Two Weekends

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.

 

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.

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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!

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Thanksgiving Blessings from the Exiles Kitchen.

I Caved

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.

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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.

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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!”

Oh, well. We’re still making memories.

Blessings from the Exile’s New Kitchen.

Shrug It Off

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Blessings.

Cabinets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miss you, Daddy. Love you, Mama.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

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

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins



Ingredients:

1/2 cup Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter

1 stick Land of Lakes butter

1 egg

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups Bisquick

Big dash cinnamon

1/2 cup milk

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

4 tablespoons of Bisquick

What to do:

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

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

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

 

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

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

Best wishes to the happy couple.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Dear Mr. Drug Head – A Vent To An Idiot

Dear Mr. Drug Head,

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

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

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

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

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

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

No blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Colors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blessings from the Exile’s New Kitchen.