Eggless Cookies

I ran out of eggs and didn’t want to drive to town, so I tried an egg substitute. Using up last years sprinkles (you know, a few of this kind, a few of that kind-oh they don’t go bad, do they?), I made these eggless cake mix cookies.

Ingredients:

1 box vanilla or white cake mix

2 egg substitutes (for each egg needed, do this:1 tablespoon water, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons oil)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

A bowl of miscellaneous sprinkles

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix up the egg substitute, set aside. In a big mixer bowl dump in cake mix. Then add the next 5 ingredients and stir together. With a scoop, drop mounds of cookie dough into the bowl of sprinkles, one at a time, coating each cookie. Place a few inches apart on cookie sheet, as these cookies will spread. Bake until the tops crack open and the bottoms are slightly browned. Twelve minutes or so. Cool on wire racks. These cookies are very crisp and are great for dunking, if you are so inclined. Makes about 2 dozen.

Great for dunking: won’t disappear into your hot beverage

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

John 12:24

Zinnia season is over. Collected spent flower have been drying on the kitchen table. One flower center produces hundreds of seeds. And one seed planted next spring will bring many blooms. It is a picture illustrated in John 12:24.

A bucket of spent zinnia blooms.
Washed and dried food containers hold zinnia seeds for next spring.
John 12:24

“Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

You People and Your Pumpkin Spice

You people and your pumpkin spice! It’s also apple season.

Here’s a simple recipe for you: Apple Cobbler Bake.

Core and cut 2 Gala apples
Chunk cut the apples and place in an oven proof skillet, along with 4 pats of butter, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 3 tablespoons of honey, 3 teaspoons of lemon juice and a good sprinkle of cinnamon. Stir and stew down, over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.
Over the top of the stewed apples, sprinkle a third of a yellow cake mix. Top with a few more pats of butter and cinnamon. Place in a 350° oven for about 25 minutes, till the juices bake over the top, forming a crust.
Serve in a small dish and grace the top with a bit of ice cream. I split a tiny ice cream sandwich for ours this Sunday afternoon. This quick, easy dessert has just enough sweetness and spice. The lemon juice adds a nice brightness.

Enjoy. Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

You’re Welcome

Yep, you got it. Mix candy corn and cocktail peanuts together and it tastes like a Payday candy bar. You’re welcome.

I know that there are those who hate candy corn. And those people are nuts. Which is what gets mixed with candy corn to make a mix that tastes like a Payday candy bar. In a bowl, mix two small bags of Brach’s candy corn or one big one and a small can of Planter’s cocktail peanuts. Serve up for movie night or the football game or in your child’s lunchbox. They will thank you. And you can say, “You’re welcome.”

Blessings.

Road Trip US90, the MS Coast

A friend and I both needed a break so, a road trip was in order. We drove south and then along US Hwy90 and stopped in many of the cities that dot the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I have not been on the coast since I was a teenager. We’ve all done that Ship Island trip… a right of passage, dontcha know? I had remembered Biloxi, Gulf Port, Bay St. Louis as kind of run down and parts of the coast seedy. My impression as a teenager, now mind. Keep reading, please. A revitalization of the coast has happened since Hurricane Katrina. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is alive and well and open! The architecture of the old homes and new residences is spectacular. The updated boardwalk is inviting and kept very well.

Here are recommendations:

White Pillars. 1696 Beach Blvd, Biloxi

Here’s a view of their brunch menu.
Shrimp Avocado Toast
Shrimp and Grits – so good
Flourless Chocolate Torte and a French 75

White Pillars sources practically everything they serve locally and their wait staff is knowledgeable and friendly. One of my new favorites is the coffee at White Pillars. They filled our cups with a beautiful blend from Coast Roast Coffee and Tea. We asked where they were located and made a beeline to get some. Here’s the address: Coast Roast 2510 16th Street, Gulfport. They will grind your beans, while you wait. Great service.

In Bay St Louis, we found eats at The Mockingbird Cafe. A very friendly, casual place with good food. Address: 110 2nd St, Bay St. Louis

For shopping, try The Shops at Century Hall. If you have a corner in your home that needs cozying up or a gift, this is the place. I bought a little white unicorn made of tin. Address:

112 2nd St., Bay St. Louis

Detail of the mural painted by Anderson on the walls of the community center, adjacent to the museum

The fourth town we visited was Ocean Springs. Home to the Walter Anderson Museum, this revamped downtown is filled with boutiques and art galleries. Address for the museum:

510 Washington Ave, Ocean Springs

Here are two shops we recommend:

The Pink Rooster 622 Washington Ave, Ocean Springs

I found lovely, vintage looking table linens and my friend found handmade jewelry. Local artists’ works filled the old house turned gallery/shop

The Candy Cottage 702 Washington Ave, Ocean Springs

Let them put together a sweet gift box, filled with homemade chocolates, pralines or other old fashioned confections. I spent the week looking for salt water taffy and found it there. The best I’ve ever had.

My haul from the drive along US Hwy 90

Traveling Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Use the Linen Napkins

I did wake up in time for breakfast this morning. A fried blindfolded egg (my Daddy taught me), with mayhaw jelly on an #Bay’sEnglishMuffin, a side of bacon, yogurt with a chopped banana and a cup of #CommunityCoffee. Notice the pretty linen napkin and #FireKing dishes. The journal front says to write your story. To do that well we need to slow down a bit. Saturday mornings are my favorite time for that. So, use the lovely dishes. Go to the linen cupboard and get out a pretty napkin. Slow down when you can. Lord knows life will speed up soon enough.
Blessings for a quiet Saturday.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CEeZ4bLBrli7RNW6t8EpDTrq4V1MHOv0jm0XIM0/?igshid=67rnucfggj9g

Saturday breakfast

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Cue the Sad Music

Earlier in the year I put up mayhaws in quart size freezer bags, for later jelly making. Today, I thought, would be the day to fill the jelly cupboard. Well…

I have been extremely tired, TIRED all week. It’s Saturday and the bed was really comfortable. Marigold needed to go out at 6 this morning, but I went back to bed. Just A few minutes more of sleep, I told myself. Didn’t get up till a quarter to 9. I never sleep that late. Guess I needed the extra rest.

The usual big farmhouse breakfast was skipped this morning. Marigold missed her Saturday bacon.

Anyway, I gathered supplies to make the jelly, placed the berries in the Dutch oven to cook down. Being tired, I had trouble staying focused. Multitasking is usually my strong suit, but I got distracted and the berries burned, stuck to the pot burned. Cue the sad music.

Cue the sad music.

Sad for a minute, all was not lost. Juice in the freezer was put in a freshly cleaned Dutch oven and I started over. And now my jelly cupboard runneth over.

Restful blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Pepper Jelly and Easy Oatmeal Cookies

It has been a busy day in the Exile’s Kitchen. Fresh bell peppers were cored, blanched, shocked and placed in freezer bags for future meals.

Jalapeno peppers were made into jars of pepper jelly.

A simple recipe, here is what I did:

Finely chop 1 small red bell pepper. In a blender, puree 1 cup jalapeno peppers that have been seeded and deveined. Place both kinds of peppers in an 8 quart pot. Over medium high heat, add 1 1/2 cups white vinegar. Bring this to a boil and add a box of Sure-Jell. Stir in, gradually, 6 cups of white sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Return mixture to a boil and add a few drops of pink food coloring, if you wish. Ladle into hot sterilized jars, seal with lids and waterbath process for 5 minutes. Remove from canner and wait for sound of the lids sealing. That delightful, happy pop is so satifying. I taste tested with a potato chip in place of cracker.

Next in the recipe line up was Easy oatmeal Cookies. This recipe makes a bunch, sure to fill up your favorite cookie jar.

Preheat oven to 350° and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a big mixer bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup lard, 1 egg and 1/2cup brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Add 1 yellow cake mix, 2 cups quick oats, 1/4 cup of dried craisins, raisins, salted sunflower seeds and pecans. Incorporate well. Using a cookie scoop, drop onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Using a small glass dipped into granulated sugar, gently press each cookie. These cookies spread a little, so don’t crowd them. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, then move to a rack to finish cool.

Kitchen Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

A Weekend in August

I haven’t written about Marigold in a while. She made three years in late March. An easy going bloodhound, she’s a good companion in all ways but one: riding in the car. She enjoys the car ride, but alerts everyone on the streets that she’s out for a ride. Saturday afternoon was no exception. Big barks, happy whimpers, nose smudges on the windows; she fills the back seat.

Just before getting to a crossroads, I saw a long white hearse, followed by a big white van. Oh no, I thought. A funeral procession, followed by many cars with their lights on. Now, in our part of the world, it is a courtesy to pull onto the shoulder of the road, as the funeral passes. So, our progress to our destination was delayed. Marigold doesn’t like to wait. Here was her reaction.

Impatient Marigold.
Yes, lots of dog hair in my car.
And no, I am not the best videographer.

Here is something I am good at.

Bread pudding Bread Pudding the Best Way to Recycle

Blessings for a great August from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Continue reading A Weekend in August

Easy Pickings

Homemade blueberry ice cream and choco chip cookie bar. Yum! Happy 4th of July!🇺🇸 https://www.instagram.com/p/CCO7rf3B5UR30v6Z7n6JKMKdv0cMVBOuT8r2v00/?igshid=6n1r36ax29k2

After picking two gallons of blueberries the conventional way, staining figures purple, sweat covering our brows and running between shoulder blades, a brilliant thought entered our collective heads.

“Don’t they have machines in commercial blueberry fields to shake the berries off?” my middle son asked.

“Yes, I believe they do,” I answered. “How ’bout you go in the house and get a sheet and we’ll spread it under the bushes and shake them by hand.”

Eureka! Plump purple berries bounced to the tarps; it worked like a charm. Of course, there were sticks to clear from the gathering of berries, but still a good method for berry picking.

For our Independence Day celebration, my no-churn ice cream recipe got a new flavor. I mixed about a cup of fresh blueberries, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup water and cooked that down into a syrup. Cooled a little bit, the blueberry syrup was swirled into the whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk. Here’s my recipe No-churn Ice Cream

Fourth of July Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Working smarter, not harder.

Continue reading Easy Pickings

It’s Friday

Good morning, sunshine. It is Friday, y’all. https://www.instagram.com/p/CBVX6XPBWmBQZ-9v9eNbU69lXsYgZIXLj5rN1o0/?igshid=1etlmevt6q62t

I can’t not talk about the weather. It takes hold of everyday life and changes my plans. A tropical storm started out on one side of the country Amanda, crossed the Ucitan and became Cristobol, bringing with it rain and high winds.

The storm knocked down most of my flower patch. Roots are exposed. Plants, still living, are growing crooked. The stems travel along the ground, but the bloom at the end turns upward, trying to face the sun. I will endeavor this weekend to righten the storms battering. Wooden stakes, jute twine, hammer and elbow grease should do the trick.

This is a picture of what our nation is going through. We are battered by a storm whose name keeps changing. We’re knocked down. Running low. But at the end, we need to look upward.

Blessings for a safe weekend from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Yella

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Summer is knocking on the door, with its great big yella hand. The yellow eyes of the daisies and cosmos are bright. The yellow squash is abundant. It has already graced our supper plates this week. I hear Bubba reciting various squash dishes: fried squash, stewed squash, squash casserole, squash hushpuppies.

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A yella chair next

 

A craft project of refurbishing old metal chairs, using cans of spray paint, lacks at least one being yellow. Weather permitting, I’ll get that done this weekend. The sunflowers have come up, along with old maid zinnias; no blooms to show yet.

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This old metal chair, blue as the sky, needs a seat mate in yellow.

Summer blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Windfall, Lagniappe: Unexpected Goodness

It’s mayhaw season. The first part of the year, though trying in many ways, must have had the right weather conditions to produce the biggest mayhaws I’ve ever seen. Storms last Sunday night brought a great windfall of these little red fruit. I picked up a gallon this afternoon and the fact that many were the size of pennies and nickles was lagniappe. A windfall because the wind made them fall and all I had to do was pick them up. Lagniappe because they were a generous size. They filled 2 quart bags! And like the dish towel says, I’m grateful.

Windfall and Lagniappe Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

What Day Is It?

I think it was Wednesday today. Each 24 hours blends into another. Told to not go into work, my mother, Marigold and I bugged out to the country, not quite a week ago.

I’ve spent this time planting my big garden. G90 corn under planted with contender green beans: 2 rows. Almost half a row of squash: zucchini and yellow crooked neck. The rest of the rows will be zinnias, cosmos, bishop’s flower and a multitude of sunflowers. Pink flamingo whirlygigs mark where I’ve planted what. Plus, detailed notes are kept in a notebook. A gentle rain for most of yesterday (Tuesday?) graced the turned ground, making it perfect for planting.

Early evening, after a simple supper of braised chicken tenders and tossed salad, I sat down at the piano and right hand pecked out old hymns. I have trouble reading bass clef. Marigold was on the porch and she started barking, when she heard my feeble notes. Everyone is a critic.

Gardening. Writing. Music- kinda. What’s keeping you from going stir crazy?

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Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen while hunkering down at Flowers Proper.

Rubber Boots or I Like To Laugh

As my farmhouse is over 100+ years, and there was no garbage pick up way back then, just below the top layer of ground lies century old trash: shards of crockery, glass bottles and farming implements. Everybody had a burn pile and a junk pile. They burned what they could, reused what they could, repurposed what they could. What couldn’t be burned, reused or repurposed was thrown on the rubbish heap. In the case of my farmhouse, that must have been an arms throw from the back door. Whenever there is a heavy rain, the stuff rises to the surface. Its best to wear a pair of thick soled shoes or rubber boots.

Last fall I had an odd shaped building torn down and hauled away. It was right next to the house. A tree had fallen on top of it many years ago and the previous owner never repaired it. The buzzards liked to roost in it each Spring. Nasty things! It was abandoned with decades of old, well, the afore mentioned. And every time it rains hard, more artifacts of the founding farm family come bubbling up from the rich, dark earth.

Tearing down the odd shaped building opened up the landscape. The view sweeps straight back to the old barn and pecan trees. This afternoon when I arrived home, clumps of yellow flag irises greeted me. I’ve never seen them blooming in the three years I’ve owned the property. I realize now that the junky building had obstructed my pleasure in noticing their bright yellow blooms.

I am the old farmhouse. My past is buried right under the surface and on occasion, it comes bubbling up. In other posts, I have mentioned that I come from a long line of strong women. They each had a good sense of humor, too. Thank God for laughter. It “doeth good like a medicine” says Proverbs.

So, as shards of my past came rising to the top this afternoon, I began a healing conversation with myself, spoken only in my head. I will not share it with you. It was a private conversation, after all. Where once certain things would have made me cry or made me angry, now I can just think of a quip and laugh. Laughter is that pair of rubber boots to wear while crossing the ground of the past to get to the bright, yellow flags of the present.

Just some thoughts.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Wisteria, daffodils and yellow flags

Where Are My Peeps? Woop! Woop!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unt-uh. Not Christmas. I enjoy Christmas, but my favorite time of year is Spring. The earth wakes up. Everything stretches and gets moving.

A field trip to a garden center this morning filled the trunk: Fruit trees, hydrangeas, azaleas, a big pretty basket. I could get into trouble at a garden center, y’all. Man, could I!

On my way home, a couple of packages of Peeps hitched a ride and then jumped into my cup of evening coffee. One of these days, you’re going to try coffee and Peeps and you will wonder why you waited so long.

Recent happy emails from Harris Seeds and Wildseed Farms told that my flower seed orders are on their way. I cannot wait to play in the dirt. Visions of flower arrangements dance in my head. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Spring Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Supper Before Payday

Suppers before payday can be tricky to pull together, when money is tight and there’s a mish mash of ingredients on hand. That’s what I faced in preparing supper tonight. Time to think outside the box, so to speak.

Pound of ground meat, but no noodles of any kind. Hot dog buns, but no franks. Hmmmm…. ‘Cut the buns in half and make up little hamburger patties. Yeah, and top ’em with cheese’, I told myself. Little Cheeseburger Sliders with a side of Cottage Fries. Baking potatoes, cut length ways and tossed in Italian dressing, were started in s lightly oiled iron skillet, then finished under the broiler.

Simple supper, quick supper, frugal supper.

Supper Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Being Still

Just a pic of the old barn and filtering clouds with which the sun played tag. Work on the potager happened mid-day. Saved pieces of tongue and groove boards were screwed to the frame built last year; I never got it finished. Flowers and vegetables, spilled over the planters edges, in my mind. Circumstsnces outside my control kept me from finishing in 2019. Not one flower was planted. Last year was a rough twelve months. Praying 2020 will be easier.

I often prayed last year, “Lord, I just need something to be easy. Just one thing to be easy today. I am so tired of the struggle.”

Philippians 4:13 wrankled me- so over used. Is that wrong of me to think it so? Just being honest. Romans 8:28 often came to mind too. And some people don’t read that scripture through to the end. ‘Called according to His purpose’ it says. His purpose, not my own. Again it wrankled me.

So, this year- one month into it – I’m not announcing my intentions to anybody. My goal is to be still: Psalm 37:7. Waiting patiently, yes, but also working with my hands, while living my quiet life: 1 Thessalonians 4:11. Which brings me back to my potager project. It’s still not finished, it’s not perfect. Yet, there is such beauty in imperfect things. I’m not finished or perfect either, Lord knows!

Being still Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Orange Sticky Biscuit Bake

Here’s a recipe to use that granola I told y’all about last week: Orange Sticky Biscuit Bake.

What’s needed and what to do:

Preheat oven to 325°

In a 1 quart sauce pan reduce 1/4 cup orange juice, 2 pats of butter and 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Medium high heat. Swirl the pan every now and then. Don’t let it burn.This makes a nice simple syrup and is the star flavor for the sticky biscuits.

While the syrup is reducing, in a medium sized bowl mix 1 cup low-fat biscuit mix, 3 heaping tablespoons of Sweep-of-the-kitchen Granola, a nice dash of cinnamon and enough milk to incorporate all of the above – you want a stiff dough. About a 1/4 cup of milk, I guess. Just eyeball it.

Now, I baked the sticky biscuits in a small iron skillet, but any small casserole dish or cake pan would do. Spray the pan or dish with vegetable spray. Pour a small amount the orange syrup into the bottom of the pan. Drop the mixture into the center of the prepared pan, making one big biscuit. Pour more of the orange syrup, reserving a couple of spoonfuls on top of the biscuit. Place into the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. The last 5 minutes of baking, pour the remaining orange syrup over the biscuit.

Cut into 4 to 6 servings. These are lightly sweet; nice with a morning beverage..

Biscuit Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Sweep-of-the-kitchen Granola

Left over Christmas baking ingredients were just sitting in the pantry: raisins, oatmeal, pecans, soy-free chocolate chips. So, to use them up I stirred up a big bowl of granola. Sweep-of-the-kitchen is a term describing a waste-not-want-not, money saving, frugal attitude. Use it all up.

Here’s what to do:

Preheat oven to 300°

In a big bowl combine 3 cups quick oats, about 1 cup pecans, about 1/2 cup raisins, about a 1/4 cup of each semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup light brown sugar and a pinch of salt. A couple of teaspoons of colorful sprinkles, if you have some. Microwave 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and pour over the oats and other ingredients. Give several generous stirs, to incorporate the oil with the other ingredients.

Spread evenly over a baking sheet with short sides, like a jelly roll pan, which has been covered with parchment paper. Place in oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Check it halfway through to make sure it isn’t burning. Give it a slight stir with a spatula or big spoon. Continue baking. Cool, then scoop into an air tight container. Serve over yogurt, apple sauce, pear butter, ice cream.

Served two ways: On the left over Greek yogurt, on the the right over home canned pears. A light breakfast or snack or dessert.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Peppermint Meringues

Here’s a recipe to make, while taking to down the Christmas tree: Peppermint Meringue Cookies. Not sure that cookie is a true description,  because these are flourless. Maybe they are more like a candy. Make the peppermint meringues  and you decide what to call them.

Here’s what to do:

Preheat oven to 225°.

In a stainless steel mixing bowl begin beating 4 egg whites. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tartar. Keep beating. Crush up 3 candy canes, set aside. When the egg whites start to form high peaks, slowly add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. With the sugar incorporated, add a few sprinklings of the crushed candy canes. Okay, now the meringue is ready to drop onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Using a teaspoon, drop heaping dollops 2 inches apart. Place in oven and bake for 90 minutes. Turn oven off, when they are finished baking and let the meringues stay in the oven to cool and dry out.

Blessings for a great 2020 from the Exile’s Kitchen.

The Old General

Christmas parties a plenty.  One down; three more to go. This week. Today is the “office party”. I offered pralines and a lemon meringue pie. If you want, you can find those recipes here at theexileskitchen.com. Just let your fingers do the scrolling.

I’m in town this morning. My stand mixer is at Flowers Proper and so is the newer hand held. Deep in one of Mama’s kitchen cabinets, under stored paper plates and plastic cutlery, was her old General Electric hand mixer.  She still works. She’s 60 years old, if she’s a day.

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Eight egg whites in a bowl,  pinch of salt, dash of cream of tartar, a splash of pure vanilla,sugar. Started the Old General up. The beaters were a little loose, but patience persevered and the meringue was glossy and beautiful.

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Lovely, sticky whiteness was spread over the homemade lemon curd, fluffed, patted and run under a low broiler to toast it up. Just a bit.

It’s raining. Storming is a more appropriate description. I hope I get this pretty pie to work in one piece. The old General Electric mixer has been put away, but this time within easy reach. Her cord wrapped around her handle, just as my mother has done countless times.

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Today is my mother’s birthday. There’s a 2-layer, white cake with lemon curd filling in the ice box (that’s  Southern for refrigerator). Happy Birthday, Mama.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

 

Linens and Things

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

You Can Make A Better Choice

Bags of fresh cranberries are plentiful in the produce section of the grocery stores this time of year. It’s one of those food traditions that we never question and expect it to be on the holiday menu. Cranberries also seem to be one of those foods that folks either love or hate. Personally, I love cranberries. It’s really tasty on a sandwich made with left over turkey the day after Thanksgiving. They are good for you, too. Look it up.

Now, you can reach for a can of that congealed cranberry juice stuff concocted way back when your great-grandmother was a young woman. Time saver and convenient, if cranberries are just a garnish for your Thanksgiving plate, not really to be eaten with your turkey, then have at it.

You can make a better choice: fresh cranberry sauce. Below is what I do every year.

Here’s my recipe:

1 bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed in cold water

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

1/4 cup orange juice

pinch salt

pat of butter, optional

What to do:

Place rinsed berries in a two quart pot and turn burner to medium heat. Add sugar, water, orange juice and pinch of salt. I think the tiny bit of salt helps cut the bitter taste that cranberries sometime have and makes the taste brighter. Bring berries to a gentle boil, stirring to disolve the sugar.

The berries will begin to pop, as their skins split. You’re almost through with the cooking part, at this stage. When the berries foam up, turn the fire off. With a metal spoon, skim the pink bubbly foam from the top of the pot. If you want to, add the pat of butter. This helps reduce any foam that may remain- it’s kind of hard to get all of the foam out of the cranberry sauce.

Cool the sauce before placing it in the frig. It can be made a day or two ahead of turkey day. Serve in your great-grandmother’s pretty cutglass bowl. She’d think you are the cat’s pajamas.

Thanksgiving Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

I Know It’s Not Even Thanksgiving Yet….

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I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. And I know I’ve been preaching against rushing the seasons, but I guess I’m going to blame the frigid cold spurt we’ve had this week, for my Christmas ornaments project.

The tinsel tree never made it to the attic last year. It was boxed up, but not squirreled away with the other decorations. I’ll admit I have recently been tempted to set it up, not festoon it with baubles, just put it quietly in the sitting room corner.

Instead of pulling out the tree, I pulled out unused canning lids, pretty Christmas tape, seasonal paper, pompoms, miniatures and old buttons to make vintage looking, dioramic ornaments.

 

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Here’s what to do: First trace around a canning ring (like Ball or Kerr) onto a piece of Christmas paper and cut it out with scissors. Using craft glue, pipe a bead along the inside edge of the lid. Place another ring, bottom to bottom, on top. Put these together with pretty Christmas tape. (Hobby Lobby has many options.) With two canning lids secured like this it makes a wide enough inside surface to place the miniatures. I chose tiny Christmas trees and deer and shiny little Merry Christmas signs. Cut up white pompoms look like snow glued at the base. Material scraps and small old buttons came together for a hanger on top.

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Crafty Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen at Flowers Proper.

(And as always, if you enjoy the pictures, glean from the information or become inspired from my ideas, please click on the tiny star and give the post a ‘like’.)

Yes, I Did

I added pumpkin spice, plus a splash of vanilla, to twist up a simple recipe of marshmallow treats. Pressed into a pie plate and covered in seasonal fall sprinkles. Cut into a wedge, it rested on an ivory Fire King plate. Three marshmallows were saved for my Pecan Praline cup of Community Coffee. Yes, I did. And so should you.

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Pumpkin Spice Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Psalm 16:5-6

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

The Pumpkin Patch at Flowers Proper

 

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Fall Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen at Flowers Proper.

Counting Cookies

I found myself counting, when making cookies this afternoon. Counting when I rolled the shortbread, after dusting them with powdered sugar, and again when room had to be made on the wire rack to cool. Twenty-four all three times. There was some dough saved and rolled into a log, then wrapped in parchment. It went into the freezer for easy cookie baking later in the holiday season.

Fall Shortbread today; modified a recipe I shared last year: August Cookie of the Month: Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Instead of chopped pecans and dried cranberries, I added some sprinkles shaped and colored like Fall Leaves.

I counted twenty-three cookies, when arranged in the vintage Louisa glass serving piece. How’d that happen? Had to taste test, don’tcha know? Powered sugar coated thumbs up! Perfect, if I do say so myself.

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The idea from Pinterest seemed promising, but I’m calling this a fail. Our little pumpkin patch fun takes place tomorrow afternoon. Hoping the activities that are planned will go off better.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

The Dawgs Suck

It’s pumpkin season, as I’m sure you know.  We have a little pumpkin patch of our own this Fall. My grandsons have been keeping a check on them and next weekend we will have a family cookout and raid on the pumpkin patch to carve jackolanterns.

I’ve never made pumpkin soup, heretofore, but as I have these little pumpkins, I thought I’d try it. I washed, seeded, chunked,  and coated 2 pumpkins with olive oil, before roasting in the oven. When tender and cooled, I took a spoon and scraped out the cooked pulp. I had about 3 1/2 cups, which I smoothed out with an immersion blender. In a big pot, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, I sauteed 1 chopped yellow onion and 4 chopped cloves of garlic. I added the pumpkin pulp into the pot, added spices of salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutneg and pepper to taste. To this , I stirred in 4 cups of chicken stock and let it simmer for around 15 minutes. After it was through cooking, I stirred in a 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Another spin with the immersion blender to ensure it’s creaminess and the soup was ready for my bowl.

Along side my bowl of pumpkin soup, was a plate of mustard decorated corndogs. Why not? I’m a  Louisiana State University fan. Can’t grow up in Baton Rouge and not be. Today we play the Mississippi State University Bulldogs. The Bulldogs call us Tigers corndogs. Yeah, really, why?  Both are agricultural schools. And the trek to MSU is way more rural than it is to LSU. Are the Tigers and their fans uncouth, is that what the Dawgs are trying to say? Oh, well.

My opinion of the Dawgs is rendered in mustard. 20191019_12523720191019_125347

Even the wildflowers gathered on my morning walk are rooting for the Tigers. Purple and gold, baby.

Tiger Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Soup’s On

Soup’s on! Finally.

I dug around in the pantry and freezer for homemade, hearty soup ingredients and dumped them into the Dutch oven for a comforting and nurturing bowl of love. How’s that for a run on sentence? Sausage cut into thin pieces, can of corn drained, a chopped onion, 1/2 cup frozen field peas, some dried red beans, a can of chicken broth, a small can of tomato sauce, 1/4 cup of brown rice, 1 1/2 cups of water and seasoning to taste. Except salt; I’ll add that after the red beans have cooked down. It may not need it. We’ll see.

It is, at last, soup weather here in our part of the world. Yesterday in the muggy 80’s; today overcast 60’s. Looks and feels like October. Not rushing the seasons. Thankful we have them. Perfect weather or the same weather year round would be boring to me. We have mild winters usually, rather wet springs, long, hot summers, and serene autumns. The world is getting sleepy outside, wrapping its self in dying grasses and falling leaves. Pumpkins are ready to pick and the turnips needs to be planted.

Enjoy each grace from each season. And make yourself some soulful soup.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

 

Stop Rushing

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It’s Autumn, supposedly. The thermometer says it’s still August. The local big box stores and ads on social media say it’s Christmas.

We hurry too much. We miss too much. We need to stop rushing around and practice breathing in the simple beauty of the transitioning months. Homegrown flowers, little pumpkin, Mr. Irving’s Sketchbook harken to Autumn, even if the temps do not. Practice the pause.

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Autumn Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

September Saturday

What am I doing? Well, waiting on a guy to get out here to give an estimate for tearing down and hauling off a shed that’s falling in. I’m also waiting on a repair man for the satellite to be fixed. It’s college football season, after all.

And then, I’ve got canvas drop cloths spread out on the floor. Painting? No. Trying to figure out how to sew together a cover for the cars backseat. Marigold’s hair gets everywhere; you wouldn’t think a bloodhound would shed like she does, but oh, my goodness!

First, though, coffee and breakfast.

Traditions fill the counter top and old window sill. LaSolana pottery, Louisa Glass, Fire King pieces remind me of trips to Clinton, Louisisana each spring for a gigantic antiques fair. It was tradition to go that Easter weekend to the Felicianas, where my Grandmother had  roots. The church ladies of that town got together and served sweets, gumbo, and the best chicken salad sandwiches ever! The  LaSolana pottery sugar and creamers were found in the back of a farmhouse kitchen cabinet, when it was being demolished. Perfect for a small arrangement of fresh flowers. The Louisa glass is a compote dish I started collecting way back when ( attached to excursions to Clinton, LA). The Fire King mug is part of a set bought at an auction. And in that mug, another tradition: Community Coffee. Community Coffee is based out of my hometown of Baton Rouge. I didn’t start drinking coffee till a few years back. Making up for it, though.  Coffee Time

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Saturday Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Half-a☆☆Works

Scared of the lawn mower, the praying mantis crawled up my leg. A few stomps and it fell back to the freshly cut grass. I moved a lawn chair and got popped by a wasp. Bugs aside, cutting grass in August is brutal, especially with a mower that has a broken self-propelling thingy. I had one a couple of summers ago that worked beautifully, but a crackhead thought he needed it more than I did. The mower that replaced it has not been worth the money and keeps breaking down and I’m tired of taking it to get fixed, but can’t afford a really nice riding lawn mower, sooooo….. There’s a note written in black Sharpie for anyone coming for a free mower: half-a☆☆ works; not worth stealing. Dear Mr. Drug Head – A Vent To An Idiot

The back garden, near the old orchard is hilly and the wild hogs visit frequently- I fell. Right down on my tail. Sweat dripped into my eyes. A few more turns and I decided to go inside to cool off. And make cookies. Of course. Why not?

Sweep of the Kitchen Cookies

Ingredients:

That mushy banana that’s been on the kitchen counter all week

The last 2 tablespoons of Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter

1 egg

1/2 cup brown sugar

A healthy generous squirt of local honey

A splash of vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

A couple of dashes of cinnamon

1/2 cup chocolate chips

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a mixing bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients. Dump into the banana and peanut butter mixture and stir till combine, but don’t overbeat. Stir in chocolate chips.

On insulated, parchment lined cookie sheets, drop three inches apart scoops of the cookie dough. I did 6 cookies per 2 cookie sheets; these cookies spread a little and I wanted them to have some room to bake up pretty. Bake for about 12 minutes, till the edges brown and the tops are golden. Makes about 18 nice, flavorful cakey cookies.

After cookie making and a light lunch, the garden hat and sunglasses were adorned again. I like cutting grass. It’s satisfying, seeing it all mown. Marigold likes to roll around in freshly cut grass. Maybe with this dog days of summer heat, the grass will slow down in growing and won’t need to be cut again for a while. My hand hurts from the wasp sting. Oh, well. A cookie and a Mayhaw Soda will make it feel better. Note To Self

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Summertime Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Somehow Carrots Were Put In My Refrigerator

The house was filled with company the week of July 4th. Different ones made multiple trips to the grocery store and somehow carrots were put in my refrigerator and then left. What to do with them? Too hot for a stew. Or a souffle’.

It is also pear season. One of my daughters-in-laws gifted me with fresh pears. For about a week, I canned pear preserves and pear butter.

In a simple muffin batter, the carrots and pears made a nice flavor combination.

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped pear preserves

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup whole milk

An additional 1/2 cup white surgar with a generous dash of both cinnamon and nutmeg mixed in

1/4 stick of melted butter

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large mixing bowl, combine first six ingredients. In another mixing bowl sift together the next seven ingredients. Alternating between the flour mixture and milk, add to the carrot and pear base.

Prepare muffin cups, big or small with vegetable spray. I used a mini muffin tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until tops bounce bake, when tapped and golden in color.20190810_135958

Loosen with a knife, cool slightly.  Dip into the melted butter, then swirl around into the spiced sugar. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 3 dozen.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Y’all Know How to Do This, Right?

Mancakes

I used to do this for the first day of school when my boys were growing up and also on their birthdays. Y’all know how to do  this, right? Basic pancake recipe poured  into a gingerbread man cookie cutter, set on top a Lodge cast iron griddle equals mancakes. (You can use any metal cookie cutter, by the way.) Coat both the griddle and cookie cutter with vegetable spray, before filling the cutter with batter. When the batter cooks up with bubbles, take a set of tongs and gentle pull the cookie cutter away. Flip with a spatula and cook on the other side.

 

My great nephew visited all week and he enjoyed his plate of mancakes.

Later…

In the country, the garden needed tending. Miscellaneous items came together for a little girl scarecrow. She is guarding the late planted pumpkins.

 

Know-how Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Note To Self

Simple syrups; I’ve been trying out a few recipes. For Independence Day, I mixed up Mayhaw Sodas, using a simple syrup made with-you guessed it!- mayhaws. The taste is bright, sweet and tangy, like my favorite jelly.

I had a bag of lemons in the refrigerator and I needed to do something with them, before they ruined. I thought about a honey lemon simple syrup. The bag of lemons were halved and juiced. I reached and got one of my many measuring cups and poured the fresh lemon juice into it. Spooning out a few errant lemon seeds, something else floated around in the bottom of the cup. Eight whispy legs and a slight bulbous body of a daddy-long leg spider! Note to self: examine measuring cups before filling. Briefly I considered fishing out the sinister bug, but knew I would think about the floatsum every time I used the syrup, so down the kitchen drain went the juice and the spider.

Switch in plans. Two simple syrups. Two homemade sodas.

Honey Lemon Simple Syrup

Here’s what to do: In a medium sauce pan, combine 1 cup honey, 1 cup water and 1 cut lemon peel. Stir to combine and bring to a light simmer. Pluck out the lemon peel, with a pair of tongs and continue to simmer syrup for another 30 minutes. Let cool and pour into a jar, lid it up and keep it in the frig. Use it up in 2 weeks. You won’t have a problem doing this.

Next.

Mayhaw Simple Syrup 

Ready? Well, follow the above directions using 1 cup water, 1 cup white sugar and 1 cup frozen mayhaw berries. If you don’t have mayhaws, use blueberries, cherries, blackberries. You get the idea. Again, when the syrup is combined and begins to reduce, remove the berries and simmer following the above.

Now, get out a set of pretty of glasses and mix up a refreshing summer soda. Into a 4 ounce glass pour 3 tablespoons of your simple syrup. Add 4 big ice cubes. Top off with club soda.  Give a vigorous stir with a long handled ice tea spoon.

So pleasantly different from store bought soda and pop. Inexpensive to make, you know exactly what is in it. Homemade all the way, baby!

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The Honey Lemon Simple Syrup is a deep amber and the Mayhaw Simple Syrup is a beautiful berry- go figure…

Simple Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Tongue In Cheek or We Shook the Family Tree and Another Yankee Fell Out

Tongue in cheek
Indulge me please.
My eldest is doing genealogy for both sides of his family.
Papaw (My father’s father) always said to not go digging around in the past; you never know what you might find. Horse thieves from Missiouri, perhaps… If only that were the case. Thieving horse stealers would be so preferable to what he has found out about my great-great-grandfather. The dirty Yankee! It pains me greatly to admit it. Damn Yankee! Multiple wives. A preacher to boot! Oh, oh, oh!! I am beside myself with this information. Now we know why he was never mentioned- no family story about him to pass down.
Horse thief/Yankee. Not equal in my estimation. Yankee is far worse.
What would my Daddy have thought? I wonder.
Thank God for my Southern Grandmothers. A praying group of women they have always been.
God bless the Southern Belles that the Yankee men fell for…. at least for a time, because they didn’t stay around long till they skedaddled back to their Yankee mothers.
And here I was calling my ex’s people traitors and opportunistic raccoons for siding with the North up in Tishomingo County during the Northern Aggression. Guarding Grant himself. I think. Maybe Sherman..? That’s still worse because they were Southern born and bred.
Oh, my identity, proudly Southern, has been smeared with Yankee blue on both my mother’s and now my father’s side. Oh, oh, oh.
So, all of this begs a question: what the heck am I? Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Live in Podunk Mississippi. Does your geographical position make you Southern? I do hope so.
I don’t like cold weather. Snow is a big No for me. My blood is too thin to live above the Mason Dixon Line.
I cringe when I hear children answer adults with a plain yes or nah. That should be “Yes, ma’am” or “No, ma’am”, thank you very much.
While in Washington, D.C. a few summers back, I toured some of the Smithsonian. Going through a metal detector, the young girls ahead of me ignored the security guard’s greeting to have a nice time touring the museum. He wanded my purse and also told me the same that he had told the girls. But I responded the way my very Southern Grandmother would have wanted, “Thank you, sir,” I answered. He stopped me. “Ma’am, ma’am. Where are you from?” he asked. “Mississippi,” I replied. “Ah, Mississippi,” the security guard said wistfully with a smile. He gently shook his finger at me and said again, “Well, you have nice time visiting D.C., ma’am.” He heard my Southern accent. He recognized my Southern manners.
In an antique shop in a suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, my accent opened the shop owner’s want for conversation and to find a thin thread of commonality between us. “Oh, you’re from the South, ” she said when she heard me say that I was just browsing. “Quite South,” I answered. “Quite South?” the shop owner repeated. “Yes, I am from Mississippi, by way of Baton Rouge.” “Oh, Baton Rouge! Are you Catholic, by any chance?” “Uh, no”, I replied. “I ask,” she said, “because I went to Catholic school and all the nuns were from Baton Rouge.” That thin thread connecting.
And I enjoy my cornbread and peas every New Year’s Day. I had a Northerner tell me one time that catfish was a bottom feeding trash fish. Might be, but next to hushpuppies and coleslaw I call that a mighty fine meal. Grits! Try ordering that in northern environs. If one could find it on a menu, you’d have to gain access to the kitchen to teach them how to prepare them. The joys of a ripe tomato between two pieces of lightly toasted bread with a slathering of mayonnaise. Did that last word have you confused? If it did you are probably a Yankee. ‘Cause y’all shortened that word to just mayo and now everybody calls it that. Being from Louisiana, and growing up in the Southern part of the state, the Cajun influence was deep. Mayonnaise was pronounced ‘my-nez’. It’s not your “nez”, it’s my “nez”. I know, I know. Wasn’t until I moved to Mississippi that I learned to pronounce it correctly. Mayo-naise. Ah, well.
No white shoes or clothing after Labor Day and never before Easter. And you don’t leave the house with wet hair or not brushed either. You go out the door as an example of your upbringing. You represent your family at all times.
All of the above makes me Southern, right? Can we not just rebury that Yankee? It was a difficult time. The War Between the States. He was young. She was younger. It was a border state. Emotions were high and off kilter. Poor little Susan. She didn’t know John would turn that Yankee coat and head back home right after the war was over.
I’m going to say I’m Southern. Claim it for my own.
P.S.
(I love you my Yankee friends. You’re down here. You must know a good thing when you see it.)
Thank you for reading.

Genealogy Blessings from the very Southern Exile’s Kitchen.

(this was first posted on my fb acct last year and has been edited)

Coffee Mug

20190710_063329Three places I love and in no particular order (that depends on the time of year and my current project needs): kitchenware stores, hardware stores and garden centers. Oh, just for continuity, let’s call them gardenware stores.

Way back in 1984/1985, I worked at Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge. There was a kitchenwares store privately owned and outfitted with gadgets, table linens, serving pieces, chafing dishes, fondue pots, glassware, coffee makers. Across the back wall were bags of flavored coffee beans and a commercial grinder. Yes, you could request a special blend and they’d make a batch for you. I often spent my half-hour lunch break in that little store, just to smell the coffee.

At Christmastime in 1984, I went into that kitchenware haven and bought my mother a set of coffee mugs. Elephants tumbling together in a happy jumble artworked their sides. Up until about six months ago they had stayed in the back of the coffee mug cabinet. My mother liked the coffee mugs, but considered them too nice to use everyday. Nice things should be used everyday, especially cheerful coffee mugs when you need a pick-me-up to start your day.

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This morning’s coffee offering was Community French Vanilla and 2 Land-O-Lakes Mini Moos. Well, good morning!

A mug of Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

#CommunityCoffee

#LAND-O-LAKES

#BatonRouge

#Coffeemugs

 

June

 

 

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Going through a difficult time a few years back, I remember looking out an upper church window and seeing crepe myrtles in bloom. I thought, “How can it be June already?” Time had stood still, during that dark period. Wrapped up in my troubles, I lost track of the days. The frilly, periwinkle pink blooms snapped me into my then present.

Five Junes have come and gone. Crepe myrtles start to bloom now and last through August. With them come a reminder of getting through a tough transition and also the gift of a beautiful future.

Here are some pics from my evening stroll through Magnolia, Mississippi. The park in the old depot yard is serene and harkens to days gone by.  Enjoy your walk on the quiet streets of Small-town, USA. Try to hear the mockingbirds singing their various trills,  the cars passing on Hwy 51, children’s voices calling out in a game of chase outside the barber shop.

Blessings.

Daisies Take A Year

 

Last summer I planted Shata Daisy seeds around the base of my mailbox. Plants emerged from the ground and they were maintained, but no blooms. I didn’t despair, for I knew from experience in another life that perennial daisies take a year to mature and bloom. So, one plants the seeds and the payoff is 365 days later. Worth the wait.

Also worth the wait are birthdays of grandchildren. Born 21 days apart are Levi and Hazel. Sweet, Sweet.

Daisy and Birthday Blessings from theexileskitchen.

 

 

 

Summer Begins When…

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, when we honor our fallen service people. Thank you for your complete dedication and service. It is also the unofficial start of summer; school is out in this part of the world and picnic/cookout season has begun.

When does summer really commence? June 21 is the official beginning of the seasons changing from spring to summer. The weather has been quite warm and muggy here in Southwest Mississippi. But I don’t need a calendar or a thermometer to know that it is summer, or at least close to being summer: the day lilies are in bloom.

My favorite day lily is the one given to me by my Aunt Gayle. The winter of 2017 was harsh, with two unexpected snowfalls and then the following spring was very dry. Aunt Gayle’s day lily set only a few blooms and then they quickly dried up and fell off.

I was anxious about the plant living through this past winter, though the weather was mild. The pot it has been in for the last 4 years is cracked and 10 year-old day lily needs to be repotted. I have been hesitant to do it. I don’t want to do something that would kill it and my connection to a beloved aunt- my mother’s twin sister.

Then early in this month, Aunt Gayle’s day lily started putting up scapes. On each scape are multiple buds. The blooms are a wide and ruffled peachy pink. So pretty.

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May 2019

So, for me summer begins when Aunt Gayle’s day lily blooms. When does summer start for you?

Blessings.

(Note: here’s the link to the back story to my favorite garden plant. Aunt Gayle’s Day Lily  )

Mayhaws: A Superfood

If you’ve read theexileskitchen the last few years, you probably know that I am a fan of Mayhaws. I was thrilled to find the remains of an archord on the small piece of property I bought back in 2016 and really excited that it contained two Mayhaw trees. Each Spring when they begin budding and then setting fruit, I get super jazzed about the upcoming jelly making days. Mayhaw jelly is such a pretty pink, with a flavor of strawberry/apple.

Doing some research today, for other Mayhaw recipes, didn’t net much success. I did, however, find the nutritional information on this tiny red fruit.

hawthorninfo

You can Google Mayhaw facts for yourself; LSU Agricultural Department has great information on this fruit tree found in our  native Southern states.

After I have a years worth of jelly in the pantry, I will put up jars of juice for teas and Lemon/Mayhawade. For my supper beverage this evening, I mixed into my sweetened iced tea 2 tablespoons of mayhaw juice. It was a refreshing berry-tasting tea.

Sorry this video is sideways. I cant figure out how to edit it. Check local farmer’s markets for Mayhaws this time of year. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to snag this superfood.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

A Saturday Pastime




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This baby quilt was made by my sister-in-law for this little guy’s daddy 27 years ago.

 

 

First tee-ball game.

Baby brother.

A tour around a local favorite flea market: R and R Bargain Center.

Ice cream at KDJ’s Ol’Skool Ice Cream Parlor; the cherry on top.

And the #FlowersProper gardens are in full bloom this weekend.

 

 

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Blessings to your pastimes.

New Milton Testimony

I met Mr. Roache, a  bachelor gentleman, a few years back when he agreed to help my son’s Science Olympiad team with some of their building events. The man was brilliant at everything he touched: artist and  musician. He had been  born and raised in the New Orleans area and his family had owned and operated a hobby shop. He could tinker with anything and make it go.

Mr. Roache got the kids started on their projects and then invited us parents into his music room that chilly January afternoon. His music room was cluttered ( as was the entire house and overgrown property); a roll top desk strewn with photos he had taken, sheets of music here and there. I saw a violin, trumpet, guitar and maybe one other handheld instrument, but the grand piano took my attention. He sat down at the piano and played a few measures.  As he played, he directed our attention to a map of the world, that hung behind the paneled door.  Pins were stuck in nearly every country and continent.

“See those pins?” he asked us. “Each pin represents where I have danced with a beautiful woman.” And he softly smiled.

We politely asked questions about his life and he politely answered. He told of his childhood, his mother and daddy, his sisters. Growing up in Nawlins. The hobby shop. He said nothing negative-started to about one sister, but stopped himself and changed the subject. We all went back out onto the porch and checked the kids’ progress.

An artist, Mr. Roache took beautiful serene portraits. They hung at his back door and the faces followed you throughout the house and wrap around porch. He found value in everything; some would say he was a hoarder. But he would turn everyday household trash into pieces of art. Upcycling is what he called his creations.

I walked out into his yard. Even in the dead of winter it needed to be mowed, but looking back at the house, I saw the bigger picture. I couldn’t see it while in the house or up on the porch. Things  were grouped and had their own place. I bet he knew where each piece was and had it inventoried in his head.

His seemingly disordered  life was like pieces of a mosaic. Up close we can’t make out the image.  It’s not until we step back that we can truly see what’s there.

I have been in my own mosaic, if you will, these past few years. Really up close in the picture and too in it to see it. I have wanted to move the pieces around and figure out what my future is suppose to look like. But I am learning to let The Artist do  His work in me. His imagination is far greater than my own.  His creation in me more than I would have ever dreamed possible. Humbling. Blows me away.

Do I always like the way things are going in my life? No, but I have camped out at Jeremiah 29:11 for three years now. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and to give you a hope and a future.” Again, God’s plans and wants for me are so much better, sweeter, greater, more purposeful than anything I could come up with.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.