades of greens with the bottle and the herbs makes me smile. I hope the close of summer brings a smile to you too.

From this Farmer’s garden to yours, happy fall!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Outdoor Decorating Ideas - Southern Living Video

where I share tips on how to turn the classic pumpkins and mums up a notch. 
These tips will have your front door, porch, and patio decked and ready for fabulous fall! 

Happy fall, y'all!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


all things Farmer contributor 

What is better than a warm muffin with a pat of butter?

Almost nothing.

I unashamedly love muffins. Some people love cereal. But I am a muffin girl!

Growing up my mom made muffins of all kinds, pumpkin being my favorite. 

In college I would buy a lemon poppy seed muffin and a strong cup of coffee from the library cafe before I found a cubicle and zoned in to my nursing school books.

As a young, working married girl I made double, triple batches of muffins to freeze so I could grab a couple to warm in the microwave before my 30 minute commute to work.

Now I make a couple muffin batches a week. I love them on early mornings when I wake up before my kids. Having a quick muffin to grab keeps the kitchen quiet and helps me maximize my early morning time by not having to spend precious minutes making myself breakfast.

Both of my children love muffins. "Mu-nins" as they call them. I get a thrill pulling a warm dozen from the oven and treating them to a special afternoon snack. It makes me feel like a regular Susie Q homemaker. This simple muffin making makes home feel like home.

Over the years I've adjusted my muffin style. I use less sugar. And I prefer whole wheat white flour over all-purpose white. I like to use healthy grains like oats and nutritious ingredients like berries, apples, carrots, bananas, and nuts.

Muffins are an excellent way to get my kids to eat a vegetable.

One day I felt like I hit the jack pot when I came across THIS blog post on Simple Bites. She gives a basic muffin recipe and a list of various combinations of ingredients to put in the muffins - carrots and raisins, apples, raspberries and chocolate, coconut and peanut butter chips, etc. It's muffins 101. A tutorial on my favorite - muffins!!! I love love love the basic recipe, and I have officially adopted it as my go to. I've tried several different ingredient combinations, most recently and pictured above are grated carrot and rasin muffins. YUM.

basic muffin recipe
adapted from Simple Bites

 Makes 12 medium muffins
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (sometimes I make it a heaping cup)
  • ½ stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat white flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • add ins - whatever you like!  (so far I've tried blueberries, apples, carrots and raisins) - all fantastic!

Mix milk, oats, and vinegar in a bowl. Allow to sit for 1 hour.

Add remaining ingredients and add-ins. Spoon into a greased muffin tin and bake at 375 degrees for 12-18 minutes. Time will vary depending on what add-ins you use. *I like to top mine with extra oats before baking to make them look nice.

Note that these muffins are not super sweet, which I like. If you prefer a sweeter muffin just up the sugar a little.

I highly recommend spending one of these cooler afternoons with a batch of muffins and a cup of hot tea. Invite a friend over or simply share them with your family.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Circle Through the Seasons

“They had mismatched manger scenes at incredibly low prices. I cleaned them out of Baby Jesuses, which I made into ornaments!” 

                               – Annelle, Steel Magnolias
                                      Annelle then proudly holds up her wreath of Baby Jesuses…

I guarantee ya’ll that when you think about wreaths, you think about the Holidays. If it is a post-Holiday time,  then the wreath is probably some tacky tribute to the season or holiday (we’ve all seen them and maybe even decked our doors with them – fake wreaths, with fake flowers, with fake greenery, with fake fruit… glittery shamrocks, or, “…mismatched manger scenes…”), but I truly wish for each season to have a symbolic representation in our homes. Wreaths provide that first and last impression at our doors, as tabletop centerpieces or wall accents.

My publisher, Gibbs Smith, and I had the idea for a book on wreaths. With the Southern Living story last December and many tv segments on the topic, I found that wreaths need not be just for the holidays. Wreaths can be for all seasons!  With that in mind, here’s a peek of the wreath book. Avaliable nationwide in home boutiques and bookstores alike, I hope ya’ll find a wreath for your door to welcome in any season!

Intro excerpt… 

When Granddaddy performs marriage ceremonies, he always gives the couple these words, “The ring is an outward and visible sign…” an outward, visible sign – what lovely connotation for the description of a wedding ring!

A ring – whether made from metal, fibers, flowers or foliage – has been ceaselessly used as the symbol of eternal devotion – a circle neither ending nor beginning. They may be seen as a mark and token of victory, the crowing glories of a championship match, race or athletic feat or merely as a crown period – looping souvenirs of accomplishment and note.

The vows continue, for the ring – the circle – is a sign, “of an inward and spiritual bond which unites two loyal hearts in endless love.” The rings “represent something continuous like the unbroken circle that they are… something beautiful and lasting…”

I have always been fascinated by these words, by the imagery and symbolism rings represent. Granddaddy urges the newlyweds to “Look at the rings often and as you do remember the promises you make today…” which further delightful to hear. Hearing Granddaddy as celebrant commissioning new couples with such celebratory words, leads my imagination towards other rings of symbolism and meaning – wreaths…”

I’ll be traveling and speaking across the South this fall and hope to see ya’ll on the road. Fall is teasing us and I’m ready for my favorite season. I’m sure there will be wreaths aplenty! See ya’ll soon!

To purchase book click here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Mountain Party

August and September used to be my least two favorite months. I hated to be hard on them but they were hard on me. 

I love summer and the produce but this Farmer has about all he can handle of this Georgia heat by the end of July. After that month, Dixie lets loose what we only thought was heat and the August sun beats down on us only followed by September – not that September is hotter, but it is still hot. Still hot when I’m thinking towards pumpkins, falling leaves and cooler days – not another month of heat.

Well, Cashiers, North Carolina, has given me a new outlook on August and September. Getting to spend good portions of said months in said town is just a dream. The Cashiers Designer Show House has for the last three years beckoned and called me to be a part and I have gladly obliged!

I’m like Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch – please don’t throw me in that briar patch! Please don’t make me go work (not really work when I’m having fun), write, eat and play in a gorgeous mountain setting with clients and friends alike all escaping the summer sun. Brer Rabbit was facetious about that briar patch as I am about throwing me into Cashiers – like Brer, I’m all in and ready to go!

For some friends throwing a party in Cashiers towards the end of the summer, I did some flowers echoing the season in an all green and white color scheme. 

Pee Gee, Limelight and Annabelle hydrangeas in their varying shades of white, cream and chartreuse are still holding great color in the mountains and the hosta blossoms, Joe Pye Weed and grasses are going strong. 

Yet, one of my absolute favorite things about August and September in the mountains is this – you literally get the best tastes of summer and fall with peaches and apples overlapping one another. For this party, green Granny Smiths punctuated the hydrangeas and grass plumes for an accent and pop of one of the best greens nature provides.

Using my friends collection of wonderful faux bois planters for containers, a tulipiere and other gorgeous forms for floral bases, I had a wealth of choices to arrange the flowers. Hosta leaves in varying shades of green formed skirted bases and added grace to the bouquets. One of my favorite indigenous plants, Euporium spp. or Joe Pye Weed added a soft, lavender blue to the scheme which fit right in with the blue and white color scheme of the interiors.

To me, pine boughs are not simply for the Holidays – I love using the aromatic greenery year round – especially in the mountains. You can take the boy out of the Georgia pine lands but you cannot take the pine lands out of this Georgia boy!

Even though summer is still in full swing up there, the fever of heat does break sooner than deep down in Dixie. Cooler nights and this cooling green and white color scheme make a marvelous combo. August and September, you two do a good thing together up there in the Appalachians. Keep it up! Middle Georgia will always be home to me, but Cashiers and the surrounding mountains is ever so tempting – especially to close out those formerly dreaded months! 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cashiers Designer Show House 2011… Making an Entrance with ‘Maters

Last year, I had the privilege of decorating the Front Terrace for the Cashiers Show House. To say I had fun is an understatement! Cashiers and Highlands are “happy places” for this Farmer, and I relish any chance to gear up and go on up the mountain! 

For this year’s Show House, I have the Lower Back Porch – and with a new book on porches, well, I was quite ecstatic for this space to be mine. I cannot share all those images just yet but just you wait! This year’s house and designer roster is a knockout list of folks and I am honored to be a part! Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles magazine will of course feature the house again, so get ready for some show house fun soon! 

For my entry, I took inspiration from an unlikely source – heirloom tomatoes! I love their colors – marigold yellow, burnished bronze, sepia hued reds and sienna backed greens. As ya’ll may know, I am a complete sucker for gingham, buffalo checks, plaids and the sort, thus my statement pillows in marigold buffalo check were delightful and jaunty and just right the ‘maters. Striped seat cushions in the same tints as the tomatoes topped Mainly Basket wicker sofas and dining chairs, and my trusty zinc top table, too, helped to set up the dining and seating arrangements.

Wing back chairs made from salvaged lumber also got a dose of buffalo plaid too!


Being a sucker too for hydrangeas, I filled the planters of this log cabin wonderland with Tardiva, Limelight and Annabelle varieties and loaded up terra cotta pots with ferns, hostas, and Key Lime huechera. Keeping the mustard yellow, tomato inspired accent in check (pun intended with choice diction), groups of deep yellow French confit jars were on display on my iron and glass coffee and side tables – made from old railing and iron pieces.


Now, I did have a few friends that stood guard over my space – keeping a watchful eye over the woodland, mountain terrain – Mr. and Mrs. John Deer and their twin counterparts. A fun part of my travels is finding treasures all across Dixie. I found two pair of deer – a buck and a doe – at Scott’s. Their provenance had been a little town in Alabama where I was about to go on book tour! What a coincidence – the dear deer were meant to be mine. They are now gazing out onto the woods on my family land in Perry, but they told me they wanted to zip back up to Cashiers someday!


Show houses are hard work, expensive, time consuming and logistically challenging – but I love every second of them! This year’s show house is of no exception and ya’ll are going to be pleased as punch with this year’s house!

Come on up to the mountains! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

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