The Tennessee Theatre

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

Last night, the Tennessee Theatre opened its doors to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their incredible restoration, and we were thrilled to be there! We adore the Tennessee Theatre. As I was telling a friend from Brooklyn who recently moved to town, this is one performance hall that is really worth experiencing. The details are stunning, and, as we learned last night, the restoration was painstaking. A team dug through years of paint to find the original colors. The carpet, drapes, and seats were all recreated from a vast collection of photography taken by a photographer named Jim Thompson just after the theatre’s opening in the fall of 1928. They spared no expense. Here are a few snaps from our backstage tour.

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

Becky Hancock is executive director of the Tennessee Theatre Foundation and started the tour by explaining the story of the restoration and the work they did to the front of the theatre.

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

The lights inside the theatre are amazing! My absolute favorites look like cotton plants and are impossible to photograph with an iPhone. Instead, here is a detail of one of the sconces at the front of the theatre down from stage left.

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

Backstage.

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

Backstage looking up. This is where they suspend the curtains, lights, and backdrops.

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

The panels on the ends of the seats look just like the originals in the photographs. Perhaps even cooler: the carpet was made from the original pattern, but the designer had to decide on colors because all of the photographs were, of course, in black & white!

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

No matter how many times you see it, the domed ceiling is always breathtaking!

Tennessee Theatre | Hannah & Husband

There are five chandeliers hanging down the length of the lobby. They were named after the stagehands’ girlfriends: Molly, Suzy, Windy, Gretchen, and Angie. [Details]

One of our favorite features of the Tennessee Theatre is the “Mighty Wurlitzer.” It was original in 1928, but by the time the theatre opened talkies were all the rage. Isn’t that funny? Never fear–in Tennessee we take our music very seriously… we also have a constant need to get our money’s worth. It’s played weekly and was one of our very favorite parts of our visit to see White Christmas in December. Here’s a little video of Dr. Bill Snyder showing us how the organist would rise up through the stage before a feature film back in the day. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in learning more about the theatre, Robin Easter Group put together a *gorgeous* book, full of pictures and penned by Jack Neely. You can get a copy here (or there are more than a few floating around town).

Sexy Skivvies

While some might consider January the very definition of sweatsuit season, I’d like to declare January the month of the sexy skivvies!*

*Skivvy: [Southern] referring to one’s unmentionables,
those garments worn that only just cover one’s birthday suit

I understand that January is hard. It is gray. It is cold. It is rainy. Perhaps you too want to spend the entire month either in a hot bath or wrapped up in an ugly, oversized, wool sweater. But, let me propose a little something that can help your case of the Januarys (as well as your mate’s): ridiculously sexy underwear.

Sure you may still be bundled in that oversize, wool sweater but underneath you will be a serious case of hotness strutting your stuff. There’s just something about embracing your inner sex kitten that is empowering. And knowing that all that pretty is underneath that oversize sweater will make doing household chores feel less maid of the mansion and more goddess of your domain.

52 Books a Year

WPA January Reading Poster

vintage WPA poster

A couple weeks ago, my friend Caryn posted about her 52 Books a Year challenge on Instagram and asked if anyone would like to play along.

Her idea is simple…

My list of books to read continues to grow in exponential proportion to my list of read books. …I have the space to read, I just need the challenge to do it. 52 books a year is my challenge. I have invited friends to participate. Let me know if you want in!
[click here to read Caryn’s full post]

Needless to say, I am totally in love with this idea. However, being the slowest reader on earth, I’m going to mix it up a little bit. My plan is to intersperse my list with longer form poetry and children’s books to alleviate some of the pressure and really enjoy the process. Sometimes the coolest things to analyze are the simplest.

Do you guys remember this exercise in school?

Read
Summarize
Reflect

When I was in 3rd grade, Mrs. Umberger had us copy poetry off the blackboard (yes, blackboard) every morning and respond to it aloud with the class. In AP English, this exercise was what got me hooked on The New Yorker magazine. And I believe my mom actually teaches a similar technique in her bible studies.

To me, it makes things personal. It also forces me to slow down (my brain not my speed of reading–seriously, slowest reader on earth) and really think about what I’m reading.

Like the idea of a book club?
Click here to read about starting your own.

So I’m working on my list. What would be on yours? Anything you’re dying to read or reread? Children’s? Non-fiction? I’m open to suggestions.

 

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Try a New Recipe

7 Steps to Try a New Recipe Like a Pro on Hannah & Husband

New year, new you, yada yada… I’m not really one of those “let’s go on a diet in January because __ magazine says we should” sort of girls. Instead, let’s talk food. Specifically, let’s try a new recipe. I’m trying to mix things up in the kitchen.

@jamesaslaughter instagram | 7 Steps to Try a New Recipe Like a Pro on Hannah & Husband

We cook the majority of our meals (as I’m sure you assume if you follow @jamesaslaughter and @hb_belle on Instagram), but recently I felt like we needed to mix things up. So we took a few minutes one afternoon and explored some of the local ethnic grocery stores–Mexican, Turkish, Asian, Indian. We’re having so much fun experimenting with new recipes and spices! And, of course, being who I am I tweak everything a little bit. Don’t judge–it’s the curse of those that love to cook. So today I thought I’d give you a super-simple rundown for trying a new recipe.

 7 Steps to Try a New Recipe Like a Pro on Hannah & Husband

7 Steps to Trying a New Recipe Like a Pro

Pick a place.

When we eat out, it is almost always something that we probably won’t make at home. For instance, we frequented the local Vietnamese restaurant a couple times a week before finally learning how to make pho at home. If there’s a restaurant you love or a country you’d like to visit, start there. What do you like to get at the restaurant? What do people in that country eat? What do people in that country like to cook at home?

Hop over to Pinterest, but be critical.

Pinterest is a great place to get inspiration but can also be overwhelming. I have a “Yummy-ness” board that I update almost daily with recipes I’d like to try. But if you’re trying to get out of your box and try something new, you don’t want to trust just a pretty picture. Instead, try to find pins that people say they have actually made themselves. Check out the comments.

If there’s one recipe that’s been pinned a bunch, head over to that blog and see if there are any comments beneath the post. If people are commenting, they probably trust that blogger as well as their recipes.

Don’t change everything at once.

This is valuable advice with any new recipe you’re trying but is especially important if you’re eating a new ethnicity of food. You may get the most out of the experiment by using main ingredients you already know really well. For example, you know green beans. You love green beans. Try a different preparation of green beans.

Taste as you go.

If you’re looking to experiment with flavors in the future, taste the pieces and parts as you go so you can see how they all add up in the pot. For example, last night we made miso soup for the first time. We started with a broth of seaweed and mushrooms. Seaweed is not a taste I really needed to taste by itself. But when you near the end of the recipe, you whisk in miso, and (spoiler alert) it changes EVERYTHING. So yummy!

To understand the balance,
you must understand the parts.

Compare recipes.

If I’m trying something new, I’ll often compare several recipes for the exact same thing. For instance, last night I saw a miso soup with sweet potato on a recent email blast. So last night I threw one in to our soup, and it was a delightful addition to the basic recipe I was using.

Find your own trusted few.

There are a few cooks who post recipes that I will try the first time, line by line. Very few. I usually go to these few when I want to try a new technique or a new type of food I’ve never cooked before. Everyone has their go-tos, and these are mine.

I heard Ina say on Julia Turshen‘s (an amazing cook herself) fab Radio Cherry Bombe podcast a couple weeks ago that she tries each recipe several times and then has someone else try it before she publishes a book. Well it shows, Ina! It really shows.

Roll with the punches.

Be aware there are a things that may throw you off. Humidity and altitude vary from country to country and state to state. (This can especially throw off baking. Our friends from Salt Lake mock the size of our mountains, but we mock their leavening techniques.) A convection oven often doesn’t need as long of a cook time of as high of a temperature as a regular oven. Watch what you’re cooking. You learn by doing. Be willing to fail.

Which brings us to… the back-up plan.

If you’re trying something really new, be aware that the experiment may fail miserably. I recall a super-healthy, vegetarian lasagna experiment of late. (Pro-Tip: the béchamel is what makes lasagna edible.) So be willing to order a pizza.

So I think we’re diving into making our own pita next. What about you?

Any recipes you’d love to try?

 

 

 

3 Ways to Add Soul to a Room You Don’t Use

We all have those rooms–the ones we shut the door on and try to forget the Christmas gifts we’ll never use that are piled on the chair we meant to have reupholstered. Shudder no more my friend! It’s a new year. You can do this. Here are three ways to add soul to a room you don’t use. In no time, you’ll have guests thinking, “They just know exactly what to do with their space!”

For us, that room is an upstairs bedroom. We have the one guest room that is used for guests and the other one that is used for linen storage/books/that pile for Goodwill. Sure, we could have kids some day and this space could come in super handy, but at the moment we think of it as that one other room we have to vacuum. So one weekend we took a few easy steps to add a little soul, and now it’s known as our “sitting room” thankyouverymuch.

3 Ways to Add Soul to a Room You Don't Use | Hannah & Husband

The gallery wall and rug in our “sitting room.” If you want to learn how to make the upholstered bench, click here.

3 Ways to Add Soul

Cozy things up

ie: Buy a cheap rug. You can sometimes find vintage orientals on Craigslist* or in antique malls. Another option is salvage stores. My instinct is always to look for color and pattern (hides the wine drips). But if you want a lighter look, find a white rug with some seriously soft texture.

*The one rule here is to make sure they don’t smell like smoke.

Personalize

Hang some art. Better yet, hang a lot of it. Gallery walls are a great alternative to painting walls. (Hello, renters!) When we first bought our house, I was paralyzed by the fear that I would hang something in the wrong spot. Remember, if you don’t like where you hang something, you can always move it later.

Click here for an easy way to hang a gallery wall.

Next: Books, board games, and linens. Extra rooms are a great place for storage (thus all the piles) so why not embrace that? But (pro tip) this is not the place to put your DVD collection. Think of tactile personal objects that add warmth–a shelf full of clean quilts ready to be grabbed for a spur-of-the-moment picnic perhaps!

3 Ways to Add Soul to a Room You Don't Use | Hannah & Husband

We picked this vintage hanging light up for $5 and redid it. Here’s how.

Look at Your Fixtures

Fixture: A legal concept referring to something that
is permanently attached to a property.

Think door knobs, light fixtures, outlet covers, even the hooks in the bathroom. What one fixture could you replace to make things feel a bit more you? Regardless of what you choose, this is an upgrade that makes a big impact with less than an hour of effort!

Pro Tip: Scour the vintage shops for fixtures. They always come with a bit of the story, and that’s just what you need.

Finally, a little recommended listening for your room redo. Trust me on this one…

Keeping a Daily Record

Yearly Record | Hannah & Husband

I’ve been thinking about the value of keeping a daily record–both as a creative exercise and also as a way to find more value in the (sometimes mundane) everyday. In December, I posted a picture of an ornament from our tree on Instagram for each day leading up to Christmas. It was great for several reasons, but the two most important that I found were:

  1. I had to think about the value of a very simple object each day.
  2. It was a daily creative exercise that I could check off my list in less than a minute or two.

Daily calendars from Paper Source, Chronicle Books, and 1canoe2

There are many different ways people can keep a daily record. Chronicle Books has several different One _____ a Day journals for gardeners, cooks, and doodlers alike. This Perpetual Calendar from 1Canoe2 is interesting because it has a card for each day and a line for each year offering the user the ability to think back while documenting the day. Likewise, this Q&A 5 Year Journal from Paper Source asks the user to answer the same questions for a 5 year span. It seems like such an interesting way to document personal evolution, doesn’t it?

In looking back through some of my own notebooks and sketchbooks I found this quote from a talk Debbie Millman gave to Knoxville’s AIGA in January of 2012 right after she had written How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer

It takes a really long time for
meaningful things to happen.

As I read that quote today and looked back through my notes of her talking points, I think what she was speaking to was the fact that life is a process. Design is a process. We are in constant flux, and it is often difficult to see the big picture while you’re in the middle of the day-to-day.

But if you start to look closer at your day-to-day, I think there are some interesting things to be found. Two other notes that I found meaningful from that talk said…

Say yes!

Be aware of how you limit yourself.

So here are a few thoughts about keeping a daily record.

It is good to take note of where you are each day. What you’ve done and what you’re thankful for, what records you’ve listened to, what books you’re reading, what you cooked for dinner.

Forcing a habit that might seem uncomfortable at first is a great way to break through creative block. Record a little bit about your day (regardless of whether it’s a picture on Instagram or a line in a journal) and you may find yourself coming back to it later and seeing a little inspiration. David Sedaris, one of my favorite writers, has kept a journal for over 30 years. In 2009, he did a Q&A with  readers of The New Yorker and said this…

I’ve been keeping a diary for thirty-three years
and write in it every morning. Most of it’s just
whining, but every so often there’ll be something
I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote.
It’s an invaluable aid when it comes to winning
arguments. “That’s not what you said on
February 3, 1996,” I’ll say to someone.

Use a daily record to help you see the bigger picture. Look at the details. Are there patterns? Can you see mistakes you’re making? Limits you’re putting on yourself. Do your priorities begin to emerge?

So tell me, are you a record keeper? And if so, what’s your method of choice?

Further Reading if you’re interested:

“Famous Writers on the Importance of Keeping a Diary” on Brain Pickings

“How Keeping a Diary Can Surprise You” in the New York Times

Priorities & Place

There was one conversation I had this year that I’ve come back to several times, and it all had to do with priorities and place. The theory was this: People in different geographic locations judge quality of life by very different factors. For example, in Washington D.C. it might be common to judge one another (and therefore your own success) on the connections one holds. How connected are you to those in power? What are your 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon (or John Boehner), etc. Likewise, if everything really is bigger in Texas, perhaps that state puts great importance on possessions–their money, their house, their land.

So this made me think, what do we prioritize in East Tennessee? We are in the Bible Belt so many people prioritize the state of their soul (and, of course, everyone else’s). East Tennessee is made up of lots of small towns so you can definitely see the “who do you know” factor at work. But mostly, since I started really paying attention to this (in May), I’ve found that I am most interested in what people do with their free time–and so are most of the people I know.

"Home is where..." from the sketchbook of Hannah & Husband

I am a homebody. I like to spend time with my family, I like to cook for all of our friends, and when we get out, I’d much rather jump in a river than go to a club. So when I meet someone at a party I often ask about how they spend their Saturdays… Do they spend time with their family? Do they read books? Do they hike? Do they eat good food? (In which case, we can definitely be friends!)

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants.
The question is: What are we busy about?
-Henry David Thoreau

Which brings me to Thoreau. As we set goals for the new year, what are we going to be busy about? What takes priority in your life? How do you judge yourself–and therefore how will you judge others? While I do think there is something to that regional value idea, I just want to be sure that, regardless of place, I am setting my own priorities and living my life accordingly. And yes, as previously stated, one of those priorities is eating and sharing good food–expect more of that in the new year–which I’m not entirely sure isn’t a Southern belle/regional sort of thing in itself.

Happy Christmas Eve

Hannah & Husband, Christmas 2014

A pic from Sunday. Downtown was all dressed up and so were we!

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! We have had such a lovely holiday season this year and plan on spending the next couple of days sipping sherry & espressos and listening to Nat on the record player. I also have a feeling I will be rereading our stack of Christmas books. (Did you read this post on A Cup of Jo about exchanging books on Christmas Eve in Iceland? I just love that!)

If you want a little something to read over the next few days or just need some quick, festive eye candy, here are a few things we’re digging around the interwebs…

Children’s Holiday Letters to Satan | The New Yorker

The New Yorker always has the best Christmas shorts. (In fact, if you’re in to that sort of thing, my in-laws got me Christmas at The New Yorker our first year all together, and I treasure it.) This year, my favorite was this one by Matt Passet, in which children mistakingly address their letters to “Satan,” and he responds. To the 9 year-old who asks for an Xbox:

This game “Grand Theft Auto” indeed seems quite fun, but why waste your days sitting in front of the TV when the sun is shining outside…  don’t remember reading about any shortage of cars, guns, or hookers. Dammit, Daniel, get out there and live!

Miss Yvonne in Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special

My Quest to Dress Like Miss Yvonne

I mentioned Miss Yvonne’s outfit in the Cocktails & Carols post and last night, I finally got a good picture of it. Check out that hair!

3booksanight-25Christmas

25 Days of Christmas Children’s Books

My friend Caryn, has been sharing a Christmas children’s book each day on Three Books a Night. I love when she does this each year, and my absolute favorite this time has been Hilary Knight’s “A Christmas Stocking Story.” Don’t you just love that little elephant?

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye perform

Go watch White Christmas right now if you haven’t!

On Sunday, we had the pleasure of getting all gussied up and heading to the Tennessee Theatre to introduce some of our friends to White Christmas on the big screen! Isn’t it funny how you can watch certain movies again and again yet still catch  new things? My favorite part of that film is always the chemistry between Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

In case you need a drink…

Last year, we had two signature cocktails for our Cocktails and Carols party: a Jingle Julep and a Sage Ginger Sparkler. Click here to get the recipes.

 

Cocktails & Carols

Cocktails & Carols 2014 | Hannah & Husband

Husband (aka the king of selfies)

This weekend was our 3rd annual Cocktails & Carols party, and (if I do say so myself) it was the absolute best one yet. I get so overwhelmed by how blessed we are each year as all of our favorite people get gussied up (the dress is black tie or “festive”) and crowd into our little house to eat, drink, and sing! The group is always eclectic but when you have friends as fab as ours, lively conversation is never hard to come by.

Fun highlights from this year:

Our friend Ross brought a bottle of sparkly and a sword. I tried (& failed) 4 or 5 times to open it myself. Finally our friend Josh jumped in and got it on the first try! So much fun! In related news, if you see me purchasing a sword any time soon, it’s only for opening bottles of bubbly-I swear!

partyfail

We know super talented people. This year, everyone enjoyed a keg of beer brewed by one of our friends. How cool is that?

Cocktails & Carols 2014 | Hannah & Husband

 

Lots of Christmas carols were sung (obviously) as well as a selection of songs from both Disney and Rocky Horror Picture Show. But my favorite selection of the evening was when we all stood around the piano and sang Biz Markie.

Little Richard and Pee-Wee Herman in Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special

In the living room, we had some visual candy running on the television as we played vintage Christmas records. If you haven’t seen the Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, you’re in luck. Netflix just released all of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse–including the Christmas special! Note: I may have to make Miss Yvonne’s outfit for next year’s party!

Finally, the food. Here are a few recipes that were requested:

Husband made Slaughter-style chicken and waffles using my cornbread recipe and grilled chicken dressed with sour cream, cilantro, & jalapeños. Delish!

Cocktails & Carols 2014 | Hannah & Husband Cocktails & Carols 2014 | Hannah & Husband

Spinach Dip from scratch

Clementines dipped in chocolate with bourbon-smoked sea salt

Naughty: Lumps of Coal

Nice: Shortbread cookies with chocolate bows
Cocktails & Carols 2014 | Hannah & Husband Cocktails & Carols 2014 | Hannah & Husband

This year’s signature cocktail was a Cranberry Orange Gin Fizz. But you should always remember that parties in the South involve bourbon–Lots. of. Bourbon. We went through several bottles.

Note to Self: Next year, buy multiple handles.

Party Hair How-To

Today I’ve put together a little Party Hair How-To just in time for your weekend festivities. I get so many questions about how I put my hair up, and it’s really pretty simple. Just remember: Dirty hair works best and dry shampoo (which I spray on in the beginning) is really what gives it that big-hair-don’t-care look.

Let me know if you try the ‘do yourself! I’d love to see a pic.