Category Archives: Being Southern

My Father the Farmer: Dirt Runs Through His Veins

dirt in his veins

My father is a farmer. Not the up with the rooster, working the fields, dirt under nails kind of farmer. He is the kind who looks at a yard and sees a small plot of earth in which to grow things. The kind who thinks and plans and plants and eats and then thinks and plans….He is a man of letters with South Carolina agrarian blood generations old pulsing through his veins. He scrapes scraps, churns refuse, spreading and working it through the soil like a baker kneading bread. He sees life beginning, stretching, full of possibility, regenerating in every square inch of dirt he has sanctioned. I have heard the tenderness in his voice as he walks me through his garden, seen the loss in his eyes when he talks about leaving a place and leaving behind his plants. He has taken an impossibly cold, rock of an island in the St. Lawrence River and planted tomatoes and herbs. Dirt runs through his veins.

I have long hoped that this same blood runs through me—this love of the land and tending things. Maybe it will become more dominant as I age, settle and slow down but for now, it is still just a longing. I lack the patience, the attention to detail and the long view that characterizes one who plants. My desire is for the immediate, the applause, the back slap. I live for the dreams, the ideas, the process, the prototypes. My father patiently turns and nourishes the soil. Waters and dead heads and stakes his plants. He collects leaves from neighbors, hand washes delicate egg shells and sorts through the remains of meals to create the perfect compost cocktail.

These things don’t come naturally to me. So, for now, I emulate hoping that in the doing—the digging and planting—any remnants of the South Carolina soil that runs in my veins will be stirred and awaken the farmer in my soul.

Celebrating Teachers: How to Host a Teacher Appreciation Luncheon


With the school year almost over, it is an ideal time to thank the teachers who have guided our children for the last nine months. The parents’ association of many schools celebrate the faculty and staff throughout the year while in some schools they are honored during a specific “teacher appreciation” week.

We have done a variety of things at my daughter’s school during her twelve years there. It depended on the age division, parent involvement and leadership. Since she has been in high school, we have supplied the faculty and staff lounge with beverages and snacks each month and hosted a nice luncheon near the end of the school year. I have been responsible for the luncheon for the last few years.

Ashley Hall, Charleston SC

My daughter attends Ashley Hall—an independent, girls’ school in Charleston, South Carolina. There is a lovely campus with a beautiful lawn and hundreds year old live oak trees. Given the setting, a luncheon on the lawn is a must (as well as lots of prayers for good weather).

I chose a travel/bon voyage theme this year knowing that everyone was ready to get away from it all in some way or another. The food table was decorated with antique [looking] luggage, globes and atlases.

antique suitcases and globes

food tables

The beverage and dessert tables were decorated in a more whimsical par avion (blue and red) theme with colorful, vintage [-like] suitcases and paper banners made from road maps.

par avion image


Each table had a living centerpiece (taken from my front porch container garden).






luncheon on the lawn

Each place was set with a merci treat bag.



The favorite part of the luncheon is always the “giveaways.” I found lots of great ideas that fit our travel theme at TJ Maxx and Marshalls.



Parents donated lots of great items to give away too.


gifts up close

We held the drawing for prizes after lunch.

the drawing

The prizes are always a hit with the teachers. These two had trouble deciding what to pick. This year we had so many prizes that every teacher was able to select two.

making a choice


The key to the success of this luncheon–as always–was the great parent volunteers who helped decorate and who donated or made food.



piled up

All of the supplies and decorations waiting to be loaded back into my car at the end of the luncheon.

The “Ashley Hall Upper School Faculty and Staff Luncheon on the Lawn” is a wonderful tradition and is just a small way of showing appreciation to the incredible individuals who guide and teach our daughters.


 How does your school celebrate and thank its faculty and staff?

How to Spend a Year Writing

Happy 1year birthday to

Well, today is the one-year birthday of this blog.

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday…

I don’t think that I ever really believed that I could actually spend a year writing on a regular basis. Okay, I use the term “regular” rather loosely. But despite my best attempts at procrastination, I still managed to write. No, I needed to write. And apparently I needed to write in this format (i.e., blogging).

The actual look and name and feel of my blog has changed several times as I learned more about blogging but the content has remained consistent. I have attempted to write about my life in an authentic way–not white-washing it as I hope many of my posts and photos demonstrate.

I have learned quite a bit about blogging along the way and even more about myself. I feel as if I am just beginning to hit my stride, so here I go. I am going to spend another year writing this blog. I do hope you will continue on this journey with me.

Below you will find links to my top ten blog posts from the past year. I invite you to read them again–or for the first time.

Thank you and God’s peace and blessings to you.



1. How to Make a Spring Break Survival Kit

Spring Break Survival Kit


2. Lessons from Miss Frances: On Living, Loving and Laughing

"Lessons from Miss Frances on Living, Loving and Laughing" on


3. How to Silence the Voice of Doubt

How to Silence the Voice of Doubt: Just write


4. When Everything Has Gone to the Dogs

"When Everything has Gone to the Dogs," Chester, one of the "twins"--English Springer Spaniels


5. Game Day Done Right

Ole Miss Road Trip

6. The Love of a Dog

A dog's love


7. Bee Smitten: Banner Celebrations

Oliver's banner


8. Time Flies When You are Living Life

Daddy-daughter chefs in "Time Flies When You are Living Life"


9. How to Have the Perfect Vacation

"A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in." -Robert Orben How to Have a Perfect Vacation on


10. Bee Smitten: A few of My Favorite Things

"Bee Smitten: A Few of  My Favorite Things / Photo of Judith Ann Entrican Kirkpatrick

Lessons from Miss Frances: On Living, Loving and Laughing

"Lessons from Miss Frances on Living, Loving and Laughing" on

Lessons on life come from many people.

I have learned a great many things from the women in my life. Generations of women: mother, daughter, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, friends, teachers, mentors, employers, . . . .

These women came from different places and different times. Our paths crossed perhaps for but a minute or we may have walked together for many years.

Not all of the lessons taught were ones that I wanted to learn–or for that matter, thought that I needed to learn. Many were learned the hard way.

The wisdom they shared ranges from the practical to the philosophical and includes: entertaining, parenting, graciousness, marriage, having a thankful attitude, being a lady, maturing spiritually, etc.

So, who is Miss Frances, you may ask?

Well, for the purposes of this series of posts let’s just say she is an old friend of the family. In all honesty she is an amalgamation of the many women in my life and as such, she is the wisest of us all.

I look forward to sharing with you on a regular basis lessons from Miss Frances on living, loving and laughing

When Christmas Knocks on the Door

Boxwood Wreath and Tartan Bow

During the Christmas holidays, I cannot help but think about my Aunt Carol and Uncle Bob—two people who have had a tremendous impact on my personal and spiritual life. This family provided a stable, comfortable and Christian home during a very tumultuous time in my life. They shared their faith with me in so many ways. Most importantly they lived it.

Christmas at the Massengill’s home in Brookhaven, Mississippi, was my very favorite time and remains to be some of my fondest memories. I was always invited to stay the week before Christmas as my mother worked up until Christmas Eve. I looked forward to spending time with my cousins, Karen and Robb, and to being a part of this family.

The days leading up to December 25th were full of busyness but what I remember most was delivering presents to friends and neighbors. It seemed to me as though there were hundreds of houses to visit and gifts to exchange.


We never left the house to run an errand that we didn’t include a stop or two along the way to drop off “a little something.” And the back doorbell to their house never stopped ringing as neighbor after neighbor brought over treats or gifts.

goodies to deliver

This community-wide gift giving was what I really looked forward to perhaps even more than the gifts I would receive on Christmas morning. I was blessed to be a part of this special family.

This tradition of delivering gifts to friends and neighbors in the few days before Christmas has become one of my favorite parts of Christmas as an adult. I remember several years ago that I decided to make a meal rather than sweet treats for each of my friends and deliver it during those last few hectic days before Christmas.

Delivering goodies

I loved driving around Charleston dropping off these gifts. I often caught the recipient off-guard. There is such an intimacy experienced when you step into someone’s home especially when you have surprised them with your visit and disarmed them with a gift.

These unexpected visits resulted in slowing down and breathing…capturing a moment of peace and joy…showing love to and receiving it from others….

It was an opportunity to experience the real meaning of Christmas.

Have you had an opportunity to slow down and experience the real meaning of Christmas?

Today's activity

Our Home for the Holidays

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

Whew! I have finally gotten my home decorated for Christmas. It has been a long process this year, for a number of reasons, but at least this part of the preparations is finished. I wasn’t too bothered by the delay since we will be at home for the holidays. Yaay!

This box sat in my entry hall for almost a week.

Box of Christmas Decorations (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

A “display” of Christmas decorations waiting to be placed.

I love vintage-style ornaments and decorations.

Tiny Ornaments


Little Tree Decorated Several of my favorite ornaments survived from my childhood like this Santa. I guess it actually is vintage.

Does that mean that I’m vintage?

Childhood Santa Ornament

Air Stream Christmas Pillow I love the idea of air stream trailers but I’m not sure living in one in the snow would be quite as cozy as this pillow suggests.

My real passion is tartan (and not just for Christmas decorations). I suppose it has something to do with my Scottish ancestry but, whatever the reason, I am mad for plaid as is evidenced here.

Tartan Bagpiper Nutcracker

Springer Spaniel with Tartan Boxes

Kilt Figurine

Tartan and Greens

Tartan Santa with Sheep

My new favorite Christmas decoration is the “Joy” banner my friend Elisabeth Hunter made for me–tartan fabric, of course. She is one of the few people who truly gets my obsession for all things tartan.

Mantle with Greens, Candles and Joys

Mantle with greens, candles and tartan joy

Joy Upclose

Joy up close

You will notice in the creche below that the baby Jesus is not included. He won’t make his debut until Christmas morning. We also don’t place the three wise men at the manger until Epiphany on January 6th. We move them around the house to symbolize their journey to the Christ child. I included them in this photo because it looked too sparse without them.


Bowl full of ornaments

One of our most treasured items for Christmas is the Advent stockings I made for my daughter when she was two years old.

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings up close

Small additions and repairs have been made over the years.

Throughout the year I find little things to put in each stocking. I also include a Bible verse. Even at 17, my daughter still loves the tradition of opening one stocking each morning for the 24 days leading up to Christmas.

Handmade Advent stocking

Somehow I even managed to decorate the front porch this year.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

Wellies with Greens Pine Cones in Galvanized Tub

Santa Please Stop Here

“Santa please stop at my house”

This wreath is made from preserved boxwood. I bought mine locally for Christmas 2012 and it is still just as lovely. Click here if you want to learn how to preserve boxwood.

Boxwood Wreath and Tartan Bow

Now that the decorating is done, I have to finish my shopping, start baking and wrap all of my presents . . . .

Oh, and maybe I will make some time for this as well.

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

What are your favorite decorations and traditions for Christmas?

Wishing you a joyous and peaceful Christmas!

Angels we have heard on high








Game Day Done Right: Road Trip to Ole Miss

Ole Miss Road Trip

Watch the video “Road trip to Ole Miss.” To watch the video on a pc, click here. If you are watching this on a mobile device, click here.

My daughter is a junior in high school so we are beginning to look at colleges. Two weekends ago my husband and I  took her and a friend back to our alma mater: Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi. We had not gone to a ball game in over twenty years and we were so excited to show off Ole Miss and to see friends and family.

Driving to Mississippi

Driving to Mississippi

Our 10-hour drive from Charleston  (really more like 14 hours when you include bathroom stops and meals) began on Thursday after school. We stopped outside of Atlanta for the night and got back on the road early Friday morning in order to make our 12 noon appointment for a campus tour.

The Lyceum, Ole Miss

The Lyceum, Ole Miss (Photo by M. K. Smith)

Several weeks ago one of my friends asked me if I really wanted my daughter to go to Ole Miss to college because if not, I should definitely not take her on a game day weekend.

I should probably have listened to her.

I’m not sure we could have arranged a better visit if we had been recruiters.

We arrived on campus just in time to make the academic fair where the girls had an opportunity to talk with representatives from various schools and programs. Next we took a tour of the campus and housing options. After a quick walk along Sorority Row and a brief tour of my sorority house, we found ourselves in the Grove, the heart of Ole Miss and its Game Day activities and one of the country’s top tailgating venues.

The Circle at Ole Miss Before Game Day

The Circle at Ole Miss Before Game Day (Photo by M. K. Smith)

Afterwards we left campus and gave the girls a quick overview of Oxford before heading over to Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner.

Rowan Oak, Home of William Faulkner, Oxford, Mississippi

Rowan Oak, Home of William Faulkner, Oxford, Mississippi (Photo by M. K. Smith)

The house and woods surrounding the site were favorites of ours while in school.

Front Parlor, Rowan Oak

Front Parlor, Rowan Oak (Photo by M. K. Smith)

Draft of "The Fable" by William Faulkner

Draft of “The Fable” by William Faulkner on the wall of back bedroom (Photo by M. K. Smith)

View from Rowan Oak second floor (Photo by M.K. Smith)

View from Rowan Oak second floor (Photo by M.K. Smith)

After our behind-the-scenes-tour of Rowan Oak, we headed south to the tiny town of Taylor for the best catfish around at Taylor Grocery.

Taylor, Mississippi (Photo by M.K. Smith)

Taylor, Mississippi (Photo by M.K. Smith)

Taylor Grocery (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

Taylor Grocery (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

Taylor Grocery (Photo by M.K. Smith)

Taylor Grocery (Photo by M.K. Smith)

The girls agree: "Eat or we both starve." (Photo by M.K. Smith)

The girls agree: “Eat or we both starve.” (Photo by M.K. Smith)

We headed into town early on Saturday even though kick off wasn’t until 6 pm. Parking is limited in Oxford and we had much to do that day.

The weather was perfect for football but a bit colder than these Charlestonians were used to. We needed supplies so we headed to one of Oxford’s most venerable establishments: Neilson’s Department Store on the square.

Ole Miss Rebel banners at Neilson's on Game day (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

Ole Miss Rebel banners at Neilson’s on Game day (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

We spent the next couple of hours wandering around the square stopping at some of our old favorites and many new shops.

Oxford Square (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

Oxford Square (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

The double-decker bus shuttles fans to the Grove on Game Days (Photo by M.K. Smith)

The double-decker bus shuttles fans from Oxford Square to the Grove on Game Days (Photo by M.K. Smith)

One of our favorite old haunts is Square Books, one of the country’s best independent bookstores.

Square Books (Photo by M.K. Smith)

Square Books (Photo by M.K. Smith)

After shopping and eating lunch on the square we made our way down to the Grove to participate in the time-honored tradition of tailgating with family and friends.

Ole Miss tailgating

Ole Miss tailgating

Tailgating tent complete with chandelier (Photo by M.K. Smith)

Tailgating tent complete with chandelier (Photo by M.K. Smith)

College friends

College friends

The girls with Colonel Reb, former Ole Miss mascot (Photo by M.K. Smith)

The girls with Colonel Reb, former Ole Miss mascot (Photo by M.K. Smith)

One of the best parts of our trip to Ole Miss was seeing our Mississippi cousins,



The walk to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with the thousands of other Ole miss fans was so exciting.

Ole Miss band's pre-game show

Ole Miss band’s pre-game show

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

The game was thrilling!

Ole Miss vs. LSU, October 19, 2013

Ole Miss vs. LSU, October 19, 2013

Hotty Toddy! Do you know the cheerAre you ready?

Ole Miss Rebel fans

Ole Miss Rebel fans

Amazing game! Ole Miss 27- LSU 24 (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

Amazing game! Ole Miss 27- LSU 24 (Photo by Amy Watson Smith)

Our ride back to Charleston began early the next morning. It was a long, long drive.

Driving through Alabama (Photo by M.K. Smith)

Driving through Alabama (Photo by M.K. Smith)

My friend was right about taking our daughter to Ole Miss on a Game Day. She was impressed. We have only started exploring her options so who knows where she will end up.

Just to be safe, maybe we should start looking into condos in Oxford…


Check out this video for more about Game Day at Ole Miss.