little paths so startled

living, decorating, and eating in hattiesburg, mississippi

Archive for November 2011

decorations, deconstructed

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Lights, greenery, and ornaments. Just not in the usual configuration.

We decided a couple of weeks ago not to get a traditional Christmas tree this year, and, instead, we created this bottle tree as a permanent art fixture.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not decorating for the holidays – it just looks different this year.  I’m going for low(er) environmental impact, with all the cheer of traditional décor.

We love the smell of Fraser fir and pine, so we went to Lowe’s and picked up the discarded Christmas tree branches (they’re free!).  We brought home a tarp-full of clippings, and I prepared the vases I’ve been collecting from the Calico Antique Mall.  A few hours of clipping and sap-covered hands later, the halls were decked.

The largest arrangement: Fraser fir in a Hoosier glass vase on Daniel's desk.

A smaller Fraser fir arrangement tucked into the pony wall garden.

A low-profile pine arrangement on the coffee table.

A low-profile Fraser fir arrangement on the island. Our cheery red bowl is beginning to fill up with Christmas party invites and cards.

A pine arrangement adds drama to the table.

Fraser fir on the entryway console.

A simple pine arrangement for the bathroom counter.

I also went through my box of Christmas tree ornaments and selected some to place at the base of arrangements, and I set out tea lights and votives.  I used burlap (leftover from the bottle tree project) at the base of the table and coffee table arrangements.

Gold ornaments and votives sparkle at the base of the table arrangement.

Red ornaments (in a Good Earth Mockingbird dish) at the base of the coffee table arrangement.

Papier-mâché animals (made in Haiti from newspaper) flank the vase on the dining room console.

A collection of gold votives for the piano.

My next step is to find holly berries to add to these arrangements – perhaps closer to house tour time.  For now, though, we’re enjoying the smell of evergreen and the romance of the candles and lights.


Written by Ann

November 27, 2011 at 12:39 pm

small things

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As much as I would love to redecorate my entire house every season, all I really need to transition into fall/winter are a few well-placed blankets: a lightweight wool throw (from West Elm) for the living room and a cotton quilt (from Target) for the bed.  Now if it would just get cold…

Since our bottle tree displaced the café chair, I moved the chair into the living room seating area.  More seating for holiday entertaining.

I picked up this sequined wristlet to carry to the wedding in New Orleans this past weekend, and I decided it was too pretty to stow away.

Just enough newness to put some pep in my (decorating) step.  Without a seasonal overhaul.

Written by Ann

November 23, 2011 at 10:31 am

new orleans: west african cuisine and a wedding

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A delicious meal at Bennachin in the French Quarter.

There’s a lot to love about the French Quarter in New Orleans.  We’re not always up for the tourist crush or the elusive (and expensive) parking, though, so we often head to the Garden District or Uptown/Carrollton.  And until this past weekend, we had not stayed in a hotel in the city – we usually stay with family or friends, or just make a day trip.  This weekend, we made up for all that: I had a conference at the lovely Maison Dupuy in the French Quarter, and on Saturday, one of Daniel’s college friends got married at the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street.

We’ve been wanting to try Bennachin, an African restaurant in the French Quarter, for some time, and since it was within walking distance of the Maison Dupuy, we finally made it there.  Bennachin is off the beaten tourist path, and it’s absolutely delightful.  There is a whole menu section of vegetarian dishes, and several of the other entrees can be made vegetarian.  Daniel had the bikai ni curry (eggplant, mushrooms, and bean sprouts in a curry sauce over cous cous), and I had the kome ni makondo (black-eyed peas in onion and tomato stew over coconut rice with fried plaintains).  Thank heavens for New Orleans food.

While we were at the Maison Dupuy, there was a revolving door of weddings in the courtyard. And it's easy to see why.

We never need an excuse to visit Café du Monde. Instead of waiting in line for crowded restaurant seating, though, we got our beignets and coffee to-go and enjoyed the morning light on a nearby bench.

Candles and lights brought magic to the already-gorgeous courtyard at the Royal Sonesta, the setting for our friend's wedding.

I love this: a tea light in a glass bubble planter.

The good times in the Big Easy have rolled, and now we’re ready for good times and good food with both our families this week.

Written by Ann

November 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm

thanksgiving goodness: butternut squash with wild rice dressing

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A healthy and hearty dish for Thanksgiving and beyond.

This evening was our neighborhood’s annual Thanksgiving potluck, and I’d been contemplating my dish for days.  I knew I wanted something that had all the goodness of traditional Thanksgiving fare, and something that could double as a side for omnivores and an entree for vegans/vegetarians.  Today, I settled on this recipe; even though I hadn’t made it before, it just looked too good to pass up.  And it turned out to be worth the risk.  It was a big hit, even with self-professed squash haters.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, except I juiced my own oranges and, instead of a seasoning blend (many of which are high in sodium), I used primarily pepper to highlight the flavors.  I’ll definitely be making this again.

Written by Ann

November 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm

indoor bottle tree: DIY and eco-friendly

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Our newest art installment: a bottle tree. It’s already dressed up for the holidays, but unlike traditional Christmas trees, this one has a new lease on life.

I love the holidays, and I love decorating for the holidays – but for the past couple of years, Daniel and I have been feeling vaguely guilty about purchasing a Fraser fir that met an untimely end and was trucked down from Canada. Plus, taking down a Christmas tree after the holidays is terribly sad. This year, I started researching alternatives to Christmas trees, but nothing really stood out to me. I realized I wanted more than an alternative – I wanted something to be displayed year-round.Enter the bottle tree. When we moved into the condo, we created a hanging bottle tree (seen here) for the exposed beam above the steps, and yesterday it hit me: I wanted an indoor bottle tree for the exposed brick wall. But I didn’t want to buy any of the materials, and I didn’t want to use iron (a non-renewable resource) for the frame. So I asked Daniel if we could go look for a fallen branch in the recently-cut woods near the construction site at his school, and off we went.

Recently, the school cut all the pine trees in these woods for timber, so we suspected there might be some fallen hardwood branches.


Eventually we came upon this fallen branch, and we knew as soon as we saw that we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect branch.

We hauled it home and began trimming the ends. Our initial goal was just to get it to fit through the door, and we just barely did.

That evening, we went bin diving at Target’s recycling station, the only place in town that recycles glass, to add to our collection. We washed the bottles out and soaked them overnight in hot water and an oxygen cleaner, which made removing the labels much less tedious.

This morning, we set up the branch in our heavy-duty Christmas tree stand, gradually pared down the ends, and added the bottles. To finish the look, I wrapped the stand in burlap (the only purchase made for this project). I couldn’t be more delighted with the result: it has all the drama and scale I was hoping for. And nature truly is the best artist.

Since the holidays are coming, and since we’re participating in the Walthall open house tour during our neighborhood’s annual Victorian Candle-lit Christmas, we added lights to our bottle tree. I was afraid they’d look tacky, but Daniel painstakingly wrapped them just around the center branch for just the right amount of shine.

Et voilà! Holiday cheer. (Yes, it’s November. Don’t judge.)

P.S. If you live in the Hattiesburg area, come to the Victorian Candle-lit Christmas Saturday December 11 and Sunday December 12. (I’m sure that website will be updated soon with this year’s details.) It’s truly gorgeous: candles line all the sidewalks, there’s a tour of several lovely homes, there are horse-drawn carriage rides, and when you’ve seen it all, you can enjoy refreshments in the Walthall (on the corner of Rebecca and Court). This year, the Walthall condos are having an open house, too, so you can come visit us and our neighbors. I’ve already planned my eco-friendly décor, and I can’t wait. More on this to come.

Written by Ann

November 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm

that holiday feeling

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Today I stopped by Click Boutique & Gallery, my downtown source for affordable vintage-inspired frocks (as seen here), to pick up some candles and to visit their new neighbor, Twelve Oaks Accessory Garden.  But the holiday decorations and dresses caught my eye, and Adam and Jason had me decked out in the perfect party dress and shoes in no time.  I even got a holiday candle.  I am so ready.  And I can’t get enough of these festive colors and textures.

This is the candle I went to get. I adore these literary-themed candles, and this woodsy scent is my favorite. Black plum + persimmon + oakmoss. And it’s Tolstoy!

But then I couldn’t resist the Dickens Christmas candle. Tangerine + juniper + clove.

Cue Christmas music.

veggie chili

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Lots of veggies for this hearty and healthy chili.

I can’t believe it’s November.  I ran a 10K here in Hattiesburg this morning, and the cool weather was perfect for racing.  I was inspired to make this vegetarian chili, our winter staple, to warm me up – and provide plenty of leftovers for weekday meals.

I’ve been making variations of this vegetarian chili for two years now; I started with this recipe and have been playing with ingredients and seasonings.  (The original recipe is a great place to start for proportions.) NB: this recipe makes enough soup to feed a small army – or a supper club, or a group of friends.  It’s been a big hit with the latter two.

Lately, we've been trying to buy less canned food and have been soaking our own beans, so this was the first time I've made the chili without relying on the admittedly less responsible canned versions.

I start by sautéing the minced garlic (I used four cloves) in olive oil, then I add in the onion.

Then I add in the chopped veggies (I use tomatillos and green onions instead of the canned green chile peppers called for in the recipe), bay leaves, oregano, cumin, and salt.

While the veggies are simmering, I crush the tomatoes. We do use canned whole, peeled tomatoes; we just make sure there are no preservatives.

Next, I mix in in the crushed tomatoes, chili powder, and black pepper.

Great northern beans, red kidney beans, and black beans add protein and texture to this dish (and I use extra beans instead of the veggie burger crumbles called for in the recipe). We soaked and cooked them beforehand.

Finally, I stir in the beans, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, I prepare brown rice in my handy rice cooker.

And then it's time to eat. Plus, the house smells amazing.

Written by Ann

November 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm

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