January’s Wish List: A Guide to Current Must Haves

Currently, Florida has freezing temps outdoors, though mildly higher than the rest of the nation. We southern natives are hunkered down under blankets, with space heaters blowing full blast because we might just get frostbite. Not really, but we are cold for the South, and we are dreaming of spring and warmth and items that will bring color and energy into our lives. I hope to do a monthly wish list for you based on my own personal wish list that I keep. January’s wish list is meant to inspire energy, warmth and spring filled vibes. I hope you find something you enjoy!

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“Gardenshire Pitcher” – Anthropologie

I’ve been eyeing this pitcher for a few weeks now. I absolutely love blue, which it contains quite a bit of. I also love love how subtle the warm pinks and corals are. The pitcher screams spring without being overly bold and it makes me think of garden parties and brunch on a patio. It can be found here: https://www.anthropologie.com/shop/gardenshire-pitcher?color=049&quantity=1&size=Pitcher&type=REGULAR&utm_campaign=PDP_SHARE&utm_content=2018-05-30&utm_medium=SOCIAL&utm_source=pinterest

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Let’s face it. We all need this book. We need it because we want the Cash and Carter family secrets, both food and otherwise. We want it because we want to know what June fixed Johnny for dinner. We need it because Johnny Cash goes with southern people just like Rhett Butler. This book can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077CV9B73/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_dp_U_x_mGU7BbMF00E3F

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Mini Claw Foot Planter

I am in love with this little planter for so many reasons. First and foremost, it has my favorite ocean green color. I’ll take any variation of ocean green and mint. Second I love stoneware because it gives back to the plant over a longer period of time by holding essential moisture that can be drawn from by the roots. Just imagine a coral or red tinged succulent in this little beauty, warming on your kitchen windowsill. Get yours here! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M4S0RZH/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_dp_U_x_ASteCb68YBQRX

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I think everyone should read at least one character building book each year to boost confidence and build energy for their goals. This one is my top pick for the start of the year. YOU ARE a Badass!!! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3M3VWS/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_dp_U_x_3dDrCbCFJPJCM

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Himalayan Salt Lamps

Listen. If you don’t have a salt lamp yet, do yourself a giant favor and get one. I sleep so much better when I’ve had one on in the room for a bit. The soft glow is so relaxing before bed. Studies have shown that they help purify the air, and they also diffuse essential oils. I have both lamps like this one and tealight holders. You need ALL the salt lamps! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001892AX2/ref=strm_sub_nad_1_3

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Finchberry Shampoo Bar

I’ve been reading of the benefits of shampoo bars for some time now. I have a relatively sensitive scalp, and am hoping this might help solve some of my reaction problems. Shampoo bars are also notably long lived, saving you some money. That’s always a giant plus. This bar is from Finchberry, a current favorite of mine as well as many many others. It is affordable and an extra bonus is it has all natural ingredients and is gluten free! https://www.finchberry.com/collections/speciality-soap/products/solid-shampoo-bar-peppermint-tea-tree?variant=7304688205859

Spirit Horse Print

AmyLyn Bihrle has become one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) Equine artists. I already have two of her prints, and this guy is also on my list. I chose this one for January because the wind and white background capture the cold that we are still feeling, but the look in his eyes is fiery and full of confidence. AmyLyn does an amazing job of capturing the regal bearing in stallions. https://www.etsy.com/listing/158999970/majestic-horses-black-spirit-horse

Lauren Groff’s “Florida”: A Book We Should Opt to Listen to.

I started out the year with a goal to participate in the Read Harder Challenge that is put out by BookRiot. I’ll include a link to the Read Harder Challenge at the end of this post. One of the options was to read a book by a woman or author of color that won an award in 2018. Groff’s collection of stories has been on my list since it came out, so it became an easy choice for this part of the challenge. I was interested in it not just because the stories are set in Florida, but because Groff herself resides in my hometown. I had not realized that she is a fairly seasoned author, with several other books published prior to this one. I had wondered several times, and still do, how often I may have passed her in the street, or in a store. I opted for the Audible version of this book because she narrates it herself, and I generally feel that an author can lend much more conviction to their own stories, since only they truly know the emotion they wanted to instill as they crafted their stories.

Let me start by saying that Lauren Groff could read me a telephone book and I would probably enjoy it. She has a beautiful lilting voice, at times soothing, and many times seductive even when reading mundane parts of her stories. I thoroughly enjoyed the Audio of the book. What’s more, her stories are convincing, emotive and beautiful. Her characters in “Florida” face daunting and realistic inner battles as they also face the realities of life in Florida. The worries of a parent, of death, of facing possible assaults, of failing marriages and overlooked extramarital affairs that women live through every day are prominent in her writing while still embracing the state in its rawness. Panthers, snakes, sinkholes and heat brought me home to my state. Her descriptions of baking heat, reading with fans on, the scrub outside of cabins, sudden storms that rival hurricanes are all something that become everyday for people who live here. Groff brings them to life to create a muggy palmetto and city scene that few have managed to pull off. Meanwhile, characters faced possible death, homelessness, the challenges of marriages or failed ones. Groff subtly displays many of the actual life altering events that we all experience and somehow captures the very emotions that surround each issue without laying them out in blatantly obvious text. I almost felt like her words were a water flow, with these issues laying as rocks underneath, visible but not completely obvious. It was such a beautiful way of letting the reader know that they are understood.

I feel that Groff’s collection is an essential read both as a Floridian, but also as a woman who overthinks and fears in ways portrayed in the book. It is a great look into the inner workings of fraught minds of mothers, wives, young women and even children in many ways. I’ll be adding a paper copy to my collection, but seriously, do yourself a truly huge favor and listen to her read it one time.

The Read Harder Challenge is put out by BookRiot every year. It is a fantastic way to reach beyond your normal reading boundaries and find new worlds and authors. Here is the link to this year’s read harder challenge. https://bookriot.com/2018/12/12/2019-read-harder-challenge/

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Have you ever found a cake that you just can’t get enough of? I made this cake not too long ago and now I have to resist making it once a week, because I would seriously sit and eat it all. This cake is perfect when it is warm and served with a glass of milk. I love a good, simple chocolate cake because you can make it appropriate for any occasion. It can be a casual cake, a birthday cake, the perfect cake when you want a decadent treat to give someone and even a holiday cake (and let’s face it, we need to serve one of these at every holiday)! I love this recipe because it really is easy to make, but the coffee adds just a touch of complexity that makes me feel like I’m doing something to make myself an accomplished baker. The coffee infused chocolate drizzle really makes this over the top delicious, and I love to add just a dash of confectioner’s sugar after it’s cooled for a little pop.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Coffee Infused Chocolate Drizzle:

For the Cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 7 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup mayonnaise – no substitutes
  • 3/4 cup cold coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Drizzle

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cold coffee
  • 1 cup semi-chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, coffee and the vanilla, with the mixer set on low. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mayonnaise mixture and mix until they are combined. Pour the batter in two prepared layer pans (this can also be made in a bunt pan though). Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While the bake is baking , bring a sauce pan to medium heat and combine the heavy cream, coffee, butter and chocolate chips. Stir consistently until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. You can either leave this on the low setting to keep warm or set it aside and warm it back up later.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a cooling rack. Once the cake is completely cool, set one layer onto a cake stand. Spoon part of the warmed drizzle over the first layer, and top with the second layer. Once you have the layers even and balanced, top the second layer with the rest of the drizzle. I opt to add confectioner’s sugar once the drizzle has cooled, but this is totally optional. I would also recommend sliced almonds, berries or even rose petals!

A Book You Need to Read!

I have to start this post by saying that my best friend is seriously one of the most amazing people on this planet. I saw this book in an online magazine blurb and shared it and she immediately had it sent to me. Seriously, one of the most amazing people on this earth and I can’t wait for her to get to read this too.

You could speak to almost any person in the United States about their musical influences, or the music they have grown up hearing, and it is almost certain that Johnny Cash will either come up in the conversation, or has had a role to play in the growth of artists that they mention. From the written words of his songs, to his fashion statements, to his dedication to embracing the underdog, Johnny Cash touched the entire world and left a legacy that is almost incomparable. Undeniably, songs like “I Walk the Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Ring of Fire” and “Get Rhythm” are some of the most played and sung songs on this planet, whether it be in the back seat of a car with the windows down, or on the stage of a bar in Nashville by an up an coming artist looking for their star to start shining. And his later songs like “Hurt” reintroduced him to a younger generation, fueling his legacy to remain steadfast over time.

In 2005, Joaquin Phoenix gave the world a glimpse into the inside world of Johnny and his struggles with drugs and alcohol during his career, as well as his love for June. The movie was phenomenal, and once again, the world fell in love with Johnny Cash. Yet for many, including myself, there has not been a deeper glance into how Johnny creatively functioned. While I have yet to read his autobiography, I had not found the answers to what made him tick musically until this book.

Alan Light gave me a glimpse into how Johnny wrote and the things that inspired him. Even more, he fully illustrated how Johnny took a firm stance for the things he wanted in his career. The back end of music and record labels is not a world that everyone sees, or even takes a great interest in. So many artists today sing the songs that are handed to them, to the tune they are told to sing to. While that of course displays their vocal talent, some of the artistry gets lost and the general public as a whole misses out on the beauty that artists create when they write and play instruments themselves as well. The development of a song from start to finish is such a huge path, filled with the smallest of details like the nuance of a word, or how a key can have an effect on the entire song. Johnny Cash was the type of artist who wanted to give his listeners more than a tune to whistle to on the radio, and this book was the first book to really capture that attitude. I loved learning that he developed entire themes for his albums, from trains to religion to the awakening of his mind and soul as he aged. He chose how his albums would be developed and released, and he didn’t back down to the pressures of record label demands. The author took such a deeper focus on this, and it was inspiring to be introduced to the depths of Cash’s writing and artistry.

Even more, this book was my first look into Johnny Cash’s humanitarian outreaches. I had never read nor heard mention of his support for Native Americans. This shed a whole new light on him for me as a person. I feel that I can embrace him as even more of a role model to introduce to my son, or to budding artists, because of course we love him for having taken the underdogs under his wing, and many of us know that he himself presented the perfect story of the average man who loved God and religion but who had his own short comings. But to know that I can look at my son and point to paragraphs in this book and say, “this man was known as one of THE Southern Outlaw musicians and HE embraced every person, no matter what type of person they were and he pursued his dreams on his own agenda, without compromise,” lends an entirely new and greater attitude towards The Man In Black.

If you haven’t picked this book up yet, please do yourself a favor and grab it on your next book shopping spree. I’m including the Amazon link below, should you be more of an online shopper. Trust me, it is worth owning. I am so glad to have this book on my shelves and I hope I can re-read it for more inspiration in my own writing and processes of developing my ideas.


The Journey Begins

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.— Ernest Hemingway

So. Here we are. It’s taken me some time to decide how this would come to fruition, and to lay out what it was that I wanted for this blog. I’ve done a few in the past and not really gotten very far, but I think like many things in my life, it has taken me those few times and some growth to understand that I need a map, a guiding light and some personal organization on my own part. So, I hope you’ll hear me out and that we can take this journey together.

Last fall, I sat in at the UF Small Business Women’s Business and Leadership Conference, and we talked about personal brands and personal wow factors. I thought some on that, and the same night I had this light bulb moment like you see in comic strips or children’s cartoons, where the little light bulb sits over someone’s head and lights up as their eyes get wider. Suddenly the character has a need to run and do this inspired thing right then, right there, now now now. That was me. That ah-hah moment was a coming together of so many of the things I have seen, heard, wanted to write about, wanted to cook, wanted to share. In these last few months, I’ve taken some drawn out time to mold and shape the dough, if you will. This blog is the ah-hah and the wow factors. It is also meant to be much much more.

You’re probably now wondering what my rambling is all for. Pour yourself a glass of sweet tea and I’ll share. The night of my ah-hah moment, I happened to be sitting and reading a magazine that I am subscribed to that has a Southern focus, but in a very elegant and sophisticated form. I’ve always loved it because of that air of Southern aristocracy hidden in the pages. It occurred to me though, that many magazines and blogs are missing things. We all love recipes, that is a fact. We all love to see the beautiful places that we want to travel to as well. We enjoy elegant decorating and crafts. You’ll get tastes of those here as well, trust me. But, the south has an entire world that many people never get even a small glimpse into. First and foremost, it has a mixture of ecological diversity that is little seen anywhere else in the world. From the salt marshes and swamps of Florida and Louisiana, to the ancient tree covered tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains, right out to the tumbleweed covered ranches of Texas, there is a uniqueness to the land that you will not find elsewhere. The people are just as unique. The South has shaped the culture of this nation with its musical influences, rich history of cuisine, coal mining families providing fuel and artists in every nook and cranny. The articles you see most miss a lot of things though. The south is responsible for a huge portion of our agricultural output in this nation, and the families that farm here stretch back generation upon generation. The south houses the Appalachian culture, little changed over time, creaking and whispering like ancient trees along the small roads through the mountains. The South’s fishing villages are another group little changed by time and technology.

I’d like to be able to share those things with you. I want you, dear reader, to get to see the parts of this land that don’t get spotlights and beautiful articles with rich colored pictures tucked into the magazines that line your grocery shelves. The South offers endlessly, and all we have to do is look and listen. So I hope we can enjoy that journey together. We will eat, drink, read, listen to music, meet farmers and craftsmen and artists together. We will travel together, sit at home together, and find so many beautiful things together. I hope that it will be a rich and bountiful experience for you.

Without further adieu, let’s begin.