Southern Girl Academy: Home Decor

Growing up in the South, my Mama taught me the value of keeping a tidy, decorated, put-together house. It does not have to be fancy, and it does not have to be expensive, but you do have to make the most of what you have. Rule number one of being a proper Southern Decorator is never apologize for the state of your house. When company drops in unexpectedly welcome them in, turn on a pot of coffee, and for goodness sake offer them some dessert.

Photo courtesy

Let’s talk about decorating that space where you live. Word placards are the way us Southerners like to send a message without being offensive. Take this one for instance. Growing up this is what my Mamaw had proudly displayed above her toilet.  She didn’t ever have to say one word, she just hung the placard and all who entered knew what to do.  Let the decoratin’ do the talkin’ and you’ll be just fine.

Southern Decorators proudly display pictures of their families to decorate their walls and tablescapes. Black and white pictures adorning your walls equal style and Southern Charm.  They also tell your family that they are special and they are the ones who make your house a home. Let the decoratin’ do the talkin’ and you’ll be just fine.

And last but not least we pay tribute to the monogram. It can be monogrammed bath towels, blankets, or an initial on the wall…the possibilities are endless. Remember, nothing says Southern Charm like pretty monogramming on your things. Let the decoratin’ do the talkin’ and you’ll be just fine.

Anyone can have a house that exudes Southern Charm. All it takes is filling it with things you love. For me that includes family heirlooms, family pictures and a kitchen table that is always company ready. Look around and see what your decoratin’ is sayin’ about you and your style.

Anna WannamakerAnna Wanamaker enjoys studying her Bible, Decorating, Decluttering and Cooking. She is a Salsa Connoisseur and lover of Mexican food.  Enjoy this moment, for this moment is your life is the quote Anna lives by.


Southern Girl Academy: Fashion

One of my earliest memories is a line of big-haired aunts around a salad bar. That and sneaking into the china cabinet to look at my Grandmother’s feral, jet-black hairpiece.

When properly utilized, this impressive structural anomaly boosted her teased and hairsprayed coiffure to heights previously unknown to mortal women. Along with her pearls, the hairpiece was deployed for weddings, funerals and Sunday church, spending the rest of its time lounging menacingly next to the gravy boat where inevitably a timid clutch of grandchildren would double dare each other to touch it. I couldn’t tell you why she kept her hairpiece in the china cabinet, only that she made the best chicken and dumplings I’ve ever had.

Needless to say, I grew up with an eye-rolling aversion to anything remotely identified as “Southern” or “feminine.” I eschewed cowboy fashion and camouflage for oversize men’s button-downs, leggings and black wingtip dress shoes. Oh, you didn’t know they made black wingtip dress shoes for women? Of course they did, it was the eighties. And I wouldn’t have been caught dead in pearls, opting instead to wear a tongue-in-cheek vintage t-shirt under a black blazer to give a speech for 11th grade student body president.

Embracing my traditional Southern roots while accepting my feminist sensibilities wasn’t easy, and my wardrobe suffered the rebellion accordingly, and schizophrenically, over the years as a result.

Growing up with two brothers, I spent hours on horses, ATVs and bass boats. I’ve gone mudding, frog gigging and deer hunting. Alternatively, I’ve dolled up for beauty pageants, homecomings and proms. Haven’t we all? A Southern country upbringing requires a staggering amount of shoes. But one thing remained a constant: I never left the house without mascara.

red bootsThankfully, I’ve come to learn a few things about what it means to have style, and perhaps even Southern style, if such a thing exists. I’ve even come to terms with my love for high heels and vintage aprons. I own, and even wear on occasion, a modest string of pearls and a pair of red cowboy boots. I still never leave the house without mascara.

I’ve accepted that a Southern woman can be soft and hard, pretty and tough, deliciously diverse and delightful all the same, with the appropriate shoes for any occasion. After all, a Southern woman must be prepared if her beau suggests an impromptu midnight boat ride to check his trotline. (True story.) And if my most recent birthday shoes are any indication, I am a woman who is ready for anything.

birthday shoesBeing comfortable and happy in your own skin, with your own unique style, can be the truest form of feminine expression.

Maybe I’ve finally grown into a proper, stylish Southern woman, one who has learned to appreciate good china, perfect meringue, a killer blowout and a man opening a door, but I haven’t forgotten the strong Southern women who’ve opened them, either. And I still have that t-shirt.

Angel Murphy Galloway is a reformed country girl living among numerous pairs of shoes, three dogs and one husband in the big city of Little Rock, where she works in nonprofit arts management. She also really likes your outfit. You can follow her on Twitter @angelmg.

Southern Girl Academy: Make-Up

I am so pleased to have been asked to share my wisdom on Southern women and makeup with the good students of this Academy. Let me just say that, by virtue of your being here, you have proven yourself to be a fine, upstanding creature who, even if not already blessed with the good sense, natural grace and devastating charm of a Southern woman, is at least on the right track to developing those virtues. For that, you are to be commended.

mascaraMy background with makeup and beauty is rich and long. I was born of a beautiful Southern woman who has always made great efforts to put her best face forward, and who has  passed along her secrets and wisdom to me through the years. What I have learned from her, and other attractive women in my life, could fill a book, not a blog post. Also, I have always had a natural curiosity about decoration and enhancements that has played out from my chin up more so than anywhere else in my life. Perhaps I could have been an artist, but my eyes became my favorite palette at an early age. This curiosity has culminated in a professional MAC makeup case overflowing with products of all shades and formulas, and that contains no less than 10 different types of mascara at any given time.

Those are my qualifications. Now that you know more about me, I trust you will take my beauty advice to heart. Here are what I like call The Basic Rules For Being A Southern Beauty.

  1. You must accept the fact that there is no such creature as a natural beauty. You know who comes closest to having natural beauty? Two year olds. And even they could use a touch of concealer from time to time. I have seen some of the world’s most beautiful women up close, and honey, there ain’t nothing natural about them. I don’t care how cute you think you are, or how busy your lifestyle is, trust me, you need some enhancements. If you think you can get by with a natural look, you must understand that it takes a deft hand to create that illusion.
  2. cliniqueYour first experience with makeup other than Bonne Bell Lip Smackers should never be before age 12 or 13, and should be at the Clinique counter. Girls, please stop bugging your mothers to let you wear makeup if you’re any younger, and please stop thinking you can start with Chanel or Dior. (You must earn that privilege, after you’ve both mastered the art of seduction and earned a paycheck that justifies owning a $50 lipstick.) You should start with either Aglow or Berry Delight blush, and either Adore U or Baby Baby lipstick, depending upon your skin tone. That is it.
  3. As you get older, you will graduate into foundations, eyeliners, bronzers, and the like. The possibilities are endless. Just remember that you must always, as mentioned above, know your skin tone and your “colors.” All good Southern women have, at one point, learned their “season.” If you don’t know yours, get yourself to the nearest department store makeup section and have a consultant help you figure it out.
  4. Maybelline Great LashFor minor purchases, drugstore makeup brands are perfectly acceptable. In fact, when you tell people that your beautiful new gloss is by Maybelline, they will admire your thrift and resilience (two important traits for Southern women to have, a la Scarlett O’Hara). But for complete overhauls of your look, get thee to a professional.
  5. There are a few makeup items you must have on your face and on your person at all times. The first is some type of foundation, concealer or powder. Everyone has pores, everyone has blood vessels, therefore everyone can use some smoothing out. You must always have on mascara, whether light or heavy. If you don’t, people will wonder if you’ve fallen ill. You should always have a bit of color on your cheeks. Pinching them is only a very temporary fix. And you should always have at least a slick of gloss on your lips, preferable something with a tint. Ladies, Chapstick doesn’t count. It is not makeup. It is something that people who live in very cold places (i.e. Yankees) must wear because the good Lord has seen fit to punish them.
  6. If you have an outstanding feature, by all means, play it up. But don’t whore it out. For example, if you have luscious, full lips, draw attention to them, but don’t feel the need to always lacquer them in a dark color. If you have perfect almond-shaped eyes, you should certainly draw attention to them by using multiple shades of eye shadow at one time, but don’t try to wear a smokey, dramatic look every day. The rest of us can only take so much of your perfection before we get just a teensy bit jealous. And a jealous Southern woman is not something you want too much of in your life.
  7. Lancome Julia RobertsAs you get older, you should avoid very shimmery finishes on your eyes and very dark, matte finishes on your lips. Both of these things are aging, and can look downright silly on anyone over 40 or so. However, if either of those have been your signature look for more than 10 years, you may consider keeping them so as not to confuse the men in your life. You might just consider toning your signature down a bit.
  8. And speaking of signature looks, if any woman in your social circle tries to copy and steal your signature look, you may feel free to give her withering looks. Just make sure your withering looks are done with as little facial movements as possible, so as not to crease your eyeshadow or smear your lipstick or anything like that.
  9. wine  galss lipstickYour makeup should never be anywhere other than on your face. Your foundation should not smear off on your collar or your friend’s face as you air kiss her. If it does, try a new formula, or a lighter touch. Your lipstick should never be left behind on a glass. Here’s a trick: Before drinking, as you bring your glass to your mouth, slightly moisten the rim with your tongue. This will keep your lipstick from attaching to the surface.
  10. A Southern woman will always let a friend know if something is amiss with her makeup, but in subtle, non-intrusive manner. A gentle caress can wipe away a stray eyelash, and a slight flick of the tongue along with pointed eye contact can alert someone to lipstick on her teeth. Remember, you look better when surrounded by other lovelies, so don’t let your companions look like fools. For more than a few minutes, at least.
  11. Whenever possible, always apply your makeup in private. I know many say it is acceptable to reapply lipstick at the table, but really, if you can excuse yourself to the ladies’ room to do this, you should. Part of what we’re doing when we wear makeup is creating an illusion, a mystique, which is defeated when we share our boudoir practices with the general public, or even our husbands.

Finally, I’d like to wrap things up with a visual aid.

dolly parton

The woman on the left is Dolly Parton, a consummate Southern woman. Although her makeup is heavy, she still looks lovely. Notice the carefully crafted look on her eyes — they are works of art. And her lips are perfectly sculpted. Though this look is too heavy for everyday wear, Dolly is a performer, after all, and her makeup suits both the occasion and her features.

Tammy Faye Bakker

The woman on the right is Tammy Faye Bakker. Contrary to popular belief, Tammy Faye was not a Southern woman. She was from Minnesota. Enough said.

Amy Bradley-Hole achieved the perfect liquid line about the time she was acing her SATs. She’s been coaching friends and family into the most beautiful version of themselves ever since. She knows the only natural beauty is inside, that’s why the outside can use a little sprucing up. In fact, she’s been known to go shopping in the rain to prevent a friend from wearing back-up makeup on purpose. You can follow her on Twitter @amybhole.

Southern Girl Academy: Drinking and Swearing

It is strictly lore that Southern Girls are dainty. Those who have survived wars, droughts and Southern men are nothing short of warriors. Their sorrows run deep: their children worry them, their men annoy them, their football teams fail them and their waistlines betray them. All of this misery needs an outlet. That’s why Southern Girls are exceptionally gifted at drinking and swearing.

It should be noted Southern Girls who were raised right are rarely photographed with an adult beverage in their hands. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one within arm’s reach.

Maker's Mark bottle

photo courtesy

Depending on her upbringing, it might be necessary for a Southern Girl to conceal her beverage, or at least not flaunt it. That’s when the monogrammed flask in her purse comes in handy. (These are available at any respectable gift shop near an SEC school.) Perhaps because bourbon was born in the Confederacy and survived Prohibition in the stills of the Ozarks, we take our brown liquor seriously.

This is not to say a Southern Girl must serve libations in order to have a good time. Sweet tea is always appreciated. However, if she chooses to serve hard liquor, it is only mixed with Coke products. Pepsi will just not do.

Side note: Even if she has somehow learned to hide her accent, after a couple of drinks, you’ll hear it. She just can’t help herself. That’s why Southern Girls keep their public drinking under control. There is nothing more unattractive than a woman who can’t hold her liquor.

photo courtesy

Any Southern Girl worth her salt learns to dog cuss men and/or children early in life. She learns who to blame for her afflictions from one of the most important women who rock her cradle: her grandmother. Some grandmas will cuss anything but their grandchildren. Others will only cuss the grandchildren. No Southern child, who wants to be left standing, ever cussed her Mama. Some things are just not done.

It’s not just that Southern Girls know naughty words. Anyone who’s been to seventh grade gym learned to be profane. (What coach wasn’t driven to swearing at a group of 30 girls, all claiming to have their periods to avoid dressing out for volleyball?) A Southern Girl knows how to use them. She can take the paint off the walls, if necessary. She might never raise her voice or use the seven words you can’t say on television, but she can still leave you feeling lower than mud. She can also use words you never knew were ugly until that very moment.

For instance, a Southern Girl can swoon over how beautiful you look. In fact, she almost didn’t recognize you, you look so amazing. Truth be told, the only women she ever saw who looked as good as you, are women who see Dr. Cutstheface. Until that moment, you never knew beautiful was an insult. This sort of cut down is reserved for stepmothers, daughters-in-law and other thorns of the side.

If she must, she can lean very close and hiss in your ear that she cannot bu-leave all the weight your nemesis has lost. Did you know she used the Weight-Be-Gone method? Hey, have you ever tried that? It might really be helpful, I mean, have you seen your nemesis lately. She’s wearing spandex to pick up her children at carpool. Because.she.can. This particular low blow is used only for women who mentioned an “unnamed” prayer request for your family during Bible study, assuring certain scandal.

While it might seem all very catty to an outsider, it’s really quite civilized. In a way, Southern communities are like dog packs. Someone has to be the Alpha. We don’t fight to the death. The men use measuring sticks and bank accounts to determine supremacy. The women have other ways of making sure everyone knows who’s in charge. The tongue is, after all, the mightiest of swords.

Kerri Jackson Case

Kerri Jackson Case spends an inordinate amount of time searching for her keys. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, son and two untrainable dogs, but will feed whoever is around at suppertime. She loves college football, Maker’s Mark and a good story, well told. You can follow her antics in real time on Twitter @kerrijack.

Southern Girl Academy: Southernisms

Mark Twain (author, Southerner, all-around awesome gentleman) once said “Southerners talk music!” This is true for Southern women, only more so. No matter the pitch or timbre of her voice, the sound of a Southern Girl’s speech is sweeter than Tupelo Honey.

In recent years, “Southern” seems to have been equated with “Redneck.” We here at the Academy aim to remedy that ugly bit of misinformation. Yes, the South is full of hicks and hillbillies and mountain men and river rats, but no Southern Girl worth her weight in cornbread talks ignorant.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara

According to folks who know such, there are no less than nine different dialects that fall under the Southern American English umbrella. It may take some doing, but any fine-tuned ear can pick out a Hotlanna diphthong (look it up, y’all), a Chawlston drawl, or a Tennessee twang.

Words just sound better coming out of a Southern Girl’s mouth. They are slower and gentler than Yankee language. (One might blame the harsh Northern winters for such harsh sounds. One never knows.) There was a reason Scarlett O’Hara charmed all the men, and it wasn’t her seamstress skills.

It’s high-time for a little lesson; the Do’s and Don’ts of Southern Lexicon:

  • Do greet everyone you meet with a “Hi, y’all” and a “How’s your mama?” It’s just polite and it shows you care. Bonus points if you ask about their mama’s tomato plants or flower bed.
  • Don’t ever, and we do mean never, use the word “ain’t.” It’s lazy and ugly. Southern Girls don’t do ugly.
  • Do be certain you know the different amounts- piddlin’, fair-to-middlin’, and heaps. It helps to know distance measurements as well- right near, yonder and a far piece.
  • Don’t dare underestimate the power of uttering “Bless your heart” to keep from saying what you really feel.

Even more than the words themselves, the delivery of those words is key to understanding many Southernisms. It’s been said that a diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip. If that’s true, then Southern Girls may very well be the ultimate diplomats.

  • When faced with a particularly squishy-faced baby, a Southern Girl will exclaim, “Well isn’t he sweet!”
  • When a visitor has worn out his welcome, a Southern Girl mentions how nice it was of him to stop by- as she opens the door.
  • When a less-skilled cook burns the breakfast eggs, a Southern Girl comments that the grits were heavenly.
  • When a Southern Girl is at a loss for words (it is rare, but it does happen once in a blue moon) she simply says, “Now isn’t that somethin’.”

Southern Girls are storytellers and (almost) always tell the truth, but do so with grace and, yes, our trademark sass. Find a belle near you, talk sweet to her, and she just might teach you to master Southernisms as well.

Just don’t let anyone fool you into believing that Southern Girls are barefoot and over-all’d, no-count fools. That dog won’t hunt ‘round here.

Savannah ButlerSavannah Butler is an umpteenth generation Southern Girl. The daughter of a teacher and granddaughter of a librarian, she has had a life-long love affair with words. As a mother of three small children, sometimes the only words she hears are unintelligible shrieks. She enjoys the scent of magnolia trees, the taste of sweet tea, and the thrill of the Kentucky Derby. She lives a funny life filled with funny people, and to repay them, she blogs about it.

She currently serves as President of the Board for Southern Girl Academy

Southern Girl Academy: Food

One of the most unifying things about being a Southerner is Southern Cooking. I do not claim to be a Southern cook. Many of my practices and preferences (for instance, I don’t like gravy) could risk me being chased out of town. But, I know what one is.

Becca in cooking class

Taking a pasta cooking class. Lesson learned: you can just buy pasta.

For starters, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Where I’m from, only strangers/new people came to the front door, and you became a little suspicious if someone rang the doorbell. The back door is always right beside the kitchen. It’s where homework is done, family meetings are held, and supper (not dinner) is devoured every night. If you dine in a southern home, there’s a good chance you’ll leave with some extra food in hand.

Simply put, Southern Cooking stems from two factors:  Proximity, and Affordability. It isn’t fancy, by any stretch. It’s cheap. It’s not complex, but in that way it’s pure. It features the foods that are in their prime. It’s time-tested: Cornbread has been around since before the 17th century, country fried steak the 18th, and biscuits and gravy showed up in a cookbook around 1839. These recipes haven’t changed much for a reason-they’re that good.

There are traditions… and superstitions. On New Year’s Day families are supposed to eat black-eyed peas and greens. The peas bring luck, and the greens, money. People get very particular about how recipes are made. These recipes are passed down generation to generation.  To bad-mouth one can be viewed as the equivalent of  slapping that person’s mother (and NOT in a good way!)

Southern Cooking isn’t going to jump on any of the latest food trend bandwagon. For that matter, it has no regard for low fat/low calorie.  I’ve seen vegetable dishes that call for an entire stick of butter. Dishes are fried or drowned in gravy, and there are Always desserts. If you’re worried about fat, don’t ask the cook why your eggs (or vegetables, or anything) tastes great. The answer will likely be: Bacon Grease. In a Southern kitchen there is good grease and bad grease (I honestly can’t tell you the difference in the two, but I do know Bacon is always in the ‘good’ category and is kept in the fridge).

Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie, made from the recipe handed down Mom

If you want to learn how to cook Southern food-get in the kitchen of a cook’s food you enjoy. Don’t ask for a recipe. For starters, an ingredient or two will likely be adjusted or even left out entirely. Plus, many southern cooks don’t use solid measurements. You’ll be told “a couple shakes,” “a dash” “just a bit” and “To taste” more than cup, teaspoon and tablespoon. While writing down the recipe you may feel discouraged about the possibility of recreating it- don’t. You will likely be used as an apprentice, to watch and see how the food comes together, taking careful notes of smells, consistency and techniques used.

Above all else the main thing that goes into Southern Cooking is Love.

Love of tradition and moving it forward to a new generation.  Love of the food and ingredients that are cultivated and go into making the dishes. And Love of the people who enjoy it.

Becca BuerkleBecca Buerkle is a writer who resides in Little Rock. When she’s not browsing recipes, or in her kitchen, she can often be found at her local grocery store. Besides cooking & food Becca loves music and reading. She believes in Thank You Notes, the healing power of a good laugh, and the comfort of a warm meal.

Southern Girl Academy: Football

Editors’ note: The BCS Bowls are being played this week. (These are the most prestigious ones, in case you didn’t know) Some would argue the religion of football in the South trumps all subjects, and we are not ones to start a kerfuffle. So in the interest of timeliness and because we enjoy a good pun, we will “kick off” our SGA weekly training sessions with a lesson in football.

Southern women do everything with grace and gentility.  We sip tea on the back porch, we talk about the other ladies we know (never too maliciously, at least not without a “bless her heart” to follow), we wear heels and pearls.  All with grace and gentility…except football.

You're never too old for a face tattoo if it's your team's logo.

Ask any true Southern Belle, and she has a favorite team.  She’s been to the Grove or Death Valley.  But you, dear student, may not be yet versed in the Southernness (or fabulousness) of football.

At last check, college football is played in all 50 states.  However, football is only lived in the South. Your team’s win-loss record controls your mood for the entire fall. Your team’s colors must be your favorite colors by default.  Your team’s importance falls somewhere behind God and family, but ahead of pointless work obligations and the weather. And, while important to love your team with all your heart, it’s of equal importance to hate your rival with all your heart.  But it’s not Southern to hate, you may say.  However, this is the one instance in which the Belle may say ugly things and not excuse herself with Southern propriety.

To understand football, you need not comprehend “Cover 2” or know what the “Statue of Liberty” play is, although these items are worth extra credit to be certain.  You must know the members of your school’s conference, which is preferably the SEC (no, not the Securities and Exchange Commission, although a good Belle takes care of her money too).  You must know the folk heroes of your favorite team, as Southern girls hear stories of Bear Bryant and Joe Namath on their daddy’s knee.  You must know your team’s mantra, and be prepared to use it in everyday conversation. Football, and team loyalty, serves as a uniting, or dividing, force among Southerners.

You must also be versed in the practice of tailgating.  Tailgating, named for the decidedly Southern art of drinking beer in cans on the back of a pickup truck, has evolved into an event almost as important as the game itself.  Tailgating involves food, which of course every Southern Belle understands.  Tailgating also requires alcohol.  Now, not too much, as a true Belle would never allow herself to be embarrassed or intoxicated.  And tailgating requires fashion, another Southern staple.  There are a few schools of thought on tailgate attire, and these often differ based on the tailgating location.  While on some campuses sundresses and pearls are the uniform, other locales err on the more casual side, as long as the team color or logo is prevalent.  Tailgating typically lasts until the game begins, and, although an integral part of the process, should not take precedence over the game itself.  It’s also customary to return to the tailgating location following the game, to celebrate the win, or to commiserate over the loss.

It's not always warm, even in the South, especially before night games. You still have to participate and wear the right outfit!

While attracting (and keeping) a man are never far from the mind of the Belle, football, contrary to popular belief, does not require a man’s insight or point of view.   A Southern woman should understand first down and touchdown on her own.  When each team gets the ball, they have four downs in which to make ten yards, the first play being first down.  A touchdown, resulting in six points, waving of pom poms, and the team mantra being yelled, occurs when the team with the ball crosses the goal line (into the prettily painted area).  The Belle can, and should, also enjoy the view of young football players in tight pants.

While football can be a complicated game, the Southern Belle need only have a grasp of a few key elements to enjoy a game, to cheer on her team, and to hold a conversation that will impress any good Southern gentleman.  Roll Tide, y’all.

(Editor’s Amendment: We feel certain Miss Paige has been tailgating a bit too much or she surely would have had the good sense to write, “Woo Pig Sooie!”)

Paige Thurmond

Paige Thurmond

Paige Thurmond has no true hometown, but was born in the home city of the Golden Hurricane.  She received degrees in Aggieland and Tuscaloosa, is rarely on time, adores all things houndstooth, and thinks both love AND football make the world go ’round.  You can typically find her watching ESPN, tweeting as @pthurm, or trying not to ruin a home-cooked meal.