Miss Mary Mac’s Tea Room Mac and Cheese



Ok, so I have had a lot of requests for this recipe.  I originally fell in love with the mac and cheese at Miss Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta.  Seriously delicious, so this is my take on the recipe.  I’ve been making it for at least ten years now so it’s changed a little, but the basics are all the same.  I’ve never really written it down so please bare with me! I warn you all, there is nothing low fat or healthy about this one.  Just pure unadulterated delicious cheesy custardy goodness that will put you in a carb coma!


1/2 large box Macaroni noodle of your choice

6 cups water


1/4 cup flour

2-3 cups of milk

1/2-1 cup of heavy cream

1/2 stick of butter

ground white pepper

hot sauce

3 or 4 eggs

boat load of cheddar cheese (around 5/6 cups)

Boil your noodles in water with a dash of salt, about 10 minutes or so.  Strain and let strain while you make your Rue.  There is more of an art to a good Rue so this is the tricky part.

Put 1/4 cup of flour into a sauce pan.  Add about 1 cup of milk.  Put your heat on medium high/high, stir really well so that the flour and milk form a paste of sorts.  This is the part where you are cooking the flour, but you don’t want to burn it to the bottom of your pan.  So add more milk if you need it.  The consistency of your milk should become very thick, almost as thick as a good yogurt. At this point you want to add the remainder of your milk to the pan.  Keeping the heat medium.  The goal is now to get your milk at that similar consistency.  Bring your milk to a low boil, keep stirring or it will go over the sides.  Now turn the heat to low.  You will do this boil, simmer process around three times.  Can’t remember the exact cooking term for this, but it is an important step.  Add dash or more of white pepper, a couple of drops of hot sauce, and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.


Now in a separate bowl, beat your eggs until they are light yellow in color.  The next thing you will do is take a small measuring cup full of the milk mixture and beat it into the eggs.  This is tempering the eggs, so that when you add it to the milk, you don’t have scrambled eggs.  After then eggs are tempered (warm) then add the egg mixture to your milk mixture (with the pan off the heat).


In a medium sized casserole dish, spray with non-stick spray and add a handful of shredded cheese.  Top with your strained noodles and mix the cheese and noodles together.   Now take your milk custard (by the way that is what your milk and egg mixture is now) and pour over your noodle and cheese mixture.  I always mix up the noodles and custard to be sure that it’s evenly spread.  Next top with all of your cheddar cheese.


I typically will prepare the mac and cheese the day before I bake it.  I am not really sure why, but the custard always seems to set faster/better when I do this.  So wrap the casserole dish in tin foil and put in the fridge.

Bake at 350 degree oven for anywhere from 20-40 minutes.  You want the custard to set. i.e. when you shake the dish, you don’t see a lot of liquid custard, but it jiggles like Jello.  🙂

Your welcome and don’t forget I warned you! Don’t expect to do much of anything after a good serving of this!  Up next on my prep menu… aNut Davetta’s Sweet Potato Casserole!


Happy Thanksgiving!



The BEST Turkey Brine Recipe…


So it’s here, Thanksgiving is tomorrow and preparation is in full force.  For the last several years I have been testing out various brining recipes.  Last year, I came across this one.  It either came from one of about three sources.  My co-worker Adam, The Pioneer Woman, or Southern Living.  I hand wrote the recipe and I didn’t write the source down, so my sincere apologies, as I always like to give the original source.  Without further adieu.

Brine for Turkey

2 gallons of water (give or take)

3 cups apple cider ( I probably use more apple cider than water – about 3/4 of a gallon)

2 cups packed brown sugar

3/4 cup salt (I use sea salt)

3 tablespoons tricolor peppercorns

5 whole bay leaves

5 cloves garlic, minced

Peel of 3 large oranges, cut into large strips (I just slice the oranges into whole slices and use the orange pulp and peel)

4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped off

1 turkey

Combine water, cider, brown sugar, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, orange strips, and rosemary in a large pot.  Stir until salt and sugar are fully dissolved.  Bring to a boil them turn off and cover.  Cool completely.  If you are like we are, put your pot on your back porch.  It’s cold enough out there to be a second fridge.  After the brine is completely cool, put your turkey in.  In my case, my pot was not that large, so, take a cooler, put in your bird, then pour over his cold brine bath.  Let turkey bath for 16 to 24 hours.

Before cooking, rise and submerge turkey in a pot of cold water and let sit for 15/20 minutes.  Last year I am pretty sure that I skipped the let sit part, I am pretty sure that I just washed him off and then seasoned with a little butter and put him in the oven.

Then stuff/cook/do whatever you will with your bird.  We will be roasting our lil’ “punkin” as Addison has named her this year.  I will try to remember to post some photos of the after on Instagram, so follow along.

I will also be making the Southern Living, Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie again this year.  Depending on how the day goes, I will hopefully get that recipe up here as well!


Travel safely friends and enjoy your time with friends and family!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Travel Essentials: Air Travel with a Toddler….

I know the title of this post may be a joke to some.  After all who in their right mind would travel with a toddler?  It could be the equivalent of traveling with a pack of monkey’s.  I know there is another post out there that helps “prepare” expecting parents for parenthood that also makes this comparison.  I may be a glutton for punishment; but I also love to see my family and friends.  It is most economical and time saving for us to travel via plane from DC to Charleston, South Carolina.  So this week A and I will be traveling solo from DCA to CHS, and yes, prayers are welcomed.  I’ve taken this trip solo many times and I can say without a doubt it’s HARD WORK!   If you have an infant, GO, you have NO IDEA how nice you have it! (i.e. not for lack of sleep but the fact that your child is not mobile!!)  If you have a toddler, PREPARE!  I have always been that mom that had the diaper bag full of what if’s.  As A has grown, so has my knowledge and experience on what you really need and what can stay at home.  So today I am sharing with you my Essentials for traveling via plane with a Toddler.

Travel Essentials1. A GOOD, no GREAT travel/umbrella stroller.  I opted for the UppaBaby G-lite version for A.  Mostly because it was an insanely good deal.  Tip for all stroller purchases, just like cars, shop the season/model year end sale.  I purchased the outgoing year model from BuyBuy Baby last fall.  It has been a GODSEND!  Super easy to open and close, light, has built in carrying strap, and the turn radius on this puppy is AMAZING!  We also have the UppaBaby Vista stroller and I did take that when A was really little. The downside to the Vista was that you have to take the wheels off the stroller to fit it through security screening.  While it is quite easy to take the wheels off, it is an un-necessary added complication, when trying to get one-self through security line, without shoes and a baby. So yes, two strollers are really justified!

A little side tip someone gave me:  If your toddler/infant is sitting up but not walking.  Take one gray security bin and put your baby/infant in said bin and slide it along the floor while you are trying to stack everything on the belt.  It will contain baby and you don’t have to put them on the floor.  Just realize that your child will be exposed to the floor of various public spaces on this day and yes they will survive. Not much you can sanely do to prevent that.  Just make sure to wash hands before eating and just think of all the ways you are improving their overall immune system! 🙂

2.  A Gate Check Bag – I decided on the J.L. Childress Version of the Umbrella Gate Check Bag.   So you’ve invested in a good/GREAT travel/umbrella stroller, now you should probably give it some protection.  Let’s face it, the wonderful staff that helps load and unload baggage does a good job majority of the time. Why not help contain and protect your stroller and make their job a little easier?  This lightweight and collapsible bag is terrific at protecting the stroller and easy to carry to the end of the gate. Most airlines are pretty accommodating to parents traveling alone with kids.

3.  Motion sickness Medicine – Bonine.  I get motion sick. That is all.

4. Car Seat Check-Bag Carrier – We chose the J.L Childress version to house our Britax car seat. One the joys of traveling with your child is that they will let you check a car seat with no-charge.  So see comment above about the great staff that loads and unloads, but again a lot can happen when you are dealing with conveyer belts and luggage moving, etc.  Car seats are no-kidding an investment, so you really should protect it.  This version is awesome, it is padded to protect your seat and has a large set of straps (like a book bag) so that you can carry your car seat, luggage, all while pushing a stroller. Yes, you will look ridiculous, but let’s face it you probably will already have throw up/milk/apple sauce on your shirt/pants/hair/face.  So what is a giant book-bag/car seat carrier going to do to your “look”?

Another side note:  So we all know what is one of the heaviest items in your checked bag?  DIAPERS and WIPES!  They are of course essential unless your little one is potty trained. A little trick I learned when I got to the airport and our bag was over the 50 pound limit.  Take the diapers and wipes and stash them in the car seat bag.  You are welcome.

5.  Dress in comfy layers.  I plan to wear my favorite Zara soft wrap huge scarf! I will share one funny story of my last trip with A.  I can laugh now, but during the voyage, there was not a lot of laughing.  DCA to Charleston, learned that I was getting a very cheap upgrade to First Class.  I was traveling with a lap child (A was under 2).  I thought I was going to have it made.  I am not a tiny girl and the thought of having more space, especially since, I would have a 1.5 year old on my lap, sounded like HEAVEN!  Boarded the plane, only two of us in First Class, had A strapped into the seat next to me.  Then HELL opened up.  The flight was over-booked and they started seating people in First Class.  Ok, well that wasn’t the end of the world, because I would still have plenty of space.  Tantrum one occurred.  A did not want to leave her seat and sit on mommy’s lap.  A very nice young lady sat next to me, I think she was probably college aged and was very amenable to the tantrum.  I apologized profusely, my child had never really thrown a tantrum until this moment.  Finally calmed A down and got her interested in a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode I downloaded on her my Kindle Fire (see #7).  We take off, A is not bothered by the take off, so I think we are in the clear for the hour and a half flight.  Boy was I wrong!  About thirty minutes into the flight, a rather large lady in front of me, turned and asked if I wouldn’t mind sending my daughter on the floor under her seat to look for the cell phone she dropped.  I had to pick my jaw off the floor. I of course said no but was secretly saying something to the effect of: No CRAZY WOMAN,  I am not sending my toddler, who just finally calmed down from a tantrum, that you most certainly heard and made smarky comments that you thought I didn’t hear, on the floor to look for your cell phone.  I mean really?  Tanturm two began…. Let’s just say, I offered to purchase drinks on me, but thankfully the stewardess was really helpful i.e. we were in First Class.  I kept apologizing as the tantrum really didn’t end until the end of the flight.  So my public service announcement is this.  One, let sleeping dogs lie.  If you see a parent traveling with a small child and that child is behaving, don’t try to help or ask them to do anything stupid.   Two, If you see a parent whose child is having a tantrum, don’t necessarily blame the parent.  Tanturms are not always caused by action, but rather lack of understanding and communication.  Just say a prayer for that parent who is going through their own personal HELL at that moment.  Three,  dress in layers.  It could be 10 degrees outside and you want to be warm, but it is amazing how you can go from freezing to sweating in a matter of seconds, especially if you are traveling with a small child.  🙂

6.  Get a good Cross Body Bag – I am sorry I cannot embrace the new fanny pack trend, dispite their complete function.  But a good large cross-body bag will do the trick.  I have a bag very similar to this HoBo Bag.  It’s large enough to carry wallet, cell phone, tissues, wipes, diaper, snacks, etc. etc. etc.

7. Kindle Fire  preloaded with your child’s favorite shows/movies and few good games/apps.  We do not let A use the Kindle Fire unless we are traveling.  I try to reserve this for “special occasions” so it’s novelty does not wear off and she is really interested in it AKA occupied throughout the whole travel process.  Ours is uploaded with Frozen, Madagascar Two (which she calls, Dat Dat Dadda Dadda Dat Dat – AFRO CIRCUS) Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Sophia The First Episodes, it also has Doc McStuffins app and a couple of drawing apps.

8. Kid Bookbag – This is where all of her stuff will go.  I try to make her feel as much like a big girl and part of the planning and packing for our adventure. It is small enough to fit into the basket of her stroller and small enough that if I have to carry it along with A, then it’s not that bad.  She has a few but her favorite at the moment is her Owl from Skip Hop.

So these are just the essentials that work for me.  Don’t worry, I still travel with my be-prepared motto, but manage to keep all of that in the Checked-Bag.  I’ve found that Ms. A feeds off my energy when traveling.  If I start getting anxious, which I do flying anyway, then she starts to get anxious and the tantrums ensue.  So keep calm momma’s and daddy’s and realize that this is just a part of your journey and hopefully your destination will be worth all of the hassle and unpleasantness of the getting there part.

With all of this said, please say a little prayer for us, the flight crew, the security crew, the fellow passengers on our flight to CHS Thursday!  For me the destination and the friends and family are definitely worth the hassle and unpleasantness of getting there.  Just think of the alternative, 8+ hours in a car with a screaming toddler.  No, thank you.  You can do just about anything for an hour and a half. Also, if your little one is acting out, a really nice, but not required gesture is to offer a drink to your neighbors, it lets them know that you recognize that you feel their pain.  Just remember, someone is always fighting a different battle than you.   I try to live my life with the motto, you get more with honey!  Life is too short!


Happy and Safe Travels,


Four Years in and here’s what I’ve learned….

So yesterday, my dear husband and I celebrated our Fourth Wedding Anniversary.  We’ve been together for seven years, married four and have a two year old.  We have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.  It has been a challenge but is very rewarding.  Like anything in life, marriage is not easy.  It is like a plant (no pun intended) that needs nurturing and work to make it grow.  I am not claiming to be an expert on marriage, as I really don’t think that exists.  Every marriage is different and unique and it is up to the two people who are in it, to determine what their definition of success is.

Here are a couple of key components that make my marriage a success.  Respect, love and laughter.  Let’s face it, life with a toddler is rough on marriages.  You have to balance your couple time with your family time.  This is something we are still working out. On a recent day home without our two year old, we were reminded that not only do we need alone time to charge our batteries, we also need alone time as a couple to charge our marriage batteries.  So just a couple of photos from the last seven years to say Thank You!  You support me in all sorts of ways, and I am forever grateful for that!   I am a very lucky lady and we live a beautiful life, sometimes you just need a little refresher!  I love you Nick!


So this takes us back to the beginning, our second date to be exact… Nick took me to Shelton Vineyards in NC for a day trip to the vineyard.  It was a magical day!


The first rescue event that I did with Nick.  Nick volunteered for Southern Siberian Rescue while we lived in Raleigh.  It is an amazing group and where he got his fur-baby Chloe!  Since moving to DC area he now volunteers with Pet Harbor, another great rescue that helps dogs and cats find their forever homes!  If you are considering getting a pet, I highly recommend any rescue.  They know their dogs, as they have been in foster homes and can help you find a perfect match to your families needs.


So as a southern gal, it’s a big deal when you bring a guy home for the holidays.  This was our first Christmas together and I brought him home to Charleston to meet my Mom and crazy GA family!  I loved sharing my home town with Nick.


Our first anniversary of dating, ahhh we were so young!


Our wedding day, November 13, 2010, photo by Emily Alane Photography


Our first anniversary, Florence, Italy…


A couple of months before our second anniversary, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day, yes, I labored on Labor Day) Little Ms A arrived.


Our first holiday as a family of three, 2012 photo by Emily Alane Photography



June 2013, our first BIG purchase together….


Holidays, 2013, photo by Emily Alane Photography


Rare date night together this summer…


Holiday’s 2014… photo by Emily Alane


One Room Challenge – Final Reveal


Well here we are and we can all breathe a sigh of relief, right?  The time has come for the big reveal of my renovated/completed Living Room as part of the One Room Challenges TM Linking Event. The last six weeks have been interesting. I’ve gone from being super motivated to complete a space that has been sitting in various states of disarray for the last year and a half, to being completely unmotivated and wrapped up in life. I am happy to say, that I have a complete room that I am very thrilled with. Thank you all for your kind words of support and most of all thank you to Linda at Calling it Home for coming up with this amazing concept called the One Room Challenge TM. There have been some super talented people participating this year in both the sponsored group and the linking group! Be sure to check them all out! Feel free to take a peak back at my journey these six weeks.

Week One: The Plan
Week Two: Productivity
Week Three: Procrastination
Week Four: The Freak Out
Week Five: Go Time
Week Six: The Big Reveal

So without further adieu…..

I give you the before….

 Living Room BEFORE

Keep in mind that the furnishings all belong to the previous owner, so no negative comments please.  But this is the view standing in the dining room, looking down into the living room.  We had a 7″ step down that had an ugly dated banister dividing the space.  So, here we go with the after….




This is for all of you who were on TEAM MAGENTA…. I decided to photograph the space both ways to see how I liked it.  Well, it adds interest, but also weight, which being an inside townhome in Alexandria, you crave natural light.  So anything that took away from that, regardless of how it really started to grow on me, pushed it to the return category.  Don’t worry, I will still be on the search for that perfect lilac/mauve/magenta fabric to make some custom panels.  So until then, my STRIPE neutrals will go back up.



Another BEFORE

BEFORE view into the dining room....

This is the view standing in the living room, looking back at the dining room.  You can really see the whole space and the possibilities here.  So down the banister went and opened up the floor plan for multiple options of furniture placement.  If you have followed me through this journey you will remember my affinity to symmetry.  There are lots of different versions of symmetry, but I am a traditionalist in that sense and crave the balanced symmetry!


So I didn’t officially renovate much of anything in my dining room, I do have plans to replace the table and chairs (inherited in my marriage) as well as replace the light fixture.  In the meantime the chairs got a refresh with the fabulous Charcoal Dot’s fabric by Domesticate!  LOVE IT and they really tie the two spaces together nicely.

 The Details…


My secondary focal wall was important to me.  I have a great focal wall with the fireplace but it was really important to me that you have a great view no matter where you are sitting in the space.  I changed up my original gallery per say, trading out a large white platter, for the amazing gilded angel wings.


The AMAZING Leopard Lumbar Pillows are from the super awesome Betsy at Little Design Co!  My crazy fun throw back to my original Ibis Lamps, the Tallon candlestick, is from Furbish Studio, a wonderful shop in Raleigh, NC. The prints on the focal wall are from the uber talented Charleston artist, Lulie Wallace.  The gilded Angel Wings are from Ballard Designs.


A little nod to all of my Meredith College Avenging Angels out there!



So I decided that I liked the original finish on the coffee table I ordered from Ballard Designs. I am still sticking to my words, they need to open a storefront here in the DC Metro Area!!


I got super lucky with the light on photo shoot day!  However, I didn’t want to interrupt his nap time!  The white and black pillows are made with the fabric Charcoal Dots from one of my favorite textile designers, Andrea and her company Domesticate!  You can find all of her fabulous designs on Spoonflower.
















Ok, so you’ve asked and here it is….


 Living Room Paint Color: Ellie Gray, Sherwin Williams

Dining Room Paint Color: Palladian Blue, Benjamin Moore

Braided Jute Area Rug

Durham Coffee Table

Blue Slipper Chairs

Leopard Lumbar Pillows: Little Design Co

Faux Sheepskin Hide

Gray Linen Sofa

Charcoal Dots Throw Pillows: Domesticate via Spoonflower

Pink and Blue Ikat Dot Pillows: Stein Mart

Zebra Linen Pillow: Stein Mart

White & Gold Round Side Table: Target

Tallon Candlestick

Carved Wood Basket

Mirror & Gold Round Tray:  TJ Maxx

Mercury Glass Votives: Anthropologie

Blue Ginger Jar

Flowers: Safeway

Blue and White Metal Tray: One Kings Lane

Coffee Service Set

Black and Tan Baskets

Artwork Prints: Lulie Wallace

Gold Artwork Frames: Michaels

Round Dinner Plates

Gilded Angel Wings

Black and Gold Lamps

Silver Bamboo Floor Lamp: Pier One Imports

Off white Cabinet

Kids White Table

Kids Whicker Chairs: Ikea

Large Tilt Mirror: NC State Flea Market Mirror Man

Black/Cream/Gray Striped Drapery Panels:  Fabric G Street Fabrics

Drapery Hardware: Overstock.com

Matchstick Woven Roman Shades: Home Decorators Collection for Home Depot

Boxwood Topiaries: Home Goods

Sunburst Mirror: Ballard Designs

Driftwood Frames: Michaels

Dining Room

Rectangular Decorative Tiles – Black and White : Sid Dickens

Zebra Bust: Anthropologie

Wedding Portraits: Emily Alane Photography

Wedding Portrait Frames: Michaels

So there you have it.  It’s been over a year and a half in the making, collecting, searching, purchasing, re-purchasing, minor demo but it is complete and I’ve got great pretty photos to boot!  Thank you all for joining me on this journey.  It’s been a blast and I am already scheming on how I can complete my master bathroom next spring!  It’s really the last major space renovation that we plan to do in the house and I may be crazy for thinking it can be done in 6 weeks. Be sure to take a peak at everyone who joined me on this crazy journey!  I know I look forward to seeing everyone’s results! I am honestly humbled to see how many of you have taken the time to check out what I am doing and provide me feedback.  Thank you, each and every one of you.  I am still amazed that I have had individuals from far across the globe following little old me.  Again THANK YOU!  If I have made you laugh and given you any inspiration, then I have fulfilled my goal!  I’m still relatively new to this whole blogging thing, so this has gotten me in a routine of posting at least once a week.  My personal goal will be to continue that trend.  So stick around, give me a follow.  I will take you on my journey of life as a commercial designer, mommy of a toddler and wife to a die hard Carolina Panther’s fan and excellent daddy!  Until next week!



PS for now, I’m going to relax and hang with my two favorite people!  And seriously, how lucky am I to have a friend like Emily Alane Photography!

A and N