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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


Monday
Dec232013

A Tacky Christmas

Although many of us are stuck on our own Christmas traditions, it's fun to mix things up a bit. So this year, while I'm visiting my close friends in Hermosa Beach, California where I used to live, I embraced whatever came my way, which just happened to be all things tacky and fabulous...

Bryce created a Tacky Christmas window in his popular beachside shop, Curious. Throughout December, his boyfriend Andrew took customer pics in front of the tree, (with a big bin of vintage sweaters and props for everyone to choose from). The room is full of tacky Christmas decor, all of which Bryce and Andrew found this fall during a road trip from Louisville, Kentucky to Wilmington, North Carolina. 

The idea was to find items that provoked nostalgia and Christmas comfort. They stopped at dozens of thrift stores along the way, piling up incredible finds. I especially like their Christmas tree ornaments that remind me of the ones I had as a a kid.  

How amazing is a rug made out of bad demin jeans? Bryce actually found this while perusing a magazine from one of his product reps. He knew he had to have it. It may be the tackiest rug ever made. 

Many try to make Christmas Martha-Stewart-perfect but where's the fun in that? Plus, it's all a bit pricey. Collecting items like these from yard sales and thrift shops allow for an unexpected experience, invoking lots of conversation and memories of a Christmas way back when. 

This picture Andrew cut out of a GQ Magazine and framed it. It's a perfect centerpiece for a tacky mantel. 

A good tip is to take items found that make a strong statement and then add silly things - like felted santas and elves and Christmas bows. Layer the textures and wackiness and enjoy. There's a lot of leeway when you're creating tacky decor...

May you all have a fabulous Christmas, no matter what your tradition. I just hope this inspires you to have a little fun with it. Thank you to my boys- Bryce, Jeremy and Andrew, and the animals- Jennifer, Fulton and Clyde. 

 

 

Friday
Dec202013

Shotguns & Mistletoe, A Southern Tradition

When I was telling my friend Beth of an upcoming blog shoot I was doing about mistletoe, she asked, "You know how they harvest mistletoe in the South, right?" When I said "no," she replied, "a shotgun." This was a happy blogger moment. 

I had no clue. Apparently mistletoe can do a lot of damage to trees. It digs through bark, sucks out sap and nutrients, sometimes killing the tree. In the South, you'll find it in big bundles high in the treetops...and as many a southerner will tell you, "best way to get rid of it is to shoot it out with a shotgun." 

Mistletoe has a storied past. The ancient Druids found value in the plant as when seasons changed and every other plant turned brown, its leaves stayed green. They believed it could ensure fertility, cure illnesses and ward off poisons and witchcraft. Although it's been considered an invasive parasite by many, it's actually an ecological keystone species. A large array of animals depend on mistletoe for food. It attracts various birds and increases diversity rather drastically wherever it grows. 

The idea of kissing under the mistletoe seems to date back to 16th century England. Other records show a Scandinavian origin- and I like their custom which includes plucking a berry every time a kiss is made under the mistletoe and when the last berry has been picked, the privilege ceases. 

Liz Gudmundsson is part owner of Adaptation Floral Design in Atlanta. When you walk into her lovely shop, you can immediately tell there is a talented designer at work here. Her floral collections are thoughtful, one of a kind and gorgeous so when I was thinking of a post about mistletoe, I knew to ask Liz. It turns out she has bunches of them for sale in her shop, all with pretty holiday ribbons of course. 

If you're in the Atlanta area this weekend, stop by Adaptation (open till 5:30) for your own bunch of mistletoe ($7-$15) or check out one of her many other lovely Christmas creations. From top, 6" cedar and eucalyptus wreath, $15;  12" Magnolia, olive and bay leaf wreath, $35; Moss decorative trees, from $10. 

Wherever you are, I hope you buy some mistletoe this season- or shoot it out of a tree with a shotgun. Tied with a pretty ribbon atop the doorway, the end result is festive and fun, especially if you happen upon the right person under its spell...

 

Photos and Content: Sweet Peach  Shotgun photos: randrflyfishing.com; janetsmart.blogspot.com; kimraff.blogspot.com 


Thursday
Dec192013

A Sensible Habit

Brandy Schuman of Atlanta likes to make things pretty and playful. I first met her through Blabla, where she works and then found her again through her side gig, crafting stamps. My neighborhood wine shop, 3 Parks, utilizes her stamps for their bottle tags and with a bit of time, her collection has grown and grown...

In her online shop, A Sensible Habit, you can find dozens of stamps to play with. I particularly like her holiday impressions which have a relaxed, flirtatious vibe to adorn cards, packaging, promotional materials and more. And they're stamps, they'll last forever.

I have a handful of stamps I've collected over the years. I keep them in my top kitchen drawer and am always surprised by how often they come in handy. Check out Brandy's site to find your favorites. Thanks to her pretty, playful ways, there's no need for boring packaging anymore...

 

Wednesday
Dec182013

The Mason Shaker Boys Pick their Holiday Favorites...

I've been a fan of Eric and Josh ever since they launched their Kickstarter campaign for their ingenious Mason Shaker. With a smart promotional campaign and incredible packaging, you just knew they were on to something good. But it's safe to say life has been better than good for these two. They've expanded their barware collection and no matter where I travel, I see the Mason Shaker for sale. Eric and Josh have always been so gracious to Sweet Peach but I still couldn't help smile a big smile when they agreed to share their Holiday Gift Picks with us. Thank you boys, much obliged...

1. Imogene + Willie Barton Jeans, $250. Eric, These are simply put, the best pair of jeans I have ever owned. 

2. Billy Reid Savannah Wingtips, $395. These are great looking dress shoes that go with everything. 

3. Pointer Brand Barn Coat, $127. This is a perfect everyday jacket made in Tennessee. Can't beat that. 

4. Old Try Prints, $40. They're all great, but we're both suckers for our home state, the Old Dominion. 

5. The W & P Cocktail Kit, $279. This kit will help you stock your bar, while the canvas and leather mason bag doubles as the perfect weekend accessory.  

 

Tuesday
Dec172013

Books! Selected by Nan Myers

When I walked into Nan Myers' shop, Firefly, last month, I was thrilled to see such a beautifully curated selection of books for both kids and adults. So when I was thinking of doing a day of book posts, I knew I had to include Nan's picks. Below are her current favorites, all of which would be amazing to give or to receive. And happy reading...the best present of all. 

1. A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life  2. Smoke  3.  Jasper Conrad, Country  4. Beauty Everyday  5. MAPS  6. Steal Like an Artist  7. Shake  8. Remodelista  9. The Kinfolk Table 

IF YOU PURCHASE MORE THAN $75 FROM NAN'S SHOP TODAY, RECEIVE 15% OFF WITH THE CODE: peace2013 

Nan has a soft spot for kid's books. She loves to find ones that are beautifully written and illustrated...plus allow the imagination to run wild. Which may be why she's a tad obsessed with her favorite children's author and illustrator, Dahlov Ipcar.

Dahlov has been creating incredible stories and adventures for kids for over four decades. She still lives and paints in the 1860's farmhouse in Maine that she shared with her husband Adolf for nearly seventy years. Her work is now part of collections in numerous museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. My Wonderful Christmas Tree is a book to treasure and pass down, generation to generation. 

 

Here is a collection of lovely gifts Nan picked out that are inspired from My Wonderful Christmas Tree. From top left, Lavender plush unicorn; Gwendolyn Racoon; Woodland Ornament Collection; Flying Bird Botanical Herbal Teas; Plush Bunny; Tree in a Candle

Dahlov has over 30 books to choose from and they are as magical as the artist herself. Find your favorite and share with your little one. And may this bring a little magic to your Christmas...thank you Nan!