November 10, 2012

Road to Houston Part I: Oxford, Mississippi

Another reason October 2012 was the greatest of all time?  Aside from it being my birthday, making the last payment on my 8 million dollar consolidation, getting to see two of my dearest, bestest, most awesomest friends in the whole wide world get married in Houston, I ALSO got to take a two week road trip in the process!!!  :)  :)  :)
When my friends told me they were getting married, I knew I wanted to make it a road trip.  Working 70 hours a week at the Tea Shop at the time, I was desperate for a vacation that was too legit to quit.  As the months approached, I was sticking to doing just that come hell or high water.  Thanks to some paid personal days at work I got to do the trip EXACTLY as I intended.  Pretty cool.  :)
Road-tripping was also a bit of a necessity as I was not only IN the wedding but also was doing the Groom's Cake.  So as you can see, I packed my ENTIRE kitchen.  Look how pretty Windy the Mixer is in this picture!!
Big Toe, my fearless co-pilot and protector (as always) was SUPER EXCITED to go on a road trip again. He had Google Maps printed out & ready to go!

Okay, so more awesomeness is that my friend Lisa reached out to me before my trip & said I should hit New Orleans on my way.  I haven't seen Lisa since my Ghirardelli interview in San Francisco when she drove all the way across the town with a NEWBORN BABY to say hi to me.  So I thought I owed it to her...  It has NOTHING to do with the fact that I love her or baby Raina dearly or anything.  ;) 
This got me thinking that HEY!  Where else should I stop!!???  Big Toe said, "Steak & Shake!!!"  This was ten minutes into the trip, mind you.  But I agreed.  He had a Banana Peanut Butter Milkshake and I had nothing because I've committed to watching my girlish figure.  OINK, OINK Big Toe!!!  We also thought we'd stop in Oxford but in all honesty, Big Toe's priorities were very clear. 

We headed back on the road.  These ginormous crosses must be all over the midwest because I definitely saw them when I made the trip to Chicago!  What are they about!?  He was only one man, right?  And how big WAS Jesus!? 

I stopped in Hernando, Mississippi at this super classy establishment.  Spared no expense!  I didn't want to stay in Memphis because I know it can be a bit sketchy and making it to Oxford seemed a bit too far for one day.

Oh, if you didn't know, this road trip was a 'culinary adventure.'  Meaning, I had every intention of eating my way through the South.  Big Toe is always on board when it comes to food.  He is one of those 'enabler' friends.  It's been 12,486 years since I've had BBQ so I stopped here right next to my fancy hotel. 

Ummm... I LOVE BBQ.  I never have it often because it can be expensive.  In LA, Outback Steakhouse was fine dining & a real treat.  On this trip, however, a million miles away financially from where I was in LA, I could do the trip I wanted.  :)  And as you head south, there's so much BBQ to choose from, it's pretty darn cheap.  This was delicious-- even sideways! 

Getting onto the highway I took a wrong turn.  This is NUTS.  

My dad used to work for a company called Ashland Chemicals.  He used to bring home a) LOADS of Ashland Chemical lotion (that seems odd now) and b) tons of mini Valvoline bags he would use as trash bags in the car.  I have a picture of me in second grade in this bike race (I'm not even sure for what- we just biked in circles) with a Valvoline bag on the front of my bike. 
I thought it was so FREAKING CRAZY NUTS that I managed to take a wrong turn & come across their distribution building--randomly.  I haven't heard of them in ages & wouldn't remember if it weren't for that picture of me on a bike as a kid.  It was really cool and felt significant. Made me think of my awesome Pops!

The next day Big Toe & I drove 20 minutes out of our way to see Oxford, Mississippi.  I've heard it's a picturesque quaint little town & figured I'd take the opportunity even on my own.  I fell in love!!!
Was this where they filmed Back to the Future!???  ;)

Ole Miss everything in their shops.  It's like they have a football team or something.

Ole Miss everything= Happy Everything!!! 

Oxford is a super cute little town-- I felt like I was on the set of Gilmore Girls!  (Omg, like- totes love Gilmore Girls!!!)

I see stuff like this in small towns & I always wonder if these recipes are legit.  MAYBE I'LL FIND OUT!!!  I'LL GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS, OXFORD!!! (I mean, if my Mama likes it...)

Everywhere I go I pretty much do a google search to see if any of the town's restaurants have been on the Food Network.  (Nerdy Oinkster Alert!) I couldn't find anything in my quick search from the road but this was where the locals go after games.  PEYTON MANNING used to hang here... Was it Peyton Manning?  His brother?  Did he go to Ole Miss?  They play football, right?  ;)  It was one of those famous football guys-- An FFG for sure.
IT WAS CLOSED!!!  Closed on Sundays!!!!  Guess what else is closed on Sundays down South?  EVERYTHING.  I was very sad.  :(
This was the cutest leetle doagie!!!  The size of my hand, I think... 

I'M SURE this is where Rory Gilmore hangs out.  

Super cute little shop!  There she is!!!  ...Not really.  She's at the Bed & Breakfast with Lorelai planning the town's Pumpkin Carving Festival-- witty banter & pumpkin chaos will ensue!

Why do Federal Troops need to burn towns?  Seriously.  Ransack the village for delicious food & move on???  In a zombie apacolypse that is totally what I'm going to do. 

This town is always ready. 

In fact, EVERYWHERE in the town is ready!


So I have an embarrassing story. All over Oxford are the words 'Hotty Toddy.' I 8,000,000% always want to believe that this is a fall drink that is our Muggle version of Butterbeer. Determined to find out for sure, I walk down into this basement bar & there's two men-- a bartender & his friend hanging out.  I say, "Gentleman, I have a reeeeally stupid question."
Bearded dude at the bar says, "There's no stupid questions.  How can we help you?"  Genuinely nice people.  I wanted to marry the town.
I say, ".....What's 'Hotty Toddy' mean?"
And the bartender's friend dude TOTALLY starts laughing.  The very, very, very nice bartender smiles & says, 'It's part of the words to the Ole Miss fight song." 
THAT'S RIGHT. And it all comes flooding back to me-- previous conversations with the ex where at one point in my life I was given the answer... only to forget  LIKE A GINORMOUS GIRLISH IDIOT.  I mean, this is a FOOTBALL TOWN.  I couldn't have asked a DUMBER question in Oxford, Mississippi.  It was pretty awesome... 
I still reeeeeally want it to be butterbeer.  *sigh*
But I DO enjoy a good football game regardless... So Hotty Toddy Ole Miss!

Oh yeah... And Auburn SUCKS!!!  Yeah!!!!  Suck it!!! 

I didn't want my time in Oxford to end.  Because Ajax was closed & I didn't have time to go to a game, I decided to google a local bakery.  I found this one! 

And BAM-- cause this is the magic that happens to me.  Bottletree has been on the Food Network!!!  Hello little Strawberry Humble Pies!!!  :)  :)  :)

And hello, little Black Bottom Cupcakes!!!  :)  :)  :)

They've been around for a while, they're local... I LOVE this stuff.  

VERY busy little place on a Sunday morning so I took my pastries to go.  Sadly, they didn't have any Hotty Toddy so I got some coffee. 

I'm not sure why but it felt good.  It felt right that I was there.  How will my own bakery look one day?  Will it be busy?  Will I serve breakfast?  Will I be on the Food Network!?  WILL I SERVE HOTTY TODDY!!!???

This church right across the street TOTALLY reminded me of where I grew up.  My home town can be really picturesque as well.  Sadly, it doesn't have a giant university to support it economically.  :(

At that moment, I wanted my kindred spirit best friend of my youth-- Shanny Bananny-- to be there.  She would LOVE this little small town and this little church.  We would have raised a ruckus growing up in its walls!

Wandering around, I came across this little building.  I fell in love with this, too.  I soooo want MandiCakes to be in a unique building.  It's gotta be different or I'll just die!!!  ...It's a Law Office.  (Such a waste).

I'm glad little places like this exist.  I daydreamed about living in a small town like Oxford-- they already have a bakery. What would I do if I lived here?  Would I have been okay just being married & raising a family? If I'm being honest with myself, at this point in my life-- would I be bored out of my mind? Am I addicted to the pursuit of the pursuit of something?  And what is that something?  The perfect small town to settle in?  Opening a bakery?  Finding my place in the world?  Deep sh*t when you're road-tripping, I tell you what!  ;) 

Another unique looking building that also reminded me of my home town.

Driving around randomly, I also came across one of the the Ole Miss Champion Trees. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT A CHAMPION TREE IS AND I DID NOT ASK.  There are three.  I assume after every championship they plant one?  It could also be a tree that is tapped for butterbeer in the production of Hotty Toddy.

The Strawberry Humble Pie was VERY buttery & delicious!  Worth the Food Network notice.  :)
Then I headed to Rowan Oak... But I'll save that for another day.  :)
Thank you, Oxford Mississippi!!!  You are as beautiful and kind as they say. 
A Hotty Toddy herself (Yeah, I just did!!!),
(I'm pretty sure it's a cranberry cordial you drink in the summer).

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