Author Archive | May
When the weather outside is sizzlin, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time slaving in a hot kitchen. I generally don’t have a big appetite for heavy meals and meaty dishes, and I like to keep summer food prep a little more simple. My daughter, Nicole, and I recently tried out this yummy recipe for vegetarian tacos. Although I’m sharing the recipe below, I was thinking about how enjoyable the actual process of creating a meal is when you do it with someone special. I have so many fond memories of cooking or baking with my mom, grandmother, children, friends and husband. This past Christmas Eve, our family was in several different locations, so my hubby and I decided to make a special dinner together at home, and we had a wonderful evening. There are so many memories to be made right in your own kitchen! Now, back to the tacos. There was a little prep required, but with some cool background music, a little wine, and great conversation, dinner was on the table in no time. I love how versatile this recipe is too!
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tabs. fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 lb. medium carrots, cut into 3″to 4” sticks
1 tsp. ground cumin
8 whole grain tortillas (you can also use taco shells or flour tortillas, your preference)
crumbled goat or queso fresco cheese
sliced black olives
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion, pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chili powder and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add black beans and 1/3 cup water. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir occasionally until thickened. Mash beans with the back of a spoon or potato masher until thick, then stir in lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, toss carrots with cumin and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast turning occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes, until carrots are tender.
Divide beans and carrots between taco shells or tortillas. (We warmed our tortillas in a pan.) Finish with toppings, a squeeze of lime and enjoy. We made a tossed salad as a side.
Enjoy and have a great week!
“I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.” Maya Angelou
I can’t believe it’s Monday again! Is it me or does it feel like time keeps moving faster and faster? I often find when there is a lot happening in my life at one time, I start to feel a little off and need to move inward. For me, it’s about staying connected to the ancient practice that always brings me back to a feeling of balance.
The word yoga means “union”. For me, it is a conscious connection to something such as my body, breath, mind, spirit or environment resulting in a feeling of peace and contentment. For years, my yoga was on my mat and involved a physical practice of asana (movement) where I pushed my body into postures worthy of a magazine cover. At that time in my life, my bliss came from being in my body and I always felt a sense of calm and peace when my practice was over. My physical practice, although it has gone through adjustments over time, is still a large part of my life, but I’ve also discovered other ways of achieving that yoga experience, or connection if you will.
My yoga is connecting to my breath. Do you ever take a moment throughout your day to simply stop, close your eyes, and truly be with your breath? If you don’t, you should try it. In fact, let’s do it right now. My guess is if you’re reading this you are in a seated position, so close your eyes, bring your awareness to the touch of breath at your nostrils, inhale to the count of four, then exhale to the count of four. Do this ten times and then open your eyes. Do you feel a little calmer? Deep breathing relaxes the central nervous system, which in turn reduces tension in the body and calms the mind. I recommend doing this when you wake up, mid-day, and before you go to bed. Trust me, it works.
My yoga is spending a little time in what I call sacred space. Is there someplace you like to go for a few moments of solitude? I love the beach during the off season. There are fewer tourists, the kids are back in school and it is so nice to sit and listen to the sound of the ocean. I also love to sit on my favorite bench in a secluded church yard where I can connect with nature. It’s a lovely spot to meditate or read a book. I always tell my students to enjoy a few moments of quiet time each day, even if it is simply taking a short walk. Of course you can always create a sacred space in your yard or home.
My yoga is disconnecting from my mobile devices. This is a big one. In fact, I could probably write an entire post on the negative impact of social media, but for now, I’ll stick with simply taking a break from it. Last week my daughter, Nicole, came for a visit, and we had a chat about how attached we are to our phones. She is a soon to be twenty year old college student who will regularly deactivate many of her social media accounts to take a break from all the noise. We spent a day at the beach and purposely left our phones in the car so we could be completely engaged with one another and our environment. No, there weren’t selfies of us posted on Instagram, frolicking on the beach documenting our day. In fact, at one point, we realized we had no idea what time it was, and didn’t care. We had a lovely day of uninterrupted time together that will forever remain between us. We were completely in the present moment. It made me realize how much I miss that. While Nicole and I were at dinner one evening, she went to the rest room. Now, how many of you would take that opportunity to go on your phone to read the latest “fake news”, check Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or emails? We both kept our phones in our purses and while she was gone, not only did I notice the charming surroundings in the restaurant, I also saw many diners either on their phones, or saw phones sitting on the table. I often see men and women pushing strollers while they are on their phones, or they are on their phones at the park while their children play by themselves. I’ve seen someone step off a curb and fall because he was on his phone, and even though it’s illegal, people still text while driving……all the time. What is happening to us?! Now, I realize there are a lot of great things about social media, but do we need to be informed 24 hours a day? I truly feel we would all benefit from taking regular breaks to allow our brains the opportunity to power down and settle into stillness. In fact, I think it’s vital to our well being. I have cut way back, I don’t miss it, and I am happier for it. If we are always on our phones, how can we have that yoga connection with those we love or ourselves for that matter? I challenge you to curb the amount of time you spend on social media, and see how you feel.
My yoga is living in the present moment. Let’s not dwell on the past, it’s gone. Let’s not worry about the future, it’s not here yet. Let’s fill ourselves with gratitude for today.
Have a great week ~May
“Yoga is the space where flower blossoms.”
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. I know many of you, including us here at May Meets June, took a little extra time off last week for the 4th of July holiday. We are into the middle of summer and here in the south, it is very steamy. I can’t walk outside without my sunglasses fogging up and it only takes minutes before beads of sweat begin to form on my body. I was warned and all I can say is thank goodness for air conditioning!!
My current wardrobe on these sultry days is usually a sundress and sandals. Comfy sandals. However, I also want my sandals to be stylish and transition from daytime to dinner out. When I first arrived in Charleston, I came across a great little shoe store called Charleston Shoe Company. There were so many styles and colors and although I tried on a few pairs, I wasn’t yet ready to make a purchase. After hearing more about the shoes I went back, and I’m now the proud owner of two pairs of sandals, and I have a feeling there may be more in my future.
I had them on all day while traveling with no sore, tired feet plus I’ve walked all over downtown Charleston in them, even on the cobblestones! Oh, and you can machine wash many of the styles too. I also love that they come in wedges as well as a chunky heel. A little extra height on my 5’2″ frame is always a good thing.
Neely Woodson Powell is the founder of The Charleston Shoe Company. I loved reading about her journey and want to share her success story with y’all.
Charleston Shoe Company founder Neely Powell spent her childhood summers in a colonial town in central Mexico. In the summer of 1996, while at the College of Charleston, she met a cobbler whose simple sandals were a wardrobe staple among the villagers and visitors alike. It was Kismet.
With suitcases stuffed with the made-by-hand shoes, Neely and her mother boarded a plane home, plotting to sell sandals alongside her mother’s own burgeoning import business at furniture markets. The shoes were embraced by young and old, and before they knew it a wholesale business was created. In 2009 when dreams of her own brand began swirling in her head, she enrolled in an accessories design program at the Savannah College of Art & Design with her young daughter, Gigi, in tow. Neely drew upon her shoe and accessory design coursework and, in collaboration with a fourth generation cobbler in Mexico, launched her own line of hand-sewn footwear then called Savannah Shoe Co.
An entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in Neely’s family – her father developed a five star resort in the Florida Keys and her mother started the wholesale interior furnishings mecca, Worlds Away. An idyllic childhood on Little Palm Island, where swimming and snorkeling were the order of the day, gave her an appreciation for the relaxed ease of island living. Coupled with the fact that she had highly creative and artistic parents, it’s no surprise that her design influence errs towards laid back sophistication meets comfortably chic.
In 2010, Neely opened Savannah Shoe Co in Savannah and then a small storefront called Charleston Shoe Co. on a quiet and historic section of King Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. This proved a pivotal moment for the brand as the community and tourists alike embraced the collection and the charismatic proprietor. With locations in Charleston, Savannah, & Del Mar, they still could not meet the demand for the “cobblestones to cocktails” shoe and the wholesale line launched in January 2011. The Charleston Shoe Co. line is now currently sold in over 150 boutiques nationally.
From Boca Grande to Nantucket & Del Mar to Carmel, women can’t get enough of the comfortable, versatile and stylish shoes. When she is not in the stores in Charleston & Savannah you’ll frequently find Neely traversing the East Coast selling her shoes to adoring fans of the Charleston Shoe Co line, with Gigi still in tow!
Her stores are popping up all over the country but if one is not near you, no worries. You can buy all her shoes online and if you sign up for emails, you’ll receive 10% off your first pair.
Have a great week! ~May
‘Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.’ – Marilyn Monroe
These last six months, I have lived somewhat out of my comfort zone. I have been traveling between houses preparing one home to be put on the market, while creating a comfortable space in the new one. I have also spent a lot of time away from my husband and the security of what has been our home life. Although I am feeling more settled and connected to our new digs, I still find comfort in the place I have called home for so many years. I will be traveling back to Chicago over the 4th of July holiday, the last in our home town, and look forward to spending time with family and friends, as well as work on some last minute preparations before the For Sale sign is placed on our front lawn in the next few weeks.
My husband’s company is relocating us, the process has begun, and now suddenly it all feels so real. Am I ready to leave? Yes, no question. We have been ready for a fresh start for a while, however we needed to stay put until the girls graduated from high school. And now here we are. Even though we are leaving, there is a piece of my heart that will remain there. I had a wonderful childhood in Chicago and my children were born and raised in that house. We were the third owners, but lived there the longest and I definitely put my stamp on it. My how that house has changed over the years.
Right now, after several months of activity, I find myself in a bit of a lull before the craziness of moving and getting two daughters to college on opposite coasts begins. Sometimes, I get a little anxious when there is too much quiet. My mind has always had a hard time enjoying the bliss of too much silence, and it never takes long before it starts whispering “what if’s” into my ear. I start living in the space of a future that isn’t a part of my life, yet can still cause me anxiety. I have to remind myself that I am being given this gift of solitude to enjoy and prepare for the busy August ahead. I have to remind myself that everything is as it should be, and seek that soul connection to my breath- the present moment. While I was having one of those stressful moments, I opened an email from my daughter, Nicole. It was a post she had written about Coming Home to Yourself, and it was just what I needed to read. Funny how that happens.
I would like to share that post with you.
It has been a whirlwind of a year. The latter half of 2016 and the first part of 2017 were filled with events that pushed the boundaries of my experience. This time was expansive, exciting, sometimes uncomfortable, as are most things that propel us out of our comfort zones. Overall, it was wonderful, and I am grateful for every experience, whether it was positive or negative or anywhere in between.
And now, my body is calling me to creative stillness. It is calling me inward, homeward. To listen, to breathe, and to be still. And I must honor this calling, or else I will lose balance. When my body calls for rest, I sleep. When I wish to be alone, I seek solitude. When I want to write, I write, and when I don’t want to write, I honor that as well. The body’s rhythms are delicate, and many of us have numbed ourselves to its nuances. We feel burned out and uninspired because we have neglected to take the time to listen and feed the aspects of ourselves that are begging for our attention and awareness.
This process of homing, returning, introverting… it requires us to be honest with ourselves. We must drop our pretenses, let go of any our personal expectations of who we think we should be. We must be willing to do the work, to purge the toxic emotions that keep us in the same cycles of fear, resentment, listlessness, and doubt. We must nurture and soothe the unhealed parts of ourselves and act on the inner callings to take action in ways that align with our souls. Whatever your body and soul are urging you to do, this is your time to do it.
If we don’t honor ourselves and our needs, we will never truly become who we need to be. We will always fall short of our truest potential if we march to the rhythm of the world, or even the rhythm of those around us. We are all different, and thus we all have different requirements for self-care and self-expression that we must uphold. Not everyone will understand your personal needs, but if these boundaries are critical for your well-being, don’t hesitate to make them clear without compromise. You should never have to apologize to others for who you are and what you need as a human being. This is something I am still practicing, as I have often sacrificed my own needs to make others comfortable or happy. However, I am learning that if others fail to respect me, it may just be that their needs differ from my own, or perhaps they have yet to expand the scope of their compassion and understanding to those who are different from themselves. Just remember that you are never at fault for being who you are.
I believe there is a time to sing and dance, and a time to listen and be still. Whatever place you are on your path, honor it. You deserve that sort of unconditional self-love.
take your time.
you are coming
Have a wonderful week. ~ May
This summer, I have been enjoying a wonderful author series here in South Carolina. It’s put on by Blue Bicycle Books, a locally owned book store in the heart of downtown Charleston. This month, it is showcasing new releases from southern authors. For me, it is a wonderful opportunity to share a meal with like minded friends at a popular Charleston location, and even make a few new ones.
Recently, author Lisa Wingate joined us for lunch and presented her new historical novel Before We Were Yours. This story is based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals. Georgia Tann, who was director of a Memphis based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country, including celebrities Joan Crawford and Lana Turner.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre and although I have heard of Lisa Wingate, I have not read any of her novels. This one is on my list. Ms Wingate was very engaging, read a few excerpts from the book to us, and was happy to answer questions. I always love to hear how an author gets an idea for a book, and how it builds. This book is getting wonderful reviews including one I just read by The Huffington Post.
Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge–until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.
Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.
Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
I would love feedback if you’ve read this one.
Have a great week!
History tells us what people do; historical fiction helps us imagine how they felt. -Guy Vanderhaghe
Today is June’s Birthday…..Happy Birthday, June!! You have another year of wisdom to carry with you as you continue your journey on this crazy road called life. Today is part two of our Everything You Wanted To Know About Us series and the following is my recent interview with June. May’s comments are in red italics.
Stats: I am married to Tom and we are parents to a lovable golden named Gatsby. I have been a practicing attorney in the city of Chicago for longer than I care to discuss, and have a great little blog called May Meets June.
Since we’re on the topic of law, why did you choose that as your profession? If you could go back, would you do it again? No. I always did well in school and loved to do research and write and thought this would be an interesting profession, however, there is a lot about the business of law that I don’t particularly enjoy.
What are some of your favorite childhood books? I loved the Little House on the Prairie series, particularly The Long Winter. I also enjoyed books by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. When I was really little I loved picture books. When I went shopping with my mom, I was often rewarded with a Golden Book if I was a good girl. (June must have had a ton of Golden books because I can’t even imagine her being a bad girl)
What are you reading now? Right now I’m reading The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichart. I needed something a little lighter to read after several more intense novels. I’m really looking forward to starting Bear Town, by Fredrik Backman.
The summer season is here and school’s out. How did you like to spend your summer vacations growing up? I read a lot and enjoyed riding my bike around the neighborhood. On really hot days my mom would take us to the pool. Back then summers weren’t as scheduled as they are now, so we had a lot more down time and freedom. But we were never, ever bored. If my brothers or I said we were bored, our mom always found something for us to do. (Ha! We never said that in our house either.)
What is one thing you would change about yourself? I would be tall and slender with long legs. You miss so much when you’re short.(I completely understand)
If you could live in another state, where would you go? Nashville, Tennessee.
What is your idea of a perfect evening? Well, Friday night is my favorite night of the week because we have the weekend ahead of us. I love to stay home with Tom, take Gatsby for a long walk, enjoy a cocktail on the back porch while we wait for a pizza, and watch a movie. Oh, and I’m in very comfy clothing.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In five years I would like to be a writer who gets paid to write and a lady who lunches and goes to yoga.
What is a pet peeve of yours? I’m a commuter, need I say more? I hate texting and walking, walking too slow, taking up the whole sidewalk while walking, and commuters who don’t check the weather forecast before heading out. ( I have done the walk to the train with June several times, and she is all business)
What is something quirky that we don’t know about you? I love to wear cardigan sweaters (I don’t like pullovers because I feel like they are choking me) but I never button them because no matter how often I try, I can’t button them correctly and my sweater is all mis-matched. It’s a carry over from childhood. (Hmmmm)
If you could have lunch with an author, who would you choose? It’s a tie between Alice Hoffman and Isabel Allende. I love how they so beautifully mix historical fiction with a little bit of magic.
June, thank you so much for this interview and allowing all of us the opportunity to get to know you just a little bit better. I wish you the happiest of birthdays and know this next year is going to be a special one. Yes, I am moving but we aren’t going to let a little bit of distance change our friendship or partnership, it will only get stronger.
The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. -Oprah Winfrey
Now that school’s out and summer is here, we are all enjoying the warm temperatures and longer days. Summer is definitely the season for last minute backyard get togethers with family and friends. Since I love to bake, dessert is usually what I bring to these social gatherings. For a planned event, I love to browse through my recipes to find something perfect depending on the season and number of guests. Sometimes though, if it is a last minute potluck, I often don’t have the time to plan and shop, so I depend on some staples that I always try to keep in my pantry.
Recently, I made a chocolate loaf cake. This is a great dessert for a smaller crowd, as it’s quick, easy and you can dress it up several different ways, depending on what’s in your fridge.
Chocolate Loaf Cake
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt, room temperature
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
1/2 cup hot coffee (or hot water) I always use coffee
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan.
- In a stand mixer with paddle attachment cream butter and both sugars until combined, about 2 to three minutes.
- Add in eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl between each addition.
- Next add vanilla and sour cream or yogurt.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and cocoa powder.
- Add half the dry ingredients to the mixer and incorporate, then add the rest and mix just until combined- don’t over mix.
- Add hot coffee or water and beat on high for one minute.
- Fold in chocolate chips by hand and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out mostly clean
- Place the cake on a cooling rack and cool completely.
- Once cool, loosen edges with a knife and remove cake to cutting board.
If you have to leave before your cake has cooled, simply bring the cake in the pan to your party, and cut it there, otherwise you can wrap in foil as you would a loaf of bread. I had some fresh raspberries in my fridge, a carton of whipping cream, and a bottle of ghiradelli chocolate sauce so I tossed them in a bag, and off I went. I individually plated each dessert, and voila. Doesn’t it look pretty? This also works well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce, a chocolate ganache, or simply dust with a little powdered sugar and if you have an herb garden you can add a sprig of mint.
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and whisk to combine. After the cake has cooled, remove from pan and drizzle with ganache. Allow it to firm up before slicing. (about an hour)
Pantry essentials for the baker
semi sweet chocolate chips
pure vanilla extract
graham cracker crumbs
active dry yeast
For the Fridge
milk (or almond milk)
plain greek yogurt (or coconut milk yogurt)
frozen berries and fruit ( great for a last minute cobbler)
There is so much you can do with a few basic ingredients and a little imagination.
Have a great week!~ May
Where there’s a whisk, there’s a way.
My backyard has always been my sanctuary. I love to garden and over the years we have slowly turned our yard into a bit of an oasis. Our home in the suburbs of Chicago is in close proximity to our neighbors, and as much as I enjoy them, I wanted an outdoor space that was private and beautiful. We put up a privacy fence several years ago, and since then have added layers of trees, bushes, a pool, and beautiful flowering plants to the space. We also had room for a vegetable garden. Honestly, I think I’m going to miss my backyard the most when we move later this summer. Isn’t that how it always is? You finally finish a project, and then it’s time to move on.
The backyard here in Charleston is very different. There is only one neighbor right next door. We have a wooded area behind us and a pond on the other side, so I’ve been taking my time being in this space, to get a feel for what I ultimately want the yard to look like. I want the surrounding landscape to influence our yard, if that makes sense. By the way, that ugly satellite dish is going to be removed.
The previous owners were the original owners and kept the landscape that was original to the house, which is pretty basic and blah. The front yard was easy because there wasn’t much to do in such a small space, but our backyard is quite large and has lots of possibility. Like my previous yard, this space is going to take time to create but there were a few things I wanted to get done right away. We started with planting a natural wall between our yard and our neighbor’s. They have a young child and two large dogs and there was nothing separating us but a fence. I shared my ideas with a landscaper and am very happy with the end result. The landscape extends along the back of the garage and along the back fence. Over time the bushes along the fence will grow tall and fill out, making that area of the yard very private.
We have a very large oak and pine tree in the yard that were overgrown and made the yard somewhat gloomy. I had them trimmed up and shaped and now there is definitely more light back there. We originally thought we would put a brick patio around the screened in porch, but the root system on the oak was going to make that very challenging, so we decided on a deck. I am really happy with the finished product and will seal it in the fall, when it isn’t so hot and humid. It’s going to be a great area to spend evenings with friends or read a good book.
As much as I love the oak tree, there isn’t too much that can grow right under it, plus I’ve discovered that oaks are always in a state of shedding something including leaves, acorns, and twigs. Plus, it is dripping with Spanish moss. We created a stone path that goes from the deck to the driveway, garage, and backyard. It looks great, is functional and it’s easy to maintain. The heavy downpours down here always resulted in a big muddy mess in this area, and now the water just soaks into the stones, and the best part- no muddy paws to wipe!! I’m also planning to put a hammock under the trees, perfect for lazy Sundays. I don’t know if I’ll get to it this year, but how cool would it be to hang an outdoor chandelier from one of the branches of the oak tree??
We have a screened in porch out back and didn’t do too much to it, other than add windows to make it more user friendly. Every time it rained it would get soaked inside and it was a huge mess when I arrived the week after hurricane Matthew came through last fall. These windows are a breeze (hence the name EZ-Breeze windows) and were easy to install. We don’t have an eat in kitchen and since the room is small, I decided to fill the space with a table and chairs allowing us to eat meals overlooking the yard. I added a rug for texture and will bring in just a few more finishing touches. Now the room can be used all year round. I am an early riser and love sitting out on the back porch with my coffee, listening to the birds, meditating and setting my intention for the day. Nature is the perfect place to do that.
Now I’m starting to dream about phase 2. I think I would like to soften more of the fence with low growing plants, but I also need to keep it simple. I am quickly learning that summers down here are continuously hot and humid, and I won’t be able to garden the same way I did up north. So, this is our yard, just a start but I think it’s going to be a beautiful journey.
Have a great week! ~May
I’m sure all of you know by now that May and June love books- really, really love books. As a child, I always enjoyed riding my bike to the library or bookmobile when it came to our park, ready to devour the next installment of Nancy Drew under the shade of our backyard cottonwood tree. I’m still that way. To me, there is nothing like getting lost in a great work of fiction. Although I’ve read my share of non-fiction, usually the self-help variety, I really haven’t gone down the aisle of memoirs for no other reason than they really never interested me, until recently. Often, while my pup Sawyer and I walk in the morning, I listen to various podcasts. A few weeks ago, Julia Child and her memoir, My Life in France (2006) was mentioned as a must read for anyone who enjoyed her cooking shows. I really didn’t think too much about it until I saw the book mentioned again online that very same week. So, I took it as a sign to reserve it at the library, and give it a try.
Many of you, who are of a certain age, may remember Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking or her cooking show, The French Chef. My mom, grandmother, and I loved to tune in and watch the French cooking masterpieces she would effortlessly create. She was a cooking genius as well as smart, funny, and oh so entertaining- all rolled into one. Often, we felt we were watching a comedy instead of a PBS show on the art of cooking. In fact, I’m sure all you Saturday Night Live fans remember Dan Akroyd’s hysterical skit as Julia Child.
My grandmother, who was a gifted cook herself, would sit in front of the television with her white leather bound notebook (which I now have) and pen in hand ready to write down Julia’s latest creation, then of course put her own delicious twist on it. That notebook is filled with recipes in my grandmother’s handwriting as well as stains from various sauces. I treasure that notebook.
By the way, I loved the book. I felt like I was sitting at Julia’s kitchen table in Paris, sharing a home cooked meal with her as she told her story. The book also awakened a few memories of my own childhood, playing sous chef to my grandmother as she cooked in her own amazing kitchen. Plus, the book is all about food and France- need I say more?
As much as we love living in the comforts of what we know and enjoy, sometimes it’s fun to step out of that box to try something new. For so many reasons, I’m grateful I read this book.
Next time you visit the library, choose a book off your reading list. You may find a new genre to enjoy.
“Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.”
The last few days I have been in Chicago. Our youngest daughter, Alyssa, just attended her senior prom and is graduating from high school tomorrow. I can’t believe our adorable and feisty little redhead is going off to college in a few months. In addition to celebrating her graduation, I’m also back for a doctor and dental appointment- my last before moving, I’m staging the house for selling, and of course a day of play (ahem, work) with June. I also celebrated my last birthday in my home town yesterday. Although this visit has been filled with more work than play, we have all enjoyed our time together, falling back into the natural rhythm of our family.
I’ve been getting the house ready to sell in stages, removing the first layer of “stuff” last fall. I can’t tell you how many times my mom and I filled the car with items collected over the years, emptying its contents at the nearby Goodwill. Of course the same woman was always behind the counter, and I think I saw an eye roll a few times when she saw my car pull up. Living in South Carolina the last few months has really given me perspective on what I truly need, and what I can live without. There are no basements there and with the heat and humidity, you need to be selective when storing items in the garage. I did let go of a lot more this time around. There were more bags for donation as well as garbage and the house feels a little lighter. Bob and I decided to have a moving sale since there will be quite a bit of furniture that won’t be traveling with us and we’ll have a truck pick up what’s left, and take it for donation. It’s nice to have a plan.
I’ve accomplished a lot in the house this trip and definitely feel like we are one step closer to the final leg of our journey. As I remove more layers of “us” from this home, I feel less connected to it. I always imagined leaving would fill me with sadness, and although I may shed a tear or two before the moving van pulls away, I am grateful for all the wonderful memories. Now that our family is grown, I feel it’s time for a new one to enjoy this house and fill it with the sounds of children, birthday sleepovers, and holidays. The grammar school and high school are within walking distance and it’s the perfect place to raise a family. I’m heading back to South Carolina on Wednesday, but will be back again for the 4th of July holiday where we will celebrate our nation’s birthday together, enjoying time by the pool and of course our town’s fireworks as we prepare to take that next step. It’s so true what they say about our lives being all about the journey and making the most of it, no matter where the road takes us. We are on a journey together as a family, but we are all on our own personal voyage as well. It’s a little scary but oh so exciting.
Have a great week! ~May
Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip.
— Robert J. Hastings
This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous here in Charleston. We were blessed with blue skies, moderate temperatures and best of all, low humidity. It was the perfect weekend to walk the beach, eat at a favorite outdoor cafe, or take a stroll through a nearby historical neighborhood and enjoy the beautiful homes and gardens, which is what I did on Saturday morning. Window boxes are overflowing with colorful blooms and I love that every house on the block is unique and filled with history. If only each home could tell us its story! I love to take pictures of homes and gardens that inspire me, especially as I continue to layer a little southern charm to my own abode.
The flowers are at their peak right now and do so much to dress up these historical homes.
These homes caught my eye and were on the same block, but as you can see very different from each other. I love that about old neighborhoods. I would move into all of them!!
I loved the color on this one. I picture some ferns hanging on the porches and pots of colorful flowers on the steps.
I bet this pink lady was magnificent at one time. The homes in Charleston are never torn down, but restored to their former beauty. I can’t wait to see this one after her makeover!
If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your home, simply walk out your front door or take a stroll through your favorite neighborhood and enjoy the spring colors.
Have a great week! ~ May
Home is not a place, it’s a feeling.
I’m sure you all know by now that Kale, the green (or purple) leafy vegetable that is part of the cabbage family, is all the rage at the moment, and has been enjoying popularity for a while. What I remember as a garnish at salad bars can readily be found at our favorite grocery or farmers market. It’s low in calories, high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants and nutrients such as folate, magnesium, iron, and vitamin K. We eat it in salads, soups, stews, as sides and blend it in smoothies. I personally love kale and eat it often. Recently, a friend who was going to be traveling, gave me a bag so it wouldn’t go to waste while she was out of town. Add that to a bunch I had just purchased, and you have a lot of kale! Not too long ago, I experimented with kale chips and since I had so much, I decided to try them again. I discovered if you cook them at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, they crisp up better.
1 bundle or bag of kale
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Rinse and dry kale, removing any large stems and tear into bite size pieces.
Place in a mixing bowl, add oil, salt and toss with hands until the oil and salt are well distributed. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 15 minutes.
With a spatula gently mix the kale on the cookie sheet, and bake 5 to 10 minutes more until kale is crispy and light brown. It can burn quickly so keep an eye on it. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
If needed, add a little more salt and enjoy immediately as a snack or a side. I find that they’re best eaten right away, however you can store them in an airtight container for a day or two.
I gave you a basic recipe but if you want to play a bit, you can use different oils such as avocado or coconut oil and try different seasonings. I’ve used seasoned salt, garlic salt, chili powder and cumin, and love the flavor.
Have a great week! ~May
Lettuce raise a little Kale
As I have recovered from my jet lag, and am back into the steady rhythm of life back at home, I’ve found myself reminiscing about our Italian adventure and everything that went along with making it a wonderful trip.
Because I knew we were going to be away for two weeks, I really wanted to be smart about how much and what I packed. In the past, I was always an over-packer and would often come home from a trip with an overstuffed messy suitcase and lots of clothing that was never worn. So, I did a little preparation and research for this trip. I went on many travel blog sights (my favorite is travelfasiongirl) chatted with friends who were seasoned travelers, and made a detailed list of essentials that would get me through a European vacation without over or under doing it- a happy medium if you will. On more than one occasion, I read about the benefits packing cubes.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, packing cubes are nylon mesh bags that come in a variety of sizes and styles, and are used for packing clothing. They provide extra room in your suitcase, plus they keep the contents of your suitcase super organized. The bags zip and have some give so you can fit a lot into them and they work with carry on bags, suitcases and backpacks.
This was a work trip for my husband with us extending several days and I needed more clothing options for dinner with clients, so I opted for a regular size suitcase and a backpack, leaving my carry on at home. (I also wanted room for souvenirs.) The packing cubes are great for t-shirts, blouses, and skirts. It was recommended that clothes be rolled and tightly packed into the cubes to prevent wrinkling. This was a plus for me because in Italy, irons aren’t available in the rooms and there is a fee to have them ironed for you. Now I can’t say that my clothes were completely wrinkle free, but they were definitely wearable plus I was able to release any lingering wrinkles in a steamy shower.
I heard good things about the ebags brand and ordered a pack of three from Amazon to try them out. I was able to get all my t-shirts, blouses, and skirts into the bags and if there was room to spare, I added a few more items. When we arrived at our hotel and I went to unpack, everything was still organized plus there was extra room in my suitcase. Before my next big trip, I plan to order a few more in different sizes.
Unpacking when we came back home was easy and this was the first time I wore everything I packed. Plus, there was extra room for me to bring home a few goodies.
Enjoy your week!
Going on a trip and need about 4 outfits. I’ve packed 35 just to be safe.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend. We had a beautiful day and while Sawyer and I were out for our early morning walk, I enjoyed seeing the little ones in our neighborhood, armed with Easter baskets as they ran around their homes searching for Easter eggs in cozy pj’s, their tired parents (also in pj’s) stifling yawns and armed with coffee mugs, following close behind. The smell of pancakes and bacon throughout the neighborhood was intoxicating. By the time we made it back to our porch, cars were driving down the street, its occupants dressed in their Sunday best as they headed off to Easter service. It was a lovely day.
Since returning from Italy, my internal alarm clock has been waking me up at 5am. I don’t know if my body is just taking its sweet time adjusting back to our time zone, or if it’s simply the subtle shift in the seasons. Over time, I’ve noticed my body has always been very much in tune with the sunrise and sunset. This morning, I again was awake early and left Sawyer dreaming in the quiet sanctuary of the bedroom. I made a cup of coffee and went outside onto the piazza to listen to the first stirrings of morning. I love hearing the birds when I wake up, especially the familiar tune the cardinals sing, along with the occasional owl.
I’ve always loved the peace that comes just before sunrise. For me, it’s a time for reflection, gratitude, and preparation for a new day. It’s a time when I can set my intention for how I want my day to go. Do I want those that I interact with to have the power to affect how I feel? Or, do I simply want to live this day to the fullest for myself? For me, gratitude is part of everyday. Saying thank you for what I have, as well as what I don’t have keeps me present and my life meaningful. How easy is it for us to constantly be worrying about what may or may not happen in the future? When we do that, we miss the beauty and subtle messages that come with today. For me, “thank you” is the most meaningful part of prayer.
Now, as I continue to reflect, the birds songs are growing louder and I’ve noticed a few lights turning on in my neighbors homes. Soon, everyone’s day will begin as cars and school buses make their way down the street. The light outside is beginning to change as the sun prepares to rise and shine on what promises to be another beautiful day, and I feel connected and at peace. Sawyer, now awake, has found me and soon will be ready to start his day too…..after a few quiet moments of reflection.
Have a great day.
A quiet mind is able to hear intuition over fear.
We have spent an incredible two weeks in Italy and before we journeyed home, we made a few more stops. Our wonderful guide, Sandra, suggested we do a tour of Pompeii followed by an afternoon in Sorrento. The fast train in Italy is amazing. A three hour car ride takes one hour so we left early in the morning, and made it to the city of Naples before 9am.
The Fast Train
Pompeii was just a short drive away and neither Bob or I were prepared for the beauty left in the ruins of this Roman city. In 79 A.D., the city was buried by the unexpected eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The city, which was basically left intact, was submerged in a thick layer of volcanic material where it was left untouched until excavation began in 1748. If you don’t know the history of Pompeii, it’s definitely worth checking out.
View from the Bath House
A Pizza Oven
A Road in the City
The Interior of a Home
After our tour of Pompeii, we took a short drive to Sorrento where we had another delicious lunch and spent the afternoon walking the city. Unfortunately, it started to rain, but we were prepared and the wet weather did nothing to diminish a beautiful afternoon.
As I write this post, I am back in the comfort of my home. After two weeks away, it’s always nice to get back to a routine again, however, I will never forget our Italian adventure and a piece of my heart will forever remain in Italy. Arrivederci!
Have a great week!
“Even now I miss Italy dearly, I dream about it every night.” – Eila Hiltunen
I can’t believe we’ve been in Italy over a week already!! We have been having such a wonderful time on our Italian adventure. After spending several days seeing the sites in Florence, we are now slowly eating our way through Rome. This sprawling city is the capital of Italy and nearly 3,000 years old. We have walked between 5-8 miles everyday trying to soak it all in, and have loved every minute. Some of our best moments have been spent sitting at little outdoor cafes with our favorite gelato or a cappuccino, and simply people watching. Today we are taking a train to Pompeii for a tour, and then to the beautiful coastal town of Sorrento before we have to say Arrivederci to one of our favorite destinations.
The view of Rome from our hotel balcony
Another view of the city with the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica to the right
The Borghese Gardens
The Spanish Steps
An amazing meal that we had at a vineyard on the outskirts of Rome
Sunset at that same vineyard
One of many Margherita pizzas we demolished
This is how the cars park when there isn’t enough room to parallel park. Our guide said in Italy the street signs are for decoration only, because no one follows them. She also said the traffic is crazy here, so every time you cross the street you should do a sign of the cross….because you never know.
Have a great week! ~May
Each, in its own way, was unforgettable. It would be difficult to — Rome! By all means, Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live.” Audrey Hepburn
Bonjourno from Florence, Italy! I am in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and fell in love the minute we walked out our hotel door and started roaming the narrow streets. We had a bit of jet lag when we arrived, but who can sleep when there is so much to explore? The fashion, food, and the people are wonderful and we have enjoyed learning all about this picturesque city which is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. As much as I love the fashion and food, I can’t say enough about the people here. They are helpful, courteous, considerate and so very friendly. As in most European countries, they love when you at least try to speak their language and are more than willing to teach those of us whose understanding of the language is a little more limited.
Although I have taken some photos, I am truly just trying to be in the moment and take in the beauty of this city through my eyes, and not a lens.
The beautiful garden outside our hotel window
Il Duomo di Firenze in the distance
the Ponte Vecchio Bridge
The Arno River
He was amazing!
Later today we will be hopping the train for Rome where we look forward to more adventures in Italy.
Have a wonderful week!
Happy Monday everyone! Our family reunited this past week for a little R&R, Charleston style. We’ve spent the last few months in different locations and it was so nice to have several days to catch up on life and enjoy each other’s company. Nicole, who just ended her spring break from USC, arrived a few days before the rest of the family, and the two of us had fun spending some quality time together. We cooked, watched movies, ran errands, and shopped of course. Although the weather was a bit brisk last week- too cold for the beach, the sun kept us warm as we walked several miles exploring this beautiful city. Each time we drive downtown, we discover something new, and after living here the past few months, I am quickly navigating my way around.
We are always excited when we come upon unique little dessert shops. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams was the perfect little cafe for a late afternoon treat after so much walking. We loved that it wasn’t your typical Baskin Robbins, rather this ice cream shop carries unique and creative flavors, and all their dairy products come from grass-pastured cows. They also have a few dairy-free options for those of us like myself who are not able to indulge in a traditional ice cream.
Nicole tried the Queen City Cayenne, and I had to have a taste. The flavor reminded us of a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. It was so darn good!! Now, these unique flavors are a bit of an acquired taste, and not for everyone. The last time we were here, Bob and Alyssa walked in, took a look at the options, and walked right back out. However, if you are the adventurous type and want to try something a little different, we highly recommend this King Street treat.
We are looking forward to sharing many more Charleston adventures.
Have a great week! ~ May
A daughter is just a little girl who grows up to be a great friend.
Hi, Everyone! I hope you are all recovering from losing a precious hour of sleep this past weekend. It always takes a few days to get back into the swing of things when we spring forward, but it is so worth having longer days. Summer is just around the corner!
A few months ago, I shared some of my curb appeal goals for our new home. It has been a lovely winter here in the south, which was perfect for dressing up our front yard and exterior of the house. I started with a weekend painting project, giving our front door a bit of a facelift. The black door wasn’t doing anything for me, so I decided to freshen it up with a pop of color, and painted it Real Red, by Sherwin Williams. The door required a few extra coats of paint, but I am so happy with the end result, and it got two thumbs up from my neighbors!! Also, our gas lantern hasn’t worked since we bought the house, so I replaced that as well.
We got to work on the landscape early in February and I was so excited to get two Sabal Palmetto trees in the front yard. The trees look a little skimpy now, but it takes the fronds almost a year to fully blossom and once they do, they will provide a nice layer of texture, plus some much needed shade to the front of the house. We also planted some ornamental sweet grass in front of the palms which will turn a beautiful ruby red in late summer. As much as I’ve loved gardening in Chicago, I know the Charleston heat will prevent me from spending as much time working in the yard during the summer months, so I decided to go with plants that will be a little more low maintenance.
Originally, we planned to repaint the exterior of the house next year, after we settled in a bit. However once the landscape was finished, we really noticed how tired and faded the house looked. The white trim was starting to yellow and peel in a few places, and as you can see in the photo below, the green was really bleached out. Since there is no time like the present, we opted to paint the house now, sticking with the original color of Empire Green by Sherwin Williams. We love it!
Have you noticed our blue ceiling on the piazza (porch)? Blue porch ceilings have been a long standing southern tradition, actually for centuries. Home owners painted their ceilings what is now referred to as Haint blue, which is a soft blue green, to ward off evil spirits also known as Haints. This tradition is very common in Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina where both cities have a reputation for being haunted. I was more than happy to continue the tradition, and I love how it looks. Last week I took advantage of the beautiful weather, finished mulching the beds along the side of the house, and now our home looks brand new!!
I hope you enjoyed the front yard tour. Of course our home will change and grow along with us, but for now, we are thrilled and I look forward to sharing more pictures when the palms grow out. Stay tuned, we are excited about a project we are planning in the backyard.
Have a great week! ~ May
The most beautiful house in the world, is the one that you make your own.