Our Cozy Farmette

It’s been seven months since Audley changed career paths and began working remotely which opened a world of possibility for us. It’s been only four months since we got a little wild, bought a house, packed and moved to our sweet, little farmette in North Alabama; settling down after 17 construction job related moves in our almost 27 years of marriage.

Somehow, between two photography trips to Texas, a trip to South Carolina to see grandbaby number one, two visits to Florida (one to spend time with grandbaby number two … I can’t wait to share with you!!!), a weekend in Nashville, driving cross-country from California with our new, honorably discharged Marine, and a week in North Carolina for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, we have managed to unpack, do a little decorating and grow a garden.

Also, during this time, I celebrated my 50th birthday, accepted a job teaching 3rd through 6th grade social studies and language arts at a private school, and now here I am thriving on chaos, loving every minute of it!

To say the last four months have been crazy is an understatement, and school starts in exactly two weeks!

While I would love to share all of our home with you, all of our new home projects have been outdoors as we really wanted to create a garden this year. I mean that was one of the reasons we picked this property to begin with! We also needed to build a chicken coop. We had little chicks living indoors for a lot longer than we anticipated … or maybe they just grow really fast!

I mean who buys chicks and puts them under heat lamps in the garage of your rental property when you haven’t even closed on your new home yet?!

They actually only stayed two weeks before going to my parents screened in porch.

No matter the case we have a lovely garden, and I am collecting fresh eggs daily, even if they are so very small as our hens are still quite young.

Audley was amazing creating our garden space and chicken coop. I’ve collected magazine and Pinterest ideas for absolutely ages so planning everything was fun, even if we had to move fast. I mentioned the chicks growing quickly, but we were also racing against getting seeds in the ground for summer picking.

Getting started. I was in Texas when Audley began so it was a wonderful surprise to arrive home!

Our ultimate goal was that our garden, and the coop actually flow together becoming a place we could enjoy as well as reap benefits. Our home does not sit facing the road, which creates a lovely sense of privacy, but it also means we have a huge side yard that is visible to everyone who passes. It was important to us that it look appealing as well as functional.

With the side yard also being our main area for outdoor entertaining, we really wanted it to be pretty. I wanted to put the “garden” into garden party.

We are not totally there yet, as we decided to do things in stages instead of overworking ourselves in the spring, but it’s looking really good.

For our chicken coop I ordered a child’s playhouse from a local manufacturer. They came out and set it up, then Audley painted it red to match the trim on our home and built a run. The playhouse had a ladder and a loft area that added roosting and play space for our sweet birds. It also included windows with screens so we can open them up for airflow and ventilation. This winter we can close them at night to help keep our girls warm.

We’ve had a lot of help of the four-legged variety.

We built four semi-raised beds for the summer. We didn’t put matting or anything under the beds, so our plants are actually in the ground. I’m a firm believer in creating a manageable garden which is why we chose this method of planting. Our plants are in the ground, but separated and easy to care for.

For our first summer we have grown red and green okra, several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, jalapeno, serrano, and poblano pepper, cucumbers, leeks, carrots, purple hull peas, crookneck squash, mini spaghetti and butternut squash, pumpkins, green, purple and yellow bell pepper, green beans and eggplant. Audley is experimenting with growing potatoes. In two separate spaces on either side of our chicken coop I have herbs growing. We have rosemary, sage, pineapple mint, orange mint, English thyme, Italian oregano (which is a bit milder than the Greek variety), parsley, cilantro, and lemon thyme. Lemon and lime shrubs are in pots in the garden corners.

I also have ginger growing in pots. In the yard we have planted two Southern Belle freestone peach trees, as well as two brown turkey fig bushes. I have six olive trees lining our driveway. These have been raised in pots over the last few years and were excited to have a place for their roots to grow. We will buy heaters to help protect them this winter. I have had success with olives in pots, so I can’t wait to see how they do with space to grow!

While it has been a lot of work battling the extreme heat, crazy pop-up storms, weeds, June bugs, vine borers, and tomato eating chickens, we have enjoyed all of the truly organic, fresh veggies at our fingertips instead of eating imported food from the grocery store. I have even canned a few things including blackberries from the wild vines in the woods beside our house, squash, okra, and pickles. I’ll make salsa in the next week or so, put away green beans, peas, dry herbs and preserve Audley’s potatoes for use this winter as well.

My seeds should arrive this weekend for our fall garden. Audley is planning on adding two more raised beds that will be deeper and possibly building a cold frame for some winter planting. We will build a fence around the garden area so my chickens can free-range and stay out of the tomatoes. Beside the raised beds, I have English roses and blueberries planted in the area. Audley is also wanting to experiment with growing espalier apple trees. President George Washington did this at Mt Vernon, but you can also find examples of this done well at George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate.

Audley is also wanting to add beehives in the spring next year. He is becoming quite the gentleman farmer and we are having so much fun making our dreams a reality!

Til Next Time,

Cheesy Pound Cake for Mother’s Day

After 5 1/2 weeks of many hours and lots of labor, our sweet new home is coming together into our forever dream.

Of course, when you have twenty-seven years of magazine articles in a notebook and Pinterest boards detailing home and garden plans it does come together rather quickly, much to Audley’s chagrin.

Even though we have been crazy busy around here, we have still managed to welcome spring and celebrate all the little things from Easter to birthdays and tomorrow, we will be hosting Mother’s Day here at our new home.

When deciding what I should prepare, I went way back into my archive of hand-written recipes that I began back in college and pulled out one of my favorites; a cheesy poundcake from Southern Living around 1994.

It’s probably one of my favorite pound cake recipes as well as one that is so versitle. With ingredients like sharp cheddar cheese, cream cheese, all the butter and real vanilla this pairs well with coffee, berries, a chocolate sauce, a lemon cream, or cranberries soaked in a sweet red wine.

My favorite way to enjoy this cake though, is still warm from the oven, with fresh plain strawberries and slightly sweetened homemade whipped cream. The flavors pair so well together and with all the sugar in the cake (it IS a pound cake after all), you don’t need to add any more.

So let’s gather some ingredients.

You’ll need 1 1/2 cups of butter, 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, 3 cups of sugar, 6 large eggs, 3 cups all-purpose flour, salt, 2 cups finely shredded cheese (this recipe is SO much better if you shred it yourself. Trust me), and 1 Tablespoon high quality vanilla.

{I never said this recipe was healthy.}

While baking this recipe in a Bundt pan is perfectly fine and definitely less work in the kitchen, I used a flower cakelet pan from Williams Sonoma for my pound cakes just for aesthetics and a cuteness factor.

After baking, I trimmed the bottoms so that the cakes would set flat. That is Audley’s favorite part of baking, because he is a crust kinda guy. As I said my favorite way to enjoy this cake is with strawberries, so that is definitely the way we’ll be serving it up!

I’ll add the entire recipe in just a sec., but I would love to hear your Mother’s Day plans!

Check out this rich and scrumptious recipe below and have a fabulous weekend!

Welcome Back

“Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out
Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about”

To say we have been rather busy lately is quite an understatement.

You see, fifty-seven days ago, I was playing around on Realtor.com just as I have for the last several years, pondering the possibilities of the many listings that were up at the moment, when something caught my eye.

I mean something REEEE-ally caught my eye.

So, I did something that I had never done in all my years of looking; with Audley’s guidance I reached out to a VA lender for a preapproval.

“Well the names have all changed since you hung around
But those dreams have remained and they’ve turned around”

Fifty-five days ago, we canceled our weekend plans and took a little road trip into Alabama. There, we looked at two houses. One was trashed and definitely showed what a little staging for the internet can do. The other was nearly perfect; close to everything we had in mind for a home.

“Who’d have thought they’d lead ya
Back here where we need ya”

Fifty- four days ago we made an offer on a house, wrote an earnest money check, and the very next day it was accepted.

We were under contract with “closing in thirty-five days.”

{GULP}

Thirty-one days ago, I accepted a position to teach pre-k in a newly established Christian Academy this coming autumn.

Twenty-four days ago, we met with our realtor in the small town of Scottsboro, Alabama to close, and at the same time became first time homeowners.

“Yeah we tease him a lot ’cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back…”

Fourteen days ago, we moved to Stevenson, Alabama, just 3 miles from where Audley grew up and where we moved away from almost exactly ten years ago.

“…And I know what a scene you were learning in
Was there something that made you come back again”

There is a lot to the hows, whys, and whats of all this, but the Reader’s Digest version is Audley changed industries back in December and works from home, when he is not traveling. After nearly 27 years of moving with power company and paper mill construction, we have been given the opportunity to control our own path.

“And what could ever lead ya
Back here where we need ya”

Our “First” Home

We decided the time was right to purchase a home, but with the market what it is, this was not so easy. We looked near Atlanta (where we had been living). We looked in South Carolina (to be near our grandbaby). We looked in Tennessee. We looked in Alabama. But we weren’t serious until the right property became available. We really wanted out of the city, we wanted property, preferably not new construction, and a ranch style. We wanted character and potential. Something move-in ready that we could add our own spin on to turn into our home.

Who knew where it would lead us?!

The craziness, busyness, chaotic mess of the last fifty-seven days was an answered prayer in so many ways, especially with the ease of purchasing our first home. We stayed within our budget, worked with a great realtor and lender, and found what I hope is our forever home!

Back Porch Views

And the song lyrics scatter throughout my post? As we were driving on I-24 with a moving van, our pups and kitty I was listening to a 70’s station on Spotify. The theme song to “Welcome Back Kotter” by John Sebastion began playing on the radio. I laughed as I thought back to all the times we’ve left this area to chase our dreams, only to return.

“Yeah we tease him a lot ’cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back”

God sure does have a sense of humor.

Eat Local at Suga’s Cheese Shoppe & Cafe

March has arrived and so have all the beginning signs of spring, at least here in North Georgia! One of my favorite things to do in the spring/summer/fall month is hit up our local Saturday market to shop from area farmers and support local vendors. It’s so much healthier than big box stores and great for the local economy! One particular vendor has become my favorite stop on market Saturdays: Sugas Pimento Cheese.

Created by Chef Stacey West (a graduate of Atlanta’s Le Cordon Bleu College) these delicious flavors of pimento cheese have become high demand items at the Cartersville Market as well as other metro-Atlanta markets and retail stores. If you want to grab your favorite flavor of pimento cheese on Saturdays, you have to go early because they will sell out! They’re that good!

Already a huge fan of Chef Stacey, I was excited to learn that she has opened a restaurant in Powder Springs, Georgia that features many of her pimento cheese flavors in classic, mostly Southern dishes. Recently Audley and I ventured out to find this new eatery and indulge in a unique and delicious luncheon!

Suga’s Cheese Shoppe and Cafe was a concept born from having customers asking for creative ways to pair Chef Stacey’s pimento cheeses or use in recipes. This sweet little restaurant seats on a first come, first serve basis, and on the Saturday we visited it was quite obvious that word is already spreading about how scrumptious the dishes are. We were chatting with some ladies while waiting on our table, one of which drove across Atlanta for lunch with a friend because they had heard how wonderful everything was!

Before I continue you should know, Audley is very picky about cheese. In fact, he doesn’t eat any cold cheeses unless they are paired with flavorful fruits or spreads on a charcuterie board or melted on a sandwich. Pimento cheese does not fit into either of these categories. I felt like I was dragging a puppy into the vet as we walked in.

Once the menu hit our hands, I saw a spark in Audley’s eyes.

I heard a “hmmmm” escape his mouth and wondered what was going on in his head.

He gave me a snarl when I ordered Smoked Gouda Mac Balls as he dislikes most all pasta even more than cheese. They arrived piping hot to the table and I hear “well those smell good!”

I told him I wasn’t sharing, but Audley grabbed a fork, cut into one of the mac balls and swiped it through the thick marinara sauce on the plate.

He ate two of the three served with our appetizer.

The gouda mac balls are made with gouda and pimento mac n’ cheese, with a deep-fried panko crust and served with the previously mentioned marinara sauce. The outside was crispy while the inside was creamy and rich. They really were absolutely delicious!

We each chose something different off of the menu for our main entree; I ordered Shrimp Scampi after hearing it was Chef Stacey’s favorite dish, and Audley ordered a crispy chicken sandwich.

We both made really great choices!

The shrimp scampi is made with pesto and feta pimento cheese (which is spectacular) with a creamy white wine garlic sauce on a bed of thin angel hair pasta. Audley needed a second, third and fourth taste to decide it really was quite delectable.

Audley’s chicken sandwich had the largest chicken breast I have ever seen on a sandwich with lettuce, pickled red onions, house sauce and of course pimento cheese. Served with fries, there was no way someone would leave without being full.

And Audley LOVED it, pimento cheese and all.

In fact, he didn’t want to share.

After all of that, what is a couple stuffed full to do?

We ordered dessert of course…. something we could share.

Chef Stacey did not disappoint.

Somehow, we found a little more room to take in a slice of pimento cheese cheesecake.

More specifically Pimento Cheese Cheesecake topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

We ate it and Audley proclaimed it better than a certain commercial cheesecake restaurant.

All of a sudden, my skeptical husband was sold on pimento cheese in recipes.

Amazing how these things happen.

Even more amazing is that Audley has picked several other things off of the menu he wants to try, and soon. This especially includes the Black Truffle Pimento Cheesesteak and Oreo pimento cheesecake.

Take time to add Suga’s Cheese Shoppe and Cafe to your weekend ramblings this spring and summer. Not only will you enjoy a whole new culinary experience, but you’ll be also supporting a small local restaurant and that is a huge reward in itself!

And Audley said he will gladly accompany you.

Suga’s Cheese Shoppe and Cafe

4456 Marietta Street, Suite 110

Powder Springs, Georgia 30127

Closed on Monday & Tuesday