Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Sweet Home Alabama" Glassware

Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey and beautiful southern glassware - what could be better than that?  Sweet Home Alabama is a 2002 American romantic comedy, that opens on an Alabama beach with two children chasing each other: Melanie Smooter and Jake Perry. The two discuss their future together. They kiss, and Jake says they will be married one day.

Flash forward to their grown-up lives, she as a New York fashion designer and he as something mysterious whereby he has lots of cash and drives a water-plane.  Hmmmmmm?  What does he do for a living?  Hmmmmmmm?  Then we see Melanie looking at "Deep South Glassware."  Low and behold, Jake has discovered a way to turn sand struck by lightning, into the most exquisite glassware in the world!
What a great premise but is it true?  Where do I buy those beautiful glasses?

A little research reveals that while it isn't exactly as presented in this little gem of a movie, you can purchase some things made from lit-up sand.

 Starrs Mill.jpg (33427 bytes)
Jake barn shop was filmed at Starr's Mill in Fayette County Georgia. The exterior was repainted and the porch was rebuilt for the movie. The bridges were later washed away in a flood.

Starr's Mill, circa 1907. The property that became Starr's Mill was owned by Hannaniah Gilcoat who built the first mill here before his death in 1825. This site, on Whitewater Creek, was less than a mile from the boundary between Creek Indian lands and the state of Georgia. Various owners lent numerous names to the mill between 1827 and 1866. In 1866, Hillard M. Starr bought the mill and this name stuck.

William T. Glower built the current building in 1907. The Starr's Mill site also included a cotton gin and a dynamo that produced electricity for the nearby town of Senoia. The turbine mill ran up until 1959, and although not operating today, it is now restored and owned by the Fayette County Water System.

Starr's Mill

During the movie's filming at Starr's Mill in Fayette County, Georgia, the Starr's Mill High School marching band was asked not to practice outdoors due to the sound carrying all the way to the Mill.
Despite the movie's title, Sweet Home Alabama, the house Melanie pretends is her home is really at Berry College in Mt. Berry, Georgia. This house, called Oak Hill, is a Georgia historic landmark and was the original home of the college founder, Martha Berry. The downtown scenes were filmed in Crawfordville (pop 572), seat of Taliaferro County (pronounced "Tolliver"), the least populated county in Georgia. 
The glassware shown in the movie is for sale in Vermont by the company Simon Pearce who originated from Waterford, Ireland. You can find the products at
Simon Pearce Gift Registry

So what happens when lightning hits sand?  This is what it really looks like…FULGURITE
 Click to enlargeFulgurite "Lightning Sand" Jewelry  GoldLightning Sand Wind Chime Lightning Sand Pendant - Silver Open Cosmic Design
 Authentic Fulgurite Lightning Sand Jewelry and samples make great Science Gifts! Fulgurite is a natural glass sculpture whose shape mimics the path taken underground by the lightning bolt as it dissipates in the Earth. The hollow center of the fulgurite is a record of the fact that the sand touched by the very core of the lightning bolt was not just melted, but vaporized.

Oak Hill, the real name of the house Melanie pretends belongs to her family, is difficult to get to, as the interstate is approximately 45 minutes away. To direct cast and crew members to the site, yellow signs simply saying "SWA" with arrows pointed out the correct route. Some Berry College students stole these signs as movie mementos.
Oak hill new

The coon dog cemetery featured in the film is a real place in Tuscumbia, Alabama (a north Alabama town just south of Florence and childhood home of Helen Keller whose story was told in The Miracle Worker (1962).

Key Underwood
In a small, grassy meadow, deep in the rich, thick wilderness of Freedom Hills, Key Underwood sadly buried his faithful coondog, Troop. They had hunted together for more than 15 years. They had been close friends.

The burial spot was a popular hunting camp where coon hunters from miles around gathered to plot their hunting strategies, tell tall tales, chew tobacco and compare coon hounds. Those comparisons usually began and ended with Troop...he was the best around.

Underwood knew there was no place in the world Troop loved more than that camp. It was only fitting, he decided, that Troop spend eternity there. On that dreary Labor Day of 1937, Underwood said good-bye to his legendary coonhound. He wrapped Troop in a cotton pick sack, buried him three feet down, and marked the grave with a rock from a nearby old chimney. On the rock, with a hammer and a screwdriver he had chiseled out Troop's name and the date. A special marker was erected in his memory.

Troop, who was half redbone coonhound and half birdsong, was known through out the region as the best. He was "cold nosed," meaning he could follow cold coon tracks until they grew fresh, and he never left the trail until he had treed the coon.

Out of one hunter's devotion to his faithfull coonhound was born the "Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard," which has became a popular tourist attraction and is the only cemetery of its kind in the world.

Other hunters started doing the same when their favorite coon dogs died. Today more than 185 coon dogs from all across the United States are buried in this spot in Northwest Alabama.

"When I buried Troop, I had no intention of establishing a coon dog cemetery," says Underwood. "I merely wanted to do something special for a special coon dog." Coon Dog Cemetery

Jake's plane lands on Lake Peachtree in Peachtree City, Georgia. It is illegal to land a plane on Lake Peachtree, and the Peachtree City Police issued the movie company a $300 ticket.

And of course, Melanie and Jake end up together at the end of the movie, again kissing on the beach.  It wouldn't be a romantic comedy if they didn't.  Once again, united by their love of glassware!
It's no King's Speech, but it is a lovely gem of a movie.  Happy Oscar Night!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Danish Dishes

A few weekends ago at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, I scored rescued a fabulous set of dishes.  Beautiful china from Denmark for only $60.  I've scoured the Internet to learn more about my new friends and haven't found much so if you know about them - or better yet, have any of their relatives, let me know!

Cold enough for a fire today, so thinking about a rich soup to fill these beautiful soup bowls.
Love the yellow and orange flowers.  Are they peonies?  I'm not sure....
Rogers and Bros. Avalon pattern silverplate, purchased on ebay I picked up for almost nothing. When I use soup bowls, the Avalon soup spoons are appreciated.  The crochet tablecloth is one I found years ago while antiquing at the Pasadena College Swap Meet.  It may be a bed cover but I've used it as a table covering since my table is unusually wide.  Seemed to fit the delicate nature of these dishes.
Plate under the soup bowl.  How sweet are the flowers?! I wish I knew more about floral and fauna.  Something to research!

This set has sooooo many companion dishes. This one could be used for butter or desserts.  I'm imagining danish pastries spread with clotted cream.  Yum!

Popular Danish sandwiches and Danish pastry

Demitasse cups for espresso.  The mark on the bottom of these cups reads "Guldborg."  This map shows Guldborg, Denmark to be an inlet in the Baltic Sea.  I would need espresso!
Plate under the soup bowls, gold rims in great condition.
This set came with two gravy bowls.  A little research reveals that Danish gravy is important.
Danish gravy must be very good.  Found this blog with directions for Viking Smoked Salt Gravy. Not sure I'm there yet. Viking Gravy
Mansaka Recipe
Beautiful casserole dish! Mansaka looks promising (recipe below).  "This is a traditional Danish casserole taught to me by my grandmother. The combination of meat, vegetables and spices makes it very tasty, and it is also easy to prepare." Recipe

Marking on bottom of all plates

Similar set found on the internet
Creamfarvet porcel├Žn med blomsterbuketter i flere farver samt guldkant. Stellet er fremstillet af Bucka & Nissen og dekoreret i danmark.

Billede og tekst med Copyright

Couldn't believe when I found this ad for a Coffee Set, sold in Denmark on the internet.  "Call for price." I didn't, but I was tempted.
Liselund kaffestel, mange dele illustreret i danmark.
 Vare nr.: 102076

Two square dishes large enough to be used as vegetable dishes.

So many pieces!  Can't wait to find recipes to fill them and parties to share them.

Sweet jam pot.
Choux pastry swans glide across a light almond dessert sauce

Extra pieces all laid out on the sideboard.  I sense a Smorgasbord in my future, filled with havarti cheeses, cucumber salad and almond Valkyries (pictured above)! Norse legend has it that the valkyries, shieldbearers to Odin and cupbearers to the heroes of Valhalla, would occasionally take a day off from battle and bloodshed, don their elegant swan skins, and float peacefully across silent waters … tempting both men and gods to further mayhem with their regal beauty. Here they have shape-shifted into choux pastry, filled with lingonberrry sorbet and gliding on a pool of almond dessert sauce.
Summer Smorgasbord

Dishes: Demoreret Danmark
Silverplate: Rogers & Bros. Avalon
Glasses: Home Goods
Tablecloth: Pasadena Flea Market
Napkins: Williams Sonoma
Candles: Home Goods



  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups sliced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (4 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 4 potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese


  1. Melt the shortening in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, and cook, stirring to crumble, until evenly browned. Mix in the onion and garlic; cook until tender. Drain excess grease, and sprinkle in the flour, salt, pepper, sugar, basil, cinnamon and oregano. Stir in the mushrooms and tomato sauce, and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl or dish, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until about halfway done.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish, or shallow casserole dish of similar size, layer half of the potatoes. Spread half of the meat sauce over them, then sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat the layers ending with cheese on top.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until potatoes are tender and cheese is browned.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Napkin, Tablecloth and Tarts

This is a story of making good stuff out of stuff found around the house - napkins, tablecothes and tarts!
Here's what happened.  Last December, I found a remnant of plaid fabric and some gold stripe fabric at designer fabric store, Off the Bolt.  Whipped up a looooong tablecloth for my family Christmas dinner. Isn't it great to have family?!

But now I have a new set of dishes (!) that I want to try out for an engagement party for friends.  So I folded the table cloth in half, put on little round table in front of the fireplace (the looooong table expands from the little round).
Then I wanted napkins to match, so found leftover gold fabric (TIP: never throw any fabric away.  Fold and place in zip lock baggies).

Cut into 18" X 18" squares (I had enough for four).
Turn edges 1/4", press with HOT iron (TIP: Sewing is all about good ironing).
Turn edges again, press and pin corners.
 The first one I made seemed a little too simple.
Let's try some Bernina fancy stitches. Tried out a few on a small sample.Liked the simple geometric one, but this green thread is too bright.  Searched in thread drawer to find one more "sagey."
Number 46, my simple Bernina (I paid way too much for it years ago and just bought a Brother machine for future daughter in-law for a tenth of the price and it does all the same stitches!) But the Bernina is a work horse, heavy and dependable.

Get sewing!

Tablecloth needed the same stitch but, it seemed to go on forever.  I changed the bobbin twice during the project.

Then onto the table!  Set the table with my new dishes and added the tarts my husband made the night before for our little engagement party!  (I left them in their tins for the pictures because I will put them back in the fridge to continue to chill.)  Recipe to follow!

Chef Kerri Allen
Yields: Four 6" Tarts
  • 1 recipe pastry dough
  • 1 (8-ounce) pacakage cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspon lemon zest
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
  • Fresh strawberries, kiwi slices, blueberries, raspberries and mandarin oranges

Apricot jam, warmed

  • Prehat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Prepare pastry dough into tart pan and blind bake (fill with hard pinto beans) for 10-12 minutes, until very lightly browned.  (Save warmed pinto beans in a baggie to be used another time.)  Set aside to cool.
  • Brush inside pastry with melted chocolate (melt in microwave, stirring every 10 seconds) and chill until set.

For the filling and topping:
  • Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and zest together unitl smooth.
  • Spread over the cooled crust.
  • Cut the kiwi into 1/4" slices and arrange fruit as desired.  Cluster the blueberries in the cent of th the tart. 
  • Fruit order is your choice.

For the glaze:
  • Warm apricot jam until thin.
  • With a pastry brush, glaze the entire tart.
  • Keep the tart in the refigerator.
  • Remove about 15 minutes before serving.
  • Add a dollop of whipped cream.


Dishes: Home Laughlin Eggshell Georgian Made in U.S.A. 1952 (Ebay purchase)
Silver Flatware: Reed & Barton Sterling Grande Renaissance (Wedding gift from grandparents)
Water goblets: Home Goods
Champagne Flutes: Cut luster flute glasses (Amazon Central Chef)
Bird Centerpiece:  Home Goods
Candle sticks: Hand Forged Everlast Aluminum
Salt Cellars and spoons: (Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market)
Tablecloth and napkins:  MADE THEM MYSELF!