Good Dog

 

 

 

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My good friends over at Garden & Gun magazine are making it really easy for me to kick off my Christmas shopping.  Their latest publication is a heart-warming collection of stories told by some of the country’s best writers about man’s best friend.  Inspired by the magazine’s popular column, “Good Dog”, the book includes relatable tales of canine love, loyalty, and loss. For dog lovers, it’s the ultimate read and the perfect gift.  Even non-dog lovers will find the stories humorous, engaging and maybe even revealing as implied in the quote below:

“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” – Woodrow Wilson

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Our “good dogs” Abbey and Scout.

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Jack and Scout. Both little but both with big paws.

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Sweet Abbey, our twelve- year-old part Lab/Golden Retriever.

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Scout, our three-year-old English Golden Retriever, loves to pose for the camera.

 

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“Princess Kate” and her loyal subject, Abbey.

Chasing Fall in New England

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Mist rolling over the hills in Pomfret, VT

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

 L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

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One of the most photographed farms in the US–Jenne Farm, Reading, VT

It’s October in New England and it seems that no matter where you are in the Northeast, you can find spectacular displays of fall foliage.  The fiery reds, warm golds and lush greens of fall are popping up everywhere from New York to Maine.  Not wanting to miss out on a fall that was already being described as “vibrant” and “neon”, I booked a weekend with friends recently to explore the back roads of Vermont, a state that I had only seen under the cover of snow.

We set off on our two-day quest for fantastic fall foliage and weren’t disappointed.  Neither the throngs of fellow leaf-peepers nor the forecast for rain slowed us down.  We only had time to explore a few towns and villages during our short visit.  But we were able to capture images of so many classic New England icons from stone walls and covered bridges to church steeples and village greens all in the stunning backdrop of Autumn’s eye-popping palette.

For my friends below the Mason-Dixon line who have a while longer to wait for their fall “peep shows”, here are some moments from my weekend in Vermont to hold you over.  Happy leaf-peeping!

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Stowe Community Church, Stowe, VT

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The sun going down on Lake Champlain, Burlington, VT

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Barn in Woodstock, VT

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Shops along the village green in South Royalton, VT

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Woodstock Middle Bridge, Woodstock, VT

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Taftsville covered bridge right outside Woodstock, VT

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Reflections of autumn in the North Hartland Lake near the Quechee Gorge in Quechee, VT

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One of the many stone walls found in New England. This one lines the walkway of the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, VT

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The Quechee Gorge drops down165 feet where the Ottauquechee River runs through. The river originates in the Green Mountains and flows through Killington and continues eastwardly in the Woodstock, Pomfret, Hartford and Hartland and Quechee.

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Vibrant foliage surrounding buildings on the Vermont Law School Campus, South Royalton, VT

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Photos by Susan Scarborough

Music City Magic at Nashville Food and Wine Festival

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Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon        or not at all.  

-Harriet Van Horne

 

Music and food have always possessed the remarkable ability to take us back to a certain time or place. A single line of a love song from our youth can give us a rush of emotions. In much the same way, the smell of cornbread baking in your grandmother’s cast iron skillet can bring a wave of nostalgia so strong you’d swear it’s almost a religious experience.

So it is no surprise that two days of incredible music and food held in the beautiful city of Nashville, TN, made for a very cool weekend. Add the fact that the founders of the Music City Food and Wine Festival, the southern rock band Kings of Leon and world-renowned chef Jonathan Waxman, brought together not only the best chefs in the Southern culinary scene right now but also a superstar lineup of musicians who paid homage to country music’s classics at the Harvest Night celebration. The harmony of the two sent foodies and music lovers like myself over the top.

The two-day festival was held in Nashville, the city that has historically gained its reputation by being the Mecca of country music.  But what really makes Nashville the perfect backdrop for this festival is the reinvention of the city’s culinary scene. The city was featured by Food & Wine magazine recently for its “booming Music City food scene,” and is attracting a breed of young chefs who are breathing life into a tired food scene.  Their energy compliments the established chefs who are preserving their deep-rooted culinary heritage while embracing new culinary trends.

The mutual admiration between the culinary and music worlds was evident over the course of the festival. Panels of chefs shared their love of music and the role it plays in their creativity. The musicians returned the love by showing their support for the culinary arts.  You can get the impressive line-up of chefs and musicians at MCFW 2014 here.

The passion of which Van Horne spoke in the quote above was apparent in the work of the artists on display this past weekend. They all approach their respective crafts “with abandon” and are committed to preserving and improving these art forms so that we all can continue to be moved by their magic for years to come.

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Chef Tyler Florence

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Chef Tim Love from Texas teams up with Kings of Leon drummer, Nathan Followill, to talk about the art of burning food.

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Sweet potato hummus with pecan sage pesto

Andy Ticer manning the birds.

Chef Andy Ticer manning the birds.

Always creative and fun ideas pouring at the Tito's table.

Always creative and fun ideas pouring at the Tito’s table.

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Hunter Hayes owning the stage.

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Caleb and crew saying good night.

 

Photos by Evelyn Savage

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

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Today is the official first day of fall. The signs of summer’s end have been around for a while now though. The days are shorter, the air is crisper, leaves are turning and falling from the trees.  As sad as I am to see summer end, autumn has always seemed like the season of change for me.  A time for new beginnings.

As the Roman philosopher, Seneca The Younger said (…or maybe it was the 90′s band, Semisonic…), “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

So before we completely close the door on summer and celebrate a new beginning, here’s one last look at some of Summer 2014′s finest moments.

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As soon as the kids were out of school, we kicked off summer with a trip to the Water Color and Seaside on the Gulf of Mexico. These white sands and emerald waters will always feel like home.

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Familiar walk in Seaside.

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Summer Concert Series at the Seaside Amphitheater with live music from The Dirty Guv’nahs

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Soaking in the view of Nantucket harbor before dinner.

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Madaket…everyone’s favorite beach!

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Great Point Light

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Summer memories being made with the best of friends.

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Auld Lang Syne in ‘Sconset is one of the oldest (and sweetest) houses on Nantucket and was built around 1675.

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Gorgeous sunset with friends in Chatham, MA

 

Photos by Evelyn Savage and Susan Scarborough 

Music City Believer

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I’m so excited to be heading down to Nashville this weekend! My friend Evelyn and I are off to the Music City Food and Wine Festival to get our fill of great music and great food.  Famous for its legendary music scene, the city is also showcasing an exploding culinary culture by bringing in world-renowned chefs and up-and-coming stars in the food industry to the Food & Wine Festival. Even though Nashville’s festival is one of the newest on the scene, be assured the promoters (who happen to be none other than Kings of Leon band members), are going to set the bar high with their two-day celebration of Southern food and music. Check out how the Followills got involved in the festival in the most recent issue of Garden & Gun Magazine here.

Believe it or not, Nashville will be hosting two huge festivals at the same time this weekend. Along with MCFW 2014, the Americana Music Festival and Conference, which the New York Times is calling “the coolest music scene today,” is being held Thursday through Sunday.  Not only is it jam packed with some of the best musical talent from the South and beyond, it goes deeper by offering educational “seminars” from music industry insiders to give a leg up to aspiring musicians.  North Carolina natives, The Avett Brothers,are headlining the festival Saturday night but every day is filled with an unbelievable line-up of 160 artists performing in 11 venues around Nashville.

The Music City is going to shine this weekend and I can’t wait to take it all in!

 

Not Your Daddy’s Oyster Bar

“He was a bold man who first ate an oyster.”  Jonathan Swift

photo by Linda Pugliese, food styling by Anna Hampton, props from ABC Home

Epicurious recently posted an article about the new generation of oyster bars. In it they pay their respects to traditional oyster bars before highlighting growing trends in oyster cultivation, harvesting and preparation at restaurants all up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Matt Duckor tells readers that the celebrated mollusks might be getting a makeover but the bars and shacks that serve them up are as well.  Matt offers up five ways for oyster bars and home shuckers to step up their game in the budding oyster revolution.

Click here to read the post.

Maine — The New England of Your Dreams

 

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The breathtaking beauty of Maine is captured in these photos of rugged shores marked with classic lighthouses overlooking boat-filled harbors.

The photos were taken by my incredibly talented friend Katie O’Reilly on her recent weekend trip to The Pine Tree State.  The collection showcases how summer in New England can be the holiday of your dreams with a series of iconic photographs. From St. Ann’s Church near the Bush’s estate on Walker Point to the majestic vistas of Acadia National Park, Katie’s photos already have me planning my own weekend escape back to the rocky shores of Maine. You can see more from her trip at her website and on Instagram.  While you are there, check out stunning collections from her other travels.

On this summer night in New England as I tuck my exhausted but happy children into their beds, I am inspired  by these iconic scenes and can’t help but channel John Irving by saying, “Goodnight, you princes of Maine, you kings of New England.”

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St. Ann's Episcopal Church, Kennebunkport

St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Kennebunkport

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Spring Point Ledge, Portland

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor

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Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

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Bass Harbor Sunset

All photos by Katie O’Reilly 

Waiting Is The Hardest Part

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Tomorrow is the first of March which means we are twenty days away from the vernal equinox–the first day of spring.  Not that anyone is counting.  And not that Mother Nature cares.  As we face another weekend of snow, my friends and I are wondering whether we will ever surface from this endless winter.

I  miss color.  I crave green grass and bright blue skies.  I want to see a vibrant color palette pop with the arrival of tulips, crocuses, daffodils and forsythia.

As I was looking out the window today at nature’s still white canvas, searching for any sign of the coming season, I thought about camellias.  In my mind I could see the iconic Southern blooms in a million shades of pink, white and red weighing down their lush evergreen branches. They could brighten even the dreariest of days.

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Curious as to whether the cold-weather bloomer might be found in the Northeast, I Googled the camellia. Originally from Japan, these blooms made their way to Charleston in the 18th century and for hundreds of years, camellias thrived in Southern climates. But much to my surprise, I found they also had a home in New England for just as long.  I had no idea the flower could survive north of the Mason-Dixon line. But thanks to greenhouses and devoted caretakers,  they do. There is even a Massachusetts Camellia Society.  Who knew? The Lyman Estate in Waltham, MA has been growing varieties of camellias in their greenhouses since the 1800s.  Many of the Lyman camellias are over 100 years old. And across the Long Island Sound from my house, the Planting Fields Foundation has the largest collection of camellias under glass in the Northeast.   Who knows, with the cultivation of hardy hybrids and new growing techniques, I might even be able to have a touch of the South in my garden next winter.

But until then, I have to remember spring will eventually make its way back to us and green sprouts will push their way up through the frozen ground. Tom Petty was right that the waiting is the hardest part, but there are few things more anticipated and appreciated than the first signs of spring in New England.

To help pass the time until those happy days wander our way, my friend Evelyn was sweet enough to shoot some pictures of gorgeous camellia blooms around Northwest Florida and sent them to me.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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Photography by Evelyn Savage

My Virtual Dose of Vitamin-D

Photo by courtesy of Rob Howard and Garden and Gun Magazine

Photo by courtesy of Rob Howard and Garden and Gun Magazine

Thanks to the folks at Garden and Gun for bringing a smile to my face with their post of warm-weather photos.  We are bracing for two more winter storms this weekend and I desperately need the virtual dose of vitamin-D. Their slide show features one of my happy places–Islamorada, Florida.  After you soak up their lovely photos, check out some of my own shots from my favorite winter escape:

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Cold Weather Blues

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As I sit here watching the snow fall again in Connecticut, I am bracing myself for what is apparently going to be long, long winter.   New terms like “polar vortex” and “arctic front” are blanketing the headlines and The Weather Chanel is now christening winter storms with names like “Hercules” and “Janus”. 

As a Southern girl who didn’t see much snow growing up, I’m usually giddy when the first powdery flakes of the season start to fall.  It’s breathtaking. Especially during the holidays. Who doesn’t dream of a white Christmas?

But the decorations are put away and the joy of snow days is wearing thin. Theses short, dreary days are leaving everyone with a case of the cold weather blues. The one saving grace is  Shelley’s promise– if winter comes, can spring be far behind? Remembering that promise and living in the moment, I can find the beauty and serenity that comes with the quiet, gray days of winter.

So I’m going to light a fire, snuggle with my kids and share some moments of winter showing off in New England. 

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Garden & Gun Jubilee 2013

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This past weekend I attended the first ever Garden & Gun Jubilee in Charleston, SC.

G&G’s inaugural celebration of Southern tastemakers was a huge success.  It was held in Charles Towne Landing, a 663-acre state park which preserves the site of the first English settlement in South Carolina. The natural setting was the perfect backdrop for bringing the pages of the magazine to life with experiences such as fly-fish instruction, a litter of adorable Boykin Spaniel puppies and insanely good Rodney Scott BBQ.

For four years, the magazine has hosted a Made In The South competition, allowing many of the region’s most talented artisans to showcase their crafts.  This year, G&G brought the winners together to form a marketplace just in time for the holidays. From trunk shows featuring creative leather goods and one-of-a-kind sporting gear to tents filled with fascinating antiques and mouthwatering Southern-made foods, the folks at G&G set the bar high for next year.

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Photography by Evelyn Laws

Why Charleston is America’s Favorite City

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For the third year in a row, Charleston has been selected as America’s favorite city by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler.

In this month’s issue, Charleston native Christian L. Wright asks herself the same question I ask every time I visit the Holy City: why don’t I live here?

Backed by hometown credentials and an honest perspective, the author paints a beautiful portrait of this jewel of the South. You can check out the article here.

It’s a timely read as I sit on a runway waiting for my flight to Charleston.  My daughter and I are on the way to Garden & Gun’s Jubilee, a holiday event celebrating the best of the South. It will also be my daughter’s first time in Charleston. I’m so excited to be sharing this city that I love with her. And if she is anything like her mother, she will feel tugs on her Southern heart strings and start wishing she lived here too.

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Photography by Evelyn Laws

Music To Your Mouth 2013

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It’s a damp, frigid day in New England–the kind that makes your bones hurt.

But right now, I’m warming up little by little.

I’ve got some hot cocoa and one of my favorite Nashville Indie bands, Moon Taxi, cued up as I browse through pictures from my most recent trip down South.

Last weekend, I attended the ultimate Southern epicurean experience: Music to Your Mouth. The annual festival sponsored by Audi is held in the pristine low-country waterfront resort, Palmetto Bluff, and features the region’s best cuisine, libations, and artisan crafts.

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The spanish moss-covered destination sits on a 20,000 acre preserve on May River in Bluffton, South Carolina.  It’s the perfect setting for this celebration which is described by the event promoters as a “gathering of culinarians, winemakers, growers, and artisans, brought together to accentuate the abundance of ingredients from surrounding waters, woods and local farm.”

It was my second time experiencing MTYM but it certainly won’t be my last!

Here are a few shots that capture some of the magic of the weekend.

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Photography by Susan Scarborough and Doug Landis, a Southern gentleman (via California) and honorary SXNE photographer.

In New Orleans, the More the Merrier

“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” Mark Twain

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Photography by Evelyn Laws

The New York Times had a fascinating piece today on the ever-evolving culinary scene in New Orleans.  Nearly eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Crescent City, the restaurant industry is booming and reflecting a richer city.  You can take a look at the article here.  And if you are making your way to the Big Easy soon, check out my list of favorites here as well as a list from USA Today of some of those new and notable restaurants.

Southerner’s Guide to the Good Life

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This week I found myself in a state of Southern bliss at Billy Reid‘s hip Soho clothing store hanging with friends, eating fried chicken and deviled eggs and drinking Kentucky bourbon.  Not exactly a typical night in Gotham, but then again it is not every night Garden and Gun magazine has a launch party in Manhattan for their recently published  The Southerner’s Handbook.

Photo courtesy of Billy Reid

Photo courtesy of Billy Reid

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The rustic setting adorned with Billy Reid’s fabulous clothing line and leather creations set the scene perfectly for the southern bites provided by Seersucker, the Brooklyn-based restaurant which has been satisfying southerly cravings for years.

The featured book, a tutorial on Southern culture starts by discussing why our culinary heritage matters and ends with what lies beneath the Great Southern Novel.

So whether you were are born and bred below the Mason-Dixon Line or just somewhat intrigued by your friends who were, this guidebook is a must.

Turning The Page

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“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ahhh…school has started. The smell of sharpened pencils. The buzz of a new school year with old friends and fresh notebooks.

The first acorn has bounced off the hood of my car. Leaves are floating from the trees. The September sky is it’s brightest blue. And windows are cracked at night to let the brisk autumn air in.

The page has turned. Fall is here.

New England is great this time of year and I can’t wait to make my first loaf of pumpkin bread. But a proper good bye to a spectacular summer would be nice and here are a few photos to wrap it  up.

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Feeding My Soul

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In an earlier post, I professed my undying devotion to my favorite Southern grown comfort food: peas.  Luckily for me, one of my friends (one who has forever solidified her ranking on that list) managed to make her way to New England with a cooler full of freshly shelled field peas.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  There were zipper peas, lady peas, purple hull peas. I began the process of freezing these gorgeous little gems right away.  I was sure summer would pass without my feeling the sensation of cool peas running through my fingers.

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But one bushel of peas and 25 freezer bags later, I was set for the winter. I can cure my cravings for a pot of gorgeous, earthy green peas any time I want!

And to celebrate my gift and properly thank my friend,  I decided to make a southern-inspired meal fitting of these emerald legumes. I went straight to the godfather of southern food, Frank Stitt, and his Bottega Favorita cookbook for inspiration and came across his version of slow-cooked short ribs with gremolata and green olives.

That was a no-brainer.

The rich, tender beef braised in red wine and herbs paired perfectly with the peas and creamed potatoes.

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And for desert, I threw peaches into my go-to blackberry cobbler recipe from the Blackberry Farms cookbook.  If you haven’t tried it the recipe,  then you haven’t had the thrill of experiencing how the fresh lime zest melds with the peaches and berries.  And the buttermilk dough dropped on top is just heaven.

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It was a long day in the kitchen. But as dusk set and the sound of crickets floated through the screen doors,  my family sat down to enjoy this fresh feast of southern food.

I was so grateful.  I was grateful for the chance to do what I love…to be able to cook dishes from summers of my youth. Grateful for family to share them with, and grateful for friends who travelled a long way with big coolers to make it possible.  I was not only able to eat a meal that tasted this divine, I was also able to feed my soul.

Summer’s Sweet Swan Song

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The last precious days of summer are upon us.  It’s time to get the kids ready to go back to school.  Labor Day is right around the corner and before you know it, SEC football will be kicking off.

But summer is not over by a long shot.  Even during these fading days of August, summer is holding its own in Nantucket.

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Taking Kate, Jack and our friends out to Great Point at the northern most tip of the island.

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An peaceful spot to take a coffee break outside The Bean Coffee Shop.

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Brant Point lighthouse has been welcoming tired sailors into the safety of Nantucket Harbor for over a hundred years now.

Photos by Nathan Congleton for SXNE

Big Buckets of Time

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I recently came across a wonderful article in the back of Southern Living written by the Pulitzer-Prize winning author, Rick Bragg. Reading the article was remarkable because it was on the back page of the magazine and my two kids never let me get all the way through a magazine these days! But Mr. Bragg’s article was also special because it struck such a nostalgic cord in me.

Rick writes of a childhood filled with endless summer days that seemed to last forever. Especially days that were spent jumping in puddles, chasing frogs and squishing bare toes through mud.  He described those days as a period in his life when “time came in big buckets.”

Oh how I wish I could get my hands on one of those buckets again.  Even during the longest days of summer when the sun is still peeking through the trees at 8:00 pm, the days seem to fly by at lightening speed.

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I still remember my childhood filled with hot, humid Southern days stretching to fit in most everything I wanted to do. My brother and I rode bikes down country roads, caught fireflies in Mason jars, and played make-believe in the woods using water-logged branches floating in the creek and pretending the pliable pulp was “chicken” for our imaginary chicken salad.  (Obviously, my foodie inclinations were formed early.)

Another favorite pastime was running outside at the end of an afternoon shower and shaping balls of wet South Carolina dirt (and probably a little red clay) into mud pies. My muddy little hands produced impressive numbers of these earthy delicacies.  More than giving me more dirt under my nails than one bath could cure, these soggy moments formed memories of days spent with just my imagination and, on some summer days, an unexpected surprise or two.

I can still vividly see my mom coming home from her weekly hair salon appointment (looking so pretty with her 1970′s up-do) and bringing around a bright blue wading pool for my brother and me.  It was heaven in the back yard. Our surprise even came with a little slide built in.  We couldn’t wait to throw the water hose in our new plastic pool and find a way to escape the scorch of the sun. We somehow even managed to float on our backs in just a few inches of water.

These days, my children and I still catch fireflies in Mason jars just like I did so long ago (except we run a rigorously enforced catch-and-release program). And family days are still filled with riding bikes, running in the rain, walking barefoot through the mud and creating their own little make-believe universe.  Whether they know it or not, Kate and Jack  are now creating their own endless summers to share with their children. Maybe the collection of all their memories will come along with one of those big buckets of time that Rick, you and I long for in the August sunset of yet another fading summer.

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Lucy’s Canvas Keeps It All In The Family

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I love it when I stumble across creations that fall right in the heart of southXnortheast.   Daily Candy recently showcased this collection of adorable preppy canvas bags made right up the road in Massachusetts.

The brother-sister team at Lucy’s Canvas is doing great work while keeping it all in the family by carrying their mom’s craftwork into the 21st Century.   Whether in the Disco Days of the 1970s or the vintage revival of 2000′s, these bags are always in style.

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Lucy’s Canvas nostalgic bags  appeal to the 80′s prep in me but also transcend generations by drawing in customers like my 10 year old daughter, Kate, whose favorite bag is Purple Passion.

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This awesome “dream team” product not only spans eras: its handiwork crosses into my two favorite regions. Their bags are made with canvas from Big Duck Canvas out of Winder, GA and the webbing comes from All Island Webbing in Huntington Station, NY.  And all bags are made by hand in Everett, MA.  It is truly a SXNE creation that is perfect for a day on the beach or a day around town!

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Photos by Lucy’s Canvas

Athens, GA – All Grown Up Now

gatheatretscemail The Athens of my college days brought R.E.M., the B-52s and Georgia Bulldog football but a renaissance in one of America’s quintessential college towns is now more likely to highlight great southern chefs like Hugh Acheson and host a Southern C summit to celebrate southern food and music. IMG_0921 Today, the New York Times has its own take on a downtown revival I can’t wait to see for myself. Check out the piece here. For additional help planning your trip, visit Southern Living and Garden & Gun to get their lowdown on this great little Georgia town.

Send Peas, Please

ImageThere is much to love about summers in New England. There’s the waves of blue hydrangeas, summer days in shorts and summer nights in sweaters. Lobster rolls in restaurants by the shore and Red Sox baseball at Fenway Park. And just like down South, the sweet smell of honeysuckle fills the early evening air as kids chase fireflies with Mason jars.

But there’s one thing New England can’t provide and the thought of that usually takes my southern heart below the iced-tea line.

I miss peas!

That’s right. I miss the produce that can only be found in the hot and humid climate of the south.  I miss all the varieties of field peas grown in the deep south.  Purple hull, crowder, white acre and zipper peas.  Part of me just loves the buttery, creamy goodness of those delicate legumes and another part of me longs for the memories associated with those peas.

In my family, growing our own fruits and vegetables was a part of our culinary heritage.  Not only did we prefer the taste of our homegrown produce, it was cheaper and was something our family did together. Whether it was being awakened by my dad to pick peas at 6am before the summer sun became unbearable or walking through rows of orchards with my mom filling our baskets to the rim with sweet juicy peaches, I made a connection with who I was and where I came from.

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I can remember many summer days spent shelling peas until my thumbs were stained and tender.  It was a family affair where my grandmother, dad, brother and I would shell the peas while we watched the Braves lose another ball game and my mom would be in the kitchen bagging the peas up for freezing.

For the last three summers, I have resorted to having freshly shelled peas shipped up to New England overnight on ice. Bailey’s Produce and Nursery in Pensacola, FL has always been my go-to.  A little expensive, I know, but we all have our guilty pleasures. Somehow, having those little quart bags of green jewels in my freezer whenever I need a fix is worth every penny.  During a power outage two summers ago, my first concern was saving the peas.  I’m pretty sure I confused a few of my friends up here with the intensity I showed in saving my Southern imports.

But my need for peas is far more than a food craving. It is a part of me. A part of who I am. A connection to my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have been gone for a while now.

So, its time to call my friends and family and order up another care package from Dixie.  I’m ready for a shipment of peas, please!

Pictures from Bailey’s Produce and Nursery.

Holy Smokes…Big Apple BBQ Block Party

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Summer is upon us! And that means one thing…it is time for barbecue.

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For one weekend in June, Madison Square Park in New York City is transformed into a 6.23 acre backyard barbecue party.  And for the 11th year, Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group along with Southern Living lined up the best pit masters from all over the country to show off their mouth-watering versions of barbecue. These guys loaded their trailers and rigs with their smokers and pits and drove  hundreds of miles to set up shop in Madison Square Park for two days.

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The smoke from all that bbq drifted blocks away and drew everyone in like moths to a flame except in our case it was hungry southerners looking for a little comfort. This past weekend was the perfect time for my southxnortheast world to come together. It was awesome to see some old friends from down south like the folks from Southern Foodways Alliance and even show a little SFA love by sporting one of their tattoos. (My 9-yr-old was very proud.)

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Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q from Decatur, AL, took home the prize in my book with Chris Lilly’s ridiculously good pork sandwich. Apparently everyone else at the event on Saturday thought so too.  The fast-pass line was longer than the regular line.  There was no such thing as a shortcut.

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And of course, our buddy from Tito’s Vodka, Matt Purpura, had the perfect lime-jalapeño infused concoction to wash down all that barbecue.

Eleven Madison Park set up a whiskey bar right outside their restaurant complete with cloth-covered tables and a picket fence. It was hosted by none other than  Julian Van Winkle of the cult-bourbon brand, Pappy Van Winkle.  Bands like The Crooners and The Dirty Guv’nahs provided an incredible soundtrack to the weekend.

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My friends at Jim ‘N Nick’s never disappoint and can even make a saltine cracker look good.

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The take away here is if you aren’t a carnivore, this was probably not the place for you.

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So when we got too full to put another bite of BBQ into our mouths, we walked over to the IKEA tent where the best of the best like Mike Lata, Chris Hastings, Sean Brock,  John Currence, Joseph Lenn, and Ashley Christensen offered a little variation on the meat theme and shared recipes and ideas on everything from cocktails to oysters.

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The Block Party was a chance for these masters of  ‘cue to shine and show off their unique style of barbecue. The methods these mostly southern pit masters used were as old as the south itself. They took pride in their heritage and said, “That’s how my daddy did it.  And his daddy before him.”  As my fellow southxnortheaster put it: “It is so nice to find people up here who know the difference between barbecuing and grilling.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself. Until next year…

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Photography by Kley Sippel

Go to Jackson, MS to “get a helping of all things Southern” and where “the servers are as sweet as the tea.”

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Photos by James Patterson for The New York Times

In today’s travel section of the New York Times, Laura Tillman takes us through Jackson, MS in 36 hours . She highlights the cultural, historical and culinary richness of the City of Soul.  June is the month you can celebrate the life of civil rights hero Medgar Evers with a historic tour and film festival. Or pay homage to Jackon’s literary heritage by visiting Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Euroda Welty’s house and by heading up to Lemuria Books, a Jackson institution for over 38 years.

And of course, the Old South’s traditions always seems to return to the table.  The Times piece celebrates Jackson’s eclectic food scene in a city landscape that combines old-school soul-food diners with impressive new restaurants that highlight sophisticated Southern cuisine.

Check out the entire feature on Jackson here.

Andrew, Evelyn and the Fight Against Autism

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This past month was Autism Awareness month and as the disease is personal to our family and friends,  I was glad to see the efforts of national organizations like Autism Speaks and many local support groups across the country push to educate the public on this issue. Back when Andrew was diagnosed, no one had really heard about autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In fact, I had to seek out information about Asperger’s syndrome on the internet to really piece together what the diagnosis would mean. Over a decade later,  the CDC estimates that 1 in 50 children has an ASD. With those statistics, it is critical for organizations like Autism Pensacola in my Florida hometown to get out front and provide information about the disease.

This week Autism Pensacola has partnered with the University of West Florida to host a regional conference in the beautiful city of Pensacola. Flying High with Autism is bringing in speakers like Dr. Temple Grandin and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to discuss ASD research and therapy and to provide a forum for sharing the challenges and triumphs of individuals and families living with the diagnosis.

But this post isn’t just about promoting an autism conference.  It’s about a connection between our family, our hometown, and our friends. 180719_108065022604856_4369713_n

Andrew, who is now 22, understands his challenges and struggles on a daily basis to calculate his words and actions. He has learned how to communicate with others in a way that we take for granted.  After helping him navigate through the brutal (under any circumstances) teen years with this condition, we know just how important awareness is not just for those diagnosed but for those who interact with them.

My incredibly talented friend Evelyn Savage, who is responsible for many of the gorgeous photographs on this blog, is not only a photographer but also an amazing, supportive and brave mother of a child with autism.  Her son Laws was diagnosed 6 years ago with an ASD. She has redefined her role as a mother and has devoted her life to giving him the unconditional love, supporting environment and tools he needs to get through every day.  You can check out her raw and honest account of raising a child with autism here: A Little Boy Blue (and his hero sister, too).

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So it is only fitting that this blog celebrates Andrew, Pensacola and Evelyn.  Thank you Andrew for blessing us with your persevering spirit, your kind heart and all the ways you make us smile .  Thank you to our friends in Pensacola for caring enough to promote this cause very dear to us and for helping Andrew find his way into adulthood. And thank you Evelyn for capturing in photos what words can’t describe.

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