My Mid-Life Crises

I think I am having a midlife crises. I have done something that I never thought I’d do. And I’m having a hard time feeling any remorse.

What have you done? you may be asking. Well, there are two Christmas trees already up in my farmhouse. Not yet decorated, but positioned and ready for ornaments.

In my past, never would anything remotely Christmas have gone up before Thanksgiving. I thought people who started decorating for Christmas as soon as their Halloween decor was jerked down were, well, just that: Jerks! I would look down my nose at them and shake my head.

Last year I was not in the mood for Christmas; not the commercial side of it. This year- half my shopping is finished, I’ve made the first batch of pralines, and Gesu Bambino just came out of my alto mouth, while I was unloading the dishwasher.

And now these Christmas trees -tinsel no less- one new, one vintage-have shown up in my farmhouse. I’ve heard of people going through a mid-life crises who will purchase out of character things: bass boat, motorcycle, sports car…new spouse, ahem!

For many years, only a real tree bought at a local tree farm adorned the little living room in another lifetime. That’s all there was room for; one tree. In my farmhouse, with nice big rooms, multiple trees can have a spot.

My youngest saw the trees today.

“Oh, brother!” he exclaimed. “You’ve become one of those people who rush Christmas.”

“No, they won’t be decorated till after Thanksgiving,” I defended my purchases and myself.

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Okay, so I did put a few bubble lights on the Shiny Brite tinsel tree from the mid-century. Please don’t judge. I’m having a Christmas mid-life crises.

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Certain Colors

What’s your favorite color? Mine used to be red. Since the kids’ school colors were American red, white, and blue, well I had a lot of clothes in all of those. Pink played a big part in my wardrobe, waybackwhen, before marriage and children.

Choosing paint colors for my farmhouse was daunting. I knew I didn’t want decorator beige.  Someone suggested white. I smiled and nodded; inwardly wrinkled my nose. Sure it goes with anything and everything, but boring? My, yes!

Opening up doorways and walls, made the living spaces flow into another.  The view goes from the front room all the way to the back sun porch. Choosing colors meant a scheme that would flow from room to room. But again, what color or colors to choose?

I thought of grey. Do you know how many greys there are? Hypothetical. You don’t need to try to answer. I looked at so many my eyes hurt. I decided to choose my colors by their names, words that spoke to me. Woodlawn Silverbrook/parlor/back bedroom; I graduated from Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge.

In the kitchen, dining room, living room Azure Snow graces the wall. The trim color everywhere is Snowcap White. So there- there is white- quite a bit actually.  Back in the kitchen, the granite countertops, a bargain from SandS Granite, are called Aspen. Azure Snow, Snowcap White, and Aspen all in the kitchen,  sounds cold, but it’s the warmest room in the house.

Blues have also shown up throughout my life and again in this old farmhouse. Journal Book colors the walls in the front bedroom and back sun porch. I’ve kept a journal my whole life. A legacy, I guess, for my sons when I’m gone. I should probably go through them and scratch out some entries…

Finds were unpacked back in January. They make me smile to see how well they fit into this new life.

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Colorful Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Furnishings

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.

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This is the way my room looked in June 2016.

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.

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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. 20180121_143809

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.20180121_144727

Worship this morning. Homemaking at noon. Being a landowner this afternoon.

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.

New Power

The 1950’s electrical panel was the best there was. Sixty years later, and circuit breakers getting temperamental, an upgrade is in order. New power for an old house.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is no more and the new life has begun.  Amen and amen!
So many people try to light their lives with old wiring. They prefer the familiar, because they are scared of the unknown. At least they know the probable outcome, even though it may not be good.
In the movie Chariots of Fire, Abrams is talking to his friend Aubrey. He tells him that he knows first hand the fear of losing, but he had come to the conclusion that he was more scared of winning. Abrams was afraid of the unknown. He had the strength and talent to win, but his past losses kept him from winning. The darkness in his head hindered his light from shining.
Abrams needed a new electrical panel, modern circuit breakers. Don’t we all? With Christ we have a new power. Hebrews 12:1 and tells us that since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of everything that hinders us and the sin that entangles us, and run the race set before us.
The old electrical panel hindered the lighting in my house. Dwelling on his past second place finishes hindered Abrams winning. Throw off the things that trip you up. Remember, if you are in Christ, you are a new creation.
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Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Forgiveness

Last day of 2016; it finally got here.

I can hear Ella Fitzgerald singing What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?  Well, to answer that, not a whole lot!

A morning of pampering myself, going to the hardware store, and then out to my house to discuss options with the gentleman refinishing 115 year old pine floors.

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Jimmy is on top of things out at my old farmhouse.

Took an informal poll on Facebook to see what others were having tomorrow for their New Year’s day dinner. Black eyed peas and cornbread was on everyone’s menu. The meat portion varied a bit, common theme being some dish of pork. Two Boston butts showed up in the running, however. Potato salad also appeared to make the list. I don’t think of potato salad during the cooler months – always think of it for the 4th of July. To round out everyone’s menu tomorrow,  the choice green is cabbage. 

My pampering started with making up a batch of my head to toe body scrub. Equal parts coconut oil and baking soda, a little sugar and lemon zest.

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I am also putting a rinse on my hair. My prerogative.  Am I vain? Maybe a little. But aren’t we all about something? Perfectly clean house, in the perfect neighborhood.  The perfect SUV, parked in the garage of that perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood. Ooh, I guess I’m judging now, but let’s face it,  some of you judged me because I color my hair. I forgive you.

Which is something I have learned to do this last year. Forgiving the one or ones who hurt you and do you dirt, is for your benefit more than it is theirs.   It is my duty as a Christian to forgive, but here’s something to chew on along with your New Year’s dinner: it’s not my ‘right’ to be forgiven.   Think about it for a while. I know people who throw out scripture about forgiveness and judging others,  but they never change, making it really hard to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t a one-and-done. We’re all human and ain’t nobody perfect, so we must  go back to the well of human kindness and pull up another bucket of forgiveness. Even if they have never asked, do forgive them anyway and then give them to God.

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Skillet corbread

What’s on our menu tomorrow? Pork chops (Mama’s request), cabbage,  black eyed peas, skillet cornbread, and stewed down apples.

Happy New Year!

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Rainy Weekend; Not Complaining

One chimney is out of the farm house. Friday sand mortar was shoveled into buckets and dumped into the driveway. The old bricks were thrown out a bedroom window: I’ll deal with them later- September, maybe. I kinda felt like Cinderella, cleaning out the old fireplace, until I saw the nest complete with mummified mouse! I screamed like a girly-girl!

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Saturday the rain drizzled off and on all day. Not complaining. We’ve had a two month drought and the rain was most welcomed. That morning also brought able hands to hang sheet rock in two bedrooms. I am so thankful they work cheap.  A slow cooker of chili, homemade cornbread and honey pralines were their payment.

The rain has continued. What to do on a rainy Sunday evening? With work, church activities and farm house renovations, I am up against the clock. But my family will be expecting Christmas cookies. The Hallmark Channel playing in the background, I busied myself in the kitchen.

I made two batches of cookie dough. Recipes on the back of toffee and chocolate chip bags are excellent and easy. Here’s a time saving tip: lightly coat big squares of parchment paper with vegetable spray, divide the batches of cookie dough onto the paper and press and roll the dough into logs. The vegetable spray keeps the cookie dough from sticking, of course. It’ll  be a sinch to remove the dough from the parchment, when it’s cookie baking time.

Mark the outside of the cookie dough rolls with precise descriptions of what is in the cookie dough. (I have a nephew with food allergies and I try to be very careful in what I make, when I know he will be coming to visit.)

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Five rolls of cookie dough went in the freezer for baking later in the month: Two Peanut Butter Heath Toffee and three Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip-sans nuts.

Christmas blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

I Got On the Pumpkin Bandwagon

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

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

Here’s the recipe and what to do:

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

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