Tag Archives: random

125. Graceland, Where the King Died on His Throne

7 Mar

gracelandOf all the Mississippi natives who’ve reached the first-name-only level of fame, I daresay that Elvis tops the charts for Most Interesting Residence. I reckon Oprah’s place is none-too-shabby, but I wouldn’t know, seeing as I’ve yet to snag an invite. (Sorry, Mr. Grisham, I know your admirers are legion, but the media’s not about to start referring to you as “John.” I mean, even Mr. Lennon never made it to single-first-name status and his band was more popular than Jesus. Except in the South. Where there’s two things you don’t mess with: Texas and Jesus.)

You know you want one...

You know you want one…

During my sojourns in Memphis, I’d passed Graceland a time or two before stopping in for a visit. I always thought they’d open up the gates and let me drive right on in. They. Do. Not. Instead, you park across the street and go into the souvenir shop to purchase tickets. After you’ve had sufficient time to examine all the trinkets at least twice, you’re transported to mansion in the manner of a herd of cattle, if they would fit on a shuttle bus.

But once you arrive at the mansion and pass the threshold, WOW, it all looks so…normal. Yes, that white couch probably seats about 17 folks (20 if you scooch in), but it’s not bejeweled in any way. Plus, I was kinda hoping for a disco ball or two.

billiard roomNow the billiard room is impressive in that it’s the only place I’ve ever seen where the fabric on the couch matches the fabric on the walls and the ceiling. They had the pool table roped off with a sign saying Please Do Not Touch. However, if you do, it’s not like you’ll be shocked, tasered, or anything. Probably. I’m just speculating.

Next up: the infamous Jungle Room. I always thought the furniture was custom made for The King. Turns out he bought the whole kit and caboodle from a furniture store’s showroom. Everything from the primitively carved, fur-covered furniture to the green shag carpeting (on floor and ceiling) was already constructed and just waiting for some rich guy with crazy-ass taste to come in and buy it. Voila! Elvis! For an extra special treat, check out this 360° view of the jungle room from the official Elvis site. jungle room closeup

I loved how his bar/lounge featured a wall of TVs like you’d find at Best Buy. The arrangement on the wall, I mean, not the TVs. They’re the sort you might find at Goodwill, seeing as they were made in the 70’s. If Elvis IS alive, I’m sure he has a top-notch media room. With a ginormous couch. Apparently, he had a thing for huge couches. Also, the color yellow.

Not pictured: Eternal flame.

Not pictured: Eternal flame.

I think these days they might let you go upstairs, but that whole part was roped off, so I don’t have much more to report. There were other rooms, but none that left an impression. They let you go outside and look at his grave, where there’s an eternal flame burning to keep his spirit alive. Not sure how it fares in the rain, but I reckon it’s the thought that counts.

There’s also a museum where you can see some of his outfits and other ephemera. It costs extra to check out his cars and airplanes, so I didn’t.

Finally, the shuttle bus takes you back to the souvenir shop parking lot so you can retrieve your car and drive off into the sunset. Unless, perhaps, you’ll like to take a final stroll through all the Elvis paraphenalia…No? Ok then.

Have you been to Graceland? What’d you think of it? Please do tell.

And now, I’ll let Paul Simon sing us out:

Photo Credits: Graceland Mansion and Billiard Room by Danube66, Flickr Creative Commons; Jungle Room by NoirDame, Flickr Creative Commons; Elvis’ grave by Su_Anna, Flickr Creative Commons.

Friday Favorites: Stuff I, Myself, Like

1 Mar

3744467338_cfe206a34b_mWeek 2: so far, so good!

Here’s my roundup:

Hope over at the Fairhope Supply Co. shares 23 Southern sayings she overheard during the course of one week, including “Does this camo come in pink?” and “She didn’t even bother to put the KFC on her own plate.” Enjoy!

I used a couple of Nick Russell’s amazing photos to illustrate my post on Faulkner a way long time ago. If you’ve never had the opportunity to explore Rowan Oak for yourself, these pics will take you there. Almost as good as sneaking past the barriers to get a closer look for yourself. Almost…

The writing's on the wall at Faulkner's house.

The writing’s on the wall at Faulkner’s house.

Click for recipe. Note: Site takes a moment to load, so be patient.

Click for recipe. Note: Site takes a moment to load, so be patient.

Planning a culinary excursion around the South anytime soon? Don’t leave home without Garden & Gun’s handy guide to the best eats. Sure, it’s incomplete at only 50, but even a list of 500 would be, so…

If you’re in more of a DIY Southern food mood, check out Something Swanky’s recipe for Pecan Pie Bread Pudding. It’ll definitely be the next version I try. Also, this is my new favorite spot for ogling food. Added bonus for putting “swanky” in the blog name!

And finally, for anyone who’s ever had a cat that loves boxes:

Hope you have a splendid (and swanky) weekend!

Photo credits: Howdy sign by KeddyO, Flickr Creative Commons; Faulkner’s writing on the wall by Nick Russell; Pecan Pie Bread Pudding (drool…) by Something Swanky.

121. If Duct Tape Can’t Fix It, Maybe It Ain’t Broke

20 Feb

That's fixed. What's next?

That’s fixed. What’s next?

Here in Seattle, hipsters have taken to duct tape like the previous decade’s hipsters took to knitting needles. They’re getting crafty with it, y’all. First came the duct tape wallets, quickly followed by other accessories like key fobs, braided bracelets, purses, and flower pens. From there, it’s a rain-slicked slope to making duct tape clothing and shoes. And then this happens: Half Naked Woman in Hot Pink Duct Tape Injures Three Cops. True story. I just Googled “duct tape Seattle” and whoop there it was.

A while back, I was meandering through Target (the only way to go) and happened upon a display of duct tape right out of my 80’s schoolgirl fantasies (the ones that didn’t feature Duran Duran). Did y’all know they make duct tape in EVERY color and pattern? In addition to the aforementioned hot pink there’s purple, green, orange, plaid, penguins, polka dots and everything in between. Even zebra print.

Duct tape doesn't get any cuter than this...

Duct tape doesn’t get any cuter than this…

Of course, folks in the South were using duct tape long before duct tape was cool. And they’ll be using it long after duct tape goes the way of banana hair clips and friendship bracelets. However, every Southerner knows that duct tape isn’t for MAKING stuff; it’s for FIXING stuff.

Before I expound on the many uses of this tool kit on a roll, let me answer the age-old question: “Is it duck tape or duct tape?” Yes. Apparently, the product was developed for the US military during World War II and used for repairing weapons, vehicles, and other equipment. Soldiers dubbed the olive-drab-colored substance “duck tape,” possibly due to its waterproof qualities.

After the war, a silvery gray version became available to civilians who used it to wrap air ducts (among other things) and thenceforth it was “duct tape.” Cut to 1975 when the company Manco snapped up the “Duck Tape” trademark, added a cute duck to the logo, and sold 800 gazillion rolls of it.duck tape

That’s the verbose way of saying: “duct tape” is to “tissue” as Duck Tape™ is to Kleenex™.

So, what can you mend with duct tape? Well, here’s what you can’t fix: broken hearts, moldy bread, and zombies. Anything else is worth a shot.

I reckon the most popular use for duct tape is car repair–exterior, engine, upholstery, you name it. But it’s also great for mending furniture, windows, refrigerator shelves, bikes, plumbing, and so much more. Check out failblog and picture the possibilities. Whee!

My all-time favorite use of duct tape (aside from some exemplary car repair courtesy of my dad) comes from my friend Scott’s house–back when he was a bachelor before said residence was completely remodeled and became known as Karen and Scott’s house. Emphasis on the Karen.

Y’all, he was using duct tape to reattach peeling wallpaper. To Reattach Peeling Wallpaper! Or was it electrical tape? Memory falters. Two things I’ll never forget about chez Scott were the bathrooms. One didn’t have a door and the other didn’t have a ceiling. I guess he ran out of duct tape.

What’s the craziest duct tape repair you’ve ever seen? Have you ever personally fixed something? Or, hey, MADE something??

Please do tell.

Photo credits: Chair repair by laszy, Flickr Creative Commons; Adorable duct tape journal available at The Elegant Duck ETSY shop

Rerun: 84. Mardi Gras (“Throw Me Something, Mister!”)

12 Feb

Throw me something, mister!

Laissez le bon temps rouler, y’all. At least until midnight tonight. You’d think that in the South Fat Tuesday wouldn’t be that big a deal. I mean, what distinguishes it from Fat Wednesday, Fat Thursday, or Fat Friday? In a word: beads.

Pop quiz: Which city hosted the first Mardi Gras celebration in North America? If you answered “New Orleans,” you are A. wrong and B. obviously not from Alabama. Yes, folks, the good people of Mobile, Alabama, got the party started years before New Orleans was even founded. They gave birth to the tradition, and then New Orleans came along and turned it into a juvenile delinquent with a substance abuse problem. Not that they’re bitter.

Is there any place more fun than New Orleans on Fat Tuesday? I think not. If your idea of fun includes being jostled by an unruly mob, having beer spilled on you (repeatedly), and groveling (or worse) for some cheap-ass plastic beads. For some, this is heaven. For others, it’s hell. For me, it’s a little of both. Yes, folks, I’m willing to dodge a little vomit in hopes of catching a doubloon. If anyone wants to trade one for the giant pair of granny panties I caught one time, please let me know.

The last time I celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I was in my 20s. If I were to do it again, I’d want a hotel room with a balcony. Not necessarily to avoid being trampled (though that’s a plus), but to have access to a bathroom that’s been sanitized for my protection. I would rather pee on the street than enter the ninth circle of hell better known as the porta-potty. Picture the poophouse scene in “Slumdog Millionaire.” Or don’t. I still have nightmares.

Ok, moving on. Did I mention there’s cake? And costumes? And beads? And cake?

It’s not particularly tasty cake. But there’s green and purple frosting. And a plastic baby inside. If you get the slice with the baby, you win a fabulous prize: you have to procure a King Cake and host the next party. Woo hoo! Who doesn’t enjoy providing pastry for a bunch of drunken ne’er-do-wells? I’m not sure what happens if you don’t follow through. Maybe Rumpelstilskin convinces your first-born child to run off and join the circus or take up with a bunch of proselytizing vegans.

Well, I should wrap this up before Ash Wednesday rolls around.

What’s the best thing you ever caught at Mardi Gras? No STD stories, please.

All photos from Flickr Creative Commons: Bead seekers by Philippe Leroyer, Mardi Gras Beads by Mike Bitzenhofer, and King Cake by Logan Brown.

118. Goodbye Hostess, Hello Little Debbie

11 Jan

One of my Southern friends once confided in me that she suspected her boyfriend had taken up with another woman. “Who?” I asked. Her reply: “Little Debbie.”

Ah, yes, it’s difficult for any red-blooded Southerner to resist the siren song of that little tart. Or more accurately, that little fudge brownie, honey bun, powdered donut, Swiss cake roll, what have you…After all, not only is Little Debbie cheap (and easy), she’s ever-so well preserved.

Sure, Betty Crocker, Sara Lee, and Aunt Jemima may age gracefully on your pantry shelf, but I’m convinced that Little Debbie could survive the Zombie Apocalypse. That’s how I know Cormac McCarthy didn’t set his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Road in the South. The never-named father and son happened upon a Coke that one time, but there was nary a Little Debbie snack cake to be found. Which just isn’t natural.

Breakfast of champions!

What sets Little Debbie apart from convenience store counterparts like Twinkies (R.I.P), Zingers, and such? Aren’t all cellophane-wrapped pastries created equal? Well, sort of. But also not really.

Each Little Debbie package features an illustration of a cheerful little girl in a straw hat who looks like she’d enjoy jumping rope or swinging on the front porch and would most likely never throw a Wii remote at the TV. That’s little Debbie, the granddaughter of the company’s founder, O.D. McKee (wouldn’t that be a great band name?).

Debbie does...everything!!

Debbie does…everything!!

While you may find the occasional single-serve Star Crunch or Pecan Spinwheel, you almost always have to buy Little Debbie snacks in the family pack. I see this as a metaphor for Southern relationships in general.

But even though you have to take 5 to 11 extra treats when one would suffice, they come individually wrapped, so you can enjoy them at your leisure.

When I packed up my car and headed west nearly two decades ago, my friends treated me to a going away lunch and presented me with a big bag of goodies for the road. I remember seeing Little Debbie smiling up at me from a package of Oatmeal Creme Pies. Though I haven’t had one in years, I can still recall the taste of freedom, independence, lasting friendships, nostalgia, and, of course, high-fructose corn syrup. Yum!

What Little Debbies are made of…

After snapping this pic in my local grocery store, I decided that it might be time for some homemade Little Debbie-style treats. I Googled upon The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for oatmeal creme pies, which I quickly added to my ever-growing to bake list. Also, I noticed that her avatar looks strangely familiar. Check it out and see if you agree.

Oh! And what’s your favorite Little Debbie treat? Please do tell!

117. Matching (AKA Not Looking Tacky)

9 Jan

matchy-matchyPicture this: I’m about to walk out the door wearing turquoise mary janes, denim capris, white cotton blouse topped with turquoise and light purple striped sweater and turquoise-accented eyeglasses. I’m carrying a glittery turquoise handbag featuring purple flowers. Oh, and a purple water bottle.

Before I leave, I turn to Geoff and say, “I’m worried that I don’t quite match enough…” This renders him temporarily speechless till I add, “I’m kidding!”

Yes, I can go a little overboard with the matching (full disclosure: I was also wearing lavender eye shadow with glittery turquoise eyeliner), but I’m Southern and it’s just part of my DNA.

Don't be like this, y'all...

Don’t be like this, y’all…

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve had a deep and abiding fear of looking tacky. Occasionally, I’ll challenge myself by pairing a paisley shirt with an argyle sweater, but it makes my pulse race. And that’s with coordinating colors like burgundy and brown. Were I to wear the clashing patterns in, say, green and orange, I would most likely faint in the manner of a tent revival attendee.

As y’all might imagine, folks in Seattle don’t put a whole lot of effort into matching. It is, after all, the city that brought you grunge. Seattleites match neither the elements of an outfit with each other nor the entire ensemble to the occasion. Some don’t even bother to dress for the weather more than 1/2 way. How else do you explain all the guys running around wearing shorts and Birkenstocks with parkas or the girls sporting tank tops and miniskirts with Ugg boots?

lunch bagEarly this year, I went out on a limb and bought an insulated lunch bag that not only doesn’t match my water bottle, but also doesn’t match 9/10ths of the clothes I own. I think it’s adorable, but have never once carried it to my onsite gig without feeling uncomfortable, if not vaguely nauseated. (Pardon me while I go off topic, but I wanted to mention that these bags are great at keeping hot things hot, but it turns out you need some sort of cold pack to keep cold things cold. Besides which, there was never any room for it in the office refrigerator. Not my most practical purchase, but certainly not my least. That honor may go to the Cutest Shoes Ever, which featured ankle straps and 4” stiletto heels. My mom always called such footwear “sitting shoes.”)

Speaking of my mom, I should say that my propensity for matching comes from her side of the family. Which y’all would know if you’ve ever had the opportunity to see my dad sporting his patchwork Christmas Pants (though he occasionally breaks them out as early as Thanksgiving). The patches feature every conceivable design all stitched up together in no discernible pattern in the manner of a calico cat. Except that the patches are made of wool, corduroy and such, not fur. To be fair, I’ll note that all the patches feature coordinating shades of brown, which is more than I can say for the madras patchwork sport coat that Land’s End originally sold for $250 but has now marked down to $159.99.

My sister with Mom at her 50th anniversary dinner.         Not pictured: Matching nail polish.

My sister with Mom at her 50th anniversary dinner. Not pictured: Matching nail polish.

Anyhoo, my mom was a world-championship matcher. She even won a ribbon once at the state fair. Ok, I just made that up, but were prizes awarded in such categories, she would’ve easily outmatched any so-called competition. I’m not saying that some of her outfits weren’t questionable, but even so, they always matched.

Do you like to get all matchy-matchy? What’s your favorite outfit?

Photo credits: “Matchy Matchy” illustration by Natalie Dee, all other photos from Holloway family archives.

Pick me, Paula! Pick me!

29 Oct

Paula Deen’s Caramel Cake in Progress:
A still life by Kim Holloway

My very first post on SSPL featured the Queen of Southern Cuisine, Paula Deen. Now 100-odd (and some even) posts later I’ve come full circle. Imagine my delight when I learned that Paula’s cultivating a new crop of bloggers for her website, and I was among the select few invited to throw my seedling into the soil. (By “select few” I mean everybody on Earth who has a blog and even folks who don’t but think they could.)

Consider this post my contest entry form and bear with me as I expound upon why I think I ought to be part of the Deen Team…

After living as a Southern expat for 18 years, I’ve lost count of the number of times folks have asked me “What’s the South really like?” A couple of years back, I started Stuff Southern People Like as a way to introduce outsiders to some of Dixie’s finest delicacies and doo-dads–from recliners to R.C. Cola. I figured folks back home would enjoy reading it, too (or at least say they did and proceed to gossip about me behind my back saying, “Bless her heart, she thinks she can write…). Along the way, I’ve heard from transplanted Yankees who appreciate the insight into their quirky new friends and neighbors. While I adore all my readers, I must confess that I especially love comments from fellow Southern expats who enjoy the “taste of home” my posts offer.

Could the Deen Team use a cultural ambassador? Someone who delights in helping people discover the convenience of dust ruffles, drive-thru beer barns, and cream-of-something soup? Someone who prepares folks for the perils of pantyhose, Walmart, and unexpected guests? Someone who offers advice on what to bring to a dinner on the ground, how much makeup is too little, or understanding the subtle differences between fried chicken, chicken fried steak or chicken fried chicken? If so, Paula, I’m your girl (out of Dixie).

Thanks, y’all. Soon we’ll be back to regular blog programming, already in progress. Plus that super-secret project I mentioned in my last post (note: this wasn’t it).