Culture, Fashion, Garden

Tech-No.

It’s another rainy day and my embroidery machine is humming quietly from it’s little corner. So, essentially, my life hasn’t changed at all. I think it has rained 20 out of the last 24 days. The rain is kinda bleary but on the bright side, everything is growing and getting all green and lush. I ride my bike in the evenings when it is a little drier and it smells exactly like you would imagine Shangri-La smells. To be honest, I don’t really know what Shangri-La is, but that’s what came to mind when I smelled all the green lusciousness.

The first of a very pretty harvest

The first of a very pretty harvest

So, technology hates me. Have I ever mentioned that before? I don’t know if technology is something that can be grouped into a whole category or something that can be assigned emotions, like hate. But, nevertheless, we don’t have a good relationship. Currently, I have two laptops that are open (one that is supposedly downloading an update for the fifth time and this one that I am typing on). Did I also mention that my brother decided I needed two monitors at my work desk? He read something about how much more productive two monitors can make you and my aunt in Mississippi had two. So, he asked her about it and they were discussing the pros and complete lack of cons (she’s thinking about getting a third screen, apparently). I overheard part of this conversation and lo and behold, the very next week, I show up to see two screens on my desk. They communicate with each other and everything, as in I can slide a screen from one to the other. I wanted to give the whole thing a cold shoulder, but I must admit, it really does help with invoicing. I’m still getting used to it.

My new workspace

My new workspace

I have this thing where I don’t like reading what I write. I’m not sure if that is normal or not. I am a major proofreader, so I read anything I write excessively right after I write it. But, once it is written and has my seal of approval grammatically, I typically write it and never really go back to it again. I have been writing a news column for a local paper for our church association since I was 12. {Side note: who nominates (yes, I was nominated for this position at church) a 12 year old to write the news column? I have no idea what they were thinking, but at the time, everyone apparently thought it was a good idea.} And, I have been writing it ever since. So, going on 12 years now… I don’t really feel old enough to have been doing anything consistently for 12 years. However, I do miss a deadline every now and again so “consistent” is a loose term in this case. But, my point was, I don’t go back and read the news columns I write when I actually receive the paper in the mail. I guess it’s just a quirk. My point I originally started to make before I ventured off into my writing history was that I don’t go back and read my old blog posts. My point I was making before that was that I went back to check something in one of them the other day and noticed that the links to some of the pictures were inactive and weren’t properly displaying the content. So, I emailed and had to go back in and fix all the pictures. Which takes me back to my very original point that technology hates me. See, I knew I was going somewhere with all of this. Wow, it took me awhile to get all that said. So, if you’ve looked at any of the older posts lately and the pictures weren’t showing, they should be now!

My most recent color chart

Do ya’ll see that massive color chart? Another recent addition to my workspace. The other day a guy called me and told me he was coming out to order some shirts. We almost never have anyone come to the shop to order, but I told him if he could find it, he could come. So, about thirty minutes later (thanks to Apple maps), he arrived and asked me what colors he could choose from. So, I whipped out my handy, dandy color chart and promptly displayed all 96 colors in the style he wanted. Talk about overwhelmed. I guess I’m just used to it since I deal with the intricacies of all the different shades of blues and greens everyday. My friends think it’s a fun parlor trick to have me identify the different colors and style numbers of the shirts they wear. I thought everyone could identify a Gildan 5000 Galapagos Blue tee from a mile away? Apparently not. Speaking of shirts, remember those 865 specialty dyed shirts I mentioned in a previous post? We finally got around to printing those and on big runs like that, my presence is required in the shop to fold and stack as they come off the dryer. It can get a little monotonous, so I decided to challenge myself to see how large of a wall I could build.

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Here’s me with my creation. And, yes, it was about to topple over on me. I think next time, I’m gonna try for a pyramid…  Only 8 hours and 26 minutes left on this latest download. Did I mention my views on technology?

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Travel

Lettuce Commence

In Jackson, I think the air and the clouds battle to see who can hold the most water. And right when you think the air is going to win and the humidity gets so thick you could cut it with a knife, the clouds prove their dominance and pour down a rain like you’ve never seen before, putting to rest everyone who doubted them. Feeling assured of their victory, they beckon the sun back out to make nice. And the air goes back to bat, collecting up the water the clouds threw down, sure it can win this time.  I have 10 first cousins. 8 boys and 2 girls. My mom has 4 sisters and my dad has 1. Each of the sisters had 2 kids. 3 had 2 boys each and 2 had 1 boy and 1 girl. That’s a lot of numbers and in my case (at this point in my life), a lot of graduations. I was the third in line on my mom’s side to graduate high school. I graduated with my cousin just older than me, so everyone got lucky that year to only have to attend one. Then, I graduated college when his younger brother graduated high school, so we had one reception that year as well.

High School Graduation

Consequently, receptions are something I do well. I think it is one of those many life lessons that are taught to girls in the South without ever really being taught. The art of hosting, whether it is hosting a gathering, one guest, a reception, a wedding or baby shower, you just somehow grow up knowing how to do it. In preparing for graduation receptions, everyone has their tasks, the things they excel at and are called upon to do again and again. Like a faithful old recipe, these are things you know you’re good at and put to practice. For me, this is the assembly of the fruit and veggie tray.     Life rule #275: never buy a pre-assembled tray. They are sub-par produce with processed dressing. Buy fresh what you like best, then make your own trays and your own dressings. This PSA brought to you by generations of women who raised generations of people of which I am now a part. {my personal PSA: don’t question the advice of the generations before you, accept it and move on.}

Our three generations

Graduation is such a celebration of endings and beginnings, of accomplishments and goals left to be accomplished. My cousin, Brett, graduated from high school and will head to Southern Miss in the Fall to pursue a degree in Physics. He was the valedictorian of his class and received a perfect 36 on the science portion of his ACT. To say he will succeed in college is an understatement. He already talks of things and theories way out of my realm. If you know Brett, he is not one for words, so I was curious what he would say in his speech he had to give.

Brett and Jake

Oddly enough, I love graduation speeches. Actually, I really like graduations in general. I’m a nerd, what can I say? The speeches are always part sentimental, part hopeful, part inspirational, and almost always funny. Brett’s was all of those, but he emphasized one thing that stuck with me. It’s not Earth shattering or new, but coming from him, it just seemed all the more profound. Success is not based on the things you accumulate in life: wealth, a house, a car. Success is determined by happiness. If you are happy and doing what you love with those you love, you’re successful. Maybe I’m just at a point in life where I needed to hear that. That particular definition of success, the kind society doesn’t tell us so much about. Brett’s speech was short and to the point (the way everything is with him). Then, there was cake, which makes everything even better. Maybe that’s why I like graduations? Cake.     So another one is in the books, the next will be in two years when Brett’s sister, Savannah, graduates. Did I mention how much we look alike? It’s like we’re related or something…   

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Food, Travel

Listen here! 

There are two questions I will without a doubt ask when a hotel room has been booked for me. #1: do they have breakfast? #2: is there a gym? Breakfast is important to me. It’s (as we all know) the most important meal of the day. And, to me, the rest of my day hinges on the perfect carb to protein to fat ratio found in the bowl of bran flakes I eat every morning. The inconvenience of being at a hotel and having to go out to find breakfast is annoying. I don’t ask for much, just cereal, milk, and coffee. Same with the gym, I just need a treadmill or a bike, or elliptical and an hour or so of uninterrupted activity and I’m set.

Mississippi is a different world, in case you’ve never been. They have different customs, a different accent, a whole different way of life. It’s a state rich with history and for that, I love it. One of my favorite books is based in the Belhaven neighborhood where my aunt lives. This area of Jackson has seen so much change over the last fifty years and you can feel it.

Having been here a few times before, I’ve seen some of the sights, checked out the local landmarks and institutions. But, there was one I hadn’t made it to yet. The Big Apple Inn.


This place is located in the part of town that used to be known as “little Harlem.” And they are famous for one thing: the pig ear sandwich. Which I had to try.

As I’ve said before, I marvel at the way our ancestors (and even people of our day) learned to utilize every part of an animal. One of my life principles is waste not, want not, which I’ve been accused more than once of taking to an extreme. But, I do think we learn so much by observing how to get the most use from the resources we’ve been given. So, the pig ear sandwich. Historically, slaves in the South were given the remains of the animal after it had been butchered and the “choice” meat had been cut away. This practice created a base for a lot of southern cuisine that we now have today. Go into a grocery store in the South and you’ll see pieces of the past displayed on shelves in the form of pickled pigs feet, snouts, and chittlins.


Most people would automatically dismiss such things as gross. And, in a lot of cases, they’d be correct, it’s not the most appetizing thing to think of eating. But, to me, this is an age old testament of taking the best of a bad situation and making something of it. So, if you view it that way (remember: perspective is everything, ya’ll!) a pig ear sandwich isn’t all that bad. And, it really wasn’t. It was tender and I’d say most similar to bologna. They pressure cook the ears, so they are easy to eat. And I’m told, they go through nearly 900 ears a day. They served it with lettuce and mustard, so it really just tasted like most any other sandwich I’ve had. The white piece in the middle is the cartilage of the ear, which you would expect to be chewy. Not so, they’ve got this down to a science.

Sandwiches really aren’t my thing, so it wasn’t something I’d eat a lot of, but the ear was good. And, the steady line of customers coming in and out of this literal hole in the wall proved it. Taking a step outside our perception of palatable is necessary sometimes. That one step can take you to a lot of really neat places you never expected to go. As they say: never stop exploring! Oh, and never pass up a good breakfast.

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Farm, Food, Garden

Sweet Potato Dreamin’

I graduated college exactly two year and two days ago. And, I had no idea where life would take me. Well, so far today I have: tracked down and ordered 865 specialty dyed t-shirts, planted 64 sweet potato slips (17 of which were grown in my kitchen window) and cooked 1 vat of smoked chicken stock. This is an improvement from yesterday, which was spent sewing 125 koozies together to send out to a band in Omaha. Although, yesterday did include baking a chocolate cake made with bananas and applesauce. Pretty sure this is not where I would’ve guessed life would’ve taken me in two years. But, what can I say? My life is weird.

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Did you know that you grow sweet potato slips in water? Last year was my first year to grow sweet potatoes and they were a huge success. Literally. These potatoes came out of the ground and some of them weighed 2 and 3 lbs per potato. They were giant. I purchased the slips from a local feed store. But, this year, I wanted to try growing the slips for myself. So, I read about it online and saw how to grow them, but to be honest, I was a little bit skeptical. I bought my potatoes (organic varieties from a food co-op) and put them in mason jars in the window sill and let nature do it’s thing.

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A month later and here we are. These things are crazy! The leaves sprout out of the potatoes and will grow under water. I am pretty fascinated by them. I did buy 50 sweet potato slips from the same feed store this year. I was reluctant, but my dad claimed that I needed them as “insurance”. I assured him that my window sill experiment would yield us as many slips as we needed. And, it has. So, in short, we should have an abundance of sweet potatoes come Fall.

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My great grandpa farmed sweet potatoes on the same land that I am now growing them on. He grew so many that he was known in the area for growing them and would have people stop by to buy them from him. I’m thinking I might follow in his footsteps if this harvest turns out. I always dreamed of being a sweet potato farmer. Sometimes dreams do come true.

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Celebration, Food, Mexico

Cinco Celebrations

I currently have three drinks in the car. This is a habit that drives the people around me crazy. I have a lime water, coffee and tea. I like to stay well hydrated, what can I say. Plus, I have 9 stops on my list today, so I’m gonna need the proper amount of caffeine to make it through all of this. My brother thought it was a good idea to make Teacher Appreciation gifts to give out at local schools with our business information on it. Good idea? Yes. Driving around Northwest Arkansas to execute the good idea? Me.

Our

Our “In a Crunch and need shirts fast? Call us!” promotional (idea creds: me)

Since its Cinco de Mayo and since I have an admittedly involved and tangled love affair with Mexican food, I thought that deserved a special post. Am I right or am I right? My mainstay: a little taco shop where they let you pile on as much cilantro and onion as you please. This gem was discovered a couple years ago and me and Wanda (the owner’s daughter and my order taker) are on a first name basis. She also knows my order, which makes it super convenient for me. Is it bad that I get the same thing every time? Maybe. Is it bad that I go here often enough for someone to know my order? Probably.

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You order at the counter and then when your food is up, they yell your number from a window, in either English or Spanish. I don’t know how they know which language to use, but trust me, they always know. Your #1 job at this point: know your number. And, as soon as they yell your number, you better be hustling because they’ll continue to yell it until they see it’s claimed. It holds up the whole process if you don’t get up there quickly, so you’ve always gotta be on your toes. This is Mexican food, it’s serious business.

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Ok, let me take a side road here into a different topic, but still related. The place I just told you about is a taqueria (meaning they specialize in tacos and burritos, although this one also offers sopes and tamales, both of which are delicious as well, but I digress). There are also pupuserias (specializing in pupusas, a special and altogether different delicacy from El Salvador) and panaderias (specializing in baked goods) in our area. Rule #1: don’t go into a taqueria and ask if they have pupusas. Rule #2: don’t go into a pupuseria and ask if they have chilequiles (a Mexican dish with eggs, don’t forget: you are {hypothetically} in a Salvadoran restaurant at this point.) A pupuseria will typically have tacos but taquerias won’t have pupusas. It’s confusing, I know, but seeing as how I basically have a degree in Latino dishes, it all makes sense. Just trust me. These are pretty hard and fast rules. But, there are always exceptions. Doing this is essentially the equivalent of going into a pizza place and asking if they have fried chicken. Which, come to think of it, they might. This is America, after all.

Not the mainstay, but another very good option

Not the mainstay, but another very good option

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Mexican food. So, I have my standard orders at all my different places, but sometimes when you see something different, you should try it because you never know. So, I ventured into La Super Quesadilla (not as Americanized as it’s name would lead you to believe, don’t be fooled.) It’s weird how walking into a place where no one speaks English and everyone stares at you because you are literally the only white person there can make you feel so at home. I decided to order the most difficult thing to pronounce on the menu. Tlacoyos. And when I executed the pronunciation correctly in my first try, my waitress seemed thoroughly impressed, like maybe she had judged the blonde girl all wrong. (Thank you Mrs. Henson for all the Spanish you did and didn’t teach me. Remember: today is Teacher Appreciation day)

I ordered mine with chicken

I ordered mine with chicken

Tlacoyos is one I’ve been wanting to try for awhile. It is pretty much a huge tortilla with a bunch of vegetables and nopales on it. And in case you aren’t up on your Spanish, nopal is cactus. And I have to tell you, it was really good. I would definitely order it again. If you see it on a menu, it’s a must try! Plus, this was the biggest tortilla I think I’ve seen in my whole life. And, trust me, I’ve seen a lot of tortillas in my day.

And, no, I didn't finish this whole thing, in case you were wondering.

And, no, I didn’t finish this whole thing, in case you were wondering.

And to end this post, I feel it is my duty to have us all take a moment to remember General Zaragoza (of the Mexican army circa 1862) and his victory over the French army and thank this kind man for making a day where it is appropriate for millions of Americans to gorge themselves on Mexican food to honor a victory in a battle in which we didn’t even fight. Amen.

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