Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pancakes and Pajamas? Yes, please!

The older group of girls in our Miss Manners program met at my house last Saturday for a "Pancakes and Pajamas" party.  Today I want to share with you the decorations and menu.  Next week, I'll show you our program and craft.

I had been wanting to do a sleepover theme with the girls so we could talk about etiquette when you spend the night at a friend's home.  I decided a Pancakes and Pajamas theme would be perfect!  It was originally planned for December, but had to be rescheduled due to everyone's holiday plans.  I found the invitations on etsy.  I had them customized and then printed them at my local copy shop.  The girls were told to wear their PJs and they loved it!


Jewell was a big help with the decorations.  I had looked at tissue paper pompoms at Party City and Hobby Lobby.  They wanted $6.00 for three.  We knew we could do better.  She is a whiz at making tissue paper flowers.  We decided to double the amount of paper she uses for flowers in order to make them fuller.  Three packs of tissue paper from Dollar Tree made us nearly twenty pompoms!  And we were able to customize the colors!


I flattened the tissue and cut the pieces into quarters.  Then we randomly layered the colors in stacks of 12 sheets each.  We folded them and tied them off with lengths of white curling ribbon.  Before you open them, trim the edges in a soft scallop.


Jewell worked hard to separate the layers and fluff each one.  We used them in the table decorations, hung some from the lights above the table and tied them on the backs of the chairs.  Each girl took one home at the end of the party.


I dug into my fabric stash and found a piece of linen-weave fabric with a paisley print that I had bought to use in Jewell's room for pillow shams.  That project never panned out, but the fabric made a beautiful table-topper and jumping off spot for my color scheme.  You can see it well here, under the Rice Krispy treats I made with Fruity Pebbles instead!  There was one at each girl's place setting.


Brack did his part by drinking lots of Starbuck's mocha frapps over the last month so I could use the bottles!  Peel off the labels, use a little Goo Gone, run through the dishwasher, and, "Voila"!  I used tags on the glasses to indicate where each young lady was to sit.  Pretty blue-striped paper straws finish it all off.  Thanks to Brack, I have 24 of these glasses.  They have now been tucked away in storage.  I'm sure they'll make an appearance again soon.


I used striped square paper plates from Party City as chargers.  Several years ago, my Aunt gave me about 25 clear glass luncheon plates.  They have really come in handy!  They were the perfect size, and they allow the pretty plates underneath to shine through.  I choose to use a blue zebra-striped napkin to mix it up a little. 


I planned a brunch theme, so I carried through and used Fruit Loops as part of my table decorations!


Here is a look at the overall table-scape.
Very pretty and oh, so girly!


I decided to keep the menu very simple.  And I mean SIMPLE!  We had to have pancakes, right?  So I went with silver dollar-sized frozen buttermilk pancakes.  Usually you just stick them in the microwave, but you can also bake them on a cookie sheet.  Perfect!  I set up a pancake bar with chocolate chips, pecans, fresh blueberries and strawberries, sprinkles and whipped cream.  The girls loved it.  Well, duh!  I also cooked bacon and sausage links ahead of time and kept them in the warmer in my oven until I needed them.  I already mentioned the cereal and marshmallow treats that I used as part of the place settings.  I finished off with strawberry cheesecake muffins that I baked the night before (a Martha White mix, I must admit!).  See, I told you it was easy!
   

After the girls were seated, one of the mothers came around and offered them orange juice or milk to drink.

Since it is quite a drive to our house, I invited the mothers to stay.  They enjoy the time to visit, and they get to sneak a peak at what the girls are doing!


I want to say a special "thank you" to my dear friend, Melissa Lester, who took many of the photos I am using today.  Melissa was my book club "partner-in-crime", and we planned many parties together before she moved to Birmingham last summer.  Her girls are still part of our Miss Manners club, and she makes the trip for each party.  Melissa is the assistant editor for Victoria magazine.  She has an amazing blog called A Little Loveliness.  I hope you'll visit her and poke around a little.  Trust me, you'll be in awe!

Well, that's it for menu and decorations!  I'll be back next week to show you what we did for our craft, tell you about our lesson for the day, and even give you a glimpse of what the girls did "after" the party was over!

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Friday, March 28, 2014

I HEART...Snickerdoodles!





Everybody loves Wednesday, right?
The week's half over.  The weekend is on the way.
What's not to love?
Each Wednesday, I want to share something with you
that I absolutely love and can't live without! 

OK - so it's not Wednesday.  But may I remind you that it's Spring Break?  Our week has been extremely laid back.  Not quite working on a regular schedule, you know?  But I guarantee that today's "I HEART" was worth the wait.  And then some!
There's nothing better than homemade sugar cookies, right?  Some people like them thin and crispy (my mama).  Some prefer them puffy and soft (me).  Well, the only thing better than a homemade sugar cookie, is one that's covered in cinnamon and sugar!  Yummy!!  I got this recipe a little over a year ago when some friends and I went to a Taste of Home cooking expo.  (I highly recommend doing this if one comes to your area.) 
I have made them several times now, and they always get rave reviews.  They are delicious straight out of the oven (well, maybe let them cool 3 or 4 minutes!) or perfect the next day with coffee.  Assuming there are any left!  I made them yesterday when I had my SIL's and nieces and nephew over for lunch and playtime.  They were a hit then and they sure hit the spot on this rainy morning, too.  You probably have everything you need on hand, so give them a try this weekend!
Snickerdoodle Cookies
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cream of tartar
3 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, cream butter and (2 cups) sugar until fluffy and light.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add vanilla.  Add flour, baking soda and cream of tartar and mix until well combined.
Line sheet trays with parchment paper.  Mix extra sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Be sure cinnamon is fully incorporated.  Using a teaspoon cookie scooper (eyeball if you don't have one), scoop out dough about the size of a jaw breaker and roll in palms.  Drop in sugar/cinnamon mixture and roll around.  Reshape into a ball by rolling in your palms if necessary.  Place on cookie sheet.  Don't flatten them!  They will spread slightly into a beautifully round, fluffy cookie! 

I get about 20 per tray.  It makes about six dozen cookies.  I know that sounds like a lot, but if your house is like mine, that may last a day.  At most.

Bake them for about 10-12 minutes, depending on your oven.  They should NOT brown around the edges.  Let them cool a couple of minutes and then remove them to a wire rack to cool.  If you can wait that long.  I'm not a milk drinker, but these make me think twice!  Enjoy!



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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Roots and Wings...

 
As I sit at my computer, thinking about what I want to share with you today, the wind is blowing howling outside my window.  I thought March was supposed to go out like a lamb?  It's Spring Break week for us (yes, homeschoolers need Spring Break, too!), and my niece, Mary Reagan is spending the day with us.

The kids have been outside at least three times this morning.  Just to look out the window, it appears to be a beautiful, Spring day.  But step outside and the wind blows hard.  And a little cold.  They are back in the house within just a few minutes.  I watch them walking back, and they literally have to lean in to keep their balance.  They look like they could be picked up at any moment and just swept away.  Well, whatd'ya know?  A perfect topic for today's post.
 
There's an old saying about roots and wings.  The idea is to ground your children enough that they know who they are, while at the same time, give them wings to grow and explore and become their own person.  Beautiful words.  Scary idea.  Seriously.  I just did the math, and you know what?  Jewell is off to college in 7 years.  That's just 2,555 days.  61, 320 hours.  The way time flies, it seems like next week.  
 
I want her to be successful.  Happy.  I want her to do well in whatever career she chooses.  I want her to find the (gulp) perfect guy.  All of that, I want for my child.  Both of them.  But there's plenty of time for that.  That kind of stuff happens whether we want it to or not.  Time moves on.  We can't stop it.  Or them.  Wings sprout and grow.  That's just the way it works.  So instead, I think I'll focus on their roots.
 
 
Roots nourish.  Roots ground.  Roots determine growth.  We don't see roots like we do wings, so we sometimes forget about them.  But we need to focus on them.  Cultivate them.  Fertilize them.  Roots hold them steady when the winds blow.  And man, do they ever blow.  Roots allow them to play in the sun, but stand through the wind and rain.  Roots allow them to...grow.

"Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done."  Colossians 2:7 (NLT)
 
I really think I'm more of a "Time In a Bottle" mama, than a "roots and wings" mother.  At least I wish that's what I could be.  But wings do sprout, and kids do grow.  Maybe the purpose of growing strong roots is to allow them to be transplanted when the time comes.  And that time is coming.  It's about 3,679,200 minutes away.  But it's coming.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Give it away, give it away, give it away now...

If you've ever met my father-in-law, Braxton Jones, then you know what a gentleman he is.  He is quiet and unassuming.  He has a way with children, especially babies.  And most importantly, he has a heart the size of the sun!  Most who know and love him, call him "Pop".
 
Early last fall, he was cleaning out and packing up some stuff to donate to charity when he came up with an idea.  Why should he just give the items to some charity when his church could use this as an opportunity to meet the needs of the community while showing them the love of Christ?  He asked around and found lots of others who felt the same way, so he began to make plans for a "Give Away Day" at the Oxford church of Christ. 
 
Members of the congregation began to organize their donations and the day before the event, tables were set up in the fellowship hall so that items could be divided by type and even size.


 
Clothes, shoes, coats, toys and even appliances were donated.
 
 
Several members of the Oxford congregation volunteered to help with both set up and running the event, as well as through making donations.  (That's my sweet little mother-in-law, Martha Jones, in blue!)
 
 
They had advertised in the newspaper and a little with flyers posted around the neighborhood and also sent information to various community organizations who could get the word out to those who were in need.  The turn-out was incredible!  Dozens and dozens of local families stopped by and were able to get some great items they really needed.  At no charge, whatsoever!

 
There was definitely something for everyone!

 
As I mentioned, there was no charge, but they did ask for those who took items to sign a guest registry.  These names and addresses will be used to let people know about future Give Away Days and other outreach projects the church may have, as well as to invite them to events like VBS and Gospel meetings.


Pop cleaning up at the end of the day.

Whatever was left at the end of the day (and there wasn't much) was packed up and donated to charity.  I guess a lot of time and energy could have been saved by just doing that in the first place, but Pop knew that there was a need and that we are commanded as Christians to fill that need. 
 
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  Matthew 25:35-40

I think Pop is planning another Give Away Day for later this year.  I am already helping my kids to go through their clothes and toys to find items they can donate.  This time, we will be going to actually help the day of the event.  I want my children to see how much need there is in the world.  I want them to know how good it feels to help others.  I want them to understand how blessed they are.  And I want them to stand proudly next to their Pop, the man who has such a big heart and such a great idea!
 
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

There's a Great Day Coming!

I've been doing a lot of genealogical research this past week.  I have to begin with caution each time I start to climb my family tree because I sometimes forget to do other things.  Like laundry.  Or feeding my children.  Or sleeping.  (All over rated if you ask me.)  While doing some research recently, I found another "cousin" who lives in the Valdosta, Georgia, area who has a blog called "The Pendleton Genealogy Post".  She mentioned that she was taking part in a genealogy blog challenge called "52 ancestors in 52 weeks".  While I'm a little late to start the challenge this year, I think it's a great idea and should be a neat way to get a little focused research and documentation done.  (I'm sure you will find it hard to believe, but I often lack focus.  I know.  Shocking.)  I plan to try to "unofficially" tag along and share some of the neat things I've discovered about my relatives. 

Anyway, I don't have any Pendleton branches on my tree (at least not that I have found so far!), but we do both descend from some of the same Dashers.  I'll share with you later what I'm learning about these brave and determined men and women who came to America to escape religious persecution.  They were very much involved with the Restoration Movement in America, I am proud to say!  Interested much?  Well, you'll have to hang on.

What leads me to today's post is the Dasher cemetery in Lowndes County, Georgia, just outside of Valdosta.  My grandmother was born and raised there.  (In Dasher.  Not the cemetery!)  And that's how we get to today's post...
 
I was very close to my mother's mother, Mary Marie Copeland Gafford.  As I said, she was from Dasher.  She and I made a lot of trips together.  When I was young, I rode with her.  When I turned 15, I took over the driving.  (Grandmothers are sooo much more laid back than parents!)  A minister at a church in Statenville, Georgia, always got our names wrong and called us "Misty and Maria", so we took those for aliases.  Just in case! 
  
 
Here we are in 1999.  Still getting into trouble!  See that mischievous grin on her face?
I'm sure we were laughing about something as someone snapped this picture.
  
We made a trip to her home in Georgia just a few months before she died in 2002.  (I was a few months pregnant with Jewell who was due on her birthday, October 14.  She also knew that Jewell was being named after her mother, Jewell Ruth Dowling Copeland.  Unfortunately, she died about 3 weeks before Jewell was born.)  While we were there, we made one last pilgrimage together to the Dasher Cemetery.  I remember her telling me (again) the story of how as a child, she would sit in the old Dasher church building and look out the window at the graves while the preacher would talk about how "the dead in Christ will rise first".  As a child, she connected the Second Coming with the Dasher Cemetery!  She once told me she had reservations about being buried in Greenville, Alabama, even though my grandfather was already there waiting on her.  She just wanted to make sure she didn't miss the Lord's Return!
 
 
Here's a picture of what the Dasher church of Christ looked like right before it was torn down in the mid 1950's.  I'm not sure which window she would have been staring out of, but the cemetery was just outside.

 
This is her in 1928 when she was about four years old.
Probably about the time she was gazing out those church windows, daydreaming...
 
 
 
There is no date on this picture, but I think I remember her saying it was taken around her high school graduation, before she got married.  She graduated in May and then married in August 1941.  Isn't her dress beautiful? 

 
Here she is at my wedding in 2000.  So pretty in pink!
 
She was so much fun.  We loved being together from the time I was a little girl.  I remember coming home from Georgia with her once (a way we had both driven a million times).  We were laughing about something and missed our turn.  That tickled us and as we were laughing about that, we made a U-turn and went up a one way street!  That made us laugh even harder and we had to pull off the road and compose ourselves!  I don't even remember what we were laughing about in the first place, but it doesn't matter.  The memory is what matters.  She was my grandmother, but more importantly, she was my friend.  I really miss her!  But I know regardless of where she is buried, she'll be ready when the Lord comes back!
 
P.S.  I have all these images of me and her in my mind, however, I had trouble finding actual pictures of us together.  This is a lesson to me to make sure I pose for pictures with those who mean a lot to me!  As mothers, we are often the one on the back side of the lens, taking the pictures.  We want our kids to have pictures of us to show their grandkids, right?  Let's be sure to hand the camera to someone else next time and make sure we stand still next to the ones we love, long enough to not only capture the image in our minds, but on film.  Or disk.  You get the idea!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I HEART...My Honey



Everybody loves Wednesday, right?
The week's half over.  The weekend is on the way.
What's not to love?
Each Wednesday, I want to share something with you
that I absolutely love and can't live without! 
  
Of all the things I love and can't live without, this is definitely Numero Uno!  My husband, Gerald.

 I just found the picture above of us from last Thanksgiving.
We make a pretty handsome couple, huh??
And here's another that is one of my favorites.

 He's not crazy about it, but I think it pretty much sums him up!
I could go on and on about how wonderful he is,
but I will just say for now,
he was definitely worth the wait!  Love you, honey!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ancient Chinese secret...

Remember the commercial for Whisk way back in the 70's?  The wife picks up her husband's shirts at the local dry cleaner and is a amazed at how clean they are.  "Ancient Chinese secret", the shop owner answers, while his wife hides the bottle of detergent in the back.
 
My blog post yesterday was about homeschooling.  Last Friday I shared a party I hosted and before that, it was genealogy.  Sometimes I think I suffer from a lack of focus, but then I think...  Wait.  Where was I? 
 
Oh, yeah.  Laundry.  Anyway, I was doing Gerald's shirts yesterday and realized that I have developed a pretty cool system that is probably worth sharing.  So here's my "ancient Chinese secret", although now, I guess it's not a secret any more!  Oh, well. 
 
For years, I sent Gerald's dress shirts to the dry cleaners.  He loved them so stiff that he had to force his arms through the sleeves.  Well, that's all well and good.  Until the price went up to about $2.25 a shirt.  He wears them six days a week.  You do the math.  (No, really.  You do it.  Brack and I worked on Roman numerals yesterday, and I just can't handle any more math!) 
 
Add to that the fact that often, as he was getting dressed for work, he would find a broken button, which meant that shirt came off for me to repair while he used another clean one.  Then the one I fixed the button on was all wrinkly.  Back to the cleaners it went.  He would also complain that the cleaners were shrinking them.  (The sleeves were getting shorter.  I don't think his arms were getting longer.  Now as for the neck, that's another story!  But I digress...)
 
So a couple of years ago, I decided to start doing them myself.  I developed this process and it works great.  No busted buttons, no shrinkage, and most importantly, no weekly laundry bill!
 
I wash his shirts on delicate and in cool water.  As soon as they are done in the spin cycle, I immediately get them out, shake them several times and hang them.  You have to get them out as soon as they finish spinning in order for this to work.  If they sit in the washer, they wrinkle.  (I stick them on the hooks that hold my ironing board until I have them starched, at which point I put them on hangers.  Duh.)   
 
 
While they are still wet, I starch them heavily, and I mean heavily.  I get between four and five shirts starched per bottle.  That's less than a quarter a shirt!  Woo Hoo!
 
Once they are starched, I hang them to dry.  I have a neat little rack in my laundry room, but you could hang them on a shower rod, as well.
 
 
See my little laundry assistant in the bottom right corner?  He works cheap.  A few scratches behind the ears and under the neck, and he's good to go. 
 
I usually do all this in the afternoon after we are finished with school.  It takes about 3 minutes to starch each shirt.  I let them dry over night.  (I have learned to put a beach towel underneath to catch any starch that drips.)  The next morning, they are stiff as a board and ready to be ironed!  I will admit, I don't do all my ironing at once.  It would just get smuched in the closet, and seriously, who has the time?  I pull out a shirt each morning, fill my iron with water, turn that puppy on high, and I can iron his shirt perfectly in less than five minutes.

 
 
I know.  Amazing, right?  Martha Stewart would be soooo impressed.
 
Couple of quick notes.  Once you finish, take a towel and wipe down the top of the ironing board so you don't have a build-up of starch that will dry and burn later on.  Trust me on this.  I speak from experience.  Also be sure that you don't need to iron anything else that day, 'cause your ironing board top is now sopping wet.  But that's ok!  Leave it up overnight and it will be dry and waiting for you the next day. 
 
If you do your shirts at home, you should give it a try!  Just be sure to help me keep it our little secret.  OK?  Yeah, my blog may be a little unfocused, but so is my life!  What about yours?!

P.S.  Ok.  So I just watched the old commercial on Youtube, and guess what?  It was Calgon, not Whisk!  I thought it was "Calgon, take me away."  I'm so confused.  No wonder I can't focus.  Anyway, whatever detergent you use, my "starch them while they're wet" trick really works! 

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Rainy Days and Mondays...

One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that we can be flexible.  That being said, we are a pretty scheduled bunch.  I know, I'm crazy.  We are usually up and at the table, ready to start school at 8:00 am, but it's 8:15, and guess what?  The kids are still in bed.  It's dark and rainy, and, well, I'm just not in a big hurry today!
 
We have been working pretty hard lately, and so today, we're going to have what Brack likes to call  a "modified" school day.  (I remember keeping a good, classic movie in my desk drawer when I was teaching junior high school for this very kind of day.  The kind where it's just hard to buckle down and do what is supposed to be done.)  We can't go out, so we'll just stay in.  On the couch.  In PJ's.  Ahhh...

So, what will our day look like?  Here's an insider's view.

We are close to finishing Little Pilgrim's Progress (an adaptation by Helen Taylor of the John Bunyan classic).  The kids have really loved following along with Little Christian.  They have easily understood the allegory and love to guess what each of the characters' names mean that Christian encounters along his journey.  (This has been a great vocabulary workout!)  We should finish it today.  If you haven't read this with your children, I highly recommend it.  It is easy to follow and will lay the foundation for when they read it in high school.



When we finish the Little Pilgrim's Progress, we will do a little math and grammar, and then settle in to watch several episodes of Liberty's Kids.  This is a very well done series about the American Revolution and we were able to get all 6,293 episodes (actually about 40 episodes on 4 disks - the complete series) for $8 on Amazon.  The graphics are well done, and there are a lot of big name actors who lent their voices to the project.  (Walter Cronkite is Benjamin Franklin.)



After lunch, we are going to start a new series of books that I have had sitting on my shelf, waiting for a day just like this one.  The Mysterious Benedict Society is the first in a series of four books by Trenton Lee Stewart.  Often compared to the Harry Potter series, these books follow the adventures of four kids enrolled in a mysterious special school.  The kids must take a series of mind-bending tests, with only a few succeeding.  These get to go on a top secret mission.  Sounds like a lot of fun.  We'll keep you posted!



So that's what's going on at Jones Family Christian Academy on this rainy, Monday morning.  Not exactly status quo for us, but that's what makes homeschooling so fun...

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Mount Vernon Love Story...The Menu

On Monday, I gave you a look at the buffet table-scape I created for the book club I hosted at my home last Saturday. 

 
Today I want to share with you the menu.  As I mentioned on Monday, I wanted the table setting to reflect various aspects of the book.  I did the same with my menu.  Often we have a potluck menu, but since I was hosting the club in my home, I wanted to take the opportunity to do something special for the members.  But first, a little background. 
 
Gerald and I entertain a good bit.  The Washingtons entertained, too.  A lot.  In fact, I read somewhere that from the time they married until he died, they had someone for dinner almost every night.  Many people made their way to Mount Vernon, before and after Washington was president, and as long as you appeared clean and sober, you pretty much got an invitation to dine with the family.  As a result, the kitchen was always on standby to prepare an outstanding meal for any number of people. 

We were able to visit Mount Vernon when we were in Washington D.C. last September.  One of the outbuildings we saw was the smokehouse.  Martha took great pride in her smoked hams.  You can see the inside of the smokehouse and read a little about it on the Mount Vernon website here.

I decided that a spiral cut ham would be the centerpiece of my meal.  After trying several over the years, I honestly believe that Costco's Kirkland brand spiral-cut ham is the absolute best.  (Sorry Honey Baked!)  I doubted that Martha would approve of a honey-glazed ham, so I opted not to use the glaze packet that comes with the ham.  Instead, I just baked it about an hour and a half.  It was delicious!  We had leftovers, so I sent some to my sister-in-law and we had the rest over the next couple of days.

 
In this picture, you will also see the other items that made up my menu: grits casserole (a Southern staple), a grape salad, garlic pickles and biscuits (sweet potato and regular).  I also offered honey from my father's bee hives and hot pepper jelly for the ham and biscuits.  I think this is a meal the Washingtons would have enjoyed!

After our meal, we discussed the book.  After all, I guess that's the real reason we get together.  (Or at least that's what we say!) 


But getting the chance to relax and just visit is really the highlight of our meetings!


 After our discussion was over, we surprised Sister Joyce Foster with a birthday cake.
Saturday was her 80th birthday!
 
 
Her daughter-in-law, Nancy, made a delicious tiramisu cake!
I plan on making it soon, and when I do, I'll share the recipe.
 
Just in case you're now a little hungry (I am!), I will give you my recipes below.  They are perfect for a breakfast, brunch or luncheon.  Or as I called it "lunch-fest" since we ate at 1:00 in the afternoon.  Regardless of when you enjoy these recipes, I know that you will love them!
 
 
Party Grapes
 
My mother-in-law gave me this recipe not long after Gerald and I married, and we have it a lot on special occasions.  I guess that's why we call it "Party Grapes"!
 
2 lbs. seedless grapes (I like to use half red and half green)
1 cup granulated sugar
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
light brown sugar
 
Wash and dry grapes.  Mix cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth.  Mix in grapes.  Place in a trifle bowl or other glass bowl.  Sprinkle with nuts and brown sugar just before serving.
 
 
 
Grits Casserole
 
I think the first time I made this several years ago, I used a Paula Deen recipe.  As usual, I have changed a few things and kind of made it my own.  It is soooo good.
 
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups regular grits (quick not instant)
16 oz. grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup half and half
4 large eggs, beaten
1 stick butter, cut in pieces
8 oz. grated Gruyere cheese
 
Preheat oven to 375.  Bring chicken stock and water to a boil.  Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and grits.  Whisk until there are no lumps and reduce to simmer.  Simmer about 10 minutes stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  Add sharp cheddar, butter and milk.  Stir to melt cheese and allow grits to cool slightly.  Add beaten eggs.  Pour into a large 9X14 casserole dish.  Sprinkle with half of the grated Gruyere and bake about 40-45 minutes.  Add the rest of the Gruyere and bake until cheese is golden.  Casserole will rise up a little due to the eggs.  Let it sit about 5-10 minutes before serving.
 
 
 
Sweet Potato Biscuits
 
Can you even have ham and grits without biscuits?  And what's more Southern than sweet potato biscuits?  My grandmother used to make them, but unfortunately, no one has her recipe.  This one will do, though!  My mama helped out and made the biscuits at her house and I popped them in the oven at the last minute. 
 
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 stick softened butter
2-4 tablespoons of milk (depending on moisture in potatoes)
 
Preheat oven to 450.  Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix sweet potatoes and butter.  Add flour mixture to potato mixture to make a soft dough.  Add in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to get desired consistency.  Turn out onto a floured board and knead just a little until it looks smooth.  Roll to a 1/2" thickness and cut with biscuit cutter.  Place biscuits on a greased pan and brush with melted butter.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  Lower temperature of oven if they are browning too fast.
  
These were delicious, but I wanted to have some regular biscuits in case someone didn't like sweet potato.  I'm gonna let you in on a little secret.  Just between you and me?  The other biscuits were frozen!  I LOVE Mary B's Southern Tea Biscuits.  They are divine.  And they are the perfect little dainty biscuit.  And if you eat four, well that's ok.  They're petite!  You can get them at Wal-Mart or Winn Dixie in the frozen breads section.  Try them.  I won't tell anyone!
 
 
Mama's Best Pickles
 
We have been making these "homemade" garlic pickles for many years, and we absolutely love them!  Between me and mama, one of us always has some on hand in the fridge.  Mama calls them garlic pickles.  I call them "Mama's Best Pickles".  You'll see why...
 
46 oz. dill hamburger chips
3 cups granulated sugar
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
 
Drain pickles and place in large glass or plastic bowl.  Be sure to keep your pickle jar and lid.  Mix in all other ingredients.  Stir well and cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit on counter overnight, stirring every once in a while.  Put pickles and juice back in pickle jar and refrigerate.  These will keep indefinitely, but trust me, they go fast!
 
Couple of notes about these pickles.  When we first started making these, we used whole dills and cut them about 1/4" thick.  This makes them very pretty and old-fashioned looking.  Hamburger chips are just much, much easier.  Second - you MUST use real sugar.  I know it's a lot.  In fact, I think I have cut it down to 3 cups from the original recipe.  I have tried using half real sugar and half Splenda and it just doesn't work.  They will not crisp back up.  Sorry folks.  Just enjoy them with the real stuff.
  
As always, before we dismiss our gathering, we always announce the book for the next meeting.  The next selection is...  Well, now!  You didn't think I'd actually tell you here and now, did you?  That's a whole 'nother post.  I'll let you wonder a while...

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I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I HEART...Errands! Wait, what?!


Everybody loves Wednesday, right?
The week's half over.  The weekend is on the way.
What's not to love?
Each Wednesday, I want to share something with you
that I absolutely love and can't live without! 
 
I love Errands!  Not doing them, mind you.  And if you're like me, you have a To Do list as long as your arm.  Well, I have found an app that I app-solutely love!  It's called "Errands", although it really should be called something like "the absolutely best free app for creating and managing your ongoing to do lists and reminders so that your life will run as smooth as silk" or something like that.  And did I mention, it's FREE!  Anyway - here's what it does.
 
Download the app and then you can set up multiple lists for ongoing tasks or a list for one-time jobs.  You can set the items to repeat in any number of ways - daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.  You can also set a due date if you'd like.  It will pop up on your daily list and stay there until you check it off.  Then it goes away until the next time you need to be reminded!
 
Here is a (not so clear, sorry!) screen shot of one of my lists:
 
  
Obviously, this is where I have made a list of monthly bills to be paid and when they are due.  Once I pay them, they go away until next month!
 
 
You can also set the badge notification to show you how many items are on your list for the day.  See the big check mark on the bottom row in the middle?  I only have 80 things on my list today! 
 
It also keeps a running list of "overdue" items that you haven't checked off yet, so if you don't get around to it (what, not complete every item on my list every day?), it hangs around as a nagging little reminder that you weren't quite as efficient as you needed to be yesterday...or last week...OK - so maybe it does mock you a little, but stuff still needs to get done, right?
 
I highly recommend this app if you are a list maker and you have your iPhone or iPad with you most of the day, and seriously, who doesn't?

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I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A picture is worth...a thousand hours of internet research!

I have spent many, many hours over the last few years searching for my great-great-grandmother, Mollie Ella (Moore) Wall.  I mean, I know exactly where she is...buried right next to her son - my great-grandparents, James Alver and Lovie Mae (Rowe) Wall. 



But I wanted to know WHO she was.  I've learned quite a bit, and that is a story in and of itself.  But I had never been able to find anything about her prior to her marrying my great-great-grandfather, William.  She had to have parents, right?  So who were they?

I had a couple of pictures of her.  Well, I didn't, but other family members did.  In fact, my cousin, Tim, had a picture of her hanging on the wall of his guest bedroom that I determined should be rightfully mine.  After, all - I was the one spending all this time looking for her!  (Needless to say, he didn't agree!)  But nothing gave me any more information about where she came from or who her family was.     

Until one day, I got a message through ancestory.com from a lady out west in New Mexico who thought her great-grandmother, Joanna (Moore) Lambert, might be a sister to my great-great-grandmother, Mollie.  She had some pictures, which she attached and sent to me that indicated the connection, but what sealed the deal?  THIS picture...


On the back, it indicated that this was Mollie Wall(s) of Eclectic, Alabama, sister of "Joanner" Lambert.  First of all, I love this picture, because, well...look at it!  What's not to love?  A family is standing in front of their cabin.  They've drug out a small table and a lamp.  Why?  Who knows.  The son is in overalls, probably just having come in from working in the fields.  The mother is holding a Bible.  They are standing miles apart from one another.  The cabin is pretty Spartan, and the surrounding landscape is fairly barren.  Yet, they seem to be posing, proudly, for this picture, probably taken by a travelling photographer.  So, yes, it's a pretty cool picture.  But want to know why I REALLY loved it?  Because it is a copy of the same one hanging in Tim's home.  They one I had coveted!  They also shared with me other pictures of Mollie.
 
 
Picture of Mollie taken in Montgomery, Alabama, probably in the early 1920's.
 
 
Mollie (left) with her sister, Joanna, and her brother-in-law, C.B. Lambert.
Probably taken close to 1930 in Oklahoma.
 
I made friends with that distant cousin from way out west, whose name happens to be Claudia, and we began to correspond by both email and phone.  One day, while she was visiting one of her cousins in Oklahoma (where Mollie's sister, Joanner, had relocated), they called me and asked for my address.  It seems they decided that the pictures Mollie had sent to Joanna really needed to make their way back home.  These gracious ladies sent me a whole packet of pictures including the one above!  I was able to glean a lot of new information about Mollie from the material I received.  All because a stranger saw the family information I had shared online and thought it was the missing puzzle piece for their family story.

 
Here are some of Mollie's descendants at a Hilyer Family Get-Together last April at my parent's home in Tallassee, probably less than five miles from where the priceless picture of Mollie and her family was made.  (From left to right - my brother, Jon Hilyer; my cousin, Paula (Hilyer) Rees; my daddy, Billy Hilyer; me, holding MY picture of Mollie and her family; my uncle, James Hilyer, holding Tim's picture of Mollie; my cousin, Tim Lawson; my aunt, Alice (Hilyer) Beam and my aunt, Dale (Hilyer) Jones.)
 
The mystery of Mollie is far from being solved, but just having these pictures makes her seem more real to me.  It makes me want to keep searching to find out more about her life.  I hope that some day when I'm gone, my great-great-grandchildren will want to learn about that crazy old "Prissy Missy" who loved to look at dusty and faded old pictures, listen to all-but-forgotten stories and traipse through over-grown cemeteries.  In order to make it a lot easier for them, I'll keep all my records backed up on my computer.  If I can just find a thumb drive...
  
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I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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I wouldn't want you to miss one crazy thing... 
 



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