Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happily Ever After

Today is my parents' 66th wedding anniversary. I was going to write a post in their honor, but after reading the one I did last year, I decided to use it again. I don't think I can come up with any better words today to share the story of their love and their life together ... a marriage that was truly made in Heaven.

The year was 1943, and America was in the midst of World War II. Times were tough and the future uncertain, to say the least.

He was a handsome young sailor, barely 19 years old, and she was his pretty little 17-year-old high school sweetheart. They were deeply and madly in love ... and nothing would do but that they get married.

Halloween fell on a Sunday that year, and at 9:30 a.m., between Sunday School and church, they were married at the First Methodist Church in Monroe, Louisiana. And from that day forward, they have honored and fulfilled their wedding vows by devoting their lives to each other, for better, for worse ... for richer, for poorer ... and in sickness and in health.

Today my parents are celebrating their 66th Wedding Anniversary, and are still just as deeply in love as they were that Sunday morning in 1943, if not more so. Of course, in 66 years of marriage there were some hard times ... and some sad times ... but their unwavering faith in God and their abiding love for each other gave them the strength to endure them.

My mother's favorite Bible verse is Corinthians 1:13:7, and I think it exemplifies their love and the life they have shared together:

Love bears all things,
Believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things.

It is difficult for me to put into words how truly blessed I feel to have these two precious people for parents. They have been an inspiration to me and my family throughout our lives, and I hope they know how much we all love and admire them.

Friday, October 30, 2009

First You Make a Roux

Today, I am participating in Foodie Friday, hosted by a very talented and gracious lady we all know as "Gollum." This is my first time to participate, and I'm looking forward to not only adding some new recipes to my collection, but meeting and getting to know some new blogging friends as well.

I'd like to share a recipe for Shrimp Gumbo, which originated in one of my favorite (and most used) cookbooks, Cotton Country Cookbook.

Last weekend, my husband and my parents and I decided to try the gumbo recipe, and we were very pleased with it. It is a rather mildly-seasoned gumbo, so if you like yours hot and spicy, you may want to add Tabasco or hot sauce to taste.

Shrimp Gumbo


4-5 pounds Shrimp, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
2 Cups Okra, sliced thin
1 large White Onion, chopped fine
3 Cups minced Green Onions (save some to sprinkle on top to serve)
1/2 Cup Bell Pepper, cut finely
2 or 3 Garlic Pods, mashed
1 Cup Cooking Oil
1/2 Cup Flour
2 Cans Chicken Broth
8 Cups Boiling Water
2 Tablespoons Salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper
1/3 Cup Ketchup
1 Tablespoon Lea & Perrins
1 Teaspoon McCormick Seafood Seasoning
Tabasco (to taste, or optional)

Peel and cut your shrimp and chop vegetables (you can do this a day ahead of time and refrigerate, if you'd like).

Start with two heavy iron skillets. In one, start the roux by combining 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup flour over LOW heat. Be sure and KEEP THE HEAT LOW, and stir constantly.

It usually takes an hour and 15 minutes to make the roux. Stir it until it becomes dark brown and flour sort of separates from the grease.

At the same time, in the other skillet, put in the other 1/2 cup of oil and saute' the okra and white onions until they are wilted.

Add the remaining vegetables with salt and pepper and stir them until they are wilted and soft.

When the roux is brown, add it to the vegetables and mix well (my picture makes mine look red, but the roux was brown).

Transfer all to a large soup pot. Add the chicken broth, boiling water, half of the peeled shrimp, and all of the seasonings.

Let this simmer for about one hour.

Cook the remaining shrimp in a saucepan with 1/2 cup boiling water and one tablespoon salt, until they are pink. Add shrimp and water to the gumbo, stir and remove from heat.

Serve over rice sprinkled with minced green onions.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crotons: A Blaze of Glory for Fall Landscaping

One of my favorite fall plants is the Croton. Its dazzling gold, orange, and red leaves are sure to add a blaze of color wherever you plant it.

I bought two crotons last week and put one in an urn in a flower bed and the other one in a planter in our courtyard, where, even on rainy days, their spectacular colors seem to add a touch of sunshine outside our windows.

Crotons prefer bright light, and the sun really brings out the colors. They do well in the cooler fall temperatures here in Mississippi, but won't tolerate a freeze unless protected.

If crotons are hardy where you live, I think you would enjoy their beautiful display of fall colors, at least until Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Place Called Canton -- Part III

This is my third and final post featuring the beautiful town of Canton, Mississippi. If you would like to read and see the pictures in my first two posts, click here for Part I, and here for Part II.

Today's tour begins with Grace Episcopal Church, ca 1853, which is the oldest church structure in Canton. I love the simplicity of its architectural lines and the red doors that greet its congregation and visitors.

Each of the stained glass windows along the side of the church has a unique inset ...

The next church I visited was the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

I was amazed by the exquisite mosaic tile work gracing its entrance ... it is truly a work of art (you can click on the pictures to enlarge them, if you'd like).

As I stood in the street taking pictures of the church, I just happened to look down and saw these sweet little blue wildflowers growing through the cracks of the pavement. You never know when you're going to find lagniappe, and these precious little flowers were mine that day.

My next stop was the Canton Cemetery, which is located next to the old jail.

It seems to have been the original cemetery for the town, with the earliest date of 1777. Many stones have disappeared, and there are countless unmarked graves. It has a Confederate Soldiers section, with about 200 names listed, and in the center of the cemetery square is a marker which reads: "In memory of those who sleep in unmarked graves." Unfortunately, that was one of the pictures I didn't get.

Here are a few more I did manage to capture with my camera, though.

I always notice fences wherever I go, and I love this old iron fence that enclosed part of the cemetery. I wish I knew how old it is ...

This concludes my tour of "a place called Canton." I enjoyed capturing some of its charm and beauty with my camera, and would love to go back someday to get some of the pictures I overlooked and wish I had taken (preferably early in the morning when the town is still sleeping).

If you enjoyed these posts about Canton, you may like to read my photo tours of Yazoo City and Raymond, Mississippi.

If you are ever in central Mississippi, I hope you will take the time to visit Canton and experience its charm, history, and southern hospitality for yourself. You can find detailed visitor information at its Convention and Visitors Bureau web site.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Canton -- Part II

This week I'm featuring Canton, Mississippi, and today's post highlights some of the colorful historic buildings around the Square, and also some of the old houses in the historic district. If you missed my post from yesterday and would like to read it, you can click here.

Be sure and check out my blogging friend Marty Kittrell's blog to see Canton from his perspective, too.

All of the buildings around Canton's Square are interesting, but I especially like the ones shown below (you can click on the pictures to enlarge them, if you'd like). You can see from the dates on some of them that they are quite old.

I love the windows and ornate architectural details on this building, and like the way it looks in the sepia tones below.

I love this whimsical little art gallery, and there's a lot of truth in its sign ... it did make me smile ...

The post office is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I love the age-worn patina of the hardware on the post office doors ...

Any time I visit a town with the idea of taking pictures, I like to get off the beaten path at some point and check out the backs and sides of the buildings along its main street. And I never fail to find something of interest ... to me, at least. For example, old faded signs advertising products or businesses that have faded away, too.

And vine-covered windows ...

And, even though the back of this building is not picturesque, it's as much, if not more, a part of the building's history as its pretty storefront side. Just look at all the "character" it has!

This building isn't very pretty either ...

... but upon closer inspection, I discovered that at sometime during its history, it must have been home to the local Sears Roebuck store (perhaps a catalog store?).

I'd like to share some pictures of just a few of the many beautiful old houses in the historic district of Canton. This first picture is of the 19th century Greet Revival Priestley House, which was built in 1852, as the home of Dr. James Priestley, one of Canton's early physicians and first postmaster.

This is one of my favorite houses in Canton. It is called the "Vanity Palace-Fields Home," and at Christmastime, the owner sets up a little carousel in the porch gazebo.

[If you would like to read a very interesting note I received from a lady who grew up in the Vanity Palace, please scroll down to the bottom of this post.]

Mosby House, ca 1852-1865

Wohlden House, ca 1828

How would you like to have a driveway like this one greet you every time you come home?

This beautiful little house is on the grounds of Wohlden House, and I would love to know its history.

One of the oldest houses in Canton is this primitive log cabin that was constructed between 1820 and 1830, according to experts at the State Archives Department of Mississippi. The Madison County Historical Society moved it to its present location (behind the old Madison County Jail), restored it in 1985, and furnished it with period artifacts.

The old Madison County Jail was built in 1870 and was in use for 99 years. It now houses the Historical Society.

For tomorrow: Churches and Cemetery

The following is a note I received from a lady who grew up in Vanity Palace, the grand old Victorian house featured above.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your memories and the history of its restoration by your dad.

My father purchased this house for our family when I was 6 six years old. It was in terrible condition at the time and had been left empty for years.

He had to redo the foundation (b/c the house had fallen on one side). My dad had a vision and fell in love with this house. My mom was questionable and wondered what in the world he was thinking at the time.

My mom and dad worked on the house throughout the years. I remember my mom sewing the drapes for every window. The drapes were massive – tassels and all. The wooden floors were black. My dad sanded the floors and said if he ruined them then he would just replace them. Once he sanded the floors, the wooden pieces were remarkable. Each piece of wood around the border were delicately placed in patterns of different colors of wood. The floor was breath-taking as you can imagine how long this took someone to lay these patterns (I’m not sure if the fire that happened years later destroyed the floor?).

If you notice the small wooden pieces above the front stairs above the eaves ... my dad glued each piece back on the house (they were broken off and had fallen when we purchased the house). They are the original pieces. It is so funny because he glued them with Elmer’s glue and they are still there!

There was a beautiful urn that used to sit on a large concrete block in front of the gazebo and yes, he repaired the urn with Elmer’s also! I’m not sure what happened to the urn?

My parents replaced all the missing porch spindles with the legs of stools that originated from an old furniture factory – they didn't match but close enough he said. The house was a masterpiece when they finished and was open to the public during Christmas and through garden club tours. My sister had her wedding reception in this house during the 70’s and over 500 people attended --- I think their intention was to see the house ….

It was enjoyable growing up in our home. I lived there until I married and moved. We had large family events in our home during the holidays and entertained just about every weekend.

My parents sold the house to a couple and my parents retired out of town. The house burned while the couple owned it and the fire destroyed the original delicate Victorian staircase. The couple that purchased the burned house did a wonderful job of remodeling the house but I’m not sure if the front staircase was ever built back to its original showcase. I guess sometimes we have sentimental recollections by attaching ourselves to elements of the past. Good memories and the best childhood one could ever imagine in that old house.

Anyway, thanks for showcasing our beautiful home. I will always consider it my family’s home and “Vanity Castle-The Fields Home”. I don’t think it would have ever been cherished as much as it is today if my dad didn't have a vision to purchase this old, dilapidated, fallen home --- he had a vision that has continued to be treasured today by other families so they can create their own wonderful memories.