Although winter is my least favorite season (too cold, not enough daylight), I quite enjoy winter in the Deep South. It’s chilly for two weeks and then abracadabra, it feels like spring. What a lovely gift.
This winter has been a good one, I think. My orthopedic surgeon cleared me to walk without a brace, and I’ve greatly enjoyed the freedom. And then THIS.
I have two camellia trees in my backyard, and one of them bloomed much earlier than I expected. January 1, 2019, in fact. Good winter.
When you think winter wonderland, you don’t necessarily think Mississippi, but the Magnolia State really knows how to rock the Christmas spirit from what I’ve observed. Down the street from where I live, Belhaven University offers a Singing Christmas Tree event each December. It’s not a tree that is singing. It’s 100 alumni and students who stand on a 35-foot-tall structure, forming a tree and performing Christmas classics like “O Holy Night.” It’s the world’s oldest singing Christmas tree and draws thousands of attendees each year. Cool beans.
Need to buy a cool gift and want to #shoplocal? Head on over to Farmhouse in Canton, which is about 15 miles north of Jackson. I’ve visited a number of stores throughout Mississippi. This might be my favorite. Exquisite chandeliers and housewares? Check. Artisanal eats and goodies? Check. Friendly and helpful staff? Check.
Farmhouse is located on the historic Canton Square (165 W. Peace Street). I visited yesterday and was pretty much ready to move in the moment I stepped inside.
Another lovely store if you’re in Meridian is the Crooked Letter at 2120B Front Street. This marketplace sits across the street from the new Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience center and is packed to the gills with items by Mississippi artists. Enjoy.
At 1109 Pinehurst Place in #Belhaven sits the home of one of Mississippi’s greatest authors–Eudora Welty (1909—2001). If you visit Jackson, the Welty House and Garden Tour is a must-experience experience. The tour takes about an hour; admission is just $5.
Constructed in 1925, this two-story Tudor Revival is where Miss Welty wrote her most famous works–The Robber Bridegroom, The Optimist’s Daughter, and Delta Wedding in addition to short stories and essays. The house is largely intact as Miss Welty inhabited and left it before passing in 2001. Books and manuscripts are everywhere. There’s even her Smith-Corona typewriter at her desk in her bedroom that overlooks the tree-lined grounds of Belhaven College (now Belhaven University).
Source: Eudora Welty House and Garden, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Photos are not permitted, unfortunately, so you have to commit this house and its garden rooms (containing more than 30 varieties of camellia shrubs and trees) to memory as you move throughout. For those who cannot visit in person, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History offers an online photo tour, which you can experience here.
One thing I’ve learned as a Jackson-Mississippi-by-way-of-Chicago transplant: Gardening is a wonderful pursuit if it suits your interests. It sure does mine. I’ve enjoyed gardening in the Deep South as much as I have enjoyed bicycling in Chicago, which is a great deal. Planting flowers is not just helpful for your property’s curb appeal and enjoyment, it’s also a great strategy for reducing stress. A week or so after ankle surgery, I used a couple sunny afternoons to plant these mums and pansies. Navigating the front yard flower bed on crutches wasn’t all that easy and pretty slow going, but I like the process of digging and the outcome. The mums and pansies are so cheery. And low maintenance if that’s your thing.
Keeping up the lawn (freeing it of dead leaves and twigs) has been a lot more tedious than I remember from last autumn. This year I must have raked 13 oversize bags full of dead leaves, twigs, and fallen pine needles. Based on the amount of leaves still on the trees in my front and back yards, I probably have another 13 or so bags to go.
In the market for a quintessentially #Mississippi experience? You could spend some serious lettuce and make a reservation at one of our state’s finest hotels–The Alluvian in Greenwood, for example. Or you could hop into your car with $5 and get yourself to one of my favorite places–Donna’s #6 Produce in Florence.
Donna’s #6 is a large, open-air produce market (I hesitate to call it a produce stand), and the staff there are some of the friendliest Mississippians I have ever met. Wander in and check out all of the locally grown fruits and vegetables. Like sweet potatoes? Mississippi has three different varieties, and Donna’s #6 also sells sweet potato rolls behind the counter. Need something to dunk your biscuits in? Hello, Ribbon Cane Syrup. Donna’s #6 has this, too.
Donna’s #6 also has an adjoining gift store where they sell homemade ice cream. And the ice cream is quite good. Good stuff.
I was in Colorado last weekend catching up with friends who asked me what the food is like in #Mississippi. For starters, the fried chicken, the biscuits, the vegetables (all vegetables), they’re just different (better) here. Things I could eat every day: Butter beans and black-eyed peas. The butter beans are typically served with ham, which is sliced and mixed in. Serve butter beans with a side of black-eyed peas and you kind of have a meal.
Mississippi doesn’t have the reputation for BBQ that Tennessee or the Carolinas do, but I love myself some Pig & Pint in Jackson’s #Fondren neighborhood. They have a smoked chicken BBQ sandwich I order every time. So. Darn. Good.
In Greenwood, there’s a place called the Crystal Grill, which is a stone’s throw from the train station. If you visit Mississippi, you need to get yourself there. Trust me on this one, order the fried catfish. The catfish is Mississippi raised; Belzoni (pronounced Bel-zone-uh), Mississippi, is the catfish capitol of the state. And maybe the country. And leave room for dessert (pie). THE PIE. Enough said.As for biscuits, which I prefer with butter (salted) and strawberry jam, which I’m sure is heresy, there is Primo’s in Jackson. Primo’s is a Greek family-run diner that serves all manner of Southern staple foods and dishes. I love everything there and especially the biscuits. Must love biscuits.
A year ago the thought of working on the flower beds at my house seemed a daunting proposition. Surely I would screw it up. Surely I couldn’t tell if my efforts were successful. Well I could not be more incorrect. Two months and who knows how many pairs of gardening gloves later, this flower bed/gardening thing is actually a fun adventure. And plants and flowers will tell you pretty quickly if they like their new home. They have their own language, if that makes sense.My backyard is mostly shade so tried a haphazard mix of Boston ferns, hydrangea, impatiens, and ornamental grasses. The impatiens really took off. I water this part of my backyard every morning and am smitten with this hydrangea. So pretty.
The flower bed in my front yard is a bit more slow going, growth wise. It also gets more sun than the back yard so some of the plants are taking a beating with the heat of central Mississippi. I laid down a bed of pine straw to keep the flowers and plants from scorching and so far, so good. After I water the front yard flower bed, the leaves of the crotons stand upright as if to shout, “Hey thanks! I’ll have some more.”