Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Day at the Museum

A few weeks ago, I went to the Gibbes Museum of Art to see their newest exhibit, "Photography and the American Civil War". This collection is currently on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and will head to the New Orleans Museum of Art in January. 

Gibbes Museum of Art

Truthfully, the Gibbes Museum is a work of art itself. She's been standing since 1905, and her best kept secret is the Tiffany dome in the Rotunda. The blue and green stained glass is gorgeous and should not be missed. 

Tiffany Dome, Gibbes Museum Rotunda

The exhibit was amazing and thought-provoking. History is far more exciting to me when I can find a way to relate to it. Well, 150 years ago Charleston was a tough place. Life was much harder back then, and these photographs illustrate what we already know; war is never pretty. 

Photography was in it's early stages during the Civil War. Photographs were made with glass negatives and had to be processed on-site in a tent like the one pictured below. 

[Picture Gallery Photographs] Unknown, American

I can't imagine gathering my photo supplies and trekking across the Charleston Harbor to take wartime photos. We go fishing in the Charleston Harbor, and I can promise you it would be a very rough boat ride back then; especially with cannons being fired overhead.

Terre-plein off the Gorge, Fort Sumter Alma A. Pelot (American, active Charleston, South Carolina, 1850s–1860s)

Hopkinson's Plantation, Edisto Island, South Carolina Henry P. Moore (American, 1833–1911)

Bonaventure Cemetery, Four miles from Savannah George N. Barnard (American 1819-1902)

While the photographs are gruesome and sad, the real story for me was that they even exist. With over 200 original photographs, it's hard to believe these pieces have been preserved for so many generations. The Lowcountry is a constant landscape in the story that unfolds, and the exhibit certainly made gave me a greater appreciation for this area. If you are looking for a uniquely Charleston excursion, head to the Gibbes Museum to see this unbelievable collection. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Setting Trends Down South

The face of the South is changing. And the days of over-buttering your biscuits for a little publicity are starting to dwindle. Don't get me wrong. My Georgia family knows how to butter their biscuits, but it ain't for show. Lately, the more genuine South has been catching the eye of the nation. Is this a change in our makeup, or just a change in our PR? 

Top 15 Home Decor Trendsetters From the South

I was reminded last week about how much we Southerners value our reputation. Thanks to Pamela Berger and The Huffington Post, we're looking pretty good in her article, Top 15 Home Decor Trendsetters From the South. Check out these amazing artists doing their thing, and making a name for themselves. And check out Pamela's blog while you're at it: Sweet Peach Blog.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Belle Maison Art

Art is such a personal purchase, and it's one you will live with everyday. Sometimes I struggle with balancing different types of art in my house. I get excited about one medium, just to realize it might be dominating the other pieces. I currently have four illustrations of fish in my living room, and now I am drawn to these gorgeous prints by Belle Maison Art

Antique Crab Plate 1903
Antique Seashells 1800's

I've been looking for some office art and these pieces are just right. I especially love the crab print. The Rainbow Swimming Crab is a much sassier version of the Lowcountry Blue Crab I know and love. I can't imagine catching a mess of those little rainbows. It would certainly add some color to the next crab boil! I've also been on the hunt for a good oyster illustration… but that's obviously an entirely different obsession.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bright Ideas

If there's any doubt that summer has arrived, a trip to the Charleston Farmer's Market will confirm it. Yesterday it was almost too warm to enjoy a popsicle without it melting down your hand. Of course, I ended up with another mint plant. I consistently use mine at a rate that is not healthy for keeping plants alive. Check out the beautiful fresh flowers we spotted at the Thackeray Farms booth. I love the colors that pop out when summer days start heating up. 

I've been thinking of bright colors and listening to beach music all weekend. I pulled together an inspiration board with some of my favorite seasonal items. The doormat is hand-woven in Maine by mariners, and is made from reclaimed lobster trap rope. They come in so many different colors, it's hard to choose which one is best. Pillows are always an easy update for your outdoor area. This year I'm learning to buy good outdoor pillows. Using an indoor pillow on the porch is not a very good long-term solution. 

The ice cream scoop and latte bowls make me want to sit back with a big helping of sorbet and one of those seersucker napkins. Nothing says summer quite like seersucker. I'm in love with the beige and coral ones. 

3. Sonar Outdoor Pillow 4. Metal Ice Cream Scoop 5. Seersucker Napkins

I hope you're enjoying the warmer weather. Cheers to a happy summer!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb pie has been a part of my last five meals... okay, maybe six. You think I'm kidding. Between this and the sweet tea I'm chugging, I'll be in a diabetic coma before long. My Memorial Day activities included a few hours in the kitchen putting together my first homemade pie. I've had a hankering for Strawberry Rhubarb pie since we went strawberry picking in Edisto a few weeks ago.

This was my first experience using rhubarb, so of course I under-bought the amount that my recipe called for. Because of this, I had to adjust the amount of strawberries and cornstarch in my pie. Purchasing rhubarb turned out to be quite the conversation starter. I heard stories of yummy grandma-made pies from a couple people in the grocery store while checking out. 

Because this was my first homemade pie crust, I was slightly intimidated. I actually bought a couple frozen pie crusts just in case my efforts were a total bust. I used Martha Stewart's recipe for Pate Brisee. If you have a food processor this is seriously way too easy and is certainly better than the pre-made store bought ones. I look forward to using this pie crust for my Pecan Pies in the fall. You can easily freeze the dough, which will definitely be handy during the holidays. 

I read somewhere to "sweat" the rhubarb so it's not as tart. In order to do this I sprinkled a little sugar over the chopped rhubarb and let it sit while I made the crust. I added so many extra strawberries to the filling which created a good a bit of liquid in the mixture. I was scared to add all of the liquid to the pie, so I added the fruit first and then spooned about a cup of the liquid over the filling. 

The lattice crust was pretty fun to make. I watched a youtube video for a tutorial on how to weave the crust. Call me lazy, but I didn't do a egg wash or a sugar sanding on top. Below is  the recipe I used with the modifications I made along the way. The pie takes forever to bake, so you should grab an Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager to help pass the time.


  • For The Filling

    • 6 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (3 cups)
    • 4 cups of strawberries, coarsely chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup cornstarch
    • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • For The Crust

    • 2 disks Pate Brisee
    • All-purpose flour, for surface
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
    • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the filling: Mix together rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, zest and juice.
  2. Make the crust: Roll out 1 disk pate brisee to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Pour in filling; dot top with butter. Refrigerate while making top crust.
  3. Roll remaining disk pate brisee to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into at least 15 1/2-inch-wide strips using a fluted pastry cutter (I used a pizza cutter).
  4. Lay 8 strips across pie. Fold back every other strip, and lay a horizontal strip across the center of the pie. Unfold folded strips, then fold back remaining strips. Lay another horizontal strip across pie. Repeat folding and unfolding strips to weave a lattice pattern. Repeat on remaining side. 
  5. Trim bottom and top crusts to a 1-inch overhang using kitchen shears, and press together to seal around edges. Fold edges under, and crimp as desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (I never refrigerated my pie before baking).
  6. Brush crust with egg wash, and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar. Bake pie on middle rack, with a foil-lined baking sheet on bottom rack to catch juices, until vigorously bubbling in center and bottom crust is golden, about 1 1/2 hours. (Loosely tent with foil after 1 hour if crust is browning too quickly.) Transfer pie to a wire rack, and let cool for at least 2 hours (preferably longer) before serving.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Heady Blooms

Right now the streets of Charleston are wafting with some of the sweetest, intoxicating Southern scents. From the tiniest Confederate Jasmine to the big momma Southern Magnolias, I can't get enough. The gardenia bushes in my back yard have just finally started blooming after tempting their scent with green buds for weeks. 

Confederate Jasmine

Like a true Southern woman, this Magnolia is as dramatic as the day is long. Sadly, none of these blooms will do well indoors. Have you ever tried to put a magnolia in a vase? Like they say, you can't cage a wild thing.

Southern Magnolia

In an effort to bring their fragrance indoors, I've rounded up a few fresh floral colognes. When I was knee-deep in wedding planning, I read a cheesy article that sparked the idea to wear a different scent on your wedding day and anniversaries to trigger memories of significant events. For this reason, I bought Trish McEvoy's Gardenia right before my wedding.

This plan is flawed for a couple reasons. Buying a bottle of perfume is pretty expensive when you're only using it once a year. You certainly can't use the same bottle for years because the scent will eventually go bad. I now wear the gardenia scent throughout the year, in hopes this will trigger memories of my youth when I'm a wrinkly old lady. I think (and hope) the scent is fresh enough that don't smell like a little old lady quite yet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mint and Kumquat-Infused Vodka

A friend and I picked some of the cutest kumquats on the way home from work tonight. Kumquats are small citrus fruits that you can find growing in fancy gardens around downtown Charleston. These little fruits are sometimes bitter, with the skin being the sweetest part. I brought them home to infuse in vodka with some mint growing in my own, not-so-fancy garden.

I don't have many uses for kumquats, but I thought this was a pretty good idea. The process is very easy: Wash the fruit and slice in half. Prepare the mint by rinsing, stemming and chopping the leaves. Place both ingredients in a jar and pour vodka over them. Cover the jars with a lid and place in a cool, dark place for 3 days. The vodka in this recipe could easily be replaced with gin. 

Mint and Kumquat-Infused Vodka
My jars are in the fridge and are going to be hard to resist!  I can now say that I foraged the makings for a drink in downtown Charleston. We talked about mixing this with soda water, but I'm starting to think sweet tea might make a good match. How would you drink this concoction?

Sunday, May 12, 2013


This past week we took a little vacation where we spent a lot of time on the front porch. Whether we were sitting in rocking chairs, the hammock, or the porch swing it was a great way to pass the day. We listened to good music, smelled the salt air and confederate jasmine, and grilled every afternoon. It got me thinking, why don't we have a better porch setup at our home? As I write this post, I'm sitting on the porch at home listening to my neighbor pickin' his guitar, while children are playing in the background.* Sounds like the perfect spot for a fancy porch swing, right? 

I pulled together a some photos of porch swings to get new ideas for my outdoor living room. The Palmetto Bluff Swing, pictured here, is my favorite set-up. I love the natural look of the dark green wood. I would pair my swing with dark green rocking chairs, chocolate brown ticking stripe pillows, and bamboo shades like the Whimsical Gardener photo. That sounds like a good start!

My porch drink

Obviously, an important element to porching is having a good drink to sip on. Today I'm sipping sweet tea with mint, but I just came across a drink called Porch Swing Punch and had to share it. What are your must-have elements for a good day on the porch?

Porch Swing Punch
*My neighborhood is not always this lovely. He's actually a middle-aged guy who built a half-pipe in his back yard.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Vintage Snail Mail

Check out the vintage postcards I came across in downtown Savannah. If you've never been to The Paris Market and Brocante on Broughton Street, put it on your list the next time you're in town. The word vintage is thrown around a lot these days, but these postcards are the real deal. Some of them are filled with messages from the early 1900's, others are blank and are ready for sending.

I picked up a blank one and sent it to a good friend. I'm not sure why, but it just felt right to send it from this rural post office in Adams Run, SC. This sweet little post office has been in operation since August 15, 1893. I can only imagine all the letters that have passed through here. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Old Salts and Old Softies

I'll never forget the first time I had soft-shell crab. It was a late night at Pepper's Porch in Bluffton and the restaurant had just stopped serving food. We were having drinks with some of the boys from Bluffton Oyster Company and we were all starving. They suggested we head over to one of the shrimp boats where they'd fry up some seafood in the galley. You can't find seafood any fresher than right on a shrimp boat. The best part? It was soft-shell crab season. 

Soft-shell blue crab is a delicacy. These crabs are rare and the process for how they land on your plate is like a Lowcountry treasure hunt. Right now we are in the thick of soft-shell season and folks are saying the season this year could be as short as two weeks.

A couple times a year blue crabs go through a molting process where they lose their shells. Two days before they lose their shell, their back fin turns red around the edges. Lowcountry watermen refer to crabs during this stage as "red line peelers". Crabs caught during the red line stage are watched very carefully so they can be protected from each other after their shell is discarded. Larry Toomer, owner of the Bluffton Oyster Company, once told me that during soft-shell season he has to set his alarm so he can check on the crabs multiple times each night. Once the shell is completely lost these crabs are referred to as soft-shell crab. It's hard to believe these crabs can even make it to your kitchen. Soft-shell crabs will only last for a couple hours in water before their new shell hardens. 

Traditionally blue crabs are hard to eat because you have to pick all the meat out of the shell. During soft-shell season we are spoiled because you can just bite right into them. The best way to eat soft-shell crab is to fry it. In my book, it's the only way to go. This past Friday I had the opportunity to photograph a soft-shell sandwich where all the elements are just right. The Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich at the Palmetto Cafe is created by Chef Steven Manall. This sandwich is paired with a Dill Remoulade and fresh, local vegetables. 

Eating these crabs is truly fulfilling, not only because it's delicious (and it's delicious), but also because of all the hard work that goes into creating the dish. If you want to try this sandwich, you better hurry... the season won't last long this year!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Long Sunday Drive

Even with high gas prices, some days are just right for a long Sunday drive. Every so often we like to pack a cooler and hit the road. This photo was taken last Sunday when we headed out to the country on Wadmalaw Island. Right after we passed this sign we came up on a seafood market and some dogs sleeping in the middle of the road. It feels good to know that the folks down here are still taking things pretty slow. Where do you like to go exploring? 

Cherry Point Road, Wadmalaw Island, SC

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Shadowed Past

The works of Carew and Clay Rice are cherished treasures in the Lowcountry. Carew started cutting silhouettes in the early 1900's, recreating scenes from around the deep south. He passed this trait down to his grandson who now travels the country carrying on the art his grandfather taught him when he was just 6 years old. 

These intricate silhouettes, created by Carew in the 60's, are scenes that can still be found in Lowcountry today. The Bethel Presbyterian Church is easily spotted on a ride through downtown Walterboro; and the wrought iron cemetery gate at St. Michael's Episcopal Church is still in use and is likely one of the oldest pieces of wrought iron Charleston. 

Clay Rice has been cutting silhouettes for over forty years and is known for his successful children's books that feature his work. While traveling the country promoting his books, Clay creates silhouettes on-site for families at his book signings. I would love to catch one of these the next time he's in Charleston. 

Stars on the Water, featuring a shrimper with a cast net, is my favorite piece. I like that Clay's pieces are a little more wild. They remind me of the lowcountry that I know, perfectly imperfect and a little rough around the edges.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Authentic South

I can get down with any podcast that starts with the sound of a grandma frying okra. Tanner Latham, a travel writer and mulitmedia storyteller in Atlanta, has recently launched Authentic South, a podcast celebrating Southern culture. 

In the first podcast you hear from the likes of Tanner's Mawmaw, the Director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss, the former editor-in-chief of Southern Living magazine and a pair of chefs whose Southern-Korean fusion dishes are served at their Atlanta BBQ joint. 

Listening to these characters and their ramblings on the South makes me want to grab a tape recorder and head straight to my grandparents house in Statesboro, Georgia. This Christmas my grandfather told me about his first job pickin' cotton, his first speeding ticket in a town called Ellabell, and the 450 Vidalia onions plants he just put in the ground. I would pay money to have a recording of these stories. What Southernisms would you preserve if you could travel the South with a tape recorder?

Authentic South

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Island Hopping

This week has been pretty crazy and the recent events around the country have been a reminder to seek out more quiet moments. In celebration of Mitch's birthday, I took yesterday off and we went to Edisto to do some fishing and island hopping. We headed down early and spent more than 6 hours on the river before seeing another boat. With life being so busy, the quiet of a river can really recharge your batteries. I can't think of a better way to spend a Wednesday. 

After we caught a few fish, we tied up to an island and went exploring. Mitch was checking out a dilapidated old dock, while I found pieces of broken pottery and animal tracks in the pluff mud. 

We found a clearing in the woods and a big oak tree. I came across an old glass bottle marked "No Deposit, No Return, Not to be Refilled". I did a little research on the bottle and it appears to be around 50 years old. It really makes me wish there was a message in this bottle! Edisto is always a "reset-button" for me and I am certainly grateful for the mid-week adventure.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Homemade Pimento Cheese

A sure sign of Spring in the South is the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. The tournament, which officially kicks off today is known for it's azaleas, pimento cheese sandwiches and strict traditions. The delightfully simple Pimento Cheese sandwiches sell for $1.50, Georgia sales tax included. It's hard to believe this menu and it's prices have been preserved over the years. 
All the talk about Pimento Cheese had me wanting to try some in my own kitchen. Last night, I set out to make a batch using a friend's recipe.

Teresa's Pimento Cheese:

• 1 pound sharp yellow cheddar
• 1⁄4 pound cream cheese, softened
• 1 teaspoon black pepper 
• 3 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
• 1⁄2 cup Mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• Splash of hot sauce
• 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Grind the cheddar in a food processor fitted with a grating disk, or grate in a small holed side of a hand grater. Transfer the grated cheese to a bowl, add the cream cheese, pepper, bell peppers, mayonnaise, sugar, hot sauce and cayenne. Blend all together thoroughly. Refrigerate and serve chilled.

It was delicious! I was specifically instructed to find a very sharp, high quality cheese. I used Cabot's Seriously Sharp yellow cheddar. Like any good Southerner I am brand loyal to my mayonnaise and hot sauce. I used Duke's Mayonnaise and Tabasco in this recipe. This recipe was much easier to whip up than I thought it would be!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lowcountry Luxe

Well, well, well. Who would've ever thought the smell of spanish moss would end up on Oprah's O List? Lowcountry Luxe, a small candle company in Savannah, GA, has romanticized the scents of the Carolina lowcountry and created a name for themselves with their Signature Collection

The Signature Collection features six scents: Charleston, Savannah, Spanish Moss, Gullah, Sea Grass and Living in High Cotton. While I secretly wanted Gullah to be my favorite scent, I didn't care for it at all. It must have been the "exotic Benzoin resin" in the candle that smelled a little too much like incense for me. Living in High Cotton was by far my top choice. Lowcountry Luxe has described this scent as: "A creation of citrus tress and pine and white dogwoods tea olive spiked with lemon and lime white grapefruit and peach."

If you can't choose just one scent, you can always go for the Travel Collection. This collection is a mini version of the Signature Collection and features each scent in a two ounce travel size.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Up the Creek

This weekend we went to Edisto to do a little fishing. Waking up a 4AM is never fun, but watching the sunrise when you get to your fishing hole makes it worth it every time. We anchored the boat and watched the tide go out and come back in. Spending the entire day in a salt water creek is something everyone should do at least once. The peacefulness of the birds breezing by and oysters popping in the water was a quiet reminder that the lowcountry is shared with all living things. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fresh Paint

Take a look at these new paintings by the talented Bluffton artist, Murray Sease. While these lowcountry-inspired scenes could occur anywhere along the South Carolina coast, they carry my mind straight back to Bluffton. When I see these paintings I daydream about the MayFest on Calhoun Street and the creeks of the May river. If you're ever in the area, stop by the Society of Bluffton Artists to see more of her work. My favorite piece is still the old Colburn's Liquor Store.