A Glamorous Tea

Today we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Pace Cetters, a women’s leadership, community service, and networking organization I’ve been privileged to be a member of the past 5 years, with a glamorous High Tea at the Four Seasons

complete with hats and fancy dress.

And of course, fabulous tiny tea foods and desserts!

I so love these wonderful women and all we do not only to support our community but each other.

Here’s to another 50 years!


All in the family

I recently stumbled across a Facebook dialogue between me and my cousin Cindy from a couple of months ago.  For some reason, reading it again really cracked me up.

It should most likely offer you a lovely window into my family’s warped sense of humor.

I had just posted this picture of a 4-year old Kim, as part of a #100 Happy Days Social Media challenge. My cousin was quick to comment, sneaking in a reference to my childhood fear of Santa Claus.






Goodbye Doesn’t Mean Forever

I wrote this post 3 years ago, in February of 2013.  David and I had been married that December and were especially thrilled that David’s dad, Dave, was able to stand beside him in the ceremony as Best Man.  We lost Dave on January 28th, barely a month later, to his battle with cancer.  

He was a great man, and the Dave-shaped-abyss he left in our worlds is enormous.  I’d like to share my tribute to him, one more time, today – the day that would have been his 82nd birthday.  He is so very greatly missed.

Re-posting from February 4, 2013

Last week, my father-in-law, Dave, passed away.

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He valiantly fought third-stage, non-small cell lung cancer for fourteen months, holding his ground through a debilitating regime of radiation and chemotherapy.

Ultimately, damage to his lungs from COPD did him in; snatching him from us with little warning and brutal speed. There was barely time to make the calls.

The whole family flew in from California, Michigan and Florida. They surrounded his bed and held his hands as he crossed over. Although he never fully woke from the heavy sedation, I know he knew they were there, and I know that made him happy. He was all about his wonderful family and each and every one of them is a living testimonial to him: in looks (I have determined there are no adopted Strohmans), personality and character.


I was privileged to know him only a brief time, but it didn’t take me long to realize the person he was.

He was a man of high integrity and great spirit, with a story for every occasion. A man of wit and a jubilant jokester, he delivered a punchline with rapier grace.

A thoughtful and thinking man, he remembered the names of all who touched his life, no matter how briefly.

A decorated Air Force veteran, he traveled the world from Africa to China and beyond, parlaying his military experience into a career building nuclear power plants and submarines. He was so in demand for his skills and expertise that the company he worked for, Bechtel, lured him twice out of his well-earned retirement to construct or refurbish critical plants.

His greatest pride was his family: Linda, his beautiful wife of fifty-seven years; his five children, eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren: all to whom he was a living legend, a loving patriarch, the font of most knowledge, and the best friend and dad in the world.


He didn’t give a fig for the socially prescribed rites: the somber funeral; the weepy, graveside service. Instead, he wanted a huge party, with everyone wearing crazy hats from his vast collection of brims, bonnets and chapeaus; telling tall tales and remembering him with joy.

His lifelong motto was adamantly (and famously), “No Whining,” and he was determined to go out the way he lived, with humor and grace.

We decided to honor him with a celebration of life at the family home in Augusta, so everyone could come together to venerate his legacy. In the days leading up, as people poured in from all parts, each contributed in their own way.


The grandchildren, cousins and sons-in-law set up the tent, dragging out chairs and tables, hanging twinkle lights, draping everything with colorful vintage linens and filling the room with all the flowers and plants sent by loved ones. Vicky, Debbie and Cindy, David’s three sisters, cooked and baked for days, making pies, brownies and a massive chili bar with every kind of topping and condiment imaginable.


Aunt Kathi, Cousin Christa and I spent hours going through my mother-in-law Linda’s enormous archive of photographs. We plucked digital memories like a bouquet of blossoms, savoring the brightest and sweetest, printing them for decorations and assembling clips and pictures for my husband, David; who composed a brillant video tribute to his father, full of images, favorite songs and soundbites from years of family movies.


Moment arrived and all gathered, fighting tears and hugging each other close, we revered his memory, acknowledging the enormous Dave-shaped hole in our homes and hearts and lives. With food and drink, laughter and song, jokes and stories, we poured out our love to him and each other.


Linda is a member of the Red Hats, an organization of ladies dedicated to living their lives to the fullest. In an amazing gesture of  loyalty, that day at 3 p.m., hundreds of Red Hats from all over the country raised a glass of Vodka and Diet Sprite, Dave’s favorite drink, and released balloons into the heavens.


We, too, set loose balloons and toasted Dave. Each of us bid him adieu in their own fashion: a final salute to husband, dad, father-in-law, uncle, grandfather, neighbor and friend.

As the colorful globes soared into the vast blue sky, I remembered a line from a favorite book, Richard Bach’s Illusions.

“Don’t be dismayed by goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”


It might be goodbye, but that doesn’t mean forever. Farewell and fare well, dear friend, until we meet again. Our love travels with you.

Weekend Coffee Share: Sunday January 3, 2016

#WeekendCoffeeShare was created by Part Time Monster. I’m so happy to participate again!  I made an extra pot and I hope you’ll join me.


Actually, I feel pretty rotten that I haven’t been able to make time to grab a cup with you and fill you in on everything that’s been going on!  December’s a rough time in the event/hotel/restaurant business and it took everything I had to get my work done and squeeze in vital moments with my family and close friends.

I had a lot of grandiose plans this year: ice-skating, holiday parties, a fabulous anniversary celebration with my husband and trips to Birmingham for Christmas and New Years to visit my family, as well as giving the loft a serious cleaning, signing up for some on-line classes and cleaning out my closets and make donations to Dress for Success and local clothing drives.

Would you like another cup?  I am so addicted to this Sumatran Roast. And how about a Christmas cookie?  Please, take two. These are my husband’s absolute favorites.

Typical for me, I had a lot more plans than I had actual time, but I am more than content with all the lovely things we did get to do and most importantly of all, the happy and relaxing six or seven (alas, non-contiguous) days we spent with my family in Birmingham.


One of the biggest highlights of our holiday was attending the Dahlonega Christmas parade, in the North Georgia mountains.  Our friends Sam and Betty participate in the parade every year with their four enormous Huskies pulling a dogsled filled with gifts.  It was our first time to see the event (although not our first visit to Dahlonega) and we enjoyed the simple charms of the small town: families and neighbors sharing holiday joy amid the festive lights and decor, the beautiful mountains and crisp wintry air.

My last day of work was the 21st, with two whole weeks off!  I’ve never in my life had a vacation that long and I was so incredibly thrilled to finally have some “me” time (and “we” time with my husband.)


John Driskell Hopkins and the Atlanta Pops Orchestra

David and celebrated our 3-year anniversary a day early (the 21st instead of the 22nd) at a friend’s holiday CD release party and performance with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra.  The music was incredible, we had a nice dinner at the venue, Venkmans, but the best part was catching up with old buddies from my days in the Atlanta bar and music scene.


David’s Mom, Linda, came up on the 23rd from her home in Augusta, and spent the night so we could get an early start for our drive to Birmingham the next day.  It’s not a bad trip, about 2 and 1/2 hours, but the first part was through a torrential rainstorm.  Thankfully, it cleared up after about 50 miles and we had blue skies and an easy drive the rest of the way.


Being home in Birmingham was wonderful.  My 91-year old grandmother, Jessie, is visiting this month from Oklahoma, so we had the full family gathered at my parent’s home.  It was awesome playing Santa Claus, wrapping gifts and enjoying a delicious Christmas Eve dinner my husband cooked for us all.  Christmas day brought my sister, her husband and my niece over, along with my foster sister Wendy and her daughter Alexis.  We had another huge dinner, exchanged gifts, watched classic Christmas movies and just enjoyed being with each other.


Christmas Eve Crazy Hat Party. This is one of my husband’s family traditions we’ve newly incorporated into our combined family. Unfortunately, we’ve only turkey and Santa hats, so there’s not a lot of variety at this time. We’re working on it.

Yay! Christmas!

Yay! Christmas!

We went back to Atlanta for a few days between Christmas and New Years and I actually did do a lot of cleaning and donated a bunch of clothes to a local charity.  I planned to do much more, but honestly, I was happy just to do a thorough mop and vacuum, dust everything and clean all the counters, the fridge and the bathrooms.  Oh, and I signed up for my on-line classes (more about that to come.)


New Year’s Eve brought us back to Birmingham to celebrate with the family. My Dad’s recovering from shoulder surgery so we needed to keep things a little chill for him.  We planned a big, swanky dinner at my folk’s house, with hors d’oeuvres, an Italian-themed dinner, champagne and sparklers for midnight!


Oops, I should have warned you that too much caffeine makes me wildly chatty.  I hope I haven’t “talked your ears off!”  Hmmmm. Maybe I should switch back to water.  🙂
It was a memorable, magical holiday – everything I hoped for – and I’m so grateful I got to experience and share it!

Your turn!  How were your holidays?  I truly hope you have lots of love and wonderful memories from your celebrations and I’d love to hear about them.

(Ok, just one more cup of coffee – let me top yours off, too – so I can toast to a happy New Year with you!)

Here’s to 2016 being filled with love, blessings, prosperity, happy surprises and being the best year yet for all of us!

I’d also like to thank Nerd in the Brain – I’ve enjoyed her “If We Were Having Coffee” posts so much, it inspired me to brew up a pot and join you all! I hope you have a wonderful week!

A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday with my family.


I am so thankful that I got to see my sister-cousin, Patti!


I am so thankful for the very grand dinner…


A Honey-baked ham, roasted turkey, crawfish dressing (and plain cornbread dressing), mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, squash casserole, praline sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberries, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and brownies.


I was grateful to enjoy all of my favorite foods!


I was blessed to be able to spend time with my little niece, Livvy.

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I had the pleasure of playing with Betty, the Boston Terrier.

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I was extra-thankful that David’s Mom Skyped in so she could join the festivities!

And I was truly thankful for all the laughter and joy that filled the day.


My dad creates an elaborate ceremony of dubbing visitor Grace an honorary Ferguson


Grace was very good-spirited about the whole thing (or maybe she’d mustered her courage with some good spirits). Anyhow, perfect Ferguson material.


“I dub thee Gracie Ferguson!”


Newest turkey in the crew!

Mostly, I was overwhelming thankful for the outpouring of love and acceptance from my family.  It’s there on Thanksgiving as well as the other 364 days each year.


I am a very thankful girl!

I hope you all had a lovely day filled with the things you are thankful for.

“I am grateful for what I am and have.  My Thanksgiving is perpetual.”

Henry David Thoreau





Step Kids

Nah, they’re not step kids really, they’re my very own kids, fur and all.

I just love the solemness of the little display here.

Yes, it’s morning.

Yes, Mom is up and moving around.

Breakfast, however, has not been made.

There’s a little bit of judgement going on here, certainly some alarm; definitely a great deal of consternation.

I’m rushing to clean the kitchen first, before I have to leave for class, but helpless under the weight of their regard, I fold.

The crisp crack of the Fancy Feast lid sears apart the air…

releasing suddenly manically eager kittens tumbling frantically down the stairs

to their dish.


Cat drama.

Happy Holiday Weekend!

We spent a lovely 4th with my parents, visiting my Mom-in-law Linda, down in Augusta.

My awesome Mom-in-Law, bedecked for July 4th!

My awesome Mom-in-Law, bedecked for July 4th!

There was a little rain at first, but it cleared up and we had an fabulous day at the pool.


David brined some 2-inch bone-in pork chops and grilled them with sweet peppers and onions, which we enjoyed with roasted rosemary potatoes and mango goat-cheese spinach salad.

Oh, and I made lemon meringue pie for dessert, to celebrate my Dad’s birthday.


Birthday pie!

All in all, a wonderful weekend!  I hope everyone had a special time with their friends and family too!

Happy Independence Day from our crazy crew!


A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: The Redneck Riviera

It’s the land of Jimmy Buffett, boat drinks and billionaires.

Tourists and trailer parks. Sailboats and sand dunes.

College kids tearing it up on Spring Break, families romping in the surf, seniors searching for sunny skies.

20141017_173237_resizedIt’s the paradise in our own backyard.

Family gathering in Florida

Ranging from coastal Mississippi to the Florida Panhandle, the beaches of the Deep South, or the “Redneck Riviera,” as even we (affectionately) refer to it, offer miles of sugar-spun sands and clear turquoise waters on beaches both jam-packed and serenely isolated.

Gulf Shores up through Apalachi-cola
They got beaches of the whitest sand
Nobody cares if gramma’s got a tattoo
Or Bubba’s got a hot wing in his hand

Redneck Riviera is where I wanna be
Down here on the Redneck Riviera by the sea
Tom T. Hall – Redneck Riviera

Every Southerner has “their” spot they visit, year after year.

Some seek the neon-bright nightlife of Daytona or Panama City Beach.

Some yearn for the European sophistication of Rosemary, Seaside or Alys, some choose the picturesque lifestyle found in waterside communities like Dauphin Island, Pensacola or Pass Christian.

At the Beach (5)Fishing, swimming, surfing, sailing, wining and dining, shopping or simply savoring the sultry breezes.

IMG_2764 Whatever sand spot suits the fancy, it’s our ultimate resort.

Rosemary Oct 2014 (5)“Life’s a Beach.”

– Unknown


A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: It’s All in the Quilting

Quilts are such a huge memory from my childhood.  They were bright and cheerful, warm and comforting and always smelled like sunshine from being line-dried in the back yard.

"Postage Stamp" pattern quilt made my my Grandmother, Norma Ferguson Pass and my Great Grandmother, Pearl James McCormick.

“Postage Stamp” pattern quilt made my my Grandmother, Norma Ferguson Pass and my Great-Grandmother, Pearl James McCormick.

My grandmother’s house was small but always overflowed with family and guests during the holidays. Us young’uns (grandkids) always slept on and under a pile of quilt “pallets” on the floor, leaving the real beds to the grown ups.

I have two quilts left as a legacy from my beloved Granny.  One was carefully preserved (read: kept packed away and not given to me until I was 40 and somewhat responsible) and the other I have had since I was 6 or 7 and allowed to “love” all to pieces.

This is my ragged and abused favorite quilt from childhood.  I adored it because it had bright flowers and pink fringe on one side and tiny cars on the other.

This is my ragged and abused favorite quilt from childhood. I adored it because it had bright flowers and pink fringe on one side and tiny cars on the other.

I couldn’t find any pictures of the really beautiful quilts I know that my family owned, but in a moment of inspiration, I emailed my Aunt Shirley Roland Ferguson (who is actually our “famous” family author and ad hoc keeper of lore, legend and passed down goodies.)

My darling Auntie was quick to respond with some lovely photos, but dashed my hazy memories of Granny whipping up artistic quilts in her spare time.

“I don’t think Granny ever did much quilting. Her energies were in cleaning and keeping a pretty home, cooking her fabulous meals and working in the yard.”

A quilt made by Granny Roland

A quilt made by Nell Roland

Aunt Shirley went on to reminisce about her own Mom, Nell Roland.

“My mom was allergic to manual labor I think. Her food was just adequate and she never had leftovers. But she loved being creative with her hands. She and my Granny crocheted doilies and tablecloths in the evenings while they listed to programs on the radio during WWII. My dad worked long hours at a defense job at the Birmingham airport repairing radios in bombers. And mother made all our clothes, stopping through town for material after working all day as a nurse.  She rode three buses to get home.
Aunt Shirley's family quilt

One of Aunt Shirley’s family quilts

As children we played under her quilting frames while she and the church ladies quilted. She tried to teach me but I was impatient. And when she asked my aunt if she would like to learn, Aunt Ina said,”‘Nell, I’d rather try to pick out hickory nuts with a toothpick!'”

Another of Granny Roland's quilts

Another of Granny Roland’s quilts

Reading Aunt Shirley’s words, I  drifted back a moment in time, to my earliest memories of my Granny’s quilts, a long-ago Christmas eve.  I was maybe 4-years old or so, tucked into a pallet next to my parent’s bed, snuggled like a bug in a mountain of rugs, fighting sleep, straining so hard to hear above the talk and laughter of the adults in the next room, the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof that my older cousins swore meant Santa was on his way.

And just like the brightly hued quilts I once cuddled around my younger body, I happily gather my Aunt’s words around me now while I write, for a moment enveloped, once again, in my Granny’s love.

“Blankets wrap you in warmth, quilts wrap you in love.”
– unknown


A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Pretty is as Pretty Does

Things Southern Mamas say to their little girls:

“I’m gonna jerk a knot on you.”
“Just wait ’til I tell your Daddy what you’ve done.”
“Get that hair out of your eyes.”
“Wipe that look off of your face.”
“Missy, we don’t talk that way.”
“Don’t make me come over there.”
“Get ‘cher tail over here right this minute.”
“You are getting mighty big for your britches.”
“You are walkin’ a fine line, young lady.”
“Stand up straight.”
“Pretty is as pretty does.”
“Hush your mouth.”
“You think you’re real cute, don’t you?”
“I brought you in to this world, and I can take you out of it.”
“Sister, you sass me again and I’ll knock you into next week.”
“If you keep making that face, it’s gonna freeze that way.”
“Don’t you act ugly now.”
“Clean that plate. There are children starving in Africa.”
“Go out in that yard right now and pick me a switch.”
“If you eat your bread crusts, it will make your hair curly.”
“You’d be so pretty if you just smiled.”


“Whuppins were like kid taxes we paid with our behinds.”
― Terris McMahan Grimes, Smelling Herself: A Novel