Fiddles and Rhinestones

Howlin' Wolf Sign

You’re probably wondering what in the world do these two things have in common. Well, my intimate musical experience this past Friday night brought the two together in such perfect harmony. I purchased tickets to see Kacey Musgraves at the Howlin’ Wolf months ago when her second album, Pageant Material, came out in June of this year. The day finally arrived and we headed down to New Orleans after work for a night of highly anticipated live music. After sitting in the usual Friday evening traffic on Lake Pontchartrain, we arrived just in time for the opening act of Humming House. When the rhythm of the bass drum, tambourine, fiddle, mandolin and acoustic guitar began on the first song Run with Me, I couldn’t contain the smile that was spreading across my face. I looked back at Andrew with big eyes and a kid grin as my boots started moving under my feet with excitement. The wide variety of percussion sounds mixed with beautiful vocal harmonies, robust instrumental attacks, chanting passages about life on the road, love, travel and new frontiers (my favorite topic this year), showed the band’s never ending talent. The elements of bluegrass, folk, soul, blues and jazz are intertwined with a balance of impressive vocals. To seal the deal, they performed a Justin Timberlake cover My Love. Enjoy this little sample but please excuse the poor quality of my videos – clearly I need to upgrade my phone.

Watching these fiddle playing, tambourine slinging musicians break down that song and even add the beat box interlude was one of the best moments of the night. Shock followed by endless cheering was a clear indication of the crowd’s support.

It’s worth watching the full version here:

Needless to say, their albums have been on repeat since Friday. I’m in music love right now and can’t help but share just one more video with you. You should see the grin on my face as I listen to this song.

The second portion of the Rhinestone Revue was the introduction of rhinestones, hot pink streamers, flashing lapels, and a talent competition. My lady-love Kacey Musgraves showed up in glitter from head to toe with her band dressed in pink western suits flashing lights on their lapel and down the sides of their pants. In the midst of lights, swirling projections and of course, a disco ball, they brought us Pageant Material in honor of her new album.

On every song, I was more and more impressed with Kacey’s ability to sound EXACTLY like her album. Minus the roaring crowd and some fleshed out instrumental pieces, it was as if you inserted her CD and pressed play.

Kacey Musgraves

Towards the middle of her set, there was a short break for the talent competition of the Rhinestone Revue. This was an interesting compilation of funny “drunk guy” impersonations and an overview of her band mate’s carpentry talents. A talent competition at a concert was a first for me but was thoroughly enjoyable. Another highlight was her cover of Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart. Me and the rest of the crowd were dancing like crazy and singing at the top of our lungs.

When she played Blowin’ Smoke, one of my favorites, we received a wonderful rendition of the song from some random drunk lady in front of us who seemed to be singing to the couple standing next to me even though they had no idea who she was either. It was a good laugh to watch her sing her heart out to us and then stumble off.  When she covered Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Were Made for Walking, the fiddle player from Humming House, Bobby Chase, joined Kacey’s band. All of sudden, I saw Leslie Rodriguez, one of the lead singers of Humming House, pushing through the crowd towards me with a camera in her hand. She stopped and took a picture of Bobby Chase’s beautiful moment on stage. We made sure to express to her how much we enjoyed their set. That was a nice treat that I will forever remember.

Kacey closed out the show with the song that brought her to the forefront of country music which was Follow Your Arrow. At one point, she and her band quit playing and the crowd kept singing the chorus word for word. She seemed impressed as she looked at her band mates and the crowd kept the song going. You could tell she felt the love in the room that night.

We stopped by the merch table and picked up some llama shirts from Humming House that we couldn’t pass up. Me and Andrew have a thing for llamas – yes, we have a thing.

Humming House - Llama Shirt

Since we had to rush to New Orleans, we skipped dinner earlier and sat down for a bite at the Den which is attached to Howlin’ Wolf. I wasn’t sure how good it would be since it’s really a bar with a few tables but it was very good. Both the Chicken Philly and the Chester Burger are delicious and you get to watch your order being cooked as the kitchen portion is open to the public. They open all the French doors and you really experience the New Orleans vibe that way.Me & Andrew

I left that night feeling full in my belly and full in my heart. Live music makes my soul smile and discovering a new band like Humming House was the greatest gift of the night.  The fiddles showed up and the rhinestones shined bright!

Venison Roast – Mississippi Style

These are the days when I appreciate having a hunter for a husband. Fall, or what we consider fall, is right around the corner for us in South Louisiana. It’s the time of LSU football games and pumpkin spice lattes. During these months, I also usually yearn for a great stew, hearty soup or other comforting dish. My favorite ingredient in these dishes is the meat which is normally something Andrew has killed and brought home for us to savor. I didn’t always cook wild game but when I got married, I had to learn…quickly. I realized that if Andrew was going to go out and hunt and bring home a year’s worth of meat, I needed to learn how to prepare it for dinner. During the fall and spring, he will come home with some interesting animals: rabbit, deer, turkey, hog and even sometimes a raccoon! Just to give you an idea, we cooked the very last back-strap last night which was from last year’s hunting season and we are now at the beginning of another hunting season. He will restock our freezer all over again for an entire year. I appreciate what I eat in my household because my husband killed it, skinned it and cut it up himself.

With that being sad, I will now share with you a new crock pot recipe that I tried yesterday. It was absolutely delicious and easy to prepare because I don’t do complicated. The ingredients for this recipe are basic and inexpensive. I try and shy away from recipes that cost an arm and a leg to cook. I don’t have the pocket change to be marching all over Whole Foods or Fresh Market and everyone knows you can blow $200 easy at either store. This particular dish also doesn’t have a long list of ingredients which is always nice when you are crunched for time. During our hectic lives, no one really has the time to pour over an entire page of ingredients to make one meal. I usually like to throw it together in the crock pot at 5:30 a.m. (yes, we’re early risers in this Spivey house) and when I get home at the end of the day, it is ready. I came across a recipe for a Mississippi Roast in honor of my recent travels but tweaked it a little, added some extras and adapted it for venison. Since venison is leaner and doesn’t have the fat that beef does, you don’t need to cook it as long as beef. You can use this recipe for a chuck roast but you will want to make sure to cook it for 8 hours on low whereas, you only cook venison for 6 hours on low.

Hope you love it as much as I did last night!

Venison Roast

 

VENISON ROAST – Mississippi Style
Ingredients:
3 lb venison back-strap (or chuck roast)
1 Hidden Valley Ranch dressing packet
1 McCormick Beef Stew seasoning packet
6 pepperoncinis
4 cloves of garlic
2 large white potatoes
1 cup of baby carrots
1 tsp of garlic salt
1 tsp of onion powder
½ tsp of Slap Your Mama’s seasoning (our favorite local seasoning)
¼ cup of Worcester sauce
1 – 1 ½ cups of water

1. Cut potatoes into pieces and layer them with the baby carrots on the bottom of your crock pot;
2. Add venison back-strap on top of potato and carrot layer;
3. Add water and Worcester;
4. Layer pepperoncini’s and garlic cloves around the edges of meat;
5. Sprinkle Ranch and Beef Stew packets on top of meat;
6. Add remaining seasonings and cook for 6 hours on low.

The Natchez Skinny

My husband and I recently celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary in Natchez, MS. If you can survive this EXTRA-LONG post, you will learn the ins and outs of our trip which I’ve now tagged the Natchez Skinny.

After a short 2 hour drive from Prairieville, we pulled up to The Elms at 800 Washington Street, Natchez, MS and admired this magnificent mansion in all its glory.

The Elms3Whether it was the inviting rocking chairs, the wrap around porch, the house poodle Lucy greeting you on your arrival or the ever so charming Esther Carpenter (owner), you felt at home the second you walked through the door.The Elms2The Elms 1

The Elms - LucyWe stayed in the Kellogg Room and lived in bed and breakfast luxury for five days. I couldn’t get enough of the relaxing claw foot tub and the plush robes that were provided to us. Esther took care of all the details during our romantic stay, from fresh flowers to fresh desserts on the porch and a full southern breakfast each morning with other engaging guests. The large wrap around porch with its beautiful views of the oaks and elms that covered the estate was one of my favorite parts of The Elms. Esther is a chef and an artist which was apparent by the unique starburst lights that hung in the oak trees throughout the yard. It was a magical sight watching them come alive each night. Needless to say, we enjoyed every minute of our stay.

Because we have never visited Natchez before, our first stop was the Natchez Visitor’s Center which sat on top of a large bluff, overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. I was extremely impressed with the educational resources available and the sheer beauty of the view. If you ever visit Natchez, this should be your first stop.

Visitor's Center 1

Visitor's Center 2

The clerk at the visitor’s center directed us to a quaint little spot for dinner called Magnolia Grill located Under the Hill and she made sure to recommend sitting on “the porch”. We soon figured out why the porch was in high demand.

Magnolia Grill Sign

Magnolia Grill View

You notice pretty quick why that area is named Under the Hill as you trek down a steep incline and look up to see the bluff towering above you. Back in the 1800’s, this area was frequented by gamblers, prostitutes and kinds alike. The more prominent people lived in mansions and large estates up on the bluff. Today Natchez Under the Hill is a big tourist attraction and has a great selection of restaurants and taverns to enjoy.

Now, back to our delicious dishes at Magnolia Grill:

Andrew ordered the grilled quail and I ordered BBQ shrimp but the best part of our meal was the homemade Buttermilk Coconut Pie. It is a custard consistency with just the right amount of coconut to excite your taste buds.

Magnolia Grill Dinner 1 - Copy

Magnolia Grill Dinner 2 - Copy

Magnolia Grill Dessert

The view of the Mississippi River on the porch of the restaurant was spectacular and the evening stroll afterwards to work off all the calories was practically a scene out of a movie.

Magnolia Grill 2

Before the evening was over, we decided to stop by Forks of the Road which is the site of several markets where enslaved humans were bought and sold from the 1830s until 1863. Natchez was one of the busiest slave trading towns in the nation.  Over in the corner, we noticed cemented into the ground iron shackles that were used to bind the slaves together during transport. Standing on that piece of history brought such an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness while I thought about people being sold like cattle to the highest bidder, without any say in how their life would turn out. After reading different slaves’ accounts documented on display boards at this historical landmark, I walked away with a deeper understanding of the struggle and desperation of the enslaved people.

Forks of the Road

Forks of the Road 2

We celebrated our anniversary on day 2 of our Natchez excursion by heading across the river to Frogmore, LA (outside of Ferriday, LA) where we toured Frogmore Plantation, an active cotton plantation. Frogmore 1

The countless rows of cotton were absolutely breathtaking.

Frogmore 3

Our tour guides covered the history of cotton, then and now, explaining the evolution in cotton production from slave labor to the modern day cotton gin. Learning about the slaves living conditions and work life on a cotton plantation was an eye opener for me. It put into perspective how difficult life was then and how hard people worked for their meager wages. Things have changed so much and we really don’t know struggle like that anymore.Frogmore 2

Frogmore 4

On our route back to Natchez, we stumbled across Johnnie Mae’s in Vidalia, LA. Not only was the food top notch but the creative and unique décor was fun to examine over lunch.Johnny Mae's decor

Andrew ordered the Vidalia Burger which was a delicious stack of Andouille sausage, American & pepper jack cheese, onion, pickles, tomatoes, & BBQ sauce, all on an onion sourdough bun. I ordered the Pastalaya which had just enough kick to satisfy my craving for the day. The homemade peach bread budding with caramel sauce was top on our dessert list for the trip.Johnny Mae's Lunch

Johnny Mae's Dessert

Because of all of the eating we had been doing, we needed a caffeine pick me up and found Steampunk Coffee Roasters. It is located at 114 High Street in a brick cabin, circa 1868.Steampunk Coffee RoasterThe centerpiece of this coffee house is a gorgeous brass espresso machine and industrial design décor. The espresso and specialty brewed coffees and teas are out of this world. We made a pit stop for our daily cup of coffee every afternoon. I even picked up some burlap coffee bags they sell for $5/each. I have a few creative ideas for these burlap sacks. I highly recommend stopping by for a cup of their joe anytime you are in town.

Since we had a sudden burst of energy, we headed to Bowie Outfitters flagship store. Andrew was disappointed because it was significantly smaller than the Baton Rouge location back home. That didn’t stop us from getting into the tactical equipment and having some good laughs.Bowie Outfitters

Bowie Outfitters 2Our final celebration for the night was dinner at Monmouth Plantation, an early 19th century antebellum mansion set in 26 acres of manicured gardens.Monmouth PlantationThe cuisine was exquisite at their Restaurant 1818 and the romantic atmosphere was exactly what you would want for a milestone anniversary. After enjoying a meal of grilled duck and a 6 oz filet with mushroom sauce, we decided to enjoy homemade bread pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert. That makes 2 bread pudding desserts in one day and it was totally worth it.

Are you starting to realize this trip has begun to sound like a foodie crawl? Yes, we started to realize that as we were stuffing our faces with one good meal after another. And again, it was totally worth it.

Day 3 of our Natchez excursion included lots of physical activity which was exactly what we needed after eating non-stop for the first couple of days. We booked a kayak trip of Marengo Bend with Lena McKnight of Everyday Adventure, LLC. From beginning to end, Lena and her husband Tim were amazing. They picked us up at our bed and breakfast, brought water for our adventure and unloaded everything for us as well. Serene views, alligators, egrets, cranes, deer and turkey were all part of our experience on that oxbow lake.Kayak 4

Kayak 3When the clouds parted mid-morning, I sat back in my kayak and took in all of God’s beauty before me.  You truly feel the presence of God’s blessing upon your life when you are in a place like that. To have breath of life and to share this experience with Andrew and this wonderful couple we just met was memorable. When looking back on that morning, I realize that Lena and Tim’s warm spirit and love for the outdoors made the adventure that much more enjoyable.Kayak 1Kayak 5

Kayak 2On our way back into town, we stopped at Pig Out Inn and indulged in some smoked chicken and brisket with all the delicious homemade fixings of mac and cheese and potato salad. Of course I had to try their homemade sweet potato pie which didn’t disappoint one bit. What’s really nice about these pies are their petite size – perfect for a small sweet bite.  Pig Out Inn 3

Pig Out Inn 1

Our final event of the day was a complete surprise to me. I had sort of an idea since Andrew instructed me to change into jeans and cowboy boots which peaked my curiosity. We drove around the Homochitto National Forest hills, down gravel roads, traveling farther and farther away from civilization. The trees created such beautiful canopies above the roads. We finally pulled into Brushy Creek Ranch and I realized we were going horse-back riding! The ranch is 54 acres but is surrounded by 200,000 acres of the Homochitto National Forest. This forest is your wonderland out there and it is truly beautiful. The owners Chris and Ashley Kimble were so friendly and made us feel like part of the family. They recently purchased the ranch and have a background in marriage and family therapy with the hopes of introducing equine therapy as part of their process. Campgrounds and cabins are available for overnight stays, and a pool and 2 large ponds create a nice weekend getaway spot.

I rode Pepper and Andrew rode Trixie. They are friends in horse land and you could tell because they kept close to one another most of the time we were on the trails. It was a precious friendship to watch throughout the ride.

Brushy Creek 4

Brushy Creek 3I don’t think words can express how much joy and happiness that afternoon brought to my life. Riding through the forest on that beautiful horse, with all of his strength and glory, was a feeling I really can’t describe. This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life but also a year of self-discovery, learning to love myself, accept myself and to surrender my burdens to God so that He can carry them for me. All of those struggles disappeared that afternoon. There were moments when Pepper and I were galloping through the forest, gaining speed with each step and I felt an incredible freedom from the stress of everyday life. Nothing else mattered at that moment but me and Pepper. It was a spiritual experience and brought tears of joy upon leaving that special ranch. I left a piece of myself in those woods and I plan on returning to find myself again.

Brushy Creek 1

Brushy Creek 2

Our evening dinner hangout was Fat Mama’s Tamales in Natchez. It is an interesting hot spot with its lush landscaping and painted tubs out front.

Fat Tamales 1

Fat Tamales 5

Fat Tamales 4

Andrew and I both enjoyed a Gringo Pie which includes 3 tamales topped with shredded cheese, homemade chili, diced onions and jalapenos. Although we didn’t try a sample, they are known for their Knock You Naked Margarita – sounds deadly. We were able to enjoy the tail end of the LSU/Eastern Michigan game and met a sweet couple from Denham Springs, LA which is right around the corner from us back home. One thing you will want to try if you ever stop by this establishment is their homemade Lemon Icebox Pie. It has a graham cracker and custard crust and I really could have eaten an entire pie. It was that good.

Day 4 of our Natchez excursion was a slower day for us. It was Sunday and Natchez basically shuts down. The only places really open were the antebellum homes and a small selection of restaurants. We did take a tour of Longwood Plantation which proved to be a sad story of the Nutt family that lost everything in the war and had to live in the basement of their mansion because the remaining portion of the house was unfinished due to lack of funds.

Longwood 3

Longwood

Longwood 5

The mansion remains unfinished today and stands as a reminder of all that was lost in the war. There is also a family cemetery on the stunning grounds.

For our lunch destination, we enjoyed a brunch buffet at the Carriage House on the grounds of Stanton Hall, circa 1857 and another example of antebellum splendor. The buffet was a wonderful array of southern cuisine and as you can see, I was in the mood for fried chicken but also enjoyed the grilled red fish, cheese grits, brisket, sweet corn casserole and a spinach and cheese quiche. It was definitely more a lunch brunch rather than a breakfast brunch which I was in the mood for anyway.Stanton Hall 1 Stanton Hall 2

We skipped dessert because I had a special coffee shop and bakery in mind, Natchez Coffee Company. We enjoyed espresso, pecan praline coffee and some of the best baked goods. I tried the red velvet cake which towered tall with cream cheese icing and Andrew tried the lemon delight. It is apparent that Andrew really enjoys lemon pies or anything lemon for that matter.image

This is a precious little joint with a great view of the cozy town of Natchez. We stumbled across a plaque that seemed to scream our name and our definite theme for this trip.Natchez Coffee Co. 2Our last dinner in Natchez was at the King’s Tavern which is the oldest building in the city, circa 1789. It is also apparently haunted and the story involves a mistress, two hit men and skeletal remains hidden behind the fireplace. The restaurant is owned by Chef Regina Charboneau who is also the owner of Twin Oaks in town. Although we didn’t go there for the drinks, they are affiliated with the Charboneau Distillery next door and also have a wide variety of beers and specialty cocktails. Even though the menu is limited, the gourmet flatbreads and desserts are divine. I ordered the Muffaletto flatbread and Andrew ordered the Braised Brisket flatbread. We tried the Black Bottom Pie for dessert which included a ginger snap crust, house made dark chocolate ice cream with bourbon cream cheese topping and yes, it was bliss in our mouths!King's Tavern 1King's Tavern 2

King's Tavern 3On our very last morning in Natchez, we decided to view Natchez in Historic Photographs in the Stratton Church at First Presbyterian Church.Stratton Chapel - historic photographsThis exhibit has over 500 astonishing photographs of early Natchez from the Gandy Collection. It blew me away to see aerial photographs of the river during different floods, dirt roads in the area which is now known as Natchez Under the Hill, the luxurious steamboats and their massive dining halls, the ranges in fashion over the years and recognizing the Carpenter family which owned and lived at Dunleith. Esther Carpenter’s grandmother and great grandmother are seen throughout the black and white photographs, lounging on the porch of Dunleith, preparing for a Mardi Gras ball, etc. There is so much history all in one place. If I could do it all over again, I would have visited this exhibit at the beginning of our trip.

My time in Natchez with Andrew was exactly what we needed at this stage in our marriage. It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life where we could enjoy good food, spend some time in the great outdoors and reconnect with one another. We celebrated a milestone following a season of great struggle in our marriage and I am grateful for this time together. We didn’t have to go far away or spend tons of money doing fabulous things to have a good time. We just drove to our next door neighbor Mississippi. It was nice to enjoy each other, one on one, with all of our little quirks, in the charming and cozy town of Natchez.Mighty Mississippi

Thank you Natchez for treating us so well.

Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I made one of my favorite dishes this weekend, Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps. It is super easy, healthy and DELICIOUS! I sometimes pair it with a bowl of fresh fruit which makes a refreshing meal. Sharing the recipe with you here:

Lettuce Wraps 

Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

For the Chicken:

24 oz boneless skinless chicken breast (approximately 4 chicken breasts)

Slap Your Mama’s seasoning

1 celery stalk

½ onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

16 oz fat free low sodium chicken broth

Can of water chestnuts, drained and roughly chopped

½ cup hot cayenne pepper sauce (I use a mixture of Frank’s & Hooter’s)

For the Wraps:

6 large lettuce leaves (Bibb, Iceberg or Butter)

1 ½ cups shredded carrots

2 large celery stalks, cut into 2 inch matchsticks

Blue cheese crumbles

Directions:

In a crock pot, add chicken and season to your liking, add onions, celery stalk, garlic and broth (enough to cover your chicken and use water if the broth isn’t enough). Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the crock pot, reserve ½ cup broth and discard the rest. Shred the chicken with two forks, return to the crock pot with the ½ cup broth, the ½ cup hot sauce and the water chestnuts. Set on high for an additional 30 minutes. This should make 3 cups of chicken, sometimes more if you are using extra-large chicken breasts.

To prepare lettuce cups, place ½ cup buffalo chicken in each leaf, top with ¼ cup shredded carrots, celery and blue cheese if you like. Wrap it all up and enjoy!

Learning to Fly

Silks

Yes, I have a love affair with aerial silks. I am one of the slightly crazy people that decided to take a course in aerial silks training and became hooked. My aerial yoga teacher asked me on a whim if I wanted to learn and that is how my relationship with silks began. I was a wee little bird when I first started with absolutely NO upper body strength. My pull-up bar became my friend and enemy. I struggled to get my first pull-up but I knew if I stayed dedicated, I would persevere.

Pull-up bar   Pull-up stunt

It took me several weeks before I had the strength to climb the silks and that is a main part of the foundation. I went through the normal depressing moments where I didn’t think I would ever be able to do this mesmerizing skill. I would doubt myself but I have a supportive husband who would cheer me up each night I would come home in a funk. I had to keep telling myself “most people aren’t brave enough to even try this”. Once my body started transforming, silks became fun and each class brought another adventure. I could tell that in time I would excel but I needed to stick with it and put in the necessary work. That is one of the lessons I have learned since starting this journey. If you want something bad enough, stay consistent and dedicated and your body will develop the strength to bring you to heights you never thought you could reach, literally and figuratively. I should also explain that I have psoriatic arthritis which I treat with Enbrel once a week. Having an autoimmune disease that once gave me debilitating pain and inflammation has been the pinnacle part of this process for me. I once could hardly walk because my knees were swollen to the size of cantaloupes and the pain was excruciating. To see my progress over the past 9 months is truly remarkable and each hurdle I would overcome learning this beautiful art form was a huge victory for me, on many different levels.

At the end of our 4 month course, we had a mini-performance in front of friends and family. I had the kind of nerves where I wondered if I could actually perform. I did make it through the routine and felt pride that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I had chosen a song that really represented my sad soul at that time. I was going through some difficult times personally and this was a way for me to express it. Even though the crowd didn’t know the trials I was walking through at that time, I could have the release on my own and experience the emotion that song represented for me.

My First Ever Aerial Performance

Even though I took a short break over the summer, I have since continued my training at a different studio and my love affair continues each week. Thinking back on my initial steps into the world of everything aerial, I see now there was a purpose all along for me. God was preparing me mentally and emotionally for a difficult season in my life. He brought into motion a hobby that represented so much more for me than just learning tricks on silks. I became physically strong and found joy in something that I could work on for “me”. This strength and joy filtered into other facets of my life and I was able to make hard decisions in my life because I had found confidence in myself.

As I continue to learn new ways to fly, I will share them with you and hope you find inspiration in my journey of life and everything aerial, one silk at a time.

 Silks - Split 2

Silks - butterfly

Silks - Coupling

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