Christmas in the Deep South (and a Family Cobbler Recipe!)

The madness of the holidays is dying down, and I need to clean my house and update my Etsy shop for the new year. But first, a long overdue blog post!

Joe’s dad recently got in touch with some estranged family and we decided to spend Christmas with them in Mississippi. I was feeling pretty grinch-y about the holidays, since military life usually means spending all our vacation time stressing about $1200 plane tickets home to California, finding perfect gifts for everyone, and driving back and forth visiting loved ones. Our anniversary on the 18th gets all but passed over, and with my perfectly-timed PMS, we’re lucky if I make it home without a complete mental breakdown. Gotta love being an adult, right?

I did handmade gifts this year, which helped, besides being a little last-minute, and Joe convinced me that this trip would be much more laid back. Our “scenic” 12 hour drive took us down a winding road through the mountains, in the dark, with fog so thick we thought we’d never find our way out. But when we finally arrived, after an overnight stay in Tennessee, we were greeted with hugs, hot food, and a very comfortable bed. And in the daytime, views like this one.

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My great-aunt-in-law Ann is a super cool lady. One of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, but not afraid to speak her mind. And good luck helping out around the house, because Ann and her husband Charly will cook and clean and make their guests feel at home, and they don’t mind a bit. But there is no rushing – things happen when everyone is ready. Every morning started with fresh eggs, usually some sausage, and biscuits right out of the oven with homemade jelly. Needless to say, our Paleo diet went out the window for the week.

We spent Christmas with some of Ann & Charly’s friends and her daughter & son-in-law and enjoyed a spread of ham, turkey, turnip greens, casseroles, ambrosia salad, and then cakes, pies, finger foods, fudge, candies – Joe said we have to eat salads for a month now.

Ann also showed me her impressive collection of original artwork, mostly given to her by friends and family, and was delighted with the painting I brought for her to add to it. She let me pick through their antique shop for some plates to put on my kitchen walls, and she told me where to look for unique items for my jewelry making, which she does as well.

I’m still a little exhausted from our trip. Everyone was so kind, but as an introvert, all the Christmas socializing left me wanting to recluse for at least a week to recharge. I could also use some quality time with the husband. Sometimes we do so much we forget about each other. But all the driving provided a lot of talk time, and some argument time, and we learned some things.

Ann & Charly have been married just a little bit longer than we have, and she mentioned that they never argue because life is too short. I wondered how they pull that off. We argue all the time. I mean, isn’t it basically a necessary evil of relationships? But I remembered something I heard on Christian radio about how to respect your spouse even if you don’t always respect their decisions. You can disagree with something and be honest about it, but you don’t have to berate or belittle your spouse as a person. So maybe there are things worth arguing over and maybe there aren’t, but the words you use matter, a lot (if only I could remember this in the heat of the moment!)

So anyway, there’s our trip, a little crazy but a neat experience. And now, I am honored to share the blackberry cobbler recipe that Ann gave us when Joe first met them in July. I’ve re-written it for simplicity, but the recipe & prep are the same. It’s different and delicious, best served hot out of the oven!

Blackberry Cobbler

6 sheets fillo (phyllo) pastry dough
2 1/2 pints fresh or frozen blackberries
1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar + 3 tbsp
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp melted butter

Place 3 sheets of fillo dough on bottom of baking dish. Lay blackberries over dough. Mix flour, 1 c. sugar, milk, and vanilla, and pour over berries. Place 3 more sheets of fillo dough on top. Spoon butter over dough, then sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!