Into the Garden to Settle My Soul

I was recently asked if I was planning a vacation this summer. No; I have precious few days left that I can take off from work. That being said, every evening is a mini vacation as I step into the garden. The sunflowers are coming along and the cosmos have begun to bud. Fresh picked squash. Zucchini bread just pulled from the oven. The Patriotic Pumpkin Patch is promising for autumn picking. I’ve seen a meme that goes something like ‘Into the garden I go to lose my mind and find my soul’. I don’t lose my mind, but the garden does settle my soul.

We lost our mother in April and learning to live without her is so new and, really, I don’t have adequate words to describe what it feels like.

As a very young woman, I went from my mother’s home to being newlywed and running my own. A wife, a mother, and kids almost all grown and on their own, I found myself divorced 30 years later. Back to Mama I went, which was good for both of us. Her health declined and I took care of her the best I knew how. Now, she’s gone. I don’t have anyone I need to tell my plans to. There is no one I need to consider, but myself. For us women, that is a foreign concept. I remind myself that it is perfectly fine to pick up and go at a moments notice. It’s kind of freeing, but also daunting.

I spent the spring at the ballfields, watching grandchildren play. That was nice, as in recent years I had missed a lot of their activities because Mama needed me. Suppers for one. Light laundry duty. Just Marigold for company in the evenings. I catch myself thinking, “When I get home, Mama will get a kick out of what happened at the grocery store.” But a second later, a sadness washes over my soul. Mama’s in heaven, not at my house. Then I think of all the joy she is experiencing in her new body and that Saint Peter is probably trying to rein in Mama and her three sisters. Man, did they have fun together on earth; in heaven- unrestrained elation!

So, into my garden I go almost each evening to pittle, to weed, to harvest. And my soul is settled.

But I still miss my Mama.



Have You Ever Seen a Bloodhound Pout?

Miss Marigold was at her food dish, when she realized her favorite person had gone out to get on the tractor. She stretched herself between the kitchen and dining room doorway and threw her soulful eyes at me. But I had just sat down with my cup of coffee and made her wait. Spoiled? Just a bit.

It’s strawberry season, so a pie is on tonight’s menu. Lemon Strawberry Pie. Put this recipe under refrigerator pies and Sunday dinner favorites. Also, it’s just in time for your Easter celebration.

Here’s what to do:

In a big mixing bowl whip up a small carton of heavy whipping cream… (what else does one do with whipping cream?). I added a 1/3 cup of sugar, a little salt and vanilla.

Once nice a fluffy, add the zest of one lemon, the juice of the same lemon and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Mix all of that together, then add in a generous cup of fresh strawberries that have been washed, capped, sliced and lightly sweetened with a little sugar. I prepared my strawberries the night before, because this step is the most time consuming of this recipe. Slowly let the mixer incorporate the strawberries into the whipped mixture. Next, pour into a graham cracker crust.

I just used a store bought crust, but if you’re industrious enough to make your own, go for it!

Decorate the top of your pie with strawberry slices, if you wish. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and chill in the frig a few hours before serving.

George in the background, with that spoiled bloodhound Marigold.

The local Piggly Wiggly had some springy candies, so I bought Jordan Almonds and Gelly Frogs. They’re gilding the lily of my strawberry pie stand. Try this for Easter dessert.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen and spoiled Marigold.

What I’ve Accomplished Lately

It feels like I haven’t accomplished much on my old farmhouse, lately. However, a few pictures taken from the past and present, reminds me that slow progress is still progress.

I’m calling it the kitchen bedroom, because the space was the original kitchen – dark and depressing and far away from the rest of the house. You know, I had the new kitchen moved to a huge room that sat in the middle of the house. This bedroom is not finished, but it’s getting there. Much brighter and inviting than all that dark, ugly brown paint.

We had an impromptu party Friday afternoon and a toilet seat needed to be replaced in my mother’s bathroom. I did it. I went to the big box store, bought the nearly $60 seat, brought it home, read the directions to install it and boom! New toilet for company. Yay, Me!

It’s the last night of winter. What could be more comforting than homemade mac-n-cheese, on a cold night? Yes, fixing supper is an accomplishment.

Recent pics taken around my property. Pots planted in day lilies, gladiolus, herbs. (Covered tonight, as the temps drop to the 20’s) Yellow flag iris herald spring. The old mailbox standing guard next to singing wisteria. And Miss Marigold enjoying the afternoon.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen

Apple Cake Perfection

This apple cake recipe is the best goodie I’ve baked up in a while. Using fresh apples, this cake is super moist and perfect for an afternoon break.

Apple Cake Perfection


3/4 cup con oil

2 eggs

1 and 2/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups apples that have been peeled and diced

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 10×10 (inches) pan and line with parchment paper.

What do:

In an electic mixer or with a hand mixer, combine the oil and eggs. Then add in the sugar and vanilla.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, soda and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. This batter is quite thick. Don’t worry. Next, fold in the diced apples. The apples will give the cake batter more moisture.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and spread to the corners. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and cut into 16 squares.

The top of this apple cake has a crunchy top. I used Honey Crisp apples and didn’t diced them finely. I like a little chunk in my apple cake. If you would like to add chopped walnuts, go for it.

Crunchy top and chunks of apples

Take a break Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I’m mad at myself. I overspent at the grocery store last week; easy to do, in this economy. When I got home and started putting things away, I saw that I had bought items I already had. So, yesterday I cleaned and organized the pantry. Three jars of peanut butter – two were opened. A partial bag of chocolate chips left over from Christmas baking.  Hmmmm. Three overripe bananas had been trying to get my attention for a few days. The following recipe redeems my lack of pantry diligence.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread


1/4 cup salted butter

2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

3 smashed bananas

2 heaping tablespoons peanut natural butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

What to do:

Preheat oven to 325°. Line a square baking pan with parchment and grease. In a mdium bowl, mix the first 7 ingredients. In a larger bowl, sift flour, baking soda and cinnamon.  Add rolled oats and chocolate chips. Then add in peanut butter, banana mixture to flour and oats. Don’t over stir, just incorporate it well.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Cool and cut and, as always,

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Crispy Apple Skins

Let’s face it, money is tight. I look for any way to say a dime. Crispy Apple Skins are a byproduct of Fried Apples, which is one of my mother’s favorites. Throwing the apple peelings away seemed wasteful. I don’t have a dehydrator, but I do have a fabulous oven. Spread out on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and baked at 250° for two hours, the apple skins become chip-like. Turn off the oven and let them cool completely. Naturally sweet. My favorite apples to use are Honey Crisp. I’ve also used the peelings of Anjou pears; they’re good too. And what do I do with the crispy apple skins? Mostly I break them up into homemade granola. They could be added to oatmeal or a muffin recipe. Let your children imagination go nuts.

To make fried apples, peel a couple of apples and slice them into saute pan. Add a couple of pats of butter, a generous squeeze of honey and a good dash of cinnamon. Stir around till the butter melts. Then pour a 1/4 cup of water over the apples. Cover the pan and cook over medium/low fire, till the apples are tender.

Dime pinching blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Christmas Chocolate Ribbon Coffee Cake

Simple to make, with ingredients you probably already have on hand Chocolate Ribbon Coffee Cake great for Christmas morning. Enjoy with your favorite hot beverage and those you love.

Christmas Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

I Hated the Lady Catherine

Spare the rod and spoil the child.

I will attribute the following parenting advice to James Dobson, though it may have been another psychologist: when disciplining your child, use an inanimate object. Your hands should only being used in a gentle, loving touch.

Not my mother’s, but a picture of one like it. Really, I don’t know what happened to it.

My mother’s instrument of correction was a white, melamine hair brush, made by the Fuller Brush Company- it had a matching comb. They gave it the name Lady Catherine. Long gone these many years, I can still see it resting on the green tiled, bathroom counter. I hated that hairbrush.

Now, Mama used the Lady Catherine to brush our hair, of course. My hair was really thick, when I was a girl; it would tangle easily, but the Lady Catherine was employed to straighten things out. And I’d better not squirm, because I’d get a tap on my butt and an admonishment that it hurts to be beautiful. I would tell her that I didn’t want to be beautiful, if it meant pain… Any way, my mother would brush out my light brown hair that hung half way down my back, take the huge white comb, part my hair from brow to nape and make two 70’s pony tails. She then when would declare me beautimous and send me down the driveway to wait for the school bus.

Mama also used the molded, white, melamine brush with a chip on one corner of the handle to straighten out poor attitudes. Childhood shopping trips were prepped by a simple, little swat on the backside, along with a promise that if we misbehaved in town that a true spanking would be given, when we got home. We marched like little clockwork soldiers, while in public.

My cousin Gretchen was spending a weekend with us and Mama was going to take us shopping or to the movies, somewhere. I don’t remember. What I do remember is Gretchen standing in the bathroom door laughing at my brother and I as we got a warning swat from Lady Catherine. Mama looked at her niece and gestured for her to present herself. Gretchen’s eyes got wide with the realization that she would not be excluded from the swat-before-leaving-the-house.

“Aunt Madoline! You’re not going to whip me. I haven’t done anything.”

“I know you haven’t done anything, Gretchen. I’m not whipping you, this is just a little reminder to behave in town.”

Gretchen got the swat and Mama had three well-behaved children in town. But whenever asked if she wanted to come visit, Gretchen would always wanted to know if we would be going anywhere….

The white melamine hairbrush disappeared. Honestly, I don’t know what happened to it. Maybe one of the floods swept it away. Maybe it started losing bristles. All I know is that it vanished

What did last was the discipline of my mother. Was her method extreme? I don’t think so. It didn’t hurt us. I hated it as a kid. But I see now that Mama did it because she loved us enough to correct us. Though some of you reading this are probably appalled, but as I shop as an adult, I see many young children who could benefit from my mother’s method.

Did I employ the swat-before-leaving-the-house method? Occasionally. Also the reward and praise for good behavior. Both are good for rearing well behaved, well adjusted citizens.


Food Related Things My Mother Told Me Growing Up

There are words in the back of my mind, usually accompanied with the sound of my mother’s voice. From the time I was little, these admonishments and pleadings and rules of how to be come popping up like bubbles in a pan of hot boiling water. They make me smile.

The first I remember was, “Just take two bites, Amanda.” Followed by, “How do you know until you try it?” There had probably been something green on my plate. I hated vegetables as a kid. Now a few decades later, ahem, I pour over gardening catalogues that arrive in January and start planning my vegetable plot for spring. There are 3 different types of turnip seed on the ktchen table waiting to be planted now. A draught this late summer has prevented the ground being broken, but a good rain yesterday should help. The point? I love vegetables now. My 3 year old self, nope.

The second food related thing I remember is about coffee. My family, on both sides, have always been big coffee drinkers. I remember being little and seeing my mother and her sisters having coffee. I asked for a cup and was told, “You are too little for coffee.” I begged again and Mama said, with a wink at her sisters, ” You’re too little, coffee will turn your ears black.”

“Your ears aren’t black,” I reasoned.

“That’s because we’re grown-ups, ” Mama explained.

I didn’t drink coffee till I turned fifty. And I’ve made up for all those lost cups through the years.

The third food related directive was to eat the slightly over cooked whatever was put on my plate. My daddy once said that my mother was the only person he knew who would serve burnt sausage. My oldest brother piped up and said, “Aunt Gayle does too.” Daddy replied, “That figures.” Mama and Aunt Gayle were identical twins. Figures…

So, I was told to eat the occasionally burnt sausage, toast, pork chop, with the promise that it would make me pretty. Dubious as to whether or not that would really happen, I asked, “Did you eat burnt toast?”

“Do you think I’m pretty?” she answered back.


“Well, then eat your toast.” Waste not, want not.

The forth food related thing my mother taught me was to never return a dish empty. If someone was kind enough to bring a homemade goodie it’s a good thing to reciprocate. Years ago, when I was a young mother, the neighbor lady called and said she had been baking and had muffins for my boys. We enjoyed her baked goods and a few days later I returned her pan with something that I had baked. She was surprised at my offering and I explained my mother’s take on returning dishes. And then the game of baked goods tag began. She sent more muffins. I sent back cookies. The last time she showed up at the front door, handed me the pan filled with goodies and said, “Keep the pan, I don’t want it back.” Maybe just a thank you note would have sufficed.

The fifth related food thing was born out of pure kindness. When you’re invited to someone’s home, eat whatever is offered. No matter how humble or poorly seasoned or whatever, eat it. They did their best and opened their home to you. Be gracious.

The sixth thing Mama taught me, but only after taking months clearing out cabinets and cupboards before her house was sold. I found beautiful dishes and serving pieces hidden away. So, folks, use the pretty dishes. Life needs beauty. Life needs connection to who we are. Use Grandma’s dishes.

Just some thoughts and rememberings of simple things that shape adulthood.

Blessings form the Exile’s Kitchen.

Stuff In My Ice Cream

A new grocery store had their grand opening last week and, well, you know I had to go see. At the suggestion of one of the store managers I purchased a half gallon of Blue Bell ice cream. It was on sale, you see. Otherwise, the carton of creamy goodness would have been left in the stores freezer section.

Anyway, fast forward to Saturday and the LSU football game. Dismal to say the least. Frankly, and this is just my opinion, but Brian Kelly is out of his league. The game was bad, really bad. To cope through the second half, I fixed my self a Blue Bell ice cream cone and stuffed an oatmeal, chocolate chip, raisin cookie down in the top of it.

The ice cream cone was good, but the game left a bitter taste in my mouth. I love the Tigers, but they are hard to watch this year.

Today, during the Saints game, after a grilled ham and cheese sandwich another ice cream cone was desired. Today, I decided on a homemade chocolate peanut butter bomb for the decoration.

Here’s what to do: heat in the microwave for 30 seconnds 3 tablespoons coconut oil, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons peanut butter powder, 3 tablespoons agave syrup, splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Stir everything till smooth. Line muffin tin cups with paper liners. Spoon mixture evenly between 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle with jimmies or chopped peanuts, if you choose. Chill in the frig till firm. Store in an air tight container in the frig.

The seasons are changing. Another little scarecrow hopped on the small yellow bike out in the field. A bouquet of goldenrod, sasanquas and cosmos were picked after that pitiful LSU game.

Blessings for your changing seasons from the Exile’s Kitchen.