As a product of one of this country's most beautiful, historic cities — Natchez, Mississippi — I'm captivated by memorable parties, houses, gardens and storytellers.
The three-story Victorian manse in which my mother and grandmother and I lived near downtown was anchored by our family business: a clothing boutique with a smattering of antiques and my grandmother's homemade jellies and preserves — to which the word "Famous" would join her "Aunt Freddie's Pantry" product line when such celebrities as Bob Hope and Lucille Ball began ordering it for holiday gift-giving.
Such a Godsend, paired with local support, kept Nannie (and by proxy, me) busy each fall, when around Thanksgiving we could be found decorating the jelly boxes, using bright green paper for the green pepper jelly, and red for red. After carefully cutting out Santa faces from reams of collected wrapping paper, and affixing bits of cotton to each beard and hat, the jolly red faces were added to the packages for a festive touch.
Above the store and our small living space, we rented apartments to an evolving cast of characters. Needless to say, our place was buzzing — especially at sunset on our front porch, where an ever-changing mix
of friends and family, customers and tourists would relax, drink in hand, and nibble or two within reach.
Though I'd taken to writing at an early age, my first opportunity to help document Natchez' rich flavor and culture came while helping my grandmother, Freddie Bailey, produce two cookbooks. She did so at the urging of one of her biggest fans — my cousin, renowned designer Lee Bailey.
And he was so smitten with Natchez that
he worked with its Pilgrimage Garden Club to produce the gorgeous James Beard Award-winning Lee Bailey's Southern Food & Plantation Houses.
Lee's “don't gild the lily” style not only became a design-for-living compass for me, but also for a generation of others, including writer-extraordinaire Nora Ephron (whose New York Times Magazine tribute to him is here ) and Southern raconteuse Julia Reed (who toasts Lee's influence here).
Having focused my career on the good life, inside and out — from entertaining and decorating with simplicity and beauty, to supporting humanitarian causes, I've relished working as a food & entertaining/home & garden/lifestyle writer-editor-stylist for some of the nation's top magazines, including Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living, Coastal Living, Southern Accents, Traditional Home, Country Home and Organic Gardening.
I've also written and styled five well-received cookbooks with my husband, photographer Robert M. Peacock (also a native of Natchez) – and co-written, styled and contributed to a number of other publishing projects.
Robert and I make our home near downtown Dallas' historic Winnetka Heights neighborhood, known for its welcoming front porches. That's where, on breezy sunset evenings, we and our friends tend to be found ... drink in hand ... and nibble or two within reach ...