Just call it Craft Central!

After many months of working almost exclusively on the camping blog Robert and I are creating I finally have some time to get back to crafting, and get back to just writing about my home and all the goodness there is going on.

This is a block from the Dear Jane quilt I have going on. It’s going to be one of those many year projects as I usually pick it up here and there and work a little in between other projects. I am working on a lot of other stuff – some in reality and much in my head! I am making a large lap quilt for someone for Christmas. Someone who I have no idea if they read this blog, so no pictures or info on that yet. It is the “Turning Twenty” pattern which is really easy and quick though, so that’s definitely nice.

I am also participating in a swap on Craftster, my first swap in quite awhile. It’s nice to be thinking about how to make new things, challenging myself and just doing for someone else (and knowing someone is doing for me too!). It’s a one hour swap, which means I should spend only about an hour on the project. Well, we agreed to give it 4 hours – either for four different projects, or slightly larger projects, or whatever. It’s been fun so far and I am enjoying it.

I have a stack of fabric next to me from the Happy Camper fabric line to make something for the camper. A quilt for the couch I think, though in what pattern, I don’t know. I also have a quilt in progress for my new baby cousin Natalie. Fabric for one for her brother Nathan. A pattern and about half of the fabric for another Christmas gift. I am loving it. The projects are going well. I’m having fun. And I am full of ideas. It’s awesome!

We’ve started using the woodstove somewhat regularly. Mostly to just warm things up in the mornings or evenings. Right now the giant, sturdy and wonderfully awesome clothes drying rack we got in Shipshewana is near the stove, holding some laundry. I’d take a picture but it’s mostly underwear, so, you know, don’t wanna get all TMI on you!

I hope I can keep up this crafty momentum. It has been nice to sit down in my office, get my work done and then go into the sewing room and be creative.

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Taco Traveler: The Tamale Place, Vicksburg, Mississippi

tamale place

The Tamale Place in Vicksburg, Mississippi serves up slightly spicy, saucy tamales. And that, is just about it. When you walk in, there is a window to order your food and that is all. No cute decor, no tables, no to-go menus. You can get tamales, boudin and burgers. Tamales are wrapped in parchment type paper and then newspaper to travel.

tamale place half doz

The spiciness wasn’t overwhelming, it really was spicy more than hot. That was the main flavor I got from it though. Spicy, medium heat but I couldn’t really identify a particular flavor from the tamale. I had one. Mr. Taco Traveler had one. We took the rest back to our campsite where Mr. Taco Traveler had another one or two. The remainder went into the trash unfortunately. They just weren’t that impressive and there was nothing about the restaurant that was all that redeeming either. In fact, the person who took our order seemed pretty suspicious that we had been outside taking a picture of the sign. I will say though, if you are looking for a tamale with a little bit of heat that is still family friendly you will probably really like these.

We read several places that there were homemade pralines available here also, but we saw no sign of them. After our less than friendly greeting by the cashier, I didn’t take the time to ask about pralines.

The Tamale Place, 2190 S. Frontage Road, Vicksburg, Mississippi 39180 gets 2 tacos out of 5. I really wanted to like these more but I think my expectations were too high so I was bound to be disappointed. It was definitely worthwhile to have these to compare with those from Solly’s.

Taco Traveler: Fat Mama’s Tamales, Natchez, Mississippi

If you read that you are going to be driving in the general vicinity of a place called Fat Mama’s Tamales that is the home of the Knock-You-Naked margarita there isn’t a lot of debate about whether or not you will stop. You just do.

fat mamas outside

When we arrived in Natchez, Mississippi at the end of our drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway we were looking forward to some lunch and a tour of some antebellum homes. It was scorching hot outside with the thermometer in the truck staying consistently over 100 degrees. This made lunch extra appealing, with cold beverages and air conditioning seeming like the best plan possible. We knew we had found the right place when we saw the bathtubs…

fat mamas

Inside we found cheerful yellow walls, bright, fiesta-like decor and even whimsically painted toilets in the bathrooms. Fat Mama’s has no wait staff so you have to order at the counter, pay at the counter and then come and pick up your food when it’s ready. Not a big deal since the dining room is spacious, but not huge. We decided to try the tamales, of course, the Gringo Pie – listed as Fat Mama’s Favorite in the menu – and the knock-you-naked margaritas. We added on some chocolate chip pretzel cookies after we ate.

fat mama margarita

The margaritas came out first. I was pleasantly surprised to find no overly strong tequila taste coming from my glass, just a nice tart margarita. I probably should’ve known better considering they are called knock-you-naked. I slurped through the second half pretty quickly and paid for it with a seriously upset stomach for about 30 minutes in the car. Too much tequila too fast is my guess. Fat Mama’s sells cute little bottles of the margarita mix that you can pick up for mixing at home. We saw them some other places around Natchez for about $1 more so make sure you go to the source if you want to save some money.If you don’t want a margarita but enjoy a good draft beer, try the Southern Pecan. It’s a very nice nut brown ale type beer, good flavor and only a touch of bitterness at the finish.

fat mama gringo pie

The Gringo Pie came out first – three tamales topped with chili, cheese, onions and jalepenos. It was okay. I think, by visiting Solly’s Hot Tamales first we may have spoiled ourselves for any other tamales. It was certainly not bad by any means. Mr. Taco Traveler and I finished it off with no problem. It just wasn’t anything truly remarkable.

fat mama tamales

Tamales came out next. The first thing I thought when I took a bite was, “Oh, they obviously use masa flour.” There is a distinct flavor to masa flour and it completely permeates every bite of Fat Mama’s tamales. If you love that flavor you will really love these tamales. Unfortunately, it is not a flavor that I love so I was a little turned off. The texture was a little softer than other tamales we tried and they had a little less sauce clinging to them. Mr. Taco Traveler enjoyed them but we both agreed the tamales were disappointingly average.

The chocolate chip pretzel cookies at the end were good, though not “to-die for” as was suggested to us. Maybe we’re just food snobs?

With that said, I would still say it is worth a trip to Fat Mama’s if you are in the Natchez area because people will ask if you’ve been there if they know anything about Natchez. And you can get great knock-you-naked T-shirts and stickers that make for fun vacation souvenirs.

Fat Mama’s Tamales, 303 South Canal St. Natchez, Mississippi earns 3.5 tacos out of 5 – 1 taco for good atmosphere, 1 taco for the food and 1.5 tacos for the margaritas. If you’re in Natchez, make sure you go get knocked-naked (I keep wanting to type knocked knaked) at Fat Mama’s. You’ll have fun.

Taco Traveler: Solly’s Hot Tamales, Vicksburg Mississippi

sollys outside

Arriving at Solly’s Hot Tamales on Washington Street in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Mr. Taco Traveler and I wondered if maybe we had gotten some bad information about where to find good tamales. From the outside, it looks like a pretty serious dive. We should know by now not to judge a place by it’s outside appearance! Knowing we were going to be driving through Mississippi on the tail end of our vacation, I knew we needed to try some of the oddly well know hot tamales in Mississippi. We’re from Texas, where tamales make perfect sense. But in Mississippi? We were wondering what all the fuss could be about.

solly menu

The menu, a photocopy taped to the ordering window, didn’t seem like very much. Tamales by the half dozen or dozen, chili burgers and chili dogs, tamale burritos and a Fiesta, whatever that was. Mr. Taco Tamale Traveler started reading the menu. I just asked what was good, “besides the tamales, obviously.” I was told the Fiesta was a speciality at Solly’s so we quickly decided on a half dozen tamales and a fiesta. We were asked if we wanted crackers. We didn’t know why we needed them but we said sure since they apparently go with tamales somehow.

Sollys hot tamales 1

The food was on the table within three minutes. When we commented that it was such quick service we were told they get up at 4am and start cooking so even when you show up at 11am, as we did, things are pretty much ready to go.The fiesta is sort of like tamale nachos, with three tamales at the base, covered with refried beans, chili, onions, cheese, picante sauce, sour cream and jalapenos. Tortilla chips for scooping are served on the side. It was tasty and definitely not a way we had found tamales served before. All the extras do cover up the tamale flavor a little bit though. So even if you really want a Fiesta, get a few plain tamales on the side so you can really taste them.

Solly’s, started in 1939 as a food cart, has an awesome tamale recipe. Both the filling and the cornmeal (Solly’s uses white cornmeal and not masa) are seasoned extremely well. After my first bite I immediately made Mr. Taco Traveler try a bite of the tamales straight up. They were absolutely delicious. Not knowing precisely what the crackers were for, we ended up spreading chunks of tamale on them for eating which was pretty tasty too. You can really tell that the tamales are a family recipe, homemade kind of food. The flavors were dead on delicious and good enough I probably could have eaten about 2 dozen before I wanted to stop.

sollys walls

Inside the restaurant the walls are covered with newspaper clippings about Solly’s and awards that have been won. The tables and chairs are pretty basic, but Solly’s is more of a take-out place than a dine-in restaurant. While we were there, a few other customers came in. One older customer said she has been eating Solly’s since she was a little girl and even though she is not from Mississippi now, anytime she gets near Vicksburg she stops in to buy several dozen tamales. Another customer was waiting in line when someone pooped her head out of the kitchen and asked if he wanted “the usual.” When he said yes, she went into the kitchen and brought the order out within a minute or two. The place obviously has some very dedicate customers. That, I think, is the best kind of place to find. I know any time we end up in Vicksburg again, we’ll be stopping by for sure.

Solly’s Hot Tamales is definitely worth 4 tacos out of 5. You can read a bit about the history of Solly’s here or, if you get close, point your car to 1921 Washington Street, Vicksburg Mississippi, 39180.

sollys sign

V A C A T I O N

Whenever I hear the word vacation, I think of that song, v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n, we’re gonna have a ball… thanks Mom. I hear the Back Home Again in Indiana song any time I cross the state line too thanks to my Mom.

We spent last week on vacation in the South. We should’ve known it would be crazy hot, so I will try not to complain about that. We should have known better! It was over 100 every day though, and some days we saw thermometers that had numbers like 106 and 108. It was warm to say the least. It was also very fun.

Alabama Vacation 288

This is the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Awesome, except for the biting flies. Wow. Those really hurt. But, as you can see, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves which was pretty awesome. We also chose to ignore the no pets on the beach sign. The pup had to put her paws in the gulf after all! (she didn’t like it). There are many, many things to write about and I will begin a day by day recap later this week I hope. I am on a big deadline and working hard to meet it. Sometimes when I have big writing deadlins the last thing I want to do is hang out at the computer in the evening and write some more. But I do want to capture it all before it starts to fade. We saw some really unique stuff.

Taco Traveler: Panchos Backyard, Dania Beach, Florida

Mr. Taco Traveler is taking the keyboard this week to share his thoughts on Panchos Bakyard which he visited on a recent trip to Florida.

Panchos Backyard 3

Today’s adventure takes us to Pancho’s Backyard in Dania Beach, Florida.  I know that when one hears Pancho’s associated with a Mexican restaurant the immediate thought is of little red flags that you raise repeatedly to get additional helpings of “food” until you’re stuffed, but this no mass produced TexMex food from a fryer, it’s delicious made to order Mexican specials!

Pancho’s Backyard is one part sport’s bar, one part patio cantina, and two parts restaurant with a dash of elegance thrown in.  You can watch your favorite football teams (that’s what the rest of the world calls soccer) on 5 large monitors around the restaurant, or you can enjoy the best of South Florida’s sun on the covered patio.  The tables and walls are decorated with bits of colored tile that brings a vibrancy to the atmosphere inside the restaurant.  Food choices range from traditional TexMex fare like fajitas to more traditional Mexican dishes like milanesa and bisteak a la Mexicana.

Your meal at Pancho’s Backyard starts with the traditional chips that come with a delicious but not too spicy salsa that incorporates bright tomato and cilantro flavors.  I had the opportunity to try two different entrees at Pancho’s Backyard: chili rellenos and bisteak a la Mexicana.  Both were very delicious interpretations of these dishes with rich and silky goat cheese in the rellenos and a spicy tomato based sauce with peppers and onions on the flank steak.  Pancho’s Backyard does a great job of incorporating traditional Mexican flavors like cumin and cilantro with its well prepared and fresh entrees.

Pancho’s Backyard is supported by a full bar but a limited beer menu.  Enjoy fresh margarita’s or other cocktail of your choice along with your meal.  Corona and Negra Modello are the two Mexican beer choices.  The wait staff are friendly and attentive without constantly hovering over your table.

Both of my meals at Pancho’s Backyard were delicious as well as a good value.  The atmosphere is enjoyable and the food delicious.  If you’re in South Florida, stop by it’s a worthy stop.  The taco traveler gives Pancho’s Backyard three tacos out of five.

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