Thursday, August 27, 2015

That's What Little Girls Are Made Of...

Last Sunday, I helped to host a baby shower for a sweet friend of mine at church. I first met Anna when she went to work at Faulkner in the office with my mother. Over the years, we got to know each other through church, as well as the university, so when it came time for her church shower, Mama and I both volunteered to help.

As you know, my usual partner-in-crime is Nancy Itson, so it took a little time to adjust to working with Mama. We butted heads a little until we both figured out who was in charge. (I say me, she says her!) 

Anna's nursery theme is "What are little girls made of?" Above you can see the beautiful quilt the ladies of our congregation made for her. Jewell embroidered a square with a pair of gloves and a little handbag for the quilt. She did a beautiful job! Anna has chosen mint green and peach for her nursery colors. Once I knew her theme and saw the colors, I immediately thought of the sign you see above - "Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of". It hangs in Jewell's bathroom right as you enter into her bedroom. I knew it was the perfect place to begin my planning.

I consider Anna to be a classic Southern Belle with a modern twist! Mama and I talked about it and thought it would be neat to pull together items to decorate with that represented the transformation from a sweet little girl to a strong Southern woman. We did a little brainstorming and then each went through our homes to pull different items we thought would work with the theme.

The shower was held in the Fireplace Room at church. It has recently been repainted and the new neutral colors work so well now when we host parties there. We set up two tables for the shower - one for food, and one for gifts.

It's dark, but here's a long view of the food table. We had the light refreshments on one end with the punch on the other end. The decorations went in the middle.

To set our theme, I used an ornate chalkboard and wrote the words "Precious Southern Babies become Sweet Southern Ladies".

This picture gives you a chance to take it all in at once. As usual, I began with my white linen tablecloths. If you look closely in the top right of the above picture, you can see a little bit of mint green. This tablecloth belongs to my mother now, but it was once my father's mother's. It was the perfect shade of mint. The only thing I bought for this shower was the piece of lace-stamped burlap you see above. Burlap is so popular right now, and it is so quintessentially Southern. When I found this piece at Joann's, I knew I had to get it. It was on sale, plus I bought what was left on the bolt, so I got about a yard and a half for $5.00! I can't wait to find another way to use this fabric! 

The little dress above was mine when I was about a year old...all six inches of it! Y'all remember it was 1969, and I'm sure Mama had a pretty lacy diaper cover under it. The baby booties are ones that my mother-in-law crocheted for Jewell when she was born. Underneath it all was yet another layer - a little rectangular lace runner that also belonged to my mother's paternal grandmother. Mama brought it, as well.

Here is an heirloom Bible I received at one of my showers for Jewell. It covers a child's white New Testament now, but one day, it can be worked into her bridal bouquet. You can also see Jewell and Brack's silver hairbrushes. The well-loved rattle was first used by my mama's "little" brother about 60 years ago, but somehow it found it's way into our family, and me and my brothers played with it, as did all of our kids. It has dozens of tiny teeth marks all over it!

Placed in the middle and helping to make the transition from little girl to womanhood, is a couple of items from Jewell's tea set. Her nursery theme was fairies, and I found this tea set before she was born and had it on display when she was little. Little girls love to have tea parties - something Southern ladies never get tired of, either. You can also see Jewell's first pair of teeny-tiny ballet slippers! 

The beautifully carved wood fan belongs to Jewell. She got it a couple of years ago in Williamsburg. The delicate statue of mother and child was given to me by Gerald's Aunt Linda when Jewell was born. It was also a perfect match. As Jewell grew up, I moved it from her bedroom to my guest room. The triple strand of pearls belonged to my mother's mother. The gold and pearl earrings and mirror belonged to my great-grandmother for whom Jewell is named. The strand of pearls lying on it are my mother's. The white kidskin gloves and beaded silk clutch are also my mother's. She got them both while she was still in high school. I remember playing with them and the white satin shoes Mama wore when she and Daddy got married. She used to even let me try on her wedding dress!

I made my classic white cupcakes with cream cheese icing. We also served nuts and fruit. Mama and I both have the round and rectangular white "Dress Me Up" trays from Southern Living at Home. It's so simple to add a different ribbon and get a totally different look! I also made the blue mason jars holding the flowers. It was simple, and I think they came out really pretty. I'll share the details in another post soon.

I was least happy with my napkins. I couldn't find a true peach, so this was the best I could do. It's a little more salmon colored, but it did give the table a little punch of color. I was also able to find matching organza ribbon for the platters.

The punch was simple, but sherbet and ginger ale. It was sweet and frothy, and the color was beautiful against the mint and white table linens. I snipped some gardenia leaves from outside the church building and used them to form a wreath around the punch bowl.

The baby's quilt anchored one end of the gift table...

While a precious bunny atop a diaper cake anchored the other. You can also see Anna's corsage beside a sign reading "Blessed". Mama did a fantastic job on the corsage. She picked up the white mums and baby's breath at Costco that morning after church, and used a whole spool of ribbon to soften it and hold it all together.

Here's something I have never seen before, but thought was so precious. Instead of having everyone sign a guest book or her baby book, Anna had an adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss book "Oh the Places You'll Go".

Guests were invited to write baby Perri (named for Anna's grandfather) a sweet note.

We had so much fun celebrating Anna and her sweet baby!

Everyone had a wonderful time, and she even got a little help opening presents from a young guest!

She received so many beautiful things!

Look at this beautiful couple!
Don't you know sweet baby Perri is just going to be precious?
We wish Anna and Nathan all the best!

I really enjoyed getting to work with my mother on this shower. Together we pulled together so many items that we love, but that more importantly, reminded us of people that we loved. It was a wonderful afternoon!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
Please take a moment to sign up to receive new posts by email.

I wouldn't want you to miss one crazy thing...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I HEART...Quick and Easy (and Cheap!) Fall Wreath

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 - it's been pretty busy lately in our neck of the woods. I've been swamped with homeschool co-op organization, not to mention getting ready to start our own school, and I have to admit, a few things have gone undone. Plus, it's been so hot around here, we haven't spent a lot of time outside. 

Cooler temps and less humidity the last couple of days have gotten me pretty excited about spending a little time in the morning on my front porch! I've swept it, rinsed the summer dust off the rockers and even spruced up my planters. 

As I walked inside yesterday morning, I noticed I still had my Fourth of July wreath hanging on the front door. As you know, it's almost September, so I took 15 minutes this morning on a little makeover for my front door. I had the supplies, I just hadn't taken the time to pull it all together. Even I was surprised at how quick and easy it was!

I began with this wooden "J" I had bought a while back for Jewell's room. I never used it (more importantly, I never told her it was for her room!), and it got stuck behind the armoire in my bedroom. I found it the other day when I was cleaning! It was originally $40 at Hobby Lobby, but had been marked down to $19.99 which I got on 70% off clearance for a total of $6! I had Jewell paint it for me yesterday with acrylic paint. Wish I could tell you what the paint is called, but since I didn't have the exact color I wanted, I mixed one part "Vanilla Ice Cream" with two parts "Wicker White". The acrylic paint came from my stash, so no cost!

Next I pulled out some burlap ribbon and bows I got at Hobby Lobby several weeks ago when they were 50% off. The wider one has a pretty cotton lace already attached to the burlap. I paid $3 for the roll. The smaller one is actually a trim, and all I used it for was to tie my bow, and then it got covered up, so I don't think I'll add it into the overall price. However, FYI, I paid $1.50 for it and it now goes into my stash for another day, another project, as does the leftover flowers (for which I paid $2.50) and the 18 inches or so of leftover lace/burlap ribbon.

Several years ago, my mother found me this EZ bowmaker at a yard sale for a couple of dollars. I have used it a lot over the years. This bow took a little longer than usual, only because of the thickness of the ribbon. I was a little harder to keep it all flat.

I used the burlap trim to tie off my bow, although I could have used bread ties or really anything. I tied it tightly, then took some time arranging the loops and getting it just right.

Next I used the tails from the burlap trim to tie the bow onto the wreath. As you can see, she didn't paint the back, although she did paint the sides.

I finished it off by hot gluing the burlap flowers over the bow knot and also on a couple of other spots on the wreath. I like the non-symmetrical groupings of odd numbers.

There you have it! My $12 wreath that took less than 15 minutes to complete. Not bad for a morning's work, huh?!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
Please take a moment to sign up to receive new posts by email.

I wouldn't want you to miss one crazy thing...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I HEART...Star "Brack's" Mocha Frappuccinos

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!

This is Brack. He loves mocha frappes.

I didn't start drinking coffee until graduate school. I cut my teeth on the strong stuff at Waffle House. Just a tad of half and half. Not sure when Gerald began, but what he drinks is more like sugar, french vanilla creamer, and a tad of coffee! Brack got started early...on Gerald's combo. He likes it sweet and not very hot. The very antithesis of what I call coffee!

Somewhere along the way, he got a taste for Starbucks bottled mocha frappuccinos. I actually bought them from Costco for awhile and allowed him half a bottle each morning. But that adds up, so I looked for a recipe online to make my own. I found one, and I've been making my own ever since! It's super easy and much, much cheaper than buying it.

So here's how I make Star "Brack's" mocha frappes...

Begin the night before by making your coffee.
I start by adding enough water for six cups of coffee
(not six cups of water, but six cups of coffee)
and brew it with four scoops of coffee.
I use Dunkin' Donuts regular blend coffee.

While the coffee is brewing, measure out six tablespoons of sugar
and add to a plastic container.

Then add six tablespoons of Hershey's chocolate syrup.
You could also use caramel syrup.
I get these huge bottles of syrup - 2 for less than $6 -
at Costco.

Add the sugar and chocolate to your container.

Add the hot brewed coffee to the sugar/chocolate mix
and stir until dissolved.

At this point, I put the coffee mixture in the fridge overnight.
Don't seal the lid as the coffee is hot and will expand.

The next morning, I add three cups of cold milk.
We drink 1%, so that's what I use.

 Shake it up to mix and enjoy!

This keeps in the fridge longer than it lasts, if you know what I mean! Jewell has just discovered that she likes it, too, so I am making it more often now. I don't drink it everyday, but it does taste good! I did save a couple dozen of the Starbucks mocha bottles back when I was buying it. I pulled off the labels and sterilized them and have used them for several parties. I'm glad I have them, but I'm more glad that I'm not buying mocha frappes anymore! 

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
Please take a moment to sign up to receive new posts by email.

I wouldn't want you to miss one crazy thing...

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fried Squash

Saturday was a week ago, we celebrated Gerald's birthday with some of his favorites...fried deer cubed steak with gravy, green beans and new potatoes, and fried squash. I have to admit - it was delicious! You can catch up by reading about the tablescape for his Blue Plate Special Birthday Celebration and you can make your own cubed steak (venison or beef) by checking out how I make it

Today I'm showing you how I prepare the fried squash. Yellow squash (also called summer squash or crookneck squash) is everywhere right now. I love it stewed with onions. It's one of my absolute favorite vegetables. But my kids aren't there yet, so I often fry it for them, hoping they'll like it enough to develop a taste for the purer form. And to be honest - I like the fried squash a lot, too. Gerald's Maw Maw Beulah used to make the best pan-fried squash and onions. I'm still trying to master that technique. These are close though!

I begin by beating an egg or two, depending on how many squash you're cooking. This is actually two medium sized squash. I slice them thin (not paper thin, but pretty thin!) and toss them in the egg.

Then I drop them in a Ziploc bag of two parts cornmeal and one part flour, which I have seasoned with salt and pepper. Toss them in a few at a time and take time to shake them in the bag to coat them individually so they don't stick together.

Heat a skillet of oil to about 300 degrees. You only need a little less than an inch of oil - enough for them to float but not deep fry. Add the squash in a single layer and turn down the heat to about medium. Fry them for about three or four minutes or until the first side is golden brown. Flip them over and brown the other side. Remove to a paper towel and drain.

I sprinkle them lightly with a little kosher salt
and they're ready to go!
My kids like these,
but my niece, Mary Reagan LOVES them!

This is a great way to prepare squash in the summer when there's an abundance of it. It's also a good way to cook it in the winter when the squash in the grocery store is not quite as good as it is in summer. Any time of the year, it's good, and I guarantee you won't have leftovers! I'll keep working on Maw Maw Beulah's recipe and get back with you when I get it perfect. Until then, I hope you enjoy these!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
Please take a moment to sign up to receive new posts by email.

I wouldn't want you to miss one crazy thing...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I HEART...Deer Cubed Steak with Gravy

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!

On Monday, I shared with you the tablescape for Gerald's birthday party. My theme was "A Blue Plate Special Birthday Celebration". You can see it all here.  It all began when Gerald requested deer cubed steak with gravy. Today, I'm sharing how I made the main dish.


And after!

Gerald is an avid deer hunter, as are both of our kids. So, we have a freezer full of deer meat. Gerald used to give me the whole "I'm gonna go out and stock our freezer so we can eat over the winter" speech. You he's Pa from Little House on the Prairie

His fatal mistake was when he sent me to the processor to pick up a couple of deer he and his daddy had killed and dropped off. Not only did I drive all the way from Tallassee to Greenville (two hours each way), when the man told me the amount I needed to pay him in order to take home those two little bags of frozen meat, I laughed. I thought he was kidding! (I think I actually called Gerald to make sure they guy wasn't trying to take advantage of me.) 

Add to that the fact that he pays for a hunting club, and a hunting licence, and ammo, and tree stands, and everything else that goes along with it...Well, let's just say those two deer cost more than I probably spend on meat in a couple of years. But - he (and the kids) love to hunt. And he (and the kids) love to eat venison. Me? Not so much. But I have to admit. This cubed steak with gravy is good. Really good. Even my mama liked it!

Deer Cubed Steak with Gravy

There aren't going to be a lot of measurements here.
It just all depends on how much you're making.

I begin by placing the frozen package of cubed steak in a ziplock bag and submerge it in water for a couple of hours to thaw. TIP - I usually thaw things in my laundry room sink because it's next to the kitchen and it's deep. I also grab a handful of butter knives (maybe 6 to 8?) and drop them in the bag, as well. It weights the meat and holds it under the water, allowing it to thaw faster.

Once the meat is thawed, I unwrap it and drop it back in the ziplock bag, covering it with Moore's Low Sodium Marinade. (In the beginning, we used Dale's, but I prefer the taste of Moore's. Both of them make a low sodium version now, so use what you can find.) Place the meat in the fridge for at least an hour (but not more than two) so it can soak up the marinade. 

I fill another ziplock bag with self rising flour. I really believe it makes a fluffier and lighter crust than when you use all purpose flour. I season the flour heavily with salt (I only use Kosher), freshly ground pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Zip the bag and mix that all up before adding the meat. 

I used to run the meat through a beaten egg before flouring it, but I really don't think it's necessary. The marinade is kind of thick and serves the same purpose. Remove the meat from the marinade and let the extra drip off. Drop the meat in the flour bag a couple of pieces at a time and shake them up before adding more so that each piece becomes coated and doesn't stick to the others. Once all the meat has been added and coated, let the meat sit in the flour mixture at room temp for about 15 minutes. This allows the flour to really stick to the meat.

I use a large skillet to fry the steaks. I add about an inch of oil (we're not deep frying, but you want the oil to cover the sides of the meat) and heat it to about 350 on high. Once I have added my  meat (be sure not to overcrowd the skillet) I turn it down to medium. It will continue to fry, but won't be hot enough to burn. This is especially important if you have to fry more than one pan full. (I cooked three for his birthday since my parents were coming.)

Once they are brown and a little crispy on the bottom, flip them and cook the other side.

Once they are brown and crispy, I remove them and drain on a paper towel. They are not cooked through entirely, and they're not really tender yet. That's OK. That's where the gravy comes in...

I pour off all but about 1/4 cup of the oil I fried them in and add 1/4 cup of the flour mixture I breaded them in. It has picked up the flavor of the meat, and has a few little pieces of meat in it. I brown it for a couple of minutes on a medium-low heat, then I add two cups of milk and about 1 cup of water. Using a whisk, I stir them together until there are no lumps. 

When it is smooth, I turn up my heat to medium-high. It will thicken as the temperature rises. I continue to stir with the whisk to keep it smooth. Once it has simmered and thickened for about five minutes, I check my consistency. If it is too thick, add water - a little at a time until it is where you like it. If it is too thin, I stir about one teaspoon of cornstarch into the same amount of water and then add that to the mixture, whisking all the time. 

Once my consistency is where I want it, I season with salt and pepper and also add some Gravy Master for color. Then I add the steaks to the gravy, cover and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour. Very low and slow. They will finish cooking and tenderize. The night of Gerald's birthday dinner, I had several things on my stovetop and needed the space, so once I added the meat back to the gravy, I cover the pan and placed the meat in a 375 degree oven. It did it's thing, just like on the stovetop, and it came out tender and delicious!

There you have it! If you're husband is a hunter, you really need to try this recipe. It's really, really good. My daddy didn't know it was venison until we told him. He was so excited when he found out! In fact, he wants Gerald to kill him a deer next year. Mama did know it was venison, and ate it anyway! But I'm not really surprised. I mean after all - who doesn't like fried meat in gravy?!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
Please take a moment to sign up to receive new posts by email.

I wouldn't want you to miss one crazy thing...