Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mississippi farewell

Photo from flickr user jwinfred

With a photo, captured in the Delta, and a classic Southern rock song, we'll close this trip to Mississippi. Thank you for coming along.

We may not win every game...

In the center of The University of Mississippi's campus lies the Grove, a beautiful park full of trees. On any given day, you may find students sitting at tables and lying on blankets, reading, studying, and socializing. A stream of people pass through the Grove during the day, as they walk between buildings on campus, but, despite the traffic, the park retains an air of peace and calm. While the Square is the heart of Oxford, the Grove, especially on a home football game day, is the heart of Ole Miss.

This is the Grove
Photo from flickr flannel.gary

This is the Grove on Game Day!

A favorite saying among Ole Miss fans is, "We may not win every game, but we've never lost a party." The Grove is where those parties take place on days of home football games, and the trees seem almost hidden by the tents that stretch as far as the eye can see (no cars allowed!) Shouts of "Hotty Toddy," the cheer and greeting used between Rebel fans, are heard frequently on football Saturdays.

Ole Miss fans have escalated tailgating to an art in the Grove. With elaborate food spreads in every tent, silver platters hold enough fare to serve the hosts and any guests who might stop to visit. Flower arrangements adorn tables covered with fine cloths, while candelabra and chandeliers provide lighting. None of this seems out of place against the backdrop, until you remember this is tailgating for a football game.

When I arrived at school as a freshman, I was unaccustomed to Game Day traditions. The unspoken requirements of game day attire baffled me completely; women wore heels and dresses, while men sported khakis and collared shirts. Dressing up for a football game? It sounded completely absurd.

On the day of the first home game that year, I found myself standing in a familiar place, yet staring at a scene that was completely foreign. The area I knew to be so peaceful and calm was suddenly overwhelming. I stared at the vast sea of tents dotting the horizon, and it felt as though the space had multiplied endlessly; finding a specific tent seemed a near impossible feat. I fumbled my way through that first hot Saturday, all the while cursing the blisters on my high-heeled feet.

After a few games, I realized that it no longer felt overwhelming to head to the Grove. Finding specific tents still proved difficult at times, but it was easier done with friends, and while I made my way through the maze of poles, I found myself taking in the beauty and unique atmosphere surrounding me.

I grew to love the fashion of game day; by the end of college, wearing jeans and sweatshirts to a game seemed as preposterous as the notion of wearing dresses and heels once had. The blisters? Those never seemed to get better. In all four years, no matter how comfortable the heels seemed, inevitably the end of a day spent "Groving" was met with searing pain in my feet. But I loved every minute of it.

"Hotty Toddy"
Row 1: L to R- Two images from Myrtle and Marjoram Photography, photo from flickr matt house, wired chandelier from Wisteria Summer '08
Row 2: Photo from flickr lowemasterpro, photo from, photo from flickr matrianklw, photo from
Row 3: Nicole Miller dress from edressme Summer '08, photo from Holland Photo Arts via, photo from flickr CatchYaL8RG8R
Row 4: Photo from flickr Miss Bria, photo from JCrew, photo from flickr pellet13

The Land of the Delta Blues

Top L to R: photo from flickr Cherry ElCamino, photo from flickr wicked_chasiti
Bottom Image from flickr SoundsGood

One of my best friends from college grew up in the region of Mississippi known as "the Delta." During those college years, our group made numerous weekend trips to her parents' house, where we were always warmly welcomed.

Consumption of hushpuppies, catfish, and other southern foods was de rigueur during our stays, and evenings always seemed to be spent drinking beers around a bonfire, sheltered by a circle of pick-up trucks. Those nights always felt as southern as I could imagine any being, and having arrived at school as a non-Southerner, I loved being there, surrounded by my friends, and feeling complete acceptance.

Perhaps because of the warm welcome I received I was inclined to see the good, but I instantly found charm and serenity in the scenery of the Delta.

Top Row from L to R: photo from flickr jwinfred, photo by flickr Robert Pollack
Bottom Row: photo from flickr NatalieMaynor, photo by flickr Robert Pollack

The Mississippi Delta is a place with a troubled past; there has long been a disparity between the wealthy and the poor in this region, and poverty is wide-spread. Yet, there is also great beauty in this land and a culture that is rich and warm.

Top Row: photo from flickr jwinfred, photo from flickr Youri!
Bottom Row: photo from flickr Deltasly, photo from flickr MKBrock

From sorrow and hardship arose a uniquely American musical genre, the Blues; the Delta is infamously known for being its birthplace. This genre influenced and gave rise to many other styles of music, including jazz, bluegrass, and rock and roll. Juke joints dot the landscape throughout the Delta, and Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi, owned in part by Morgan Freeman, is a larger establishment celebrating the music that was born here.

Top Row L to R: photo by flickr Frank Peters, Shack Up Inn photo by flickr stephee,
Bottom Row: Photos here and here by flickr jwinfred

Agriculture plays a key role for this area with fertile soil; cotton, soybeans, and rice are critical crops in the Delta, and catfish farms are also aplenty.

The Delta has much to offer visitors including a Viking Cooking School connected with The Alluvian Hotel and Spa, an upscale boutique hotel in Greenwood, Mississippi. In Clarksdale, in addition to Ground Zero, Morgan Freeman is also part owner of a fine dining establishment, Madidi. For those who want a unique lodging experience, just outside Clarksdale is the Shack Up Inn and the Cotton Gin Inn, both operated on the grounds of the former Hopson plantation.

If you make a trip to the land of the Delta blues, I imagine you will find a warm welcome awaiting.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Debate '08

Image here

You might see Oxford and The University of Mississippi in the news soon because of this event, which takes place next Friday, September 26.

Square Books

Image from flickr user oh it's amanda

Another greatly revered literary destination in Oxford is Square Books, the aptly named independent bookstore, which anchors a corner of The Square. With its doors open since 1979, the store is cherished by the town and a larger community of literary devotees. It is consistently ranked among the top independent bookstores in the nation.

Owned by Richard Howorth, the current mayor of Oxford, and his wife, Lisa, Square Books has embraced the literary history of the city. The store not only celebrates William Faulkner, but carries a large selection of works by Southern writers, such as John Grisham, Alice Walker, Eudora Welty, Barry Hannah, Willie Morris, Larry Brown and many others. Book signings and readings are frequent events at this store.

Two offspring locations are in close vicinity. Off Square Books carries used and discount books; it also plays host to Thacker Mountain Radio, a live variety show featuring musical acts and author readings that is broadcast live every Thursday evening. Square Books Jr. is a store geared to children.

Photo from flickr user jenniferechristensen

Above interior photos here and here from flickr user Glynnis Ritchie

On the upper-level of the main store, there is a small cafe and plenty of cozy reading nooks.

Photo from flickr user jenniferechristensen

The second-story balcony, which runs alongside the entire length of the building, overlooks The Square and is filled with benches, tables, and chairs. It is a perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee, read and watch life on the streets below.

You can browse their collection of books online, and all three locations are open seven days a week.

Rowan Oak

William Faulkner set many of his stories in the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha, including the novels As I Lay Dying, Intruders in the Dust, The Sound and the Fury, and Light In August. Yoknapatawpha, located in northwestern Mississippi, is believed to be based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, home to Oxford.

It doesn't take long to realize the importance of William Faulkner to the town of Oxford and the reverence he is given. Besides the aforementioned bronze statue on The Square, perhaps the biggest reminder of and tribute to Faulkner is the preservation of his home, Rowan Oak. Cared for by The University of Mississippi, Rowan Oak is now a museum, allowing visitors a glimpse into Faulkner's life.

Photo by flickr user southerbelle09

Photo by flickr user G. J. Charlet III

Photo by flickr user jonfhall

In his study, visitors are able to see the outline of Faulkner's Pulitzer-prize winning novel A Fable, which he scrolled on the plaster walls.

Photo by flickr user jonfhall

Rowan Oak is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

20 x 200: Cotton Field, Mississippi

Cotton Field, Mississippi- by Shuli Hallak

This print is one of the editions available this week at 20 x 200. Check it out!

Double Decker Arts Festival

Every April, Oxford plays host to the Double Decker Arts Festival, a celebration of art, music, and food. The streets around the Square are closed-off to accommodate the artists booths and the patrons who come to browse their wares.

Stages are set up at opposite ends of the Square; musicians play throughout the day, with the biggest acts taking the stage in the evening, after the art vendors have closed up shop. Many local restaurants have food stands at the festival offering a limited selection of their best fare.

The festival offers a perfect way to get a taste of the things that are well-loved and respected throughout the Oxford community.

There is a poster designed each year for the festival, and the one above is from this past year's event. Image found here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Three Elements {One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three...}

Today's Wedding Wednesday features "Three Elements" for two Mississippi-inspired weddings.

Instead of using the same three images in both boards, as was seen in the first "Three Elements" post, these inspiration boards feature their own interpretations of three elements- catfish, cotton, and a nod to Southern Writers.

Cotton Queen

Row 1: L to R- Leanne & Trey's Wedding- Whitebox Weddings, Cotton- flickr user ONE/MILLION
Row 2: Menu Card- Christine Farah via The Bride's Cafe, Flowers and Lanterns photos-
Row 3: Garden Chair- Shari Bare Photography, Hawthorne Plantation- flickr user Victor Dvorak, Books photo- Etsy shop Monika Elena Photography
Row 4: Drink- Elizabeth Messina via The Bride's Cafe, Magnolia Bloom- Wikimedia Commons, Fried Catfish-

Southern-Fried Soul

Row 1: L to R- Taylor Grocery- flickr user amycox000, Drinks-, Book- Jessica Johnson Photography via
Row 2: Lena & Joshua's Wedding-, Cotton- flickr user ONE/MILLION, Fried Catfish-
Row 3: Ground Zero Blues Club- flickr user TeleGtrGirl, Banana Creme Pie-, Blues Musician- flickr user wicked_chasiti
Row 4: Bouquet-, Typewriter-, Kristen & Sean's Wedding- Next Exit Photography via Elizabeth Anne Designs

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Square

Oxford, Mississippi is home to 19,000 residents and The University of Mississippi, lovingly called Ole Miss. Writers, artists, and musicians populate the city, and there is also a large sorority and fraternity scene that thrives on campus. Add in working professionals, especially in the area of law, other college students, and the intellectuals who populate the ranks of the university faculty, and you'll find an area that manages to be both artsy and preppy, and traditional and eclectic at the same time.

The Lyceum at The University of Mississippi. Photo by flickr user rachelluttrell

While there are many different types of people who populate the city, the epicenter of life in Oxford is, undoubtedly, "The Square." The Lafayette County Courthouse sits in the middle of the historic square and is flanked by City Hall, as well as numerous stores, restaurants, and bars. The boutiques and eateries even spill out onto the surrounding streets that lead in and out of The Square.

Photo by flickr user jimmywayne22

Beautiful photos of The Square at night- here, here, and here. Photos by flickr user briantmurphy

With an ever growing and changing restaurant scene, I can't speak for all the joints in town, but there are certainly some tried and true favorites that are must-visits for me when I am in town.

Breakfast or brunch can't be beat at Bottletree Bakery. It is located just off the Square, and, with its fabulous pastries, coffee, sandwiches and other delectables, there is surely something to please any appetite.

Love the reflection in the image at left! Photos here and here from flickr user UGArdner (away for a while)

With its southern-style cooking, delicious vegetable plate, and fried pickles (Yes, seriously. Fried pickles. If you've never had them, they're amazing, and these are by far the best fried pickles anywhere!) Ajax Diner is always on my list. The atmosphere compliments the food to make the whole dining experience quite perfect.

In the photo on the left you can barely see the sandwich toothpicks in the ceiling. They are shot there through straws. Quite a tricky feat. Photo on left: Photo on right: flickr user lucianveutian

City Grocery, an Oxford institution since 1992, is an excellent choice for fine dining. The restaurant has an extensive wine list and a variety of southern-influenced entrees, including Tabasco Bacon-Seared Swordfish and an upscale take on Shrimp and Grits. Find their menu online here.

Exterior Photo found here. Interior Shot found here.

Although not located on the Square, just a few miles outside town you will find Yocona River Inn. Another fine dining establishment, this small and cozy restaurant is housed in what was once a small country store. Yocona River Inn is located in what is a dry county, so this eatery is BYOB.

While this is far from a through account of all the amazing restaurants in Oxford, you can find a full list of dining choices here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A feeling in the air...

"Well there's a feeling in the air, just like a Friday afternoon. Yeah, you can go there if you want, though it fades too soon. So go on, let it be. If there's a feeling coming over me, seems like it's always understood this time of year."

-"This Time of Year" Better Than Ezra

Photo by flickr user Robert Pollack

The first hint of early fall came today complete with blue skies, wispy clouds, and a slightly cool breeze. There is something about this time of year, this type of day, that tends to make me wistful for a place in my past.

I miss the sights, the places and the people that made this city home. I'd love to stroll around downtown, coffee in hand.

I might sit for a while with William Faulkner who has been watching the town in life and in death (or at least since 1997 when this bench was dedicated.)

Photo by flickr user stephen_from_1971

I’d browse the shops lining this historic Square, boutique after boutique, and grab a bite at one of the many incredible restaurants that call this place home.

This week, I'd like to show you around Mississippi, and since a week isn't nearly enough time to cover the depths of the state, I'd like to share the corner I knew best.

Welcome to my Mississippi.