Saturday, November 26, 2016


In some families (like mine!), aunts and nieces are closer in age than sisters!  I just happen to be the baby in my family.  My oldest sister is 13 years older than I and my middle sister is 8 years older than I am.  I just happen to be 8 years older than my niece, Cissy (daughter of the oldest sister).  A while back we received an invitation for a surprise 50th birthday for my niece.

The day of the party arrived and we drove about an hour north to the home of my great niece, Jennifer.   She and her husband, Jerry, recently built a new home and we were excited to see her home in addition to attending the surprise party.

We were all hiding in the dark as Cissy (aka Melanie to the real world) approached the house and of course everyone yelled "surprise" when she came through the door.

I have very few pictures of just the two of us together so was happy to get one that night!

I have NO idea what I'm doing here - laughing, I presume!  My oldest sister, Glenine (named after our dad - Glenn), is sitting in the recliner.  She has had some major health problems and I was glad she was able to attend the party.

Mark spent most of his time talking to Scott (striped shirt).  Scott is married to Cissy (my niece).  Scott has a day job but LOVES to cook - as in he is trained as a chef.  I've heard about his meals and I've seen pictures so I was excited to eat some of the food he prepared.  I believe that in addition to food, Mark and Scott discussed bourbon!

This is Mandy, another one of my great nieces.  She is just a few months older than my kids.  She is an EMT and has a whole bunch of other titles.  She rides in the ambulance and I can't even imagine doing that.  She has a special gift that I DO NOT have!!  Her wife, Megan, was not able to attend the party that night.

Jennifer made some beautiful and tasty cupcakes.  I ate a caramel one and it was delicious!!

The decorations were so cute - they had banners and streamers.  I told them that they need to have a top made for the pool table so they can use it as a dining room table.  The pool table (it was really fancy so maybe billiards??) was a great repository for the presents.

Here is the table in the Beverly Hillbillies - they just pulled up their chairs and called it the fancy eatin' table!

Look what I found when I was looking for the Beverly Hillbillies picture - they actually make a "fancy eatin' table" that is BOTH  a dining room table and a pool table!

Back to the birthday - I'm so happy that our great nieces included us.  It was good to be with my family for a short evening!!

Welcome to the 50's Cissy -- the water is just fine!  Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

September Beach Trip

Yes, I realize that we are now in November and I'm just now blogging about our September beach trip but I've been very busy since we got back!!

We tried something new this year - we booked a condo on Dauphin Island through VRBO.  When Glenn and Lauren lived in Mobile, they would go to Dauphin Island with friends but Mark and I had never been.  It is so quiet.  It was lovely.

We had incredible weather.  We haven't had rain (now) in 44 days and have had many record high days so even though it is not good for our water supply . . .it made for nice vacation weather.  One day was actually so hot, that I ended up going in early.  That is unheard of from me - the one who loves to sit in the sun and get a tan.

One afternoon, in the heat of the day, Mark and I drove from one end of the island to the other (not very far!!) and even got out and walked around.  This is on the end of the island where the fort is located.  I would like to go back for more days and do some of the touristy things.

Mark and Glenn love to fish and not only to fish - but to catch.  They were so excited because they caught really great fish - pompano.  We ate really well . . .and not because of great restaurants.  There are only a few places to eat on the island.  We ate great fresh fish!!

I did get steamed shrimp and potatoes one afternoon from the local place and supper that night was better than any restaurant meal.

The outdoor pool (yes, they had an indoor pool, too!) was half in shade so every afternoon, Glenn and Lauren took Tiny Tiger to the pool.  She LOVED it!!!

She spent her afternoons in a little tent on the beach with her own little fan.  She wasn't sitting up yet so they also took the little activity seat down for her.

Mark and Glenn fished and fished and fished and loved it!

Here is a picture of that yummy dinner.

I love this picture of Lauren and tiny tiger - it was late afternoon on the beach and the lighting was just right!!

They fed Mr. P a lot of fish so he learned to hang around!!

All in all, it was a great trip - just not long enough!  We drove down on a Wednesday and stayed until Sunday.  Those extra few days would have been great.  I made the mistake of working some every day.  I need to make myself NOT do that next time!!!  I had some work that I felt like I really needed to do but I should have done it all on one day and then ignored it the rest of the time.  Lesson learned!

I would recommend going to Dauphin Island if you are looking for a nice quiet vacation - especially in September.  If you crave more dining experiences, you can take the ferry over to more restaurants or you can drive into Mobile (about an hour).  We were happy just to stay in all but one night.  We ate with the locals.  Really.  They all stared at us when we entered!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween 2016 - LOVED it!

We started out the day at work by watching our TCDC (daycare) parade and then standing in a line down a hallway so that the children could trick-or-treat.  I didn't take any pictures this year but there were a lot of cute kids and several crying children!!

I rushed home after work because Halloween is a BIG DEAL in our neighborhood.  I had purchased over 1,000 pieces of candy - good candy as you can see by the basket . . .1 piece per trick-or-treater.  You read that right - we have LOTS of trick-or-treaters - all ages; all races; all kinds of costumes.

 The park is right in front of our house and folks played in the park all evening, too.  One of the first to play was a storm trooper!

There is always a pizza party for the kids in our neighborhood that begins at 5:00.  As soon as they finish eating, many of them begin to trick-or-treat.  We had quite a few trick-or-treaters before dark.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite costumes of the night.  Evan is the grandson of Mrs. Lu and Mr. Dave who live across the park from us.  He is in a wheelchair.  His police car had working lights - it was AMAZING!!  His dad and friends make him a special "costume" each year.  He was a flying superman last year.  I love the police car.  Evan even had handcuffs and Mark told him to arrest me.  He laughed and laughed!!!

We saw the T-Rex almost immediately (hard to miss) and I was telling Mark, "I want a picture with the T-Rex to send Matt."  Matt is our nephew (grown man :-) and he has loved dinosaurs since he was a tiny boy!!!  This costume had air blowing inside.  It was so cool!!!

Isn't this costume awesome - so simple but so cool!  She was a jellyfish - made with an umbrella and twinkle lights and streamers and googly eyes!!  I love Halloween.  I love the creativity.  I didn't get a picture but later in the evening, we had two bigger kids (teenagers) dressed as a smore.  They made giant cardboard graham crackers.  They clued smaller rectangles on one side and wrote Hersheys on the bars and they made a white box marshmallow for the other cardboard.  The guy said it cost $7 to make both their costumes! 

This picture is not very clear but we had a steady stream of trick-or treaters for 2 1/2 hours.  Sometimes they would be lined up. I tried to talk to as many as possible (that is NOT WHY they were lined up!!).  99.9% of them were so polite.  Almost everyone said Trick-or-Treat and the majority said, "Thank You."  I only heard one smart A** comment from one kid all night!

Mark walked around with my phone and took pictures.  Can you see the line at the house on the left?  They had to walk under the big cat to get to the porch.  You can see the lights and decorations.  Our neighborhood goes all out!

Mark must have snapped this one as he was walking back.  This is our house!

Halloween in our neighborhood is like the trick-or-treating scene in a Halloween movie (think Hocus Pocus).  Mark said that the atmosphere was like that of a New Orleans street (even some of the parents are carrying their go cups!!)  Of course, it is kids and not drunk adults walking around!!

I have repeatedly tried to insert a video here so you could see the people in motion and hear the sounds but it won't load.   You will just have to take my word for it - Halloween night was a success in the Preserve!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

NO CHURCH??? Sunday????

It is rare for me to miss a Sunday at church unless we are out of town.  Starting late yesterday evening and into the night, I just haven't felt well.  My head is kind of stopped up and my tummy doesn't feel just right SO . . .I'm staying home from church this morning.  Mark just left and I'm sitting at the island in the kitchen.  I have a list of "to do's" for today but . . .not sure those are going to happen.  I'm going to try to find the app where I can listen to the radio and hear the sermon today.  I so wish we had livestream. (just stopped and looked - FM99.5 - I heart radio (hope it works at 9:00).

So I'm wondering if I just did way too much this week.  It was a fun week but . . .So just what did I do?
On Monday night, I got a pedicure (that was very relaxing!).  I had a stressful week at work trying to get information input into reports for our North Alabama Conference of the UMC.  The report was already late and I had to input ALOT of info.  I finally locked my portion of the report on Friday -- about 10 days late! (I didn't receive the email with the earlier due date and our report is usually not due until our November ad board so I wasn't in a hurry until the conference office emailed and wanted to know why they didn't have our info!).  All that to say, I needed the pedicure in more ways than one!  I love the nail salon that I use.  The name of the salon is Sapphire and I usually go ahead and get one of the more expensive pedicures because I need the relaxation.

This crazy week started on the heels of a fun weekend.  Laura was home for the first time in weeks and we had extra houseguests and we had folks over to watch the game on Saturday night.

We even made smores with fun square marshmallows!!

Tuesday was a regular day - worked in the office until 2:00 and worked from home on my tablet while I cooked for the young adults  - They arrived and we had a great night!!

Wednesday brought more typing into the conference forms (plus the regular day to day stuff) and dinner with our out-to-eat supper club at a restaurant new to us.  The name of the restaurant is FoodBar.  We enjoyed the company and Mark ordered the Flank Steak -- his didn't look JUST like this.  He ate it so I guess it tasted ok.  He also ordered bread pudding (it was not raspberry like on the menu today).  I ordered the burger and it was tasty.  The French fries were awesome - fresh cut; fried just right.

Thursday brought a new day - more typing into the conference forms plus regular work!  After work, Amy drove through Zaxby's and grabbed us a Zax Snack (or something) and we ate in the car in the parking lot.  We met up with a few other co-workers and drove out to Gardendale First Baptist Church to see and hear Lauren Daigle.  Lauren Daigle was awesome and I enjoyed hanging out with the group!

The concert was sold out.  I went on Gardendale First Baptist Church's website to see if I could find out how many seats are in their worship area (anyone know???) -- I would say at least 2500 (maybe way more).  If you haven't heard her, listen to Lauren Daigle here.  The people behind us saved 3 entire rows of seats!  Amy actually said, "Can you even do that?"  They didn't answer :-)  I left about 9:15 because Lauren Daigle wasn't singing but talking at that point and I knew it would take me at least 30 minutes to drive home.

Friday started the last day of the work week and I FINISHED MY REPORT AND LOCKED IT IN! (there is more due by other staff members . . .hope they get it all in!!)
The office closes early on Fridays and I shot out of there and ran by Costco and came home and took a 20 minute nap.  Then it was time to put on nicer clothes and drive back to Homewood.
Marietta, Laura Mc, and I went out to dinner at Cantina Laredo and then over to the BJCC to see a play.  It was a one-man show - you can read about it here.
I laughed a lot . . .and probably at some inappropriate stuff!!  I need to read the book.

So . . . I'm home today.  I honestly don't know if I'm "sick" or just reached saturation point (which is not usually an excuse to miss church at our house).  I think I freaked Mark out this morning when I couldn't remember whether the sun orbited the earth or earth orbited the sun (as we were sitting on our upstairs porch watching the sun rise).  Of course, as soon as he started telling me I remembered.  I was up two times during the night and I just think my brain wasn't working yet (don't anyone panic!). 

I'm listening to the service on the radio this morning!  I found it on I Heart Radio.  I just texted Stuart because the radio broadcast was weird and he texted me back that it was live (rather than the normal 15 minutes behind) because they had a fire alarm and had to evacuate the building . . and today is a HUGE Sunday - Celebration Sunday; Stop Hunger Now packing Sunday -- oh my goodness.  I miss one Sunday and all sorts of things happen!!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Home for HodgePodge

Link up with Joyce over at "from this side of the pond" and answer her hodgepodge questions.

1. Besides your very own house, describe a place where you feel most 'at home'?
I feel really at home at my sweet mother-in-law's house.  My husband lived in that house from the time he was 12 until he went away to college.  We still eat lunch there every Sunday after church.  I feel like it is "home" to not only me but to all of our children, too!!

2. When did you last 'hit a home run' with something? Explain.
I "think" I'm hitting a home run as a Gran!  Pops is definitely hitting a home run as grandpa!

3. Tell us about something you love in your house or kitchen that is 'homemade'.
I have a couple of quilts - one made by my grandmother and another made by Mark's grandmother - I love using them - I love feeling like I'm cocooned in the warm embrace of those who loved us.

4. 'A man's home is his castle'...which of the world's ten most captivating castles (according to The Travel Channel) would you most like to visit and why-

Mont Saint-Michel (France), Edinburgh Castle (Scotland), Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany), Glamis Castle (Scotland), Windsor Castle (England), Chateau de Chambord (France), Hampton Court Palace (England), Prague Castle (Prague), St. Michael's Mount (England), Leeds Castle (England), and Swallow's Nest (Ukraine)
I want to see ALL of the castles!  I would love to travel the world and I hope to at least make it to England, Scotland, and Ireland (I googled castles in Ireland JUST to make sure that there are castles in Ireland!)

5. What's a recent or upcoming plan or project that's required you do a little homework before getting started? Did the homework cause you to abandon your plan or adjust it in some way?
I always have homework to do when I'm teaching Sunday School and/or facilitating a study.  I also do my homework when I'm planning a shower like the one I helped host recently.  Craft projects usually require some study, too. 

6. In your opinion, is homework an unnecessary evil or a valuable practice? Should schools be done with homework? Why or why not?
Homework for the sake of "busy work" is just ridiculous.  I think homework helps most people develop some discipline in their lives and that is a really good thing!  Can you tell I have very mixed thoughts about homework????

7. Share a favorite memory of your childhood hometown.
I grew up in a small town in Alabama.  We roamed the neighborhood on our bikes or on foot.  We played kickball by the hour and we sang all sorts of songs as we pumped our legs and flew higher and higher in the swings.  One of my favorite memories is something we did before homecoming every year.  We decorated a giant truck using tissue paper crammed into chicken wire and we competed against all of the other classes.  I can still smell the big open space where we built the floats.  I can hear the laughter if I close my eyes. We had so much fun.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
Several weeks ago, I told y'all (and showed a picture to you!) of a bed in the frontgate catalogue.  I ordered it last week and it came in time for our weekend company.  It is really neat!
Catalogue page

new bed in the craft room

This bed is so cool. When not in use, it looks like a LARGE suitcase with wheels.  You roll it out of the closet and unzip the suitcase.  You position a couple of things correctly.  You plug it in.  You turn the dial to inflate . . .and voilĂ  . . .as it inflates, it opens on to the metal frame.   (I must clean out my craft room - I still want to buy the $1500-$2000 piece of "furniture" for the craft room and get rid of all my other pieces.  The website says it takes 10 hours to put it together (and comments on the site verify that fact).  Anyone out there own one of these scrapbox cabinets??)  Would love to hear about it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

BIG BATCH Beef and Bean Chili from South Your Mouth

Most of you know that I could for a large group every Tuesday night.  I'm always working hard on my spreadsheet of menus and I'm always continually learning how to quadruple recipes (not as easy as it sounds!).  I was so excited when I saw a recipe on South Your Mouth (love the name!).  The name of the recipe is BIG BATCH Beef & Bean Chili.

Our lovely daughter is home this weekend for the first time in a month or six weeks.  She brought two houseguests with her and has also invited several friends over to watch the Auburn game.  I offered to cook something so when I saw that this recipe would feed 18-20, I thought to myself "perfect"!!

As always, I started with the recipe as is but have changed it as I've gone along.  I think that the original eaters of the recipe must eat smaller portions because I don't think the original recipe is large enough.

Original Recipe courtesy of South Your Mouth
(my changes in red)

1 20 ounce bag Hurst's 15 Bean Soup dried bean mix (I purchased at Walmart)
6 cups water (I added more water after first two hours)
3 pounds ground beef (I used a little more simply because of size of packages - 3.25)
2 large onions diced (I cheated and bought pre-diced - two containers)
3 14-ounce cans of petite diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 - 16 ounce can tomato sauce (I used 2 cans)
2 packets chili seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder (I used 1 tsp garlic salt)
1 T cumin
2 teaspoons salt (I used one since I used garlic salt)
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cans white kidney beans
3 cans pinto beans
1 can black beans
(if I had another can of tomatoes or tomato sauce, I would have added)

Combine dried beans with included seasoning packet and 6 cups water in a large pot or Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer two hours (I actually set the stove timer)
Around the 1 1/2 hour mark,  cook ground beef and onion in a large skillet until meat is cooked through and then add to beans (do not drain meat).
Add remaining ingredients, stir well, cover, then continue cooking on medium low for two hours or until beans are tender.  Add more salt or seasonings to taste if needed.

I added the other cans of beans in the "add remaining ingredients" time.  Please forgive the messy stove - remember we have houseguests and we cooked sausage links at breakfast.  I'll have to write another post about the knob and no numbers . . . it is totally annoying!!

This is the original cast of characters (plus meat)

These are the additional characters that I added!!

I've taste tested the broth and I think it is going to be good!!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Funny Faces

Last night, Mark and I went to visit baby girl and her daddy while her mommy was at a bridal shower.  Mark and I passed baby girl back and forth and thoroughly enjoyed being with her (and of course, our son!!).  I caught the funniest sequence of facial expressions that I wanted to share.  Baby girl has been making facial expressions since Day 1 of life outside the womb.  She can wrinkle up her forehead and cock her eyebrows like nobody's business!!

Baby girl was playing with her toy and having a good time while we served our dinner plates.

Then . . .Pops took away her toy.  Look at that expression on her face!!!!

See the smile?  Pops put the toy in his mouth (much like a dog) and was shaking it at her.  She was entertained.  Isn't it funny how we will do the craziest things to make a baby laugh?  Can you see that she is holding something in her other hand?  It is a straw that Pops twisted into itself to make a ring.  She loves a straw!!

Just FYI = We are smitten by this baby girl.  She is growing so fast.  I CANNOT believe that she is already 7 months old!!