Paint by the Letters

Corinth, Miss.

All you need to know about my town of Corinth, Miss., is right here on the top shelf of our local paint store, where, by the way, the staff spent almost half an hour carefully blending and matching paint for our bathroom. The young man helping me found our house colors in the battered metal card-catalog files lining one wall — they were listed under our address, which he knew as soon as I told him the name of the builder. I’d never seen anybody blend and match paint before — fascinating! He mixed proportions of shades identified by letters, spread a bit of the result on the color card of the original, dried it with an ancient-looking hair dryer and then studied it carefully, bringing in his co-worker to discuss the merits of “maybe a little more C?” or “there’s too much B in that.” Finally he was satisfied and charged me less than a typical Starbucks trip (because who can resist a Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop, Frosted Snowperson Cookie and a way-cute coffee mug along with a triple venti latte?). While the guys were working, I turned down their offer of water or coffee, talked to the store’s resident dog and imagined I was picking paint colors for our dream home. (I especially liked Ralph Lauren‘s River Rock finishes and double-especially liked the Swamp Willow color entirely due to the fun factor of saying “Oh, that’s Swamp Willow” whenever anybody might compliment our paint choice.) I also eavesdropped on accidentally overheard some excellent gossip about the cousin of the sister of the pastor of the attorney who’d taken somebody’s son-in-law’s divorce case. If there’s a local family-run paint store in your town, go hang out there. And buy some paint.

A Blue-and-Orange Graduation

You know this is a completely objective and un-biased blog — except when it comes to the Smartest and Most Adorable Grandbabies Ever in the Whole World, of course — and just because I recently went to an Auburn-themed graduation party and had a wonderful time does NOT mean I lean that way. Although it’s a proven fact that Alabama fans are THE MOST obnoxious crowds and Nick Saban is THE MOST inscrutable coach. Because here in the Heart of Dixie, you have to choose. There is no middle ground between THE MOST annoying folks in the conference and Auburn. See? In my state, even a graduation party brings out the football in us. I mainly wanted you all to see these fun and creative decorations, such as the crepe-paper streamers that honor the ailing Toomer’s Corner trees and the cute and delicious graduation mortarboards with blue and orange accents, but now I’ve worked myself into such a state that I need another cup of coffee. Anyway, congratulations to Older Daughter’s nephew-in-law on his graduation from not-Alabama. He’s a smart and talented young man who will do great things. War Eagle!

While I Was Out …

Remember that TV show on TLC called “While You Were Out“? Folks would send their unsuspecting loved ones out of town for a couple of days and then have a designer and crew (and TV cameras, of course) come in to redo a room. It aired from 2002 to 2006, and my two then high-school- and college-age daughters and I watched every episode. (Side note No. 1: We three got to meet the ultimate  WYWO cast of cutie-pie Evan Farmer, super-hunk Andrew Dan-Jumbo and empowered-funny-woman Leslie Segrete when they filmed an episode in Birmingham, Ala., and I covered it for my newspaper.)  The combination of designing, redecorating, renovating, keeping a secret and sneaking around, all in front of millions of TV viewers, was irresistible. (Side note No. 2: My daughters, along with Older Daughter’s now-husband, even did a WYWO on husband JP and me. While we were honeymooning after our 2004 wedding, they redid my bedroom from “divorced single mom” to “sophisticated power couple.” Using a gorgeously colored wine theme, they repainted, repositioned furniture, brought in wine accents and even replaced my grungy nightstands with super-cute wine-rack tables that we still use.) And even though he wasn’t nearly as huge a fan as we were, my husband pulled a WYWO on me while I was enjoying some cat-free mornings spending a few days out-of-town. First, when I got home, I immediately noticed that the house was clean — probably much cleaner than when I’d left. And since we have four cats, a clean house takes some work. When I complimented my husband, he admitted he’d discovered the secret of housecleaning:  Do some every day so it doesn’t pile up into one big mess. I was so proud! Second, I noticed he’d replenished my supply of my favorite gum — adorable! Then, he proudly showed me our mailbox, which now sported our house number. “I thought it was about time,” he said, “since we’ve lived here for almost two years and sometimes the mail folks still can’t find us.” A clean house, my favorite gum and a properly identified address would have been enough, but toward the end of the evening, he finally couldn’t take it anymore and said in exasperation, “Aren’t you going to go in the guest bathroom tonight?” Turns out he’d put up my birthday present from this past year — a funky and wonderful blue-painted mirror made from recycled wood that we’d left leaning against the wall for months while we wondered if it were too heavy to hang. So far, it’s not. Also: I have the best husband in the world.

The Bathroom Test

Let’s face it — bathrooms are important, especially when you’re out & about and away from home. That’s when the state of a bathroom particularly is vital. It’s safe to say that we women appreciate a nice restroom with elegant touches and luxurious style. And it’s no secret that we tend to judge a restaurant or an office or a public building — or wherever we happen to be — by its bathroom. It’s a sort of test: Is the restroom clean? Is it comfortable? Are there plenty of supplies? Is the style of the restroom in keeping with the style of the overall location — does it convey the same decor message of funky or chic or classic or retro? If the bathroom passes these tests, we’ll give the “okay” our girlfriends who are waiting at the table while we check it out. But sometimes we enter an alternate restroom universe and it seems as if  the bathroom is testing us. As in, “If you’re smart enough to figure out how the faucet works, Ms. FancyPants, then, welcome. You belong here.  If not, there’s a McDonald’s down the street.” Such was my experience recently with this gorgeous and sparkling-clean women’s room at The Club in Birmingham, Ala. The furnishings, the art work, the details all were so compelling that it took me a minute to realize I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the faucet. I mean, it looks as if you’d maybe slide those rectangles back and forth or perhaps push them on the edges or maybe there’s a motion sensor somewhere. But, no. You turned these on by a coordinated action of sliding and pushing — and it only took me two visits and some friendly advice from an employee to get it right. “Don’t worry.  Nobody can figure it out,” she said, smiling at my ineptitude. I could hear the bathroom chuckling in triumph as I made my way out. But before we were ready to leave, I couldn’t resist one last visit, just to show that I could. “You do it this way,” I said helpfully to a frustrated woman standing at the sinks. “But don’t worry.  Nobody can figure it out.”

I’d Like a Yellow Submarine to Go, Please

One of my new favorite places is Yellow Deli in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For one thing, it’s just fun to say. Go ahead — try it right now: “Yellow Deli.” See? You can’t say it without smiling. And you can’t eat there without smiling, either. This is the place to, literally, feed your inner hippie. I mean, I’m all for any restaurant that lists “sprouts” as an add-on to your sandwich, offers homemade granola for breakfast and would rather pour you a cup of mate instead of coffee. (The very thought of “mate” instead of coffee horrifies me, but, you know, I celebrate diversity.) Think Bob Dylan meets Sgt. Pepper and then Alice Waters invites everybody over for tea with her friend Arlo Guthrie. Or maybe that’s just my own personal fantasy. But there’s definitely a 1960s-70s vibe here, and there’s a reason for that. A Chattanooga couple founded the Yellow Deli  in 1973 as “a place where people from all walks of life could come and touch a living demonstration of God’s love in those who served them.”  (http://yellowdeli.com/) Things got a little rocky at times — read both the “History” portion of the website and the Wikipedia entry for varying accounts — but there’s no denying that the Yellow Deli in Chattanooga serves fresh and delicious food along with a warm and casually funky atmosphere. Both my 76-year-old parents, my 20-something-year-old daughters and my three-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable loved it — and there aren’t many places where we all feel at home.  The inside is meticulously clean — an admirable feat considering all the rustic wood and handmade touches – the outside is gorgeously landscaped and the whole place is like getting a hug from your best friend. If your best friend could make a Hibiscus Fruit Cooler with sweet-potato pound cake. And don’t look for “Men” and “Women” signage when it comes to the restrooms. I think the Yellow Del’s all-inclusive sign pretty well sums it up.

Zebra Tape and Espresso Mirrors

I read or heard recently a news report that shopping is good for you — it gets you out of the house, gives you exercise and company and a new perspective on things. Of course, in my case that new perspective is “What’s happened to all our money?”, but that’s a minor issue. The point is that you can Learn Things and Gain Experience by shopping. For  example: I recently discovered that you can buy duct tape in patterns remarkably similar to some throw pillows I have. And more. Am I the only person around here who didn’t know that duct tape comes in bright neons and animal prints as well as the standard battleship gray? I’m guessing this idea was inspired by more women doing more do-it-yourself jobs around the house. But, honestly, does everything we touch have to be cute and colorful? I realize I’m wandering into dangerous grouchy-old-lady “you-damn-kids-get-outta-my-yard!” territory here, but seems to me that when you need duct tape, having the good ol’ dependable gray workhorse around is best. I’m not sure I’d feel quite confident that zebra stripes are going to do the job. With all due respect to zebras, of course. But we all know that manufacturers and retailers have all sorts of tricks to lure us into buying stuff. Such as this sign my husband and I spotted in a home warehouse-store. It uses all the correct decorating words to grab our attention: “Euro!” “Shaker!” “Espresso!” — a combination of adjectives that only exists in marketing land. I mean, is there such a thing as “Euro Shaker?” I’m doubting it. And Mr. Google agrees with me. Plus, throwing in “espresso” is just silly. Are they talking about Italian roast? French press? A Starbucks doppio? Define your terms, people! But I do like that mirror.

Mississippi Grocery Stores

I don’t know what it is about Mississippi and restaurant names, but any eatery in the Magnolia state that has the word “grocery” in it is bound to be a winner. Examples: City Grocery in Oxford, Pizza Grocery in Corinth. And Romie’s Grocery in Tupelo. A meat-and-three by day, Romie’s turns into a warm and friendly dining experience at night featuring a creatively eclectic menu of fresh Southern favorites. And then of course there is the ladies’ room — you know that’s one of my top priorities for a restaurant. And Romie’s gets top grades for its home-like decor, cozy lighting and whimsical art work. Also: I sort of want to take this sink and the bathroom counter home with me, but a) that would leave a huge hole in the Romie’s ladies’ room and b) my Dear Husband consistently turns his nose up at bowl sinks. I say they’re an imaginative way to add some personality and style to a bathroom. He says, “They’re just weird. And wrong.” But I believe, with all due respect, that in this instance he is wrong. I mean, doesn’t the contrast of textures among the sink and the mirror and the counter just make you believe that the whole world should be this cool?  Imagine, if you can, what it would look like with your typical white bathroom sink. Ugh. However, Dear Husband and I do agree that Romie’s is delicious and we should eat there as often as we can.

Pizza and Purses

Old Venice Pizza Co. in Tupelo, Mississippi, has turned into one of our go-to places for a good and quick lunch. Dear Husband will say, “I’m thinking pizza,” and we’ll head on out to hit the pizza/hot food/salad bar buffet, washed down with draft Blue Moon — and grab a nice melty soft cookie on the way out. (Thank you to whoever puts the cookies on a tiered server up high, under the buffet’s warming lights. Genius!) Thumbs-up all the way around. But you know a restaurant’s ladies’ room is just as important as the menu and the service — to me, anyway. And Old Venice in Tupelo passes inspection. I especially like the way the graceful branches of the dried flower arrangement echoed the intricate swirls of the wall decor. Probably whoever figured out the warm-cookie thing took care of this detail, too. And usually I manage to keep myself out of the shot but I  wanted you to see my favorite purse. Younger Daughter gave it to me for Mother’s Day a couple of years ago, and I carry it practically every day from April through August. I love this purse! I can cram everything I need in it and it never gets full. It’s comfortable, and I get compliments on it all the time. In fact, one time in Mufreesboro, Tennessee, I left my husband to do some business while I wandered around the square, shopping and browsing trying to support the local economy. When he tried to follow me several minutes later, he correctly identified a store that seemed to be one I’d be interested in — who could resist those adorable sundresses in the window? — and went in inquiring about his wife. “Oh, she was the one with the cute green purse, right?” said the sales clerk. Right! Clean pretty bathrooms and cute green purses — what else does a woman need? Oh, yes — good pizza. Go to http://www.oldvenice.com/ to learn more.