Nashville New Years

We spent this fine New Year’s Day in Nashville, Tennessee. We went to Opry Mills Mall to Dave & Buster’s. While the family spent time on games, I parked myself at the bar in the center of the room and ordered a Stella Artois. I sat there and scrolled through my Facebook and Instragram feeds to see how everyone else was celebrating New Year’s.

DaveBusters

The mall was far too crowded so we just walked around a bit then left after our trip to Dave & Buster’s. Seems like everyone in Nashville showed up at Opry Mills!

Now I am making my goals list in my journal for 2016. I still had things on my 2015 list that weren’t accomplished so I brought those over to 2016. Perhaps I will have a really productive year.

Dogs of Christmas

We didn’t have a white Christmas this year. In fact, we’ve really only ever had one in my lifetime. Christmas week was warm and stormy. There were numerous tornadoes across our area of the South but fortunately we didn’t have any too close to our home. I feel just awful for the families here in north Mississippi who suffered the devastation of tornadoes during the past week.

My dogs simply hate thunder, lightening, and storms. One of them will let us put a shirt on him and that calms him down somewhat. The other dog, Max, will just require lots of hugs and holding him close until the thunder stops. Here they are on a stormy evening:

Christmas Dogs

Otherwise, we had a great Christmas with lots of family over for dinner and visiting.

Mississippi Morning Mist

This morning I stepped out onto my balcony to take a photo of the beautiful morning. There was a mist hovering just in the tops of the trees and the air felt so good. I can just start to smell a hint of autumn in the air even though the trees are still dressed in their summer greens.

morning mist

The sun wasn’t up yet past the trees so the photo looks dark. Mornings are my favorite time of the day. I can stand on the balcony and look out at the forest and anticipate the start of another wonderful day. Hopefully it will be a wonderful day!

morning donkey

Our donkey was up and loping around this morning. He hee-hawed at me when he saw me standing on the balcony. Our backyard meets the edge of his pasture which slopes sharply down to a flat area with a pond. The donkey is such a big pet. He demands attention when he spots anyone in the yard plus he actually makes a good watch-dog because he alerts us when anyone comes onto the property.

Sunrise

The days are getting noticeably shorter as summer winds down and I am perfectly ok with that. I have never liked summer. The heat. The bugs. The snakes! The constant mowing of the yard.

Autumn and winter are my times. I feel like I can breathe better with the cooler air. I have more energy and purpose. I get more things done around the house and yard without the heat dragging me down.

This morning the air was in the cool upper 50’s and I stepped out onto my balcony to capture the sunrise coming through the trees. Our neighbors clear-cut the trees off their property to the east of us so the sunrise is clearer even though I have an entire forest on my land to filter the sunlight.

Here on Dancing Rabbit Hill farm the persimmons are beginning to ripen as well as the wild muscadines. And the acorns are starting to drop off the trees so we’ll hear that sound for months as the acorns hit the tin roof on the barn and sound like a gunshot.

McCall House Novella

I recently completed writing McCall House, a novella with recipes included. I got the idea for this story in a small town in Texas where I once lived. There was an old abandoned funeral home in the town that was the scene of a murder and that sparked my imagination for the story that became McCall House. Since the main character is a chef, I have included recipes in most of the chapters for the food and drinks mentioned in the book.

You can now get a copy of McCall House on Kindle. The printed version of the book will be out next week. Click on the image below to purchase on Kindle.

The book description for McCall House:

McCall House is a novella about a Scottish family who came to live in Texas in the late 1800’s and built a beautiful mansion that was cherished by generations. But McCall House was beset with tragedy when several family members died violent deaths. The surviving son of the family, Toby McCall, closes the house for two decades until he is approached by a business seeking to purchase the property. Events lead to a new life for McCall House and for Toby who is a famous chef. Recipes are included for many of the dishes mentioned in McCall House.

Turkish Coffee

This past weekend we were in Paducah, Kentucky. I was looking for a new coffee shop to try since I am always on the lookout for great coffee.

In the old CocaCola bottling plant I found Pipers Tea & Coffee. It is a cute little coffee shop tucked into the side of the historic building. The staff was friendly and the coffee smelled delicious even outside the building.

I spotted Turkish coffee on the menu and decided to give it a try. Turkish coffee has long been on my coffee radar but I’ve never gotten around to trying it. Now I am so glad I did!

Turkish coffee at Pipers

Their Turkish coffee is made with cardamom which gives it just that little spicy kick. They hand brew this with an artisan touch and I found it to be the best cup of coffee I have ever tasted. I even went back on Sunday morning for another cup. I can’t say enough good things about this coffee and the staff who brews it. Just excellent!

Turkish coffee is not for the faint of heart. It is rich, bold and comes with a thick sludge in the bottom of the cup. But if you love rich coffee then this might just be a great drink for you to try. And if you find yourself in Paducah, check out Pipers at 3121 Broadway Street.

New Orleans

We went to Louisiana last week to visit one of my best friends. We hung out in her small town a couple of days then drove down to New Orleans which is a couple of hours from her house.

When I visit New Orleans, the first place I head to is the St. Louis Cathedral. It’s old-world beauty is the center for all the lovely architecture that surrounds the French Quarter. The sidewalks in front of the cathedral are typically crowded with artists and street performers but at the time of morning I snapped this photo, it was calm and almost deserted.

We ate tasty food and shopped in the Quarter which has a very good assortment of small local-owned businesses like antique stores and of course, voodoo shops and vampire stores. The only downside was the heat. I knew it would be bad because July in New Orleans is HOT and HUMID. By afternoon we sought refuge in the cool air-conditioning of the Riverside mall along with crowds of other tourists.

It was a fun day trip but I think the next time I visit will be late fall when the weather is cooler. I should be accustomed to the heat having lived in the South my entire life but it still gets to me.

I Survived the Holidays!

I survived the Christmas holidays and we are now halfway through January. I packed away the Christmas decorations this week and swept up all the debris left from the Christmas tree shedding. I made my goals list for 2015 and hope to complete everything on that list. Some years it seems like I barely accomplish anything on my big list despite the fact that I am always busy.

This gifts I received this year were very thoughtful and intentional. I tried to be that way also when I was buying for my family and friends. I did not want to buy gifts just to be able to hand someone a wrapped present and fulfill my gift-giving obligations. I wanted to give useful yet mindful gifts. And this seemed to be the year of books as I bought books for almost everyone on my list. You can rarely go wrong with books!

One of my favorite gifts to receive myself was this beer mug:

It is made of pewter and really does keep beer colder. I also received a large batch of random craft beers as a gift and I have been happily sampling my way through them since Christmas. This mug also develops a flavor profile because you first wash it thoroughly, then fill with beer and leave on the counter overnight. Dump the beer and then rinse the mug. It is ready to use after that and you don’t wash it with soap and water anymore. Just rinse thoroughly after each use.

Each time you use this mug, you fill it with ice cubes and let it sit a few minutes. Dump the ice cubes and fill with beer. The beer stays far colder than in a conventional glass or pottery mug. So I’ve been happy with my new beer mug and I can highly recommend it to other beer drinkers out there.

Smoky Mountain Visit

Last weekend we went to the Smoky Mountains to see the fall colors. We stayed at a cabin along the river in Cherokee, North Carolina where we were simply immersed in fall color. This was the view from the front porch of our cabin in the mornings:

At the higher elevations the peak fall color was already past but along the road between Cherokee, North Carolina and Gatlinburg, Tennessee there were some achingly beautiful places. We kept pulling over onto roadside stops to admire waterfalls tumbling down over the rocks of the mountain. We even took our shoes off and waded around in the freezing cold water of a creek that ran beside the road.

One morning I captured this shot of the mountains.

That white strip in the far background is fog in one of the valleys.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I love the German tradition of kuchen (cake) and coffee in the afternoons. Here is my classic Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs to incorporate. Add sour cream and vanilla. Mix well and set aside.

In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture.

In a small bowl combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts.

Place half of the batter in the bundt cake pan. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the batter. Then pour the remainder of the batter over the nut mixture.

Place in oven and bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Invert onto a serving plate and cool. You can also top this cake with powdered sugar once it has cooled.

Serves 8-10.