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Countertop Review

This time last year I was packing up our house to prepare for our down-to-the-studs renovation in our kitchen, family room, and master bath as well as the addition of a screened porch. The family room wasn't originally part of the plan, but that's a post for another time. The kitchen was where I really had to plan and scheme, and, yes even fret, to stay in our footprint and budget and to get the function and look I wanted. I love a challenge like this, though, so despite some occasional frustration with my client (aka me! ), I enjoyed the process. A key "want" of mine was honed marble countertops. There are dozens--maybe hundreds--of blog posts, articles, and showroom sites that compare various types of countertop materials and their pros and cons. I read most of them and took notes from a lot of them in the months leading up to our start date. One of the most helpful things was visiting a sweet friend's kitchen, where I was able to ask questions about cleaning, a

Candy Land

Valentine’s Day often means chocolate, and I, for one, have no problem with that.  Forget those dreadful chalky conversation hearts; I never did like those much, especially after a certain third-grade Russell gave Katie Mills a BE MINE heart while I merely got STAY COOL. (Seriously, Rejection is a lifelong friend.)
Anyway, back to chocolate.  In the eighth grade, with thoughts of Russell long forgotten thankyouverymuch, I began to dream of receiving one of those red velvet-covered heart boxes that contained only four perfect pieces of chocolate.  Ideally, this box would be handed to me by a sweaty-palmed boy in front of all my friends, but I would settle for surreptitious presentation, if the poor fellow couldn’t yet make a public commitment.  Of course, the red velvet heart box never appeared, and I went home to listen to At Seventeen, by the brilliant Janis Ian, who like me knew the pain of Valentines that never came.

Don’t worry, things started looking up, just as Ms. Ian, my mother, and my grandmothers said they would.  I got my share of candy and flowers, ranging from the Joe College specials of carnations and baby’s breath to fragrant bouquets of roses to pink tulips (one of my favorites). 

Happily now, my Valentine proclaims his love in some form or other every single day, and, honestly, when I glance down at my fuel tank gauge and see the needle on full, I know he loves me.
But, back to chocolate. more candy
Let’s just say the Mister did want to pick us up a little sweet to share.  I would have to recommend he stop by Vaughn-Russell, our local chocolatier, just around the corner.
vaughn russell candy makers
 This sweet little confectionary was founded in 1950 by Marva and “Mac” McManaway.  The couple had moved south, and they had high hopes for introducing a local candy store to the area.  Although Mrs. McManaway sold the store in 1999, all the candy is still made the old-fashioned way with no preservatives, no wax, and no Lucy-and-Ethel assembly lines.  vaughn russell candy
According to new owner and confectioner Billi Beard, Vaughn-Russell’s signature item continues to be its mint pecans, made from roasted Georgia pecans.  Each nut is individually dipped in minted chocolate, and the recipe and process have not changed since 1950.  Order early, as during the holidays the store sells more than 1000 pounds of mint pecans!
vaughn russell candy counter
Take a look around your neighborhood, you might find an artisanal chocolate maker or perhaps just an old-fashioned confectionary.  Either way, consider supporting a mom-and-pop candy maker this year; if you do, you’ll be treating yourself to chocolate made with the most important Valentine ingredient of all, love.
And by the way, it’s reported that Janis Ian received 461 Valentines in 1977; two years after At Seventeen was released and won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance.
Town and Country Mom received no compensation or confection for this post.  She’s relying on the Mister to satisfy her chocolate cravings.


  1. Cute post! Maybe you will get another full tank of gas and chocolate!!! Happy Valentine's Day :)

  2. Those chalk heart pieces are awful - so gross, and I've gotten a few stay cools in my day as well. So lame! Chocolate looks fantastic! Happy Valentines Day to you and your Mister!

  3. Enjoyed this post very much, we all can relate on one level or another to the childhood angst that goes with getting "the wrong messaged chalky heart" (LOL) NEVER liked them anyway:) And like you, I love a good chocolate, and pretty pink tulips...carnations? No thanks but i understand that for someone budgetminded especially a college aged kid, that was a big splurge so at that time it would have meant a great deal! Like your Vaugh Russel, we have a local chocolatier who makes things that are really way too good, they should be illegal to eat...seriously I cannot control myself in there, then when you put together almonds,caramel and milk is a leathal combination (lethal as far as calories go) but you know what I am willing to splurge on that one special day where we all have the license to eat as we please and indulge! Hope yours is a happy one!

  4. Oh, this makes me long for Esther Price chocolates from Dayton, Ohio. We had a box at Christmas, and they were SO good! I haven't found anything as good here in the suburbs of San Diego - probably my fault for not looking hard enough. Happy Valentine's Day to you and your family.

  5. well, what can I say, I'm Belgian, so loving chocolate is in my DNA. My absolute favorite, favorite, favorite are the chocolate covered candied orange peels from Leonidas (which technically is the less expensive of the Godiva brands) and is favored by many in Belgium. But I'm not too picky, I will settle for anything with dark chocolate. Loved all your valentine touches in your home in the previous post too. I can't help myslef, I too save all the preschool valentines and string a few felt heart garlands around the house. Happy "heart" day to you!!

  6. What great info... from a self proclaimed sweet tooth!

  7. I too hate those gross candy hearts. And... I too love tulips. You and I are both very lucky to have guys who do the little things to show how much they love us! I get it every day... But yummy chocolates would be good too! ;)

  8. i love when my fuel gauge magically says 'full', too, but
    not quite as much as i love chocolate! right now i would
    love a GIANT piece.

    thank you for the sweet encouragement at my place. it
    helps to have the prayer support.

  9. I loved your Valentine's Day history. Confession ~ sometimes I'll hit the chocolate chips when there is nothing else around as I did about 15 minutes ago. Sometimes a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do. :)


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