Good morning! You’ve made it to Friday–in just a few short hours you’ll be lying on the couch avoiding all those household chores you put off til the weekend. But first, a few TGIF! links to peruse.

Mean Girls wearing pink.

Small disclaimer: It really bothers me that people assign colors gender. I’ve never understood why less than a century ago, pink became assigned to girls and blue now belongs to boys. And I am forever indebted to my mother for painting my nursery yellow! That said, Racked had a feature recently called “How Pink Became a Color for Girls,” and it was really interesting!

Abraham Lincoln before his beard and his presidency.

Proof that girls have always run the world. (cue Beyonce) In 1860, as Abraham Lincoln was running for president, he received a letter from young Grace Bedell asking him to grow a beard. His reply is ever-so sweet, and he actually asked to meet her when he rolled through town on his inaugural train journey to DC. Read the story here. 

And while we’re on that subject: I’m just gonna leave this here. 

Reddit: Hillary Clinton Pantsuit Rainbow

The rainbow was created by this reddit user a year ago, and it’s basically my favorite thing right now.

Design*Sponge’s Grace Bonney recently sat down with Marie Forleo to talk about “Doing The Work You Were Born To Do.” I really enjoyed their discussion. (You can check out more Marie Forleo vids–they’re great!–on her YouTube channel.)

This needs no introduction. Just enjoy! (“We love you, Uncle Jesse!”)

Finally: My day job is working as a designer for HGTV and DIY Network. At the end of last week, we wrapped up a project months in the making: the new! Watch a little intro below and then be sure to check out the new site!


Candlemas: February 2nd

Last night while Husband watched the Super Bowl, I was googling Groundhog Day to find out a little more about the origin of Punxsutawney Phil. (Wow, I just read that sentence back to myself. I so want to go back in time and high-five the 2001 Me who tried to feign interest when Tom Brady was in his first Super Bowl. “It’s ok, 2001 Hannah. In 2015, you won’t even have to pretend you’re interested while you cuddle with your hot husband in your adorable house. You win.”) Anyway, in the midst of reading about the February 2nd legend, I learned about the tradition of Candlemas. While it sounds like a made up word or possibly an Amy Sedaris crafting holiday, is a beautiful tradition that has been around for hundreds of years.

Candlemas: Feb. 2nd | Hannah & Husband

The tradition is that on February 2nd, priests bless the candles that light the homes in their community for the remainder of Winter. Candlemas occurs 40 days after Christmas, and, as with many ancient holidays, there are lots of theories about how February 2nd became a special day. Legends range from the end of a plague in Constantinople to a Christianization of the Gaelic festival of Imbolc. However, the most common thread seems to be the presentation of Jesus at the temple. 40 days also has to do with the Jewish tradition of female purification after childbirth so another name for Candlemas is “Feast of the Purification of the Virgin.”

The candles come into play as a reference to this scripture in Luke’s gospel. Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple and Simeon, after seeing the baby, calls Him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” As the tradition goes, priests bless the candles and then people take them home to light the remainder of the dark winter nights and even to ward off thunderstorms.

Two thoughts for today…

  1. When I was little my mother always kept candles lit this time of year, and now that I have a home, I do the same thing. There is a homeyness that comes with the glow of a candle. A warmth it adds on the coldest, darkest nights that I can’t quite explain. Oil lamps, pillar candles, tea lights–they’re a cheap fix for some good juju, I promise!
  2. January is hard and grey and bleak. What sort of light are you bringing to other people these days? There is something to be said for being the hopeful, encouraging friend that makes everyone you meet feel like the most important person in the room. Go forth and be a light in the dreary!
In East Tennesseee? Fig & Company is my new go-to candle source. Check out that colorful display!

In East Tennesseee? Fig & Company is my new go-to candle source. Check out that colorful display!

Some Crafty Candle Links from Winters Past:

Candle Salad & the 1950s Dinner Party with the “Club” 

Repurpose Old Jars Into Vintage-Looking Candleholders

May the remainder of your Winter days be filled with light!


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


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).

JFK – A Nation Reacts 50 Years Ago

Today being the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, there has been plenty of discussion about the man and the event.

President Kennedy casual sailing style

Style icon notwithstanding, I’ve been fascinated with JFK for years. Reading about that day, seeing the films of the event, watching old news coverage, and even going to the Sixth Floor Museum have all contributed to quite the fascination. However, nothing has ever had quite the impact that this recording has. The first 45 seconds place you right in that room with the Boston Symphony Orchestra as the news was announced. It is completely devastating. What follows is one of the most emotionally charged performances of the second movement of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony.

I’m sure you’ll be inundated with coverage of this event today, but make sure you have a listen and read the article. Just make sure you’ve got your crying face ready.

Posted on in Uncategorized | Tagged

Fun Fact: On This Day in 1868

When I was 12, Aunt Vangie got me my first copy of Little Women. Since then, the story has become a part of me. Do you have books like that? I reread parts of it every winter, often finding myself subconsciously relating things to parts of the book. It’s like an old friend.


By middle school, I’d fallen in love with the movies. While I am normally a Katharine Hepburn devotee, I will forever picture June Allyson as Jo. Although, I confess my love for the 1949 version probably has more to do with my crush on Peter Lawford than anything else. And Liz Taylor as Amy? I mean, how could you picture anyone else? (Sorry, Kirsten Dunst.)

When I was in high school, I started collecting copies and also read Alcott’s books that followed: Little Men, Jo’s Boys, An Old-Fashioned Girl. I couldn’t help being fascinated by Alcott, her transcendentalist parents, and her influence on female writers in the late 19th century.

An illustration I did for a colored pencil, paper doll assignment in college.

An illustration I did for a colored pencil, paper doll assignment in college.

Louisa Alcott was quite a pioneer: she was an abolitionist, a feminist, and a critically acclaimed author by the time she was my age. And although, she was at first hesitant to write a story for girls when asked by her publisher, on this day in 1868 the first volume of Little Women was released. So I’d suggest pulling out your own copy and giving it another read.

And if you aren’t a fan of Little Women, perhaps there’s another book you consider to be an old friend that could use another perusal?
What do you think?



FDR’s D-Day Prayer

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer

delivered on June 6, 1944

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.

I remember the first time I heard this prayer, delivered to America nearly seventy years ago by radio address the night after American and Allied forces landed in Normandy. It brought several things to mind, that I’d like to consider today:

First, Husband and I were talking recently about how little we have to invest in our own freedom. Neither of us serve in the military and while we do have friends and family that do, it’s interesting that we, as individuals don’t have to give anything up to pay for the freedoms that we enjoy everyday. I nerd out over old radio shows, and a common theme among each of them is reminding their audience of which food was being rationed or why they shouldn’t frequent black markets. Can you imagine how much Americans would revolt if this happened today? Why is that? What’s changed? And what could we do to support the military that we know?

Secondly, there’s this line:

“…because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”

I’m challenging myself to do that today. To keep prayer at the front of my mind. I understand that sometimes you really have nothing to say, but there’s always someone to pray for and something for which to give thanks. And, if nothing else, pray a blessing for our friends in uniform. That prayer is always timely.


Style File: Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn, 1942  |  Secrets of a Belle

In honor of Presidents’ Day, I just couldn’t resist sharing a little Style File from a favorite of ours: 1942’s Holiday Inn. It’s the classic story of boy meets girl set to the tunes of Irving Berlin.

Boy falls in love with girl. Boy’s friend steals girl. Boy moves to farm and finds new girl. Rinse and repeat.

Some would call it a Christmas movie, but I think it’s best enjoyed during the month of February: such a short month yet so many holidays! Regardless of when, here are a few things to be taken…

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Old movie sets remind us that cliché can sometimes be fantastic.

The house used in Holiday Inn was the *perfect* New England home. So perfect, in fact, that it was later reused in 1954’s White Christmas. (Personally, my dream house will have those big windows!) However, a few nuances I’d really like to point out are the contrasts between the “girl’s room” and the “boy’s room.” Please note: the lace curtains, hand-painted glass lamps, and chaise lounge, versus the printed drapes and model ship. I’m not gonna lie, I have to go with the gender stereotypes on this one; I’d love to put on my make-up in front of that vanity. (My regular, non-controversial makeup that brings me closer to looking like Joan Rivers than Jennifer Hudson, but keep reading.)

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Find a room that has it all.

Working in the industry that I do, I often hear people go on and on about open-concept floor plans. Personally, I’ll just take this one living room if you don’t mind.

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

When it comes to holidays, overdo it!

Holiday Inn is just that: an inn that is open *just* for holidays. And each holiday comes with some seriously fantastic decor. Take a look…

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Maybe I Should Clarify…

Overdo it… tastefully. Which brings us to the first February holiday: February 12th, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The performance of “Abraham” (obviously not Irving Berlin’s best work) has become so controversial that most channels airing the movie cut it entirely.

Black Face controversy from Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

While the black face makes my stomach ache, it’s interesting to think of it in the context of when this movie was made: 1942. That’s nearly 80 years after the Civil War’s conclusion but just a decade before the Civil Rights Movement really got ramped up.

Also worth noting in this song (and throughout the film) is the fabulous Louise Beavers. You may recognize her because around this time she was in everything! (For instance, she absolutely stole the show in this movie with Cary Grant.)

Louise Beavers in Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Anyway, after Lincoln’s birthday is Valentine’s Day which, of course, is best celebrated surrounded by an overabundance of hearts, lace, crepe paper, and plenty of creepy cupids! As a side note, how glorious is that dress?

We really should work together to bring back “Black Tie.”

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Finally, in the words of Paula Deen,

“The closer to Jesus, the better we like it!”

Maybe it’s the Southern Belle in me, but don’t you just *adore* the hair and dress for George Washington’s birthday? It’s as if Linda Mason could be Scarlett O’Hara’s 18th century cousin with that hoop skirt & big hair!

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

So Happy Presidents’ Day! Will you be watching Holiday Inn? If so, please remember to celebrate in style!

Snapshot of a Sunday

First of all, please let me apologize for my absence. This past week, Husband & I ended up in Ohio after the very unexpected death of my very favorite aunt and 2nd mother, Vangie Hughes. We spent the days with family and friends overwhelmed by the love and support that came from everyone we talked to.

She was truly one-of-a-kind. We heard story after story from people who credited her with being the reason they had a relationship with Jesus, praised her love & acceptance of each person she met, and talked about how she was ‘their very best friend.’ She was the embodiment of mercy, and the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of people that showed up to celebrate her life with us on a very snowy Friday afternoon testified to that.

All that to say, today I wanted to share one of my favorite snapshots of Aunt Vangie taken just before her senior prom. Is that dress not killer? (Sidenote: why don’t we wear gloves anymore?)

Aunt Vangie & Mom on their way to prom, 1969  |  Secrets of a Belle

Aunt Vangie & Mom on their way to prom, 1969

I was trying to think of how I could share Aunt Vangie’s spirit here on the blog before getting back into my regular weekly groove when several friends sent me a message to read her “About Me.” You know that part on Facebook that most of us either never fill out or post something utterly ridiculous? Well, Aunt Vangie’s “About Me” was pretty fantastic because it really is exactly who she was. So here goes…

I am happily married to Gary Dean Hughes, my best friend and a wonderful pastor!
He has encouraged me to do more than I ever thought I could do and has been my cheerleader!!! What a wonderful support he has been for me. It’s a joy to serve in ministry at his side for the Lord Jesus Christ! I want my life to be remembered as a prayer warrior and dedicated woman of God. I love God with all my heart and I’m totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit and His guidance! It’s a joy to think about all that God has yet planned for Gary and me.

And then she proceeds to list all of her family & favorite people… for 3 more paragraphs.

I know this post could be a bit of a downer, but I hope you take as an encouragement to reflect, as I have this week, about what you are known for, how you treat people, and, most importantly, how you love people. Thanks for indulging me. xo* ~HB

Hello, Gorgeous! #inaug2013

Inauguration Day is like the Oscars for political junkies. We all sit around wondering who Michelle will wear, what Chuck will say in his toast, how the musicians will perform in the cold, and, perhaps most important, what political touch points will the president hit in his speech? Obviously this morning did not disappoint, so I thought it only appropriate to carry the inaugural theme through in today’s ‘links to start your week’ post. So here goes…


Feeling less than patriotic? Well, in the words of my mother, “If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, check your pulse.”


I thought the inaugural address was a powerful, new declaration to America’s citizens, and this was the quote that touched my heart the most.

"... for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." -President Barack Hussein Obama II, 2013 Inaugural Address  |  Secrets of a Belle

Want to read the whole thing? There’s a transcript on several sites, including this one on The New York Times.

Read More

November’s election in particular made me think a lot about my own role. I have a tendency to over analyze and be pretty cynical, but over the last little bit, I’ve realized it does no good to complain about taxes/politics/education/agriculture when I’m doing nothing to personally make a difference. So this week I challenge you to READ MORE. Read the paper. Read a history book. (Might I suggest this one? or perhaps this one to tickle your funny bone?) Listen to NPR. Watch the news. And then find ways to have meaningful, informed discussions.

Connecting Through Food & My Favorite Brownie Recipe

quarter cup cocoa

I consider myself very blessed. I have always loved to cook. My very first memory is of learning to dredge chicken for frying while standing on a chair at my Nanny’s house. Before I was 5, I would put on little cooking shows from the organ bench for an audience of stuffed animals. (Yes, there are videotapes to prove it.) I remember dishtowel aprons in my Aunt Vangie’s giant kitchen around the holidays, watching my grandfather bake bread every weekend, and watching my WooWoo, for hours on end, cook for a houseful of people–completely mesmerized by the authority she seemed to possess over the ingredients. It felt like she could take nothing and somehow manage to feed 40 people at the drop of a hat. (A skill I firmly believe every belle should possess, but we’ll talk about that at a later date.)

I’ve always liked to think that there’s something special about how we approach food in the South. For Southerners, cooking is often a spiritual thing; there is love and passion and history tied into our recipes. However, as I’ve traveled more, I’ve realized that this is true of many cultures and really not at all specific to my own region. Another thing that’s become very apparent is that not everyone is lucky enough to experience ‘being in the kitchen’ like me. Not all children are taught to cook and many come from families that rely on their microwaves and drive-thrus. But I would like to think that there’s something that can be done about this.

Cooking is an invaluable skill. When you cook, you are very aware of where you food comes from and exactly what you’re putting into your bodies and feeding your loved ones. (For a really great read on the science/nutrition part of this, might I suggest Food Rules.) But there’s something more than that: Recipes carry histories. They carry stories along with them and pick up little anecdotes along the way. My college thesis was actually on this very topic, and it has been on my mind again a lot lately.

I know I’m an old soul, but I really do believe in the power of the past to influence and connect us to the here & now. So, with that said, I wanted to start a new series here on the blog of recipes & the stories that go with them. The first recipe I’d like to share with you is actually the very first recipe I ever cooked by myself when I was 6 or 7 years old: WooWoo’s Quick-as-a-Wink Brownies.* I remember that I couldn’t wait to call and tell WooWoo what I’d made… with my father’s supervision to turn the oven on & off, of course! This recipe was a favorite around the Green house because even the most finicky of palates likes brownies, and the recipe is so easy to double. It is also a very easy baking project for beginners so I hope you’ll try it!

WooWoo's Quick-as-a-Wink Brownies | Secrets of a Belle

Ingredients for the Brownies:

1 C (2 sticks) soft margarine or soft salted butter
2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
6 eggs (beaten)
– – – – – – – – – – – –
1 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C cocoa
– – – – – – – – – – – –
1 C chopped walnuts or pecans (Husband doesn’t eat nuts so I use this as one of the toppings!)


Ingredients for the Icing:

1 C confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp. cream
1 Tbsp. cocoa
1 Tbsp. butter


Preheat your oven to 350°F.

1.) Combine the first 4 ingredients one at a time, beating after each entry. I do this part in my KitchenAid, but a hand mixer works just as well.

2.) In a separate bowl, sift together the next 4 ingredients (aka the dry ingredients).

3.) Add you dry ingredients a little bit at a time to your wet until just mixed.

4.) Fold in the nuts.

5.) Grease a baking dish. (WooWoo used a 15″x10″ but I use a 9″x13″ aluminum pan) Pour in your mixture, then lift it about 1/2in. above the counter and drop it a couple of time to get rid of any air bubbles.

6.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Then, allow to cool.

mixer brownies

Now for the Icing…

1.) Combine ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.) Spread over brownies. Let set and then cut into squares. Serve with icecream, whipped cream, & nuts!

Tips & Tricks: 

Baking powder should be light, fluffy, & seem nearly weightless. A sure sign to know if you’re baking powder is bad is if it is difficult to get a spoonful. A good rule of thumb is to write the date right on your can and replace the powder once a year. 

My cousin Tas prefers a denser brownie so he only uses 1/2tsp baking powder, and the darkest cocoa he can find. 

My grandmother *loved* the icing and always doubled the recipe. I, however, hardly ever eat icing and have actually left it off entirely on several occasions… it’s good either way! 

*Originally, this recipe came from a newspaper clipping my aunt sent WooWoo from New York so it is worth noting that this recipe has been passed down in our family; even if we weren’t the first to come up with it.