Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Fave: Southern Diners

I grew up in the Deep South, so of course I grew up with Southern food.  When I was a little girl, we traveled back and forth between Savannah and Atlanta (and we lived in both these cities at different points).  A highlight of all trips up and down Georgia was stopping at little Southern diners.  There was one I recall near Milledgeville called Tick Tock.

I have been vegetarian for a long time (27 years!), but long before I went vegetarian, I loved a veggie plate.  Thankfully, one of the things that Southern diners specialize in is veggie plates.   If you are vegetarian, you have to make sure you go to diners that do not season vegetables with meat, or they have a "V" for vegetarian on the menu for veggies that are cooked vegetarian style.  Thankfully, there are several great Southern diners in my city that serve vegetarian vegetables.  Hooray!

If you go to a Southern diner, the menu may be printed, or it may be a simple xerox page that lists the veggies of the day.   It may be posted on the wall (also easy for diner owners to change daily).  There may be a little serving line, like a mini-cafeteria, where you pick the vegetables you want.

A veggie plate is typically three or four veggies.  My meal above has fried eggplant, corn, and applesauce.  You will always find a wide variety of vegetables, like: fried okra, fried green tomatoes, squash souffle, tossed salad, collard greens, blackeyed peas, fruit salad, potato cakes, corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, stewed apples, cheese grits, tomato pie, sweet potato souffle, and more.  Most of the diners I go to serve cornbread on the side.  Of course, the beverage of choice is sweet tea (iced tea that is sweetened with sugar immediately after brewing, so it is perfectly sweet).  I rarely get desserts at a diner because I am too full from vegetables!  The most common dessert at Southern diners is fruit cobbler (peach, cherry, blackberry, etc.).  

The restaurants vary, but the atmosphere tends to be casual and cozy, often with old photos or vintage items on the wall.  (Many of these places have been in business for years and years.)   Service is casual and friendly. 

Do you like Southern cooking?  Any favorite Southern diner stories or meals to share?   I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Telephone Wire Jewelry

Does anyone else here remember making jewelry out of telephone wire?  The finished bracelets, rings, or "choker" length necklaces looked similar to the picture above.  

We started with telephone wire, like what you see below.  I remember you took one strand of wire as the base, and then picked another multi-colored wire strand.  You then would neatly wrap the multi-color wire around the base.  We closed the bracelets with a simple wire "hook" loop.  I would actually love to find some colorful telephone wire to try this again.  I love beading, especially with vintage trinkets, and this seems like a natural extension of that.  Anyone have an idea where to find inexpensive telephone wire like this?  Please let me know in the comments, below.  I would also love to hear from you if you remember making telephone wire jewelry!

Book Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway: Visiting the Sins by Melanie Denman

Book Synopsis:
Set in the Bible Belt of Deep East Texas, Visiting the Sins is a darkly funny story about mothers and daughters, naked ambition, elusive redemption, and all the torment it's possible to inflict in the name of family.

Down through the decades, the lofty social aspirations of the feisty but perennially dissatisfied Wheeler women -- Pokey, the love-starved, pistol-packing matriarch; Rebanelle, the frosty former beauty queen turned church organist; and Curtis Jean, the backsliding gospel singer -- are exceeded only by their unfortunate taste in men and a seemingly boundless capacity for holding grudges. A legacy of feuding and scandal lurches from one generation to the next with tragic consequences that threaten to destroy everything the Wheeler women have sacrificed their souls to build.

Guest Post:
Writing a Southern Novel
by Melanie Denman

My mother named me (aspirationally) after the kind and gentle “Melanie” in Gone With the Wind, so maybe it was inevitable that I would grow up to write a Southern story. Unfortunately, there were no hoop skirts or mansions in my family tree. I come from a long line of traveling preachers, fiddle-players, gamblers, and bootleggers. Scoundrels, most of them, so my tongue trips up a little bit when I say that my novel is “Southern Literature.” I just tell stories.

But how do you go about telling a bonafide Southern story, as opposed to a regular story that just happens to take place in the South? There are volumes written on this by academics, but let me offer a simple answer. A true Southern story is something that could only have happened in the South. Of course the South is a large and diverse region, but the plot and the characters spring, organically, from the place. They are born of its violent history, its extreme weather, its tragic wounds.

Take Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist in A Confederacy of Dunces. He simply could not have existed in Omaha or Boston. He was a product of New Orleans, its rituals, its quirky character. On the other hand, the stolid Olive in Olive Kitteridge could have lived in New Orleans or Atlanta, but neither her character nor her conflicts sprang from the unique culture of the South. Her story might have happened in the South, but it would not have been a Southern story.

No environment outside of East Texas could have ever produced Pokey, the pistol-packing matriarch in my novel, Visiting the Sins. She was born to a feisty, contentious clan with a long history of rebelling against authority. Their independent spirit and distrust of the government led them to the hostile, isolated forests where they settled. Their hellfire-and-brimstone Baptist faith bound them together. This unique culture gave rise to the family feuds that launched Pokey on her path of ambition and scandal. The story of Pokey’s family is the story of that place. Like most Southern stories, it is a mass of contradictions. It weaves strands of tragedy with humor, religion with racism, violence with gentility.

I’ve come to believe that Southern stories aren’t created, exactly. They are all there already, buried in the rubble and the mud. The storyteller just finds out where they’re hiding, and she digs them up and sets them free.

My Review:

I grew up in the South and I love books, so naturally I love Southern fiction.  Melanie Denman's Visiting the Sins is a delightfully Southern novel.

This multi-generational story is told from the perspective of different women in the family.  You will meet family matriarch, Pokey, who has a salty tongue and a fierce way of living life.   You will also meet her daughter, Rebanelle, a former beauty queen, and Rebanelle's daughter, Curtis Jean.  The lives of these women intertwine through Visiting the Sins.

There is some Southern Gothic drama in this novel, but there is plenty of humor, too.  Some of the humor comes from Pokey.  Her language and storytelling was funny but crude, and as a result, this book would be best suited for mature audiences.

The storytelling in this book is lively and the characterization is a treat.  Each character has her own voice, and the voices are distinct and interesting.  The varied voices add a lot to the storytelling, giving the book a comfortable feel, like women sitting around a kitchen table drinking sweet tea and sharing their stories.

Author's Bio:

Melanie Denman is a native of Nacogdoches, Texas and a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University. An eighth-generation Texan, and a former banker and cattle rancher, she currently lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is working on a second novel.
Connect with Melanie: Website ~ Facebook
Where to buy the book:

For those scheduled to do a giveaway (or who now wish to host one)
​ ​
I have created a Rafflecopter giveaway.

​Prize: ​One of 15 copies of Visiting the Sins (Open USA & Canada) and Amazon Gift Cards 3 X $10, 2 X $15, 1 X $20 (Open internationally). Ends April 25.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a copy of this book from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: First Walk in Spring

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Alice's Portrait by Juliette Harper

I'm excited to share the cover reveal of Alice's Portrait by Juliette Harper, the third book in the Lockwood Legacy series. This is an adult contemporary mystery that is also very focused on family, small town and ranch life as well as some clean romance. 

About the Book:
A year after Kate, Jenny, and Mandy Lockwood inherit The Rocking L, the sisters try to concentrate on their collective and individual futures. In the previous book in The Lockwood Legacy series, Baxter’s Draw, the women made startling discoveries about their father’s secrets, but are mistaken in their belief that everything has now come to light. In Alice’s Portrait, the ghosts of Langston Lockwood’s past once again confront his daughters, forcing them to re-evaluate their understanding of their father and of what it means to be a Lockwood.

Instead of fighting back, Langston took off his hat and ran a tired hand through his graying hair. “Don’t talk about Alice,” he said. “You don’t know enough to talk about her. As for your Mama, there won’t be any peace for me over what I did to her, but she’s at peace, Jenny. I can at least tell you that.”

“That’s supposed to make me feel better, Daddy? Really? I know Mama is at peace because she was a kind, gentle woman. As for you, I hope you walk the earth for eternity and enjoy your own tailor-made brand of hell.”

“I reckon I probably will,” he said, the words filled with tired regret. “I always thought if there was an afterlife I’d find my Alice, but she isn’t here. I probably deserve that, but it’s bitter gall, little girl. It’s bitter gall all the same.”

“I’ll ask you again. What do you want, Daddy?” Jenny said, her voice ice cold.

“What I want is for you to make your peace with it, Jenny,” he said. “You got my temper and my gifts. Those things come from me and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. You’ve got real talent. Only thing I could draw was my Alice, but you see the world with clear eyes. My art came from anger and pain, but yours comes from your soul. Let that out, daughter. That’s what I want.”

“You don’t know a damned thing about my soul,” she snapped.

“The hell I don’t,” he said mildly. “I was like you once, before I let life drive me over the edge. Fiery, passionate, idealistic. Being like me won’t hurt you, Jenny. You’re too strong. Katie, she’s tough and capable; she’s a thinker and her heart is as big as Texas when she opens it. But you, daughter? You’d spit the devil in the eye and dare him to cart you to hell. God knows you spit me in the eye.”

“You drove me away from my home! I was 17. I was alone and scared but I had to get the hell away from you. Do you have any idea what that was like for me, Daddy?”

“You should thank God I drove you away, girl,” Langston said. “Everything you went through out there is why you can be here now. Lead your life, Jenny. You and that Baxter boy, you got a future. There’s no coincidence him being a Baxter, you just don’t realize it yet.”

“Damn you,” she said. “Josh is right. You are haunting us. Dead or not, tend to your own business.”

“The dead always haunt the living, girl,” he said, standing up. “You got a hell of a lot more ghosts to worry about than me. Deal with them.”

As he started for the door, Jenny said to his back, “Daddy, did you ever love me?”

Langston turned, his hat in his hand. “I loved all my girls,” he said. “Problem was, I hated myself too much to show it. Look under the bridge, Jenny. You’ll find what you need to know there.”

Don’t miss out on the first book, Langston’s Daughters, only .99 cents in ebook!

Baxter's Draw, book two in the Lockwood Legacy is out now!

About the Author:
Juliette Harper is the pen name used by the writing team of Patricia Pauletti and Rana K. Williamson. Like the characters of their debut series, The Lockwood Legacy, Juliette is a merging of their creative energies.
Pauletti, an Easterner of Italian descent, is an accomplished musician with an eye for art and design. Williamson, a Texan from a long line of hardheaded Scots, knows the world of the Lockwoods like the back of her hand.“We decided to write under a pen name because neither one of us by ourselves could have created Kate, Jenny, Mandy, and their world,” says Pauletti. “Juliette is a little bit of us both. We want to be her when we grow up.”

“Patti teases me that I just don’t want to own up to writing a book with romance in it,” Williamson adds, “but that’s not true. I like the Lockwood women and the way they tackle everything life throws at them. And before we’re done, they’ll be ducking a lot. I imagine coming into the office every day and saying, ‘Okay Juliette, what’s going to happen now?’ She tells us, and we get it down on paper.”

$50 Amazon Gift Card (INT)
Ends 4/14
This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.