Moving Day!

movingIt’s finally here. There is still so much to do, but we need to be out of this condo by the end of the month, so I stayed up packing until 1 a.m. I decided to get up sometime after 6 this morning to finish on the packing, because the movers will be knocking on the door by 8. Eeek! Unfortunately, ended up running out of boxes this morning, so I pretty much have been throwing everything in black trash bags. There is one big mound of bags in the corner of the room and I fear an avalanche is coming.

One bad part of this move is most of our stuff is scattered in several locations; either here at the condo, a warehouse unit in town or across town at another building. This move will probably take the majority of the day just gathering up our furnishings and belonging. So, let me go let the movers in and get started. I’ll keep you updated.

When Life gives you lemons….

Well, I just made a nice cold pitcher of lemonade. Why don’t you pour yourself a glass and sit a spell while I fill you in on the progress of the construction on our farmhouse.

In one of my earliest posts, I mentioned that the whole move out to the country and building of a farmhouse was going to be an interesting ride, and I wasn’t too wrong with that assumption. It’s not good news that I have to share, but in the beginning, I did say that I wanted to take you along for this journey, so I need to keep you in the loop.

You hear all the time of wrong-doings happening to other people but you never think those things will happen to you. Well, it did. The progress of the house was moving along just fine. It is about 75% complete but over the Thanksgiving holidays we were notified by the bank handling our construction loan that our contractor/builder had filed for bankruptcy. What? That is not something you want to hear.  He has disappeared and is not returning our phone calls.

To make matters worse, he was collecting his construction draws (money) from our bank, but not paying his vendors or subcontractors. Apparently, he didn’t pay anyone. Now his vendors and subcontractors are coming after us and filing “liens” on our house. What a mess. Never a dull moment for us!

Of course, the construction on the house has come to a complete stop. We had to retain a lawyer and hope to resolve this problem soon. This is not the progress I was hoping to share. The holidays are here and it is nearly Christmas. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. However, I don’t want to dwell on our grief.  We will just keep our chins up, try to laugh at this bad situation and hope to be able to move on from it soon. That’s really all we can do.

We do consider ourselves fortunate for even having the opportunity to build a farmhouse for our family to enjoy and realize that there are plenty of people who have it worse than us. So let’s all just smile, sit back and enjoy our lemonade.  After all…that’s all we can do!

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Why are country dirt roads…well umh, so dirty?

post3This is a picture of the back road to our property. For years, we have been driving back and forth to take care of the horses at the farm or tend to the property.  Driving the back roads to get there has taken more of a toll on my car more than I’ve realized.  The front tires are all out of alignment and I constantly have mud dried to the bottom of my car. The car is really not that old, only by a few years, but you wouldn’t believe the small fortune I’ve spent on car washes and detailing and there is still always a few layers of dust covering the front dash-board.

Even so, I have to admit there is something about an old winding dirt road that is so inviting. Have you ever driven down an old highway and seen a very long wooded drive way so obscure that you can’t see all the way down it? The mystery of what is at the end of that long driveway just drives your curiosity crazy. At least it does mine and I find them to be intriguing. Having it clearly marked “Private Property. No Trespassing” makes it even more alluring, don’t you think?  “C’mon people, what are you hiding?  What don’t you want us to see?”   Those are the things I shout in the car with all the windows rolled up.  Never said I was that brave, wouldn’t want to risk them actually hearing me and thinking that I was some type of nosey neighbor.  That would be the furthest from the truth, but I sure wouldn’t mind it a bit if they wanted to invite me down that long winding driveway to come sit a spell on their porch and sip iced tea.

For a long time now, when trying to give anyone directions to our farm, post2we always start off by saying, “take a right and drive the paved road until it turns to a dirt road, stay on the dirt road and drive about another mile and our property is to your left”. Dirt roads are very common for country living, I guess. It wasn’t until the first of this month that the county finally decided to at least gravel our road. I didn’t know that I could get so excited about a little gravel but it made a huge difference. My car still stays dusty and muddy but since the road was improved you can actually make out the paint color in some spots and I don’t mind.

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgivings and there is always lots to do to prepare for such a sizable meal.  I, too, like so many of you are probably getting up early to kick off the preparations needed to cook this feast.  There will be chopping, sauteing, boiling and baking….oh! my!  It is all a race against time from the minute you wake up until the time the entire family finally sits down to eat.  At that point, what ever didn’t get cooked just gets left off the menu and I say, Let’s all enjoy and Eat Up!

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This meal was Not cooked by me. I only wish mine looked this good.

Because this isn’t just a normal meal to be scarfed down, oh, no.  This meal is more of an event where everyone should enjoy the company, the conversation and all the good cooked dishes.   Ignore the fact that you probably didn’t get to sit where you wanted, or that while sitting at this crowded table you are having to straddle the table leg and are forced to sit in mix matched chairs that are so uncomfortable that people only pull them out once a year.  Overlook the fact that uncle Earl will not stop talking long enough for you to ask him to, “please pass the gravy,”  before it’s all gone, or that great-aunt Rose was late again, so you have to rehash all the table talk she missed so you can catch her up.  And, again (just like last year) they run out of forks and you are forced to eat your entire meal with only a spoon.  Simply smile and know that this “event” only happens once a year and try to enjoy yourself.  It all makes for some really great memories!

With the holidays approaching, that only means one thing to my family.  We are now starting to count the weeks, not months, until the completion of our farmhouse.  There is so much more for me to do as far as selecting finishes, paints, fabrics, you name it.  We really need to be in the house by the end of the year.  My anxiety is growing, but I will keep you updated on the progress.  Wishing everyone a great Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays.

Have you ever tasted Mississippi Mud?

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MIssissippi Mud Cake.  As a little girl growing up in the South, big family dinners every Sunday would include your cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. You never really knew exactly what dish a person might bring, but you knew one thing; there was going to be lots of home-baked goods. No matter what else was served, I always looked forward to dessert.  We would have yummy frosted cakes, fruit pies, cookies and brownies. I loved them all and still do!.

I remember one Sunday dinner (not sure how old I was) when my out-of-town aunt came to visit.  She brought a large luscious looking chocolate cake. Being a lover of anything chocolate, my eyes grew wide when I walked in to Grandma’s house and saw it sitting up on the sideboard usually reserved for desserts.  At the time, I didn’t know the official name of this spectacular dish, but I knew that I had to have a piece. The dessert was called; Mississippi Mud Cake. It’s not a grandiose type of cake because it is usually served directly out of the pan it was baked in.  No need for a fancy cake platter.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of tasting this cake, you need to know that it is very rich and sweet with a gooey chocolate texture made with marshmallows and pecans. It’s not a neat treat; the fudgy chocolate pours out onto your plate as you are served. It is sinfully delicious and I must be diligent and limit my serving to one then take a break and think long and hard before having a second serving in order to avoid a sugar rush.

All good Southern cooks have some version or another of a Mississippi Mud Cake, sometimes referred to as Mississippi Mud Pie.   It is a fairly simple recipe that mixes basic ingredients including all-purpose flour, cocoa, sugar, eggs, butter, and lots of butter, pecans and marshmallows. This cake is not intended to be fluffy, rather it is a densely chocolate sheet cake, lightened with melted chocolate, marshmallows and pecans.  Once baked, it often resembles a deluxe frosted brownie.

My curiosity was peaked as to the name Mississippi Mud cake and I searched the internet to find who was the first to create this cake and why the name Mississippi Mud. First, I learned that no one actually “creates” recipes, good recipes evolve over time. Passed down from generation to generation, each person puts their own twist on the recipe. From what I gathered, this dessert took off in popularity in the 1970’s and is believed to have come to life in domestic kitchens with cooks eager to use the new packaged ingredients that were starting to get mass-produced, such as miniature marshmallows. Some people felt the dark chocolate appearance of the fudge-like batter and chunky texture resembled the banks of the muddy Mississippi River, thus the name Mississippi Mud.

Although my sister makes a really good Mississippi Mud Cake, I wanted to see what other recipes were out there that I could make with a little variety.  Browsing through my Southern Living magazines, I found an article titled, “Mississippi Mud Madness”. Apparently there are all kinds of ways you can use the same ingredients and put a twist on this cake. The article suggested several options, such as Mississippi Mud cupcakes, Mississippi Mud Brownies, Mississippi Mud Cookies and even a Mississippi Mudslide. They all looked delicious, but I opted to try the cookies.MScookie2

The Mississippi Mud Cookies turned out to be fairly simple to make and were a big hit with my family.  Definitely would recommend trying them.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with an old classic recipe and put your own personal touch on it. You never know what new recipe your could create with very little effort.

The following is the recipe that I used.  Give it a try to let me know if you liked them as much as we did.  ingred

Mississippi Mud Cookies

 Ingredients

  • Chocolate Cookie
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Chocolate Frosting
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Chocolate Cookie

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer or large bowl using a hand mixer, blend the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla and eggs. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and blend until combined.

Drop the dough by tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets, 12 cookies per sheet, and bake 9- 10 minutes. Once you have baked it about 9-10 minutes, pull out pan and add 6-8 miniature marshmallows to each cookie, you can gently press in if they fall out, but really you shouldn’t need to do that much. The cookies are so hot the marshmallows stick right to them. Then stick back in the oven for 1 more minute. Remove and immediately sprinkle 1 tablespoon or more (depends on your taste) of pecans onto the marshmallows, you will need to gently press these in, gently! Then set aside and allow to cool on a baking rack.

Once cool remove and make frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

In a medium mixing bowl, add powder sugar and vanilla, set aside. Then in a small sauce pan combine first 3 ingredients and heat over medium. Stir constantly, about 3-4 minutes or until butter melts. Remove from heat, and pour into powdered sugar and vanilla, stir (using a whisk is best) until smooth.

Using a spoon, drizzle large amounts of frosting on each cookie, about 1- 1 ½ tablespoons. Dress all the cookies and if there is extra frosting, add more too each one. Let frosting cool and harden before serving.   (recipe from http://www.dashofsanity.com)