Shrug It Off

There would have been a time in my life that a day like today would have riled me. Water heater trouble, plus uncapped pex pipe amounted to a flooded room. Again, a few years ago, I would have considered the mishap a big misfortune. Today? I just found a broom and swept the water out of the room and laughed.

I’m almost through with the big set of kitchen cabinets. The uppers are finished; working now on the lowers. They’re not perfect, but they’re paid for. I like them. That’s all the matters, right? Besides, the food will be so fantastic, no one will notice.

 

 

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I reached a stopping point and sat down at my piano. A no. 2 pencil marked  A through G on the old ivory keys, turned yellow with the decades.

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The teacher’s notes and praise belong to another. It’s been 29 years since I’ve played a piano. Looking forward to relearning how.

A flooded floor, non-perfect kitchen cabinets, weak piano notes; shrug it off.

Blessings.

Cabinets

I’ve learned a lot the last few years. Day to day stuff. Sure. Managing life on my own. Well, not completely alone. The One who will never leave me nor forsake me walks with me, or rather, I Him. I try to.

Strength, deep down,  surfaced after age fifty. I come from a long line of strong women. I am fortunate to have such great examples of feminine fortitude.

My father was a mechanical engineer and could build anything. He was more than just creative; he was more than just talented. Smart and brilliant.

Now, I know I’m not as smart as my father was, but I can see the potential in ordinary, or worn out, or throw-away things. During this last year of renovating my farmhouse, I have often reminded myself that I am George L. Ellison’s daughter.

Equally so, I have recalled the courage and resilience of my mother Madoline when we lost my father in 1981. My mother’s full name is Berenice Madoline. She was named for one of her aunts, who was named for a character in a book her father was reading at the time of his daughter’s birth.  Berenice is Greek, meaning ‘to bear’. Her name also means ‘victory’. Both describe my Mama. She had to bear much, to finish rearing her family by herself. I never heard her complain or play the poor widow. Deep down, her strength surfaced. God Bless Her! What a lady! She never lost her femininity.

Several people have told me that they couldn’t do what I have done. My reply? “You could if you had to.” Who knows? You would probably surprise yourself.

I have been painting kitchen cabinets the last few weeks. Have I ever done that before? Nope. YouTube is great for finding out how. Sand and prime. Sand and paint. Sand and paint again. And again, if need be. The sandpaper represents the rough times in my recent past. Without the sanding, the coats of satin wouldn’t be smoothe or durable. The sanding makes it beautiful.

My father taught me to figure things out. Mama taught me to be beautifully fearless.

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Miss you, Daddy. Love you, Mama.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

A Call To The Bull Pin

Can you believe that the local grocery store didn’t have a single package of corn dogs? On the night that LSU plays MSU in the Super Regional, to decide who goes to Omaha for the big game, I wanted to have corn dogs for supper. I will explain: MSU students and fans call LSU students and fans corn dogs. Why exactly I am not sure. Both universities are agricultural schools. It’s kinda funny to me. Kinda the pot calling the kettle black, huh, Mr. Aesop?

I had wanted to tweet out a picture of my plate of corn dogs decorated in squirt mustard words saying, ” Geaux Tigers”. You know, some reverse psychology mojo. Oh, did I not make myself clear? This Baton Rouge, Louisiana born girl is a Tiger supporter.

I sent my son to the grocery store with my short list: corn dogs, squirt mustard and freezer bags. We were given fresh corn and I needed to get it in the freezer. My son was gone just a few minutes when he called home. The grocery store had no corn dogs, what should he get? I told him my substitution and the following recipe is the result.

Corn Dog Muffins

Ingredients:

1 box Jiffy  cornbread mix

1/2 cup self-rising cornmeal

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 pack of all beef franks

1/3 block of gouda, shredded  (about 1 cup)

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Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl stir together the first 4 ingredients. Cut the franks into bite sized pieces. Fill 12 lined muffin cups 3/4 full with the cornbread batter. Drop into each muffin cup the pieces of franks, evenly distributing them. Top each muffin with a generous helping of gouda. Bake for 25 minutes, give or take.

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As you can see, we had fresh corn on the cob too. We enjoyed this ‘call to the bull pin’. Not really enjoying the game, as of this writing, as the MSU Dawgs are ahead of my LSU Tigers by 1 run. Come on, Tigers!

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

 

Post Script:

Corn Dogs- er- Tigers Win!!!

An Hour And A Half From Everywhere

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Early Easter dinner

After an early Easter dinner for some family members that can’t make it tomorrow, I took a stroll around Magnolia. Where is Magnolia, you ask? I have been asked this many times and usually answer, “In the middle of Nowhere and an hour and a half from Everywhere.” Tucked away off I55 South, close to the Louisiana line, this small town is the center of a cross that’s relatively 90 minutes from Baton Rouge, LA, Natchez, Jackson, and Hattiesburg, MS.

Magnolia is the county seat of Pike County and as I write this I realize that I neglected to take a picture of our courthouse. The grounds are quite pretty with lots of azaleas and magnolias.

Here are 3 of the churches in Magnolia: Episcopalian,  Presbyterian,  and United Methodist. There is also a Catholic and a Southern Baptist Church.

Down the block and around the corner is the Magnolia post office.  Built in the 30’s,  the architecture is very pretty and you step back into a less busy era when you walk through the front doors. Three murals painted by J.H. Fyfe depict rural life of nearly 200 years ago. The dark stained wood work in the foyer is remarkable for a little town like Magnolia. It’s worth a day trip to come and see.

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Missing  a ‘p’, but full of charm

Another block and you’re at the old depot. It was completely renovated a few years back and is now the town hall.

At the opposite corner of the depot grounds and catty-corner across the street is Handy Hardware. This old fashioned hardware store lives up to its name. From live crickets for fishing to plumbing supplies; You need something,  they’ve got it. And in the middle of West Railroad Ave a new consignment shop has opened up. The Me’lange Market has some interesting pieces. And like Handy Hardware you’ll be pleased with what you find in this shop. Another staple and anchor in Magnolia is the Corner Drug Store. It started out on the other end of Railroad Ave,  but was moved quite a while ago to its current location.. It has been in business well over 100 years. Their slogan is ‘right on the corner and right on the price’. I clerked there as a newlywed 30 years ago and now college man works there in the afternoons. Go by and tell him, “Hi!”

I continued my walk and returned home. The huge ancient live oak greeted me in the early evening.

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Magnolia, MS is a nice place to take a respite in Nowhere, while  traveling from Everywhere else. Stop and get a bite to eat at one of our restaurants,  fill up your gas tank , and enjoy the slower pace.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen for a Happy Easter.

Patience

Ecclesiastes 3 says “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” 

Time at my farmhouse today was quiet and solitary. Old brown painted back porch walls became a serene blue. The sun slow danced across the restored pine floorboards. The 2″ angled brush was rinsed and reshaped and put away for another weekend.

As I always do, I took a walk around my property before leaving this sunny, winter afternoon.

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The cowcumber  (big leaf magnolia) soared to the clear sky. Country blue, and looking a little forlorn, the mailbox yawned open. George Taber shyly peered through a tangle of limbs. Yellow daffodils waved in the light breeze at the back patio. A broken wooden backboard wobbled under the giant and waxy magnolia.

Like the farmhouse, the old gardens need refurbishing. Someone else’s past is my future. The azaleas are impatient and blooming early. They may get a lesson in patience, by way of another super freeze. Patience…learning it is never easy.

“A time to tear down and a time to build.”  

Patience.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

I Got On the Pumpkin Bandwagon

I resisted as long as I could, but gave in this morning before leaving to go work on my farm house. What did I give in to? The pumpkin craze that happens this time of year caught up to me. There was that can of pumpkin in the pantry and pie isn’t what I felt like making- oh, by the way. Did you hear that your favorite canned pumpkin is really yellow squash? Yep. There was an article about it a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if I offer anyone a piece of squash pie this Thanksgiving if I’ll have any takers.

Instead of making pie this morning, I made pumpkin bread.  As always, this bread is not too sweet and great with a cup of coffee.

Here’s the recipe and what to do:

In the bowl of your mixer, combine one 15 ounce can of pumpkin (not pie filling), 2/3 cup white sugar, 3 eggs, 2/3 cup olive oil and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix till combined.

In another bowl, whisk together 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Once completely combined, pour into the pumpkin mixture and slowly turn on your mixer. The batter will be very stiff. When mixed, divide dough equally into 2 bread pans, that have been sprayed with Pam.  Place in 350° oven and bake for about 80 minutes. Test with a wooden skewer stabbed in the middle. If it comes out clean, your bread is done. Cool before cutting.20161022_081637

Out at my farm house, the weather was perfect. Couldn’t ask for a prettier day than today. Cool temps, clear blue skies. No butterflies this morning, but the honey bees were busy in the pink sasanqua.

I worked today in what use to be the original kitchen. It has been gutted and will be my son’s bedroom and en suite. Its amazing what a couple if coats of primer will do to brighten a  dark fire place mantel. Again, slow progress is still progress.

My old barn is ancient, with quiet stalls lining both sides and a set of stairs to the second story. No floor on the third story, yet, but one day.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

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Pecans and Pralines

 

My apartment is humming this morning. Saturday is chore day. The laundry room is warm from the tumbling clothes dyer and smelling of Purex and dryer sheets. I have always enjoyed doing laundry: It was an act of service that I did for my family. One chore this moring, however, I had to force myself to do. Unloading the dishwasher. Loading the dishwasher I don’t mind, but unloading it, I’d almost rather take a beating. Am I alone in that sentiment?

One chore I hate.
One chore I hate.

Tomorrow night, weather permitting, will be our church Fall Fest. Our church invites the surrounding neighborhood for free hot dogs, cotton candy, games and just plain fun. The small group that I am a part of uses this time to have a party within a party. We all bring something to share for supper. Cajun Pralines will be my contribution for our fellowship, as we take turns manning our Fall Fest booth.

Cajun Pralines 2 cups light brown sugar 1 cup white sugar 1/2 stick of butter 2 generous tablespoons sorghum syrup 5 ounce can of evaporated milk 2 cups pecans
Cajun Pralines
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 stick of butter
2 generous tablespoons sorghum syrup
5 ounce can of evaporated milk
2 cups pecans

Now, before I even get started on how to make these, we need to revisit correct pronunciation of a few words. It’s pecan not peecan. A peecan is what? That’s right- something an environmentalist takes with him to the woods. We put pecans in pralines. It is pronounced ‘prawleen’. Please do not put a y after the a. I don’t know what a prayline is, unless there’s no room in the sanctuary and you have to lean against the wall to do your praying.

Place all the ingedients in a two quart pot, over medium high heat. I like to cook with stainless steel pots that have aluminum clad bottoms. They cook like aluminum pots, but aren't as heavy. Stir all of the ingredients together and keep slowly stirring till the mixture starts to boil.
Place everything except the pecans in a two quart pot, over medium high heat. I like to cook with stainless steel pots that have aluminum clad bottoms. They cook like aluminum pots, but aren’t as heavy.
Stir the ingredients together and keep slowly stirring till the mixture starts to boil.
I don't use a candy thermometer. A Pyrex dish filled with ice water is how I test to see if candy has reached the correct stage.
I don’t use a candy thermometer. A Pyrex dish filled with ice water is how I test to see if candy has reached the correct stage.

Stir candy in circles or figure eights till it reaches the soft ball stage. Take a little bit of the sugar mixture and drop it in the ice water. If you can mold it into a soft ball, it’s time to add the -the what? That’s right! The pecans. Stir them in well and remove from the heat.

Now you will get an arm workout in. I hear Michael Jackson singing Beat It. At this stage you’ve got to whip enough air into the candy to cool it down so it can be dropped into patties and also so the pralines will be creamy. Clear a good sized space either on your kitchen counter or table. Spread out parchment paper and give it a light spray of Pam. With a tablespoon also sprayed with Pam, drop the candy mixture evenly onto the paper. Test a few at first. Don’t drop the whole pot of candy. Make sure they are setting up. If they are, work quickly. If they’re not setting up, beat the mixture a few more minutes. Be careful at this stage of the game. The candy will start to crystallize around the sides of the pot. A little is okay  a lot means you’ve about waited too late to drop your pralines. If that has happened don’t you dare throw away that lump of sugar, milk and pecans. Scrape it out of that pot, break it into pieces and sprinkle it over ice cream or over the top of a sweet potato pie during its last few minutes of baking. Do not just throw it out.

That one, there second from the bottom-perfect!
That one, there, second from the bottom-perfect!

It took me several tries, as a newlywed, to finally learn when to quit stirring the candy pot and drop pralines at just the right time. I hope these make it to the Fall Fest tomorrow night. Cajun Pralines and a cup of coffee sounds great right about now.

Enjoy your Saturday.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

I have a wedding shower to help with in the morning and I signed up to bring muffins. Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins



Ingredients:

1/2 cup Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter

1 stick Land of Lakes butter

1 egg

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups Bisquick

Big dash cinnamon

1/2 cup milk

4 tablespoons homemade jelly (your choice, I used my mayhaw)

4 tablespoons of Bisquick

What to do:

In a big bowl, mix first 4 ingredients till creamy. Then add the 1 1/2 cups Bisquick and cinnamon. Pour in milk and gently incorporate.  Your muffin batter will be light and fluffy. Next, fill your muffin cups with batter, a little less than half way. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the jelly and remainder Bisquick. This is your muffin filling. The baking mix stabilizes the jelly, so it won’t burn or bake out of your muffins. Spoon about a 1/2 teaspoon of filling into the center of each peanut butter muffin cup. Top with the rest of the peanut butter mixture.

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Silicone muffin cups are great to use. Your muffins will pop right out. Oh, yeah. I made a sweet potato pie to go with store bought chicken for tonight’s supper. That recipe is It’s A Pecan Not A PeeCan.

 

Silicone muffin cups are a great thing to use instead of traditional paper. Your muffins will pop right out. Bake in a  350° preheated oven for 35 minutes or until the tops puff up and are golden brown. Yield about 15 medium sized muffins.

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That one in the back tried to make a liar out of me, but really, had I not combined the jelly and Bisquick all of the mayhaw jelly would have baked out and been a sticky black mess.

Best wishes to the happy couple.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Dear Mr. Drug Head – A Vent To An Idiot

Dear Mr. Drug Head,

You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me: how hard I work each week to get what I have; how much I have been through and overcome the last few years.

I didn’t have your usual grab and dash, quick pawn cash items that you normally steal from people’s homes. So, you took the tools I was using to renovate my home and repair my life.

I guess your  need to get cash, so you could fund your addiction, was greater than my need to hang drywall and cut Hardie board. By the way, you broke a window in your search for something to take. Pollyanna would tell me to look on the bright side; at least you didn’t lift my paint…

Some would try to argue that you’re strung out and don’t know right from wrong. I warrant that you do know right from wrong. Which is why you entered my house, after we left that night. I know you didn’t get up early the next morning and burgled. Dopers sleep late.

You took everything that you can sell quickly. And I’m trying to be charitable towards you. So, if you come back, there’s no need to go in the house again. Nothing will be kept there.  I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.

I’ll leave a bottle of water on the porch for you. Don’t forget to take all your pills at one time.

No blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Colors

We tore out a multitude of tongue and groove boards, making new doorways and widening some. Tongue and groove, almost 4 inch thin lap (not really ship lap) came off chimney breasts and out of closets. They were saved (my south Louisiana is showing, cher) and are being repurposed.

The day I met with the cabinet maker, we discussed the kitchen layout for over two hours. I had already bought my kitchen appliances and that helped the process. He’d suggest placement and I either agreed or told him unt-uh.

As the new kitchen was a huge open space, once the crumbling fireplace was gone, we had a clean slate to build a one-of-a-kind kitchen. I knew I’d need an island and I had a picture in my head from a year ago, when we began removing the pine boards.

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The old farmhouse colors were very bold. Too bold for the idea I had in mind. So, I sanded the bright greens (there were three different shades of, well, green), blue, yellow and white down, leaving some of the color, but revealing the wood grain. Every board in the house and porches runs north to south, so when the cabinet maker said he’d place the boards like a picket fence, I said no. “Run ’em horizontally.”

I could see the wheels turning in his head, as he caught sight of my vision. Yeah! He asked what kind of range hood I wanted and I told him to incorporate more of the sanded tongue and groove.

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I was wowed when I saw it. So much more than I had expected. Happy dance!

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The yellow thin lap came from the master bedroom’s old chimney front. It has tiny tacks still in it from the wall paper of a hundred years ago. The green is from the wall in the living room, where we made another doorway on the other side of the fireplace. The blue used to be inside one of the small closets in the front bedroom.

Why did I choose to use the old boards in such a way? To pay homage to the family that used to live in my house. Someone chose the bright yellow and the light blue; and yes, that god-awful teal green or maybe it was on sale at the mercantile and the green chose them. That green was everywhere. Even the ceilings!

I often  wonder what went on in this 115 year old home. One of the men who worked on it, told me that my house was once a gathering place for social events in the community way back when. Another man I’ve met said, that back in its day, the house was a ‘little princess’. The idea makes me smile.

The Exile’s Kitchen is getting a new kitchen. Woohoo! I am feeling so blessed. It began as a forced sojourn, with challenges I never thought I would face. Many more I’m sure are ahead of me. But like the boarded up windows that were uncovered in the new kitchen , I too have been reworked to show a new outlook on life.

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Blessings from the Exile’s New Kitchen.

 

Nor His Squire On A Bay Gelding

Our church has Mid-week meals to keep attendance on Wednesday up and our members connected during the week. I sat with members from my Sunday small group, ate supper, discussed common concerns for aging parents, re-glazing very old windows, little league and ‘hey, who is that sitting across the CLC?’

When it got to be time for choir, I put my tray up and headed out the door, but a dear friend called out to me.

“Amanda, hey, darling! How’re you doing?”

I gave her a hug and replied, “I’m good.”

“Are you really?” She looked at me over her glasses. “Not just saying that?”

I smiled.

“No, ma’am. I’m really doing well.”

We chit-chatted about my children. She told me about her granddaughter.  Then the question came:

“Has that shining knight on his white stallion showed up yet? ”

I just laughed and shook my head and glanced up at the ceiling.

“No, ma’am. Haven’t seen him, nor his squire on a bay gelding! You know, when I tell God that I am lonely,  you know what He tells me to do?”

“What is that?” my friend asked.

“Go for a walk,” I answered. Then I gave her a wry smile. “But I guess I’m walking in the wrong place, ’cause I haven’t met anybody.”

As she always does, she told me that she would pray for me. And she meant it, too. I went on to choir practice.

Here lately, I’ve been thinking about my ideal man. As if there is such a thing. I’m not naive- not anymore. But a woman can dream a little, right?

I don’t really care what he looks like. I married looks first go-round (he’s lost them, by the way). Funny side note: years ago, one night at church, my then husband and I were talking to a gentleman and he said, “Your boys get their good looks from you,” he said to my now ex. In the next breath he continued, “I can see that because your wife still has hers!” Haha!

Anyway.

I want a truly kind man. A tender hearted man. No push over, but compassionate.

I want a man who has read the literary classics or at least something in addition to Sports Illustrated and the Market Bulletin. Not that there’s anything wrong with those publications, but if he could quote a Shakespeare sonnet,  I’d just about forget the rest of my list and give him a chance right away.

Next, I would love a man who could sit down at my antique upright, with the Werlein’s sticker on it, and play me a love song. Oh, honey! Again, musical talent and well read; be still my heart.

Light on his feet. Yes, dancing in the kitchen, after the supper dishes are washed and put away is on my list. And please, he will have to know something other than the loaf of bread. What? You’ve never heard of it? That’s what I called the one dance move the ex had. His arms around my waist, he’d kinda tilt from left to right, as we turned in a slow circle. I’d get dizzy-headed and ask if we could stop and turn to go in the opposite direction. I felt like a loaf of Bunny Bread in his big ole arms! Long loaf. Thin sliced. White bread.

Now, don’t think I want a man with hands softer than mine. The afore mentioned paints a tame picture. Nope, no siree. Rudimentary manly skills in the yard and around the house, if you will. Cutting the grass, unclogging the disposal, fixing a leaky bathroom faucet.  He’s going to need to know how to change the oil in the tractor, too. And if he doesn’t already possess such knowledge, be willing to learn. A well read man shouldn’t mind discovering new things, right?

A Renaissance Man! Yes! Renovating an old house has made me appreciate men with a certain skill set. Youtube’s great for garnering knowledge, but watching a man work- one who knows what he’s doing, especially-  live and in person, well…

But none of the above will do, without the most important trait and character anchor: my ideal man must be a man after God’s own heart. A true man of God, not just a pew percher.  A true disciple of Jesus, not just someone who knows enough Scripture to misuse. A man who can swim down deep in his faith, never be content to splash only up to his ankles in the shallows. Yes, a lover of God more than he would ever love anything  or anyone else.  Including me.  Deal breaker, if he doesn’t love God and honor Him by keeping his life holy.

Deal breaker. First there’s got to be a candidate. Like I told my friend; I haven’t seen a knight on a white stallion nor is squire on a bay gelding. But I have seen the One who loves me best and I am content with Him.

Blessings.