Welcome Y'all

I am so happy you are here! Now sit and visit with me for a while, visit all my pages and feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you! It's all just a SOUTHERN THING.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NOT YOUR MOTHER'S KFC

                                     
     Down south, it just goes without saying that food is love. Food is at the core of everything we do no matter what the occasion-- whether funeral or wedding-- the best, most mouth-watering food in the world, (in my humble opinion) is a staple of life here. It is simply part of the age old tapestry of the Deep South; good cooking handed down from one generation to the next.

But in my family something happened along the way--it skipped a generation. My poor, poor mother.

Our tapestry of good cooking kinda fell apart when it reached her tiny hands--and passed virtually nothing--well, nothing really delicious-- on to me. And certainly NONE of my mother's "recipes" were created by ANYONE in my family. They were her very own authentic "inventions."

Mother had about three staple meals. She could make a mean Frito Pie--basically chili with shredded cheese and Fritos thrown on top--if we were lucky she remembered to throw it in the oven and melt the cheese. Her other big hit was Tuna Casserole. This can be made in about 10 seconds flat. Steam some rice, mix in a can of cream of mushroom soup, then throw in a can of tuna and smash up some plain ol potato chips and stir the mush. If we were having company, she'd throw extra chips on top and stick it in the oven for a few minutes. I can't even remember what the third specialty was, but I'm certain it included some sort of snack chip. She must have developed our menus from the Frito Lay cookbook.
My Grandma Albright and Nanny Bruce 

Both of my spectacular grandmothers were amazing cooks. My country grandma, Grandma Albright, was unreal. Her Sunday suppers were a thing of legend. Everything you could imagine a southern feast to be-- Fried chicken, ham, (yes, both) fried potatoes with onions, green beans, cornbread, creamed corn. All of it had a layer of fat on top as the Crisco she used would rise to the top when the dish cooled. She would spend the whole day on Saturday cooking for us to drop by and eat on Sundays after church. It was a way of life that I cherished.

My Nanny, ( inspiration for Meridee in my SASSY BELLE series and my mother's mother) cooked breakfasts that would make you salivate the second you opened your eyes, and those savory scrumptious aromas from her kitchen drifted up the hall and tickled your nose. She loved making a huge breakfast for all of us when we all spent the night, which was often. She loved a house full of people and she would INSIST we all sit and have the feast together-- bacon and cheesy eggs, grits, toast, hash browns, biscuits and butter...and her suppers were just as wonderful, filled with lots of gravy-covered succulent delights. Thank heavens I have both of their recipe books and to this day, I talk to them in my heart when I make those delectable concoctions. Of course, my food never quite tastes as delicious as theirs did.

Somehow, my sweet mother missed the cooking memo. She was out chasing and saving wildlife. The only pies she loved to make were the mud kind.

I can vividly remember Nanny saying, "Now Beth, get in here and let me show you how to cook--your mama never learned a damn thing that had to do with a stove." No, my mother was different.  Unless you count how she kept a rescued baby opossum warm in the gas stove in a shoe box when it lost it's mother. The stove was off but warm with the pilot light so the rodent lived and was released back into the wild by my mother.

Me and my precious mother
 Mother was doing what she did best, nurture--in her own way.

Later my mother developed a love and enormous talent for sewing--(more on that in a later blog.)

In my mother's defense, she was a young widow with two babies and she always had to work several jobs but truth be told, even after she married my step-dad when I was sixteen and she had plenty of time, the trend was already set, mother just had no interest in cooking-- not if it took more than 10 minutes and a microwave--no make that five minutes. How in the world was a southern SASSY BELLE in the making to be great in the kitchen with a mother who thought it was a big night if we were in the KFC drive-through? This was my mother's favorite meal...seriously, she and the colonel were having an affair--most of my childhood. This totally explains the gorgeous figure I have always possessed....ahem.

After I got married, I inherited those precious hand-me down recipes from my dear grandmothers. Soon after my wedding,  my Aunt Patsy gave me a book that is now so totally messy, sauce stained and dog-eared--it has been used--and loved to death--Cotton Country Cooking-- and with that began my own real adventures in the kitchen. I began to teach myself-- but I have to be honest and admit--a cookbook alone does not make a great cook--and may I say, unfortunately the apple doesn't fall far from the tree--my mother's non-cooking gene is in me somewhere and I wrestle with it daily...burning things, mostly me,  and skipping key steps in a recipe trying to "hurry things along".

My most cherished cookbook

Today things are better--I taught myself--studied that book my aunt gave me and vowed my whole life I would learn to feed my family something other than Fritos or potato chips over canned whatever. I am pretty good these days though I still have bandages on my fingers occasionally.

Thank heavens I still have my mother, though we are so far apart with me in San Francisco and her in Alabama. "That's what the phone is for," she says. And we often talk several times a day, every single day--ironically reading recipes to each other. One can dream. :) 'Cause we sure as hell can't cook!

These days when I am needing my mother's hugs--which is every single day--I have been known to grab the can of tuna and throw those potato chips over some rice and cream of mushroom soup and feel my mother's arms around me. I smile and feel safe. Food is love. And my mother was loving us the best she could. The faster supper was ready, the quicker she could get my pageant dresses sewn, or the laundry done or our prayers said with us, every single night.

Come to think of it--Tuna Casserole is one of my very favorite meals!

Monday, June 16, 2014

There Really is MAGIC IN DIXIE



                                     
 WELCOME BACK!  I am so excited you're here!! It has been a while, I know. Writing 6 books in 18 months has been--well--let's just put it this way, I've been a tad busy! :)



BUY IT NOW!!


                                http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Dixie-Beth-Albright-ebook/dp/B00KY7X1DC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1402948080&sr=1-1&keywords=magic+in+dixie

                  I am so excited to introduce my new IN DIXIE series! It is filled with love, laughter and the special bonds women share. And as always, the entire series is VERY SOUTHERN, and full of southern humor!  The first book in the series, MAGIC IN DIXIE is out NOW!
The IN DIXIE series is about each of these new Belles discovering themselves, their passions, their hearts and souls. And then making the difficult decision to embrace that—or not. Of course, part of that journey will always be finding true love and learning just who your southern sisters are when things get tough. And my novels will NEVER be without laughter and hilarious situations. It’s the southern way—laughter in the face of adversity
             These books are so near and dear to my heart! All of these women have a story to tell. They are funny and sexy, sophisticated but very genuinely southern!

             Look for CHRISTMAS IN DIXIE, coming in December, Followed by DAYDREAMS IN DIXIE, and STARDUST IN DIXIE, in 2015!

               
I had a little epiphany the other day when a reader wrote to me and asked me why I started writing. It got me thinking. I reached back into the dusty cobweb-filled corners of my mind-- and found my heart. My heart has always been at the center of my writing—and I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. So, “my heart needed to speak”, was the answer to that question—I write to satisfy my heart. To express my heart. To share my heart.
        My heart resides way down in the Deep South, where the most hilarious, most passionate, most resilient women I have even known live. Tuscaloosa, Alabama is home for me, although I have lived quite literally all over this country and now live in San Francisco, CA. Still, the college town of Tuscaloosa, with our famous championship football team, The Crimson Tide, The Black Warrior River that runs through town, and the tremendous mouth-watering food all beg me to come home and nestle myself on the banks of the river under the brilliant turquoise and creamsicle sunsets. Moss hanging in lacy shawls across tree-tunneled streets call my name. 

        But mostly it’s the funny women-- the women who supported my mom and had her back constantly helping her raise my brother and me after my Daddy died in a car accident. My mother was a young widow at Twenty-five with two babies. I was only four years old and my brother was two.  Over my whole life, during tragedy or triumph, we broke out the Krispy Kremes and sat around my grandmother’s yellow 1950s styled kitchen table laughing until we couldn’t. I learned a lot about life from those women and it’s them I love to write about.
          My mother was the craziest of them all, carrying a Mary Poppins sized bag for a purse and pulling anything we ever needed out of it—from batteries, to a plate, it was magically in that “purse.” Sometimes I just stood, staring at my mother—my mouth wouldn’t close. My aunt would whisper in my ear, “Beth, your mother is crazy, never ever forget that.”  Then we would all somehow be glad Mother had that extension cord buried in that purse! Yep. She does to this day. All of them were a tad different. Fun is the way I remember it all. And Happy. Happy in the face of real life that was sometimes tragic.
These women are what I know. They are my passion. That’s why comedy is such a huge part of my stories. In my life, we couldn’t have made it without all the laughter. Through them, I learned what it really means to be a Southern Woman. I wanted to be just like them!
Writing was the way I could be home--home in Tuscaloosa with my circle of hilarious, strong, resilient women. And of course all that delicious food, along with a string of pearls, a little Aquanet, some lipstick and high heels,-- cause, honey, even in a crisis, a southern woman has to look good after all! It’s in our raising—part of the tradition that has been carried down from mother to daughter for hundreds of years.
Passion is what a writer, any artist, taps to hit that geyser of truth--the flow. I know mine lies in the Deep South, in Tuscaloosa, with all that hilarity and sweet sisterhood that calls me home, at least in my heart, every day. This is the real MAGIC IN DIXE
 But, the MAGIC IN DIXIE also lies in the place itself. The romance of the seasons, the symphony of a summer night, the damp warm summer evenings, the sound of crickets, the magic of fire-flies, or "lightening bugs" as we call them down south; these are things I love about the place I call home. Summer days are a different story: most days, the heat kisses your face like opening a dishwasher mid-cycle! I love the bright neon yellow and orange leaves of fall, the crisp cool air and the cornflower blue skies. In winter, I love waking up to the excitement of the first fresh snowfall (usually just a dusting), but on that day we all become children filled with excitement; rosy cheeks stinging in the frigid air. And I love the incredible burst of the most fragrant spring you’ll find anywhere on Earth. Azaleas abound in hot reds and pinks, color bathes your eyes at every turn and magnolias fill the air with perfume. You know you’re alive in the Deep South. It breathes long slow deep breaths. You feel it. And it’s full of the romance of just being alive. 

I love the people of the Deep South, where family comes first-- where that sense of community is unique and rich and holds that tapestry of our people woven tightly together like a well-worn heirloom quilt. It’s a place where people still love to sit on their front porch and shout “hey” while they wave to everyone who walks by-- Where you will be invited inside for some sweet iced tea and some good story-telling at your neighbor’s kitchen table any day of the week. And there’s always the food, from my favorite delicacy of fried green tomatoes to cornbread and BBQ to cobblers—it’s the very best food anywhere.
The women of the Deep South (and I am one) love their make-up, pearls and pageants, but underneath all that hair and make-up is a wonder-woman, the glue holding her family and friends together. They are the strongest people I have ever known. Always feminine and polite but make no mistake, we are steel magnolias. There’s nothing we can’t or won’t do for those we love. And we’ll look like beauty queens while doing it! We can hug your neck, wring your neck and bless your heart all in the same day!
And then there’s college football, the religion of the Deep South. Our gods are our football players in Alabama. The University of Alabama Crimson Tide has more national championships than any other school in the nation. And weekend church is the tailgating that fills the University of Alabama quad every Saturday in the fall. We burst at the seams with Crimson Pride. The mantra “Roll Tide” in Alabama is like “Aloha” in Hawaii—it means hello, goodbye, and God bless you all at the same time.
            I am so filled with pride to call Alabama and the Deep South my home! With Alabama Love Stories, in the IN DIXIE series, you’ll get strong, smart, funny, sexy southern women who stick together like warm peach cobbler, love their men, and never give up on anything—or anyone they love.
            I love writing about the Deep South. My passion to write was born there and to this day, I still always find there’s MAGIC IN DIXIE.





Monday, April 16, 2012

THE BOYS OF SUMMER, SOUTHERN STYLE

  The hot, sticky days of a Deep South Summer sweep my heart back to the late 70s and early 80s.  Warm wet stagnant air drips across my skin and I can hear The Eagles singing "The Boys of Summer"....come on...sing it with me...."I can see you, your brown skin shining in the sun, you got your hair combed back, sunglasses on, Baby...." My own browned skin glistening with half a bottle of pure baby oil, laying out in the blistering heat all day...the only cares in my head...where to go out tonight.   Movies?, The Sidetrack?...our reddish brown skin hot to the touch, tingling with the day's rays....strawberry lip gloss just begging to be tasted by our boys of summer.

The barefoot summer days of my teenaged years in the Deep South were the best of the best...swimming in Lake Lurleen,  skiing  on the Warrior River, and the road trips to Panama City Beach, Florida...stopping at every roadside stand along the highway for fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes and juicy watermelon... salt shakers in hand!  We were crammed in the back seat of someone's old car, all the windows down, blowing our hair into each other's faces, The smells of Coppertone whirling around, it was slathered all over us...sweaty thighs pushed up against each other so we could all fit into the back seat....The Commodores blaring from the radio.  White shoe polish scrawled across the back window, "PANAMA CITY OR BUST"  It was Summertime in Dixie!  Let's find the boys!  Do I sound like I was boy crazy??  Weren't we all?

The food, the humidity, the beach trips all set the stage, but my boys of summer spice up the memories!  Making out in the extreme wet heat of the Deep South Summer is one sticky, hair-frizzing mess.  Cure for that?  A cool pool!

While there were many summers spent with several different young men, I recall one in particular I'll call the Summer of the "Swimming Lessons"

To say I could be sort of a Miss Priss is like telling the Pope he is "sorta" catholic!  I was full of myself.  There was one young man I had an -on-again-off-again love affair with since I was a babe of 14.  One summer I thought it would be a delicious idea if I convinced the cute Southern gent to come over to my parents pool for some kissing lessons....yep...I said kissing lessons!  I just KNEW he needed my expertise in this fragile, intimate area!  I remember being so excited to be the teacher....uh huh....really, I was just looking for an excuse to get him in my arms and lip-locked.  Can you believe he arrived ready for lessons...playing right along with me, never letting on that  he knew exactly just what I was up to...let me tell you....THAT BOY SURE DIDN'T NEED ANY TEACHING FROM ME!

I remember vividly what it felt like to kiss him under water...warm lips pressed against mine in the cool pool water, sun dapples, sparkling on the surface above.  My only thought...how long could I keep him there for "school"....only so much a girl can "teach" about kissin'...but I knew I sure didn't want him to leave!  I still am reminded about those "swimming lessons" that summer....his body covered in a million freckles, his dark brown eyes looking at me like he could devour me in one bite...knowing full well my ploy...kissing lessons????...really???  In the years that followed, I often thought of sending him an invitation for "Continuing Education"....

A Deep South Summer is brimming, over-flowing, with the richest, most textured memories...long sensual stories shared on a front porch, lightening bugs twinkling in the twilight of sunset... crickets murmuring and frogs croaking creating an orchestra of Summer ....ghost stories told in the back of a pick-up truck under a canopy of a gillion stars....holding hands for the first time with my heart racing in the moonlight....mid-night walks on the white sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast... all with my boys of summer.
The sweet sticky drips of orange pineapple ice cream from Pure Process, running down my wrist before it was even half eaten while sitting on the mosquito bitten banks of the river.....Summer was when we did our growing up....learning about life as we learned about love and boys and each other....

 The Boys of Summer....ahhhhh I hear the song, I smell Coppertone........and I am gone......

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A SOUTHERN BELLE'S VALENTINE

I grew up where the snow flakes were usually cut from paper and hung in front of a rain streaked window.  Snow was a little piece of fairy dust that you rarely ever saw.  So we cut the mystical ice crystals from construction paper with round tipped scissors and hung them with yarn from the florescent lights overhead in our classroom.  Winter in the South is wet, but not usually cold enough to snow.  In mid February, the snowflakes came down and the red hearts went up, cut with the same scissors and hung from those same bluish lights.  It was exciting.  The grade school classrooms with the tiny Valentines and the hope that I might actually get a real Valentine, you know, from a boy, this year.

 When I was in the fourth grade, it happened.  And I was spoiled forever after.  A boy in the fifth grade at my Catholic school set the bar so high, that only years later would even my husband of seven years come close!  Southern Belles LOVED to be spoiled.  And now, as of age nine, my very first real Valentine experience, created a new definition of spoiling that I would never forget. Gary was his name.  An older boy in the fifth grade, he made me feel like such a princess that to this very day, I still have the Valentine, made by his own hand, in a trunk of special  treasures. When the Valentine arrived at my classroom, my teacher was called to the door.  She was beautiful, her golden hair swinging around, calling out my name during our Valentine party.  "Beth, something special has arrived for you.  I walked over and she handed me a creamy white box,  the same size as a small box of crackers would come in...like wheat thins. But it was creamy and had a raised french pattern on it.  Gary had decorated it with a little school picture of himself, so cute with light blonde hair and bright blue eyes, he was beautiful! Especially surrounded in little red hearts that he had cut out one by one and made a frame around his lovely face.  He had cut out letters from a magazine that spelled out, "Beautiful Beth" and glued it across the top.  He had found little pictures of hearts and cupids and "I Love You's" and glued them all over the front and back of the box.  Gary was so sweet and thoughtful.  He found letters and candy hearts and glued them across the back to spell, "Be my Valentine" and "Be Mine." Inside the box was ALL of the tiny Valentines that come in a package of children's cards....you know, those tiny little grade school Valentines.  He signed them ALL to me and put them all...in separate envelopes all addressed to me.  Wow.  I was showered with Valentines, plus the box was stunning!  The amount of time he must have spent on that gift took my breath away and needless to say made me the center of attention in the fourth grade.  Remember, he was in fifth grade...an older boy!

I must have kept Gary alive in my heart and from age nine knew exactly what I wanted in a husband.  And I found it when I met my Yankee.  A blonde, blue-eyed gentleman who knew exactly how to treat a Belle and make her feel special.

But,I have a Valentines story that continues to blow my friends away...and when I ever, rarely, ahem...complain about life with my Yankee to ANY of my friends...they say, "NO, NO, NO, don't even go there missy...remember the Valentines story?"

It was Valentines Day 1993.  It was very soon after I had dragged my pregnant self to the homeland from California so I could have my baby on Southern soil.  We were in a small apartment in Tuscaloosa with most of our belongings in storage in LA.  I had left the Soap Opera, Days of Our Lives and we were hunkered down "nesting" waiting for the love of our lives.  Valentine's Day fell over a weekend that year and it was freezing cold and rainy.  I had a hair appointment Saturday morning. I went shopping afterwards at Parisian.  Yankee dropped me off and said he had an errand to run.   When he picked me up, he said he thought I should maybe pick out my own Valentine this year and suggested we go to Birmingham, 60 miles away to the Galleria!  Hey, no problem...awesome idea Honey!  As we got into town, of course, as pregnant as I was, I had to go potty.  Yankee stopped at a hotel, saying, they would have nicer facilities for me.  I went inside and he sat in the car.  As I was walking down the hallway, he came in behind me and walked with me...helping me look for the restroom. He said he had to go too.  I followed him.  We went down a hallway where there were rooms...I said "are you sure this is right?"  He says..."Oh my gosh....look what I found....a key."  He bends over and picks up one of those key cards off the floor.  He says...let's see if it works.  He sticks the key in and it opens the door.  He says to me..."go on in"...and the room is filled with red roses...everywhere... and red petals all over the bed and wrapped presents...new bottles of my perfume..and candles.  It was Belle in wonderland.  I couldn't close my mouth!  I saw all my make up and bath products and clothes...he had packed all my things...all the RIGHT things...he had paid attention to what I used!! I turned around and around taking it all in...eventually sitting down on the bed.  I could barely speak.  I looked up at him...he is 6'2"...and he kneels in front of me and says..."I wanted this year to be special...it will be our last Valentines Day as a couple...just us....our little guy will be here soon, so I thought this would be good...do you like it?"  Still not able to find all the words, I threw my arms around him kissed him passionately and whispered in his ear..."Honey, I love you so much, you are amazing...I still have to pee."
He laughed.  I said, "Seriously how in the world did you do this?"  He said, "I packed your things as fast as I could and drove here while you got your haircut and got the room and the flowers and flew back to Tuscaloosa...luckily, you had to pee so the rest was easy."  He laughed.  I still don't know how he managed that!

That was my very best Valentines Day ever. Ever.  He had lived up to Gary and my fourth grade expectations of being spoiled rotten.  To this day, he believes Valentines Day is all about me.  I never argue with him on this.  His birthday falls two days earlier, so I make sure he is the center of attention.

Valentines Day is a holiday for love, all kinds of love, for a parent, a child a friend.  But most of all its the gestures, the details, the time put into the celebration of the day, that, for me makes it so special.  Like Gary's heart box, and my yankee sweetheart's hotel room, for our last Valentine's Day as a couple.  Yep, I am a spoiled Belle...but little red hearts made of construction paper, like the one my son made me in elementary school that sits upon my dresser, and those little candy hearts printed with Valentine messages, still make my own heart skip and sing too.  Maybe it's WHO the little Valentine is coming from that really makes me feel so special after all.