About Me

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Florida, United States
Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday's Talk About the Book

I had a meeting today with the print and media publicists at Baker/Revell for Chasing Sunsets.

Okay, first I have to tell you this. They loved the book. The print publicist, Karen, went on and on and on about it. And, of course, I let her. I mean...after all...

I shared with them that I'm getting ready to return to Cedar Key to do some videotaping of the area, some of the locations and the people you'll read about in the book. Can't wait. Cedar Key just really is one of my favorite places and I want to bring it to all of you as well.

I found this neat video on YouTube... so I'm kinda stealing it here. It'll do for now, right?

Meanwhile, I have Book Two to write. If I'm going to finish in a timely manner, I have to write 1005 words a day between now and due date... and so far today, not a word has been tapped out of this computer.

I'm on it!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday's Recipe of the Week

Southern Pecan Pie

(No one sent a recipe for deviled eggs... I'll keep a look out in some of my church cookbooks I've toted from kitchen to kitchen the past I-don't-know-how-many-years... So I thought I'd share another Southern-Take-it-to-the-Funeral recipe.

The Southern pecan pie.

First, let's get something straight. There really is more than one way to say "pecan."


I go with the second. My mother went with the first.

Either way...pecan pie is...oh-my-gosh! When I was a little girl, it was my favorite dessert. I have the grandest memories of Mother shelling pecans just for my pie. Memories of walking around in my grandmother's yard, picking up pecans with my cousins. There was a way to hold two together, squeeze, and crack them.

I could not eat them raw, however. I was allergic and am still allergic to the raw pecan. Disappointing to say the least.

But in a pie... now we're talking. Check out this recipe:

3 eggs, separated                                                            
1 tsp. flour
1/2 stick butter (melted)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups pecans
2 shallow unbaked pie shells

Beat egg whites and yolks separately, then together. Add flour, sugar, syrup, and pecans. Place in a pie shell. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 35 minutes or until done.

Be sure not to overbake.

(Heavens no!)


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Southern Style Tunes

A Classic in its own right: Ray Stevens's (from my old stomping grounds of Albany, Georgia)
 "Sitting Up With the Dead"
Prepare to laugh!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Musings on All Things Southern

There are items every Southern girl must own, my mother once told me.

1.  A deviled egg platter. 
                 The deviled egg platter is not only useful for church suppers (making deviled eggs is time efficient and, really, not that difficult), but it is also perfect for taking a little something over to the home of the grieving. In the South, when someone dies, it is paramount that you take something edible to the home. A kitchen counter top, tabletop, and refrigerator can fill up faster than rigamortis sets in. There are Southerners who are all about death and dying. As our beloved Lewis Grizzard used to say, "you start looking bad and we'll hang out in your driveway." Southerners love a good funeral.

2. A black dress.
                This is, like the platter, useful for a number of occasions:
                           A.  Wear it right and you'll drive a man crazy.
                           B.  Wear it right and you'll make all the women envious.
                           C.  Funerals (see above). Of course the "sexy" black dress must be curtailed somewhat to be appropriate for the funeral. The options are limitless but should include pearls.
                           D.  Cocktail parties (just don't you dare be caught wearing the same dress twice. Good heavens, no!)

My mother gave me a deviled egg platter shortly after I married. She explained how important it was to have said platter. I took notes. I understood.

When she died, I found her deviled egg platter. My only biological child (a daughter) is not married yet...so I decided to gift her with it. But between one place and another, it fell and broke.

I cried. As you can imagine, for a number of reasons.

Recipes for Deviled Eggs (and some good Christian folk want to call them "Angel Eggs" but that just doesn't cut it with this true Southern girl) are fairly simple... but numerous. This Wednesday's Recipe of the Week will be all about the deviled egg.

If you have a recipe you wish to share, send it to me privately at PenNhnd@gmail.com.

We'll talk more about black dresses and funerals. Later.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday with Friends "The Southern Difference"

Today's guest: Jo Huddleston

The Southern Difference

In his Yankee dialect, my college classmate struggled to explain that Southern girls were different from those he’d known up north. The best he could do was to say we Southern girls were “just different, more…more….”
It seemed the difference he tried to communicate was one he sensed but couldn’t describe. He assured me, however, the difference he detected was a compliment to the South.

Since then I’ve tried to decide what difference that young man saw in those of us who’ve been born and raised in the South. What makes Southerners and the books and movies about us so universally interesting?

I’ve had about as much difficulty as my college friend did trying to pinpoint a single attribute. What is this common bond we seem to share, this gift from our culture?

Fannie Flagg says, “Our southerness holds us together.” What is our “southerness”? What is the one strong core in this cultural bonding we share? It’s with a sign of relief that I’ve finally identified a potential keystone of our Southern uniqueness: family loyalty.

The weekend of every fourth Sunday in May finds our family members traveling to their place of origin like the regular migration of swallows flying back to San Juan Capistrano. We return each May to the foothills of those luxuriant blue-green mountain ranges in the Cherokee National Forest north of Chattanooga.

On Sunday morning most of our family crowds into the small frame church located a few miles up the narrow, winding road from the home place. This is “Decoration Day” and the cemetery behind the church becomes an ocean of flowers billowing across graves of remembered relatives.

When the church service begins, we sit at attention in straight-backed, wooden pews. Swaying cardboard fans from the local funeral home help stir what little air eases in through the open windows. Aunt Anna Gene and Uncle Sam, honorary music directors for the day, lead congregational singing of favorite old hymns like Amazing Grace and Rock of Ages.

After church we hurry to Aunt Christine’s for the family’s traditional gathering on Decoration Day. The house has changed since Grandmother lived there, but its wide porch still stretches across the front, complete with roomy porch swing.

Grandmother birthed thirteen children, raising eleven of them. I remember when visiting Grandmother’s as a child, other relatives almost always were there also. When night came, people far outnumbered beds and couches. Four or five of us smaller ones had to sleep crossways on one bed. We considered this a treat, not a hardship. On the floor, pallets made of beautiful handmade quilts afforded other sleeping places.

At mealtimes Grandmother set the food on a wooden table nearly ten feet long. An equally long bench extended behind the table, against a wall, and as many children as could scrouge onto it could eat together. Assorted straight chairs pulled up to the table’s outside edge accommodated grown-ups for the meals.

That same long table has been kept over the years in an outside storage house. Every fourth Sunday in May it’s placed underneath the black oak shade tree in the backyard and barely holds the food brought for Sunday dinner. This outing in not a simple picnic but an elaborate dinner spread and served outside only because the house can’t hold all the kinfolks assembled. For this Sunday dinner, the ladies do themselves proud with their “country cooking.” We’re treated with favorite Southern dishes such as fried okra, chicken and dumplings, home-canned green beans, fresh corn cooked in deep black iron skillets, deviled eggs, corn bread, and Aunt Essie’s made-from-scratch chocolate meringue pies.

Each year Grandmother’s oldest son asks God’s blessing on the food before we eat, offering words of remembrance of family members who’ve passed away whom we won’t forget. Then with everyone over-stuffed and sitting comfortably in colorful unmatched lawn chairs we’ve brought in our car trunks, the swapping of stories begins. A year’s catching up commences.

Family member have served our country’s military in honorable, patriotic fashion, so typical of the South. We’ve sent out own to the rolling waters of the Pacific Ocean in World War II, the frozen ridges of Korea, the steaming jungles of Vietnam, and the scorching deserts of Iraq.

Some of us at one time or another has been “rich man, poor man….” But regardless of what we’ll become, we’re forever rich in loyal family ties. In retrospect it’s worth all our continued efforts to reach back and touch our roots, to connect with the magic of family.

Our family members have settled from Phoenix to Charlotte, from Miami to Detroit. But come the fourth Sunday every May, thoughts turn to the renewal of family ties and plans for the annual journey begin. Those in Grandmother’s bloodline strive to return “home” to East Tennessee.

My Yankee friend hadn’t slept on a quilt pallet on the floor or slept crossways on a bed with four cousins. He hadn’t sat in straight-backed, wooden church pews on tasted home-canned green beans. He didn’t know about Decoration Day every May and the genetic yearning to reunite with family.

How then could my friend describe our Southern difference?  A difference I wouldn’t trade for anything!

Want to read more of Jo's thoughts? Go to: http://johuddleston.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday's Talk About the Book

This gives me an opportunity to chat a little about my upcoming book, Chasing Sunsets

How about the story behind the story?

2004 brought to Florida what will forever be known as the Summer of Hurricanes (not to mention tropical storms). First Charley tore us to pieces. He was then followed by Frances, who was then followed by Ivan and Jeanne. There were others that built to Hurricane Force but either died out too soon or just never made it to land. But these four--Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne--were the four that devastated Florida.

I know. I was there.

Afterward, I was looking for a place to go for a writer's retreat. Everything on the east side of the state (where we'd gone previously) was still in a state of disrepair. So, I started looking to the west. One afternoon, while having my hair trimmed, I mentioned this dilemma to my hairdresser. She suggested Cedar Key, a tiny island off the west coast of Florida and somewhat near the panhandle.

I called a good friend of mine, Janice Elsheimer, said the word "Road Trip" and away we went.

We found Cedar Key to be a delightful little town. It is, in fact, an island...part of a group of keys...but to me it was more than that. It was the island time forgot. Not only did my cell service cease (for which I was grateful!) but everything about the location screamed of another era, another lifestyle.

And it called to me.

Janice and I returned again (and again and again). The next time I brought a stack of magazines to sit and thumb through. I remember it clearly. I was sitting on the bed in our condo, Janice was sitting on the sofa. We were both flipping the pages of various magazines when I stopped, tore one out and said, "Wanna know the story behind this ad?"

Janice said she did. And so I began to weave a tale, as I saw it, of four sisters and the childhood friend who impacted their lives in ways they wouldn't know until they were all adults. A few weeks later, I came home, worked on a proposal, and sent it to my editor extraordinaire, Vicki Crumpton. She liked what she saw, took it to committee, and they liked what they saw.

Three novels were "born."

Well... they were gestating...

Book One, Chasing Sunsets, will be released in May 2011. I not only look forward to holding my "baby" in my hands, I look forward the taking my readers away to a tropical paradise (at least to me it is...), to a place so distinct, so calming, so ... Cedar Key.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday's Recipe of the Week

Hey, y'all!

This is from my dear friend, writer extraordinareKaren O'Connor. Last week she shot a note that read, "How about some fried okra, spoon bread and hush puppies to go with the catfish stew? My southern-fried husband will be right over."  Karen

Fried okra... now that brings back memories! My mother frying okra meant it was going to be a banner night at the supper table...but when she fried yellow crook-neck squash... watch out! I stood next to her as she inched the flat fried vegetable from the sizzling grease. Just as soon as one cooled, I was eating it! Mother used to say, "Keep this up and there won't be enough for supper."

You mean, someone else may want some??? I hadn't thought of that.

Which brings me to the next point. Whenever something is fried in the South, it's not just about plopping it in the grease. And, just so you all from the North are not confused, good fried vegetables (like okra and squash) are best when corn meal is a part of the recipe. (That doesn't mean you just substitute corn meal for flour, however. There are rules here and they must be obeyed.)

Hush puppies. YUM... Not too long ago my friend Robi Lipscomb and I stole away to Cedar Key, Florida (where my next three novels are set). We heard about a restaurant called Robinson's. They advertised "all you can eat fried shrimp" for a reasonable price, so we drove down 24 to check it out.

Well, it was worth it! The best jumbo fried shrimp I have ever eaten...and I've eaten a lot of fried shrimp. But, to me, what really stole the show was the hush puppies. Not sure of their recipe but they were perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Robi and I let the "all you can eat shrimp" slide and asked for seconds on the hush puppies.

Anyone out there have a good recipe for hush puppies (the kind that make you want to slap your mama) you want to share? This group of hungry readers is listening!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Musings on All Things Southern

My husband and I were driving to the tax preparer the other day. It's not a far trip, but with Orlando traffic, it was a long trip. So, of course, we're just chatting away about this and that...and then the other.

We hit on the topic of being reared in the South. Of growing up in a more gentle era. His first ten years were in the 50s and mine were in the 50s and 60s. Back then, mamas could open the doors first thing in the morning, kids could run out and not come home until all hours, and parents never worried.

We ran, we played, we biked, we swam. We went into each other's homes as though we had our own bedrooms there. Our mothers were our mothers and everyone else's mother was our mother, too. You'd best not misbehave at so-and-so's house because not only were you disciplined there, you knew that your mama would know about it before you got home. You were disciplined all over again and God help you if you heard the words, "Just wait till your daddy gets home."

Then Dennis said, "You haven't lived until you've climbed a chinaberry tree."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Because they have a lot of limbs and the limbs are sturdy and so it's easy to climb. And you can sit up in them and talk if you want to."

So, that got me to thinking. How would you finish this line: You haven't lived until you've ... ?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Becoming Southern!

This story is from my friend Ane Mulligan. You can read more about Ane and her work at Southern Fried Fiction, which is what I'd call my fiction had she not stolen the idea from me! (Not really...she just thought faster than I did...must be her Northern genes coming out...)

So, anyway... here's Ane's story of her first encounter with Southern Directions:   

The South, Atlanta in particular, resembles its laid back lifestyle in its roads. They meander around and through the city, the country, and any tiny hamlet in between. They also change names capriciously.

I hail from Los Angeles, where from the earliest settlers, they laid out the towns in a grid. Starting from Olvera Street, Los Angeles grew. Roads ran north and south or east and west. On a rare occasion, you'd have one that ran diagonally. They never changed names, no matter how many miles or towns they went through. If you missed your destination, you drove around the block and came back at it.

We moved to Atlanta in 1990. After a few weeks of getting settled and making friends, I was ready to explore my new home. One woman, who shall remain nameless, told me about a wonderful discount house for designer clothes sold without the labels for a fraction of the original cost. Like any good bargain hunter, I wanted to check it out. She gave me the address and told me how to get there.

If this had been today, I could have punched it into my GPS, however, in 1990, we didn't have that luxury. I had to rely on her precision in giving directions, which I meticulously wrote down.

I drove out of my subdivision and turned left onto Pleasant Hill Road. Following her instructions, I turned right onto Jones Mill Road. My first moment of panic came hit when I found myself no longer on Jones Mill but on Somebody's Ferry. Did I miss a fork in the road?

Keeping up with traffic, which traveled in my estimation, entirely too fast for a two lane country road, I couldn't find anywhere to pull over. Finally, up ahead I saw a sign for a cross street. I signaled, slowed down and made the turn.

Then, I did what any logical person would do. I went around the block ... and ended up in Tennessee

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Southern Girl Kimberley Gardner Graham Shares a Recipe!

Whatever happened to dates? Not dating, although many of us might agree that dating is also on the brink of extinction. Instead, I’m referring to the small, round fruit that my grandmother used to bake in all kinds of deserts and cookies. She used to make date cookies every Christmas using sharp cheddar cheese and pecan halves. The cheesy mixture in combination with the sweetness of the dates were enough to knock the black boots off of Santa’s feet. Unfortunately, rare is the occasion when one stumbles across a date on the h’or derve table. (Again, I’ll remind you that I’m talking about a fruit, not a person.) 

So, in my attempt to bring back the long-forgotten date, I did a little research and found what I believe to be the best date recipe EVER. You might also be interested to learn that the date fruit comes from the palm plant, making it the perfect ingredient for your Lenten Season celebrations.

Here is the recipe that is so amazingly simple and wonderfully delicious that it has to be Southern:

Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Wrapped in Bacon:

1 pk. dried, pitted dates
1 pk. blue cheese
1 pk. bacon, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut dates along one side, stuff with blue cheese and wrap with half a piece of bacon. Arrange pieces on cookie sheet and cook for 25 minutes.


Kimberley Gardner Graham lives in Memphis, TN with her adoring hubby and three precious children. She is a writer, artist, and aspiring rollerblader. You can contact her via email at creative@thecarrotvine.com 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

How About a Recipe?

Catfish Stew 

#13 cast iron stew pot with lid
3 pounds onions, peeled and sliced
5 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 pound bacon
10 pounds catfish, cut into chunks

Fry the bacon, remove from pot and drain the drippings. Slice the potatoes, onions, and catfish. Put the head of the catfish in the bottom of the pot to keep the stew from scorching. Put a layer of potatoes, layer of catfish, and layer of onions. Salt and peeper between each layer. Do this until the pot is completely full. Pour one tall glass of water over the stew. Crumble bacon on the top. Put the lid on the pot and ... no matter what... do not stir the stew!

Start the stew on low and gradually increase the heat for about and hour to an hour and a half.

Serve to a lot of hungry people!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


In the South, you'll often hear canines referred to as dawgs.

Now, if you're heading down to God's Country, there are a few things you may need to know about dawgs.

The first is this: if you hear someone say, "That dog won't hunt," it doesn't mean they own a dog or know of a dog who has become too old, too tired, or too sick to run ahead of his master and pick up the now-dead game. What it means is that whatever is being attempted just isn't going to happen.

The second is: "I don't have a dog in this fight." This statement has nothing to do, by the way, with Michael Vick. This simply means that, "Here are my thoughts on the subject, but quite frankly, however it turns out, doesn't really matter to me."

Take for example if you are a University of Georgia alumni. Straight up. Nothing is coming between you and UGA.And then let's say you are at Wimbledon (for some odd reason, your spouse entered a contest and, by golly, you won), watching two of the best tennis pros in the world battle it out, one whomp of the fuzzy ball at a time. Your head turns left, right, left, right... and the person sitting next to you says, "Who are you betting on?"

And let's say, for the fun of it, that the person sitting next to you is actually from England. So, what he or she really said was, "Who are you betting on, bloke?"

(I dunno...)

And, since you could care less about tennis or Wimbledon but just to keep peace in the family you're sitting there, your reply would be, "Don't care. I don't have a dog in this fight."

Speaking of UGA... this is the ultimate dawg. "Uga" as he likes to be called. In the South, if you say you are a dawg fan, that means you are a part of the South with UGA blood running through its veins.

But don't ask me...I don't have a dawg in that fight...

On April 11, 2006, American Idol alumni Bucky Covington was sent home. Ryan Seacrest said, "How do you feel about going home, Bucky?"

To which Bucky replied, "Awe, man, I doncare...I juss wanna go home and pet ma dawg."

Ryan replied, "I didn't understand a word he just said."

Really? Well dogoneit..

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Southern is as Southern Does

So the other night I can't sleep. I make my way to the sofa in the family room, toss the accent pillows to the far end, pull the warm and fuzzy "throw" from the back and grab the TV remote.

My dog, Poodar, nestles at my feet.

I turn on the television and wait several seconds for a picture to emerge. When it does, there's Sally Field, looking older than her years and Tom Hanks looking trim and clean shaven. Forrest Gump.

"I'm home, Mama," Forrest says, making his way up the front porch steps.

"I know ya are, Forrest," Mama says, taking his face in her hands. Then she turns and calls to the maid, "Louise!"

In the background, a long drive makes a path to a stone entryway followed by two long rows of parallel live oaks. It is quite the landscape. And quite the scene.

When my mother was alive, and after a long period of having not seen me, she would call and say, "When are you coming home?"

I'd tease and say, "Why, Mother, I am home."

Then she would say, "You know what I mean."

To Mother, her house would always be my home.

When I was a young girl, I dreamed of getting away from Small Town America (what was I thinking?). Then I left. I went first to a college town. I felt all grown up but I was only fifteen minutes from my childhood. Then I went to one of the five largest cities in Georgia. I learned to drive in what, at the time, I thought was maniacal traffic (I had not yet moved to Orlando nor had I navigated the treacherous fast lanes of Atlanta). I found out quickly that in a city of this size you will not know everyone and everyone will not know you. Meaning: they won't know your business either. That has both good and bad attached to it.

After sixteen years, my family and I moved to Orlando, Florida. Now that was an experience. Family and friends from back home would say to me, "Well, at least you still in live in the South." to which I would reply, "Noooo...you have to go North to get South of here."

Mother cried, of course. I was another two hours farther away than I had been. May as well have been on the moon or some other distant galaxy. I promised to come more often, but I didn't, which of course I now highly regret. I got bogged down with making a house a home, people a family, life worth living.

Most Floridians have a certain style when it comes to house plans. The homes have that "Florida" look (amazingly enough), which means "an open floor plan." Rarely do you see the grand Colonial and Antebellum styles one would find in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Carolinas...hough it does happen. And, most Floridians have a certain style when it comes to furnishings. But when you come into my home, there's no doubt where I'm from. Antique furniture and bric-a-brac blended with newer pieces declare my heritage. Victorian inheritances meet Baer's Home Furnishings.

Being Southern is more than just about being born in the South-Eastern United States. It's a state of mind. It's a history and a future. It's a way of life. Complicated at times but we have no problem understanding it. It's about sipping Mint Juleps on the veranda and walking the dusty stretch of a country road.Swimming in a creek, fishing on a lake, and having high tea at the Ritz Carlton. It's your fanny frozen to the bleachers in the wintertime and fanning yourself with whatever you can find, sitting in the same place in the summertime, just watching a different game.

It's Gone With the Wind and Tobacco Road.

Which brings me to what this is all about. This blog is about all things Southern. A place where I can talk about my Southern heritage and you can share a little about yourself too. A place where I can discuss my work of Southern Fiction (for Baker/Revell) and you can share your grandma's recipe for Sweet Potato Pie.

Come on, now. Welcome to Eva Marie Everson's Southern Voice.