Wishing Summer Would Last?

Tonight I walked into my local Bath and Body Works for the first time in a while. My daughter was obsessed with this store for a few years. She loved their hand sanitizers, shower gels, and fragrance mists. Eventually, I started to like the fragrance mists as well, because I am not a big fan of perfume or cologne. When you have migraines, strong smells are not your friend. I ran out of my favorite fragrance mist today, so I ran to Bath and Body Works after I dropped off my daughter at a party.

When I walked into the store, a very pleasant saleslady greeted me, and as I stopped to take a whiff of a Pumpkin/Waffle scented candle, she asked, “Are you ready for fall?” What? Just sniffing a pumpkin/waffle candle makes me ready for fall? Of course I’m not ready for fall! I don’t even want school to start!

Instead, I just said, “Not just yet. I wish summer could last a little longer.”

The fragrance I usually use is Vanilla Bean scented, but after that exchange about fall, I was looking for something more summery, and boy, did I ever find it! I actually found a fragrance mist called At The Beach! Could it be more perfect? I picked up the sample bottle and sprayed some on my arm. Ahhhh….the scent of suntan lotion and sea mist! I picked up a bottle, and then I picked up another. Then I picked up some At The Beach Body Cream. Even though summer has to end, it doesn’t mean I have to stop smelling like summer! I’m walking around smelling like the beach! If you’d like to smell like the beach or purchase candles that smell like the beach, you can go to Bath and Body Works by clicking here.

Of course, I picked up some of my favorite Vanilla Bean fragrance as well, but I will put off using that for as long as I can.

In the past, I’ve extended summer for myself by using tanning oil or suntan lotion as moisturizers. If you’ve ever walked into a meeting I was attending and thought you smelled Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil, you probably did. I’ve been known to moisturize my skin with it. Nothing takes me back to high school like the aroma of Hawaiian Tropic. Or sometimes, I will use Coppertone Tanning Lotion, which immediately takes me back to my childhood and makes me think of the old ad…you know, the one in which the puppy is tugging on the little girl’s swimsuit. I actually had a beach towel with that ad on it when I was younger. You can purchase the oil and lotion in Target, Walmart, or most any drugstore.

This next summer-extending product is not something that smells like the beach, but it does taste a little like sunshine: Chick-Fil-A’s White Peach Tea Lemonade. What says summer more than lemonade? White Peach Tea Lemonade…that’s what. I happened upon this recently when I zipped through the drive thru of a Chick-Fil-A. I was waiting in the line and saw an ad on the menu board for this special tea, so I decided to try it. Normally, I don’t drink my calories, but I drank them that afternoon, and it was worth it. It has been added to the menu permanently after being tested in various markets. I know in November when I need to think of summer, I’ll turn into my neighborhood Chick-Fil-A.

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Even after school starts, I’ll be dragging summer out a little longer in other ways too. I’m growing corn and tomatoes in my backyard, and right now, it’s looking like the corn will be ready to harvest around Labor Day. Maybe I’ll be able to talk my husband into grilling some hamburgers to go with our fresh, homegrown, sweet corn. And we’ll put some of the tomato slices on our burgers. My first tomato harvest wasn’t so good earlier this summer, so I’m hoping these late ones will be better. My sunflowers are just about to bloom, so they’ll be pretty for a few more weeks too. It could all make for a lovely Labor Day, which happens to be my mother’s birthday…our first without her. She would be proud.

Labor Day weekend also marks the beginning of college football season, so that’s something to look forward to.

I plan to smell like summer while drinking my iced tea till at least November. Maybe then I’ll light a pumpkin/waffle candle, but I will still be dreaming of summer while I sip my White Peach Tea Lemonade.

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Rookie Gardener

I’ve said before that I am no gardener. A few years ago, I had some pretty good luck with gardening in my backyard, but then I developed a fear of snakes and became afraid. Every time I thought about sticking my hands into or near the dirt, I was terrified I would pick up a copperhead.

In Mecklenburg County, the only venomous snake species we have is the copperhead, but it seems there are lots of them. Growing up in Alabama, we had six species of venomous snakes, including three different types of rattlesnakes, which are highly dangerous to humans. I’ve seen more than my fair share of rattlesnakes and copperheads. In fact, I came dangerously close to stepping on a big diamondback rattlesnake when I was 18. To learn more about the venomous snakes of Alabama, including the copperhead, click here. Be forewarned: just like Jaws made us all afraid to go back into the water, seeing the pictures of these snakes may make you afraid to go back outside altogether.

Back to gardening. For years, I did nothing, till this year, and I’m not doing a lot, but I am doing a little. I have more than one inspiration. I want to have some sunflowers in memory of my parents this summer, and posts by my friend, Michelle, owner of Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts in Fairhope, Alabama, would make anyone want to try their hand at gardening. To see her Facebook page for inspiration, click here.

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Photo from Corner Copia Gardens in Fairhope, Alabama

While I want sunflowers in my backyard, I’m not planting any other types of flowers. We have some beautiful knockout roses that continue to bloom, so I don’t feel like I need to add much to those. I’m adding a few vegetables.

One thing I’ve always loved is a good homegrown vine-ripened tomato. When my friend, Wendy, lived here in Charlotte, she had a neighbor who grew some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve had a lot of tomatoes. Growing up, I didn’t care for tomatoes. I think a lot of kids are turned off by the slightly acidic taste of tomatoes. When I was in college, I went to the lake with a friend, and her mother had some homegrown tomatoes for us. Not wanting to be rude, I ate the slices she gave me, and I never looked back.

If you are a tomato person, you know store-bought tomatoes are deceiving. Every year, I make the mistake of picking up some beautiful tomatoes in the grocery store with hopes they are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Then, I get home and slice into them, only to find they are hard and ugly on the inside. A good, homegrown tomato is just as red on the inside as it is on the outside.

Throughout my life, I had seen my daddy eat tomato sandwiches. He loved a good tomato sandwich, and apparently, my mother knew the perfect way to make them. It’s not difficult, but if you don’t make them just right, you can mess them up. My daddy liked his tomatoes peeled. Weird, I know, but that’s what he liked. Sometimes, I peel mine too. But the main thing is to use white bread…not whole wheat, not whole grain, not pumpernickel or rye…white bread. On the white bread slices, slather your favorite mayonnaise. Daddy preferred Hellman’s, but I prefer Duke’s. Yes, you can use the reduced fat versions, but because good tomatoes are hard to find, I don’t want to mess them up with the reduced fat stuff. Add tomato slices to the mayo-slathered bread and top it with a little salt and pepper to taste. I can almost taste it now. ***It’s difficult to find Duke’s Mayonnaise in some parts of the country. If you’ve never had it, you should try it. You can order it from Amazon here.***

Obviously, I’m trying to grow my own tomatoes this summer. My husband and I picked up a few small plants, and he put them in the ground. We purchased Bonnie Plants brand Big Boy tomato plants and Better Boy tomato plants at a local store. To see the Bonnie Plants website for tomato information, click here. It’s not too late to do your own. I’ve been tending ours. That means I’ve been calling my brother to get tips on growing good tomatoes. I’ve also been checking online for information. So far, I haven’t killed them yet, and we even have a few small tomatoes showing up on our plants. I looked online to see how long it takes tomatoes to ripen on the vine, and on average, for the types we are growing, it takes about 75 days after germination. That seems like a long time. I’m counting down the days and hoping I don’t kill them before then.

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I’ve also planted a few other vegetables. We’ll see how that works out before I go into any detail.

My friend, Leah, in memory of my parents, gave me a Sunflower Grow Kit earlier this year, and I was so excited to get that started, and so far, they’re growing! The kit included potting soil, seeds, plant food, and a bag in which to grow them. You can see various grow kits here. I also planted some Burpee brand sunflower seeds, which you can find at your local home stores. I purchased mine at Home Depot, but they have them in Lowe’s too. If you live in or near Wetumpka, Alabama, you can visit the Lowe’s there and see my handsome nephew, Brennen.

My sunflowers have been a little slow-growing, but in the past few days they seem to be getting some traction. I have hope. Sunflowers aren’t difficult to grow, and I had huge success with them 16 years ago, growing some of the biggest, most beautiful sunflowers I’ve ever seen. I planted mine a little later than before, but with sunflowers, I think that’s OK.

For planting this year, since I still haven’t overcome my fear of snakes, I wore gardening gloves and used a gardening trowel. I don’t know how much protection that offers from snakes, but it made me feel better. I found myself scanning all around me while I dug, though. I won’t even walk out onto the patio without checking out the steps before opening the back door.

As the summer progresses, I’ll keep you posted on my gardening. Hoping for tall sunflowers with big heads and some juicy tomatoes soon.

Go play in the dirt!

***If you enjoy Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things, please invite friends to like the facebook page.***

 

 

 

 

 

Bloom Where You’re Planted

We always hear people say, “Follow your passion,” or “Follow your dreams.” I saw a video by Mike Rowe recently in which he questioned that, and I totally get it. See the video here.

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If you watched the video, you heard him say lots of people have “passion” about something, but no talent for it. There are lots of people whose pursuit of their passion or dream failed, because they had not talent (or skills or knowledge).

My favorite part of the video is when he says, “Your happiness on the job has very little to do with the work itself.” And he’s correct. I really believe we can find happiness in places we never believed we could. I’m a big fan of “Love the one you’re with,” which I interpret as “find the good where you are.” I have a friend I’ve heard say, “Bloom where you’re planted,” which basically means the same thing to me.

Happiness is not always where we expect it. Haven’t we all firmly believed we wanted something, and when we got it, we realized it was all wrong? (“Be careful what you wish for.”) On the other hand, sometimes, we find ourselves somewhere we think isn’t a good fit…maybe a college or a position on a team…in reality, we often find it’s the best thing for us. Maybe we should, as Mike Rowe says, “Follow the opportunity.”

There are some people who possess passion, talent, knowledge, drive, plans, and more passion for what they want to do, and some of them can turn that into income.

As a child, in Spanish Fort, Alabama, I had a sweet, smart, adorable friend named Michelle Prouty. (She is now Michelle Prouty Johns.)

Unbeknownst to me at the time, she was immensely talented.

Michelle’s mother is a prolific gardener, and Michelle shares the same love of plants and gardening.

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MICHELLE PROUTY JOHNS

Michelle tells me she doesn’t remember a time that she wasn’t interested in gardening, “so it must have started at a very early age.”

Her dad owned a manufacturers’ rep agency in Mobile but decided, when Michelle was five, that he also wanted to be a part-time farmer. Purchasing ten acres, he moved the family, and started his vegetable farm. Her mother had flower beds and containers on the back deck, and Michelle helped with all of it. Michelle says they never had trouble getting her to help. Her exact words: “It wasn’t a chore to me.”

And there you have it. A passion was born.

Her mother taught her to plant seeds and propagate plants, and when the family left the farm and moved to my neighborhood, Spanish Fort Estates, her dad built a greenhouse, which she considered her “own private play house.” She says she loved going in there during the winter. “There was nothing better than being in there in the winter when it was full of my Mom’s plants, many of which bloomed through the winter.”

I remember going back to a community festival at Spanish Fort School in spring of 1978. There was Michelle, a fifth grader, with her own booth at the festival, selling her plants. It made quite an impression on me. She was tending that booth all day while other kids were doing whatever they wanted. But she was doing what she wanted…taking care of her plants, talking with folks about gardening, and selling the fruits of her labor.

Looking at all that hands-on gardening experience she had, one might think she would have pursued a Horticulture degree when she attended Auburn University, but she didn’t. She says, “I questioned my father many years ago on why they did not push me to look at horticulture as a career, and he said they didn’t know anyone who worked in the field, so it wasn’t really on their radar.” But…sometimes things work out the way they’re supposed to. She went on to get her Marketing and Statistics degrees, which have been helpful…as she pursues her dream.

And this is where it gets really good.

After working with her dad and working in outside sales for a company in Tampa, one year ago, Michelle opened her own retail garden center in Fairhope, Alabama. The perfect piece of land came available, and she seized the opportunity. She is the proud owner of Corner Copia Gardens Nursery and Garden Shoppe. You can see the Corner Copia Gardens Facebook page here and their Instagram page here. She opened the gardens in 2015 and opened the retail garden center in March 2017. Corner Copia Gardens Nursery and Garden Shoppe just celebrated its first anniversary.

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Michelle says her business goal is to carry a “unique variety” of plants that are difficult to find in “big box stores” and will do well in the area. She also wants to offer advice to local gardeners and is offering educational classes. Follow the Facebook page for Corner Copia Gardens to see which classes are being offered and when. (Again, the facebook page can be found here.)

 

Michelle named her business after some gift shops her mother had called The Corner Copia. According to Michelle, “While she did not sell plants, she carried many garden-themed gifts in her shops.” Michelle got her mother’s permission to use the name, adding “Gardens” and slightly modifying the logo.

Corner Copia Gardens is the realization of a dream.

 

Michelle says it has been her dream for at least 25 years…since soon after college.

It has not been without challenges. A particularly cold winter in Fairhope has been tougher than expected, but she says she has learned what it takes “to keep them (two 24′ x 100′ greenhouses) heated with 20 nights below freezing and down into the teens.”

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Another challenge has been the fact that business is seasonal, but Michelle made adjustments. Because business is seasonal, she needed to find a way to keep income flowing so her employees could work all year, so she added a small gift shop and is growing her live plant floral business, with hopes to begin making deliveries this spring. I’ve seen pictures on the facebook page of some of the gift shop offerings, and it’s exciting!

 

The greatest thing about this, to me, is that Michelle found a way to channel all her life experiences into pursuing her dream. She knew it was something she wanted to do, but she did other things that gave her the ability and lots of valuable knowledge when the opportunity came along. She takes everything she has learned along the way from her parents, her career in business, her education, and her life as a mom (she and her husband have five children between them)…channeling it into her business, sharing her knowledge and passion along the way.

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Succulent head planters. I love these! I also think they would make lovely Easter gifts.

So, while Mike Rowe questions whether folks should follow their dreams, I know some should do just that…even if they have to get there by following opportunity first. Maybe I should say, “Follow opportunity to get to your dreams/passion.” That’s what Michelle did, and it’s working. She has always had a kind, engaging way about her, so I’m sure people love visiting her gardens and shop, and they love attending her classes. I can hardly wait to visit when I’m in Baldwin County!

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Eucharis Amazonica Bloom , passed down from Michelle’s grandmother. She is working to propagate this now.

If you are in Baldwin County, Alabama, stop in at Corner Copia Gardens. If you live in the area, stop in and see her…maybe take one of her classes. You’ll be glad you did. She would enjoy seeing you. She says her greatest joy is when customers come in and tell her how well their plants are doing or when someone sends her photos of arrangements they have made. As she says, “For me, it really isn’t work at all!”

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Now, if only I could find a way to make money by remembering birthdays, talking, connecting people, or harassing people into volunteering for stuff…

Kelly

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON CORNER COPIA GARDENS:

Corner Copia Gardens 

11983 E State Hwy 104

Fairhope, AL 36532

PHONE: 251-517-0453