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Back to School? Virtual Learning Space Before & After

It’s now almost mid-October and we are starting to feel that taste of Fall in the air. Admittedly Fall is my favorite season. The crisp cool air means sweaters, leaves, all things pumpkin and my birthday. So since we are a solid month into virtual learning, I thought I would share my pickiest client EVER’s virtual school room (AKA as our former Guest Room). The space is rather small, so our design plan was pretty straight forward, we needed zones within the space: Desk Zone, Reading Nook, STORAGE were the main zones. I also know this is not our forever home, so that played a roll in how much money I was willing to spend and where to spend it. I give you a fuzzy before and after snap shot of the desk space.

We have a third grader. She is pretty confident in all things computer/apps/digital learning. I have confidence in her safely navigating the virtual world, yet I am also always checking in. I spent far too many years spent working for the Federal Government and having to do Safety and Virtual Training, enough to make mother’s never sleep/allow their kids to use any digital platforms. I also know, third grade is serious learning time. I knew that in order for her to gain some confidence in her ability to learn, she needed a little distance from being beside my desk at all times. So this space had to be fun and her, so that she wanted to spend her day’s inside. I secretly also wanted a fun back ground for her classmates/teacher to see when they had camera’s on. Enter removable wallcovering.

I have installed removable wallcovering in my home before. It was relatively easy to do, just took some time, some attention to detail and then eventual realization of defeat that there is NO WAY you will perfectly line up a GIANT STICKER and it’s pattern across your wall. Now knowing how challenging it was on a straight ceiling project (my desk in the basement), I knew that this room would be more challenging. The ceiling has a vault. So while my in laws were visiting and keeping everyone occupied, I locked myself in the room and tackled this. I am not going to lie, it was significantly more challenging to 1. keep the paper level with the height of the space 2. keep the pattern lined up across the run of the wall 3. manage the paper and the ladder 4. not get full vertigo from staring at a pattern so closely for so long. With all of this said, if you are an advanced level DYI’er prep, plan and then execute (also realizing that you will accept less than perfect on your pattern matching). Keep in mind most wallcovering installers will not touch removable paper, it is a different animal. Typical wallpaper uses paste/glue that allows movement on the wall to set it in place for pattern matching, removable wallpaper does not. It is essentially a giant sticker, that has to be smoothed as you go or you get large bubbles which are not your friend. At the end of the day, it was worth the curse words, the dizziness and almost falling off large ladder for the look I wanted.

First panel was a BEAST, who am I kidding, they all were…

The biggest challenge of the project was honestly sourcing furnishings. Right now due to the factory’s closing for COVID all over the world, supply of goods is down. The demand however, has risen for items like desking, storage, and appliances. I placed an order with IKEA March/April timeframe for the desk (out of stock), chair, storage shelf but it wasn’t delivered until August. Normally case goods are pretty well stocked, especially through typical retail sources. I was lucky in that we were able to keep the large storage armoire that houses extra season’s clothing.

So without further adieu I give you our finished virtual learning space. There are so many little details in there. I tried my best to keep things ergonomic, but they don’t have a lot of ergonomic chairs that fit third graders, so I just let the design drive that one.

Anyone interested in learning more about one of my life-lines to sanity and emotional well being. Feel free to visit my Young Living page. I have never been great at sales, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I have been oily for the better part of the last 6 years. I use Young Living products daily, from my hand soap, laundry soap, beauty products to the daily diffusing of various oils and oil blends. My favorites daily are diffusing Thieves Oil Blend and Tangerine Oil. It makes it my favorite season year round! If I need a mood lift, Joy is my go to, either neat and rolled over my heart, or in the diffuser to brighten the whole families mood. But in my big girl’s third grade space, my favorite to keep her sharp and focused, we diffuse KidScents GeneYus for important tasks. Interested in trying certain things, chances are I have it. Feel free to reach out if you have questions, there isn’t much I haven’t tried over the years. If I haven’t, I have a friend who has. So that is my little sales pitch. Only thing I will ask, please do not buy your oils off Amazon. Only buy from a reputable oil vendor. There are a couple out there. Lord knows we have all ordered things off amazon for convenience, I receive deliveries probably twice a week (my husband would like to think it’s daily). I am also really trying hard to really put my money locally with the businesses and people who need us more than ever to keep their retail doors open. There are so many amazing shops and shop keepers in Old Town Alexandria. My holiday edition will include my favorite spots to shop all the things!

Enjoy this change of season and up next are my favorite ways to celebrate Halloween, with some tips on how to still have a wonderful kid-friendly, parent friendly celebration in COVID times!

LIFE UPDATE, DEALING WITH LOSS, QUARANTINE, AND LIFE in 2020…

It has been a serious hot minute since I last wrote a blog post. Granted, I feel as if it was always legit, my family that made up my readership by 99%. Regardless, hoping this is a therapeutic and somewhat entertaining take on my life the last 8 months or so. 2020 has been a year for the books and not in great way. In February 2020, I lost my Mom. She had been battling her condition and her body could not fight the fight any longer. I’m still dealing with that loss, as I am sure I will be for quite some time. Quick recap of how amazing a Mom she was and how I would like to choose to remember her and honor her.

Jacki Boyd (my Momma) was an infinite source of knowledge about the most random information you never knew you needed to know. In 1982 she and her business partner decided it was time to finally take their home/Charleston’s open air market business out of their living rooms and open a store front. Their goal was to bring all things kitchen, food, gourmet foods, wines, cheeses, coffee’s to Charleston. In Good Taste was born at Orange Grove Shopping Center in West Ashley. I say that they wildly succeeded in this mission. This was long before the foodie culture of Charleston was as wide known as it is today. Mom eventually bought out her business partner and took on the operations of running In Good Taste. Hurricane Hugo ultimately forced a new location, and Ashley River Road was the location where it stood until Mom closed the doors in 2014. She employed so many amazing staff members, taught so many interesting Wine Classes and brought together so many wonderful people from across the board.

A very long story compressed into a short version. Mom had always struggled with stomach issues for as long as I could remember. In 2015, she had to be rushed into emergency surgery where an amazing doctor saved her life. He discovered that 80% or more of her intestines had died and they had to be removed for her to survive. This was a VERY long battle and uphill climb that Mom fought. She had to learn the balance of getting the nutrition that she needed. It was many years of struggling with a new normal, many options were explored, as well as a potential small bowel transplant. Ultimately, Mom’s body had one too many infections. The first surgeon explained to me that ultimately an infection would probably take her life. Infections (blood, etc) were a part of her new normal with the compromised immune system and her IV nutrition. It was explained to me that your body is like a suit of armor, every infection puts a ding in that armor. I still have moments when I want to call her to ask her opinion on something or to tell her something funny that Addison did, I am at peace that she is no longer suffering. That doesn’t mean that we don’t miss her every day. Addison (my seven year old) is just now grieving and having really sad moments where we both cry, and then we both laugh… Laughing, that was something that my Momma did very well. If anyone wants to chat about Short Gut Syndrome, feel free to reach out. It was a huge learning curve for all of our family as we all had to learn how to best care for and be an advocate for Mom. My therapist told me that one day, I just need to write it all down and maybe a book will be part of my healing process. Alas, not looking great seeing as it has taken me a solid 6 months of starting this post to actually complete it.

Needless to say, February 2020 kind of a numb blur for me. Then we have March…. I’m not going to say that March was a lot better, as honestly I don’t recall much of it. This was the month that the world stopped or at least all came home to our 1800 SF town home. I believe Fairfax County was one of the first school districts to shut down, and I’m honestly grateful. The unknown is scary for me. I have always been more of an introvert, and slight “germ-aphobe” (especially hotel rooms) so the idea of a virus that we know very little about downright put me into panic, hurricane preparedness level 10. My husband can attest, when he was still “going into the office” he would have to change clothes, take a shower and decontaminate himself upon his arrival. The biggest change was trying to manage a 2nd grader at home, my husband working from home, and me working from home. This is not me complaining just a statement that it was a challenge. I am very blessed, I made a choice to leave my super secure Federal Civilian position 3 years ago to take a chance/come to the dark side of Residential Interior Design, with Shotgun Double. This job was remote and I could work from home. To say it was a game changer is an understatement. I am very very blessed to do something that I love, that I have a passion for, and that I am good at, all the while being able to make all the field trips, dance days, and things for my family without feeling guilt. Fast forward back to Feb, it was tough guys. I know we were all in the same boat, some even tougher boats. I can say with confidence that WE ALL MADE IT THROUGH, and we are stronger for it. I watched as an already amazing teaching staff at my daughter’s school, evolved, shifted, and adjusted on a daily basis to keep my girl learning and on a schedule. Thank you to all our educators, assistants, admin and basically everyone doing everything within their abilities, skill sets, talents, passions to be the best for our kids! They are resilient! This year will most certainly be a thing they will FOREVER talk about. I would like to think and hope that it will be filled with amazing and funny stories.

We move onto April 2020. I really don’t have much to say other than…. Netflix, and binge watching…. things that I would never normally watch… ahem,

No matter what your opinion of the show it had/s many learning points/moods. Just say NO to DRUGS… a little sardine oil will always do the trick…. those poor animals…. is this really real?… oh snap this just got real… I swear Myrtle Beach has always the arm pit of South Carolina (yes, my Charlestonian snobbery is coming out)…. Regardless, it took your mind off the absolute insanity that was happening, or is still happening…

Ok, but in all seriousness, March and April was when people really started spending lots of time at home, and that is when we got super busy at Shotgun Double. We continued to do the fine art of balancing online learning schedules, virtual client meetings, trying to move projects started before COVID forward. The struggle was/is real. The more time everyone is spending time at home, the more you notice a.) your house needs change b.) your house needs full renovation c.) you have outgrown your house d.)I NEED some HELP… Whatever the case, just grateful that we are able to keep the ship sailing so to say.

We have lived in our well loved town home for the last seven years. We have made it work, it is just the three of us and two crazy, rambunctious, hair shedding, Springer Spaniels (who have their own Instragram following). We love our community, our neighbors, our street but we are ready for a single family home with a real yard (for the dogs and maybe really nice quarantine pool and just space to spread out). While that maybe in the one to two year plan for us, I felt the desire to tackle our immediate needs. Work spaces for all members of the family. Thankfully, I had decided after working from home for two years that I needed to claim a spot in our basement for my official office. I designed and ordered everything pre-covid and that was tackled early and thankfully so.

Don’t worry I went through all the quarantine phases that you did, and I’m still going through all the home improvements… My husband and I decided that we could totally tackle the basement stairs (removing the carpet and replacing the treads with wood). We got lucky, under the carpet were pine treads. With a LOT of sanding, a minor panic attack on my part, when the “sanding” dust got EVERYWHERE, pause so I could make a Dexter approved anti-space to minimize said sanding dust, a couple of marital spats, I’m proud to say we have new stairs… We thought it was a weekend project, it was a few weekends. 😉 Hubby wants to tackle the basement floor next….

So, I didn’t stop there… I have had the same furniture in our master bedroom since well pre-marriage and I was never a big fan. Let’s face it. As a designer, we are generally much better at making decisions, choices, and let’s face it, spending other peoples money….. My husband and I will celebrate our 10th Anniversary this year and I decided there was no time like the present. It was time for a full master bedroom refresh… After all, I had just helped with an amazing master bedroom renovation for a client at Shotgun Double. It seems to happen that way as well… Right after you spend hours upon hours of sourcing materials and products for clients you have your own personal favorites. Just imagine this has been going on for years and you finally decide there is no time like the present to put it all together and present it to your husband (who see’s no reason to fix something that “isn’t broken”). Whatever the response I got, I wasn’t taking no for an answer. It was happening, is still happening. The largest challenge that we have faced as Designers with COVID was when the whole world shut down, this obviously included manufacturer’s. This has created a crazy supply chain delay. I will share our progress thus far… on 10 year Anniversary Master Bedroom refresh….

Everything has been ordered with a few small exceptions… and thus far I have… new side tables and new bedding. The bed will arrive in two weeks and I will give a full update then(maybe). I have to say it already makes me so happy to have this change to my space. It really has improved my mood and general willingness to make this house work for us in the immediate.

Fast forward to August 2020 and the latest and greatest changes we are making in our home. Our school district originally gave parents the choice to choose, virtual instruction or a hybrid in person model. I chose virtual for many reasons, mainly because I could. Eventually, our whole district went to a virtual model so we knew that we needed a more permanent solution for a space dedicated to learning. My husband actually came up with the idea of taking our only space left AKA, guest room, extra closet, laundry folding area and making it an office/home school room. I laughed at the idea when he mentioned turning it into my office when I was exploring my space last year. Now come to think of it.. she will have it so much better than my corner of the basement. I took on my toughest client of all times, my seven year old. This is saying something considering my husband has previously held that title. Ms. Addie P is fierce in her choices and opinion. She is not shy on providing you with said opinion and what she likes and what matches and what does not. It took a few presentations, but she finally gave me client approval….

So with the design presentation approved, we set off on the execution. Cue the supply problems. All my usual suspects for inexpensive sources were out of stock with crazy back order dates, so we had to get a bit creative. Thankfully all items have been ordered, and will be arriving within the next few weeks. We have been cleaning and purging like crazy to take this tiny catch all room into a fun space that will be where all the learning happens next year. I decided to tackle the painting solo but then decided this was a good learning experience. I rolled on my Calming CBD Oil and invited Ms Addie P to help paint… Those who know me, know I have great anxiety with my kid making a mess…. I have to say it was nice to have the help. Granted she will not be doing any professional jobs anytime soon. It was a great start and she gained some ownership of the space.

Shout out to my Sherwin Williams rep Amanda and the great CEU presentation she did a few weeks ago on Emerald Designer Edition paints. Not a paid recommendation, just very pleased with the product. The original color of the room was Alexandria Beige, and now, we are light and bright, with Lotus Petal. It took 1.5 coats to fully cover the previous color, but the finish is amazing and zero odor. Up next we wait for the removable wall covering to be delivered and I will try my hand at installing that on a sloped wall… not looking forward to that.

Maybe in six months when all the projects are complete, I may have another blog post. HA! Moms, Dad’s, Parents, Teachers, healthcare workers, police officers all the people doing all the things, THANK YOU! Be kind to one another. Live your life, do you, but also show human compassion. We are not all going to agree and that is our thankfully our right as American’s. Compassion and kindness aren’t traits that only fall to the left or to the right…. In the meantime, I am going to continue to explore new tasty cocktail, dessert recipes, so if you have a favorite, post below! I swear to goodness gracious though, let’s not let the damn Gremlin’s get wet….

The BEST Turkey Brine Recipe… Take Two

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This year, I am lucky to be taking a break from cooking a full Thanksgiving Feast as we will be with my Dad for the day.  Cooking for a big family meal can be stressful to get your timing right and make sure that you have food hot and ready all together,  but I kind of love it.  I think it goes back to my childhood and watching my Mom entertain and teach others how to entertain.  At any case, it wouldn’t be the holiday’s without a great recipe share. This is my go to Brine Bath for my turkey, the longer it can sit the better… Again, I cannot recall the original source but it was from on of the following…  My former 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.  So, 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 (we always name ours, past favorites include: Pumpkin, Ted I, Ted II, and Ted III, Fred)

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. I have gone up to about 36 hours in the past.

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.  Enjoy!   

Even though we aren’t making the whole meal for Thanksgiving; I may still have to make my traditional  Southern Living, Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie again this year.  Or maybe my Aunt Davetta’s Sweet Potato Casserole (AKA, Sweet Potato Dessert).

If you are looking for an awesome Mac and Cheese recipe that doesn’t come from a blue box… Miss Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta has some amazing soul food and this is my families favorite thing and always requested.    

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pups are Ready – Lucy & Remi

WALLCOVERING – This isn’t your Grandmother’s Paper…

My first internship in college was with a Boutique Architectural and Interior Design Firm in Raleigh, NC, specifically the Finish Material Library. My job was to keep the finishes organized, but let’s face it, the team did a pretty good job of keeping things neat and tidy; so I would spend my days learning and searching all of the goodies, the fun parts of design. Hundreds of Carpet Books, Tile Books, Paint Swatches, Laminate Chips, Solid Surface Samples, Fabric Swatches and this is where my love for wallcovering began.

My first love…. Koroseal Excess Vinyl Wallcovering

This gal above is luxe and grand (at least it was back in early/mid 2000’s.) It looked like stitched leather and it was durable and glorious. The thing about commercial grade wallcovering is that it is very practical. It is wall protection for high traffic areas without sacrificing the overall design aesthetic. Now residential paper isn’t known for it’s durability but there really isn’t a reason why you couldn’t use a commercial product in a residential setting to get that durability. But if you are looking for some glamour, some artwork for the walls, look no further than the heavy hitters Schumacher, Kravet and a personal favorite Katie Kime. There are honestly so many options out there to make your statement, whatever that may be.

Post commercial design work, I have been falling hard for the bright boldness of some very classic designs. So this post is mostly going to be a visual love-fest of all of the fun patterns and colors I’ve been crushing on lately! Any of these would be perfect for a jewel of a powder room, an accent wall in a bedroom or to give you a little extra inspiration in a home office! I have a couple of amazing wallcovering hanging guru’s in my master tradesmen tool box so if you see something you love and need some assistance, I am at your service! Trust me, not all wallcovering installs are the same! Let an experienced team help you bring your vision to life!

Master Bedroom Refresh

NEED A MASTER BEDROOM REFRESH?

It is now easy to book your Design Consultation online! There is still time to refresh those spaces before the crazy holiday season begins. Need to figure out how to accommodate extra holiday host-guests, let us help you do that! Book your Consultation now!

Happy Fall Y’all!

Well hello again… I realize that it has been well over a year since my last post.  What can I say, I seem to be on the annual blog post trend.  I’m still trying to navigate what I want this blog to be.  So I will pose the question, what are you looking for?  Design trends? Recipes?  Let me know and will try to fill that void.

For now I will give you a little update.  I am still working with Lindsay Boudreaux and her awesome team over at Shotgun Double.  I am absolutely loving working with a creative team of working mom’s who always have each other’s backs! We have done some pretty  amazing transformations in some Alexandria kitchens and baths this year.  Thinking of tackling a renovation, give us a call.  It can be daunting to think of such a major overall and investment in your home, but this is what we do.  We are here to deal with the day to day, the project management, the stresses that come with a major renovation.  We know how to work with all trades and get the right team for your project!

As for the personal front, I maybe slightly crazy as we have introduced a new family member, Lord Remington of Canterbury AKA Remi to the pack.  Lucy was reluctant at first, but has grown to be more than just a little obsessed with her little brother (actually technically her nephew). I’m still dance mom’ing it up most evenings and weekends. Addie is growing into a lovely yet still sassy as ever seven year old.  Nick and I will be celebrating our 9 year Anniversary this November.  Hard to believe time flies by so quickly. Next up will be one of my favorite fall recipes!

It’s been a while….

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So, it’s been a long two years since I last wrote a post…. Life has a way of getting away from you.  Needless to say I have gone through a large amount of change during the last couple of years, mostly though the last year.  I won’t go into all the nitty gritty, but I have been on a journey to get back to myself and my passions.  Being a working mother and wife are tricky and hard roles to navigate.  I was in the same position for the better part of the last nine years.  I am grateful for the opportunities, most of the people and the stability it provided for my family.  I have always struggled with the mommy guilt and the anxiety of basically not being there to raise my daughter (who is now almost six, and knows EVERYTHING, so she really doesn’t need me anymore).  I also had some tough personal and family issues to face and while those are not behind us, I feel like they are in a good place.

Fall 2017 we had to say goodbye to my little white fluffy, Maxy Dog.  He had been declining quickly in his health, had three strokes and he had Cushings Disease.  I wanted the end of his little life to be as painless as it could be and I still miss his little personality. I hope you are chasing all the squirrels and chipmunks and have endless apples and peanut butter.  He was my loyal companion for 13 years.

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Needless to say I knew I needed a change, and a major one.  The more time I had to spend with my daughter, the more I realized I missed her early childhood and I was drawn to my role as a mother.  I also had the need to create and use that side of myself.  So I started a little side gig making t-shirts and various things for friends and that sort of grew into an Etsy shop, which then grew into “oh, I can make that” for my daughter’s Competitive Dance Instructor’s looking for costumes.  Thus I give you my very first attempts at competitive dance costumes.  They are far from perfect, but it was a fun learning experience and I am grateful for the faith placed in me. Jury’s still out if I will do this again in the future…

Teenies Tap Costumes for 10 Little Mermaids

WBG_7036And the worlds cutest Shoop Shoop Girls Tap Trio…

Needless to say this fall, I took myself out of my comfort zone. And it wasn’t all bad! It has been amazing seeing these on stage all year long.  I also learned what I need to do in the future if I ever decide that I am this crazy again! Ha!

Quiet possibly the biggest change in my life was my decision to leave my nine year steady job for a job that allows me the flexibility to be a parent first, be creative and one where I am appreciated and valued for my talents.  I switched sides from commercial Interior Design (specifically Federal Government) to Residential Interior Design and honestly haven’t looked back once.  It has been something I was always interested in but strayed away from due to fear.  I joined an amazing local design firm, Shotgun Double, LLC in February of this year.  I have already learned so much and really gained the confidence that yes even though sourcing is different, it’s not that much different in the grand scheme . I can do this just as well as I did my previous work. It’s hard work, costumer service based, but it is fun.  It feels great to be a part of a team again (small) where we all work well and play on each other’s strengthens.  I have to give a massive shot out to our fearless leader, Lindsay Boudreaux for giving me this awesome opportunity and I’m excited to see where the future takes us!  Check us out!

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Just in case I am not quite doing enough…. I have humored my loving husband in his hobby of Star Wars Costuming (yes, I have made an almost screen accurate version of Resistance Rey for my mini Rey)  and I am his preferred make-up artist for his latest Face Character… Darth Maul. Nothing like putting that Studio Art minor to good use! Start to finish typically takes about 2 to 3 hours… what can I say, we go all in…

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Mini Resistance Rey

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Last but not least, we added a new member to the family in April, we welcomed Lucy, a spunky English Springer Spaniel puppy who came to us from Georgia.  She has already grown so much and I am delighted by the bond that she and A have started, it was a bit rocky at first, but since those baby teeth have fallen out, they are all a bit more willing to play. I have to say, she makes a super great puppy model for me…. She also has her own instagram account, just in case you want more daily cute Lucy photos and antics. @lucyP_the_springer on insta!

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Throughout all the changes, they have been up down, around the corner and up and down again, I am grateful for all that I have in my life;  My family, my friends, my therapist, and the opportunities that presented themselves. I can honestly say I am proud of myself for breaking my comfort routine to challenge myself to try several new things.  I have learned a lot on this journey and I know it is far from over.  Take a chance on yourself friends, it’s worth it! Thanks for following and I am hoping to get back into the swing of writing on a more regular basis.  Going to challenge myself to finally finish some projects around the house… Which I am sure a lot of my design friends will enjoy… Designing for yourself is very hard, especially with a very particular and opinionated husband.

Until then friends!

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Holiday Baking

So, this post is a bit late, but the week before Christmas I had to drop everything travel to Charleston and come to the aid of my dear mother. She fell and broke her hip and femur. Thankfully it is all now ok, but it was a bit hairy for a little while. I am thankful for the amazing friends and family who were there for us that week, the amazing nurses of Roper 6th floor orthopedic wing, really amazing doctors and surgeons!

With all of that said, I always bake for the holidays. I love baking. It is the one thing that I grew up doing (with my Aunt Jenny and mom) that reminds me of being young and really getting tin the holiday spirit. I was really excited and geared up to let Addison help this year. I know I must have been crazy, a two year old in the kitchen. Alas, that was all put on hold for rightful reasons. Today however, I knew that I had to get our traditional neighbor and friends gifts out, this time as New Years gifts. You all can start your diets after you have enjoyed a couple of my favorite holiday cookies. Italian Pignoli Cookies and Italian Wedding Cookies.

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Continue reading “Holiday Baking”

Miss Mary Mac’s Tea Room Mac and Cheese

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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!

Ingredients

1/2 large box Macaroni noodle of your choice

6 cups water

salt

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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

Emily

The BEST Turkey Brine Recipe…

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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!

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Emily