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Yard of the Month

The prestigious award of  “Yard of the Month” is usually reserved for a gorgeous landscape belonging to the resident of a neighborhood. This “Yard of the Month,”  however goes to a new favorite restaurant in the “Magic City” of Birmingham, AL.

the yard entrance

The Yard of the Month


007 and I had the pleasure of attending Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival this past weekend, and stumbled upon a place that is already near and dear to my heart.

alabama theatre

They opened in July of this year. There is so much history and nostalgia in this place, that I’m sure all Birminghamians will start planning their next family reunion at this historical landmark. THE YARD at the new Elyton Hotel is without a doubt the newest happening place in town.

the yard in lights

The restaurant gets its name from the many coal yards and steel yards of our city’s history, but it reminds me of my own childhood. How many times have you heard your momma say, “Go on out in the yard and play” ? Or, “The yard needs cutting”? Or from my particular childhood, “Go out in the yard and cut me a switch!”

Backyards and Frontyards


Fortunately, from the minute we walked into THE YARD, there were no thoughts of switches or mowing. Instead, I thought of backyards and frontyards with gardens of every kind. Vegetable gardens, flower, rock, fairy and herb gardens. Memories of neighbors propped on fence posts talking about family and the hard work of the day. I thought of brick yards, shipyards and railway yards, all places with production and activity buzzing from all corners.

dining room


Heaviest Corner of the Earth


Speaking of corners, we had a lovely conversation with Grayson Davis, (the manager at THE YARD.) She reminded me that the Elyton Hotel sits on the “Heaviest Corner on the Earth.”

empire building

The Elyton Hotel by Marriott is part of a $45 million dollar renovation to the Empire Building on the corner of 1st Avenue North and 20th Street. This corner also houses the Brown-Marx Building, the Woodward and the American Trust and Savings Building. When they were built in the early 1900’s, they were the tallest in the South and that’s where the corner got its name.


Jefferson County Historical Commission

Elyton Hotel

While the corner may be deemed “heavy,” the atmosphere and decor within THE YARD are definitely not. From the original exposed brick to the 40’s style photography, the feel of this nostalgic place is modern and comfortable.

exposed brick

girl beside bicycle

One single rose adorns each table, the dishes are stoneware and the tabletops in the bar are made from an elevator shaft in the original Empire Building. Chandeliers adorn tin ceilings and are made of iron in honor of Birmingham’s iron ore resources.

collard greens

chandy and tin ceiling

Another great Birmingham resource is the executive chef of this fine establishment. He is none other than Haller Magee. His resume includes Satterfield’s of Birmingham, a degree from The Culinary Institute of Virginia College, and awards as one of America’s Best Chefs. He also worked with a friend of his way down south in a favorite Fairhope restaurant for a while.  Our favorite restaurant in our hometown is Camellia Cafe, where he helped with a few renovations and menu updates recently.

haller magee

Haller is bringing fresh, southern ingredients to THE YARD in new progressive recipes. For instance, I had the lunch portion of his delicious slow-brined beef ribs with mac-n-cheese and collard greens. The mac-n-cheese is made to order. Yes, you read that right! They don’t mix your favorite southern comfort food until you order it.  If I’m not mistaken, the macaroni was actually tortellini and it’s made with sharp cheddar cheese. The garnish of scallions add a touch of green and just the right amount of onion to the dish. Best in town, hands down!

mac n cheese

007 (as I affectionately call my hubby with the same initials as James Bond) had the cider glazed pork chop with baby carrots and ginger along with collard greens. As we say here in the south, “It was so good he wanted to slap my mamma!” (He would never slap his own).  Sorry Mom!

They of course, have a full bar and an absolutely gorgeous wine cellar, but let me tell you about my favorite drink. They bring you a glass of freshly brewed, unsweetened iced tea with the cutest little crock of simple syrup. I made myself the perfect glass of sweet tea with pure cane sugar!

iced tea

Here’s a little hint for you guys at THE YARD – I would purchase this little jewel, if it were for sale.


The hospitality was even sweeter. We were served by a dawlin’ with the name Randilynn – not another one on the planet that I know of.  Until this post. Now there’ll be little Randilynn’s all over the south. She was perfect. Friendly, attentive, interested and quick. Haller came out of the kitchen to make sure our meal was just as we like it. We talked about the little town of Fairhope, local chefs and a little magic-city history. And then there was Grayson. She already comes from a great family, (Bankhead) but, the word adoption keeps floating through my mind. Let’s just say she made us feel like part of the family.



Now before you stahrt the caahr, let me add one more tidbit. They don’t have a true “yawrrd” as we’d say down here, but something much bettah.  Take an elevator ride past 16 floors of gorgeous hotel rooms and suites and step out onto the rooftop bar. It is appropriately named, “Moon Shine”. Not that there was evah any moonshine in the state of Alabama, mind you. I’m sure the name is really all about the moon illuminating the magic city.

So, no… This “Yard of the Month” is not a corner lot in a suburban neighborhood. It’s The Yard with a view, The Yard where all the neighbors want to hang out, and where they’ll get the freshest southern viddles in town. When you go, tell them Heart for Dixie sent you, and ask Grayson to share her favorite southernism with you.

“Join me in the baar, won’t ya dawlin’?”


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Love You a Bushel and a Peck

Since, faith is a huge part of southern life, (being part of the Bible Belt and all), I thought I would share a little of mine with you on occasion.


Daily Devotion

I use an acronym in my daily devotion to study the WORD. The acronym is the word S – O – A – P.


Choose one scripture a day and study it in either Hebrew or Greek, to see if the original text meant anything different.

Bible Scroll


Use a keyword study Bible that has the concordance numbers with the key words. Keywords are underlined with the concordance number following in parenthesis. The following is an example.

Love Each Other

S – John 13:35 – By this all men will know that you are my disciples, (3101) if you have love (26) for one another.

O – Observe the who, what, when, where, why and how of the verse. Make a note of what the Holy Spirit is teaching you. Who? All men. What? Will know we are HIS disciples. How? If we have love for one another. Disciples: The Greek word is mathētēs which means to become a pupil, instruct, teach. Love: agapē which means affection, charity, benevolence, good will.

A – Everyone I meet will know that I am a pupil of Jesus Christ by the love I show others. Love in action includes, but is not limited to, showing affection, offering charity and kindness to those around me; and wishing good will toward all, including my enemies.

P – Prayer is a very personal thing; but, in case you are seeking examples of how to pray, I will offer this. I love to pray/meditate on the scripture I study. I pray the scripture for myself, my family and others who might be going through something related to the verse of the day.

Praying Hands

Meditation and Prayer

“FATHER, thank you for the love that Jesus has for me. Thank you for sending Him to die for me and all who want to know YOU. I pray that YOU will remind me throughout the day today, that my love for others is a direct reflection on YOU and the death He suffered. Nudge me to show kindness where I might forget, affection to those who are lonely, and charity where it is needed. Help me to consider others more important than self, and LORD, please soften my heart towards anyone I may want to hate, including drivers on the road!

LORD, I pray for my family today that they will each be filled with the love that demonstrates YOUR character. Keep them safe and give them strength to live this day in a way that pleases YOU.

And for all those who may read this simple post, I pray that they will know that they are loved a “bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck!”

Bushel and a Peck


A Southerner’s Back-to-School Pep Talk

Back in my day, we had 3 months of summer break. So, when I say, “I can’t believe it’s time to go back to school, already” I really can’t! It’s so hot in August. Summer is not over. And worst of all, there’s still plenty of daylight left for swimming, kite-flying and bike-riding.

water pad

But, mommas everywhere are getting their ducks in a row, making their school lists and preparing their little darlins for the school bell. Here are a few southern sayings to help with the task.

Back to School Tips for Southerners

  1. To prepare for “school time,” two weeks before the first day, go to bed with the chickens and get up with the cows.Mosquito Netting
  2. Wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. evil bunny
  3. Remind the little dumplins, the reason they are going to school, is because they don’t know jack!
  4. Stay focused, but, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  5. Don’t fret. Your friends will be a sight for sore eyes.Dogwood Trail Maids
  6. Be sure to get all gussied up the first day.
  7. Stay positive, cause, can’t never could.
  8. Down south, it takes about 30 minutes to say, “bye ya’ll!” So, hit the door, lickety split and tell your little princess you love her a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.
  9. Momma, when you’re plum tuckered out, tuck the crazy back in. 
  10. Nothin’ amounts to a hill o beans, if you don’t teach em to respect their elders.
  11. But, if their teacher begins a sentence with, “Pardon my French,” tell em to run home and tell momma.
  12. Little Jack guilty of talking back? “Don’t get smart with me!” has nothing to do with their grades.
  13. You might be cute as a button now, but you can’t waller with the pigs and not get dirty. Be careful of the company you keep.
  14. You NEVER outgrow “yes, ma’am and no sir.” Yes Ma'am and No Sir
  15. The only elder that should be standing while you’re sitting, is your teacher.
  16. Please and Thank-You are still magic words.
  17. Praise sounds the sweetest on another’s lips, so don’t go round tootin’ your own horn.
  18. Remind the darlin’s that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. In other words, “Y’all be nice, ya hear?”
  19. Don’t be gettin’ your school supplies all cattywampus. Keep em organized in all those “tupperware” bowls you’ve been saving.
  20. You don’t want to be livin’ above yer raisin’, so take a peek at last year’s supplies before you go shopping for new stuff.
  21. If you’re living in high cotton, Carolina Cottonthen take the darlin’s with you when you shop for new supplies. You know you always buy more when you shop with “Pleeez, Momma!”
  22. You can run all over tarnation, like a chicken with it’s head cut off, or you can just pop over yonder to Wally World and get everything in one fell swoop.

And with that, I’ll leave you with this… Winston Churchill said it best:

The most beautiful voice in the world is that of an educated, southern woman.

Listen Carefully

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Posting Letters

Posting letters. I love the sound of those two words. It sounds so much more English than “mailing a letter.” I’m a romantic at heart and I love the thought of a postman carrying a satchel filled with postcards from all over the world. It’s sweet to see a package marked fragile hanging out of a mailbox and imagine how excited the homeowner is when they collect their mail at the of the day.

No Junk Mail

Whether that day is rainy or sunny, the goal of the post office is keeping us in touch with one another. We’ve come a long way in the US since the “running pony” delivered to the early colonies. There was no need for zip codes, junk mail didn’t exist and surely Ben Franklin could have kept Hillary’s “mail” secure.

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Plan a Mother-Daughter Trip to Nashville

I received a very sweet gift for Mother’s Day from my daughter. She planned a trip to Nashville for the two of us on her two off days and… off we went.

nashville mural

A Pun-Filled Trip

This trip was priceless. We laughed, we learned and we lounged. We had a pun time together. Yep, it was a pun-filled trip. We looked for puns along the way and laughed at our own silliness.

We ate at a “hole in the wall,”

hole in the wall

chose “knot” to skip the garlic knots at a local pizzeria,

garlic knot

five points pizza
and found a spoon rest that said, “rest in grease,” that cracked us up.  The discovery of a sound machine with a snoring-shih-tzu as a lullaby kept us giggling long past our bedtime.

Really Entertaining Tours

We learned a bit of Nashville history during a fabulous walking tour where we found out exactly “who let the dogs out” and enjoyed great rooftop views from along Broadway Street.

acme feed and seed view to broadway

Cumberland River in Nashville
Our tour guide was named Ryan and he did a great job representing Nashville, as well as Really Entertaining Tours who employed him. Cute and appropriate name !

Really Entertaining Tours

Cute and appropriate tour guide.

Capital Building
Nashville, the capital city of Tennessee is where “Old Glory” got her name. Great timing on Ryan’s part to share this story just before Independence Day. You’ll have to book a walking tour to find out the story, though. I’m no spoiler! And…. it’s not near as much fun to Google it!

A Bowl Full of Sin

Five Daughters Nashville
After a rough, hot day of shopping on 12th Avenue, we stopped in and made ourselves eat a donut sundae at Five Daughters. It’s a tough life and yes, someone has to eat a sundae on Wednesday, so we volunteered. The shoppe could have been a bit cooler. HVAC may have needed servicing or perhaps it was the body heat of all the patrons who LOVE this place! Yes, the bowl was made out of a donut. I’ve never had ice cream with a donut before. It seems like a sin that would damn me to Hell where my ice cream would melt, but hey, there was a strawberry!

Nashville Murals

Just in case you haven’t noticed there’s a new watermark on Heart for Dixie’s photos. I have a new photographer. She is most creative and does a fantastic job. We had such fun working together. I found her prices very affordable if you need a photographer. I highly recommend her. Her name is Amy and she is also my daughter.

Amy Renee Photography
It’s funny to photograph her in front of a painting that she could paint herself. Art is her thang!

There are so many murals around town. We made it to several, but truly didn’t scratch the surface. I had no idea that Nashville was so artsy! Other than music, of course.


Sweet Home Draper James

And then, my daughter named Amy, took me to the sweetest, most charming, southern boutique that my biscuit-of-a-butt has ever entered. We dared to grace the floors of  Draper James. The one and only store in Nashville that Reese Witherspoon ever got gussied up in! It’s a store for people who love the south! It’s a store imagined and created by none other than “Melanie Carmichael”! I didn’t want to leave. Yep, they had me at, “Would you like a sweet tea while you shop?”

dj sweet tea

That would be a “YES, pretty please!”

They told us that the interior of the store is a copy of Reese’s home. Fresh, airy, blue, white and filled with charm of every nature. Charm of the “sweetie pie” kind and of the “belly achin” kind. They are all concocted in the same southern kitchen, you know.

Every southern table has a few books scattered for devouring and a bowl of fruit to contemplate.

Stand tall, all you southern boys! Sunflowers are your example to follow. Face the Son, and don’t forget that you know better! You know how to bring sunshine into the life of a southern woman. Come home with wildflowers, laughter, and a little sugar.

hello sugar

draper james

And when in doubt about the hard questions of life…. ask…

But, sometimes when quoting Dolly, the saying “Do as I say, not as I do,” is more appropriate. Dolly also says that you’d be “surprised how much it costs to look this cheap!” Reese never looked cheap a day in her life.

dj gingham dress

cherries on top

Tell Me Something Good

tell me somethin good
So…. let me tell you something good. Nashville is fun. Fizu, I’d plan a trip with your daughter. And don’t forget what Winston Churchill said, “The most beautiful sound in the world is the voice of an educated southern woman.” I could listen to my daughter talk all day long. Especially when she ends the conversation with, “Happy Momma’s Day!”

Thank you, Sweetie Pie!

amy dj shopping bag
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Wishing and Wanting

“Momma, I want this outfit sooooooooo-0oooo bad,” I exclaimed on a shopping trip at about the age of 13. We were shopping for new school clothes, but not in our usual stores. We happened into Aland’s, a boutique shop in Eastwood Mall, of Birmingham, AL.  I knew the second we opened the door that this would be one of those “wishing and wanting” kind of shopping days.  [click to continue…]

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Cruising the Cuisine of New Orleans thumbnail

Cruising the Cuisine of New Orleans

If you are near New Orleans anytime soon, these are the food stops that 007 and I recommend for a true taste of southern tradition.  And, in addition to great cuisine, the World War II Museum at the corner of Magazine and Andrew Higgins will ignite your hunger for history, as you relive the lives of real soldiers during the war that changed our lives forever. Tom Hanks does an excellent job of giving us a fresh appreciation for our freedom in the movie, “Beyond All Boundaries.” Don’t miss it!

After our trip to New Orleans, we downloaded the “Band of Brothers” series from both Europe and the Pacific when we got home. If by chance, you’ve missed these HBO series, please take your next opportunity to watch.

Our first night in New Orleans, we found ourselves at the historic and architecturally opulent setting of Brennan’s Restaurant. A tradition that dates back to pre-Edgar Degas days, rich in French art and American history, Brennan’s restaurant offers a modern look into the past. I’m a romantic at heart, and marrying the present with the past is a favorite hobby.

Dinner at Brennan’s


Two terrific cuts of meat, seared tableside, with mushrooms and a delicious gravy, Steak Diane is like having dinner and a show all at one time.

flaming steak diane at Brennan's

None of the chefs who flambéd at our tableside confessed to singed eyebrows or 9-1-1 calls, but the theatrics were nothing short of broadway-worthy.

And the results were both beautiful and delicious.

Baked Alaska

The Baked Alaska was like none we’d experienced – even off the coast of the “Last Frontier” state.

Lunch at Lilette

Lilette Wedding Soup

While 007 conferenced at our hotel, I ventured out to the Garden District for a little antique shopping. After a full morning of sticker shock, I happened into a delightful shop where the owner and I had a delightful conversation about antiques, New Orleans and the Garden District in particular. He recommended that I “luncheon at Lilette”, just a few blocks from his shop. It was a beautiful and sunny day and I took my seat in the cozy courtyard beside the restaurant. I enjoyed their Italian Wedding Soup and a trio of delicious homemade ice creams.


Lilette Ice Cream Trio

The combination of peach, salted caramel and vanilla ice creams served with sugar cookies, melted in my mouth much easier than any cobbler I’ve ever picked at after a heavy meal. It was the perfect combination for lunch.

Dinner with Three Muses

007 made reservations at this fun establishment on Frenchmen Street for inspiration and memories. The three muses entertaining here are food, music and spirits. There’s no tragedy or kinship to gods boasted here, but the music is legendary and in our case, the smoked tomato bruschetta was worth singing about!

Bruschetta with Goat Cheesemusic of three muses

Frenchmen Street is what some might call the kinder, gentler version of Bourbon Street. And I would agree. You can hear some great music without all the debauchery and thousand pints of urine flowing through the gutters.

Dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico

After a day of shopping in the Garden District, 007 and I began a not-so-clandestine operation of finding Emeril’s Delmonico Restaurant. We were not disappointed. The restaurant has undergone a beautiful historic renovation and is a sumptuous setting for a once-in-a-lifetime dinner.

We were escorted into the building by a polite gentleman, and seated at the chef’s table. While we were not blessed with the booming sound of Emeril’s voice, hollering, “Bam!”, we sure wanted to shout it ourselves after each course.

wild boar meatballs

First course was a trio of Wild Boar Meatballs, seated on a bed of eggplant and sprinkled with toasted almonds. The layer of pecorino romano cheese on top was delicate and oh so yummy!

Then we shared a Grilled Alabama Peach Salad, which was the special salad of the day. Just how lucky were we to experience a salad with our very own Chilton County peaches on that particular day in New Orleans, LA?

grilled alabama peach salad


The next course was equally divine and so southern that I could almost hear my nanny shouting through the screen door “Come on and fix yer plate fore it gets cold.”

butter soaked cornbread

They called this little skillet of heaven, “Butter-soaked Cornbread.” And it lived up to its name.

I ordered a New York Strip and 007 had filet mignon. We then shared another signature dish of Emeril’s.  Macaroni and Cheese.

3 cheese macaroniI am not a typical mac-n-cheese lover. It was never one of my comfort foods as a child. My kids loved it, but not the homemade kind. They always preferred the little blue box with the powdered cheese and milk. I’ve imagined them saying grace something like Kevin McAllister in “Home Alone,”

Bless this highly nutritious microwavable macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.

Now, I would pray, “Bless this somewhat nutritious ‘easy-baked-oven’ side dish using three real cheeses and Emeril Lagasse who sold it full price. It was truly worth all 700 pennies. Amen.”


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Mercy, Incognito

On this “Thoughtful Thursday,” I’d like to share a few wise words from Solomon. In the book of 1 Kings 3:16-27, we hear the story of two prostitutes who bring a child to the king for a judgement. We see mercy as the core judgment.

1 Kings 3:16-27

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king.25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

Story Highlights

First, the king allowed two prostitutes into his court without judging their sin.

Second, he allowed them to argue their case in front of Him.

Then, he repeated their case to them, and ask for a sword. Next, he gave an order and waited for their replies.

Solomon’s Wisdom

He was granted wisdom from the Lord in previous verses because he had asked for it. God granted him wisdom because he asked for that above all other things. He asked for this so that he could be fair to God’s people. I love that he recognized that these were God’s people, not his subjects solely. His desire was not for personal gain. He didn’t want fame as the most popular king of all time, or riches, or even to live long. His desire was to govern God’s people the way God wanted them governed.

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

My heart broke for the real mother of the child in question. Here they were in front of the king who determined who lived and who died, and the judgment was death to the innocent. For just a second, she had to wish she’d never brought the matter to his attention. Instead, she was willing to give her child over to a woman who had not only accidentally killed her own son, but stolen a living child from another mother. How selfish! How evil that woman was! Then, her true heart is revealed when she is willing for the child to die, to keep his mother from having him. At this point, I’m imagining the innocent baby lying in a basket before the king. There is sacrifice on the line here. One woman will sacrifice her son. The other will sacrifice a child for the sake of what… Jealousy? Being right? Hatred of the woman with the living child?

Two Prostitutes

Then, I think about the women. Both live in unhappy circumstances. I can’t imagine that either woman planned on growing up to be a prostitute. Then they find themselves pregnant. With a client’s’ baby? Single mother in a culture that stoned women for things for like this. And the second woman, whose son is dead, must have been suffering from postpartum depression! Not an excuse, but definitely a factor in today’s world. It also occurs to me that this is a bastard baby, likely to be scorned for the rest of his life in this culture. So, in that culture, possibly by any other judge, all three could have been put to death.  So why was Solomon able to judge this situation so wisely?

Foreshadowing of Jesus

Could it be a foreshadowing of Jesus’ birth and future sacrifice? Is this an example to us of what real love and sacrifice looks like? Among Solomon’s descendants there would be another mother who would sacrifice her son for the sake of the whole world. He too, would be an innocent “baby”, conceived by the Holy Spirit, with an unwed woman. He too, would be punctured with a sword, but brought to life so that past, present and future offspring could live. He would be a future King.

Mercy, Incognito

All three (women and baby) were God’s people. Solomon must have realized on some level that God loved all of them regardless of their circumstances. He isn’t looking at their sin, only the case before him. Mercy, incognito. Grace, under wraps.

Life’s Application

And finally, the application I gleaned from these verses has to do with the sword. Solomon asked for a sword. A sword to divide the child in half. Thank goodness it didn’t come to that! But, it struck me, metaphorically, that the judge’s first inclination was to reach for a sword. What is the word of God? When we daily put on the armor of God (Eph 6: 16-18) we are to take up the sword of the Spirit. What if all judges used this sword in their cases? What if we used it ourselves in daily life? Could we also give mercy, incognito? Could we offer grace, underwraps? All for the sake of future generations knowing that there is a judge who judges fairly. There is a KING who only wants the very best for HIS kingdom. There is a KING who sacrifices for the love of mankind.

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How to Turn a Casserole into a Delightful Gumbo thumbnail

How to Turn a Casserole into a Delightful Gumbo

Okra. Some say it’s slimy, some say it’s the best fried vegetable on any southern table. I would have to agree with the latter. However, I have found a different recipe that is a cross between country and creole. Continue reading to transform a casserole into seafood gumbo. [click to continue…]

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Fairhope’s Creative Force is Out for ArtWalk

During the recent Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, one of the event planners commented, “A city is only as good as its creative force.” As I think about tomorrow night’s artwalk here in Fairhope, I couldn’t agree more. One of the things I love so much about living in Fairhope, is its’ creative force. [click to continue…]

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