Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mississippi New Years with a night in Memphis


This year I traded in heels and sequins for boots and plaid. For three years I've been hearing about the "epic" parties that happen in Carroll County at Meadowbrake Farm over New Years. I decided it was time for me to see what it was all about. I'd been to the cabin one other time, but only with 4 of us.


The land for Meadowbrake Farm was purchased in 1997 by Mr. & Mrs. Snipes, aka Charles Ed (Chalz Ed) and Peggy (Peggs). They originally bought 100 acres and not long after added another 140 acres. The name of the farm, Meadowbrake, is a combination of Mrs. Peggy's maiden name (Meadows) and a hunting club in Alabama, where Chalz Ed grew up hunting (Canebrake). The cabin you see in the pictures below was built in 2010. It was built on the exact same footprint of the original cabin. Only one tree had to be cut down during the construction of the new cabin. The wood from that tree is now the dining room table and the smoke house that sits to the side of the house. All wood and tin from the original cabin has been re-purposed throughout the new cabin. Today Meadowbrake is 270 acres and 710 more is leased surrounding the property. There are four ponds, three are stocked Bass & Brim and the other Catfish. One is full of Cottonmouths! Dogwoods and Red-buds bloom in the Spring throughout the woods of Pines and Hardwoods. Pine Plantations have been planted for retirements and inheritances. Charles Ed and Peggs bought the land where they did, "in the hills, over the Delta", because it reminded them of Georgia where Peggy grew up and where they lived when they were newlyweds. Mr. & Mrs. Snipes realized there was not a safe place for ladies to hunt on their own that wasn't part of a gentleman's hunt club, so they created their own.

I caught a Brim on my first trip to the cabin back in 13'
For this trip half my time would be spent in The Delta and the other half in Memphis.

Wednesday:
I arrived in Memphis and Brantley scooped me. When you go to The Delta you have to fly into Memphis or Jackson. Each is about an hour and half away from Greenwood, where B lives. Normally I would hate this but since I only see B once or twice a year and we lives states apart, I love the time we have to catch up before the drinking, exploring and other friends join in. We get to catch up on each other lives and well, it's better to do that in person vs phone, text and social media. This commute had a bonus... a stop at Wal-Mart AND this burger joint that I'd never been too! Apparently they are in NC as well, but I'd never visited one.

Thursday:
B, Kendall, Malone and I load up B's latest purchase, "The Jeep." From the looks of the trunk, you would have thought we were going somewhere for a week, not 36 hours. Food, drinks, props, fireworks, costumes, over night bags, sleeping gear and Jack take up all of the extra space we had. Naturally we are the first to arrive. We set up the house, admire Peggy's NYE decore placed on all the animals, post arrows along the dirt roads that lead to the cabin, give Kendall a makeover, target shoot, ride the 4 wheeler, set up the fire pit and mentally prepare for the long night ahead.
























Each year the Cabin New Year's party has a theme. The selected theme for this year was "Bayside High" and people came in full attire!

We ate, drank, yelled, shot off fireworks, built a fire in the pit, played life size battleship, watched some football game that was on, star gazed, explored and had a dance party to our our favorite tunes, which you can listen to here, here and here all while screaming the lyrics. This continued into the weee hours of the morning.

Oh and at some point I dropped my phone in the toilet but very quickly rescued it. A team of about 5 of us tried relentlessly to bring her back to life, but she seemed down for the count for the time being. Not having any rice (because 5 boxes of Uncle Ben's had been thrown into the crock-pot, literally 10 min before this happened) we opted for pasta. In goes the phone into a pasta bowl. Knowing there was nothing else that could be done, I poured a double and went to my new favorite person for condolences (insert Danielle).

I was "warned" about Danielle before she arrived... I was told she either likes you or doesn't! Shew, the pressure. After I got ready and had a couple drinks in me, I gave my self a pep talk... "be yourself, there are plenty others to talk to if she doesn't like you, wait, why wouldn't she like me, we are going to be besties by midnight".... turns out, it was as if I'd always known her! We got along great and were constantly laughing, whispering funnies into each others ears, making predicaments on how the night would end and singing plus dancing to our heart's content. The next morning over the dank sausage loaf, we sat on the couch and laughed about how the night ended, I played on her phone, I gawked at the fact she had 18,958 unread emails, then had a minor panic attack because she seemed not to be bothered by this. We even cheered when my phone turned on and laughed when it "mostly" worked.















Friday:
It was a great New Years. I got up to get some water. There were bodies laid out everywhere. I was a special guest, so I had the privilege of having a room (thank you B). Once humans started to awake, Danielle made her famous breakfast.

You can fancy this up with veggies and use extra sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheese and as Danielle's grandmothers states "It freezes well and is great for unexpected overnight guests"

Sausage Loaf

What you need
1 Loaf of French Bread (fat loaf cooked)
1 alb of Sausage (spicy or mild, your choice)
1/4 cup of milk
2 eggs
1 block of sharp cheddar cheese, grated

What you do with what you need
Slice French Bread
Scoop out bread of bottom half and save what you remove
Cook sausage, stir and crumble it as it cooks
Drain
Mix eggs & milk & sausage 
Add crumbled bread that you saved along with cheese to the mixture
Put mixture back in the loaf and put loaf top back on. 
Brush with butter
Cook in 350 degree oven 'til good & hot. 
Slice and serve. 

*Freezes well. GREAT to pull our for unexpected overnight guests*

Most everyone was cleared out by noon. It's amazing how "many hands make light work" and within what seemed like no time, it was as if 20 people hadn't even been there.

Being it was New Years Day "Greens", Black-eyed Peas, and Cornbread were to be eaten. They bring luck & prosperity. Greens represent money, Black-eyed Peas represent pennies and Cornbread represent gold.  I'm not sure about other parts of the world, but if you want your New Year to get started on the right foot, you must eat these three things. And if you know whats good for you, your greens have been cooked for the better part of the day (and are sopping of vinegar) and cornbread is baked in a cast iron skillet. And if you are reallllllllly into folklore, you can tack greens to the ceiling or hang above doors for the day to ward off evil spirits in the year to come.

For us Southerners, Greens & Black-eyed Peas have been a thing since the Civil War. When Union Troops pillaged the Confederate land they only left behind those two things. While it is not known why, but one can assume it's because they did not know their value. These two things, are very rich in and full of nutrients. These were some of the first planted crops in the South and it helped Southerners survive, especially those fighting in the war. Stories vary on why and how this tradition became to be true, but one thing remains the same... these are two things we try take in unity with friends and family on the first day of each New Year.

I knew we were picking up Greens, but I thought we were picking up from a local farmer who grew them or from the store. When I found out we were picking up cooked Greens from someone who has cooked them their entire life, I just new my supper would be surpurb. Since we are young and not keen on the old school ways of cooking our Greens, Malone opted for some experts to cook ours.

The Johnson's have been family friends of Malone's family, The Gregory's, for many many years. Birdie Johnson has been helping prepare meals for the Gregory's since Malone's father was a child. Birdie is now in her late 80s, so her daughters, Geraldine and Shirley, help when needed. We pulled up to long narrow brick house where Birdie lives. Malone hopped out and went to the apartment around back, where Geraldine lives. Several minutes later she gets in the car with a large aluminum tray. My gawd, they smelled good. Once back at Malone's we, as in Brantley, cooked up all the yum yum and within several bites in I know 2016 is going to be epic.

Birdie with Octavia Spencer, during the filming of The Help, which was filmed in Greenwood
Saturday:
Saturday is a big day for us. We drove to Memphis and were determined to see as many tourist attractions as possible. Mission accomplished. First up was Graceland, almost 14 acres that belonged to The King, himself. Tickets  were purchased on the drive up. The people who write the Graceland website tell you that you need 4-6 hours there. We knocked it all out in 1.5 hours. I mean I suppose if you read every plaque, award, exhibit, yeah it would take that long, but we got the gist from our handy headphones.

It is pretty amazing that we are able to walk, see and touch things he did. The second floor of the home was his private quarters. Out of respect tourist are not allowed upstairs. One of the guards said he'd been up there and all his / their stuff is still up there. The grounds were still decorated for Christmas, which was neat to see.

We saw all the main living spaces, his dad's office, garage, horse pastures, target shooting range, family tombs and it was kinda strange. Elvis Presley was under that headstone. During the tour and after tour Googling you really learn a lot about him:

He had a twin that died at birth

He gave money to a lot of local and national charities

How to make an Elvis PB&B

His love for horses

How many costumes he had

The incomparable amount of awards he won and records he sold

Graceland was purchased by Elvis when he was only 22 for $102,500.00

The original owners and builders of the home had a daughter named Grace, they names the property Graceland. Elvis like the sound of it, and kept it.

Elvis never preformed outside North America

When he was 11 he wanted a riffle or a bike, but his mother gave him a guitar

That black hair... it was dyed

He recorded 15 songs with the word blue in the title

Elvis received a "C" in music in the 8th grade

The King of Rock and Roll never learned to read music

Cleveland Browns was his favorite football team

He held a Black Belt in Karate

John Stamos, a huge Elvis fan is the voice that talks to you through the headphones while you take the tour. What he doesn't tell you is that Elvis was a lover of many women and drugs. The day he died, he played Unchained Melody at his black piano in the lobby of his racquetball court and then went upstairs and died on the toilet, at the age of 42. At the time he was on 10-12 prescription drugs.

On the bus ride back to the parking lot I tried to post pictures of our first tourist stop only to find half the keys on my phone worked and one very important one that was out of commission was #. I mean how can you post to instagram if you can't use #?!



















B & Malone knew the perfect spot for a Memphis sunset. The Mighty Mississippi was really high and she was moving fast! The Metal Museum has a pretty spectacular over look of the river. We took a few snaps then hop back in the car, it was freezing!









Our next stop was the Lorraine Hotel. Just as it was strange to be standing in Elvis Presley's home, it was even more eerie to be where someone was murdered. Someone who was wise beyond his years, wanted us all to get along and that someone who hated hate, was killed by hate. There are still old cars parked out front and his room is left as it was. If you purchase a ticket to the civil right museum, you can walk passed Dr. Martin Luther King's room and see his belongs.








Our bellies are telling us its time to go to AG  & Terrance's to freshen up for supper. Wanting to experience Beale Street but not go "full on" Beale street, we went to Itta Bena. For shows, shops and eats on Beale, go here.  Before our reservation we went to the Peabody for a drink. This hotel is known for their ducks. My mom used to travel for work and would have an annual meeting in Memphis and would always stay at the Peabody. I remember the first time she came back from that trip she told me about the Peabody Ducks! They come down to greet everyone at 11 am and 5 pm. This has been a tradition for 90 years. The general manager and his friend returned from a hunting trip in 1933 and thought (after several drinks) it would be funny to put the decoy ducks (at the time decoys were real) in the fountain... and there they stayed. Five Mallards parade down from the roof top and top floor quarters to greet people every day, with their duck master. The first duck master was the bellman, Edward Pembroke. He was with the ducks for 50 years before retiring in 1991.




Itta Bena is a tiny town less than 3,000 in Mississippi. This tiny town is where legend B.B. King was born (although some articles state he was born in Berclair, Mississippi).  Itta Bena in Memphis is a hidden gem just off Beale Street. It allows locales to have a good place to eat that isn't touristy. There is no sign and no main front door. You must walk up what looks like a service entrance stairway. Within lies a very cool vibe! Dem lights, amazing tunes from a live musician and smells that let you know your supper is about to be dank. Now, I'm not complaining but had the black out drunk Arkansas fans not been sitting beside us, it would have been a much more enjoyable night. However, they were all over town that weekend for a Bowl Game, so pretty hard to avoid.

After supper we head to Lafayette's Music Room for live tunes. This music room was closed for 38 years before re-opening during the revitalization of Overton Square. The original spot didn't live for very long, but she had an impact during her short life. This music hall helped launch the careers of Billy Joel, KISS, Barry Manilow, JJ Cale and Leon Russel.  The place was packed! We lasted about an hour before we needed a more cozy environment. DKDC had that. This place was tiny, holding maybe 40 people and super cozy. There was chick spinning tunes at a very tolerable noise level and the bourbon was a heavy pour.  Catfish Jones walked in, he's with two of his friends and one of their dad's. The dad is a riot. Loves talking to the ladies. They decide I needed to see The Beauty Shop. HOLY MOLY. I loved (love) this place. As if bottles of bubbles in an old 50's parlor wasn't enough, I then found out I was having brunch their the next day! "Look Good, Eat Good": new life mantra. Oh, and side note.. Priscilla Presley got her hair did here!

Sunday:
Back to the Beauty Shop we go. Brunch was had and brunch was mouth watering good. From here we go to Sun Studio for a little tour. We learned about Elvis, BB King, Johnny Cash, Ike Turner an many more. It opened on January 3, 1950 and is still used today! We even got to hold and fake sing into the mic that Elvis used while recording there.





















While we didn't have time to go do the tour at STAX, we did have time to drive over and pop in the gift shop. Just like at Sun Studio, stickers were bought. Stax opened in 1957 as Satellite Records, but in 1961 the name was changed to the much cooler sound, STAX. They were known for gospel, funk, jazz, and blues recordings. Two siblings founded the recording studio and at a time when it wasn't particularly "normal" for different races to interact on a personal level, the staff and artist are known for how well they got along and how well they worked together. At first the studio was operating out of a garage space! Estelle, believing in the company and running the business side of things, took another mortgage out on the family home so they could purchase a Ampex 350 mono tape recorder. Over the years Stax had some ups and downs. in 1989 after being neglected for a over 10 years, Southside Church of God in Christ tore down the original building of Stax. In 2003 the new Stax Museum of American Soul reopened and is now thriving. Stax recorded a long list of artist we know and listen to, here are a few: Ottis Redding, Booker T. Jones, Wilson Pickett, Don Convay, Eddie Floyd, Albert King, Sam & Dave, Ben Harper, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Warren Haynes,  Check out the St webiste is very cool and you should check it out.








Do yourselves a favor and get to Nashville (and the Delta if so desired!).