Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Please don't throw me in the briar patch!

When I was a little girl I loved listening to Uncle Remus stories. There were such interesting characters, all of which were animals--Bre'r Rabbit, Bre'r Fox, Bre'r Bear.  My favorite story was Bre'r Rabbit and the Tar Baby. Bre'r Fox was Bre'r Rabbit's mortal enemy. He was always trying to catch Bre'r Rabbit. One day Bre'r Rabbit made a rabbit out of tar, and of course, along came Bre'r Fox. Like most villains, Bre'r Fox wasn't too bright, so he couldn't tell that the tar baby wasn't really Bre'r Rabbit.

Bre'r Rabbit was hiding nearby and when Bre'r Fox approached, Bre'r Rabbit pleaded with Bre'r Fox not to throw him in the briar patch.  In probably one of the first literary instances of reverse psychology, that is exactly what Bre'r Fox did.  Another case of Bre'r Fox being outsmarted by a rabbit!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer's Here! (Officially)

It may be the first official day of summer, but it's been 'summer' in my neck of the woods for several weeks. With heat indices over 100 degrees, the next few months promise more heat and humidity. So in honor of summer, I'd like to share some pictures of a few of my day lilies.  Who ever said they were the easiest perennial to grow was so right! Once they are planted, no more worries. I plan to get some more for next year.  They really put on a show.  Unfortunately, I don't know the names of most.  The yellow ones are called Miss Amelia.  I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Reflections of the past....

Just a few years before the Battle House was to be shuttered for three decades, my wedding reception was held in the Crystal Ballroom. I came across these somewhat faded photos but wanted to share them. What a day that was.  I particularly like the lovely spiral staircase, which seems to have disappeared from the renovated ballroom.

I'm not offering any prizes, but a gold star goes to the correct guesser of the year! Look closely at the hair styles and clothes!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Battle House -- Let's Go Inside!

Look upward from the floor of the lobby, and you will see a domed skylight, dating back to 1908!

Elaborate plasterwork and trompe-l'oiel are found on the ceiling and walls. Portraits of Louis XIV of France, George III of England, Ferdinand V of Castile, and George Washington are found at positions around the perimeter of the skylight.

The Trellis Room, featuring a restaurant with Northern Italian cuisine, is on the lobby floor. Interestingly the kitchen is full-view so patrons may watch their meals being prepared.

The Crystal Ballroom, just a few steps from the main lobby, was also known as "Mobile's First Harvest." This probably stems from the fact that southern planters and farmers would gather at the Battle House at the end of planting season.  The ballroom has seen many events, such as wedding receptions, Mardi Gras Balls, and New Year's celebrations.

The lobby is a vast, open area with a carpet in brilliant hues. The mezzaine surrounds the entire lobby.

It is though you are stepping back in time when entering this gorgeous hotel.  Thank goodness it was not allowed to crumble into oblivion, unlike other historic buildings here.  We should treasure these pieces of the past.

Shazam!! The Alabamian of the Month for June Is.....Jim Nabors!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Bit of History - The Battle House Hotel

Named for its owners, James, John and Samuel Battle, the original Battle House opened in 1852 on the site of a former military headquarters set up by Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812.  The picture above represents the hotel after being rebuilt in 1908. The original hotel was destroyed by fire in 1905.

Many famous people can be counted among the guests of the Battle House, including Henry Clay, Jefferson Davis, Millard Fillmore, and Winfield Scott.  Stephen A. Douglas was a guest the night he lost the presidency to Abraham Lincoln. A National Weather Service station was established at the Battle House in 1880 and electric lighting was added in 1884.

Once the rebuilt hotel opened, it remained a prominent fixture of Mobile through the first and second World Wars.   While staying there in 1913, Woodrow Wilson made his famous statement that the "U.S. would never again wage another war of aggression."

This historic building fell into disrepair over the ensuing decades and was closed in 1974.  Various reasons can be attributed to this, the main one being urban blight, in my opinion.  My wedding reception was held in the Crystal Ballroom of this glorious hotel in 1971. At that time it was still a popular place for such events, although the surrounding areas in downtown Mobile were less than desirable.

How ironic that the Battle House was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, one year after it closed.  But the story does not end there.

By 1980, the Battle House was the only building still intact on its city block. After nearly thirty years of standing vacant, it was restored to its former splendor when the Retirement Systems of Alabama bought the building in 2003. The restoration was completed and the building reopened in 2007.

Next, we'll go inside.....

source: USA Archives

Sunday, June 6, 2010

If You Can't Take the Heat....then Fix a Salad!

Now that the hot weather has really arrived here in coastal Alabama, I'm looking for good meals which don't require an oven or stove-top.  I came across this recipe for Chicken Waldorf Salad (Pillsbury) that is next on my list.

The recipe is from Pillsbury's "Cooking for Two" section, but it could easily be changed for larger servings.


1 c. cubed deli rotisserie chicken breast (from 3- to 3 1/2-lb chicken)
1 medium unpeeled apple, cubed (1 cup)
1 medium stalk celery, sliced (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 T. refrigerated coleslaw dressing
2 leaf lettuce leaves
1 T. thinly sliced chives


1. In large bowl, mix all ingredients except lettuce and chives
2. Place 1 lettuce leaf on each of 2 serving plates; spoon salad onto lettuce. Sprinkle with chives.

This takes about 20 minutes to prepare. I'd rather make more servings so that there would be enough for more than one meal. 

source: http://www.pillsbury.com/

Three Coins in the Fountain....Part Three

The final stop on our 'fountain' tour took us across Mobile Bay to the little town of Fairhope.  There is a rose garden surrounding the fountain, which is always a favorite backdrop for photographs.  I found two 'volunteers' for this picture.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Three Coins in the Fountain....Part Two

Next stop on the 'fountain' tour was downtown Mobile, to Bienville Square. Named for Mobile's founder, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, it takes up an entire city block, bordered by four streets.

Bienville Square had its beginnings as a public park in 1824 after Congress declared that the land be forever used as a city park. The walkways, benches, and live oaks were added in the 1850's.  The large cast iron fountain with an acanthus leaf motif was installed in the 1890's. 

There used to be goldfish in the fountain when I was young.  Those days are no more.

It's still a lovely place, full of squirrels that are so tame some will come and eat right out of your hand.

This little fellow is enjoying a yogurt-covered pretzel which I happend to have on hand.  He probably doesn't get those very often!

Three Coins in the Fountain....Part One

While sightseeing around my hometown, Mobile, on Memorial Day, my family and I found ourselves drawn to areas which also included some lovely fountains.  It's probably good to have out-of-town company occasionally, because it seems like that's the only time I really get to explore my own community.

Washington Square, located in the Oakleigh Garden District of downtown Mobile, Alabama.

Stately live oaks line the sidewalks leading to the fountain, which is in the center of the square.  Historic houses face the square on all four sides.  I'd love to wake up each morning to that view!

Mimosas, Anyone?

I could be referring to the delicious cocktail composed of champagne and orange juice.

But actually, I'm referring to the lovely mimosa tree, also known as the silk tree. They are blooming everywhere in my area right now.

These blossoms are so fascinating to me. There was one of these trees in my front yard when I was a child.  I used to call it the powder-puff tree, because of the blossoms. I picked them and pretended I was using them to put powder on my face.

There are several mimosa trees located just outside my office. The other afternoon I took a break and walked around the pond where they are planted. The timing was perfect, as they were at their peak of bloom.

Apparently these trees are considered invasive because they reproduce and regrow faster than many native species.  The mimosa tree originally came from China, where it was used for ornamental purposes.

The mimosa usually grows to between 20 and 40 feet at maturity.  The leaves are especially interesting; they are from 5-8 inches long and 3-4 inches wide. Each branch has from 20 to 60 leaflets.

The fragrant flowers resemble pom-poms,  ranging in color from white to pink, and are at the end of the branches.

Mimosa seeds form inside flat, straw-colored oval-shaped pods from August to September, but they stay on the trees until winter.  I'll go back later in the season to take a look at the seed pods.

The mimosa seeds can lay dormant for as long as fifty years. The tree can grow as much as three feet in one season. Because of this, it's a strong competitor for other shrubs and can quickly dominate its habitat, especially in open areas and forest edges.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Time for a different kind of cheeseburger...

I love cooking with Bisquick. If you've never tried some of their impossible pies, they are just so easy and tasty.  Here is a recipe for "Quick Cheeseburger Bake."

1 lb (at least 80%) lean ground beef
3/4 c. chopped onion
1 can (11 oz) condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1 c. Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers frozen mixed vegetables
1/4 c. milk
2 c. Bisquick mix
3/4 c. water
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches. Cook ground beef and onion in 10-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in soup, vegetables and milk.

2. Stir Bisquick mix and water in baking dish until moistened; spread evenly. Spread beef mixture over batter. Sprinkle with cheese.

3. Bake 30 minutes.

This would be so good with a tossed garden salad.  I'm thinking brownies for dessert!

source: http://www.bettycrocker.com/

Braxton Bragg (1817-1876)

General Bragg is buried in the Confederate Rest portion of Magnolia Cemetery.  A very controversial  commander for the Confederacy in the Civil War, he was a West Point graduate (1837) with a reputation for strict discipline within the ranks.

Prior to the Civil War, he saw action against the Seminole indians and in the Mexican War. In fact, his use of 'flying artillery' during the Mexican War revolutionized the battlefield use of that arm.  In 1856 he left the Army as lieutenant colonel and became a Louisiana planter.

During the Civil War, he was in charge of the operations against Fort Pickens in Pensacola Harbor, after initially commanding various operations in Louisiana. Early in 1862 he briefly commanded the forces in northern Mississippi for the attack on General Grant at Shiloh.   He later relieved General Beauregard after this battle.

Unfortunately some of his later actions did not result in success for the Confederate forces. On the last day of 1862 he launched an attack on the Union forces in Murfreesboro, Kentucky, but did not carry through the initial success. Having to withdraw, he was driven into Georgia.

He led forces to a victory at Chickamauga, but again failed to follow up the success. Instead, he attacked the Union army at Chattanooga and simply waited for Grant to break through his lines.

All the while he was engaged in disputes with others, namely Leonidas Polk, James Longstreet, and William J. Hardee.  As a result the Army of Tennessee proved less than effective.  He was removed from command after the Battle of Chattanooga and appointed as advisor to Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia.

After the war he served as Alabama's chief engineer, and eventually settled in Galveston, Texas, where he died suddenly while walking down the street with a friend. 

Braxton Bragg's grave in Magnolia Cemetery.

Remembering the Fallen Heroes

May 31, Memorial Day.  A day to remember and honor those in uniform who gave their lives in service to our country. It was a special day for me. My son and his wife were here, so with my daughter and her husband and my mother we set off to Magnolia Cemetery in downtown Mobile, where both the National Cemetery and Confederate Rest contain the war dead from the War of 1812 through Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Magnolia Cemetery is a very interesting place. It was established by a municipal ordinance in 1836. At that time it was outside the city limits. Originally built on 36 acres, it's now in the heart of downtown Mobile, but has grown to cover 120 acres, and is the site of over 80,000 graves.

Originally called the New Burial Ground, the name was officially changed to Magnolia Cemetery in 1867.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

In addition to the 6,000 veterans who are buried here, Magnolia Cemetery also contains the graves of Mobile's two Jewish congregations.

This section is known as Confederate Rest, and contains the graves of those who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.