Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Book Thief...UCC Ladies' Book Club Selection

We had a wonderful afternoon full of food, fun and fellowship at our last UCC Ladies' Book Club when we discussed the book, Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark.  You can read more about the party here and get all the recipes here.

As we always do at the end of each gathering, we gave away a copy of the book for the next meeting. This time, I asked for the year the George Washington was born.  A couple of people got it right, so then I asked for the month.  Abbie Wallace was the ultimate winner, but since she won the book at the last meeting, she deferred and the prize went to the runner-up, Nancy Foster. 

Several people (that were unable to attend the meeting) have been asking for the title for the next meeting.  So, drumroll, please...
Our next book club meeting will be sometime in July and will be hosted by Wanda Warmack and Cindy Spangler.  We will be discussing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  Cindy has actually taught this book in one of her literature classes at Faulkner, so she will lead the discussion.

This is a bit of a departure from the type of books we normally choose, but I have heard wonderful things about the book and we are all looking forward to reading it.
I will post more details in early June as to the date, time and place for the meeting.
Until then, Happy Reading!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mother's Day...Part 2...Finally!

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a little about the Mother's Day luncheon I hosted in honor of my mother and mother-in-law, and I promised to share the recipes and the two poems I received as Mother's Day gifts.  It's been a really busy couple of weeks, what with the end of school, and every time I would sit down to write, something else would demand my attention.  Well - today's the day! With Father's Day quickly approaching, I want to finish off Mother's Day and begin looking toward honoring the men in my life. 

In my last post, I showed you my tablescape.  I used my wedding china and crystal along with some beautiful (but inexpensive) Tiffany blue placemats and sparkling "diamonds" to pull together an extremely feminine table setting.  The ladies sat in the dining room while the men occupied the kitchen. Here's a little reminder...

Now to my favorite part...the food!  I planned the menu with ease in mind.  It takes us a full 45 minutes to get home from church, so I planned food that could be prepped the day before and pulled together in a short amount of time.  I'm sharing recipes for the main dish and dessert today.  Maybe I'll share more soon...

Mother's Day Menu
Chicken and Dumplings Casserole
Sweet and Sour Green Beans
Candied Sweet Potato Patties
Tossed Green Salad
Homemade Yeast Rolls
Classic Southern Buttermilk Pie
The day was about celebrating my two favorite moms, but I still had to feed a bunch of manly men and several picky kids.  I took a chance with a new recipe for the main dish, and, luckily, it was a great success!  

Chicken and Dumplings Casserole
1 whole chicken
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, washed and roughly chopped (you can leave them unpeeled)
2 springs of fresh rosemary
1 stick butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 heaping teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup half and half
2 cups chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken and mushroom soup, undiluted
salt and pepper to taste
Remove the giblets from the chicken and cover with water (plus another two or three inches) in a large stock pot along with the roughly chopped onion, celery, carrots and rosemary.  Add a good amount of salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and reduce to medium low and cook for at least an hour or until chicken is falling off the bone.  (Don't boil it too hard, or the meat will become tough.)  Remove your chicken to cool.  Allow your broth to cool as well, and then strain it.  You will have a lot of yummy, fresh chicken stock to use over the next week.  I even had enough to freeze some.  Reserve two cups for this recipe.  When your chicken is cooled, discard skin and pick the meat off the bone.  I shredded it, but you could do a larger chop; whichever you prefer.
Finely chop a small onion (you should be able to find Vidalias right now!) and one stalk of celery and sauté in one stick of butter.  Season with s/p.  Cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  At the end, add the garlic and just cook until you begin to smell it (about a minute).
Spray a 9x13 casserole dish.  Spread the sautéed vegetables in the bottom of your dish.  Add the chicken in an even layer on top. 
In a bowl, combine the milk and half and half, whisking until free of lumps.  Season lightly with s/p.  Pour this over the chicken.
In the same bowl you just used (I just saved you some clean up!), mix the chicken broth and cream of chicken and mushroom soup.  Season this mixture as well, then pour over the flour/half and half layer.
Do NOT mix the layers.
Bake at 350 for about an hour until it is bubbly and browning.  It didn't "set" until the last 20 minutes or so, so don't worry if it looks wet while cooking.  I allowed it to sit for about 10 minutes to cool and finish setting up.  I added a little chopped fresh parsley before serving.
Tip - I prepared my chicken Saturday morning.  I sautéed my vegetables on Saturday, as well, and went ahead and layered the veggies and chicken and stuck it in the fridge.  I wanted to make sure that the flour mixture layer rose a little to make the "dumplings" so I held off on the last two layers until I got home from church Sunday.  It took about 10 minutes to mix the last two layers while the oven preheated.  While the casserole cooked, I was able to make the final prep on the other items.
This is really yummy and everyone enjoyed it!  It makes a lot and I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day. 
For dessert, I made an old-fashioned buttermilk pie.  It was featured in last month's Southern Living magazine, and it was also a hit.
Classic Southern Buttermilk Pie
1  1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pie crust
Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk together sugar and flour.  Beat eggs and add them, along with the rest of the ingredients, to the flour mixture.  Mix well.  Pour into pie crust.  (I admit it.  I use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts.  I mean, why not?  They are yummy and soooooo easy.  I always have a two-pack of them in my fridge for dessert or pot pies!) 
Bake for about 45 minutes or until almost set.  It will still have a slight "jiggle" but will set up in the fridge.  Be careful to shield your piecrust edges if necessary. 

Let cool and then refrigerate for a few hours before serving.  Again, I made this on Saturday and kept it refrigerated.  I did take it out before we sat down to lunch so it wouldn't be ice-cold when I served it.  I garnished with cool-whip and fresh berries.
As I mentioned, I was surprised not once, but twice, that day with poems written in my honor. 
First, Jewell gave me a poem she had written for me for Mother's Day.  She read it to me before we went to church.  She is a blossoming little writer, and I am very proud to share her poem with you.

Moms by Jewell Jones
Moms are great things in this world.
Moms are precious, just like pearls.
Without moms, what would we do?
Who'd cheer us on when we're feeling blue?
Who would fix our hair and send us on our way? 
Who would give us that warm smile and say "Have a great day"!
Without moms, we'd be a disaster.
Who would tell us "You're almost there" and "You keep getting faster"!
Moms are important, so treat them well
and they will always be there for you at the ring of a bell!
Jewell and me during a girls' day at the theater last fall.
I was also surprised with a poem by my mother-in-law, Martha Jones.  She has written beautiful poems about both my children after their birth.  Now I have my own!  (If Gerald is good, maybe he'll get one some day!)
Missy by Martha Jones

A life of beauty, one filled with grace,
Can be clearly seen in her family's face.
With visions of grandeur and words with a flair,
can hardly reflect a lady so rare.
A house in the country is a home filled with love,
A husband and children are gifts from above.
A faithful lady who walks humbly with God,
Following paths on which angels trod.
Cooking and cleaning, these things such a must,
Some days are so busy there's no time for dust!
The washing and ironing must come to an end,
The stack of clean laundry is ready to mend.
A party for the kids, joys for young and old,
Many happy stories from the yard are told.
The folks in life that really make us smile,
Are grand- and precious children that go the extra mile.
A designer and planner...sometimes a bit prissy,
But to all of us, she is our beloved "Missy".

She teared up while reading it, so you know I boo-hooed, too!
I was especially honored by both of these poems this past Mother's Day, although I think they were more than generous in their praise for me.  I just hope to live up to what they think of me!  I am truly blessed!
So, that's Mother's Day!  Just a couple of weeks until Father's Day.  Commence the planning!
I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday!  I was lucky enough to spend the day my kids, my mother and my mother-in-law.  My in-laws were in town for the kids' homeschool co-op Spring Showcase on Saturday night, so I decided to host a Mother's Day lunch at our home.
I split the cooking with my sister-in-law, Clancy, and did a lot of the prep work on Friday.  I also decided to make it a 1:00 pm meal time, so we weren't so rushed to get home from church and get it all on the table.  I wondered if my kids (and my father!) would be able to make it, but with a well-timed snack of peanut butter crackers and milk, somehow they all made it until it was all hot and on the table.

I tried a new recipe for chicken and dumplings casserole and it got great reviews!  I also made candied sweet potato patties.  Clancy made her delicious sweet and sour green beans and a green salad.  Against my protests, my mother made her homemade sour dough rolls.  (OK - although I had planned to completely treat her and my MIL that day, I didn't complain too loudly.  The rolls were yummy!)  We finished out the meal with a homemade lemon buttermilk pie.  I'll share the recipes with you soon.

My centerpiece started with a small bouquet of white roses and alstroemeria that I got for $10 at Winn Dixie.  I added camellia leaves and asparagus fern from my front yard to make it a little bigger and give it some character.  (Unfortunately, it didn't make it through the night last night.  Apparently Possum kitty finds fresh flowers intoxicating, because he got into it last night and I found the roses gnawed up and the fern on the floor in the dining room, and foyer, and kitchen...)
We had too many guests to seat at one table, so I decided to separate the men from the women.  The ladies sat in the dining room while the men ate at the kitchen table.  I pulled out my wedding china and crystal and set a beautiful table with somewhat of a Tiffany's theme.

My china pattern is "Palatial Platinum" by Mikasa.  The stemware is also by Mikasa and is called "Stephanie".  My flatware is "Ribbon Edge Frost" by Gorham. 

Note: I used to set my table a night or two before a dinner party so that I had one less thing to worry about the day of the party.  But now that we have an inside kitty again, that's changed.  If I try put down a tablecloth, he pulls on it.  If I put out placemats, he naps on them.  I know.  My mother will tell you she has an easy solution for that, and you can probably guess what it is, but, well...this sweet (but extremely mischievous) kitty has quickly and completely stolen our hearts.  That being said, I ironed my table cloth Saturday night and put it on the table upside down, just in case.  Pretty smart, I think.  I pulled out my dishes, flatware, etc., and had everything stacked on the table, ready to be set once I got home from church and got the casserole in the oven.  I will offer this friend, Nancy, has been known to set her table a day or two ahead of time and then wrap it in saran wrap to keep it dust free.  However, a saran-wrapped table at my house would just be an invitation...

The Tiffany blue placemats set the stage for my tablescape.  I found them several years ago at Big Lots (it always pays to keep your eyes open!) and paid $1.99 each!  They have a border of square, shell-like sequins around the edge and are so incredibly beautiful!  I originally used them when I hosted a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" themed party for my church Bunco group several years ago.  If you look closely, you will see several large diamonds scattered down the table, adding a little extra bling to the setting!

It was a very feminine table setting, and it made the ladies (including Jewell and my niece, Mary Reagan) feel very special.  It is so worth the trouble to pull out the good stuff.  If not, why have it?

It's not often that I am in a picture...I'm usually behind the lens.  But I made sure that I got a picture of me and my children, as well as with my mother.

I had a wonderful day getting to spend time with family as we honored mothers.  And, I was twice blessed by poems written especially for by Jewell and one by my mother-in-law.  I'll share those with you tomorrow.

I hope you had a wonderful and special Mother's Day, too!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Jessie Lenora (Jones) Rowe

I've told you before that I suffer from a lack of focus in all things...well, in all things.  I'm like a little kid; easily distracted by something new.  Or pretty.  Or the box it came in.  Anyway - things have been pretty busy around here lately and I haven't had a lot of time to work on my family tree. Actually - I haven't let myself work on it, because I know when I do, it's not going to end well. At least not for my family.  I get sidetracked and end up looking up from the computer two (or five) hours later and realize I need to check on supper.  And the kids.

So when I did find time recently to do a little research, I decided to mix it up a little.  I had spent a good bit of time lately working my patented (J.K.!) generational wave pattern.  I was getting a little bored with it, so I decided to just pick someone new and start working my way back.  Since I married a Jones, I thought it would be neat to work on the Jones line in my own family.  In an attempt to blog about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks, I thought I'd actually put my research into words.

So, today, I'd like to introduce you to my second greatgrandmother on my father's mother's side, Jessie Lenora (Jones) Rowe.  (D'ya get all that?)

Jessie Lenora Jones was born on 26 May 1868 in Alabama to William Jackson Jones and Nancy A. Wynn.  (I used to think she was a Wynn, then I thought she was a Summers, but now I'm back to Wynn.  I guess I kinda need to figure that out for sure.)  I'm not sure exactly where Jessie was born, but if I had to guess, it'd be Elmore County, since the 1870 census shows her living here.  In fact, just a very few miles from where I live. (Big genealogy smile.)
Jessie was the oldest child and had three siblings: William Rushing Jones (1872-1949), Mahlon Theophilus Jones (1873-1918) and Eben Charles Jones (1875-1920).
My first record of Jessie is in the (August 4th) 1870 U.S. federal census.  She is living with her parents, W.J. and Nancy.  He is listed as a farmer and Nancy is "keeping house".  They are living in Township 18, in Elmore County.  Tallassee is listed as their post office.
In the 1880 U.S. federal census, she is 12 years old and living in Kendalls in Montgomery County with her parents, William J. and Nancy A. and her brothers William (age 7), Mahlon (age 6) and Eben (age 4).  William is still listed as a farmer.
On 25 November 1888, Jessie marries James Henry Rowe in Elmore County.  The 1890 federal census was destroyed, so I'm not sure where they lived at first.
By 1900, they are living in Sandtuck in Elmore County.  They now have six children: William Henry (age 10), Viola Elender (age 9), Lovie Mae (my greatgrandmother, age 7), Ida Lee (age 4), James Grady (age 2) and Claude O. (age 1 month).  James is a farmer.
According to the 1910 census ten years later, they now have two more children: Altha Ola (mistakenly listed as a male named Alpha...Alpha male?  Really?) and Homer.  James's mother, Mattie (age 74) is listed as a widow and living with them in Precinct 5 in Elmore County.
The 1920 census is the last record I have for Jessie.  She is living in Precinct 8 (Wetumpka?) in Elmore County.  She is 52 years old, but still has a full house.  Her husband, James, is now hauling logs for a living.  They have four children still at home (Ida Lee, Claude, Altha and Homer) and their oldest son, William Henry has moved back in along with his wife, Mattie, and their three children; Wilbur, Gertrude and Verna.  William Henry is also driving a log truck.
Jessie died 3 January 1926 in Elmore County.  She is buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Eclectic, Elmore County, Alabama.  He husband, James, will live another 25 years before being buried next to his wife.
I wish I had a picture of Jessie.  I wish I knew more about her.  My grandmother was 14 when Jessie died, but I don't have any personal recollection of MawMaw ever talking about her with me.  She seems to have lived an ordinary life.  Nothing special.  But I like to imagine what life was like for her, especially since I live so close to where she lived.  Maybe one day, I'll learn more.  
Interestingly enough, I know more about her father and grandfather than I do about her, but that's not all that uncommon with women, especially of this era.  Regardless, she lived, and as I result, I do too!  She was pretty important after all!
PS - After a little more research last night, I think her mother, Nancy, may have actually been a Simmons.  Ahhhh!  I guess you know what I'm doing this weekend... 
I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Friday, May 9, 2014

Ya' know what I mean, Fern?

As I was watering the plants on my front porch this morning, I thought I'd share with you a little gardening tip. 
Ferns on the front porch is a requirement in the South.  If you live below the Mason-Dixon line and don't have at least one, get in your car and drive to your local nursery now.  If not, you are in danger of losing your Southern Belle card.  Don't say I didn't warn you...
That being said, ferns are temperamental.  They need sun, but not the hard, late day sun.  They like to be root-bound, but a pot full of roots makes it hard to hold water.  They look best when hanging, but it's difficult (and often self-soaking) to water a plant above your head.  And finally, they are a favorite spot for birds, lizards and snakes. 
(Side note: My mama read somewhere that you should put rubber snakes in your ferns and plants to keep birds from nesting in them.  That's all well and good until a real, live snake decides to work for free.  Be sure to check your plants well before bringing them inside.  My parents have found at least three snakes IN their house in the last couple of years.)
So how do you take care of such a picky but ubiquitous Southern staple?  Well, I'm sure I didn't invent this technique, but here's what I do.

We have several five gallon paint buckets around the house.  The kids have one attached to a rope on the tree house for hauling things up and down.  Each kid has their very own to use when we pick up pine cones each weekend.  (Their absolutely favorite thing to do.  Not!)  And I keep one on the front porch to use to water my ferns.  I keep it about 3/4 full and about once a week, I drop in a handful of Epsom salt.  (I read somewhere that it helps to keep your ferns green.)  Change your water before adding more salt, so it doesn't get too saline.

Then I simply set the fern in the bucket for at least half a day.  This gives the roots time to absorb the water as opposed to top watering where the water just runs right through.  Brilliant, huh?  Thank you very much!  If I think about them, I swap them out middle of the day.  If not, it's OK if they sit overnight.  This way, each plant is in the water about every other day.  And we all know that ferns have to have lots of water to survive the Southern heat and sun.  Well, at least now we all know that!
And, look!  You can't even see the fern in the bucket behind my little wicker settee, although I will move it when we are having company.
So, now you know how to keep your ferns beautiful and healthy all summer long.  So head right out and buy you some ferns and a paint bucket.  Ya' know what I mean, Fern?

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Brack's Birthday...The Recipes

Welcome back to Brack's 9th birthday party!  Yesterday I shared the details of the party.  Today, I want to give you some of the recipes.  As I mentioned, he picked two of his favorite things: Rotel dip (without the Rotel) and lemonade pie.  I added a few other things to fill in, like party pizzas, BLT dip, a chicken cheese ball and crudité.  Here are the recipes...
First - instead of cake...or even cupcakes...Brack wanted pie.  A frozen pie at that.  Frozen pie for forty?  Yikes.  But ever eager to please, I set out to make it happen.  After all, a boy only turns nine once.  So, I invented "Mini Lemonade Pies".  They were very good and the kids liked them, however, I have already made a few changes to the recipe.  I will give you the original recipe and then tell you how I will change it next time.

Mini Lemonade Pies
two sleeves graham crackers
one stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
one large can of frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
two cans fat-free Eagle brand milk
one large container of Cool Whip, thawed
I doubled the recipe for 48 mini pies.

Begin by completely crushing your graham crackers until they are the consistency of fine sand.  Mix with butter and cinnamon.  Line cupcake pan with liners.  Sprinkle in about 1 tablespoon of graham cracker mixture and press down lightly.  Set aside.  No need to bake.
Next, mix lemonade concentrate and eagle brand milk in a mixer until well combined.  (OK - side note here.  You will notice I used FAT FREE Eagle Brand milk.  I know, I know.  Fat Free?  First, it's hard to imagine that they could even make a fat free version.  Second, you will never miss it.  It is amazing.)  Once they are well combined, add your Cool Whip and food coloring if desired.  I used 20 drops of yellow liquid food coloring.  (We made "pink" lemonade pie growing up, using pink lemonade concentrate and red coloring.  I've also used lime concentrate and green.  Whatever you prefer.)  Mix on a low speed until combined and light and fluffy.  I add the coloring closer to the end.
Use a pastry bag to pipe the filling into the cupcake liners.  I couldn't find a really big piping tip, so I just cut the end off the bag.  Once they are filled, realize that you have no space in your freezer and take an hour cleaning it out while they come to room temperature.  Not ideal, but they will survive.  Seriously, they need several hours to firm up.  I made them at 9:00 am and served them about 4:30 pm and they were perfect.

Before serving, I placed them in a clear plastic punch cup to make it easier for little hands to handle.  I also dusted them with candy sprinkles to match the sugar cookies and make them more festive.

Next time, I will do things a little differently.  First, I will omit the butter in the graham cracker crust.  The butter made the crust set back up and get a little hard.  I think next time I will lightly sprinkle the crust in the bottom so that you can easily get some with just about every bite.  It will be easier, too!  I also think I will make them directly in the plastic cup.  It won't be quite as colorful, but the cupcake liner just got in the way.  Regardless, they were a huge hit.  Mama rose to the (frozen pie instead of birthday cake) challenge and won!
I also served sugar cookies for anyone who didn't like lemon...or wanted both!
The next recipe is one of my favorites to serve at a party.  My mom made these when we were little and every time I serve these, they disappear.  Quickly.

Party Pizzas
one pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
one pound mozzarella cheese, grated
one cup of mayonnaise (about)
one bunch of green onions, finely chopped (if you have kids!)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
two loaves of thinly sliced French bread
Mix the cheeses and green onion together in a very large bowl before adding mayo and garlic powder.  I ended up using right at a cup of mayonnaise for this batch.  You want enough mayo to hold the cheese together but not too much.  It will quickly become wet and then greasy when it bakes.  Start with less.  I chop my green onion (onion tops, too) pretty fine because you need the flavor, but not the complaining from the kids.  Do it just right, and they never even know...  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Once everything is well mixed, spread it on the pieces of French bread and run under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese and get a little color.  You don't want the bread to get hard.  Serve hot.  This mixture keeps well in the fridge, and you can even reheat any leftover pizzas, although you probably won't have any!

Note: Mama used to make these on rye party bread (you know - the little cocktail-sized bread they carry in the grocery deli?), but it is so hard to find sometimes, that I have decided to substitute the French bread.  My brother, Jon, prefers this to the rye.  What'd'ya know?  Something we agree on!

one cup sour cream
one cup mayonnaise
one cup real bacon bits (I use Hormel)
one pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
one bunch green onions, chopped
Ritz crackers (I really prefer the whole wheat ones.  Really.)
Either halve or quarter your cherry tomatoes, depending on their size, and mix all ingredients.  This is better when made the day before and allowed to sit in the fridge.  The flavors marry and the tomatoes give up some of their juice.  Yum, yum.  I topped it with some chopped chives for color.  This recipe is so simple and we have it just about every time we have a party.  It also shows up at the lake every weekend.  (We keep it on ice.)  It is so cool and creamy on a hot day.  Serve with Ritz crackers.
Oh, and in case you're wondering how to make Rotel dip without the Rotel?  Well, it's like this...he doesn't like tomatoes, so here's what I do: cube one large loaf of Velveeta, add one pound mild sausage, (cooked, crumbled and drained), one 8 oz. block softened cream cheese and a packet of taco seasoning.  Stick it all in the crockpot on low, stirring every once in a while.  So, technically, it's not Rotel dip.  But it started that way.  I just got tired of picking out his tomatoes.  (Sigh...)
So, there you have it!  We had so much fun at Brack's party, and ate really well, if I do say so myself!  I hope you'll try some of these recipes and let me know what you think!
I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Happy Birthday, Brack!

My baby turned nine on Sunday.  I'm not quite sure how or when it happened, but he grew up.  I had nothing to do with it.  It happened, quite frankly, against my will.  But, that's what kids do.  Grow.  At least he is growing up into a fine young gentleman!  He is a mama's boy, and this mama, is so proud he's mine!
Here's what he looks like to most people...
But THIS is the Brack we know and love!

Isn't he awesome?!
In honor of our little man, we hosted a birthday party last Saturday afternoon.  Brack loves, Loves, LOVES frogs, so I found a cute little frog invitation on Etsy and had it printed at my local print shop.  We were planning for an outside party, plus the creek in the front pasture is full of tadpoles and baby frogs, so it seemed the perfect choice.  (Said tadpoles now live in a tub full of pond water on my deck.  Don't ask.)
We had family and friends from church, homeschool co-op, and swim team.  The weather was absolutely perfect!  The kids began playing immediately, in fact, some didn't make it to the parking area...they demanded to be let out by the front pasture swing!  Since it was late in the afternoon, and it is such a long drive, I decided to serve light finger foods.  Brack picked his favorites Rotel dip (without the Rotel, of course) and lemonade pie.  (Have I ever told you about my kids who, after I took all three Wilton cake decorating classes, decided they don't like cake?)  I supplemented with party pizzas, BLT dip, chicken cheese ball and crudité.  Check back later this week for recipes.
After the kids played and we ate (OK, mainly the adults ate.  Like kids are really gonna slow down long enough...), we headed back outside for what has become a tradition at Brack's birthday parties - a piñata.  Usually I have one made to match the theme.  (I know that sounds really expensive, but there are people on Ebay and Etsy who make them for about $30.  They're $20 at Party City!)  As I mentioned, our theme this year was frogs, and Brack could not, would not mutilate a frog...even for we went with a colorful present-shaped piñata.  It was huge!  I think I spent more on the candy than I did on the rest of the food.
After much experience (and several near accidents), we have developed the perfect piñata protocol.  Everyone lines up smallest to biggest.  Brack gets the first hit, then passes the stick to the next person.  Everyone gets a hit.  If it hasn't busted yet, we go 'round again.  As they get older, it's going faster than it used to.  Gerald had to rehang it half-way through the line this year!  I give everyone brown paper sacks with their names already written on them.  DIY party favors!  How smart am I?!
Before Gerald hoisted the piñata...

And after...Notice how he took several steps back?!
Brack's friends know him so well.  He got lots of nice gifts including a couple of new Lego sets and a Nerf Super Blaster (no Buddy, it won't squirt water without batteries and Mama is slap out of AA's...and so is Walmart!).  My normally shy little boy held court as he tore into his presents!  (Hand written thank you notes are on the To Do list for this week.  Good manners are for boys, too!)
The day was full of family, friends and fun!
Cousins and besties...Jewell, Mary Reagan and Ann Welch.
The puppies are never far from the action!

The mad dash for candy...
Enjoying cool, lemonade pie.
After a hard day of playing, maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all!
 So - I'll wrap it up with a few of my favorite pics of my favorite boy...
To borrow an original rhyme from my mother-in-law...
I love you little,
I love you big.
I love you like my little pig.
Happy 9th Birthday, Brack!  We love you!
I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Easter Party 2014

The last six weeks have seen a lot of parties in Our Neck of the Woods.  I hosted my book club and Little Miss Manners in March.  In early April we threw a special birthday party for my mother and brother.  Last weekend, we hosted a big youth devo for the kids from church.  I'll post about that soon.  And this Saturday is Brack's birthday party!  But what I want to share with you today is our Easter party.

Since moving to the country eight years ago, we have hosted an annual family Easter egg hunt.  And when I say family, I mean extended family!  "Family" can mean those with Hilyer or Jones as a last name, but you will also find a handful of Donahoos (my SIL, Allison) or Gays (my SIL, Clancy).  Regardless of surname, holidays mean family, and this past Easter was no different.
Clancy with her parents, Mama Judy and Papa Don.
Clancy's "little" brother, John, and his wife, Holly.
Usually we have the party in the early afternoon and everyone brings dessert.  Yes, everyone.  It is a literal smorgasbord of delicacies and we all eat way too much.  But this year, we started a little later in the day, so everyone brought finger foods for an early supper and I made a lemon pound cake which you can read about here. 
My SIL's and I had a discussion as to whether the kids had outgrown hunting eggs.  One child (who will remain nameless for their own protection) said they had, but after floating it by the whole group, we were quickly told that they were NOT too old, so each child brought two dozen candy-filled eggs for the dads to hide.
(Side note: I'd love to be able to show you some pictures of beautifully and creatively decorated eggs at this point.  However, I have none.  I will honestly tell you that I have never decorated Easter eggs with my kids!  I have always been so busy cooking and preparing for the party that we just settle for the plastic ones.  After all, it's all about the candy, right?  My belief is that they probably will be too old next year to hunt for eggs, so we will spend some special time decorating eggs.  There.  I have written it down.  I have to do it now.  Hold me to it!)
While the kids were riding the go-cart in the front pasture, the daddies hid eggs out back.  Clancy's "little" brother, John, is about 6'5" and he stood on tip-toe to place them on braches and limbs.  My brother, Jon, placed them under the dogs lying in the yard, who promptly rolled over, cracked the eggs carefully and somehow managed to wrestle the candy out of the wrapper, thus leaving cracked eggs and candy wrappers for yours truly to pick up.  I even saw one of the men just chuck an egg out in the field.  I found it.  The next weekend when I was cutting grass.  Or should I say my blade found it.  Anyway, I digress.  The eggs were hidden, and subsequently found.
One of the guilty puppies parties.
After lots of food and play, we all settled in around the fire pit for a special devotional about the resurrection presented by Gerald.  The kids listened attentively and answered his questions as well.  I am so very proud of all of them and their ever-expanding Bible knowledge.
Gerald leading our devotional.
The kids listening to Gerald (and scratching the dog's tummy!).
Taking a cue from her big sister, Woocy, Smudge joins the group and gets a little lovin' from Chloe.

Me and my honey.

My youngest brother, David, and his wife, Allison.  (She had a day pass.)

My middle brother, Jon, obviously telling a story.  And by story, I mean a story!
My sweet parents, Mimi and PaPaw.
We had a wonderful afternoon.  The weather was perfect, and everyone enjoyed sitting outside to visit.  We are so extremely blessed to have such a large and close-knit family.  My kids love their cousins dearly and look forward to spending time together.  Having my SIL's families join us is just gravy.  Family is the most important thing, and we are blessed to have ours!
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...