Southern Home Cookin Menu

Old Bay Deviled Eggs

Sweet Tea

Chicken Fried Steak with White Cream Sauce

Fried Okra

Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Black-eyed Peas

Corn Bread

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Update: Last nights dinner was scrumptious! I have a few notes regarding the recipes and changes that were made.

Old Bay Deviled Eggs: delish. Loved the touch of celery on the top. Thanks Mike & Ann!

Chicken Fried Steak: I used the top round that was suggested and prepared it two ways. At the grocery store I had the butcher “cube”  half of the steaks and the other half I tenderized as was shown in the recipe. Tip: use plastic wrap over the meat to keep all of those juices from splattering everywhere. I breaded and fried them just as the recipe recommended but I seasoned all of the meat with salt and pepper before they were breaded for some depth of flavor. The one that I tried without preseasoning just wasn’t as tasty. My observations about the two different styles of meat prep were that the tenderized, machine cubed steaks were just better. The hammered-by-hand steaks were tougher and they did not hold the breading as well. The white gravy was decadent.

Fried Okra: Oh, the fried okra. I was a bit panicked on Sat. morning. The grocery chain that had carried okra no longer had it available. I headed out early to the Regional Market in Syracuse and was so thrilled to find one farmer with tons of it. Nice and fresh… score!  Decided to fry the okra outside on the grill’s gas burner after cleaning up the chicken fried steak aftermath in the kitchen. (I am a messy cook when it comes to anything with flour.)  While frying my okra I noticed that Paula Deens’ breading recipe did not have any cornmeal in it as my grandmother used to make it so I added a handful… perfect. The last time I have had decent fried okra was in her kitchen in Mississippi about 8 years ago. Needless to say those tasty nuggets transported me back home. I snacked while I was frying and chatting with our company and sat down to dinner alittle, well…. full. Just like when I was little and got in trouble for snaking before dinner constantly tasting what was headed to the table.

I thought about the okra all morning in church today! Don’t tell the pastor. We had some pods left over and I’m cooking them for dinner tonight. I hope this kids like them… but if they don’t, more for me. I usually don’t fry anything. But when okra comes in season to Central New York, I think I must fry from now on. Moderation. Right?

Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes– nothing says summer like that. Perfection on a plate.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes: my new favorite mashed potatoes. There is little that Ina Garten does that I don’t love. Thanks Rick & Joann!

Black-eyed Peas: My suggestions regarding the link to Emeril’s recipe… no ham hock- only a couple of slices of bacon, no celery, 1/2 the garlic and 1/2 the thyme that the recipe calls for. Add plenty of salt and pepper and hot sauce if serving over rice. We eat these every couple of weeks. A staple in our house.

Corn Bread: Well, I got a surprise when making the corn bread linked above. There was no flour listed in the recipe! Now, our friends were here and I was trying to listen to conversations, get the okra fried and stay on focus… not an easy challenge for me! This was a new cornbread recipe- I usually make the cornbread on the back of the little round Quaker box. I didn’t feel like I could take the chance so I added a cup of flour thinking that somehow it was omitted in the recipe. The cornbread came out fine but I will probably go back to the normal recipe I use considering cheddar cheese just doesn’t seem right unless there are jalapeno peppers in there. Call me crazy.

Bourbon Pecan Pie: SO good. The fresh whipped cream helped to cut the sweetness of the corn syrup. Usually when I eat pecan pie I feel like my teeth are going to fall right out of my head from the sugar. A lovely visual, I know- but its true. Thanks Mike & Rita!

We had a nice blues mix playing… some B.B. King and Muddy Waters. A fun evening with great friends. Every dinner we post a question and answer it around the room (4 couples). It has been a great way to get to know each other better. Farmboy asked “What brings out your Hillbilly Bone?” (referring to a popular country song). The answers were revealing and hysterical.

It’s great to give!

Hi Friends! I wanted to post a quick note about and encourage those of you who have grown extra produce in your gardens this summer to consider finding a local food pantry and donating some of your excess produce to families who have been hit hard by the economy.

I did a quick search by entering my zip code on their website and found 3 food pantries within 12 miles of me. Pretty neat. So when your family has had enough of those zucchini, squash or whatever… go here and find a place where your excess will be greatly appreciated!

Big thanks to my twitter friends at for posting info about and reminding me to share the blessings! Check them out… you will be glad that you did.

Have a great day!


Queenie’s Morning Nap

New Paintings in Progress

Monkey Sock Love

I have a headache. A splitting headache. I have been trying to follow the directions enclosed in a Monkey Sock Monkey do-it-yourself box that we purchased at the craft store for La-La and the Bean. Good grief. Do I need a doctorate to make one of these things? Okay, it helps to read the instructions in English. I was a little confused with the Spanish Monkey Sock Monkey instructions. O la. Nonnie aka. Junebug was here to calm the chaos. While I was machine stitching the limbs, Junebug was whip stitching those limbs on those lumpy home-stuffed Monkey Sock monkeys/kitties.  These Monkey Socks Monkey’s were NOT made in China… however the kit, socks and instructions probably were. Oh well.

I haven’t sewn in quite a long time. I like to sew. I made my senior prom dress after the woman with coke- bottle eye glasses that we hired to make it put a nice hole in the bodice and couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Eeegads!! Somehow my mom and I remade that dress and it was lovely and beautiful.  Nevertheless, I have always dreamed of making clothes for my daughter. So far… not a one. Zip. Ziltch. Nada. Oh, the guilt. Do you feel it?

But, I do love to sew. I love fabric. Don’t get to peruse the fabric stores like I used to but when I do… look out. The theme for the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show is “Springtime in Paris”. I’m inspired! I bought the cutest, most funky cart thingy the other day that I saw out in someone’s yard. Drove by it going 40 mph one day and retraced my steps a couple of days later only more certain that if it was still there I had to purchase it. (Will photograph it soon and post). Now, LaLa also had dibs on it for her cupcake stand… but that cutie is SO going to Philly with me next year! The cart, not LaLa- actually she’ll be there too. Can’t wait till she is old enough to set up shop with me. What fun.

Back to Monkey Socks. In my quest for fabrics/patterns for my pillows Junebug and I thought a trip to the store would be very productive. I bought lots of fabric. I am SO excited about putting all of these textures/patterns and colors together with my little french themed topiary designs (more to come).

After receiving my Mommy Phd., you would think that when in a store I could deal with a 5 yr old’s love of all things lip gloss related. Now, when I say we are going to get a craft project at the craft store… which one of you thinks that includes lip gloss? Exactly.  I want that 5 yr old to make something… with her hands, her heart, her head, her imagination.

For the lip gloss, she is willing to toss, throw away if you will, the Amazing Glitter Glue Package Supreme (with BLACK glitter glue which we have never seen before) AND the Monkey Sock Kitty kit? Are you serious?? Really?? You would throw away all of that glittery stickiness and Monkey Sock love for some craft store lip gloss?  Oh, the humanity. We had to have a little pow-wow in the middle of my Parisian fabric cutting fest. It sounded like this; “You will not ruin this little adventure by pouting about not getting lip gloss. I said you could chose a craft project and that is what I meant.” Geez. Junebug and I are in French fabric obliviousness and I keep getting sucked back into parenting reality. Bummer.

We walked out of there with Monkey sock monkey kits and the most amazing set of glitter glue pens that you will ever lay your eyes on… and no lip gloss. Win one for The Mommy!

Note to self… read the packaging. I did not know that these kits were for 12 yr olds who apparently were skilled and competent with sewing machines and whip stitching not to mention french knots and embroidery. Hello!? Junebug and I had a busy day of sewing when we got home. It was perfect. The kiddos stuffed body parts with filler while Junebug and I sewed on limbs and tails. It took so long the kids conceded that their completion could wait until tomorrow. Thanks heavens. However, the Bean just did a dance around the living room in Monkey Sock anticipation for tomorrow. Heaven help me. He’ll be knocking on my door at 7 am to crank up the sewing machine to finish “Monkingson” his Monkey Sock Monkey. LaLa named her Monkey Sock Miss Kitty. Don’t they make the cutest pair? Are you feeling the Monkey Sock love? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Monkingson and Miss Kitty

Summer Close-ups

Painting Again!

Finally. A break in activities and in orders going out. I’ve been so anxious to paint again… not just topiaries. Now I realize there is a huge backlog of images that I want to work on. I’m completely overwhelmed. I want to start 6 paintings all at once and work for 3 days straight. Probably not so practical considering dinner has to be cooked and there is a lacrosse game tonight and I have other custom work to do. Its challenging finding a balance- as many of you know! But, today I am rejoicing. Honestly because I’ve been a little scared. Writer’s block only with paints. There is always fear that the talent won’t be there anymore when you have been away too long from your craft. Luckily my illustration keeps me in it to some degree. I’ve been nervous about starting again. I have a show in September wherein I need many new paintings- August used to be my painting month to prepare. Its been ages since I’ve painted for painting’s sake.

I paint to discover and to research my subject. I find beauty in the most mundane of objects. I photograph many scenes, landscapes, items that I want to study further with the hopes of returning to my studio and becoming of student of learning and seeing again. I have years of photos built up, years of experiences that I haven’t been able to process thru painting. Thankfully my topiary designs whether of whales or realistic dogs on topiary furniture keep me squirting paint from tubes but I always long to paint on a larger scale in a more expressive way. The topiary designs make he happy and brighten my day. I KNOW that sounds corny but I’m captivated by their simplicity. If you have ever enjoyed one of them, I have a million times more and I’m so thankful.

This little study… it’s not the best. It’s not the worst. It’s the only thing I didn’t tear up and discard. In it I see promise. That I haven’t lost everything. Perhaps that I can step aside and just enjoy painting without illustrating. That is a whole other topic I know. Anyway… stay tuned. I’m inspired and I feel like its going to be a very productive August in so many ways. I can’t wait to be a student again!

Finished Topiary Whales

Splish, splash and they are finally done. I hope the folks at the whale museum in Bar Harbor, ME will like the designs. Notecards and gift items with these designs should be a hit with their whale loving customers. Which one do you prefer? I love the flowers in the spout of the first design and I am crazy about the lead planter of the other one. I may have to do a ship/boat in that planter too. On paper the possibilities are endless. : )

Summer Stationery Sale!

Click HERE to see all of the available products and be sure to order through the Stationery Department to receive the discount! There are many pages of notecards designs available. Click through them at the top right hand corner of the page!

Photo Essay of Helen & Oliver


Hi, I'm Michelle. I am an artist/designer specializing in unique topiary themed illustrations for the Home & Gardener. I live on a farm in Upstate New York with my husband, aka Farmboy, my two children affectionately known as "La La" and "the Bean" and a small petting zoo of other family members.


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Upcoming Shows

Philadelphia Flower Show
PA Convention Center
March 5th-13th
Booth #Z-1002

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