Ok, I feel my update from my mom and aunt’s visit last weekend is way overdue. Let me start by saying this will be a lengthier post than normal, but today was the perfect day for blogging – I’m home alone, the day started out pretty soggy and I found an all day marathon of The Next Food Network Star. Seems like a fitting series to be watching as I summarize our Memorial Day with guests – food, food and more food!
The Thursday before Memorial Day we rolled out the welcome mat for my mom and Aunt Marcia. Well, some of us rolled out the welcome mat and others of us just took a nap on it.
If you haven’t met him before in this blog, this is our neighbor Oliver. Our house is his home away from home. We love him and he evidently feels the same about us because taking naps on one of our welcome mats has become a common practice for him. But he was front and center throughout our weekend to make sure he received his share of love and attention from our guests.
Since my aunt and Mom are our first guests, that means the rest of you haven’t had a tour of our home yet. Many thanks to our new friend Beverly Odom from Modoa Interiors. I found her on the worldwide web. I’m not really the type of person to have an interior designer, but the layout of our house was very different than any home I’ve lived in before, so I was really struggling with making it feel homey. Beverly was the perfect person to work with. She used all the things we already had, and we love the results. It’s also nice that Beverly has become a good friend, and hopefully she’s benefitting from our meeting as well since I load her up with all my leftover cooking and baking. So now, allow me to show you around a little.
And this is the view of the front door.
And this is our beloved dog, Khaki, wondering why I’m taking pictures of everything. . .
But since we are taking pictures, she wants to make sure she’s in all of them. This is a picture of her two favorite rooms – the kitchen and the dining room. Khaki helps us make sure the floor is always clean when we’re cooking or eating in either of these rooms.
This is our guest bedroom. Beverly really delivered on making this an elegant, warm room for our guests.
And this is our master bedroom. The previous owners left these draperies for us, and Beverly did an excellent job finding linens to pull the room all together. She even made the drapes fuller with her sewing magic. And of course, lying on the bed is one of Khaki’s great luxuries. . .
But all this picture taking is making her and her favorite stuffed “kiki” a little tired.
In addition to touring the house, we toured Northwest Arkansas as well. We visited a working mill, saw Beaver Lake and a beautiful view of Fort Smith Lake (below).
Yes, that is The Bald Eagle’s thumb in the picture. That’s probably the only picture he’ll be in on this blog. Cute, ain’t he?!?!
We also visited a the National Cemeteries in Fort Smith and Fayetteville, which might sound a bit creepy, but given it was Memorial Day and these cemeteries were decked out like Arlington, it was actually incredibly moving. Very patriotic, not creepy.
One of my favorite things we saw was the Norman Rockwell exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. I knew I liked Rockwell, but I absolutely LOVED this exhibit. Unfortunately the exhibit is over now at Crystal Bridges, but if it comes anywhere near where you live, please go see it. Even if you’re not a big art lover, I think you can relate and appreciate his work. We couldn’t take pictures in the exhibit, but Crystal Bridges is a gorgeous museum on it’s own. We took a picture of this cool tree sculpture outside the museum. I can’t wait to go back and walk some of the trails around the museum.
Last but not least, there was food . . .lots of food. I think my mom and aunt’s visit really answered some questions for my husband. He’s always been amazed by how much I think about food. Not necessarily how much I eat, (although that is an issue sometimes), but how much I actually just think about food. We will have just finished a big meal and I’ll already be talking about what and when we’re going to eat next. After spending four days with my mom and aunt, I think he sees where I get it from. Both of them love food, especially baked goods. My aunt, like me, loves looking at food magazines, food pictures on Pinterest and went through my Pioneer Woman cookbooks with as much joy as I do. Some of my favorite memories as a little kid are Christmas baking with Mom, my aunt and my grandma. Mystery solved as to why I love to bake.
The first morning we started out with The Pioneer Woman’s prune cake for breakfast. Little did I know my mom had eaten prune cake about 45 years ago that she still remembers because it was so good. That made me a little nervous because I didn’t know I’d be competing with a 45 year memory, but once again The Pioneer Woman (PW as she calls herself) came through. Now I know most of you have already skipped down to the next paragraph once you read the word prune but believe me, you will not taste the prunes. The prunes make the cake extra moist, but it tastes more like a spice cake than overly “pruney”. Just trust me and try it. https://babybluebirdsbakery.wordpress.com/recipes/pws-prune-cake/
I think one of my aunt’s favorite things we made was PW’s dill bread. For lunch I decided to just make a potato soup from a mix, so I wanted to make a bread that was a little savory. This bread turned out to be a great complement to the soup. If the idea of prunes made your stomach turn, that’s just the beginning of how I feel about cottage cheese, which is the main ingredient in this bread. I HATE cottage cheese. I hate the smell, I hate the texture and I hate to look at it. And although I did see a couple of curds in the finished baked product, I couldn’t taste any of it. https://babybluebirdsbakery.wordpress.com/recipes/pws-dill-bread/
For Sunday morning breakfast I went all out and made PW’s cinnamon rolls. I LOVE cinnamon rolls! I LOVE cinnamon rolls even more than I HATE cottage cheese. And although I usually love a rich cream cheese frosting, I think the maple frosting was even better. Even though cinnamon rolls are my favorite, I hadn’t attempted to ever make them because I was afraid they were super difficult. I will admit it was much more time consuming than a coffee cake, but I think it was worth it. And the best thing is that it made several pans full so I was able to share with our neighbors, friends and co-workers. I will absolutely make these again! https://babybluebirdsbakery.wordpress.com/recipes/pws-amazing-cinnamon-rolls/
We had our wonderful neighbors over for dinner Sunday evening. We’ve always been blessed with terrific neighbors and Oliver’s owners are no exception. Reza, Debbie and their sons are just a delight in so many ways. Debbie brought a flavorful squash dish with just the right amount of spice to make it extra interesting. It was the perfect complement to PW’s tangy tomato brisket. To my knowledge, I’ve not even had brisket before let alone baked it, but I knew my mom preferred beef to chicken or pork, and I’ve had a good track record with PW’s recipes so I went for it. I’m guessing from how much was left that it was a hit. https://babybluebirdsbakery.wordpress.com/recipes/pws-tangy-tomato-brisket/
So, I know at this point my PW groupie-ness is really showing and you probably think I don’t know how to cook anything else, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I just discovered PW when we moved here (thanks to our new friend Jana), but I’ve been holding my own for the last 20+ years without her. (But I still love you PW!) To go with the brisket I made two of my mom’s favorite dishes – cheesy potatoes and my father’s deluxe baked beans. Both of these are dishes you can put together the night before and then bake right before your meal. I love dishes like that. The potatoes are super easy, especially because you start with frozen country style potatoes. I go one step further and also use frozen chopped onions for this dish. You can’t get away with defrosted and drained onions in some dishes, but for this dish it works. The beans are like everyday baked beans on steroids. It’s not one, not two, but three different kinds of beans. And you not only add bacon, but ground beef as well. These are a great side dishes for barbeque as well as an Easter ham. Yummy!
And then the pièce de résistance of every meal in my opinion – the dessert. When The Bald Eagle and I went to the lake for our ten year anniversary, we had this great banana split pie one day at lunch. You should know my husband is not a big sweets eater. We do have dessert from time to time when we’re out for dinner, but he’s usually a take it or leave it type of guy . . . and I think for him the real dessert is his cup of coffee and a slice of pie or cake is just a condiment for the coffee. Well, I don’t drink coffee, or really any caffeine for that matter, so sugar is my drug of choice. In fact, that diner we were in when we had this pie had a sign that really spoke to me. It said “Stressed spelled backwards is Desserts”. I loved that because desserts are how I deal with stress. You can usually tell how stressed I am by pants size. Anyway, when we were eating the pie we were both so impressed that The Bald Eagle said I should try to replicate it and we started writing down each layer of the pie. So I scoured the internet for a recipe that seemed similar, but most banana split pies are ice cream based, and this was a custard based pie. I finally found a recipe that seemed pretty close, but upon closer analysis some of the key ingredients that were mentioned in the instructions were missing from the ingredient list. So, I had to guess at how many eggs and how much vanilla to put in the custard. Another thing the recipe should have mentioned is that I really needed to spray the pie plate with cooking spray before I baked the Oreo crust, so the pie for our dinner didn’t make it to the plate looking too pretty. But at the end of it all, my hubby paid me the biggest compliment by telling me he thought my version tasted even better than what we had at the diner. For someone who’s not a big dessert eater, that was HUGE!
Lastly I made my favorite oatmeal for breakfast. I make this oatmeal almost every single morning. It’s healthy, and the high fiber of the oatmeal really help it stick with you and get you through the morning. For years I relied on instant oatmeal because I thought making my own during the work week would take too long or not be as flavorful. I was so wrong – it’s actually better! And you can use any fruit in the oatmeal – apples, raisins or strawberries.
Whoa! That was a lot of food and a long post. Hope you made it through a little better than Oliver.
I’m not sure what about a scratchy welcome mat resembles a mattress for this cat, but I love capturing his antics on my phone.
All and all we had a great and very filling visit with my mom and aunt. I’m so glad they made the drive. I wish I could say I haven’t eaten since they left, but I haven’t eaten as good since they left. I guess that means it’s time to get to baking again!
Thanks for reading!
Baby Blue Bird (aka Dayna)