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Tuesday
Jan142014

Linda Tillman

Linda Tillman has a lot of talent. For the past 30 years, she has made a career as a textile, apparel and home products designer. Now, she paints. It's a hobby she started ten years ago but it has been more than able to generate interest (and income) through Ebay and her Etsy shop. 

As a longtime collector of Eames era furniture, Linda found inspiration through painting mid century decor and snapshots of modern living. 

Linda, "My style is Expressionist/Impressionist. I like to see the paint do its thing. Bold brush strokes and colors mixing right on the canvas characterize my work. I like exaggerated size and unusual cropping, frequently creating negative shapes and empty spaces that can be filled with color and imagination." 

After working for years in both NY and LA, Linda has settled happily in Greensboro, North Carolina with her two cats and two pups. Away from the noise and distractions that many big cities exude, Linda seems to have found a content space to live and paint- and reinvent herself. See all of her talented creations, here. 

 

Illustrations: Linda Tillman     Content: Sweet Peach


Monday
Jan132014

Manready Mercantile

Men's products with great packaging always have my complete, devout attention. So when I happened upon a shop over the Christmas break called Manready, based in Houston, Texas, and saw the wide array of quality, handcrafted products, I knew it had to be my first Manly Monday post of 2014. 

Travis Weaver began this shop back in 2012 inside his kitchen. It was there that he crafted candles in small batches using all natural ingredients. Sold under the name Manready Mercantile, the candles soon inspired more naturally made products to complement a man's lifestyle.  

As much as I love great packaging, men just want products that do their intended purpose without much fuss or fanfare. And that's what I like about Manready- Travis and his team put much care and thought into which ingredients they utilize, as they use very few. Their popular bars of soap are made on a goat farm just south of Houston and each bar takes three weeks to cure.  

A good tub soak is often necesary in a man's life, especially when it includes dead sea salts packaged in a whiskey bottle. This is an age old remedy used to relieve stress and tension and fatigue. I think I need to try this one for myself...

This set of four Gentlemen's Glassware is a bit fun. Each glass is hand dipped in a black polymer, which makes for a one of a kind conversation piece. 

Whiskey Soaked Campire Jerky sounds like a really good idea. All the beef is soaked in Bulleit Bourbon whiskey and slow smoked with Texas pecan wood. I think this is a no-brainer gift or perfect for your next road trip. Check out the entirety of the Manready collection here. 

 

Photos: Manready.com     Content: Sweet Peach


Friday
Jan102014

Soberdough

Over the holiday break, I spent as much time relaxing as I could, which included Instagramming, of course. One company that caught my eye in one of the pics was Soberdough of Nashville, Tennessee...

Veronica Hawbaker has loved to cook for as long as she can remember. As she shared, "I love experimenting and mixing flavors to find something that is totally unique and delicious." With an entrepreneurial spirit and a son who was eager to delve into the business world, the pair teamed up to create a unique product that has quite the universal appeal- beer bread. 

The best part is how simple it is. You take their beer bread mix, add a bottle of your favorite beer to it and bake it. That's it. As so many craft beers have unique flavors- from dark porters to pale ales, as well as specialty components like basil, blueberry or pecan, you can vary the bread taste to your liking. Sounds fun to me.

The beer breads are based on a family recipe of Veronica's. After lots of trial and error, she has taken that recipe and perfected six different breads, including a flavor of the month (this month is Cranberry Orange). 

Veronica and Jordan have also taken some time to share a few combination suggestions on their site. A pale ale goes well with the Rosemary bread, Cinnful Raisin is excellent with a dark porter or a Belgian ale, while their Pumpkin Spice bread pairs quite beautifully with any pumpkin or brown ale. Yum. I think I need to buy a sampler pack and try it all. Check it out for yourself, here. And Happy Weekend everyone...

 

Photos: Soberdough site    Content: Sweet Peach


Thursday
Jan092014

A Fireplace, warm and toasty

I'm cold. I feel warmer and happier around a fireplace. Which is ironic, as I just tore mine out of my living room while redoing my kitchen. It was big and clunky and the thinking goes- once I secure some fabulous new job this year, I'll be able to afford a gas stove in a better location that is also, much better looking. So I started to peruse the web and found some fireplace beauties to bookmark and share...

My living room is set up much like this but with a couch on one side and two chairs on the other. I'd like a gas stove right smack in the middle that faces my new kitchen. I shall believe it into existence...

Hope this inspires and invokes that warm and toasty feeling, if only for a moment. It's these moments, afterall, that help get us through the winter. I know, I'm a crybaby here in Atlanta where it's not half as cold as where my sister is in Boston or brothers in Connecticut or so many in the freezing midwest. But hey, I'm cold, and that feeling is universal, right? Let's all try to spend a little more time in front of the fireplace...making it fabulous and stylish while we're at it. 

 

Photos: Elle Decor; Apartment Therapy; Decor8; Dwell; Le Cordon Bleu, Atlanta; themarionhousebook.com; sabpa.com   Content: Sweet Peach


Wednesday
Jan082014

Gee's Bend Quilts

Bold, bright, resourceful, inventive...these words help tell the tale of a Gee's Bend Quilt. 

If you're hip to the quilting world, you will immediately recognize this work. A Gee's Bend quilt follows no traditional pattern and often contains found items like recycled fabrics, denim pants, headscarves and work shirts. They are, as is often said, "quilts that refuse to conform." Which is what makes these quilts so compelling and beautiful. That, plus their incredibly rich social history...

Gee's Bend is part of Wilcox County, Alabama. It's a small county that remains one of the poorest in the nation. Surrounded on three sides by water, it's located literally in a bend of the Alabama River. 

In the mid 1960's, as an offshoot to the Civil Rights movement, a collective of women (or Gees Benders) began to quilt together to foster community and generate an income. In 1962, ferry service was eliminated to the Bend's next closest town of Camden (for 44 years), which left this part of Alabama quite isolated and untouched by the outside world. 

Although these quilts helped many families get by, they also represented a bleaker picture of poverty. The quilts helped the families keep warm in the winter as the women compiled all the scraps they could find. Some of the women were taught to quilt by their mothers or grandmothers, while others learned on their own. Together, the Gee's Bend quilts represent endurance and resilience in the Deep South as well as a more revealing glimpse of each artist's identity and individuality.

In the late 90's, art collector and Atlanta native, William Arnett found a picture of one of these quilts and was deeply inspired. He set out to find the quilts and their makers. Through his support and connections, the Gee's Bend Quilts quickly gained notoriety throughout the US, including fashion designers in NY and influential museum curators from coast to coast.  


In 2003, the Gee's Bend Quilter's Collective was formed to help market and sell these quilts, which range from $1000 to over $20,000.

Many of the women have traveled throughout the US as well to share their stories and put a face to the artform that has impressed and captivated so many. 

Gee's Bend is the kind of place I'd love to visit someday. Which makes me wish I could figure out a way to make a living doing this blog. Just travel, be inspired, tell stories and take pics...I'm working on it. 

 

Tuesday
Jan072014

Canoe

I think my favorite part of the Holiday Gifts Picks I posted in December was how many talented artists I discovered. It was great to be exposed to a new cross section of American handcrafters, which included Natalie Davis in Austin, Texas. Artist and designer, Leah Duncan picked Natalie's leather coasters as one of her favorite holiday gifts and after checking out her site, I was smitten too. 

Natalie expertly crafts modern leather goods that are "tooled, carved, burned and hand-dyed." Her leather trays quickly caught my eye as they have a beautiful richness to them as well as a charming, minimal design. 

What I like about Natalie's goods is how she updates the standard items like a key chain or napkin ring. I've never really had a key chain or a desire for one, but after looking at all the pretty leather shapes in her shop, I really want one. 

Natalie is an artist to bookmark and check in with from time to time. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. No doubt it'll be something that exudes excellent taste and quality- and something that I'll want. Peruse her entire Texan based shop called, Canoe, here.

 

Photos: Canoe/Natalie Davis     Content: Sweet Peach


Monday
Jan062014

2014, A New Beginning

Hello 2014, I can honestly say I've been waiting for you. This for me, is my year or at least I'm going to make it my year. There are lots of changes for myself ahead and I'm ready for the ride...

My biggest goal for 2014 is to get out of my comfort zone. Each year I get more and more set in my ways. I'm in my safe, content space but stagnant. I've been a tv producer for 20 years and feeling a bit uninspired as of late, I've decided to try new mediums to utilize my storytelling skills. I've been interviewing over the past month and there are some dynamic job opportunities on the horizon. In 2014, I also want to keep traveling- definitely to Marfa, Texas in the summer (I just reserved a few nights at El Cosmico in July!) and share many more trips and gatherings on Sweet Peach...

I'm excited to keep plugging away at the blog, making it better and more resourceful. Inspired daily by lots of lovely things, I'm ready to showcase a slew of new artists this year (I have a list of over 40 bookmarked currently). As the Made in the USA movement keeps gaining momentum, there is more and more to discover and share, more collaborations on the horizon. This is good...

I look forward to my shift in career and in creating a challenging environment to thrive. This shift has prompted me to make a change at home too, as I'm still in the process of redoing my kitchen. And in the rest of my house, I'm transitioning my style to be more thoughtful, sophisticated, devoid of clutter...(I can hear my mother laughing) 

I'm just ready to get rid of stagnation and force a new experience, which is much easier said than done. It's just too bad it's cold outside. I hate cold weather more than anything else in the entirety of the world. So I need to learn how to deal and get through the sluggish chilly days (while still finding the good parts), in hopes that the spring is all that I hope it to be. Thanks for continuing to follow Sweet Peach and supporting so many of the southern artists featured here. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season...I'll see y'all back here tomorrow with brand new posts. And hello 2014, you better be good...

 

Wednesday
Dec252013

Mercy Gumbo

When my friend Monica served me Mercy Gumbo at a party a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea I would be eating something I would remember for the rest of my life. This was good gumbo- made better by its origin from the small coastal town of Venice, Louisiana that's served in a bowl with white rice and potato salad. That's right, potato salad. And if you don't combine all three, there is no sense eating it. For all you skeptics out there, I defy you to eat this and not consider it the best gumbo, ever. 

Monica learned the recipe the authentic way- from a fourth generation fisherman on the open sea while producing a show for the Discovery Channel. 

Waylon Buras (bottom left) is Captain of the Miss Carmine. Chookie (in top pic with Monica) is his longtime friend and deckhand. While on the shoot, word got out that Waylon could cook. Monica was lucky enough to feast on many of his freshly caught, shellfish delights throughout the shoot, including shrimp scampi, shrimp wrapped in bacon and blackened shrimp salad. But when Monica tried Waylon's Mercy Gumbo, she had a moment, sharing, "It was so good, I had 5 bowls of it." 

Waylon learned this recipe from his mom and over the years, he's tweaked it again and again until it was just right. Monica smartly had Waylon teach her how to make the gumbo on the boat, and now, he's been gracious enough to share it with all of us. 

Gumbo ingredients: 3/4 cup roux (see below); 4 chicken breasts; 2.5 lbs. smoked sausage; 3 lbs peeled wild-caught Gulf shrimp; 1/3 cup olive oil; 4 onions, chopped; 2 or 3 green peppers, chopped; 1 red bell pepper, chopped; 2 stalks celery, chopped; can of diced tomatoes; 1/3 cup parsley flakes; 1/4 cup chopped garlic; 1/3 cup dehydrated sweet bell pepper; 2 TBSP worcestershire sauce; 2 TBSP hot sauce; 1 TBSP garlic powder; 2 TBSP Tony Chachere seasoning; 1 1/2 TBSP salt

As this is a Louisiana gumbo, there is no substitute for wild-caught Gulf shrimp. For anyone who knows Gulf shrimp, you know their sweet, incredible taste. Plus, these are a clean shrimp with no sandy grit in the vein so you won't have to devein them. As Monica shared, "Gulf shrimp have a distinctive and delicate flavor because the water where they live is brackish, meaning less salinity." (see below for ordering info)

Cajun cooks prefer a dark roux for their gumbo, which offers the most depth in flavor but is also the hardest to make. Yet with rapt attention and patience, this dark, smoky roux is well worth the effort. To make, heat up 3/4 cup vegetable oil on medium low in a cast iron skillet. Sprinkle 1 cup of flour over it, turn the heat up to medium and start mixing the oil and flour together until it gets dark. If it seems like the roux is getting too dark too fast, lift the frying pan off the heat, stir some more and set it down. Keep stirring and do not walk away - if it burns even the tiniest bit, you need to throw it out and start over. Stir until it is a rich brown color, much like dark chocolate and about the consistency of peanut butter. Allow 30-40 minutes. Set aside. 

Heat up olive oil in a large pan, then add in all the chopped vegetables and the seasonings. Crank the fire up and keep stirring. 

When the onions soften, throw in the chicken and sausage. Keep the fire cranked up and keep on stirring steadily. If the mixture looks dry, add a little bit of water but not so much that everything is floating. 

Once the chicken looks cooked on both sides, but not all the way through, add a little bit of the roux and keep stirring. Once the sauce gets thick like gravy, add in hot water. Start mixing it all together and keep adding roux and water until the roux is gone and it's the consistency that you like. 

While your gumbo is simmering, peel and add the shrimp. Next, add the can of tomatoes, (this is optional). Turn the heat down and keep it on low boil for about an hour or up to a few hours.

Next, make the potato salad. Boil about 10 medium potatoes (peeled and diced) with 7 eggs and 1/t tablespoon of salt. When the potatoes are soft, the eggs are ready. Strain the water, peel the eggs, cut them up and dump the chopped eggs back in the pot with the potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Tony Chachere, 1/3 cup sweet relish, 3/4 cup mayo, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard. Stir to combine and add seasoning as needed. Finally, cook 8 cups of white rice. (this gumbo recipe will satiate 10-15 people)

To properly serve Mercy Gumbo, place a scoop of cooked white rice in a bowl, a scoop of gumbo over that and a scoop of potato salad on top. 

And there you have it, Mercy Gumbo. I brought my friend Bob to this tasting and at first a skeptic, he's now a believer, claiming "That was the best gumbo I've ever had." It really is that good. A huge thank you to Waylon Buras for sharing his treasured family recipe with us, as well as a heap of gratitude to Monica for inviting me to try a bowl of gumbo at her house in Atlanta. It's a gumbo, I dare say, that will change your life. Merry Christmas everyone...

 

**When ordering your wild-caught Gulf shrimp, medium size is best. Ideally you want 31/35 or 36/40. This number is the count and it denotes how many shrimp per pound. Large (21/25) or XL (16/20) work too but cut them in half before cooking. 

**New blog posts will resume Monday, January 6. 


Photos and Content: Sweet Peach


Tuesday
Dec242013

A Christmas Eve Cocktail, served hot

On Halloween, I shared a post that featured Cathead Pumpkin Spice Vodka and cream soda. So simple to make yet insanely good. This time, Ross from Cathead Vodka of Jackson, Mississippi shared a new concoction using apple cider. This is hands down one of my new favorite drinks for wintertime. It has incredible depth of flavor and is just as tasty served hot or cold. Enjoy, and happy Christmas Eve everyone...

 

Photos and Content: Sweet Peach


Tuesday
Dec242013

A Christmas Eve Cocktail, served cold

When I asked my friend Andrew about a good Christmas Eve cocktail for the blog that was easy and delicious, his first thought was a Mint Chocolate Martini. I was sold immediately as that's exactly my kind of drink and it sounds perfect for a festive Christmas Eve. Enjoy...

 

Photos and Content: Sweet Peach