The Mardi Gras creep has hit our part of Mississippi. It used to be that if you wanted to celebrate, New Orleans, Louisiana or Mobile, Alabama was your party destination. Now the once Catholic-only observance has crept into small towns all over our area. I said all that, because getting to my farmhouse this morning meant taking the long way ’round. Magnolia has become part of the Mardi Gras creep, offering not just a family friendly parade, but also a carnival. Shutting down the streets for the parade made navigating through town and out to the country difficult. A thirty minute drive wound up taking twice as long.
Clean up around the barn has started. We’re turning an old garden spot into an area to raise bottle calves – for the freezer – not for pets. Won’t be giving them names… Unless we christen it Barbie for barbecue!
While I waited for my helpers to arrive, I put together the following recipe: Chocolate Coffee Cake. Super simple.
Chocolate Coffee Cake
1 small boxed chocolate cake mix (I found the mix I used today on the $1 aisle of the Piggly Wiggly. Pick up a couple. They’re great for a quick mix-up.)
1/2 cup of water
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
What to do:
Preheat your oven to 350°. Spray a 9″ cake pan with vegetable spray. In a medium bowl, mix the first 4 ingredients together and pour into prepared cake pan. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Shake the cinnamon sugar evenly over the top of the cake batter. Place cake pan in the center of the oven, baking about 30 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan or a knife, inserted into the center, pulls out clean. Cool in the pan and then transfer to a pretty plate.
After stringing fence, we went inside and enjoyed coffee and cake on a drizzly, February Saturday afternoon.
The single Jenny Lind bed had been my Aunt Irma’s when she was a little girl. Loaned to my mother for my use, it was the bed that I slept in from the time I climbed out of the baby bed, till I got married and left my mother’s home. When my mother moved to Mississippi nineteen years ago, my aunt said that I could have the bed. I was thrilled. Family heirloom. All three of my sons have used the bed as their own, during their growing up years.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I- we- had emptied the storage units I had been renting for so long. I couldnt wait to set up the Jenny Lind bed in my room.
I have been gathering furnishings for a few months. The area rug came from Wayfair. The gray bedspread was bought at the store with the big “W” on it. Amazon was where I found the pretty curtains. The pinwheel patterned quilt is one I made myself many years ago. The colors match nicely and I was pleasantly surprised. I guess we all gravitate to certain colors our whole lives. Soft blue and white have shown up over and over in my life.
The pine floors were refinished a year ago. See the contrast from these new pictures to the top one? They had actually been painted to look like mahogany. And whatever your opinion may be about maintaining a true Craftsman vibe to a farmhouse as old as mine and keeping the floors dark, I love the lighter, more natural pine color.
Miss Marigold and I walked the property this afternoon. A visit to the barn first. I love the ancient barn; wouldn’t trade it for anything! You step back in time when you step into its shadows. We also surveyed the perimeter of my big field, picking up trash thrown out by passersby. I was happy to see that the daffodils I planted a year ago have begun to stretch from the sleepy ground. Can Spring be close? We can hope.
Worship this morning. Homemaking at noon. Being a landowner this afternoon.
Simple suppers are a must during playoff season- well, any season that you’re busy. We’re watching the Saints get spanked by the Vikings right now. Sigh.
Oh well, supper will be good.
I cooked extra MaBell Smoked Sausage for this mornings breakfast and now it’s anchoring our supper dish: Red Jambalya. Here’s what to do~
In a skillet, heat up 1tbl of cooking oil. Add 2 ribs of chopped celery and one small, chopped onion. Soften up, but don’t over cook it. Throw in 1 pound precooked MaBell Smoked Sausage. Add cup white rice. Then add a medium sized can of diced tomatoes. Fill the can with water and pour over the rice and meat mixture. Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning. I like mine a little spicy. Cover and cook over medium heat till the rice is cooked through.
MaBell’s Smoked Sausage is packaged by King’s, a local meat processing company in Southwest Mississippi and their smoked sausage has made them famous. They ship all over the country. If you would like a sampler of their products, here’s their address:
That’s it. No punctuation. 2017 was a roller coaster. We had some very good days, like Sunday, December 31. My granddaughter was baptised. That was a wonderful way to end the year.
But there were many days last year spent in the hospital with my mother. And I said final, earthly good-byes to cousins and friends. Good and bad equalled out, I guess. Felt like a roller coaster, though.
I did, finally, get to empty the storage units that I had been renting since September 2014. That was a burden lifted from my shoulders- my sons did the heavy lifting. Ha! It will also free up funds to go to something else.
At my farmhouse the empty boxes piled up on the porch, as the collections found a permanent home. Tea pots, Fire King mixing bowls, Flora Gold depression glass. Sadly, many pieces of the depression glass did not make it out of the storage unit whole. Delicate cups and saucers, an oblong butter dish, footed scalloped dishes and a big platter were shattered. Oh, well. I had fun all those years ago searching to build the collection and now I get to do it again.
Three years ago when we were packing up my belongings, many cookie jars in particular, my eldest son told me: “Mama, when you eventually get settled somewhere, I know one thing; when I come to visit, there better be cookies in everyone of these cookie jars!”
I found them as I unpacked. I can tell you where they came from and/or who gave them to me. There’s a very inviting and satisfying sound to a lifted cookie jar top. Washed and dried, then lined up on the kitchen counter.
Thinking about what my son said, and seeing how cheery they all looked grouped together, cookie recipes starting coming to mind. Expect a cookie of the month recipe for 2018. There that’s my New Year’s resolution. Let’s see if I can keep it.
I also found all of my cookbooks. Many Southern Living cookbooks, including the two that have my recipe for Granola Muffins. I had originally called the recipe Cereal Muffins, but the kitchens at Southern Living renamed it.
I know I’m not suppose to write about the weather, but I just can’t help myself. It’s cold, folks! The high temperature for our part of Mississippi is 34°. You Yankees are probably telling me not to complain. Remember, I’m Southern. My blood is thin. As soon as Christmas is over, I long for warmer weather and planting flowers and vegetables. I’m excited about the prospect of homegrown food and flowers on my table again.
I haven’t written much lately; just haven’t been inspired by much of anything. The flu has kicked our behinds the last three weeks, with my mother in the hospital for one of them. It snowed while she was in the hospital. It was like a giant baker had taken his sifter and sprinkled the whole area with confectioners sugar. Driving home from the hospital that Friday afternoon, I thought I had taken a wrong turn and wound up in Narnia. White was everywhere. Beautiful and cold. I didn’t take a single picture.
My mother’s health has not improved much since we’ve been home. Saturday I listened to Christmas carols, while I baked sugar cookies and fought the dog, trying to keep her away from the bowls of icing. She managed to lap all in the green. No, I didn’t use it. I made more. Bad dog.
I had thought about sharing a recipe for sugar cookies and decorating sugar cookies, but it’s late in the Season and really, do I need to add my trivial offering to the plethora of cookie traditions?
This was as far as I got on documenting my baking yesterday. I finished them, filling them in with tinted icing to look like reindeer. They taste good- small bob of the head to acknowledge my accomplishment.
I mentioned the bad dog. Early yesterday morning I had her on her lead in the back yard. She slipped said lead and disappeared for a couple hours. The animal control officer was about to pack her in when I found her. Back at home, she acted a little off. She disappeared into the hallway and upchucked… Twice! Yeah…. Called the vets office. She’s fine and back to her normal self. Bad dog.
Not much in the mood for Christmas this year. Well, the commercial side of it, anyway.
I lost a sweet friend a month ago. Scrolling through my contacts today, I saw her number and the heart emojis she had typed in answer to a text I had sent back in August.
Also yesterday, in between batches of cookies, I washed a quilt that had been given as a prize at a family reunion a few years back. Each family member present had signed it. As I pulled it out of the washer to put in the dryer, the first name I saw was of my cousin Homer. He passed away in January of this year.
I guess I’m just sad this year and missing many people from my past. My Daddy. My grandmothers. My cousins. My friend. I’m glad, thankful, that one day I’ll see them all again.
We get caught up in the hustle of a secular Christmas. Hey, folks, it’s not your birthday! It’s the Savior’s birthday. Remember what is important.
Nottaway Plantation held its second annual wine walk a couple of weeks ago. I fell in love with this white castle when I was a young girl in 1980. It had been restored and opened to the public for tours. My parents and I took a road trip and we were some of the first visitors through their renovated doors.
Nottaway in November
So, when I saw on social media that Nottaway was having a wine walk, I wanted to go. Problem was I know nothing about wine and didn’t want to go alone. Enter my birthday sister Trina. When I asked if she would go, she was all in. And even though the home was serving heavy hor dourves, we made it fun, by bringing our own: Plain and Barbecue Vienna Sausage. You know, real foodie minds have tried to answer the question for years: Which wine to serve with Vienna Sausage?
Eight stations for wine tastes were set up in the beautiful home. We test tasted sips of different wines and only the sommelier at table five gave us legit suggestions as to which wines would go better with Vienna Sausage. There was a sparkling Brut Rose from J Vineyards that was just lovely to sip. Another I liked was an inexpensive Charles Smith called Kung Fu Girl Riesling. So, to answer the question of which to serve with your chicken meat sticks, go with a sparkling white wine or rose.
This past weekend, we had an early Thanksgiving at my farmhouse. This year is the only time that all three of my sons will be in their twenties, so to commemorate that milestone, pictures were taken. Out to the big barn we all went.
Team Player became a brotherhood catch phrase many years ago. The three were playing football with their Uncle and my oldest scored. My middle son kind of pouted and their Uncle said he needed to be a team player. The youngest eagerly announced that he could be a team player. He was no more than 5 at the time, hand caught up in his sweaty t-shirt, exposing his belly, he asserted: “I team player! I team player!”
The three brothers have been just that: team players. We nicknamed them Adam, Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright. They have always had each other’s backs. They are fun to be with. I hope that you have the same blessing with your children.
And speaking of children! I have two more grandbabies on the way!
I know, I know; don’t start a piece about the weather because it’s suppose to kill any chance of one’s writing ever being good (see And Then The Murders Began), but we had our first spate of cold weather this week and it’s still October and before I realized it, I caved and Harry Connick Jr. was singing Silent Night in that New Orleans accent of his, as I drove to my farmhouse Saturday morning. I also listened to my favorite Christmas cantata called An Evening In December. It’s all acapella and long about the middle they do a jazzy version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. This second soprano hits all these notes that are all over the place and I can’t help myself: I add my voice to hers.
Yesterday morning, Marigold the bloodhound puppy was stretched out in the back seat, I’m singing away at the top of my voice to this classic Christmas carol. Now, at the end of this version the soloist takes a turn with a note that flies to the stratosphere. And I went with her… No, it was not pretty… How do I know it wasn’t pretty? Well, I do have ears and so does Marigold. She didn’t howl, but she brought her pointy nose right up to my shoulder, head cocked to one side, as if to enquire if I was alright. What was I howling for? I gave her a pat on the head and assured her I was fine.
Too early for Christmas music? Maybe. It’s not too early for pralines. One of my daughters-in-law messaged me last week to see if it was praline season. My reply, “Yep!”
In the Exile’s New Kitchen, I made two batches of honey pralines. I’ve shared my recipe with you before (see Pecans and Pralines). It was so much fun trying out my new stove. And the granite countertops cool surface was perfect for dropping pralines.
In addition to making pralines, I worked on drywall in what will be one of the new bathrooms. My sons have hung the sheetrock for me, and as I am on a tight budget, well, to say we’ve cut corners is an understatement. A picture is worth a 1000 words, so exhibit A.
I told my boys that they have way too much confidence in their mother’s ability to float sheetrock. My middle son told me, while laughing yesterday, “It looks beautiful, Mom. And we figured just enough pieces to finish the bathroom. Waste not, want not.”
I laughed too and told him, “Yeah, but it looks like Frankenstein’s face in there!”
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.
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.
A flooded floor, non-perfect kitchen cabinets, weak piano notes; shrug it off.
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.
We picked blueberries this week. Brentlee ate just as many as he dropped in the bag. The jam pot was full. And so is the freezer. June is a busy month for harvesting fresh produce. I hope you have an opportunity to get your fill of the goodness.
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
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1/2 cup self-rising cornmeal
1/2 cup milk
1 pack of all beef franks
1/3 block of gouda, shredded (about 1 cup)
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.
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!
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.
Magnolia Post Office
Another block and you’re at the old depot. It was completely renovated a few years back and is now the town hall.
The park in the depot is planted for Springtime and the Magnolia trees are all in full bloom.
City Hall is now in the depot.
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!”
Corner Drug Store
I continued my walk and returned home. The huge ancient live oak greeted me in the early evening.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.