Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Makings of a Sunshine Girl

As a college student, we often debated environment vs. heredity. When I was a teacher, I saw students who may have inherited certain traits, but were most definitely affected by their environment. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the not so good. As a young girl and now as a mature woman (not old!), I see how my environment, or more specifically my family, has affected me.

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, June 11, 1956. My mother and daddy were, and still are, awesome parents and I grew up in a home filled with lots of love, even among the rivalry, arguments, and loudness of two other siblings, and often four other cousins. Both sets of my grandparents were hard working individuals where neither of the wives worked outside of the home. Not until my maternal grandfather passed away early near the age of 65, that is. He died suddenly of a heart attack and it truthfully broke my heart. My four grandparents and parents all had a strong faith and it was at the death of my grandfather that I first realized my need for God. I had yet to make a profession of faith, as we called it, and the loss of someone I loved so dearly confronted me with the first thoughts of my eternity after life on earth. But that is another story.

The three of us on our front porch in Semmes, Alabama, early 1959: older sis Kaye in the background, younger brother Tim chewing on his wooden playpen, and me in the foreground running for the camera.

Granddaddy and Grandma Brown lived in a rural part of George County, Mississippi, which at that time, did not have phone service. It was like another world. The bridge that crosses the Pascagoula River on Highway 26 between Lucedale and Benndale was "Grandma's Bridge", and it was a signal to the three of us that rode in the back seat that we were getting close to Grandma and Granddaddy's house.

"Grandma's Bridge"

I loved to hear the sound of the car tires as they rattled across the cattle gap at the end of the lane that led to Grandma's house. The gravel crunched as the heavy Oldsmobile we drove lumbered towards the house. Many times we would get out of the car and run in three different directions. If Granddaddy was in the field, I would usually run to get a hug. He would come walking up, sunhat in hand, handkerchief wiping the back of his neck, wearing a big smile just for me. I would wrap my arms around his waist and press my round little cheeks to his overalls. They were always damp and had a familiar scent. Not a bad one, just one that smelled like Granddaddy when he was working in the field. Later, as I aged, I learned to recognize that scent as perspiration, but a fond memory just the same. Granddaddy would squeeze me and ask, "How is my little Sunshine Girl doing"? I would always laugh and say in my very southern drawl, "Gooood." Both he and Grandma called me their Sunshine Girl. I never really got it until after Granddaddy died and Grandma Brown was left to live alone. She was 58 and she lived until just shy of her 93rd birthday. For the last 10 years of her life, my mom cared for her. She touched our lives very deeply.

Grandma Brown looking good! 

In the 1960's, autograph books were the rage: perhaps the forerunners of Facebook. I got one for Christmas in 1965, so the next time I saw Grandma Brown, I asked her to sign my autograph book. I was 9 years old at the time. I keep this little book out where I can look at it. I even have a ribbon tied to open the book straight to Grandma's page.

My Autograph Book

Her message goes straight to my heart every time. I think it is something she and Granddaddy spoke into my life. They gave me a legacy to live up to without even knowing it. Or maybe they did know. Lots of times I share things with others and later find that it was a word they needed and it came at just the right time. Just like I need a ray of sunshine in the dark winter months to lighten my heart and strengthen me with the hope for spring days that will eventually come, we all need an encouraging word in due season. A kind word at the right time is like a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day.

Grandma's Definition of a Sunshine Girl

It is amazing to me how we are all gifted in different ways. Your gift may be sending cards, making phone calls, giving sacrificially to others in secret, or making a meal for someone who could really use it. Sometimes life is not easy. Sometimes everything is not all perky and happy. Sometimes we may not feel like smiling or spreading sunshine and love. But we need to stop and think: it isn't always all about us. Sometimes someone else needs something more than we do. When we put others first instead of ourselves, we will find that we can be Sunshine Girls and Sunshine Boys. Just like Granddaddy said...How are you doin'? We are always busy doing something. And when we do right for others, we can never go wrong. Who needs your sunshine today?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Snow in the Land of Sunshine

Last week we experienced an unusual batch of weather along the Gulf Coast and in fact, across the Southeast. While we were hoping for snow, what we got was a good dose of sleet and ice! It lasted longer than we anticipated due to very cold temps, and in fact, in a few shady places of my yard, there are still frozen spots four days later. While the ice was a lot more dangerous for older folks like me to walk on, I managed to get up early on the morning after and trek around the farm to get a few photos. My husband was out of town and my son beat the bad weather to a hunting spot north of here, so I was the only one in my family that was home to enjoy the beautiful sights.
Winter is the only time of year you can see the roof of our home. The crepe myrtle branches stood out against the icy roof.
The view from across the pond when it is still makes a pretty reflection. I am still thinking about how silly it was for me to go out so early, alone, with no cell phone. Duh, but thankfully no problems.
The barn looks cold, doesn't it?
The courtyard was full of ice and took the longest to thaw because of the lack of sunshine in that area. 
Jack Frost would like those chairs. 

I did manage to get a few things done while I was off work for three days. I have had a little vanity table that I bought about 20 years ago, and while I loved the shape and details, the dark finish didn't let those features shine through. So I decided to give chalk paint a whirl and see what all the fuss has been about the past couple of years. I have to say it wasn't as hard as I had imagined and I did learn a few things. It's true hindsight is 20/20! The before and after are pretty dramatic and I like it much better painted. My poor husband will think he is living in someone else's house when everything starts wearing paint! 
 BEFORE: Sorry, the hardware had already been removed, but you can see the little table was very sad.
AFTER: I left the hardware kind of half way clean, with a lot of the aged patina.
Now you can see the details and curves of the table and it is smiling at me.
  I will always be able to remember that this was my Snowy Days project. Even the color is reminiscent of the ice on the brown grass of winter...Ready to try it again!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Vintage Wedding Blues

When Christmas is over, there is almost always a let-down. When a party or special occasion comes and goes, the memories are sweet, but again, there is that dimming of the emotions that occurs after all the guests are gone, dishes are done, and pretties are put away. A sadness can even take the place of the joy one has felt only a short time before. Weddings are like that to me. So many hours of planning, looking, driving, talking, thinking, returning, changing your mind, going back to the first idea; it is often maddening, the pace with which we drive ourselves as the wedding day approaches.

When my niece Michelle came home from Tuscaloosa last Thanksgiving with a male friend in tow, I thought something was up. When he came back at Christmas, I was sure something was up! It wasn't long after, that my suspicions were confirmed: The White House was having a wedding! Michelle and Kevin were getting married! And yes, girls and boys, he popped the question with a good old fashioned ring pop. No diamond, just two simply beautiful engraved wedding bands to be exchanged on their special day.

Michelle and Kevin...Roll Tide! 

Starry, starry night

Happy, Happy, Happy!

Since I do not have a daughter and I love a celebration, this Mississippi Sunshine Girl wanted to help wherever I could. Lots of old items with family meaning to the couple were used, making this one of the most unusual and frugal weddings you can imagine...totally and wonderfully vintage. I was in heaven! I had lots of projects that I had been wanting to try, and the wedding gave my ideas a place to land and actually take root. From Michelle's maternal great grandmother's suitcases, to a door turned chalkboard, to handmade tablecloths from her paternal grandmother's lace, and wooden crates for fruit, to a cabin replica in the reception hall and a barn fa├žade in the church sanctuary, it was almost unbelievable what ideas materialized into reality. Our family all pulled together to make this wedding a once in a lifetime event!

The guests wrote messages, then placed them in the jars instead of signing a book. 
The miniature bride was made by Michelle's grandmother, the late Mildred "Louise" White.
Mildred is not a name you expect to see in jewelry, so when a friend had this vintage pin with her name on it, I could not resist making it my own. The pearls belonged to my grandmother, who was a dear friend to Michelle's maternal granny.
I learned a lot about Michigan, Kevin's home state, while doing these wedding props. Did you know Michigan is divided into by water? I thought that was pretty cool and included copies of vintage maps of both Mississippi and Michigan in this suitcase.

The little bear bride was also made by Grandma. She was very talented in many ways. When Michelle's mom was cleaning out Grandma Louise's hobby room before the wedding, she found this little jewel tucked away. It is very special indeed.
This is not a good shot of the chalkboard door, but you get the idea. Turned out good for a first try! Since Kevin's family and friends could not all attend the wedding, we wanted to fill up "his" side of the church, too. And we did. When the happily married couple returns home to Michigan, they will be blessed with another reception in their honor.
I made two of these tablecloths plus a runner that used over 65 yards of lace. It was still on the original spool, purchased from a closing lingerie manufacturer, price intact: $10. I am not kidding!
Can you say L-O-V-E?
The wooden monogram in the background was won by Michelle in a cool is that? It made the display complete. Michelle's mom made both of the cakes. Wow!
And yes, Mr. Jacob Tilley is a crazy good photographer. Can't wait to see all the photos!


One of my favorite parts were about the wedding were all the different centerpieces used. All different, rustic, and meaningful to the bride and groom in one way or another. From rusty chains and barbed wire, to replica's of old cars and trucks, to flower filled funnels, all sprinkled with "snow", each table told a story of how a little Mississippi girl came to belong to a tall, funny Detroit boy. North meets South, shut my mouth. It was an awesome thing to see two families from opposite ends of our country coming together as one big family.

Michelle's bouquet and almost all of the flowers used belonged to her late paternal grandmother, and came from her Grandma Louise's hobby room, where she spent many hours designing or "playing" as she liked to say. Her bridal gown was somewhat vintage; it belonged to her youngest aunt, wed 24 years ago. A friend redesigned the gently aged gown for more of a prairie look, and she was a stunning bride. The groom looked very handsome, and completed the bridal party of two. That's right. Two...the bride and the groom. I loved that because it was so romantic that the two of them were the center of attention on their special day, with no distractions. I cried when I saw her standing at the top of the stairs, holding on to her Daddy's arm, smiling down at her groom, with lots of love in those big, brown eyes.

This cabin replica was built by Michelle's daddy, and Kevin. It was a real conversation piece and lots of guests used it as intended, a photo spot.
There were so many other things that went on over the months to prepare for this special day that are too many to include. Being able to do a part of this celebration made me happy. Anytime we can do something for someone else when they ask for nothing, it is a good thing.
The end is just the beginning. Live long and live well, sweet ones. May all your dreams come true.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spreading Love and Sunshine with Free Printables

This week we will celebrate Valentine's Day. This holiday probably holds many different kinds of memories for each of us, but it makes me think of my very first school teacher. A few days ago I was sharing with a student about my First Grade teacher, Mrs. Valentine. The elementary school I attended had a long row of doors that opened to the playground area. On the first day of school, she told us to look for the door with the big red heart when it was time to come in from play. Easy enough-a valentine is traditionally a big red heart. What a comfort for us to know exactly which door belonged to us. Our room could be spotted from the swings at the very back of the playground! Anytime I see a large red heart, I always think of her. I am sure she is probably in heaven by now, and I bet her mansion has some beautiful heart motifs, just as she used for her First Graders for many years.

So, in honor of Mrs. Valentine, I wanted to share some free printables. I found some good info from Jenn, over at The Purposeful Mom, and went to work on some new printables in my Creative Memories software. The first set contains 3 large hang tags, for when you don't need a formal card, but want to make a cute happy for someone. The tags themselves will make you smile!

This next set is a mixture of styles, so maybe you can find something that will fit the different ages and people in your life that you love. There are 9 styles to choose from and these are the smaller tags.


 I really like to do vintage style, so that will be the next session. Spring is coming right around the corner, and Easter is a favorite holiday, so perhaps I will be able to design some pretty vintage tags to share next time. Print these on cardstock, and you can save your money for a little gift to surprise someone when they need a little bit of "sunshine" for their day.

Have a great end to February and remember to tell those special people in your life that you love them. You can never say it too much as long as you MEAN it. Blessings to you and yours for sunshine and good times.



Again, I have linked to Made by You Mondays, at Skip to My Lou. I am also linking to Coastal Charm . Please check out her blog. She is also a local vendor at Antiques at The Loop in Mobile.

Skip To My Lou  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Biscuits vs. Scones: Some Kind of Wonderful

I am on holiday in recognition of the life work of Dr. Martin Luther King. Some of the words he spoke live on today. In my lifetime, I recall the year that our school became integrated. I learned at a young age that children are the same in many ways, even if we don't have the same color of skin. Today I watch the students I work with at our elementary school celebrate the successes and diversities of each other in a way that some thought would never be done in the South. Shame on them. We have adjusted very well over the years, and for that I am thankful. Shame on us for thinking any other way than that we are all equally wonderful in our own way. We were living in the shadow of the past, and it just took a few generations of change for us to see what is real and truth. We are who we are because of what we are inside, not how we look outside.

Now let's move from the soapbox to the kitchen and talk about scones. Just as humans come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, so do breads. In the deep South, the biscuit is a staple. My mom laughed at what my first attempt at biscuits looked like. She said they looked like little turtles. Hmmmph. Did not. Anyway, they tasted good. Our biscuit recipe that we love right now, has three ingredients: self-rising flour, butter, and buttermilk. Easy peasy and some kind of delicious.

How does a biscuit compare to a scone? A scone is usually thought of as a bread or slightly sweet cake served with tea in places like Britain or other areas that do an afternoon treat as a "pick me up". One thing I do know, is they are very versatile. There are lots of shapes and degrees of sweetness in scones. I have eaten some that tasted like cardboard, and others that were iced and so sweet I would not call them a scone. I prefer the variety that is fluffy, soft, and slightly sweet but served with jams, jellies, preserves, or sweet fresh fruit. And for me, fresh whipped cream is a must! 

                                                                     Buttermilk Biscuits              

     Creamy Yogurt and Currant Scones

                                                                                         Glazed Strawberry Scones

My Version of Cream Scones tasted better than they looked!

Cream Scone with Peach Preserves Filling
Cream Scone with Tart Cherry Preserves Filling

I was flipping through a Mississippi Magazine this morning and saw a recipe for Cream Scones. It was very simple, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I thought, why not? When I added the last item on the recipe, the dough did not look right at all. Still very dry. So I adjusted the amount of heavy cream until it looked right, and went with it. Here is my version of the recipe:

Cream Scones

2 cups plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons cold butter
1 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; add sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Add cream, and blend well. Flour a work surface and knead dough for 30 seconds. Roll to 1/2 inch thick, and cut into 3 inch rounds. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with jam and freshly whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

Pour 1 cup of whipping cream into a mixing bowl. Place in refrigerator for 5 minutes to chill bowl. Whip at high speed. When cream begins to thicken well, gently sprinkle 1/4 cup powdered sugar into mixing bowl. Continue to beat until desired thickness.


One thing that makes baked goods so pretty is when they rise in layers. This scone is so soft and has a really gentle texture. The secret to this comes from the way you knead the dough. When you knead, kind of fold the dough over itself top to bottom. Then rotate the dough and knead again. You will be folding the dough over itself in different directions and when this happens, it creates the many layers that rise beautifully.

To assemble, use a fork and gently split the scone along one of the middle layers. Spread the bottom layer with your choice of jam or preserves. Top with some whipped cream. Replace the top layer of scone onto the whipped cream and gently press to hold together. Top it all off with another little dollop of whipped cream. Finally, sprinkle the entire scone with powdered sugar. Enjoy while warm.

The cutter used created a small scalloped edge. So pretty!
P.S. This actually occurred yesterday, and I can assure you I enjoyed these scones with sweet abandon and NO GUILT. However, today I signed up to participate in a Biggest Loser to promote wellness at my school, so there will be no scones in my future. Not for a while, anyway. My next post may very well be how to make healthier food choices. I surely would like to win that $500 pot of money!

I hope you will try the scone recipe, if not these, maybe a variety from one of the links provided will be just right. Enjoy dining on a confectionary delight that is "some kind of wonderful".

Blessings to you from the Mississippi Sunshine Girl. If it is dreary in your world, don't fret! Make your own sunshine!



This week I am linking up with Made By You Monday at Skip to My Lou and Tasteful Tuesdays at Naptime Creations. Check out these great recipes and creative ideas!

Skip To My Lou

Nap-Time Creations

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vintage Dreams for 2013: Bringin' Home the Bambi

Last year we had dreamed of restoring our 1963 Airstream Bambi to be road ready this past spring. The Bambi is a miniature Airstream version that is a demure 16 feet long, and definitely a two-person facility. However, its' cuteness makes up for the lack of space! Our best friend, Mike, had a fleet of airstreams: two Bambi's, and one 32 footer, not sure which model. Another friend inherited the large one, and Mike has the other Bambi on its' way to being a dynomite rendition and ours is, well, still in the "planning" stages. Anyway, our dream is to get these babies restored and do some fun road trips together soon. It is also going to bring a whole new meaing to the word RETIRED, when that does happen.
At the supper table, our youngest son Con and his girlfriend Lea Anna have laughed at us when we talk about turning the Bambi into a food truck when we retire, and just carting it around to wherever the hungry crowds are. Let them laugh! It beats the heck out of the overhead of a restaurant, you cook when you want to, to whom you wish to make happy, and see the countryside in the meantime. Not to mention, that usually wherever there are crowds, there are also fun times such as music, tall tales, and lots of shopping involved. Sounds like a definite winner to me!

Here we are in the fall of 2011: Me, Stu James, and our best bud Mike the weekend we brought home the Bambi
from the Mississippi Delta to our Gulf Coast home.
There are lots of vintage sites that support Airstream. I have been researching for the best way to polish: do it ourselves or take to a reputable dealer. The jury is still out on this, but that is at the top of the list. Since it has to be done from time to time, it may be more ecomomical to invest in the equipment and use lots of elbow grease to bring back that mirror shine.
Next, we have to gut and rewire, which we think will not be too bad due to the size of the Bambi. Then on to the fun part of restoring and decorating. We have already been collecting some items that will be fun to use: a 1960's metal Coleman Icechest, an early 1950's radio that belonged to my Dad, wooden director chairs, baskets for the "Lake Look", which is what we are thinking right now, because we both love the water...and this also gives me an excuse to go rambling around in old dusty, dirty junk places and nice antique stores. Love it.
Check out these pictures of what a Bambi can look like. Dream and go dream some more!

All shined up and road ready! One day soon, ours will look like this.

Love the vintage canopy and the matching hubcap.
I like the light and airy feeling in this one.
Definitely larger than our Bambi, but Stu favors this look.

I don't think this sofa is an option, because these are very heavy and we will have to
watch the weight in our itty bitty rolling house.
Our day will come. Love this American spirit in motion!
Well, we certainly have our work cut out for us this year. But don't you think this will be so fun for us? We tease Connor that when he goes to Ole Miss we will just park the Bambi at Sardis Lake and be up there every weekend. He does not think it is funny, but we are just kidding!
It is a gray day on January 2, 2013, but I see blue skies ahead with lots of sunshine. May the Lord's goodness shine down on you!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking Forward to Love in 2013

Christmas was a blur for our family this year. During the week we normally decorate, I was busy making items for a spur-of-the-moment Christmas Market. During the month my guys usually wash down the outside of the house, well, it just seemed to slip by, and that was October. The season that I enjoy the most of the whole year was short-lived at The White House of the deep south. Sadness and a sigh---even though we did have some signs of Christmas around the house, I did not go "all out" as we say. Not a single thing happened outside, because being the stubborn woman that I am, I refused to hang wreaths or garlands on nasty windows. I did manage to assemble a wintry display on my buffet, but it was never fully complete with the greenery that I usually gather from my yard each year. I had planned to have some lady friends over for a tea, but that did not happen either!
However, we did manage to adorn our house and the homes of our loved ones with delicious holiday treats and dishes fit for kings and queens. These are just a few of the "foodie" scenes of Christmas we enjoyed with our families. After all, family is what Christmas is all about. Those we have chosen to love are our families and we are blessed to have such a large group to love!
Stu's Sunday Salad
Hand-cut REAL French Fries
Charbroiled Oysters on the grill-Drago's Recipe

Johnny's rendition of my mother-in-law's fudge recipe
Mickey's divinity, simply divine
Toasted Butter Pecan Cake, made for my mom

So, I am now looking forward to 2013 and planning for a wonderfully blessed year. A year where things that have been dreams in my heart that no one knows will come to fruition. Men are silly to think that we tell them everything. We just tell them everything they can understand and handle at the moment. As wonderful as they are, they simply do not think like us. They cannot, for our Heavenly Father made them different. Yes, they were made first, and we are the improved product. (Just kidding!) 
The photo below was a gift to my husband and me from a very sweet family member. It was taken while we were on a trip this past July to Boston. We were unaware we had been photographed. When I received this on Christmas morning, it became something to cherish, because it shows we still love each other, after 34 years and counting. This year we came to realize how precious that time is, for my husband discovered in April that he had Prostate Cancer. It was a real shock, as we are only 56, and consider ourselves young and healthy. We weighed out many options and found a wonderful doctor in Birmingham, Alabama. The people at St. Vincent's Hospital could not have been any better to us than if they were our family. Stu's recovery has been gradual, but he is in full swing again. He has run a 5k and a 10k since August and works out almost every day. He is continuing his love of cooking, as you can see, and we are more aware of how blessed we are with each and every day. I am looking forward to more LOVE in 2013. 
 Blessings to you and yours for the best year of your life! Enjoy the sunshine on these cold winter days, for spring will be here soon and then it will get hot again in the land of this Mississippi Sunshine Girl.