Sunday Thoughts ~ “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Good Sunday morning, sweet friends.  It is true, isn’t it?  When you stop for a moment and think about it,  many of the important things, ~ “we did learn in kindergarten.”  Chances are, most or many of you have also read Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”  He truly brings the hugely important things, we all have learned, directly to the front.  And, every now and again, I enjoy re-reading his words.  I hope you will too.

Hummingbird and Vine Border Wall Stencil

 

“All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”

“Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand box at nursery school.  These are the things I learned.

Share everything.

Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them.  Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life.

oldfarmhouse: “Dearestviewfinder @instagram ”

Learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day. Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

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Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why. We are like that.

And then remember that book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK! Everything you need to know is there somewhere: The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology, and politics and the sane living.

Cookie mad Christine pledges a tray of home made cookies and milk delivered within Edinburgh. Cookiesncream. www.performarandomactofkindness.com

Think of what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

~ Robert Fulghum, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”

Hummingbird and Vine Border Wall Stencil

Dear Friends, thanks for visiting and I hope you have enjoyed your time with me.  As always, I am sending wishes to you and yours for a beautiful and peaceful day.

And…

As you go about your days,

May the Golden Rule be your guide.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

 

Amour,

SandraHummingbird and Vine Border Wall Stencil

 

 

 

Images: via tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ February 16, 2020

“It is a serious thing  just to be alive on this fresh morning…” ~ Mary Oliver

Good Sunday morning, sweet souls.  Mary Oliver is correct, “It is a serious thing just to be alive.”  To have another chance to greet the morning, to do the things we enjoy, soak up the beauty of the earth, and hug those we love.  Precious are the moments.
“Spirit is like the wind, in that we can’t see it but can see its effects, which are profound.” -Jimmy Carter
“Spirit is like the wind, in that we can’t see it but can see its effects, which are profound.” ~ Jimmy Carter 
It is amazing, isn’t it?  All the ‘profound effects’ we are privileged to enjoy.  Former President, Jimmy Carter, a very spiritual person, will leave a legacy as one of the greatest humanitarians of our time.  Additionally, his art and writing will continue to enrich the lives of so many for years to come.
And, should you be a little weary of winter, hold on!
“Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.” ~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster
Dear friends, thank you for your visit.  May you and yours enjoy a beautiful day.
And, in the week ahead…

“May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide your way on.” ~ yoga farewell blessing

Amour,

Sandra

Images: via tumblr

Valentine’s Day

“The heart, like the mind, has a memory.  And in it are kept the most precious keepsakes.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Good morning, sweet friends.  Valentine’s Day is fast approaching.  The date of Valentine’s Day has not changed, but for some reason, it always seems to sneak up on me.  Anyway, do you have special plans for this day?  Mike and I decided many years ago, we preferred having dinner at home on this romantic occasion.  We did not enjoy the crowds and the confusion which too often seemed to be the case at many restaurants.  Our meal and our time together were always more enjoyable at home.

 

“Cooking is love made visible.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Should you also decide to stay home for this lovely evening, my suggestion would be, “Do not stress over what to prepare for dinner.”  Keep it simple and plan something you both enjoy.  Or, order take out.  Just set a pretty table, with candles, and be sure to have a scrumptious dessert.  A dessert such as Ina Garten’s Beatty ‘s Chocolate Cake. Visit Here.

A decadent and moist Chocolate Cake recipe with the easiest whipped Chocolate Frosting. Homemade chocolate cake makes for a stunning birthday cake. #chocolatecake #chocolatecakerecipe #moistchocolatecake #birthdaycake #chocolatefrosting #cake #dessert #natashaskitchen

This cake is like a little slice of heaven and can be made ahead of time.  Oh, do be sure to thank Ina.

“Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent love. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.” ~ David Levithan

Did you know the red rose is not the only flower associated with love?  The other is the red tulip.  The meaning of the red tulip is eternal love, undying love, and perfect love.  In the Netherlands and other parts of Europe, the red tulip signifies the person is on fire with love.  These lovely red flowers also represent wealth. It is believed they will bring wealth and love to your home.  All tulips represent elegance and grace.

“Without Valentine’s Day February would be, well, January.” ~ unknown

“Love is not a plaything.” ~ John Keats

I melt, when I come across this picture!

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn’s quote is the perfect thought for Valentine’s Day.  It is, after all, what the day is about ~ being together and celebrating love. 

 

So, my friends, enjoy the day and evening.

 Have a  Happy Valentine’s Day,

And…

‘Hold Onto Each Other’!

“My heart is, and always will be, yours.” ~ Jane Austen

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

 

Images: via Tumble and Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ Quiet Moments

“Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.” ~ Maurice Sendak

moonandtrees: “ the house of the gatekeeper by Sylvia Okkerse on Flickr. ”

Good Sunday morning, sweet souls.  Do you ever feel as though all you hear is noise?  Sometimes, I do.  Perhaps that is why I love my garden, it is perfectly calm and serene.  And, the choir of the precious birds is the only music I hear.  

I thrive on peaceful days, and I honestly feel all humans would be a little kinder if they had a quiet place and a few moments in their day to enjoy a reprieve from the chaos of the world.  Understand, I am not suggesting we should all go to the woods and live as Thoreau did.  But, there are days I think an afternoon by Walden’s pond would be pure bliss.  How about you?

 

 

Dear friends, thank you for your visit today.  Know I am wishing you and yours a lovely and peaceful day.

And…

May the week ahead find you enjoying sweet and peaceful moments.

 

“The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence.” ~ Marianne Moore

Amour,

Sandra

 

Images:  via tumblr

Sunday Thoughts ~ “Whistling Swans”

Winter Swan Lake

Good Sunday morning, beautiful souls.  Today, I would like to share something I feel is lovely and Sunday appropriate.  It was among my volumes of beautiful things I have collected through the years and was written by Mary Oliver.  The title is Whistling Swans.

Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look up into that blue space?

Take your choice, prayers fly from all directions.  And don’t worry about what language you use, God no doubt understands them all.

onceuponawildflower: “Kourtney Jackson Smith ”

Even when the swans are flying north and making such a ruckus of noise, God is surely listening and understanding.

yes-yolan: “Bello cisne ”

Rumi said, “There is no proof of soul.”

But isn’t the return of spring and how it springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?

afaerytalelife: “I want to be the swan on the lake — live a graceful life and float like a daydream on the water until it pulls me in and becomes the most peaceful grave. ”

Yes, I know, God’s silence never breaks,  but is that really a problem?  There are thousands of voices, after all.

And furthermore, don’t you imagine ( I just suggest it) that swans know as much as we do about the whole business?

So listen to them and watch them, singing as they fly.

omg-bama: “swan by xthumbtakx ”

Take from it what you can.”

Dear friends, thank you for your visit.  Know I am wishing you and yours a peaceful and lovely day.

And,

In the week ahead

May you…

“Hear the music, the thunder of the wings…” ~ Robinson Jeffers

Amour,

Sandra

 

 

 

Note:  Mary Jane Oliver (1935-2019), was an American poet.  She was the winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

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“Whispers Of The Garden”

“And when wind and winter harden All the loveless land, It will whisper of the garden, You will understand.” ~ Oscar Wilde

harald-bayler: “Frühling ”

Good morning, sweet souls.  On these cold winter days, do you walk about your garden checking to see what may be bursting through the soil?  If so, do you ever hear faint whispers?  If not, perhaps you are not listening, because I can assure you the gardens are whispering. 

Now do understand, I have not gone completely around the bend, or at least I don’t think I have.  But sometimes, my garden even shouts at me, almost like an unruly child.  Just the other day, I was noticing some of my peonies are beginning to poke their pink aspargus-like shoots, upward through the soil.  When I turned to cover them with a bit of fine mulch, I heard “You should not be concerned about me.  Have you seen your crazy ‘trumpet girls’ (daffodils) over in your secret garden? They are up and have blooms set on them, we have begun to question their mental status.  They are so boisterous and are disrupting my sleep.  I do wish you would get them under control.”  It appears peonies have heard the term, “Queen of The Garden,” so often they believe it.

 

 

“Snowdrops: Theirs is a fragile but hardy celebration…in the very teeth of winter.” ~ Louise Beebe Wilder 

My plants not only whisper to me, but they also whisper to each other. Often, their whispers can sound rather snobbish.  Take the snowdrop for example, “Look at us, we are up and blooming in the snow. We are gutsy and unlike those trumpet girls, the snow does not burn our blooms.  And, te-hee, te-hee, it will be months before  the Queen’s bloom.”  

But their whispers will turn to screams
when ~ “Mr. Bugs” appears.
Many believe the snowdrop originated in the British Isles.  But it did not.  Galanthus (biological name) comes from mainland Europe. And did you know folklore insists that one should beware of bringing Snowdrops into the home before Valentine’s Day?  The reason being, it is possible that any unmarried females could remain spinsters.
For a tiny little plant with small blooms, snowdrops symbolize several incredibly important matters, such as ~ hope, new beginnings, purity and consolation.
Cicely Mary Barker describes them beautifully in her poem, The Song of the Snowdrop Fairy.  Barker also does a lovely illustration of what she perceives as the Snowdrop Fairy (see note at the end of this post).
 
The Song of the Snowdrop Fairy, by Cicely Mary Barker

Deep sleeps the Winter, Cold, wet and grey; Surely all the world is dead; Spring is far away.

Wait! the world shall waken; It is not dead, for lo, The Fair Maids of February

Stand in the snow!

thefavoriteartilike: “ The Snowdrop Fairy by Cicely Mary Barker ”
 Cecily Mary Barker’s illustration of The Snowdrop Fairy ~ notice the bottom of her dress.
“A single crocus blossom ought to be enough to convince our heart that springtime, no matter how predictable, is somehow a gift,
gratuitous, gratis, a grace.” ~ David Steindl-Rast

mistymorrning: “http://imgfave.com ”

“First a howling blizzard woke us, Then the rain came down to soak us, And now before the eye can focus Crocus.” ~ Lilja Rogers
yellow 'Crocus' in the woods, near Rose cottages and gardens, Britain
Often, one can hear the crocus and the snowdrops whispering, as they are in competition with each other.  In a soft whisper, they debate, who will bloom first?
Have you ever been in the garden and thought you heard a cat crying, but you couldn’t find or see her?  No doubt it was a pussy willow about to bud.  You see, according to an old legend, a mother cat was crying at the river bank where her kittens were drowning.  The willows at the river’s edge wanted to help, so they swept their long branches into the waters to rescue the kittens who had fallen into the river while chasing butterflies. The kittens gripped the branches and were safely brought to shore.
According to the legend, since that day, every spring the willow branches sprout tiny fur-like buds at their tips where the kittens once clung.

“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks. ~ Tennessee Williams

violets are the best smelling, most beautiful flowers...I would rather have a bouquet of violets than roses, and I love roses.

Many gardeners are not fans of wildflowers.  For me, it is a question of the particular wildflower.  Every now and again, nature blesses the garden of the gardener with a special gift.  Such as wild violets.  Wild violets are abundant in these West Virginia hills and last spring they graced our garden. 

These dear little plants do more than whisper to me, as I remember going with my mom to gather wild violets on many a cold spring morning.  I had to be careful where I walked, as you didn’t want to step on one.    The reason we gathered these precious flowers was not for the reason you may think.  We gathered them because mom made violet jelly.  A delicious treat on toast or biscuits.  

haunted by the smell of violets...they are mysterious to me

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” ~ Mark Twain

“Or columbines, in purple dressed Nod o’er the ground bird’s hidden nest.” ~ William Cullen Bryant
      

In closing, I also hear whispers from plants that once resided in our garden.  One is the lovely columbine.  Don’t ask me why she no longer lives in our garden.  I don’t really have an answer.  But I can tell you I miss her and will have her again, come spring.  Columbines have a lovely nodding bloom and come in a variety of colors.  The pink, yellow and blue are my favorites.  When the three are grouped together they make a stunning planting.  Such pretty girls.

“The columbine … is a graceful slender creature, a female seeking retirement, and growing freest and most graceful where it is most alone. I observed that the more shaded plants were always the tallest.” ~ Dorothy Wordsworth

 

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed your visit this morning.  

Have a beautiful day

And…

 As you stroll through your garden, listen closely ~ “you will understand.”

 

A sweet whisper of spring.

“Welcome, welcome, little stranger, Fear no harm, and fear no danger; We are glad to see you here, For you sing “Sweet Spring is near.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Amour, 

Sandra

 

 

 

Images: vis tumblr and Pinterest

Note:  Cicely Mary Barker, 1895-1973 was an English writer and  illustrator, known for a series of fantasy illustrations depicting fairies and flowers. Barker’s art education began as a young girl with correspondence courses and instruction at the Croydon School of Art. Her earliest work included greeting cards and juvenile magazine illustrations, and her first book, Flower Fairies of the Spring, was published in 1923. Similar books were published in following years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ January 26, 2020

“The morning is in itself a miracle, the chance to be able to live life ~ is the greatest gift we have.  The morning is a reminder of that, every day.” ~ J. R. Rim

tqe1: ““If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” ‘Ode to the West Wind’ By Percy Bysshe Shelley. Poem in Full: http://bit.ly/2iwEu7Q facebook.com/tqe100 ”

Good Sunday morning, sweet souls.  Are you a morning person?  Some of us are ~ others, not so much.  I have always enjoyed the morning, especially in the garden.  To me, nothing compares to sitting in the garden on a spring morning with my coffee and listening to bird song.  Truly, priceless moments I have been blessed to enjoy.  But when you stop to think about it, isn’t every morning like spring?  It is new, life is beating, and it is our chance to begin again.  What a precious gift life truly is.

 

 

“… I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited ~ every day, all over again.” ~ Bob Goff

 

Dear friends, thank you for your visit. 

Know I am wishing you and yours a beautiful day.

And…

May each new day in the week ahead bring you unexpected joy.

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” ~ Emily Dickinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wonder of It All !

“I wish I could freeze this moment, right here, right now and live in it forever.” ~ Suzanne Collins

Good morning, beautiful souls.  Have you ever seen something so wonderful or enjoyed a moment so magical that you wish you could “freeze it and live in it forever?”  I have.  In the wee hours of one winter morning, crossing over the mountains from Virginia into West Virginia, the trees had been frozen and looked as though someone had hung diamonds on their velvet green branches.  A memory that will remain with me forever.  I treasure that memory, as we have not had winter, as of yet, here in North Central West Virginia.  Although, mom always said, “Beware of February.” 

For me, January is the perfect month for reading good books.  These past few weeks, I’ve been reading, “A Train In Winter,” by Caroline Moorehead (please see note at the end of this post).  It is a factual account of life in France during Hitler’s reign of terror and is about the brave and beautiful souls who were part of the French Resistance. These men and women of all ages were so amazing, not only for their bravery but because of how in the middle of such horror, they were able to see the beauty in the smallest of details.  I began to think about the ‘Wonder of It All,’ and the beauty of the human spirit.  I can tell you for certain, it gave me pause for much self-reflection.  I wondered if I could possibly ever do what these people did if life found me in such a situation?  Could I possibly be so brave, could I see the beauty around me amidst such horrors and in the simplest of things?  I pray I never have to know the answer.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” ~ Anne Frank

I have given much thought to the people in my book and how they wept over new-fallen snow, a smuggled loaf of fresh bread or a single wildflower.  In thinking of them today, I hope to inspire you not to ever, even for a moment, take for granted the beauty in your life and all that remains in our world.  So, I hope you will enjoy following me into ‘The Wonder of It All.’

ponderation: “ Winter Sun by Andrey Snegirev ”

“There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.” ~ William Sharp

“Iced blue gaze and breathless beauty, the frozen world embraced.” ~ Unknown

“Wherever man exists, he finds the need to redesign, to recreate the world. A more beautiful world, purer, sweeter smelling and more colorful. A garden is probably the spot where the hopes for civilization are best captured. In fact, man defines himself by his garden.” ~ Gary Snyder

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved and appreciated beauty.  Growing up in West Virginia, one is surrounded by beauty at every turn, so it is hard not to notice.  And, of course, I had a mom who made certain I was aware of the splendor we were blessed to enjoy. With all my heart, I believe the beauty of our world and the beauty that shines in each of us is what keeps us sane.  Especially, during difficult times.

Palace Gardens at Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England

Isn’t it wonderful to know such beautiful places exist in our world and are meticulously cared for and enjoyed?
 

Peonies, really are the “Queen of the Garden.”

Lavender fields, Provence, France.  A magnificent sight to “freeze and live in forever.”  

“What a beautiful world God, in His loving kindness to His creatures, has given us! What a shame that men endowed with reason and knowledge of right should mar His gifts.” ~ Robert E. Lee   

 

 

“The more often we see the things around us ~ even the beautiful and wonderful things ~ the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds ~ even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin

“Our generation has inherited an incredibly beautiful world from our parents and they from their parents. It is in our hands whether our children and their children inherit the same world. We must not be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment.” ~ Richard Branson

Mediterranean sunset in Nerja, Andalusia, Spain
Nerja, Andalusia, Spain
Carcassonne, France
Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

wehadfacesthen: “A Jack Cardiff photo of Audrey Hepburn, 1956 ”Photo by,  Jack Cardiff, 1956

In closing, one of the most beautiful things on earth is the beauty of the light that shines in every person.  Audrey Hepburn is a lovely example of the brilliant light within.  There are a few things you may or may not know about this beautiful, brave, and talented woman.  Born in Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium, Hepburn spent her childhood in Belgium, England, and the Netherlands.   After the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Hepburn began using the name Edda van Heemstra, because her English-sounding name was considered dangerous.  Beginning in 1945, she studied ballet with Sonia Gaskell.  Training, which would serve her and others well.  

In order to raise money for the Dutch Resistance, she began dancing at recitals given in houses with the windows and doors closed.  These events were high risk and guards were posted outside to notify those inside of approaching Germans.  She also secretly delivered the Oranjekrant, a Resistance newspaper. She would stuff them in her socks and wooden shoes, get on her bike and deliver them.  The “knowledge she was not alone” must have provided her great courage, necessary to accomplish her tasks.

Audrey Hepburn survived these terrible times and as the world knows she went on to become a wife, mother, and famous film star.  She shared her light and talents with the world.

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

“Magic, indeed, is all around us, in stones, flowers, stars, the dawn wind, and the sunset cloud; all we need is the ability to see and understand.” ~ Doreen Valiente

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed following me into ‘The Wonder Of It All.’  Perhaps you may pause from time-to-time, pay extra attention to all the beauty in your corner of the world, and especially notice the beautiful light which shines in those you love.

 

 

Know, I am wishing you a glorious day!

And…

May you have a moment or moments so wonderful, you will want to ‘freeze them and live in them forever.’

 

Amour,

Sandra

“To love beauty is to see light.” ~ Victor Hugo

 

 

Images:  via tumblr

 

Note:  A Train in Winter, by Caroline Moorehead is a remarkable story of women and others.  And, their unbelievable courage working with the French Resistance in occupied France.  Moorehead interviewed many of the forth-nine women who returned to France after their time in Auschwitz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ January 19, 2020

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” ~ Proverbs 16:24

“They can be like the sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.” ~ Juan de la Cruz

 

Good Sunday morning, sweet souls.  I do hope you have enjoyed a lovely week.  As you know, on Sunday mornings I try to share something meaningful as well as beautiful.  For me, I often find beauty in words as well as images.  And, I try to keep the post short as I do know everyone’s time is precious.  Sunday’s can be busy days.

So, today I leave you with the lovely thoughts of Juan de la Cruz, about words.  Doesn’t it bring you joy to think something you may say to someone would touch their heart like sunshine on a field of sunflowers?  It certainly does me. 

“They can be like the sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.”  ~ Juan de la Cruz

 

Know, I so appreciate your visit.

And…

In the week ahead, may your heart be touched by the ‘sun.’

Wishing you and yours a beautiful day.

Amour,

Sandra

“I believe in you. Words that water flowers.” ~ Michael Faudet

 

Image:   via tumblr

 

At Table ~ With Frank Stitt

“One of the primary ways we connect with each other is by eating together.  Some of the connection happens simply by being in the same place at the same time and sharing the same food, but we also connect through specific actions, such as serving food to one another or making toasts:  “May I offer you some potatoes?”  “Here’s to your health and happiness.”  Much of our fundamental well-being comes from the basic reassurance that there is a place for us at the table.  We belong here.  Here we are served and we serve others.  Here we give and receive sustenance.  No small matter.” ~ Edward Espe Brown

Good morning, dear friends and welcome to the January post of ‘At Table.’  Today, I want to share a few recipes from Chef, Frank Stitt and what I know about this hard-working and successful man. (You will want to find your coffee and prop up your feet for this one.)  Stitt, co-owner of four winning restaurants and the author of two cookbooks, was mentioned in one of my early ‘At Table’ posts (September, 2019, visit here)

File:Frank Stitt.jpg

Frank Stitt, who is considered by many, as the Godfather of southern cuisine, was born in 1954 in Cullman Alabama.  His father was a surgeon and his mother was known as one of the best cooks in town.  Stitt developed early on, a taste for what he refers to as “the almost spiritual experience” of eating fresh, farm-raised foods.  This special taste came from the time he spent on his grandparent’s farm.  The farm was a place where Jersey cows and chickens roamed and large vegetable gardens, strawberry and asparagus patches provided abundant fresh goodness.   

After graduating from high school he spent a year in Europe and then began college at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.  After a couple of years, he transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, as a philosophy major. He developed an interest in cooking through the philosophical essays on food by authors such as Richard Olney.  And, while in Berkeley he worked part-time for Alice Waters at her landmark restaurant, Chez Panisse.  Food had now captured his thoughts and he made the decision to leave his studies for the kitchen. 

In 1977, just a few months before he was to graduate, Alice Waters gave him a letter of introduction to Richard Olney.  He flew to London to meet Olney and was hired as Olney’s assistant.  And, as the saying goes ~ “The rest is history.”  

Olney quickly recognized Stitt’s passion for good food and his interest in learning the French way of cooking.  Under the guidance of Olney, he mastered the art of traditional French style cooking.  During his time in France, Olney also introduced him to other notable chefs and food writers such as Julia Child, Jeremiah Tower, and Simone Beck.  But, Stitt’s interest in cooking and food did not stop here.  While continuing to work as Olney’s assistant, he met with many chefs, took on menial jobs at local farms, and worked harvesting grapes in a vineyard at Draguignan in the Côtes de Provence near St.-Tropez.  It was here in France, he began working on his ideas for marrying Southern foods with French cooking styles which would set in place the tone for his famous restaurant,  the Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama. 

 

 

“Those traditions that I learned about through my grandmother’s farm and being at my grandparents’ farm table… I think that those are the things that I feel, as a chef and a Southern chef, somewhat obligated to preserve, to talk about, and find out the best most wonderful salient things and to pass those on.” ~ Frank Stitt

Following his wonderful year working with Olney in the South of France, Stitt spent a few months living and studying Italian cooking in Florence.  After which, he was ready and anxious to return to the United States and open his own restaurant.  Clearly, he could have done so in any major city of the United States.  However, he made a decision which took many by surprise.  The lure of “Sweeet Home Alabama” was great and so, he returned to his roots, deciding upon lovely Birmingham as his destination.  In November 1982, the acclaimed Highlands Bar and Grill opened. The restaurant is recognized for blending traditional Southern recipes with French techniques.

Addressing the staff at Highlands before the evening rush.“To understand the genius of the godfather of Southern cuisine, you need to spend a day in the kitchen with him.” ~ Charles Gaines

While Frank Stitt, is the co-owner and executive chef of Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega Restaurant, Bottega Cafe, and Chez Fon Fon, all in Birmingham, Alabama. He is also a mentor to other young chefs.  Stitt has a long list of accomplished chefs that have worked for him and now have their own restaurants. He considers this more important than any of his awards.  

And speaking of awards, included among Stitt’s many culinary awards are the most prestigious recognitions of the James Beard Foundation’s induction into “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage” and winner of “Best Chef in the Southeast.”   And, the Highlands Bar and Grill was selected as the winner of the “Outstanding Restaurant in America” award in 2018.  Stitt has also been extremely involved with locally grown farm products, which has made a huge impact on the area’s local food movement.

 

 

“We want this to be a respite for our guests…we want this to be a place of beauty and of rest and peace. So, if we can create a little happiness in someone’s day, that’s really what we strive for.” ~ Pardis Stitt

Before I close, I must tell you about someone else who is most important to Frank Stitt.  And that is his wife, Pardis.  Married since 1995, Pardis focuses her attention on the ‘front-of-house’ operations.  She is known for her charm and attention to detail, which many say is evident from the moment you walk into the restaurant.  One is immediately seduced by the warm and inviting atmosphere.  According to Frank Stitt, “Without her, the Highlands is not the Highlands.”  

Frank and Pardis Stitt

“This was a natural relationship for us. I mean this is not something~it’s not a contrived situation. It’s just, this is our life.” ~ Pardis Stitt

 

 

“Our food tells us where we came from and who we have become…”  ~ Bill Neal

Have I had the marvelous opportunity of visiting any of Frank and Pardis Stitt’s outstanding restaurants?  The answer is no, but I certainly hope to.  However, I know there are fellow bloggers who have enjoyed this lovely pleasure and one is Pam of  “Everyday Living”   Actually, Pam lives close enough to visit often ~ such a lucky girl.

 

 

And now,  finally what you have been waiting for ~ a few of Chef Stitt’s recipes.  Listed below are a few favorites.  I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Stitt’s book, Southern Table.

From Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Spicy Baked Oysters with Caramelized Onions
Serves 4

This is so simple, yet there is an almost magical explosion on the palate when briny oysters collide with sweet onions, salty pork and spicy hot chile. Cover the oysters with the caramelized onions and treat everything else with discretion, adjusting the amounts to suit your own taste. Less is more. More is dangerous.”

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rock salt for serving
24 oysters (such as Apalachicola, bluepoint, Pemaquid, Chesapeake or Malpeque) shucked and left in the bottom shells
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
Coarsely ground dried hot chile or cayenne pepper to taste
6 or 7 very thin slices pancetta, cut into 24 1-1/2-inch squares, or 6 slices bacon, preferably center-cut, cut into 4 pieces each
1 cup medium-coarse bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Make a bed of rock salt on a baking sheet and arrange the oysters on top. Top each with a little of the sautéed onion-just enough to cover. Place a teaspoon of butter and a good pinch of chile on each, then top with a square of pancetta (or bacon) and a scattering of bread crumbs to finish.

Bake until the pancetta is slightly crispy, the bread crumbs golden and the oysters heated through, 10 to 12 minutes.

 

 

Grilled Figs with Country Ham, Walnuts, and Lemon-Mint Cream – Serves four.

Notes from Stitt: “Richard Olney was the inspiration for this dish. He loved figs more than any other fruit and was especially fond of their affinity with cured ham. The lightly charred and salty flavor of grilled prosciutto is in perfect contrast with the sweetness of the warm and tender fig. When making this simple recipe, use only the freshest ingredients: perfectly ripe figs, the finest prosciutto, and new-crop walnuts. The smoky ham combined with the just-beginning-to-warm, plump fig is one of the sexiest bites ever.”  
The Sauce:  Juice from 1 1/2 lemons, 1/2 cup heavy cream, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, a handful of mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish.
To prepare the sauce, finely chop the mint leaves and place in a mortar. Add the lemon juice and pound to a paste with the pestle (or mash into a paste with a wooden spoon in a small bowl.) Strain into a medium bowl, add the cream, salt, and pepper and stir to incorporate. (The acidity of the lemon juice will thicken the cream.)
The Figs

8 ripe Black Mission figs

16 walnut halves

16 very thin slices prosciutto*

4 fig leaves for serving (optional)

*Note: Do not be tempted to remove the flavorful fat from the prosciutto. The perfect slice of prosciutto has one edge with some of the white fat left intact.

Prepare a hot grill.

To prepare the figs. Halve the figs and place a walnut half on the cut side of each. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each fig half, only slightly overlapping the ends.

Grill the figs, add garnish and serve. Char the figs on the hot grill for about 30 to 45 seconds per side. The figs should be just warmed through and the prosciutto crisp in parts. Place the figs on small plates or a platter, atop the fig leaves if using, and serve with a bowl of the mint cream. Garnish with sprigs of mint on the side.

 

Corn Bread ~ From Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising yellow cornmeal (or substitute 2 cups regular cornmeal plus 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup buttermilk

Scant 1/2 cup rendered bacon fat, 7 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, or scant 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or a mixture)

1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Preheat an 8- to 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the hot oven.  Place the cornmeal and flour in a large bowl and stir in the milks a little at a time, mixing with a large wooden spoon. The batter will be quite loose.  Meanwhile, add the bacon fat to the preheated skillet, return it to the oven, and heat until the fat is very hot, about 5 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the hot fat into the cornmeal mixture and stir to combine. Add the egg and stir to combine. Pour the cornmeal mixture into the hot skillet and immediately place it in the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and unmold. Serve hot.

 

*And, last but certainly not least, my most favorite.  There isn’t aren’t enough good things I can say about this recipe.  You absolutely must give it a try!

Frank Stitt’s Shrimp and Stone-Ground Fontina Grits

Ingredients
2 Tbls. butter
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup minced green onion
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
2 tsp. minced fresh chives
1 pound peeled and deveined medium  fresh shrimp
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, softened
Stone-Ground Fontinia Grits (recipe follows)
Garnish,  fresh dill, fresh thyme, chopped fresh chives, and sliced green onion
Preparation:
In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbls. butter over medium-high heat.  Add shallot, green onion, and red bell pepper;  cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Add tomatoes, thyme, and chives; cook, stirring constantly, for 22 minutes.  Add shrimp, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until shrimp begin to turn pink.  Remove pan from heat, and spoon mixture into a large bowl, cover and keep warm.  Add wine and lemon juice to skillet.  Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture is reduced by half.  Remove skillet from heat.  Whisk in butter, 1 Tbls. at a time, whisking until butter is melted after each addition.  Return shrimp mixture to skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until shrimp are pink and firm.  Divide shrimp mixture evenly among serving bowls.  Using a small knife, unmold grits on top of each serving.  Garnish with dill, thyme, chives, and green onion if desired.

5 cups chicken broth

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup stone-ground yellow grits – you definitely want stone-ground

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups shredded fontina cheese

In a medium Dutch oven, bring broth and salt to a boil.  Slowly add grits, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.  Add cream, and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 20 minutes or until grits are very thick.  Stir in cheese.  Spoon grits mixture evenly into buttered ramekins,  let stand 30 minutes or until set.

 

 

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed your visit ‘At Table,’ and will try some or all of Chef Stitt’s recipes. Although this post is rather long, please understand, there was much more I could have shared. Frank and Pardis Stitt are amazing people.  A post could be written just about Pardis, her many accomplishments, contributions to the community, and her Persian background. (She and her family immigrated to the United States before the Islamic Revolution of 1979.) But most of all, I could not in good conscience, have shared Frank Stitt’s recipes without telling you a little about him.

 

Know I thank you for your visit. 

And…

I wish you happy times in the kitchen and beautiful moments ~ ‘At Your Table.’

 

“Yes!” he said. “That’s what we’re all after ~ a place that makes people feel good, that gives them a respite from all the horrors of the world with the happiness and comfort of good food. That’s the Holy Grail.” ~ Frank Stitt

Bon Appétit,

Sandra

 

 

Images:  Highlands Bar and Grill.com, tumblr, and Pinterest