One Final Flowery Paper For Pat Conroy

One Final Flowery Paper For Pat Conroy
by Dawn McCoy

Pat Conroy on the greatest gift...

Pat Conroy on the greatest gift…

It’s raining tonight in Los Angeles, and I can’t help but be reminded of my belief as a child that anytime it rained, God must be crying.
It seemed like it rained for every funeral I ever attended until I was in high school.

I read my first Pat Conroy book in 8th grade.
My big brother loved Pat Conroy, and had referenced a pivotal line from The Lords of Discipline in his high school commencement address:
“I WEAR THE RING.”
7 years later, I would base my own commencement address around the same quote, dutifully paying homage to both my beloved big brother whom I had failed at trying to be, and to the author who inspired me all along the way in that failed process.

Pat Conroy so permeated my literary, intellectual and emotional growth and experience as a teenager that in 9th grade, Mrs. Mrozek suggested that I read other authors because my writing tended to follow suit in Conroy’s voice in that it was utterly, deliciously – and sometimes, terribly – flowery.
Her note on many of my papers was simply: “Avoid corn.”

I did not.

Flowery writing would be my saving grace in graduating high school, getting into college, and graduating college in 3.5 years.
It would also be the basis of my career in Los Angeles: understanding the power of words and the emotions they can invoke, when delivered honestly and beautifully, with a little nod to prose, poetry and alliteration.

I thank Pat Conroy for that.

I also thank Pat Conroy for writing about his fractured family, suffering from mental illness, abuse, addiction…and southern heritage.
He dutifully detailed all of the beautiful ups and downs, and dramas and traumas, with little judgment or hindsight…but with plenty of honesty and heart.
He made me feel less alone by communicating that even in the craziest of families, the underlying current that keeps everyone together truly is love.

I have often compared my own father to the father character in Conroy’s “The Great Santini,” and I suppose I always will. The patriarch in that book resonated with me in ways few other characters in fiction have managed to do, probably because he was a fictional character based on a nonfictional man. In fact, he was based on Pat’s father – so specifically so – that his mother famously took the book as evidence to the judge in her divorce case against Pat’s father, years later.

As I sit here tonight, heartbroken, I ask myself why I mourn so deeply for this man.
After all, I didn’t know him apart from the home he maintained on my bookcase.
Well, part of me mourns because when we’re given that frequently asked parlor question, “Who would you invite – living or dead – to your dream dinner party?” Pat was always my first answer. I honestly thought that one day I would make it happen, and we would sit there swapping southern tragic tales of foiled families over our recipes for shrimp’n’grits, peach cobbler and sweet tea.

I also mourn because he has been such a constant in my life.
Years after reading all of his books, some twice, I would find myself working for Barbra Streisand, who directed and starred in the adaptation of Pat’s “The Prince Of Tides.” I remember standing in her laundry room, looking up a phone number in her address book, when I spotted Pat’s phone number.
I can finally admit that I called the number, heard his voice, and then hung up like a giddy schoolgirl.

Much like family, he has just always been a part of my story.
And, now his story has come to an end.

Here’s what I learn from this…as I’ve learned before, and I pray I won’t learn again.
Don’t wait.
Reach out to people.
Tell them why you appreciate them. What their work has meant to you. What they mean to you.
Let them know their value to you and your world.
And do it all, without expecting nothing in return.

I will never forgive myself for not sending a single letter to my favorite author to thank him for what he has given me.
So, please don’t make that mistake.

Thank you, Pat, for showing me that while we are the product of our parents, it doesn’t mean that we have to walk the same paths as our parents.
Their stories are not our stories.
And our futures have little to do with the past, unless we give the past that kind of control.
You are the best teacher I ever had.

“I find happy an elusive word, but I do feel something good going on.” (Pat Conroy)

Dawn on the Dear Mattie show on iTunes!

Dear Mattie podcast on iTunes, EP. 6 DAWN MCCOY OF BEAUTYFROSTING.COM - Dawn McCoy is THAT neighbor who cooks food for you and just sits right down on your front porch for a chat. I love her. She's also the creator of BeautyFrosting.com, which is all things beauty, baking, & being.

Oh, Mattie!

I am so honored and thrilled to be a guest on the Dear Mattie podcast this week on iTunes with one of my best friends (and neighbors) host, Matt Marr!

Download and listen on your commute, on a walk (like I just did), on the plane or just while washin’ dishes! Listeners’ questions we answer include: parents with narcissism, cell phone etiquette, discovering your true self and a 33-year-old woman in a romantic relationship with a 19-year-old (oh my!).

We also chat about southern sins, new chapters, branding, Step Up, rediscovering childhood passions, my Nanny, how I almost became an FBI agent and the new definition of layover. And just wait til you hear the Chatty Mattie questions. Oh my.

What fun we had on that hot summer day!
Click here to download and listen:
http://www.talktomattmarr.com/podcasts/ep-6-dawn-mccoy-beautyfrostingcom/

xoxo,

BF

BF Asks: Do you have a question you want Dear Mattie to answer? Send him one here. Or are there any questions you wish he’d asked me? 

Daily Delights: My New Years Tradition

Happy New Year, my friends! I just got back from the best New Years Eve I’ve ever had – more on that later – but for now, I have to share my annual New Years tradition with you guys.
Even with a well-earned hangover, I had to make this happen today.
Hope your 2014 is off to a  beautiful start!
Me? I’m just eatin’ my blackeyed peas, chilling out, watching some movies and catching up on some tv. I’m long overdue for a little R & R.
As a southern girl, I fervently believe in the power of blackeyed peas…and I don’t mean the band.

My annual New Years tradition: Blackeyed Peas with jalapeños, bacon, a crescent roll and champagne!

Every year I cook a big pot of blackeyed peas with bacon, jalapeños, jalapeño juice, salt, pepper and a bit of butter and then top ’em with a dollop of Daisy sour cream and sharp cheddar. I serve em to my friends with crescent rolls or biscuits and champagne and, in honor of my Papaw, I always have a bit of buttermilk with em too. They are delicious and southern folklore says it grants you prosperity. Each year gets better and better so it must be workin’. Bring it on, my little blackeyed friends!! And may 2014 bring YOU prosperity!!!
xoxo,
BF
BF Asks: What is your New Years tradition?

A Tasty Tradition: My Annual Classic Southern Easter Dinner

Easter is my FAAAAAV-OOO-RIIIITE holiday! So every year I have a classic southern Easter dinner for my surrogate family of friends here in Los Angeles. It’s a wonderful way to remember my roots and to honor the legacy of ladylike entertaining that my Nanny and Mother have taught me.

The ultimate multi-tasker: Whipping up some whipped cream & sipping a glass of Primitivo

Friday was a busy day spent making lists, shopping and preparing the kitchen for a weekend of cooking and baking!

Making my list and checking it twice!

As a child, I was fascinated with a Bunny cake that my mother made for my brother years before I was born. I always felt like I missed out on it by being born 7 years later. I used to just stare at that picture. It’s probably one of the reasons I fell in love with baking so much.

I have been wanting to try to make it for years and decided that this was my chance!
I baked it on Saturday and was THRILLED with the results!

The recipe my Mom followed on the left & my cake - Bernie The Bunny - on the right

Easter Sunday started with a Make-it-Work moment! To accommodate seating for 15, my catering & part prep helper from TaskRabbit – Jennifer – and I brought in the table from outside. Once in, we realized that we needed to make the coffee table the same height as the other two garden tables. So improvise we must! And we did! With beautiful results!

Cookbooks, tabletop books and magazines under the legs made the tables equal height. Yay! Seating for 15!!

Make it work!

 

Easter-inspired floral arrangements were put together in a jiffy using the charming candies of Easter. Layering pastel M&Ms with pastel peeps and setting a smaller vase (or glass) inside a larger one created the perfect Easter centerpieces!

 

Peeps & pastel are the focal points!

 

So what was the finger-licking lineup for Easter dinner this year?

The finger-licking lineup!

 

*We had to start with a signature Easter cocktail, of course! This year – in continuing with the Blackberry theme for Easter – was The Blackberry Bunny! It was refreshing with champagne, cream of blackberry liqueur and Trader Joe’s Blackberry Crush juice topped off with a blackberry and sprig of mint!

 

 

I asked my friends to bring vegetables, salads, appetizers and wine since I had the starches and fats covered!

 

The fixins from my friends

So Hope tossed together a cheery Chicken Lentil Salad. Vanessa brought a scrumptious Strawberry & Avocado Kale Salad. Dave manned some beautiful Bacon-wrapped-Goat Cheese-stuffed-Dates. Jennie put together some primo Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus. Jose and Lindsey had us set on vino and Amy and Dave brought champagne. And my sweet friend Rebecca – in town from Chicago shooting a pilot – brought 3 bunches of BEAUTIFUL tulips!

Rebecca brought 3 beautiful bunches of tulips that matched my tulip dress from Anthropologie!

 

Here are the dishes I just had to have because no southern Easter dinner would be complete without ’em!

*Delightful Deviled Eggs (mayo, cream cheese, tabasco, lemon juice, yellow mustard, dijon mustard, sweet relish & cornichons)

Easter dinner, southern fare, southern food, homemade, southern cooking, Easter menu,

Delightful Deviled Eggs

 

*Southern Pea Salad (peas, sour cream, mayo, worcestershire sauce, cheddar and onions)

Southern Pea Salad

 

*Cowboy Creamed Corn (buttermilk, corn, diced chiles and cream cheese)

 

Cowboy Creamed Corn

 

*Cheddar Green Bean Casserole (green beans, cheddar, buttermilk, sour cream, mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup and French’s Fried Cheddar Onion Rings)

 

*Texas Ranch House Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes (buttermilk, Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning, cream cheese and sour cream)

My favorite dish had to be my Nanny’s Lime Green Jello Salad (lime jello, cream cheese, pineapple and pecans). I used her original jello mold to create it. It even still has her “HAYES” label on it from when she used to take it to church functions! I was thrilled when it came out perfectly. The mold has interchangeable designs that imprint into the mold depending on the holiday. Easter’s design is a tulip!

Nanny's Lime Green Jello Salad in her original jello mold!

 

And the Dessert Table reminded me of old church socials at my grandparents’ church in Albany, Oklahoma:

The dessert table!

 

*Chocolate Bunny Cream Pie with Homemade Salted Buttermilk Crust – there wasn’t a crumb left!

Chocolate Bunny Cream Pie - Good to the last bite!

 

*Nanny’s Favorite Pineapple Cream Meringue Pie with Salted Buttermilk Crust – my meringue came out beautifully but the inside was a little runny. Oh well! It still tasted divine!

Nanny's Pineapple Cream Meringue Pie

 

Sour Cream Chocolate Easter Basket Cupcakes with Sweet Cream Cup Frosting  – these are such an easy treat to make for Easter! I love making them for my friends, neighbors and agents!

Sour Cream Chocolate Easter Basket Cupcakes!

 

Bernie The Bunny Cake (coconut cream cake with coconut cream buttercream frosting)

Meet my co-host...Bernie The Bunny!

 

Bernie The Bunny and our little friends, Nora and Lucy!

And no southern affair would be complete without sweet tea!

These are the beautiful faces I got to look at all afternoon!

I went to bed with a belly - and heart - full of sugar, thanks to these sweet faces!

 

This was my favorite Easter yet! I couldn’t have picked a better group of friends to share this precious day with me. And as I gave the toast right before we dug in, I could feel my Nanny there with us! She would’ve been proud…well, except for the Pineapple cream pie.

 

 

 

High-Low 16: BIRTHDAY GIRL

If you read Friday’s post, you may have gotten the hint that I looooooooooove birthdays! I love my birthday, your birthday, friends’ birthday, kids birthdays, celebrity birthdays and even half-birthdays. My mom has always thought it is borderline unhealthy how much I love  birthdays.

Regardless, I love to celebrate life and my birthday is my ultimate life celebration on a yearly basis! So this week’s highs are all centered around my birthday. It was a magical week filled with friends, parties, surprises, fun gifts and celebration!

Here’s to this year being my best year yet and yours too!

HIGHS

1) Birthday Flowers are always the most lovely surprise!

Flowers from my brother, delivered in person, at my office:

Good job, brother!

 

2) These beautiful Haute Hostess aprons were sent as a gift and they are the cream of the crop when it comes to kitchen couture! Soooo gorgeous! I couldn’t stop staring at them!

 

Haute Hostess aprons ($350) in Rosalynn & Ashley: the BEST birthday gifts ever!

 

3) Birthday morning mimosas!

4) One of my dearest friends, and my former college roomie, Mary Beth, is the BIGGEST Hostess Donettes fan. So when I heard about Hostess going out of business, I bought the last package of powdered Donettes at the grocery store and decided, I would eat them on my birthday morning and send her a little tribute. RIP Hostess Donettes.

5) The best gift in the world is beautiful artwork from a talented friend. And when it’s a customized vision of your favorite inspiring catchphrase by Nami M. Scott? There are no words.

I was so surprised!

And DEEEELIGHTED!!!!

6) My little friend/ adopted “niece” across the street, Nora, made me the most beautiful, loving card. I especially appreciated when she said that I am “the best lovemaker”.  I just thought it was hilarious!! And so sweet! From the mouths of babes!

7) On my actual birthday, I was treated to a lovely, intimate dinner with a few girlfriends at Vinoteque (one of my favorite haunts). It was the perfect way to celebrate the night before the big party! As I often do on my birthday, I went around the table and told each friend why I love them and what I admire about them. But then they turned the tables on me! I got in back in spades. It was great fun! Love those girls!

8) I had been looking forward to hosting my Toddlers & Tiaras – redneck-themed party for a long time. So when it actually came, I was prepared. And when I say prepared, I mean I had my full Toddler pageant costume ready!

A lot of my friends were ready too:

Stay tuned for more recipes from the party – including my Go-Go Pageant Punch!

9) And then there was the cake!!! Oh, the delicious lemon raspberry cake from Hansen’s Cakes:

I loved my wish this year and I hope, hope, hope it comes true!

10) The party ended up drifting into the backyard and turned into a backyard dance party that raged til 3 am! I would also like to note that I have taken part in 3 (!!) dance parties in the past week and a half! Who says getting older means growing up?

The whole night was incredibly sweet so I, of course, had to do a few signature Toddlers & Tiaras moves:

My birthday week was AMAZING!! And I am soooo thankful and humbled by my precious friends who continue to be my greatest champions, inspirations and co-conspirators every day. Life is so fun when we have wonderful friends & family to share it with! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
And thank you, BF readers, for all of the birthday wishes and messages. They meant the world to me!

LOW

Sometimes when you’re juggling a lot, you drop the ball. And, like you, I am not one who like to drop the ball. Unfortunately, I did this week and I just hate that feeling. I missed a phone conference I was supposed to be on because I missed it on my iCal. I felt like I disappointed people I respect. Ugh. But if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that you have to forgive yourself, pick up the ball and get in the game again. And that’s exactly what I did.

 

xoxo,
BF

BF Asks: What was your High-Low this week?

and

BF Asks: When was your last impromptu dance party? If it’s been a while, why don’t you change that this week and have a little dance party in your living room! With friends, your spouse, your kids or even by yourself! Just crank the tunes and have some fun!

Recipe Box Friday: Buttermilk Vanilla Pancakes with Buttermilk Vanilla Syrup

BeautyFrosting's Buttermilk Vanilla Pancakes with Buttermilk Vanilla Syrup

BeautyFrosting's Buttermilk Vanilla Pancakes with Buttermilk Vanilla Syrup

Whenever I think of buttermilk, I always think of buttermilk & cornbread with my Papaw and Wilbur’s buttermilk bath in Charlotte’s Web. Both are sweet memories of the tart stuff! And I LOOOOVE me some buttermilk! My fridge is never without it.
This past Saturday, I cooked up the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever made.
Oh dear God! It was so mouthwateringly delicious that I am getting hungry right now as I write this.
Making pancakes AND syrup might seem a little daunting but oh, honey, it’s not!
You’ll be thanking me!Homemade Buttermilk Vanilla pancakes! Homemade Buttermilk Vanilla Syrup! GO!!
Buttermilk Vanilla Pancakes
2 Eggs
2 C Buttermilk
1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla extract
1/4 C Melted Butter
2 C Flour
1 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
3/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
Ground Vanilla Bean (amount to your liking)
Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Add eggs, buttermilk, vanilla & melted butter and mix well.
OPTIONAL: Add desired amount of ground vanilla bean and mix well.
OPTIONAL: Chocolate Chips, Blueberries, Bananas, Pecans or Apples. Yummy!
Butter that skillet with, well, BUTTER!!
Cook each side until lightly golden. While cooking the rest of the pancakes, warm cooked pancakes in oven on the WARM setting.
And this lady likes a few of 'em with chocolate chips too!

And this lady likes a few of 'em with chocolate chips too!

Buttermilk Vanilla Syrup
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
Ground Vanilla Bean (amount to your liking)
Boil buttermilk. Reduce heat to medium. Add sugar and butter and turn heat to high and let boil for one minute.
Next (Last step!), ADD:
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda=OPTIONAL
Cook, and stir consistently, for 2 minutes until smooth.
It may settle a little but no fear! Just taste and enjoy the goodness.
xoxo,
BF
BF Asks: What’s your favorite add-in (chocolate chips, blueberries, bananas, nuts, peanut butter, nutella, apples) to put in pancakes?

Thirsty Thursday: Southern Comfort Punch

In honor of the Big 12 showdown this season, I thought I’d honor some of my favorite southern schools by showcasing this Southern Comfort Punch from the magnificent Martha Stewart.

Martha’s Southern Comfort Punch

  • 6 lemons
  • 4 navel oranges
  • 2 six-ounce frozen lemonade, concentrate
  • 1 six-ounce frozen orange juice, concentrate
  • 2 liters lemon-lime soda
  • 1 liter Southern Comfort

Directions

  1. Line two baking sheets with plastic wrap, and set aside. Slice lemons into rounds as thin as possible. Arrange lemon slices in layers on one prepared baking sheet. Repeat with oranges; layer on second baking sheet. Place in the freezer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until fruit slices are frozen.
  2. Just before serving, open the cans of frozen lemonade and orange juice, and place the frozen concentrates, whole, in a large punch bowl. Add the soda, Southern Comfort, and several handfuls of ice. Remove frozen fruit slices from freezer, and arrange over the top of punch. Serve immediately.

 

GO TEAM!!!!

xoxo,

BF

 

Foodie Friday: Low Country Cookies

Today’s delightful dessert comes from the Cajun queen herself, Paula Deen!

And, guess what, beauties? It’s no-bake! That’s right! For those of us without A/C out there, this is the way to go.

Plus, it has a PERFECT 5-star rating on www.PaulaDeen.com!

Paula Deen’s Low Country Cookies

Low Country Cookies

Servings: 15 to 20 servings
Prep Time: 40 min
Difficulty: Easy

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup milk
1   egg
1 cup sugar
12 tablespoon (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1   16-ounce box graham crackers
1 cup or 3 (1/2-ounce) cans shredded coconut

Topping:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons milk

Directions

 

Line a 13 x 9-inch pan with whole graham crackers.  Melt butter in saucepan and add sugar.  Beat egg and milk together; add to butter mixture.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add nuts, coconut, and 1 cup graham cracker crumbs.  Pour over crackers in pan. Cover with another layer of whole graham crackers. Prepare topping.

Topping:

Beat all ingredients together and spread over top layer of crackers. Chill. Cut into squares.

Thirsty Thursday: The perpetually-pleasing Pink Halo Punch!

I have made this for many a bridal shower, baby shower, bachelorette party and brunch.

The perpetually-pleasing Pink Halo Punch

It not only pleases but DELIGHTS the most discerning guests!

And it is a beautiful, fun and PINK way to celebrate those milestones in our lives!

And now, this recipe is yours to enjoy.

Without further ado, the Pink Halo:

PINK HALO

2 bottles Champagne, preferably pink(!! ) (I love Sofia and Veuve Rose, but, stick with the cheaper stuff, like Barefoot or Cupcake, for larger events)

1 cup raspberry flavored vodka

2 splashes of Grenadine

Combine in large pitcher, carafe or punchbowl. Serve, with a smile, in champagne glasses.

Garnish with floating raspberries and/or sprigs of Mint.

 A perfect pink libation for ladies!